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Hudson River Almanac January 8 - January 15, 2010

OVERVIEW


Our thirty-second annual New York State Mid-Winter Bald Eagle Census coincided with a sudden change in the weather. A quick freeze came over the river this week just as many wintering eagles were arriving. As a result, many kept on going downriver in search of consistently open water, which they found south of the Hudson Highlands.


REFLECTIVE HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK



1/8 - Middletown, Orange County, HRM 59: Almost everyday for the past year, on my morning commute, I have enjoyed seeing a red-tailed hawk along Interstate 84. Today is a sad day as my hawk must have been hit by a car or truck as I saw him dead on the side of the road. I could not stop this morning but if he is there tomorrow I am going to move him to a more befitting place to rest. He always made me smile everyday on my way to work and I will miss him.
- Ann Reichal


NATURAL HISTORY NOTES


1/8 - Northumberland, Saratoga County, HRM 161: It was eight degrees below zero this morning with little open water on the river. A lone mallard was splashing into a rapid dive as an adult bald eagle, with one black tail feather, bore down on him. The eagle would pull straight up over the duck's position and then circle back for another go. This kept up for the better part of ten minutes until I found my video camera to capture this amazing sight. Of course by then the eagle had decided to swing to shore and take a perch in an old cottonwood tree to keep an eye on the duck.
- John Guyer

1/8 - Saugerties, HRM 102: With snow still falling this morning my daughter and I skied out on a private causeway that stretches nearly half-way into the Hudson just south of the Saugerties Lighthouse. She spotted an eagle silhouetted in a tree far ahead; it allowed our quiet approach until we were nearly underneath its perch. We also saw a mixed flock of cardinals, bluebirds, titmice, and chickadees. On the way back home we crossed paths with a red fox whose tracks we had spied earlier (along with a cottontail's and gray squirrel's). Was he surprised at ours?
- Krista Munger

1/8 - Hyde Park, HRM 82: We knew we had fox in our neighborhood, but hadn't sighted them since summer's end. This morning a fox, magnificent in red against the white snow, enjoyed a leisurely grooming session in our yard before hopping up on a rocky ledge to take advantage of the shelter. Lying down, nose in tail, the camouflage against the rocks was phenomenal. Every so often the ears would prick and the head would pop up to take a look.
- Barbara Wells

1/8 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67.5: Last night I crumbled and tossed a bag of stale whole-grain crackers out in the snow. Overnight flurries had buried them under two inches of new fluff but the crows were not fooled. Four of the largest I've ever seen were busy at dawn scratching, exposing and feeding. Shortly, two gray squirrels came charging out of the woods sending the four crows into a tizzy. After a brief dispute, the crows, nearly twice the size of the squirrels, were driven off. It was a pretty courageous fight-or-flight encounter on both sides. But it would seem that winter food shortages can trigger the "inner-tiger" in squirrels.
- Tom Lake

1/8 - George's Island, HRM 39: Snow flurries continued after last night's snowfall. The river at George's Island was hardly moving and the serenity was incredible. We spotted an adult bald eagle atop one of the trees on Dogan Point, a peninsula that extends into the river just to the north. Soon two more adults flying close together came upriver and landed in the trees on the Point. Quickly, two more joined them and all five seemed to be content, preening, with ever-watchful eyes on the river. Thirty-one common mergansers quietly floated around and ducked for fish near the shoreline. The eagles must have already eaten.
- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson

1/9 - Gardiner, Ulster County, HRM 73: We thought we saw a bald eagle yesterday, standing on a rock in the Wallkill River waiting for a fish to swim by. Today we absolutely saw one in a tree at the same spot. This is the first time I have seen a bald eagle in our neighborhood and it was very exciting.
- Roland Ellis

1/9 - George's Island, HRM 39: Despite the cold snap, the access from George's Island to the river was free of ice buildup, and with the exception of occasional small ice floes, so had the river. Paddling my kayak south into Haverstraw Bay, I emerged from the launch area and was rewarded with a close sighting of a magnificently large bald eagle perched in the lower branch of a tree on the southern tip of George's Island. Although I glided by, paddles still, no more than twenty feet away, the bird ignored my passing. It was still there when I returned an hour later.
- Stephen Butterfass

1/9 - Town of Cortlandt, HRM 38.5: The past few days have offered sufficient ice and temperatures moderate enough to tempt me to indulge in boyhood pleasure: fishing through the ice. As I punch through the ice and sit hunched over a hole waiting for a bite, the decades roll away. I'm back in my native Michigan, on a farm pond somewhere, full of hope and oatmeal and fully alive. Some things don't change: the joy of reading, the roll call of the lovely iridescent colors of the winter fish - sunfish, crappie, yellow perch - all so perfectly formed for their lives in small waters. The sounds of winter birds: crows commuting from roost to day job, the scolding of chickadees and jays, and the dramatic pileated woodpeckers whooping through the woods. And then, finally, the sizzle of tiny panfish fillets in the old iron skillet, to be served on toast for a much-anticipated second breakfast. My kind of reality show.
- Christopher Letts

1/9 - Croton Point, HRM 35-34: Those of us at the Saw Mill River Audubon bird walk braved 20 degree F temperatures. Looking through a spotting scope at the mouth of the Croton River we spotted two adult bald eagles in the trees on the south side of Croton Point. As two immature eagles flew over the Croton River, the buffleheads, lesser scaup, common mergansers, and canvasbacks became instantly alert. At the base of Croton Point we came upon two American pipits flitting around on a grassy patch of ground where the snow had melted.
- Dorothy Ferguson and Bob Ferguson

1/10 - Mohawk River, HRM 157: The river at Lock 8 in Rotterdam was nearly frozen over. There were two small open areas of water, one near lock 8 and the other next to Daly's Island where I spotted an adult bald eagle soaring overhead. Much later I saw an eagle feeding on the ice next to the open water near Daly's Island and wondered if this was the same bird.
- Tony Scalise

1/10 - Ulster County, HRM 92: As I was driving along a frozen Ashokan Reservoir a huge bird with an enormous wing-span flew up from the embankment. It was an immature bald eagle. If there hadn't been a car traveling behind me I would have stopped and tried to take a picture.
- Roberta S. Jeracka

1/10 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67.5: I felt like a detective this morning as I walked around the yard checking out tracks in the new snow. It is always quite mysterious as to what goes on at night: the dog becomes alert and I wonder why. Last night one wild turkey walked up my driveway. That seemed odd since I rarely see just one. A small herd of white-tailed deer ran across the yard and into the woods - I saw at least three different-sized prints - and they were in a hurry. A small coyote or a large red fox also crossed the yard (the paw size was intermediate and the gait was ambiguous). Then dawn comes, the sun rises, and they all melt into the shadows.
- Tom Lake

1/10 - Beacon, HRM 61: It was a cold afternoon with high clouds that created a mirror image on the river. We walked along the Riverside Trail from Beacon south to Denning's Point (we don't hike the point in winter because the trails are closed to protect the wintering bald eagles) We saw many crows as we walked and the light was spectacular as the sun began to edge towards the horizon. After we finished our return walk, we decided that the sunset was going to be too wonderful to miss so we walked out to Long Dock and were rewarded with a gorgeous, coral-colored, flaming sunset. The ice stretched far across the Hudson and there was a huge flock of crows on the ice. As we watched, two foxes came off the point out onto the ice. The crows made quite a fuss! We watched as the foxes ran out to the middle of the river, headed up toward the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge, and were soon too far away to tell if they were gray or red foxes. As the sunset was coming to a close they made their way back toward the shore. When we were leaving, we spotted a beautiful red fox coming out from Scenic Hudson's little white house. I absolutely love our beautiful river; how lucky I am to call this part of the world my home!
- LouAnn Joyce, Thom Joyce

1/10 - Storm King, HRM 57: I spotted two golden eagles near here yesterday and again today. The birds focused their activities along the steep ledge face, gliding and perching in trees on the cliff or just at the upper edge of it. This is the third consecutive winter we have seen golden eagles here.
- Jesse Jaycox

1/10 - West Nyack, HRM 27: As we were viewing the bald eagles that have been wintering along the Hackensack River, we were treated to great views of a female belted kingfisher and a red fox that loped down the hill across the river and then curled up to rest near a fallen tree.
- Linda Pistolesi, Marcel Jaloveckas.

1/10 - Edgewater, NJ, HRM 9: This afternoon from our apartment, eight stories above the Hudson, I spotted a magnificent adult bald eagle perched in a tree looking over gulls in the river. I had seen one this far down river before. After a few minutes, he flew down to a few feet above the water sending the gulls scattering, then directly across the river until I lost sight of him.
- Bob Honsinger

1/11 - Mid-Hudson Valley, HRM 70-45: The thermometer read zero degrees Fahrenheit at dawn for the thirty-second annual New York State Mid-Winter Bald Eagle Census. This is the day when we try to count all of the eagles, both bald eagles and golden eagles, in the major state flyways, wintering, roosting, and congregation areas. The recent surge of true winter weather had driven many wintering birds south from Canada and points north and east. The following ten entries are from census takers who spent the better part of the day figuratively "chasing" and counting eagles as the birds refused to stay put!
- Tom Lake

1/11 - Soap Hill to Danskammer Point, HRM 67-66.5: Across a mile from the wooded hillside at Soap Hill to the warm water outflow at the power generating plant, I spotted four adult bald eagles. These might have been the four adults from the two nests across the river in Dutchess County. Those nests were empty this morning.
- Tom Lake

1/11 - Danskammer Point, HRM 66.5-64.5: In my one hour, two mile walk along the river south from Danskammer Point for the bald eagle census, I counted ten bald eagles, 3 adults and 7 immatures. The morning was frigid with most of the Hudson covered in floe ice.
- Eric Shaw

1/11 - Danskammer Point, HRM 66.5: In our helicopter flyover for the bald eagle census, we counted three adult eagles.
- Pete Nye, NYSDEC Endangered Species Unit

[Counting eagles can be imprecise, and totals must be compiled carefully. Along the same 1-2 mile reach of the river, exactly one hour apart, the number of birds changed from 4 to 10 back to 3. Tom Lake.]

1/11 - Town of Fishkill, HRM 63.5: While standing in front of our Stony Kill Environmental Education Center barn in late morning, I observed a "sun dog" clearly evident to the right of the sun.
- Reba Wynn Laks

[Sun dogs "...occasionally, when conditions are just right, high, thin clouds will scatter colored light, creating beautiful bands of color. These clouds, known as iridescent or opalescent clouds, are made up of uniform drops of water, each of which is about the same size or smaller than a wavelength of red light. The drops scatter light of different wavelengths at different angles, creating colors." From "The Color of Nature" by Pat Murphy and Paul Doherty]

1/11 - Newburgh-Beacon Bridge, HRM 62.3: The river looked like a jumbled moonscape of angular blocks of ice. The rising tide and resulting upriver current had the ice singing a loud and strident song. At least 100 Canada geese were jammed, wing-to-wing, in an ice-free opening that looked no larger than a dining room table.
- Tom Lake

1/11 - Denning's Point, HRM 60: In late morning we spotted three immature eagles in mid-river on the ice and a fourth at the mouth of Fishkill Creek.
- Rich Anderson

1/11 - West Point, HRM 51: There were no eagles in sight from the South Dock at West Point. Despite the upriver current, the ice was still. Frozen. With no open water, 250-300 Canada Geese were resting on the ice a few hundred feet offshore. From their totally relaxed posture, they may have been recuperating from a long flight.
- Tom Lake

1/11 - Highland Falls to Manitou, HRM 50-46: One immature eagle was on the ice just below West Point's Hotel Thayer in late morning. Single adults were perched across the river from Mystery Point and Manitou, and a third adult soared over Manitou Marsh.
- Rich Anderson

1/11 - Roa Hook to China Pier, HRM 44-43: Once south of the Hudson Highlands, the river ice lessened considerably and the eagle count rose. We counted three immatures and four adults on the ice along the length of Peekskill Bay. Four more adults and one immature were across the river on the west side as well as two immatures and three adults just to the south opposite China Pier. The birds were in the air, on the ice, and perched, resulting in a conservative total of 17.
- John Stowell

1/11 - George's Island, HRM 39: We were here to count the eagles! An adult was perched back in the trees on Dogan Point while two immatures were closer to the river. Three more flew past but were too far away to determine their age. And lastly, an ice floe drifting down river held three more for our total of nine.
- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson

1/11- Hudson River and southeast New York: Preliminary results from our helicopter bald eagle survey produced a record count off 277 birds, 142 adults and 135 immatures, significantly eclipsing the past record of 238 eagles seen a decade ago (2000) along the same route.
- Pete Nye

1/12 - Rhinecliff, HRM 90: There was a beautiful sheet of black ice, the kind we ice-boaters live for, that took a set in Astor Cove this morning. But when the tide began to ebb strongly in late afternoon, the square mile plate broke free and was quickly ushered down the river with the help of a strong northwest wind. At Rhinecliff, where the channel narrows slightly, it was chewed to bits in a spectacular show of sight and sound. The ice was two layers deep as it flowed past the dock - the lower layer was moving south with the current while the upper layer, being driven southeast by the strong wind, was shredded as it collided with the shore.
- John Sperr

1/12 - Ulster County, HRM 78: I was heading home over the ridge by Mohonk Preserve when a bobcat ran across the road in front of me. It was the first time I had ever seen one in the wild.
- Kevin Grieser

1/12 - Manhattan, HRM 8: I spotted two adult bald eagles riding ice floes downstream on the Hudson. They used their great wings to adjust their balance, lift off, and glide from floe to floe. It was breathtaking.
- Kevin Moses

1/13 - Newcomb, HRM 302: It was a chilly but beautiful morning. We headed out for our walk as the sun was just starting to gild the High Peaks with a rosy glow. Then, in the amount of time it took us to cross the road, the clouds came between the mountains and the sun, turning everything into a somber Quaker gray.
- Ellen Rathbone

1/13 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 75: It was a cold and still day at the end of our brief brush with the arctic air mass that covered much of the country. A slack tide and light overcast made for a good opportunity to assess and photograph the river ice from the Walkway over the Hudson. As I leaned over the rail near mid-span, there sat a peregrine falcon on the steel bars of the expansion links. It remained there for at least twenty minutes, unflinching and unperturbed by numerous others who came by and shared my discovery. The head was in constant motion, swiveling in all directions, keeping inventory of the airspace, with an occasional shuffling of the feet to perhaps relieve the numbing cold of the steel.
- John Sperr

1/14 - Croton River to Ossining, HRM 34-33: A lone adult bald eagle was perched on a small patch of ice near the shore at the mouth of the Croton River, its white head clearly visible as it sat waiting patiently for breakfast to appear. Later in the day in Ossining, as we watched two eagles out on the ice, an immature bird flew out of the trees along the river right at our eye level! Since our property is so high above the water, it gave us a completely different vantage point.
- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson

1/15 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 75.5: We were headed out onto the Walkway over the Hudson from the west side when an unusual "cronk-cronk" made us look up. There were two ravens in a tree fifty feet away at our level. The ravens flew closer to us, at one point landing on one of the major original steel girders that jut out past the cement walkway surface. We wondered if the birds were searching for a good nesting location and were considering the bridge superstructure. Although we hear them once in a while, we had never really been able to get this kind of visual. It doesn't seem possible, but we agreed on seeing them fly, they really are blacker than crows...
- Vivian Yess Wadlin

1/15- Croton Point, HRM 34: We saw an amazing display of eagles at the south end of Croton (Teller's) Point. Four immatures were soaring in the wind, touching wings and chirping away while an adult perched along the shore. Later we heard the hoots of a great horned owl and were very surprised to see the silhouette of a large great horned perched on the well marker poles on the landfill area where we used to see long-eared and short-eared owls hunt (two years absent).
- Scott Horecky, Kathy Sutherland.

1/15 - Yonkers, HRM 19: For twenty-five years, a flock of canvasbacks have wintered in the cove behind the Beczak Environmental Center. Their numbers always averaged 18. Today the ice cleared from the cove and I counted them from my perch on the Science Barge: twenty canvasbacks! I said to myself, the 18 must have 2 visitors
- Bob Walters

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