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Hudson River Almanac January 24 - January 31, 2010

OVERVIEW

After a few days of mid-winter thaw and at least one day of record warmth, we were back into the snow and ice. The freeze-thaw of river ice and the ebb current had floes drifting far down river to the edges of Manhattan.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

1/30 - Cheviot, HRM 106: On my way home on Woods Road this afternoon, I was treated to a close up of a young red-tailed hawk sitting on the shoulder of the road guarding his [or a passing car's] kill. A mile or so further north, an adult bobcat crossed the road right in front of me, moving at a slow lope, offering an excellent look - it paused in the snowy field for a few seconds and we looked at each other before it moved on into the woods. It was a nice reward for venturing out on this very cold day.

- Jude Holdsworth

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

1/24 - Catskill, HRM 114: For the past couple of weeks, I've noticed a curious sight on my approach to the Rip Van Winkle Bridge heading east. Around sunset, the sky darkens with hundreds of crows coming from the east and southeast. They congregate in their night roost trees near the entrance to the bridge: a "murder" of crows! They flow quickly like a swarm of bees, were as loud as a herd of buffalo, and stayed together like a nest of mice.

- Fran Martino

1/24 - Hyde Park HRM 82 - I watched a solitary immature bald eagle hitching a ride down river in the tide on a large ice floe.

- Karen Becker

1/24 - Kowawese, HRM 59:

- The Wind, the Water, the Ice

I can still hear the ice scraping together.

The river moves along at its own pace,

As if the world revolved around the river's time.

I see broken parts of the river pass by.

I almost feel like there is peace in the world.

- Alexis Valentin, Sixth Grade, Vails Gate Tech Magnet School

1/24 - Peekskill to Croton Point, HRM 43-34: Twelve of us gathered to look for wintering eagles and waterfowl. When we began these winter trips 10-12 years ago, it was always with fingers crossed, hoping that we'd see more than a couple of eagles. Now it is difficult to be disappointed. We had eagles at every stop: 2 at China Pier, 2 at Verplanck, 8 at Dogan Point, and 11 at Croton. The tally included 23 eagles, 3 ring-necked ducks, 2 ruddy ducks, 25 common mergansers, 21 canvasbacks, and 20 buffleheads.

- Bob Rancan, Janet Rancan, Alec Maylon, Hillary Maylon

1/24 - Croton Point, HRM 35: Goldeneyes, once a reliable presence in the winter waters here, are few and far between these days. Naturalist Nancy Slowik is of the opinion that the wintering bald eagles may be responsible. Goldeneye is on the list of duck dinners popular with the big birds. I felt fortunate to view a pair off the swimming beach, where I have seen them several times this month. The other gee-whiz moment on this morning stroll came when I was at the center of a mixed flock of more than a dozen golden-crowned and ruby-crowned kinglets, foraging no more than a few feet away. Their bright crowns were a jewel-like counterpoint to the drab winter foliage.

- Christopher Letts

1/25 - Town of Poughkeepsie: More than two inches of rain had fallen; some areas along the Hudson had received 3-5"). Strong winds gusting over 50 mph split a giant tuliptree that housed a bald eagle nest. Fortunately, the half still standing contained the nest. We will monitor the nest to see if the mated pair is still inclined to use it this coming spring.

- Garrick Bryant

1/25 - Orange County, HRM 75: The air temperature reached 59 degrees F today, establishing a record high for the date. The old record was 56.

- National Weather Service

1/25 - Croton Point, HRM 34.5: A wild, rain-lashed morning gave way to a balmy afternoon as temperatures pushed 60 degrees F. Canada geese were pairing and beginning to dispute rights to territory and the buffleheads, those enthusiastic romantic little ducks, were practicing their prenuptials over and over, churning the water, flailing wings, diving and popping up ever closer to their perceived "perfect woman." Even the titmice and cardinals were sounding like May was just around the corner.

- Christopher Letts

1/26 - Town of Wallkill, HRM 75: The recent warm weather and yesterday's torrential rains washed the ice from the Wallkill River. The current was very strong but wherever there was an eddy, backwater or bay, hundreds of Canada geese were rafted up.

- Tom Lake

1/26 - Town of Warwick, Orange County, HRM 41: Liberty Marsh was thawing from the rain and warm air, but there were no waterfowl in sight. Those that had been here were now farther south in reliably open water. The show was in the air, a pair of northern harriers (marsh hawks) hunting the hummocks. They dipped and darted, teetered and swayed, showing off their incredible aerial dexterity.

- Tom Lake

1/26 - Crugers, HRM 39: I heard a whistling sound coming from the sky this morning and looked up to see two red-tailed hawks flying overhead. They flew on by, then returned, swooping and flying in tandem. At one point they flew off in opposite directions, came back, and circled each other. Finally, they departed, one going north and the other south. A courtship flight?

- Dorothy Ferguson

1/27 - Hudson, HRM 118: While visiting one of my usual lunch-time haunts, the city of Hudson boat launch, I was treated to a diving duck show. Swimming and diving out of the current, away from the ice floes, were 4 common mergansers, 3 males and a female. The female was resplendent in her spiked, punk hair-do!

- Karen McCaffrey

1/28 - Rhinecliff, HRM 88: There was a winter whiteout in mid-morning. Visibility varied depending upon the intensity of the snowfall. At best you could see the Esopus Meadows Lighthouse midway across the river; at worst you could hear, but not see, the river ice rushing upriver in the flood current. During a lull in the squall I spotted two immature eagles on an ice floe hunched over a dark shape, possibly a deer carcass. Within seconds they dissolved away.

- Tom Lake

1/28 - Croton River, HRM 34: Flurries turned into a half-day snowfall of fluffy white that transformed driving into a nightmare. The three inches of snow stuck to everything. The raft of Canada geese riding it out in the sheltered waters of the Croton River were blanketed with the downy stuff, becoming, for a few hours, "snow geese."

- Christopher Letts

1/28 - Hastings-on-Hudson, HRM 21.5: We checked out Kinnally Cove Waterfront Park around low tide, and noticed dozens of presumably live oysters attached to the rocks and rip-rap. Most were one-and-a-half to two-and-a-half inches long, and occurred singly or in small groups. They shared the rock faces with a variety of barnacles, mussels, and crusty bryozoans.

- Chris Bowser, Steve Stanne, Margie Turrin, Sarah Mount

1/28 - Manhattan, HRM 12.5: We met with a group of Urban Park Rangers at Inwood Park Center to examine the estuary and its water chemistry. Water temperatures was a cold 2.4 degrees C (36 degrees Fahrenheit) with DO (dissolved oxygen) at a healthy 11.0 parts-per-million (ppm). Salinity levels barely registered for the first sampling which created a puzzle. But a new sample registered 7.0 parts-per-thousand (ppt); the earlier reading was a result of snow sloughing into the edges of the embayment and diluting the water in the sample area.

- Margie Turrin, Steve Stanne, Sarah Mount, Chris Bowser

1/29 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67.5: Three inches of fresh snow had provided a new slate for recording the night visitors. At least three coyotes had crisscrossed the yard; their intentions were easy to figure: there were several three-foot-long troughs in the snow where they had pushed their muzzles along searching for mice.

- Tom Lake

1/29 - George's Island, HRM 39: We hadn't seen any eagles using the night roost here so far this winter, so we stopped by at last light. As the light faded, we counted thirty eagles in the trees. As we left the park, we were treated to the sight of the largest and brightest full moon of the year.

- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson

1/30 - New Hamburg to Bear Mountain, HRM 68-46: The Hudson was 95% ice-covered along this 22-mile reach. With little or no open water, the eagles were elsewhere.

- Tom Lake

1/30 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67.5: The moon was so bright that it took a few seconds for your eyes to adjust, like walking into a dark room and switching on a light. The first coyote call came at 10:17 PM, and after that they never seemed to shut up.

- Tom Lake

[This was a "perigee moon," when the elliptical orbit of the moon brings it closest to Earth. Tonight's moon appeared bigger and brighter, and it fact it was 14% wider and about 30% brighter than any other full moon this year. Tom Lake.]

1/30 - Iona Island, HRM 45.5: At Metro North sped past under Anthony's Nose I could make out the bright white heads of two adult bald eagles perched in a sentinel white pine on Iona Island. With three nests within a five-minute eagle flight, these could be a local mated pair.

- Tom Lake

1/30 - Yorktown, HRM 44: For the last two days a red squirrel has made lightning fast visits to our deck picking up spillovers from the bird feeder.

- Helle Raheem

1/30 - Croton Dam, HRM 34: It was winter again, with ice and snow! The rock face along Route 129 was hung with thick, dripping ice-beards again. With just the right beams of sunlight, they seemed lit from within. The last two nights, when the moon was full, I was mesmerized by the shadow patterns of tree branches the moonlight cast on the snow. When I looked last night the shadow-show was fitful as the clouds swept over the moon and finally darkened it.

- Robin Fox

1/30 - Scarborough, HRM 32: The ice cover on the Tappan Zee dropped off to 50% and the eagles appeared. Counting the five immatures on ice floes off Scarborough, this was a "seven-eagle" Metro North train trip to Manhattan.

- Tom Lake

1/30 - Croton Point, HRM 35-34: With the air temperature in the teens, a considerable wind chill, and the river icing up, even I thought that kayaking would not be a good idea. So we went for a long walk on Croton Point to look for eagles. We were rewarded with an eagle flying low over the swimming beach just in front of us; several more perched in various trees and nine more riding on ice floes in the river itself. As we reached the southern tip of the point, where the land sharply drops off, we came suddenly upon two magnificent mature adults, sitting in a tree twenty feet away and almost at eye level. As we walked the landfill, a red-tailed hawk sat and watched from one of the metal poles planted there in the field. A "raptorous" time was had by all!

- Stephen Butterfass, Ariel Butterfass

1/30 - Harlem River, HRM 12.5: In the lee of Spuyten Duyvil at the top of Manhattan Island, a small raft of brant had found some quiet water. These small geese have been more common this winter, or perhaps we are reporting them more frequently.

- Tom Lake

1/31 - Hughsonville, HRM 68: On a cloudless afternoon my brother-in-law and I spotted an extremely large bird circling as if looking for food. At first due to its size, we thought it to be a turkey buzzard, but the wing tips were clearly white. As this bird flew into better sighting, we could see that the head color was black leading us to believe this was a black vulture.

- Wayne Theiss

1/31 - Iona Island, HRM 45.5: While walking on Iona Island Road toward the Hudson, I heard the unmistakable chatter of a kingfisher. I'd never seen one in mid-winter, but there it was, landing in a tree in the marshy area on the island's north end.

- Dan North

1/31 - Oscawana, HRM 38.5: We made two trips here today looking for eagles and counted 16. Six were in the trees this morning and three more this afternoon (7 adults). As a barge made its way down river in late day, we spotted seven more out on an ice floe, too far away to determine their age. An added treat was our first robin sighting of the year.

- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson

1/31- Croton Bay, HRM 34: The Croton River outflow had created a long narrow ribbon of open water extending out into the bay. Along the edges of the ice were ruddy ducks, buffleheads, coot, gadwall, mallards and black ducks, and small groupings of Canada geese.

- Tom Lake

1/31 - Scarborough, HRM 32: More brant. Perhaps I've sharpened my sight-image for them this winter, or they really are more common. Bobbing a few hundred feet offshore was a small raft of brant surrounded, at a distance, by mallards and black ducks.

- Tom Lake

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