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Hudson River Almanac February 8 - February 15, 2010

OVERVIEW

This was a typical late winter week with bald eagles providing most of the appeal along the river. It is easy to understand their increased visibility. With each day several minutes longer than the one before, eagle hormones begin to stir and they become more active as mating and nesting season approaches.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

2/12 - Manhattan, HRM 7.5: While admiring snowy Riverside Park and the Hudson River this morning from my window, I was thrilled by the appearance of an adult bald eagle. He stayed for quite awhile, flying lazy circles right in front of me. We see red-tailed hawks and peregrine falcons all the time, but this was our first eagle.
- K. Gershenhorn

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

2/8 - Clermont, HRM 104: As we meandered along on a dirt road near the river, we were struck by an almost completely white deer with "Appaloosa-like" spots randomly scattered over his flanks, a partial albino. I'd heard of white-tailed deer like these, but never encountered one before. I imagine this coloration wouldn't be much good in the summer, but in the mixed hardwoods and spotty snow it was wonderful camouflage.
- Dave Taft, John Waldman, Rob Maass

2/8 - Norrie Point, HRM 85: We spotted a lone adult bald eagle perched on an ice floe in the channel east of Esopus Island. A barge came by and we wondered if the wake would disturb the eagle. No chance! The dark hulk of the barge offered a nice contrast to the bird's white head as the eagle stayed put.
- Pat Joel, Bill Joel

2/8 - Croton Point, HRM 35: For the first time in perhaps a decade, a red-headed woodpecker was wintering in the oak grove behind the park office. I saw the first flocks of returning male red-winged blackbirds here today.
- Christopher Letts

2/9 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Evening grosbeaks galore were noisily filling the trees outside the Adirondack Park Visitors Interpretive Center. I had a flock in a tree behind my house this morning while I was filling the feeders.
- Ellen Rathbone

2/9 - Ulster County, HRM 85: As we walked along Rondout Creek in Rosendale, we spotted a bald eagle soaring overhead, following the path of the river.
- Sarah Charlop-Powers, Alexandra Linardakis

2/9 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: For as long as I can recall, birding literature has stressed that dark-eyed juncos were ground feeders that rarely visit seed feeders. Last year I noticed a few juncos taking thistle and this year they have been every bit as common on the rungs of the feeders as the goldfinches.
- Tom Lake

[Juncos are on a fast track learning curve. Rich Guthrie.]

2/10 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: Six inches of new snow created a fresh slate for wildlife. It was amazing to see that in just one overnight, a small herd of white-tail deer had crisscrossed a small hay field several times. On the periphery, upwind from the deer tracks, at least three coyotes had hugged a tree line. It is likely the coyotes were interested, but the snow was not deep enough to slow the white-tails down and a healthy deer can outrun a coyote all night long.
- Tom Lake

2/10 - Peekskill, HRM 43: As long as there is ice on Peekskill Bay, I can see bald eagles on it from my window every morning. Dare I say they are becoming our most commonly seen winter bird? We walked out to the end of China Pier today (also called Fleishman's Pier) and with wind-driven snow pelting our faces, spied four solitary adult eagles out on the ice - seemingly oblivious to the storm - keeping their distance from each other.
- Peter Schechter, Ilene Glickman, Andy Sillin

2/11 - Green Island, HRM 153: A merlin was perched in a tree just below the federal dam at Troy, seemingly unaffected by the cold and windy day. The falcon then swooped down from its perch and flew west toward town.
- Nicole Vente

2/11 - Catskill, HRM 113: In late afternoon, I spotted a peregrine falcon soaring above the Rip Van Winkle Bridge and then chasing a flock of pigeons. With the sunset as a backdrop, it was a beautiful sight.
- Nicole Vente

2/11 - Gardiner, HRM 73: The crest of the hay field that rises behind my house is almost at eye level when I look out a second-floor window. On most mornings I see white-tailed deer or wild turkey, but today I was thrilled to look upon a red fox on the hunt. It continued stalking and "mouse leaping" long enough for me to get my binoculars. As soon as I brought the fox into focus, I saw that it finally caught its prey and was heading toward the woods' edge.
- Laura Heady

2/11 - Fort Montgomery, HRM 46.5: While walking the old Fort Montgomery Revolutionary War ruins, we kept seeing small birds foraging in the trees and on the ground. We could see that some were tufted titmice but the sun was in our eyes, making others harder to identify. When we moved to get the sun at our backs, we were delighted to see four male eastern bluebirds bouncing from tree to ground and back.
- John Walters

2/12 - Ravena, HRM 134: I saw my first turkey vultures today. Vultures, both turkey vultures and black vultures, have become a more reliable indicator of approaching spring, especially in the middle and upper Hudson Valley.
- Rich Guthrie

2/12 - Ulster Park, HRM 87: We had red-winged blackbirds and common grackles around today. The numbers were not large - those are yet to arrive.
- Bill Drakert

[Red-winged blackbirds and common grackles are still a pretty reliable indicator of lengthening days leading to spring. Tom Lake.]

2/12 - Hyde Park, HRM 82: Part of the National Park Service's celebration of Presidents Day and the Great Backyard Bird Count included a series of bird walks. Six of us walked the Springwood estate and saw black-capped chickadees, dark-eyed juncos and titmice near the Rose Garden. In the marsh, we spotted hairy, red-bellied and pileated woodpeckers. We also spooked an immature red-tailed hawk. Heading back behind Springwood, literally in FDR's backyard, we saw four eastern bluebirds in a tuliptree, hopefully a sign that spring is near!
- Dan Whalen

2/12 - Highland, HRM 75: I looked out the back window this morning and saw a red-tailed hawk on the ground near the barn. The hawk fluttered up three feet in the air and hovered, talons outstretched, in front of a barn window. After a few seconds, the hawk dropped back to the ground and stared intently at the window. I looked closer and saw that a small bird was trapped behind the glass in the window and was pacing rapidly back and forth. I watched the hawk repeat this routine several times. By the time I went outside, the hawk was gone and the small bird was nowhere to be seen.
- Matilda Crovisie

2/12 - Highland Mills, HRM 50: Our yard was filled with a mixed flock of robins and starlings, about 20 of each, all trying to eke out some sustenance from various small tree berries. They seem a little early, I suppose just stopping on their way farther north for the season.
- Alan Groth

[Seeing robins at this time of year may be less a sign of spring and more an indicator of their slow adaptation to climate change. On average, our winters are not as severe as they once were. Tom Lake.]

2/12 - Croton River, HRM 34: From the warmth of our kitchen we had a once-in-a-lifetime experience, an opportunity to see an adult bald eagle soar past our window, eye-to-eye, less than 10 feet away! The bird's wings were stretched to the maximum with its distinctive end feathers. It had an aggressive looking taxi-yellow beak (with a clear over bite] and a pristine white crown. Its bright gray-brown eyes were breathtakingly powerful, beautiful, and majestic. Our view out the window will never be quite the same. How wise the Founding Fathers were to choose this creature as a symbol of our strength and freedom.
- Sandy Plotkin

2/12 - Burdett's Landing, NJ, HRM 8.5: This small community is literally right on the banks of the river below Edgewater. It's a real challenge to have a dock during the winter months. Late at night the crushing, crunching sound of the ice floes bumping along the shore is magical. Often there is much commotion from circling gulls if one happens to have a fish on an ice floe enjoying a moving feast as the ice drifts up or down the river. Recently I saw a dozen robins. How do they survive in a snowstorm?
- Katherine Mikel

[See Highland Mills, above, for the robin's tale. Tom Lake.]

2/13 - Highland, HRM 75: While sitting by a window I heard a sound that I felt sure was some kind of raptor. The house sits above the river across from Marist College. I looked at the trees near the house but did not see anything. Then I heard the sound again and looked up. Perched in a tree next to the house was an adult bald eagle.
- Doug Rackow

2/13 - Town of Wappinger: The adult pair of eagles was perched on either side of the nest NY62. It was mating time and they had been busy readying their nest for the upcoming season. The ground around the tree was littered with twigs and small branches that had been replaced or discarded from the nest during what amounts to a "spring cleaning." The discard had caught the curious attention of three coyotes; their tracks circled the tree, with "snuffle marks" in the snow where they had pushed their muzzles along following a scent. In three weeks, or less, the female eagle will begin incubating eggs.
- Tom Lake

2/13 - Jersey City, NJ, Upper Bay, New York Harbor: Two hooded mergansers were among the brant and ring-billed gulls on the rocks at low tide this morning at the south end of Liberty State Park. The brant have been especially plentiful here this winter, usually in large murmuring flocks packed tightly on the grassy lawns. The mergansers rested and preened on the rocks, then swam off toward the Statue of Liberty.
- Dan North, Rick Cordner

2/14 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: This morning I watched a red-tailed hawk as it perched on an oak branch at the edge of the woods. The bird swiveled its head around and around searching for prey. When I went out to feed the birds, I think I spooked it. The hawk slowly rose, shook itself a bit, cast a look in my direction, and then flew away circling up to the thermals.
- Robin Fox

2/15 - Hyde Park, HRM 83: The National Park Service wrapped up its Presidents Day Weekend Bird Walk Series at the Vanderbilt Mansion, in conjunction with the Great Backyard Bird Count. Along the park road we observed chickadees, titmice, and a white-breasted nuthatch. Downy and red-bellied woodpeckers as well as flickers were in the pine grove. Heading up the hill from Bard Rock we were graced by a handful of bluebirds. We saw activity in a grove and were rewarded with a flock of cedar waxwings. Back at the Overlook, as if orchestrated, an adult bald eagle launched from the stand of trees and flew directly at us. It soared thirty feet over our heads riding the thermals. It was a fitting ending to the backyard birding series.
- Paul Adams, Dan Whalen

2/15 - Beacon, HRM 61: With the air temperature in the "balmy" low 30's and a blue sky we walked the Klara Sauer trail from the Beacon train station south along the river. There were many gulls and crows out on the ice that extended far across the river. No eagles appeared but ten turkey vultures came floating in the sky, swirling slowly about, before heading away. At Long Dock, George Trakas' "artscape" had been augmented by huge blocks of ice piled up and covering a quarter of the dock. What fantastic ice sculptures by Mother Nature!
- Carolyn Plage, Ed Connelly, Chance Plage

2/15 - Oscawana, HRM 38.5: It was not unusual to spot an eagle perched out on the peninsula that is Oscawana Island, but today an adult was perched much closer, only yards from where we stood. As if that wasn't enough, an immature was sitting high on a branch directly above us. The adult eagle was so close that through our scope only its head was in view. Its yellow eyes and bright yellow beak were clear and we were thrilled when it turned and looked directly at us. Its brown feathers were not solid but patterned, and its talons reached nearly all away around the branch on which it was perched. We watched its beak open and close as it emitted its low chirping sound. It always amazes us that such a large bird has such a timid sounding voice. What a wonderful way to spend Presidents' Day!
- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson, Dianne Picciano, Rudy Fasciani

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