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Hudson River Almanac February 16 - February 23, 2010

OVERVIEW

There are weeks when the roll call of events sound so familiar that we sense a stillness on the river. During a week such as this, we can thank Deirdre Ryan and Briana Gotay for their beautiful poetry that reminds us that special moments and magical landscapes are still part of our valley.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

2/17 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 75.5: Resembling soot-covered snow, ice sheets halfway across the Hudson along Poughkeepsie's southern waterfront at dusk were covered with crows. Lots of them! In fact, thousands upon thousands of them, with more and more flapping in from all directions. In a short while, amid the raucous chorus of these night roosters, the birds covered all the trees and lampposts just south of the railroad station, looking like black apples, hanging from every limb. It was difficult to number the crows, but probably more than 10,000.

- John Mylod

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

2/16 - Town of Wappinger: It was a midday winter whiteout heading to eight inches of snow. The female eagle at nest NY62 was perched facing into a north breeze, eyes closed, body partially covered in snow. I would guess that she was just enduring the storm except that she had options for cover in nearby conifers. This was not her first storm and showing such resilience was nothing new for her.

- Tom Lake

2/16 - Kowawese, HRM 59:

- The Hudson River

Water glittering

In the sunlight.

Ice breaking

Crackling and whistling.

A bird cawing.

Current moving quickly.

Paw prints

of dogs, coyotes, fox, deer,

And rabbits in the snow.

Much can happen here.

This is the Hudson River.

- Deirdre Ryan, Sixth Grade, Vails Gate Tech Magnet School

2/16 - Town of Cortlandt, HRM 38.5. We are still seeing four pairs of cardinals despite daily visits by the local Cooper's hawk. Their tendency to feed at dawn and dusk might offer them some protection.

- Christopher Letts

2/17 - Wynantskill, HRM 149: Woodpecker antics: A female downy woodpecker perched on our suet feeder and then flew up to a dead branch where she was immediately driven off by a male hairy woodpecker who was then immediately driven off by a male red-bellied woodpecker. Very entertaining!

- George Wilson

2/17- New Hamburg, HRM 68: You could sense winter loosening its grip on the river. There were still plenty of ice sheets drifting past in the last of the flood tide, but the open areas were expanding and the smaller floes were dotted with eagles. In an area the size of a soccer field there were six birds, three adult and three immatures, all with heads bobbing on lunch and all getting a free ride upriver.

- Tom Lake

2/18 - Rhinebeck, HRM 90: A large dark shape flew into view in my backyard and I thought the crows had returned. On closer look, it was a pileated woodpecker inspecting the large silver maple that had lost some limbs in the last ice storm. He inspected the squirrel holes, jumped onto my stockade fence, then hopped straight up along the main trunk to where the branches had ripped off where he began hammering away. His mate appeared and they both hung around long enough for me to be thoroughly mesmerized, then off they flew! I hope they're nesting nearby.

- Joanne Engle

2/18 - Fishkill, HRM 61: The evening sky glowed with a pinkish hue while the snow-covered mountains seemed shrouded in a purplish haze. As I crossed Fishkill Creek, I spotted two dark forms flying overhead. When our paths intersected, I noted one to be a crow and the other a great blue heron flying to their respective night roosts. The last time I saw a great blue heron in these parts was back on January 5.

- Ed Spaeth

2/18 - Kowawese, HRM 59: Three classes of sixth-graders from Vails Gate Elementary came to the river to find inspiration to write poetry for their River of Words school program. On our one-mile hike through the woods we found many signs of wildlife in the fresh snow. Among them were coyote and white-tailed deer tracks. The coyotes were on the prowl looking for mice. We found much activity around brush piles and deadfalls where heavy leaf cover was present. We came upon a small flock of robins that my generation recognized as a sign of spring. Now they seem to be adapting better to our winters and are not uncommon all year long. We saw a more accurate sign of spring in the huge blocks of ice left on the beach by the dropping tide. The river was ice-free. As we came out of the woods we heard a "croak." Adrian Sosa pointed skyward and then we all watched as a raven did its raptor-glide through a stand of tall tulip trees. Samantha Kempton pointed out an immature red-tailed hawk that followed us along the river giving us nice looks as it pirouetted overhead and then repeatedly perched in plain view no more than 100 feet away.

- Tom Lake, Sharon Gerald

2/18 - Croton Point, HRM 34.5: As I was exiting Croton Point in mid-afternoon after a thrilling day of following bald eagles up and down the Hudson River, a red-tailed hawk was flapping and hunting to my right just below the landfill. My camera was on the seat next to me, but several cars were behind me. I decided to slow down so as not to cause an accident. One car passed, but the other also noticed the red-tail fly across the road in front of us and grab a squirrel as it was trying to run up a tree on the left side. With its prize firmly in hand, it swooped directly at me in my car and landed on the tree right in front. I stopped and caught the feeding action. That bird could have cared less about humans as it devoured its dinner.

- Bonnie Talluto

2/19 - Ulster Park, HRM 87: We saw our first turkey vulture of the season today.

- Bill Drakert

2/19 - Farmer's Landing, Town of Wappinger, HRM 67.5: The chill winds were blowing at 15 mph with gusts to 23 as I stopped beside an ice-clogged river. Scanning the ice I spotted several dark forms. On closer inspection I saw they were crows. However, a bit upriver was a larger, dark form on the ice that turned out to be an immature bald eagle. Barely imperceptible to the naked eye, I could still gauge that the tide was rising despite the river being mostly frozen. Using a small limb of a nearby tree as a stationary marker, I noted that the bald eagle did ever so slowly move northward passing the tree limb indicator. Meanwhile, as I watched the activity on the river, a large red-tailed hawk landed high in a nearby sycamore tree. She perched there briefly making her own observations of the chilly scene, before flying southward out of sight.

- Ed Spaeth

2/20 - Rhinebeck, HRM 90: This morning, at a small marsh about a mile north of the Dutchess County Fairgrounds, I saw and heard a red-winged blackbird. It seems early for a redwing to be staking out his territory.

- Phyllis Marsteller

2/20 - Ulster Park, HRM 87: Spring must be here. A flock of about a dozen robins were on the lawn this morning! Our white blue jay (oxymoron) made one of his sporadic appearances as well. The titmice are singing!

- Bill Drakert

2/20 - Highland, HRM 76: In mid- afternoon we walked across the Walkway over the Hudson. The air was 44 degrees F but a 12 mph west wind added a chill that made it feel considerably colder. This did not deter us or several hundred others from enjoying a brisk walk across the beautiful Hudson River and delighting in the grand views with a ten-mile visibility in most directions. The river was clogged with broken ice floes all the way across with no visible open channel.

- Merrill Spaeth, Ed Spaeth

2/20 - Jersey City, NJ, Upper Bay, New York Harbor: Walking along the Liberty State Park promenade this morning, we saw rafts of brant, ruddy ducks and greater scaup along with occasional buffleheads. Then, near the Ellis Island Bridge, a pair of red-breasted mergansers swam by, the male's ordinarily tousled crest maniacally disheveled by the wind. Further out, three more red-breasted mergansers swam, a pair and a trailing male who scooted forward in what looked like a courting maneuver.

- Dan North, Rick Cordner

2/21 - Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge, HRM 96: Two peregrine falcons were thrilling hearts today over the bridge. Their torpedo-like flight caught my eye and thank goodness I was in the passenger seat.

- Krista Munger

2/21 - Ulster Park, HRM 87: The catkins on our pussy willows are starting to emerge.

- Bill Drakert

2/21 - Norrie Point HRM 85: In mid-afternoon we spotted six eagles. An adult and an immature were perched on Esopus Island. Two immatures were out on the ice. Another adult and one immature were perched across the way on the Ulster County side of the river. What a thrill to see all these immature eagles!

- Jim Prockup

2/22 - Ulster Park, HRM 87: The cardinals were singing and our first chipmunk showed up.

- Bill Drakert

2/22 - Clinton Point, Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 69: Slightly warmer days and considerably more sunlight continued to work in concert to loosen the ice in the lower river. The tides and currents were now drawing ice downriver from tributaries, bays and marshes. During a mid-morning ebb tide the river was choked with ice bank-to-bank, slowly moving seaward. Two immature eagles were along for the ride.

- Tom Lake

2/22 - Fishkill, HRM 61: Over the past few weeks, on warmer days, I have noticed a chipmunk making food forays about our yard and near the bird feeders. Today, it again ventured out into the daylight. This time, however, I actually noticed it emerge from its hole in the ground, but through several inches of snow cover as well. Other animal visitors come at night and though unseen, leave their tracks in the snow. One such line of tracks was surely that of a fox with foot prints showing unsheathed claws and in a straight line along the edge of the woods.

- Ed Spaeth

2/23 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Our "snowstick" at the Adirondack Park Visitors Interpretive Center was at seventeen inches, more than I've seen in months.

- Ellen Rathbone

2/23 - Ulster Landing, HRM 97.2: My crocus were emerging with about an inch showing, soon to be covered by this week's snowfall which just keeps coming down.

- Peg Duke

2/23 - Town of Wappinger: What began as a rainy day quickly became a snowstorm, then a whiteout, closing schools. The adult pair from eagle nest NY62 perched on limbs of the tulip tree, hunched over in the snow, slowly becoming patchy brown-and-white birds. The male shook and his cloak of white flew in every direction. Incubating season is not far away and they both instinctively know that days like this will make sitting on eggs in the nest for five weeks a challenge.

- Tom Lake

2/23 - Kowawese, HRM 59:

- Music From the River

Waves passing, forming music.

Ice melting, trees growing buds.

The ice sounds like animals walking on glass.

On the west, colorful birds chirping.

On the east, fish blowing bubbles.

Through the woods the animals follow the music,

Crows bobbing their heads to the beat.

- Briana Gotay, Sixth Grade, Vails Gate Tech Magnet School

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