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Hudson River Almanac February 24 - March 2, 2010

OVERVIEW

Marine mammal sightings in the Hudson, from seals to porpoises to dolphins, are always exciting, primarily because they are relatively infrequent and their presence largely mysterious. For the third time in five years we have a harp seal. For the first time, however, it is an adult. Marine mammals' presence in the estuary, in particular seals and porpoises, may be related to early spring fish migrations from the sea.


HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

2/28 - Bowline Point, HRM 37: We have a visitor to the river ice outside the Bowline Power Plant in Haverstraw. Photos confirmed the species as an adult harp seal. We are unable to confirm the sex or body assessment at this time as the seal is on the ice quite a distance from the shore. We have notified the local authorities in addition to wildlife rehabilitators that we are monitoring the seal for the next few days to see if it leaves the area. I think this may be the first adult on record as the others from the Hudson have been yearlings.
- Kim Durham

[Kimberly Durham is the Rescue Program Director and Biologist for the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation. If you do spot a marine mammal that is genuinely in need of assistance, call the Riverhead Foundation's 24-Hour Stranding Hotline: 631-369-9829.
Harp seals have a dark face, silvery-gray body, and a black horseshoe, wishbone, or harp-shaped saddle pattern on their back. Adults are 5-6 feet long and weigh about 300 lb. This is the third time in the last seven years that a harp seal has been recorded in the Hudson River. In 2003, an immature harp seal was sighted around the Port of Albany (HRM 144) from January 21 through February 6. In 2005, at least one, possibly two immature harp seals were sighted from Manhattan's 79th Street Boat Basin south to the North Cove Marina and the Battery (HRM 5.5-0) from February 5 until March 2. Another harp seal sighting occurred in 2005 on February 22, from Verplanck (HRM 40.5) in Westchester County. Since the date falls in the range of the Manhattan sightings, it may have been the same seal. Tom Lake.]


NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

2/24 - Town of Wappinger: After nine inches of heavy snow, eagle nest NY62 was sagging. Neither of the adult birds made an appearance all day.
- Tom Lake

2/25 - Town of Wappinger: Another day, another nine inches of heavy snow - covering the nest (NY62). It appeared, however, that the nest was as resilient as the eagles, since the basic structure showed no signs of damage. But again, there were no eagles in sight. I'm becoming concerned; they ought to be hanging out at least. I watched a half-dozen white-tailed deer high-stepping through the accumulated nearly knee-high snow. With every twig of every branch of every limb snow-covered, it was truly a winter wonderland, and one that would be much loved if this were only January!
- Tom Lake

2/25 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: As the big end-of-February-snow started piling up, it occurred to me that this has been the winter of the juncos. Those perfectly shaped, tuxedo-attired birds have monopolized the feeders at my house, and mobbed the ground around them. They were in a full frenzy of feeding as cotton ball-sized snow fell late this afternoon. Suddenly the juncos flew off. The nearby bushes, low-hanging tree branches, feeders, and then the entire area were a'flutter with robins! For at least 20 minutes robins dashed about through the heavily falling snow, feeding everywhere. Finally, just as suddenly, the robins flew off ... then it was dusk, snow falling hard and fast. Only a few juncos, titmice, and a lone red cardinal pecked at the feeder. Then the finale - the power went off at my house.
- Robin Fox

2/26 - Newcomb, HRM 302: I saw an eagle this morning, probably two. The first bird was huge, an immature, moving with slow, ponderous stroke, big arcing flaps. The second was up high, soaring with nary a flap, but I could see the white head and tail. I pulled over and took photos. Big log trucks zoomed by, and many other cars, probably all wondering what in the world this woman was doing on the side of the road, staring at the sky with a camera in her hands.
- Ellen Rathbone

2/26 - Minerva, HRM 284: After two months without appreciable snow, we've gotten 18 inches of wet, sloggy snow over the past couple of days. The air temperature in the mid-upper 30s makes it seem like spring's around the corner. I'm not quite ready yet. I saw some snowshoe hare tracks out in the back for the first time in a while, along with the spring call of the chickadees. I admit that I'm thinking about sugar maple tapping activities once more.
- Mike Corey

2/26 - Hughsonville, HRM 67.5: I was clearing flat roofs that were weighed down after three abusing days of wet snow. The sound of a hawk above me drew my attention to three red-tailed hawks circling. Against the temporarily clearing sky, it was a calming sight, but I also knew that the two feet of snow was no obstacle for their keen senses as they searched for food. They glided with such grace and for so long that I was about to look away when one of them finally flapped its wings.
- Wayne Theiss

2/26 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: By midnight the predicted snow storm, a nor'easter, was here. A curtain of heavy, wet snow settled on tree limbs and power lines. Eventually the sounds of snap, crackle, and pop had everyone awake. Downed live power lines lit up the night with brilliant flashes. The sounds of branches snapping and trees toppling were unsettling. A transformer exploded not far away and then all went dark.
- Tom Lake

2/27 - Cheviot, HRM 106: At midday of day 4 of the storm, two immature eagles flew over the river, circling each other, swooping low over the water, one landing in the tree at the end of the jetty. Although an adult had been around recently, this was the first appearance of immatures that I have seen since last fall. As I made a note of them in my journal, I saw that a year ago almost to the day I had seen a pair of immature eagles doing the same thing in the same place. I wonder if it is the same pair signaling winter's passing in spite of the weather?
- Jude Holdsworth

2/27 - Staatsburg, HRM 85: After a week of snow, we had a sign of spring this morning. Our local and mated pair of red-shouldered hawks was sitting together on the cross on top of St. Margaret's Church. The male was on top of the cross, preening despite the light snow that was falling, and the female was on one of the horizontal arms, dozing with her head swivelled around to her back and partially under one of her wings.
- David Lund

2/27 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: At midday the storm had become impressive. It takes a lot for heavy, wet snow to fall horizontally, but the wind was whipping strongly and weakened limbs that had not yet fallen were teetering. The tree that held our suet feeders was a tangle of broken branches. The suet that was left was now down in the snow. Sounding like a wave of creaky doors, a flock of no fewer than nine blue jays arrived and took over every feeder they could find, including prospecting for the buried suet.
- Tom Lake

2/27 - Town of Wappinger: A foot or more of heavy snow covered the eagles' nest (NY62). The female perched on the rim for ten minutes without moving except for swiveling her head to let me know that I was not clever enough to be invisible. Then she left. Not a good sign.
- Tom Lake

2/27 - Manhattan, HRM 5: Central Park registered 21 inches of snow, making this the snowiest February in its recorded history.
- National Weather Service.

2/27 - Sandy Hook, NJ: I saw an encouraging sign of spring this morning as I was driving out onto the Hook. I was being paced for about three miles by a flock of grackles that seemed very determined to keep pressing north. There was also a small flock of snow buntings that kept vigil outside the chapel where we held our memorial service for Dery Bennett. Before that I had not seen them for three weeks.
- Jeff Dement

2/28 - Town of Knox, HRM 153: With over 45 inches of snow this week we are feeding thousands of birds ranging from the usual suspects to many wild turkeys, woodpeckers of all kinds, every squirrel within 1,000 feet of the house, rabbits, and - indirectly - some owls who have come out during the day, attracted by the activity around the bird feeder.
- Pat Price, Bob Price

2/28 - New Paltz, HRM 78: We spotted an adult bald eagle in the top of a tree just west of the Wallkill River. While we were watching a crow came by, circled the eagle several times, did some squawking and then continued on. The eagle was unfazed.
- Roland Ellis, Alice Ellis

2/28 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 73: I emerged from my burrow a little after dawn this morning and was greeted by choruses of cardinals, crows, red-winged blackbirds and the song of a lone flicker. I was elated.
- John Mylod

2/28 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: ... and on the fourth day the snow stopped, almost. Flurries persisted but the major accumulation totaled over thirty inches. Elsewhere in the Hudson Valley, snowfall totals exceeded four feet. Hundreds of thousands of homes, businesses, and public buildings were without power. I could hear red-winged blackbirds but could not see them over the piles of snow.
- Tom Lake

3/1 - Fishkill, HRM 61: As I stood in my snowbound front yard littered with large white pine limbs that fell in the recent snowstorm, I was delighted by the graceful flight of a great blue heron as it flew westward through the evening sky with its pink tinged blue-black clouds.
- Ed Spaeth

3/1- Kowawese, HRM 59:
- The River
The River is elegant.
The river has frosty ice.
The river has plenty of life.
The river is fine, like the
Marvelous world we live in.
- Luis Cruz, Sixth Grade, Vails Gate Tech Magnet School

3/2 - Wynantskill, HRM 149: Although I've seen them, and heard call notes off and on all winter, today I heard my first bluebird song of the season. My first turkey vulture drifted past today as well, the first one since last fall.
- George Wilson

3/2 - Albany, HRM 145: Last week's full moon and heavy precipitation resulted in higher tides in the estuary compared to the previous week. Monthly averages, however, were still low compared to the summer months. This is because the colder temperatures have contracted coastal and estuary waters, resulting in lower sea levels and estuary water levels. Temperatures are starting to climb, however, so expect a higher average water level for the month of March.
- Alene Onion

[For the full story visit the Hudson River Environmental Conditions Observing System website at http://www.hrecos.org/ . Steve Stanne.]

3/2 - Town of Saugerties, HRM 102: Two days into meteorological spring, I heard and then spotted three first-of-season American woodcock vocalizing and displaying under a bright full moon about 4:30 AM over the open fields just north of the Village of Saugerties. I am not normally in this area at that hour, so it is possible these birds may have arrived a day earlier, but they represent the first woodcock I have encountered this year and what has traditionally been for me the first realistic indication of spring.
- Steve M. Chorvas

3/2 - Norrie Point, HRM 85: We counted four adult bald eagles perched in trees across the river in Ulster County. Some if not all are local birds, mated pairs.
- Jim Prockup, Chet Vincent

3/2 - Town of Wappinger: Wading in knee-high heavy snow, it was not easy finding a good yet unobtrusive vantage from which to view the eagle nest (NY62). I finally had the angle and peered into the lens. A pair of piercing yellow eyes looked back. Someone was incubating. From the robust head and body I guessed it was Mama. I felt chills and a sense of hope. Despite the storm, they were right on time. This pair has had a series of difficult nesting seasons in recent years due to weather and other unknown factors so I will be cautiously optimistic for now.
- Tom Lake

3/2 - Crugers, HRM 39: At 7:30 this morning I spotted my first woodchuck of the New Year as it strolled across my front yard. It seems a bit early in the season while there is still snow on the ground. Many of the trees that fell during the recent snowstorm were entwined and weakened by oriental bittersweet vines.
- Jim Grefig


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