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Hudson River Almanac March 3 - March 10, 2010

OVERVIEW

Marine mammals were the highlights of the week. There were two common dolphins in the Upper Bay of New York Harbor. The harp seal, first sighted February 28, had moved 55 miles upriver providing a once-in-a-lifetime viewing opportunity of this amazing animal for many onlookers.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

3/8 - Kingston, HRM 92: A seal was spotted resting on the ice on Rondout Creek by Island Dock. When I arrived the seal was in the water, out of sight most of the time but occasionally surfacing, with only its head visible.
- Steve M. Chorvas

[We received photos of this animal and we believe it to be a harp seal, and maybe the same adult we spotted in Haverstraw Bay, 55 miles downriver, 8-9 days ago. Kim Durham.]


NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

3/3 - Town of Wappinger: This was day two and in early morning it appeared that the male was on the nest. Not far away, the female was perched in the crown of a black locust. If the averages are correct, they have about 33 days to go until hatching. Their nest is perfectly placed on fair weather days but terribly exposed to the cold north wind on others.
- Tom Lake

3/4 - Rensselaer County, HRM 145: While driving on Route 4 in East Greenbush I saw a large bird gliding along. I thought that it looked like an eagle, but I dismissed the notion. I thought I was too far from either a creek or the Hudson River. As I caught up to the soaring bird, I studied it. To my surprise, the bird was indeed an eagle. The bird was low enough that I could easily see the distinctive white markings on its body.
- Pat Van Alstyne

3/4 - Town of Wappinger: Our cautious optimism entered day 3. Mama's big white head glowed as the first rays of the warming sun peaked over the pines bathing the saucer-shaped nest (NY62) high in the tuliptree.
- Tom Lake

3/4 - Rockland County, HRM 41: While snowshoeing in Harriman State Park I noticed in many areas that the snow was covered with tiny hopping fleas, one every few feet apart. They were unlike dog fleas in that if you could catch them you noticed they had a soft body. I first noticed them on the north side of the Stockbridge Shelter.
- Jim More

[The common name for these is snow fleas, also called springtails. Frequently seen on snow in late winter, these are wingless scorpionflies that use spring-like projections on their tail to bounce around. They are often described as looking like black pepper sprinkled on the snow. Tom Lake.]

3/4 - Brooklyn, New York City: A dolphin was sighted in Newtown Creek. It may be one of the two that were seen two days ago near the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation will be monitoring the dolphin and would attempt a rescue mission if the animal seemed in distress.
- Bob DiGiovanni

[These were common dolphins (Delphinus delphis), a species found within New York during the winter season along with the white-sided dolphin and the harbor porpoise. The common dolphin was the species involved with the mass stranding event in 2007 in East Hampton, Long Island. We have been receiving reports of dolphins within the East River for the better part of the last week. Often the sighting of a lone dolphin is not a good sign. We are attempting to find out if there is food in the area. Kim Durham.]

3/5 - RamsHorn, Greene County, HRM 112.2: We had three black vultures fly over the marsh in late afternoon but the best bird of the day was an immature northern goshawk! Both the goshawk and the vultures were heading north. The goshawk paused on a branch long enough to "throw me a glance" before taking off.
- Larry Federman

3/5 - Brockway, Dutchess County, HRM 63: Passing by on Metro North, I spotted a bald eagle in a tree along the river just north of the Newburgh-Beacon bridge. Later in the day on my way back I spotted a lone eagle in a tree 12 miles downriver in Garrison. These were nice surprises since on the last several trips I made I did not see any eagles.
- Glen Heinsohn

3/5 - Beacon, HRM 62: I caught a glimpse of an adult bald eagle soaring over Route 84 heading in an easterly direction. Its spectacular white head stood out like a beacon. Utterly majestic.
- Jamie Lo

3/6 - Kowawese, HRM 59:
- Winter River
Crack, crack, that's the river,
The ice suddenly bursts.
It sounds like an animal calling for help.
It looks beautiful and peaceful.
Shhh! That's the river.
- Alexandria D'Alo, Sixth Grade, Vails Gate Tech Magnet School

3/6 - Haverstraw Bay, HRM 40-35: You can count on it: by late-February most of our wintering bald eagles have headed out for new digs. Where it was easy enough to count 50, even 150, across five miles of river, a bird or two must satisfy us who have the dread eagle-a-day habit. This morning I was lucky enough to spot three immatures in the air doing their acrobatics just north of Indian Point. So much for morning chores - I was riveted. By the time the show ended, six immature eagles were participating and a single adult was maintaining watch at couple of hundred feet higher. The entire assemblage drifted slowly but steadily north into the Hudson Highlands.
- Christopher Letts

3/6 - George's Island , HRM 39: On a pleasant morning there were eight turkey vultures soaring overhead. Later in the morning, two black vultures flew past the parking lot at very close range.
- Scott Williamson

3/7 - Hudson, HRM 118: This was my first paddle of the season in my little red kayak, starting at the Hudson boat launch northbound, and then around Middle Ground Flats. The east side of the island was loaded with ducks, mallards and mergansers. An immature eagle plucked something out of the river with its talons and I could tell by the way it flew back to a tree it must have been a successful plunge. The west side of the island gave me my first cormorant of the season. Ah spring!
- Fran Martino

3/7 - Saugerties, HRM 102: While driving northbound on the New York State Thruway, I spotted the distinctive shape of a bald eagle in the distance. Clearly an adult with white head and tail feathers, the eagle circled fairly low above the highway and as it passed over the southbound lanes it dropped rapidly with legs outstretched. It appeared as if it was going to land on the guardrail separating the two lanes of traffic but instead it swooped low to the ground at the road shoulder for what could have been only a fraction of a second and rose up with a gray squirrel, flying off with it. I'm guessing the squirrel was a roadkill that the eagle picked off the shoulder rather than a live squirrel. What an unexpected and exciting sighting!
- Jesse Jaycox

3/7 - Saugerties, HRM 102: A quick walk through the meadow and wetlands at the Esopus Bend Nature Preserve this morning revealed four first-of-season wood ducks (all drakes) and six hooded mergansers (three drakes/three hens), along with several common mergansers, several pairs of mallards, and one pair of black ducks. Oddly, the pair of mute swans that have nested in the cove for several consecutive years were nowhere in sight, and Canada geese were noticeably absent as well. The interior pools were thawing around their periphery, and the wetlands were dotted with numerous well-developed mottled red flower buds of skunk cabbage, ready to unfurl if the temperatures remain mild.
- Steve M. Chorvas

3/7 - Rhinebeck, HRM 90: This morning I saw a muskrat swimming in the open water in a pond near here. As soon as it spotted me, it headed under the ice that still covers most of the pond. From its travels, it looks as if the muskrat's living in a bank that it can enter below the surface of the pond.
- Phyllis Marsteller

3/7 - Town of Montgomery, Orange County, HRM 61: High up in a snag overlooking a mostly frozen small lake were two great blue herons, standing in the one nest that remains from last year's two. Meanwhile, down below in the limited open water I could see four mute swans, eighteen Canada geese, two redhead ducks and two wood ducks. A crow and some red-winged blackbirds were surveying the scene from their respective perches in a nearby tree and bent-down phragmites stalks.
- Ed Spaeth, Merrill Spaeth

3/7 - Furnace Woods, HRM 38.5: This is such a delicious season: the wood stove is still our best friend; winter birds are still at the feeder; soup-making season will last a few more weeks; giant purple crocus have joined the blooming snowdrops on the south exposures; daffodils, bluebells, and hyacinth are pushing through the sodden leaves; magnolia buds are swollen; and maple sap courses in torrents in this perfect syrup-making weather. A cardinal, scarlet against a pale blue sky, reminds us that he is "pretty, pretty, pretty" and emphasizes it with a hitch-up of his tail at the end of each phrase.
- Christopher Letts

3/8 - Stony Kill Creek, Columbia County, HRM 120: Just ahead of me on the bridge crossing Stony Kill Creek near Little Seed Gardens, a squirrel worked intently on dragging an ear of corn across the bridge. The ear of corn appeared enormous in size compared to the little gray rodent.
- Fran Martino

[Grist mills and paper mills took advantage of the natural water power along the Stony Kill Creek in the late eighteenth century. Little Seed Gardens is a 97-acre family-run farm in the town of Chatham in Columbia County, situated on rich bottomlands at the confluence of the Stony Kill and the Kinderhook Creek. Stockport Creek is formed by the confluence of the Kinderhook and Claverack in the town of Stockport, Columbia County. Stockport Creek Watershed is the second largest tributary watershed to the tidal Hudson River. Fran Martino.]

3/8 - Kingston, HRM 92: From the Maritime Museum this morning I was able to see the harp seal on the receding ice under the old Route 9W bridge.
- Fran Drakert

3/8 - Town of Waywayanda, Orange County, HRM 60: I was out on my back deck that overlooks some marshland and was delighted to see my first red-winged blackbird of the season. He was perched on a long reed and sang happily for all the time I was out. Spring is finally here and I believe he was enjoying the beautiful day just as much as I was.
- Ann Reichal

3/8 - Montrose, HRM 40.5: I spotted my first brown bat of the season flitting around the backyard this evening. A few minutes later my chocolate lab looked up at the sky and shortly the unmistakable sound of woodcock singing their mating song could be heard. Two signs of the warmer weather that will hopefully last and usher spring into the area.
- Ed McKay

3/9 - Newcomb, HRM 302: This morning I discovered tulips and daffodils pushing up through the open ground along the foundation of the house. It's only early March! I shouldn't be seeing shoots for another month.
- Ellen Rathbone

3/9 - Columbia County, HRM 125: With the advent of a sudden warm spell, honey bees were appearing at my bird feeder. In lieu of flowers (which are quite sparse right now), the bees were picking up protein by gathering "dust" on the seeds and nuts in the feeder. The Internet tells me that some people put out soy flour for bees.
- Bob Schmidt

3/9 - Ulster Park, HRM 87: Our snow drops are out and, emerging through the melting snow was a flash of yellow, the first crocus!
- Bill Drakert

3/9 - Rhinbeck, HRM 90: During a walk this morning I saw a small group of white-throated sparrows in a shrub on Astor Drive, a pair of house sparrows starting a nest atop a rolled-up awning, and two pairs of house sparrows building nests. When I returned home, I saw six male grackles taking turns squawking and puffing themselves up in a maple tree nearby, and several high-flying Vs of Canada geese. These were all ordinary specimens (along with the usual blue jays, cardinals, tufted titmice, chickadees, goldfinches, juncos, and mourning doves) but nice signs of spring. The male downy woodpecker was still using the renovated wren box for roosting.
- Phyllis Marsteller

3/9 - Town of Wappinger: It has been a week and a day and the pair in eagle nest NY62 was still incubating. The weather has been kind with ample sunshine, light winds and, so far, no precipitation.
- Tom Lake

3/9 - Croton Point, HRM 35-34: Flocks of robins, grackles, and male red-winged blackbirds were seemingly everywhere this morning, and spring was in the air, at least in bird-song. It was nice to have the morning filled with song again.
- Christopher Letts

3/10 - Newcomb, HRM 302: The purple finches were singing away this morning, which really makes it seem like spring. Add to that the pussy willows emerging in my yard and another sunny day with reports of good sap flow from the maple syrup operations and it is hard to imagine that winter isn't gone.
- Ellen Rathbone

3/10 - New Baltimore, HRM 131.5: I found a flock of ten black vultures roosting on a cell-tower in New Baltimore this evening. The tower is visible from the New Baltimore Thruway rest stop parking area.
- Rich Guthrie

3/10 - Milan, HRM 90: The swamp in Milan Hollow was getting very busy with the onset of spring. Along with the usual mix of deer, crows, and wild turkeys, a great blue heron had made an early appearance, and we had first-time sightings of a fisher and an adult bald eagle.
- John Sperr

3/10 - Cornwall Bay, HRM 58: A flock of about 100 Canada geese were enjoying the low tide shallows of the bay when a single goose rose up, followed immediately by a crescendo of 99 more. They gained the treeline, turned and, as the season demands, headed north.
- Tom Lake

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