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Hudson River Almanac November 15 - November 23, 2011

OVERVIEW

Despite the unusual ongoing warmth of this fall, winter birds continued to mark the season's change by arriving in ever increasing numbers. Some were here to stay for the next three months, while others were passing through to points south and east. While the lower tidewater reach of the river is experiencing warm autumn days, winter has arrived on the upper Hudson in the High Peaks of the Adirondacks.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

11/21 - Cornwall Bay, HRM 58: Rob Stone of the Edgar A. Mearns Bird Club had a bonanza of winter waterfowl on Cornwall Bay today. Among them were a dozen red-throated loons, 23 common loons, 15 horned grebes, and more than 50 buffleheads.
- Curt McDermott

[Numbers of red-throated loons this past week along coastal Long Island and New Jersey have been staggering. Shai Mitra, of the New York State Avian Records Committee, counted 1,594 red-throated loons flying westward past Robert Moses State Park (Suffolk County) in 90 minutes this morning. At the Avalon Seawatch in New Jersey, more than 16,000 red-throated loons were counted today, breaking the previous single day record (set last year on 11/21) by 40%. Curt McDermott.]

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

11/15 - Ulster County, HRM 78: While walking towards Cope's Lookout on the Eagle Cliff trail at Mohonk, I spotted a couple of snow buntings! I had seen some before when I lived in Rhode Island, but they are uncommon in this area. It was interesting to see them in the forest as well, since they are normally found in fields and more open areas. The snow buntings were quite curious and sat on a branch about a meter from where I stood. Then a couple of chickadees flew in with some golden crowned kinglets mixed into the flock. What a treat!They were pretty curious and came right toward me on a branch at eye level.
- Amy Bloomfield

[Snow buntings are birds of wide open spaces, almost always seen on the ground or in flight. It is unusual to see them in forested habitat, and perched in a tree no less, but Amy provided a photograph as evidence of this sighting. Steve Stanne.]

11/15 - Mountainville, Orange County, HRM 57: A recent Hudson River Almanac entry mentioned a rufous hummingbird sighting [see 11/14 - Yonkers] in Westchester County. We, too, had a rufous hummingbird coming to a feeder between October 15 and November 9. This was the third county record for the species, and a pleasure to see any time in the east.
- Curt McDermott

11/15 - Croton Point, HRM 35-34: Yesterday, my walk was a blank slate, bird-wise. Today, however, there was a new pulse of energy. A slobbering eight-point white-tailed buck let me pass no more than twenty feet away. Nearby a compliant doe was waiting. Three harriers and a black vulture were coursing the landfill. Golden-crowned kinglets and a flock of bluebirds were the icing on a very pleasant cakewalk.
- Christopher Letts

11/15 - Sleepy Hollow, HRM 28: At the Tarrytown Lighthouse at Kingsland Point a class of students from Ossining watched a red-tailed hawk carry off a careless gray squirrel. Then from the top of the lighthouse we watched a Cooper's hawk blast into a tightly knit flock of starlings. The flock exploded and the hawk came out with a starling.
- Christopher Letts

11/16 - Ulster Park, HRM 87: The cool weather was here, the bird feeders were out, and "Captain Hook," the sharp-shinned hawk, was back at his favorite viewing post.
- Bill Drakert

11/16 - Norrie Point, HRM 85: Autumn has been displaying its immense range of river conditions, from three-foot rollers caught between wind and tide to a day like today when the Catskills' remnant colors are mirrored on the Hudson's surface. Spotted sandpipers dipped in flight over the water, and along the shore an adult bald eagle was almost camouflaged in a near-white sycamore.
- Tom Lake

11/17 - Verbank, Dutchess County, HRM 81: We heard and then spotted a huge flock of high-flyer Canada geese, maybe a mile up, as they came into view. We sat at the edge of a big cornfield as the birds slowly descended, each bird cupping its wings to slow its descent. As they neared the field the large V broke up into three separate "squadrons," each circling a corner of the field before they landed, one at a time, in the middle amidst the corn stubble.
- TR Jackson, Tom Lake

11/18 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 69: Special moments can occur when the stealth of the observer matches that of the observed. As I stood upwind and absolutely still, an eight-point buck stepped out of the tree line not fifty feet away. I hardly breathed and my eyes burned from not blinking. The white-tailed deer walked slowly across a narrow opening and dissolved into the shadows of another tree line.
- Tom Lake

11/18 - Town of Poughkeepsie: I finally saw my first pair of adult bald eagles today while walking in a Dutchess County park. I looked up and spotted a white head flying over and continued to watch as it joined its mate in a tree. They perched together for a while, before leaving, and I got to hear them "talk" [chortle] to each other.
- Jen Kovach

[This may have been the mated pair from bald eagle nest NY62C. This spring will be their twelfth together across three different nests - all within two wing beats of the Hudson River. Tom Lake.]

11/18 - Croton Point, HRM 34.5: There was a quarter-inch of ice on the puddles this morning. A hulking coyote with an enviable thick pelt trotted to the top of the landfill and monitored my walk. I spotted small flocks of red-winged blackbirds and a score of robins with their "companions," cedar waxwings. Bluebirds were scattered across the leeward hillside, bluer than the cloudless sky.
- Christopher Letts

11/19 - Norrie Point, HRM 85: As our group of Waterman Bird Club members disembarked from our vehicles we were treated to a view of an adult bald eagle perched in a tree only a few feet away. After a few minutes it was joined by a juvenile and shortly they both flew away. When I was working on my photos later I saw that the adult had two bands, one on each leg, one blue and one white.
- Maha Katnani

[The banded adult was very likely from a local nest - there are several within a five-minute eagle flight. Our best guess is that the immature eagle was a young-of-the-year bird still hanging around Mama. The female ordinarily plays the role of "mentor" with fledglings until the young birds feel comfortable on their own. For some it happens within a couple of months; for others it can last well into winter. The blue band was applied by DEC and it has a unique letter-number on it. The silver band is from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Both were applied by Pete Nye when the eagle was still a nestling, only 7-8 weeks old. There have been several occasions where we have been able to trace (recognize) the origin of adult eagles from the letter-number on the band. Tom Lake.]

11/19 - Highland, HRM 76: A red-tailed hawk invaded the airspace of the pair of ravens that reside on the west side of the Walkway over the Hudson. Pedestrians had quite a show as the ravens double-teamed the red-tail until it continued on south, leaving the ravens sitting in a tree at Walkway-eye-level voicing their disdain for hawks.
- Vivian Yess Wadlin

11/19 - Town of Goshen, HRM 52: While walking at the Orange County Heritage Trail bird sanctuary on Station Road this afternoon, we thought it odd that there were no birds of any kind on the pond, a bit of an aberration for this time of year. Then we spotted a pair of bald eagles perched on the side branch of a tall dead tree overlooking the water and understood why. At another nearby pond, we found where all of the "missing birds" had congregated.
- Jane Groves, Art Groves

11/19 - Croton Point, HRM 34: The morning was cold and calm and birds were flying. Several flocks of red-winged blackbirds, cedar waxwings, and robins passed over. One flock of waxwings numbered 70. This time of year, with favorable winds for the Tappan Zee crossing, they all were in a hurry.
- Christopher Letts

11/20 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Overnight air temperatures were in the teens. At dawn, a very heavy, thick frost coated everything and the skies were perfectly clear, making for a spectacular morning. The sun glinting off the frost-covered tree branches, shrubs and grasses was stunning. It is one of my favorite sights, paired with the "crunch, crunch, crunch" of leaves as I move through the field. Small ponds and still water now have a thin coating of ice.
- Charlotte Demers

11/20 - Pleasant Valley, HRM 75: It seems as though this mild November has confused some of the plants. On my morning walk today I saw a dandelion flower and skunk cabbage coming up in the swamp. They must feel it is spring.
- Kathy Kraft

11/20 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 75: The air temperature reached 67 degrees Fahrenheit today, a record high for the date.
- National Weather Service

11/20 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: At the close of a nicely warm mid-November day, insect life began to chirp in the woods. By the time dusk had turned the trees to silhouettes and the western horizon had lost its glow, I could hear crickets and possibly even a few katydids singing in the shadows.
- Tom Lake

11/21 - Newcomb, HRM 302: By the end of the day, just over ten inches of snow had fallen from the storm. Some ice pellets mixed in with the snow in the early morning hours but it was mostly big, heavy, wet flakes. It made for a beautiful morning. Welcome Winter! Just don't overstay your welcome.
- Charlotte Demers

11/21 - Pleasant Valley, HRM 75: I walked out my door this morning to find huge flocks of migrating robins, for the second time in less than three weeks, flying to my cedar tree to devour its berries. This time there was a lot of squawking going on from at least a hundred birds as if they were fighting over the prized berries. I imagine that the tree will have none left after today.
- Kathy Kraft

11/21 - Middletown, HRM 60: a pink-footed goose, an Orange County first, was spotted in Middletown by Jeb Powell and Lee Hunter on 11/15. The bird was seen the following morning but disappeared until this afternoon when it was relocated by Rob Stone on Carmelite Road in Middletown, mixed in with about 2,000 Canada Geese.
- Curt McDermott

[The pink-footed goose is native the Western Europe, Greenland, and Iceland. While more closely related to snow geese, they are sometimes found with flocks of Canada geese and will occasionally find their way into the Canadian Maritimes and coastal Northeast. Tom Lake.]

11/21 - Chester, Orange County, HRM 59: There were two white-winged scoters and a horned grebe on Glenmere Lake today.
- Curt McDermott

11/21 - Blooming Grove, HRM 55: I spotted one white-winged scoter mixed in with five ring-necked ducks on Tomahawk Lake.
- Curt McDermott

11/21 - Yorktown Heights, HRM 43: Three eastern bluebirds, two male and one female, were feasting on the last dogwood berries outside my window today.
- Helle Raheem

11/21 - Croton River, HRM 34: A lone osprey was working the cove at the mouth of the Croton River today, taking its time, going back and forth, back and forth. With the winds of the past few days having left the Hudson very turbid, hunting must be easier in the clearer waters of the Croton River.
- Christopher Letts

11/21 - Sleepy Hollow, HRM 28: I was splitting stove-wood and waiting for a school bus at the Tarrytown Lighthouse when I heard a coarse "gronk-gronk." A pair of ravens swept in on the stiff breeze and began foraging on the abandoned General Motors parking lot. When I checked later, I found what had attracted them: the village's Halloween hayride straw had been dumped there. Had mice moved in? Had trick-or-treat sweetmeats been lost from pockets. I will never know, but this is the first time I have seen ravens this far south on the east bank and I like it.
- Christopher Letts

11/21 - Manhattan, HRM 4: A flock of brant that numbered 30 less than a week ago was now around 100 birds in Chelsea Cove at the Hudson River Park's Pier 63. A class of sixth-grade students from the New York City Lab Middle School for Collaborative Studies watched as the geese flew from the river to the lawn, then back again a short while later, leaving one individual still foraging on the turf. The stories I related of their Arctic breeding grounds held the students spellbound.
- Lauren Donnelly

11/23 - Crugers, HRM 39: We spotted the resident great blue heron - standing with its legs fully submerged in the water - foraging around on Ogilvie's Pond. What a surprise to see it pluck from the water a large golden carp that seemed almost as long as the heron. The bird walked a few steps with fish in its beak but quickly dropped it back into the water, probably realizing that the carp was too large to consume. We were also delighted to see our first hooded merganser pair of the season swimming around the heron. The female with her punk rock hairdo closely followed the beautiful male as they made their way across the pond, ducking under the water for food and then stopping intermittently to preen their feathers.
- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson

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