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Hudson River Almanac March 1 - March 6, 2012

OVERVIEW

The annual hallmark of this late winter season of transition in the Hudson Valley, for as long as we have had the Almanac, has been shirt-sleeve weather in the lower estuary with snowshoeing in the High Peaks of the Adirondacks, 300 miles away and several thousand feet higher in elevation.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

3/4 - Furnace Brook, HRM 38.5: Our first fyke net check of the season yielded 28 crystal clear glass eels. This is the earliest we've ever caught eels in Furnace Brook by three or four weeks, and most years we feel like we've caught the first part of the migration. Water temperature was 39 degrees Fahrenheit.

- Pam Brigleb, Amanda Bernstein, Simone Kukla, Ethan Kravitz, Chris Bowser

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

3/1 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: Near midnight I was walking along a tree line, intrigued by the calls of barred owls, a pair of them - they sounded close. I saw one, then the other, silhouetted in the dark against a milky-white sky. One was in a black locust, the other in a Norway maple, not 100 feet apart. They took turns calling and answering for a half hour before simply stopping, perhaps having said all there was to say.

- Tom Lake

3/1 - Furnace Brook, HRM 38.5: Whenever we pass the Furnace Brook marsh near Oscawana, we look for birds. Today the marsh seemed quiet until two small ducks popped out of the water. They swam a short distance and then dove - a beautiful bufflehead pair. They stayed under for a long time and then surfaced farther down the marsh, each time diving and surfacing together.

- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson

3/2 - Minerva, HRM 284: The snow had finally arrived and we had 16-18 inches on the ground in the open, and a foot of white in the woods. Enough to snowshoe! The dogs and I visited the swamp out in the back forty late this afternoon, me on snowshoes and the dogs on paws. Along the way, we spotted a tell-tale sign of wild turkeys - their tracks in the snow. While it seemed like there might have been 50-60 of them, it was sort of a "Heffalump" situation (from Winnie the Pooh) for I think there were only 6-8. Their tracks crossed and re-crossed the trail, then gathered together in a 400 square-foot area that was quite stomped; it looked like a "congress" of turkeys had been there. What they were doing, I have no idea.

- Mike Corey

3/2 - Coxsackie Flats, HRM 124: A survey of birds in and around the Coxsackie Flats today included an adult bald eagle, seven northern harriers, three red-tailed hawks, two short-eared owls, nine tree sparrows, five common grackles, and about 325 red-winged blackbirds.

- Larry Federman

3/2 - Furnace Brook RM 38.5: We had a great crew today to install our first Hudson River glass eel fyke net of the season. We've deployed a net here since 2008, but never this early. The presence or absence of eels at this site will determine the timing of our other sites. The water temperature was a cool 40 degrees F. There were no fish in evidence today, but it was great to hear a belted kingfisher chattering away.

- Chris Bowser, Constitution Marsh Audubon, Ossining High School, local home-schoolers


3/2 - Oscawana Point, HRM 38.5: We went to Oscawana in search of eagles and were surprised to spot, not an eagle, but a gorgeous pileated woodpecker working on the trunk of one of the trees close to the road. It had already made two large round holes in the trunk, and we stayed to watch it make two more. We were close enough to see the red "moustache" that identified it as a male.

- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson

3/2 - Manhattan, New York City, HRM 5.5: The rufous hummingbird continued to appear at the Rose Center, American Museum of Natural History, on West 81st Street just off Central Park West. It is now two weeks short of three months since the bird was discovered here.

- Joseph DiCostanzo, Sean Sime

3/3 - Manhattan, New York City, HRM 3: I was walking on the path in the Hudson River Park near 26th Street when I noticed a flock of geese that could have been Canadas. I passed them the first time and noticed the small, delicate ring around their necks and the fact that they were quite quiet. They were happy eating the not quite dead grass in a section of the park that had been enclosed with snow fence and labeled "Closed for winter maintenance." I counted 40 in the flock and decided that they were brant geese, not Canada geese. The gaggle I saw today surprised me a bit as they were only 30 feet from the path and I could clearly see immature and adult birds while they foraged on the grass.

- Caleb Davison

3/4 - Newcomb, HRM 302: We have about 17 inches of snow on the ground from last week's storm. Three red-winged blackbirds were at the bird feeder today which, in my opinion, is more a harbinger of spring than the robin. There were also a few more scattered chipmunk observations this past week.

- Charlotte Demers

3/4 - Albany County, HRM 139: Partridge Run Game Management Area was slow bird-wise this morning, but we had a flyover by a juvenile golden eagle.

- Peter Schoenberger

3/4 - Albany County, HRM 134: We stopped at Basic Creek Reservoir where there was a good assortment of waterfowl including gadwall, American wigeon, mallard, American black duck, northern pintail, hooded merganser, common merganser, and ring-necked duck.

- Peter Schoenberger

3/4 - Greene County, HRM 121: The ducks continued to be great at Vosburgh Marsh. I couldn't count all the common pintails there, but there were well over 50. We also found green-winged teal and wood ducks.

- Peter Schoenberger

3/4 - Croton Point, HRM 35-34: The first of the robin flocks had joined the red-winged blackbirds and grackles, and it was good to see them back.

- Christopher Letts

3/4 - New York Harbor, Lower Bay: I was leading a New York City Audubon cruise, the primary draw of which is the harbor seals that congregate around and on Swinburne Island near the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. I was nervous that we wouldn't spot any seals as it's getting pretty late in the season for them, but happily we did have a couple bobbing in the water and peeking at the boat. We also had a number of nice birds including numerous adult northern gannets plunge-diving, presumably for herring, as far up the Bay as the Verrazano Bridge. We also saw three red-throated loons and purple sandpipers on the rocks near Erie Basin. Notably absent were great cormorants, of which I've seen no less than a half-dozen on all previous tours this winter; I have to assume they're already retreating northward.

- Gabriel Willow, Joseph O'Sullivan

3/5 - Croton Point, HRM 35-34: It was just the most wonderful "blue-birdie" kind of day. As I arrived in the parking lot, I displaced several bright bluebirds perched on the stakes that mark the snowplow route, for years when we have winter. On this windless day they did not go far, and I had good views - "cupcakes" in red, white and blue. A mile away, on the southeast side of the landfill, more were foraging in the bittersweet vines. On my last lap, on the southwest side, a real flock of robins, with a few of their little cousins along for the ride, were poking through the grass and dried weeds.

- Christopher Letts

3/6 - Ravena, HRM 133.5: In early evening a noise from outside got my attention. I spent five minutes listening to two ravens doing a call and response routine. One was circling just over the treetops across the road; the other was out of sight but not too far away. One would utter some resonant "gronks" and the other would echo them at a different pitch after a few seconds. It was quite a contrast to the noisy flock of robins chasing each other around on the lawn next door, already starting some territorial "yeeking" at each other.

- Larry Roth

3/6 - Ulster County, HRM 78: We began our peregrine falcon observations, conducted by the Mohonk Preserve, on January 26, finding a lone falcon in the general area where they placed their eyries last year. We watched for three successive weeks, only to see no falcons. On March 1 we were graced with a pair at the Trapps (two copulations observed) and a pair looking interested in finding a site at Millbrook Mountain.

- Tom Sarro

[If anyone wishes to join us or be added to the listserv where we post our most recent peregrine observations, send an e-mail indicating such to thomas.sarro@msmc.edu and I will gladly put your name on the list. Tom Sarro.]

3/6 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: Every so often, the sounds of the night come caroling in to remind us that under the many layers of human development lays a heart and soul of wilderness. A symphony of coyotes woke me near midnight with their incessant, echoing, and repetitive lead call and following chorus. I guessed there were five or six of them and that they were no more than a few hundred yards away on their nightly prowl.

- Tom Lake

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