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Hudson River Almanac October 22 - October 28, 2012

OVERVIEW

The autumn songbird and raptor migrations continued with various species demonstrating their early fall/late fall preferences. The week ended with the specter of Hurricane Sandy on the southeastern horizon.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

10/27 - Bedford, HRM 35: A distant golden eagle was seen off to the east in mid-afternoon, passing the Chestnut Ridge hawk-watch platform to the south. A short while later two more immature golden eagles were seen soaring off to the east. These two were then joined by yet another immature golden eagle. At one point, all three birds were visible soaring in the same scope field-of-view. The total of four golden eagles for the day somewhat overshadowed our seventh northern goshawk of the season. Among the songbirds counted were cedar waxwings (1,772).

- Tait Johansson

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

10/22 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: Just at twilight on a relatively warm evening the mosquitoes began to get annoying - biting! Almost simultaneously we spotted three bats dipping and diving not far away. They looked too large for little brown myotis, so the guess was that they one of the larger species. These were the first bats we'd seen dusk-to-dawn, all year. A short while later we heard the "honk, honk, honk" of Canada geese. Over the tree tops, not more than a few hundred feet high, came a large check-mark of nearly a hundred "high-flyers," or more accurately "low-flyers."

- Tom Lake, Phyllis Lake

[These may have been big brown bats, our largest cave bat, with a wing-span of nearly 13 inches. Tom Lake.]

10/22 - Fishkill, HRM 61: As we drove home after spending an afternoon enjoying the amazing fall colors at the Mohonk Preserve, we spotted a gray four-legged animal crossing the highway, avoiding traffic, ducking gracefully under the highway guard-rail, and sprinting toward the woods. It was a coyote. Luckily, we were able to capture it in a photo as it posed for us before disappearing into the forest. The coyote's haunting image was a strong reminder that we need to respect and co-exist with our neighbors to protect the integrity of a healthy ecosystem.

- Tina Yun Lee

10/22 - Bedford, HRM 35: Sharp-shinned hawks (78) made up the majority of raptors counted today at the Chestnut Ridge hawk-watch. Three bald eagles were very cooperative and decided to pass when there were visitors at the hawk-watch platform. We had amazing numbers of robins (1,330) and Canada geese (1,418).

- Genevieve Rozhon, Angela Woodside

10/22 - Sterling Forest, HRM 40: While we still have some pine siskins, purple finches, and a red-breasted nuthatch at our feeder, the "bird of the day" was evening grosbeak: a flock of five - two magnificent males, two females, and a youngster still asking to be fed. Years ago we would entertain huge flocks of these noisy beauties for a few days during both fall and spring migration when they were apparently thriving on the spruce budworm outbreak in northern forests.

- Mary Yrizarry

[Pine siskins - another winter finch - have been seen in record numbers along the coast this fall. Shai Mitra, Tom Burke, Gail Benson, and Patricia Lindsay counted 20,275 siskins passing east-to-west at Fire Island (Suffolk County) on October 21 alone. This number far exceeded any previous daily numbers at that site (6,520 - November 10, 2008), a number that itself far exceeded Big Counts on Long Island. Tom Lake.]

10/23 - Eddyville, HRM 92: I spotted a bald eagle on New Salem Road near Rondout Creek this morning. It appeared to be hunkered down on a roadkill but flew away in a flash as my car approached.

- Nancy Bailey

[While it is true that fish and waterfowl are high on the bald eagle menu, when motivated, they can be master scavengers. They will come down on a road-killed deer if it seems safe (they are not great risk-takers like vultures and crows). Conservation of energy is important to birds and while fish and waterfowl take calories to capture, road-kill is almost calorie-free. Several times a year bald eagles get hit by trains as they dine on dead white-tails between the rails. Tom Lake.]

10/23 - Germantown, HRM 108: I watched an osprey feeding in the pond next door. Soon it was joined by another and they both took off and flew over our yard and away.

- Peter Brauch

10/23 - Beacon, HRM 61: This was the second time in a week that we had to seine in the rain. While water temperature had dropped to 61 degrees Fahrenheit, it was still warmer than the air and that made wading reasonably comfortable. The young-of-the-year river herring of a few days ago were not there. In fact, haul as we might, time after time, we were only able to catch scores of gorgeous banded killifish. There was no measurable salinity at Long Dock Park.

- Tom Lake, T.R. Jackson

10/23 - Town of Cortlandt, HRM 38.5: Something had been missing this season in Furnace Woods - "goose music," as Aldo Leopold would have put it. As long as I can recall, the sight and the sound of a flock of high-flying Canada geese has stopped me dead in my tracks, for as long as I could see or hear them. Almost out of sight in the sky, something about those travelers clutches at my heart. Some of them I will see again, at the various coastal National Wildlife Refuges. The question is where are they from? How many hundreds of miles have they flown, how many days have they traveled, what wonders have they seen? Yesterday and today have been the flight days I have looked for, with almost continuous goose music floating down from on high most of yesterday - the fulfillment of an autumn promise.

- Christopher Letts

10/23 - Bedford, HRM 35: Quite a few sharp-shinned hawks were spotted migrating in between rain showers at the Chestnut Ridge hawk-watch. There was another huge push of songbirds this morning, in particular American robin (1,961).

- Genevieve Rozhon, Angela Woodside

10/24 - Ulster Park, HRM 85: Our flying squirrel was back visiting our sunflower seed "squirrel proof" bird feeder, probably the same one that we had enjoyed last March. The squirrel has come each of the past several evenings, staying for quite a while, giving us an opportunity to enjoy watching it. The squirrel sits on the feeder's bar - being too light to trip the anti-squirrel trigger - then turns and grabs a seed. It then turns to eat it before going back for another. The squirrel is welcome to whatever seed it wants, but has to leave before "Tubby" shows up, a rather obese-looking foraging raccoon. Tubby is the reason we bring in the feeders at night; the raccoon takes full advantage when we don't.

- Peter Relson, Carol Anderson

10/24 - Dutchess County, HRM 77: I had a single pine siskin at my feeder at Salt Point a week ago. The number has grown each day since until now there are more than 70.

- Bob Bowler

10/24 - Bedford, HRM 35: The hawk-watchers at Chestnut Ridge were fogged out today. One unidentified accipiter and one American kestrel were spotted through the fog.

- Genevieve Rozhon, Angela Woodside

10/25 - Germantown, HRM 108: I am still seeing no pine siskins while everyone else is getting masses. I'm waiting. I did catch a nice, long skein of cormorants this afternoon and counted ten ring-necked ducks on the river at Cheviot (HRM 106).

- Mimi Brauch

10/25 - Fishkill, HRM 61: As much as the retention pond across the street from my home is purposely there for environmental reasons, it never ceases to amaze me that it holds such treasures. The pond creates an unintended micro-ecosystem for us to enjoy and share. Today a green heron was having "amuse bouche" [hors d'oeuvre]. As Gary Snyder said, "Nature is not a place to visit. It is home."

- Tina Yun Lee

10/25 - Croton River, HRM 34: A common loon in winter plumage was calmly fishing a few yards from shore; it ignored us, but several times when cormorants tried to muscle in on its fishing hole they were chased off with authority. Midge Taube and Big John were catching and releasing small striped bass and white perch as fast as they could bait and cast. The Norfolk spot, so prevalent over the past two months, seemed to have moved on. A full dozen great blue herons stalked the mud of the tide flats like gray sentries. I was especially pleased to see what may be the last two monarchs of the season flutter past.

- Christopher Letts

10/25 - Englewood, NJ, HRM 13.5: An immature bald eagle was harassing the osprey as the smaller birds came in from the open river with what looked like menhaden. The canopy along the Palisades cliffs fairly pulsated with songbirds: kinglets, winter wrens, sparrows, warblers, and many flickers. I stopped at the main parking lot to have a chat with the cluster of anglers gathered there. They were not happy with a steady pick of small spot, which they called "Lafayettes." These were men in their later years and they all remembered long ago runs of Lafayettes from decades past. My timing could not have been better: One of the anglers, busy with pots and a camping stove on the tailgate of his pickup truck, announced "It's soup" and handed out bowls of steaming oxtail soup, spicy and delicious. I smiled all the way home.

- Christopher Letts

10/26 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 76: Just after mowing the grass and churning the leaves, I had a flock of twenty robins feeding on the lawn. I had never seen them around here this late in the season and never in such a large number.

- Bob Leak

10/26 - Bedford, HRM 35: We had a surprisingly large turkey vulture migration in the late morning and early afternoon. Birds came out of the east in groups of about 35, kettled up, and then streamed southwest. We also had two eastern red bats.

- Genevieve Rozhon, Chet Friedman

10/26 - Ossining, HRM 33: As I was sitting with my old dog after her dinner, I saw two bats flying about eating insects. I had not seen my bats for more than a year. I think they were brown bats. Seeing bats in my yard in the summertime always gave me comfort that nature was doing her thing. But seeing them on October 26?

- Bonnie Talluto

10/27 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: I had to look twice: A single monarch, looking fit despite the season, slowly fluttered past. I considered how surprising this was given the series of recent killing frosts to the north. I remember well a decade ago, coming upon many broken and tattered orange-and-black monarch wings in the tideline at Little Stony Point on the morning following a heavy late-October frost.

- Tom Lake

10/27 - Croton Point, HRM 35-34: There was a tremendous movement underway at Croton Point this morning including American pipits, several varieties of sparrows, three merlins, and an immature goshawk. The highlight was a Lapland longspur on the model airplane flying field.

- Chris Drury, John Grant, Christine McCluskey, Larry Trachtenberg, Anne Swaim

[Lapland longspurs are an Arctic breeding, bunting-like songbird, that is uncommon to rare in our area. Christopher Letts spotted a Lapland longspur at that same location on November 7, 2010. Tom Lake.]

10/28 - Beacon, HRM 61: In the advance of Hurricane Sandy, the high tide had overflowed the rip-rap at Long Dock Park and filled the entire parking lot, complete with a small group of mallards.

- Tom Lake

10/28 - Bedford, HRM 35: A significant number of turkey vultures and red-tailed hawks were moving today at the Chestnut Ridge hawk-watch. At one point, we spotted a kettle of nine red-tails. A few brave sharp-shinned hawks were migrating and really being buffeted around by the strong winds. Ten minutes before the end of the day's hawk-watching, a large, long-winged, dark bird appeared low on the southeast horizon: a golden eagle (our sixth of the season). This bird merited some dancing on the hawk-watch platform. Other non-raptors counted were Canada geese (707) and American robins (1,979).

- Genevieve Rozhon, Angela Woodside

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