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Hudson River Almanac November 2 - November 9, 2012

OVERVIEW

The debilitating effects of Hurricane Sandy were followed about a week later by a strong nor'easter that developed into a significant snowstorm in the lower Hudson Valley. We continued to build an appreciation for the length of the fall migration of songbirds and raptors, as well as the mysterious infusion of winter finches, chiefly pine siskins.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

11/7 - New Paltz, HRM 78: The skies were overcast in advance of the forecasted nor'easter this morning, and the storm's namesake winds were picking up when the first white snowflake drifted down - except that it was far too big for a snowflake. Incongruously, a great egret had chosen this moment to fly in to a small retention pond near the DEC Region 3 headquarters.

- Steve Stanne

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

11/2 - North Germantown, HRM 109. In the early morning hours three days ago, Hurricane Sandy's high tide was about a foot above the high water mark of last fall's tropical storm Irene. For a riverfront property, a foot higher is a lot, but for most people in the area, Sandy was a lot less than expected, and a whole lot less than Irene. I am still cleaning up but there was surprising little debris.

- Kaare Christian

11/2 - Bedford, HRM 35: The majority of migrating raptors appeared to move during the morning and early afternoon. Quite a few turkey vultures were also on the move (kettle of 13) and a handful of red-shouldered hawks also passed by the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch. Another golden eagle was seen near the end of the day, most likely a second-year bird. We also counted 200 pine siskins.

- Genevieve Rozhon, Dan Heldridge, Ted Anderson, Ted Gilman

11/3 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: Finally - I now feel like we are part of the "team." A large contingent (dozens) of pine siskins arrived at dawn. They crowded the feeders along with eleven other species: titmice, goldfinches, juncos, white-throated sparrows, mourning doves, downy woodpeckers, blue jays, cardinals, chickadees, white-breasted nuthatches, and a single red-breasted nuthatch. In each of the last two days I have had to refill my feeders three times. In decades of feeding birds, I've never had to refill more than once. [Photo of pine siskin from U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.]

- Tom Lake, T.R. Jackson

11/3 - Beacon, HRM 61: For the second time in three days a small flock of brant were foraging in the grass between Long Dock Park and the railroad tracks. I counted fourteen fully engaged in "refueling."

- Tom Lake

11/4 - Ravena, HRM 133.5: I looked out at the bird feeder in the front yard in mid-afternoon and saw my first red-bellied woodpecker of the season. He was hanging upside down from a perch on a feeder designed for much smaller birds, but he was still able to contort his head and neck just enough to get at the seed. It was time to put out some suet.

- Larry Roth

[Suet, a special type of beef fat, is an excellent choice for many birds - in particular those that are not adept at traditional seed feeders with thistle (nyjer) or sunflower seed, such as woodpeckers and nuthatches. Suet is a high-energy food useful in helping birds maintain body heat, especially in winter. Tom Lake.]

11/4 - Orange County, HRM 63: At a home feeder west of Orange Lake, a female common redpoll continued as the lone representative of her species. She was in company with twelve pine siskins, four purple finches, six house finches, and several American goldfinches.

- Ken McDermott

11/4 - Town of Montgomery, HRM 62: There were several species of "winter ducks" on Winding Hills Park Lake this afternoon. Among them were ruddy ducks (2), lesser scaup (7), and ring-necked ducks (2).

- Ken McDermott

11/4 - Peekskill, HRM 43: While cleaning up the yard after Hurricane Sandy, I noticed a bird poking around the compost pile and its new infusion of fallen leaves. I knew by the bird's mannerisms and coloring that it was not one of the usual visitors. As I studied the bird - its eye-ring, spotted breast, and brownish color with reddish, pumping tail - I realized that I had a hermit thrush. It was a very exciting find.

- Carol Capobianco

[The hermit thrush is among the last of the thrushes to migrate south in the fall and the first to head north in spring. Allaboutbirds.org]

11/4 - Bedford, HRM 35: We spotted a bald eagle drifting southeast at an extreme distance as well as an immature northern goshawk headed due north. Among many songbirds, the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch also counted eleven pine siskins and eight white-winged crossbills.

- Tait Johansson

11/5 - Coxsackie, HRM 124: With no electrical power in Edgewater (NJ) from Hurricane Sandy, I was staying with my daughter in Coxsackie. For three days in a row, my daughter and I watched a male northern harrier kill and eat woodcock in the field behind our house.

- Bob Honsinger

[According to the Birds of North America Online, American woodcock have a long autumn migration period beginning in September, with most birds moving during October, principally mid-October to early November. In warm years, heavy flights in Maine and Minnesota occur as late as mid-November. Steve Stanne.]

11/5 - Cornwall-on-Hudson, HRM 57: This afternoon we spotted what looked like a full-grown black bear in Black Rock Forest, on the Rose Trail between Aleck Meadow and the Oak Tree. It was bounding across the forest, fortunately away from us. We estimated that it weighed 250 pounds. We mentioned the sighting to John Brady, Black Rock Forest Manager, and he told us that there have been a number of sightings of bears in that area.

- Susan Crandell, Christine Ruppert, Stephan Wilkinson

11/5 - Town of East Fishkill, HRM 61: We had an irruption of pine siskins in Wiccopee beginning the week of Hurricane Sandy. They stayed around to suck the feeders dry. I counted more than 60 of them at one time and, as I was hanging up the refilled feeders with thistle (nyjer seed) they landed all over my arms and hands. They are such a sweet-looking bird with their streaky breasts and yellow coloring and were remarkably tame. I guess their journey had begun in the northern boreal forests and they were feeding up for the migration.

- Connie Mayer-Bakall

11/5 - Bedford, HRM 35: We spotted two adult bald eagles going slowly to the northeast as well as an adult red-shouldered hawk diving into trees. Among other bird sighting at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch were Canada geese (305), American robins (57), common merganser (2), and a flock of 40 ring-necked ducks.

- Tait Johansson

11/6 - Wappinger Creek, HRM 67.5: At the mid-morning low tide, a small flock of a dozen gorgeous ring-necked ducks were resting and foraging in the tidal Wappinger Creek.

- Tom Lake, T.R. Jackson

11/6 - Chelsea, HRM 61: More than a dozen brant were drifting idly in the lee of Low Point. These small geese seem more visible this fall than in previous years, or else river watchers have become more adept and seeing and reporting them.

- Tom Lake

11/7 - New Hamburg, HRM 68: Another storm, another surge. While not nearly like Hurricane Sandy, this powerful nor'ester with strong onshore winds, pulsed up the estuary in early evening with higher than usual tides, spilling into the flood plain. The neap tide of the quarter moon helped lessen its effect. The Hudson was a poet' delight: "A gray and angry river!" Strong northeast winds gusting to 30 mph were directly counter to the flood current, creating a stormy whitewash of capping rollers.

- Tom Lake

11/7 - Highland Mills, HRM 50: We had three white-tailed deer bucks in our yard today: a four-pointer, six-pointer and ten-pointer. One was lying down on our lawn; two others were foraging. The largest began a chase. All three took off after one another, trying to assert their dominance. This is the first time we've seen that many "horned bucks" in one place.

- Alan Groth, Janice Groth

[The "rack" or antlers of deer (Cervidae) are often measured by the number of tines or points. The rack's size often correlates to age - older having larger. Males, regardless of the size of their antlers, attempt to assert dominance in order to create a hierarchy of access to mate with does. In theory (natural selection), the dominant white-tail will "win" and pass on its favored genes to its offspring. Tom Lake.]

11/7 - Bedford, HRM 35: A decent number (15) of red-tailed hawks were migrating this morning along with turkey vultures (14) and sharp-shinned hawks (5). These early morning flights seem to be the norm for late fall at Chestnut Ridge.

- Genevieve Rozhon, Chet Friedman

11/8 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: When the nor'easter-induced snowstorm had ended, we had four inches of heavy, wet snow. It was the first opportunity of the season to see who was prowling the woods at night. At least three coyotes had passed single-file, fairly close to first light and an owl, probably a barred owl, had briefly come down into the snow; that landing may have been associated with a scattering of squirrel tracks. The most numerous tracks were of small songbirds such as juncos and sparrows.

- Tom Lake

11/8 - Bedford, HRM 35: There was at least eight inches of snow on the hike up to the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch, and more in places where it had drifted. It was quiet and really beautiful with all the snow. There were a few migratory red-tailed hawks and turkey vultures trickling on through. A northern harrier, a Cooper's hawk, and an American kestrel added some nice variety. An immature golden eagle was a very welcome sighting near the end of the day. We also counted a common raven and some pine siskins (22).

- Genevieve Rozhon

11/9 - Bedford, HRM 35: This morning, the Chestnut Ridge hawk-watchers were delighted to see a kettle of migrating turkey vultures (28) and one red-shouldered hawk at the bottom of the pile (always love a big kettle). Red-tailed hawks were on the move throughout the day. An adult male and an adult female northern harrier rounded out the afternoon nicely. We also had two more golden eagles (one immature and one sub-adult); one of the eagles was seen at the top of a kettle of vultures. Our count of American robin today reached 126.

- Genevieve Rozhon, Chet Friedman

11/9 - Chappaqua, HRM 35: With a few inches of rapidly melting snow still on the ground, the bird feeding area at Pruyn Sanctuary had an increase of its usual species. We noticed a record high count of eight fox sparrows. Also present were two purple finches and eighteen wild turkeys. There appeared to be a current silence/absence of the local Carolina wren pair post-Hurricane Sandy and the snowy nor'easter. In the woods, the juncos and white-throated sparrows were making use of the storm-fallen trees as welcome brush shelters, given the lack of understory with the over-browsing by white-tailed deer.

- Anne Swaim

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