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Hudson River Almanac January 14 - January 21, 2013

OVERVIEW

This was another week of counting wintering birds, both eagles and waterfowl, as means of estimating population trends and the effects of the season.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

1/20 - West Point, HRM 52: I was out for a walk this afternoon and spotted what I thought was an eagle flying over the river in front of the rugby field near the North Dock. It was a large black bird; wing tips were rounded with a straight leading edge and were flat in relation to the body. The bird would soar for brief periods, but it mostly kept pumping its wings to gain altitude.

- Doug Gallagher

[Doug's photos revealed an immature golden eagle. In recent winters, we have had one or more golden eagles wintering in the Hudson Highlands, specifically in the area of Crow's Nest and Storm King Mountain, just a couple of miles upriver. Tom Lake]

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

1/14 - Dutchess County to Westchester County, HRM 60-34: Dense fog postponed our planned January 13 Lower Hudson Bald Eagle Roost Survey from Fishkill Ridge to Croton. Instead we went today, on an unseasonably warm afternoon. This synchronous count, now in its tenth season, involved thirteen observers distributed between six known night roosts. Despite the warm conditions and an ice-free Hudson, we recorded 47 eagles; we assumed they were both wintering and local birds. A larger proportion of the birds than usual were at inland roosts, with relatively few spending the night near the Hudson River.

- Barry Babcock, David Baker, Ken Comish, Melissa Gillmer, Lew Kingsley, Ed McGowan, Marnie Miler-Keas, Gerhard Patsch, Tracy Patsch, Pete Salmansohn, Joe Trapani, Jim Utter, Bill Wallace

1/14 - Bear Mountain, HRM 46: I usually welcome the sound of spring peepers as a sign that winter is nearly over, but not in the first week of January. A few solo callers were making themselves heard along the trail at the Bear Mountain Trailside Museums and Zoo, as well as halfway up Bear Mountain on a southern exposure.

- Ed McGowan

1/15 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: Somehow, the clear and crisp air of January brings a promise of springtime. Now that we are gaining daylight, the winter air seems to have a bright quality that engenders that promise. Red-tailed hawks are busy with their courtship and thoughts of mating. Twice today I watched an adult red-tail being pursued across the sky, mobbed by three or four crows. It is not an easy life being a raptor in a world of more maneuverable pests.

- Tom Lake

[On January 10, sunrise occurred one minute earlier, not later as we stated in the last Almanac, for the first time since June 18. Tom Lake]

1/15 - Bronx, New York City: As I was on my way to work this morning, traveling north on the service road of the Bruckner Expressway in the Throgs Neck section of the Bronx, I made a turn onto Calhoun Avenue and inadvertently flushed an adult red-shouldered hawk that had been perched in a tree. This gorgeous raptor flew low, banked left, flew across the street in between two houses and then was gone. What a beautiful hawk. It had so much red on it as well as the classic black-and-white banding on its tail. It was truly beautiful in all its wildness.

- Orlando Hidalgo

1/16 - Cheviot, HRM 106: This morning I looked out on the river to the cottonwood on the jetty and saw, as usual, two eagles. Upon a closer look, they were both immatures instead of the usual adult pair. While I watched, one immature took off and an adult took its place. Later, the two adults were back, sitting very close, hunkered down in the treetop in the snow and fog. One reached over and seemed to be grooming the other. Courtship.

- Jude Holdsworth

1/16 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67.5: There are certain bird calls or songs that stop you in your tracks or mid-sentence if you are in a conversation. Among these, for me at least, are the bald eagle, common loon, canyon wren, and any of the wood thrushes. But perhaps chief among them is the raven, particularly since they are not terribly common. In midday, as I was clearing five inches of fresh snow, I heard a throaty "clack" and "croak." I looked up, and there was a black-as-midnight raven watching me from the crown of a black locust.

- Tom Lake

1/17 - Columbia County, HRM 124: Tramping in the woods with my friend Loki, I came upon a white, piebald white-tailed deer. She had a dark nose, but her coloration wasn't like a pinto pony - she was whiter. It was a thrill for me to see this creature.

- Fran Martino

[White and brown deer are commonly referred to as "piebald." White is a recessive color phase of white tailed deer; it is normally not albinism. Pete Fanelli.]

1/17 - Cheviot, HRM 106: I spotted a dozen greater scaup on the river today, along with two red-breasted mergansers.

- Mimi Brauch

1/17 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 71: This morning, along with all the deer and squirrel tracks in the snow, I saw red fox tracks. I had not seen our local red fox for several months, but it clearly paid a visit last night as the tracks came out of the woods, down the hill to my feeder area, and then across to Casperkill Creek where I lost them. This is the same path I have seen the fox travel many times in other seasons.

- Margie Robinson

1/18 - Germantown, HRM 108: I had brown cowbirds under my feeders this morning; among them were a male and several female red-winged blackbirds.

- Mimi Brauch

1/18 - Fishkill, HRM 61: My next door neighbor told me this morning that daffodils were coming up on the sunny side of his house.

- Lee Banner

1/18 - Fishkill, HRM 61: As darkness and the coldness of the night settled over the area, I was clearing some snow near my front door. The noise and proximity of this disturbed a small bird, likely a Carolina wren, from its nighttime roost in the balsam fir wreath on my front door. It flew to a nearby dogwood tree and waited for me to cease and desist before returning to its shelter in the wreath. Now assured of the bird's winter night refuge, I will not remove the wreath until spring.

- Ed Spaeth

1/18 - Westchester County, HRM 44: Driving home after dark tonight in North Salem, a bobcat crossed the road right in front of me. The big cat went up a hill and into the woods near a stream that empties into a nearby lake. Wow! It was a very large, muscular cat, yellowish in color with a short tail.

- Irene Marks

1/18 - Westchester County, HRM 35: While driving home through Croton-on-Hudson on Route 9A, a sweet little animal scampered out of the brush and darted across the road in front of me. At first I thought it was a small dog, but as it got closer, I could see that it was a red fox.

- Dianne Picciano

A white-fronted goose and a Canada goose standing in a field

1/19 - Dutchess County, HRM 84-73: Today was the Waterman Bird Club's Waterfowl Count, part of the New York State Waterfowl Count. Thanks to a timely Rare Bird Alert sent by Barbara Butler, a highlight of the count, and a life bird for me, was a greater white-fronted goose that we spotted among several hundred Canada geese in a cow pasture in Amenia. We also saw a neck-collared Canada goose and submitted a report to the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center Bird Banding Laboratory. We might eventually learn a little about the bird. We also counted 35 ringed-necked ducks on a small unnamed pond off Noxon Road.

- Deb Kral

[Adding "life birds" to a "life list" is a common activity for many naturalists. Typically these are compilations of related species, like postcards from one's travels through life. Some people keep bird lists, for others it is fish, flowers, insects, mushrooms, or fungi. Anyone can keep a list of almost anything that ultimately gives them a context and appreciation for the natural world. Tom Lake. Photo of white-fronted and Canada goose by Debi Kral.]

1/19 - New Hamburg, HRM 67.5: This past week was, indeed, "A Gathering of Eagles" on tiny Rabbit Island. We hosted as many as five bald eagles: two pairs of adults and one immature. All were perched in a single, tall basswood tree on the periphery of the island. On some days there were just one or two; on other days there were up to five at one time. My wife, now jaded, feels they have become as common as robins. They seem somewhat reluctant to pose for photos, but nonetheless, it is thrilling to look out the kitchen window and these glorious raptors sitting in a tree in our backyard. Thirty years ago, who would have suspected that there would be such a resurgence of eagles in our valley?

- David Cullen

A male red-breasted merganser wading in the river

1/20 - Wappinger Falls, HRM 67.5: With most of the ice gone at Wappinger Lake, I stopped by to see what was there. Among the waterfowl were many (more than eighteen) mute swans, twenty hooded and common mergansers, two pairs of gadwalls, and a hen bufflehead, away from everyone, diving by herself. An adult bald eagle circled high above. The highlight, however, was a drake red-breasted merganser.

- Terry Hardy

[Red-breasted mergansers are uncommon on small Hudson Valley ponds in winter, preferring saltier, big-water habitats in New York Harbor and along the coast. Steve Stanne. Photo of red-breasted merganser by Terry Hardy.]

1/20 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: I was awakened at 4:00 AM by the shrill cries of coyotes in stereo. In the still and frigid air, even through closed windows, it sounded as though they were everywhere. In reality, it was likely a small group of four or five - family, extended family, a clan - and they were on the prowl.

- Tom Lake

1/20 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: We heard, then saw, a Carolina wren today: "Teakettle, teakettle, teakettle"...with a very weak "tea."

- Tom Lake, Phyllis Lake

1/20 - Town of Fishkill, HRM 63.5: I walked into the north gate of Stony Kill Farm this morning and was greeted by six bluebirds. They were flying and flitting by the free-running stream in the cow pasture, and sitting on top of the two closest bluebird houses. The morning sun made their blue-and-red feathers really stand out. While walking, I watched a red-tailed hawk soar and dip and glide with its red tail also glowing in the sun. A flock of starlings sitting in the black locust trees by the barn were cackling and singing their spring songs already. Could that be? As I headed off the property, a well groomed turkey vulture soared above, no more than sixty feet overhead. Such a nice way to start the day!

- Andra Sramek

1/20 - Westchester County, HRM 27: As my husband and I were returning from bird watching in Valhalla, we saw a very large raptor fly over our house. I grabbed my binoculars and - sure enough - it was an adult bald eagle flying over the Kensico Dam.

- Abbye Carsten, Bevin Carsten

1/21 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 68: Call it the "winter blues," or "seasonal affected disorder," or just being in need of a bright and cheery moment. I went to Bowdoin Park today for my dose and was not disappointed. In each of two brushy areas I perused I came up no fewer than a dozen bluebirds, foraging the last of the berries or hunting for other sources of calories. In a season defined by drabness, the soft yet vibrant blue of these birds, complemented by an even softer orange, can be very heart-warming.

- Tom Lake

1/21 - Manitou, HRM 47: Today was the first day with any ice floating by on the river's outgoing tide. The bird feeders were busy with all the usual suspects; I have had common redpolls on and off for a few weeks. The sharp-shinned hawk has been a regular visitor and I see evidence of the kills around the lawn. Its tactics lead me to believe it is a young bird because it isn't very stealthy, hiding in plain sight. Bald eagles are being seen daily, both adults and immatures.

- Zshawn Sullivan

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