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Hudson River Almanac March 6 - March 12, 2013

OVERVIEW


One of the many visual joys of spring is the migration of thousands of snow geese from their wintering areas in Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. Their flight to far northern breeding grounds takes them through the mainly rural Wallkill River Valley, replete with old cornfields and numerous wetlands. In the wake of a late winter storm, many flocks of migrating red-winged blackbirds arrived in the Hudson Valley.

A flock of snow geese flying through the clear blue sky.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK


3/9 - Orange County, HRM 49: I estimated that there were 2,000 snow geese, a Ross' goose, and three tundra swans here today. A few green-winged teal, many Canada geese, and some mallards were also present on the farm ponds. One of the snow geese, a greater snow goose, had a yellow neck collar: TC85. I reported the code to the bird banding lab and received a report on its banding. [Photo of flying snow geese by Matt Zeitler.]
- Jesse Jaycox

[Jesse Jaycox's greater snow goose, a female, had been banded on the South Plain of Bylot Island, Nunavut, Canada, on August 15, 2011, nearly nineteen months ago. Tom Lake.]

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

3/6 - New Hamburg, HRM 67.5: At the top of the flood tide in early morning, in advance of another winter storm, an east-northeast wind had whipped the river into a froth - wind against tide, wind against current.
- Tom Lake

3/6 - Annesville Creek, HRM 43.5: A number of immature bald eagles were fishing here today, and the fishing looked good.
- Scott Craven

3/6 - Croton Point, HRM 35-34: As I walked through the oak woods on the hill behind the park office, I saw something shiny on the ground ahead. It turned out to be a glistening, fresh gizzard shad, about a foot in length. Blood welled from two finger thick puncture wounds, one on either side of the fish. No eagles were nearby, but I did not doubt how the fish had arrived here.
- Christopher Letts

3/7 - Orange County, HRM 49: I estimated that there were four to five thousand snow geese at in the ponds here today. However, there was no sign of the pink-footed goose we had been seeing here for a while.
- John Haas

3/7 - Haverstraw Bay, HRM 43-38: I counted only five bald eagles this morning. Three were perched in a small tree at the marina on the north side of Dogan Point, one soared over Stony Point, and a single adult was in command of the top of the navigation tower in Peekskill Bay.
- Christopher Letts

3/8 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 76: The first glance out of my window to check the storm today included a delightful cast of characters: many crows and dark-eyed juncos, a downy woodpecker, a few cardinals, a Carolina wren, a tufted titmouse, a goldfinch, and a flock of house sparrows - eight species before 8:00 AM. Black-capped chickadees and a white-breasted nuthatch arrived a bit later - ten species by 10:00 AM!
- Art Filler

3/8 - Pleasant Valley, HRM 75: Despite the snowstorm that blew through last night leaving several inches of snow, today I heard my first red-winged blackbirds calling in the trees in my wetlands. I also have skunk cabbage coming up - a good omen.
- Kathy Kraft

3/8 - Verbank, HRM 75: The mallards returned to our pond this week. Every year, one female and two males come to the pond in our backyard. They try to nest and lay eggs but because they leave the eggs on the ground the crows usually get them.
- Audrey Walker

3/8 - Gardiner, HRM 73: There were more than 300 red-winged blackbirds this morning in our apple trees, on our lawn, and crowding our feeders. Looks like it's time to take the feeders down!
- Rebecca Houser

3/8 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: The winter storm dropped six inches of snow, closed the schools, and lowered visibility on the river to a couple of hundred feet. Snow continued to fall, pushed by a strong northeast wind. Not long after first light, the woods filled with red-winged blackbirds, both males and females. Scores attacked the feeders and were disappointed when they discovered no sunflower seeds, only thistle and a finch mix. The males' brilliant red epaulets were hidden; the time to flash their colors would come later once breeding territories were established.
- Tom Lake

3/8 - Blooming Grove, HRM 55: During the winter storm, our bird feeders and the ground underneath were covered with grackles. There was such a swarm of them, at least fifty or more. Once frightened, they would swarm into the trees and allow the other birds such as cardinals, doves, red-winged blackbirds, and all the usual smaller birds to get to the seed and suet. They left later in the day.
- Carol Coddington

3/8 - Peekskill, HRM 43: After the snow abated, two female red-winged blackbirds and a juvenile were among the birds under the feeders. It made me wonder whether they were migrating through and stopped over because of the storm or whether they had arrived earlier in the season and intend to stay at a wetlands or field nearby.
- Carol Capobianco

3/8 - Crugers, HRM 39: After the storm, our area was a winter wonderland with snow-capped tree branches and shrubs and many cardinals, chickadees, and nuthatches at the feeders. Suddenly, a flock of red-winged blackbirds and grackles, the first of the season, joined the crowd on the olive tree outside our window.
- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson

3/9 - Milan, HRM 90: The red-wings were here in force, mostly males with a few females mixed in, grackles as well, and brown-headed cowbirds and starlings. What a ruckus! I watched a male cardinal feed a female cardinal one sunflower seed after another. A pileated woodpecker was excavating a nest hole in an old poplar. Spring is just around the corner.
- Marty Otter

3/9 - Hyde Park, HRM 82: The first crocus popped out of my lawn this morning. Three more showed up by mid-afternoon. This seems much later than last year.
- Peter Fanelli

3/9 - Beacon, HRM 61: While walking on Main Street in Beacon, we saw a peregrine falcon perched on the memorial stone in front of the VFW building, very close to the sidewalk. I approached to take a photo with my cell phone and he flew to a fence where he allowed me to snap some photos.
- Victoria Lozier

3/10 - Minerva, HRM 284: Well after dark this evening I was greeted by the raucous sounds of a large herd of red-winged blackbirds hanging out in a sugar maple in the side yard. They only stopped briefly and then were off en masse in a northerly direction. These were the first migrants of the season. The maple is one of three I've got tapped in the yard and vicinity. The sap has not been flowing well but at least it's moving. We had a good 18" of snow in the open, somewhat less in the woods.
- Mike Corey

3/10 - Ulster County, HRM 99: This morning, not long after dawn at Turkey Point, I watched two beavers swimming close together along the shore of the river. When they were closer to me, one beaver seemed to briefly climb onto the other's back. At this point the beavers separated with one heading straight out from shore, submerging for a distance of ten feet, while the other began vocalizing softly as it continued swimming downriver. I have often seen beavers while kayaking in tidal creeks and marshes but rarely in the main channel. Ten minutes later I saw the second beaver returning north along the shore. I can only speculate about the relationship between the beavers and the nature of this interaction.
- Stephen Hart

3/10 - New Hamburg, HRM 67.5: For the last two mornings, I have counted five or six bald eagles perched on both sides of the Wappinger Creek outlet to the Hudson. With high tides in the morning, the eagles ceased their fishing activities. Immatures outnumbered the adults. Common mergansers were plentiful and I counted as many as twenty in the creek alone. The shoreline brush contained an abundance of red-winged blackbirds and an occasional bluebird.
- Tom McDowell

3/10 - Orange County, HRM 49: Although the snow goose flock (see 3/9) took off this morning, they returned in about an hour. Numbers were down to about 1,000 birds but the Ross' goose was immediately spotted. They remained at the pond for the remainder of the morning and were still present when we passed by in early afternoon. We also spotted some tundra swans flying in and landing in a smaller pond next to the main pond.
- John Haas, Renee Davis

[Ross' goose is like a smaller version of the snow goose - same genus, different species. Their appearance in the East is sporadic. They are mainly found in western Canada, migrating south into areas west of the Rockies. Tom Lake.]

3/11 - Columbia County, HRM 113: There was a great view of the Catskills from the Ridge Road trail at the Olana State Historic Site. The face of the "Ol' Man in the Mountain" seemed to have a more prominent cheekbone that was well-defined with snow along the ridge of Indian Head Mountain. Indian Head Mountain makes up the head of the Ol' Man resting on his back. The Plattekill rises as his chest, and Overlook Mountain is his bended knees as the Ol' Man dips his toes in the Hudson River.
- Fran Martino

3/11 - New Windsor, HRM 60: Today my pussy willows began to open up; my one snowdrop plant was in full bloom; and I noticed a robin on my lawn. Here comes spring!
- Joanne Zipay

3/11 - West Point, HRM 52: We took some photos of a banded immature bald eagle today from a trail-cam we have set up. The picture quality was not good but the bird had a silver band on one leg [U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service} and a dark band on the other leg [possibly a NYS DEC blue band].
- Marnie Miller-Keas

[This bird may have been a banded eagle from New York, but without a number from one of the two bands, it is not possible to trace or discover its origin. Tom Lake.]

3/12 - Saugerties, HRM 102: There was a small movement of salamanders tonight in extreme northern Ulster County, indicating the start of another vernal breeding season. I escorted a few spotted salamanders, one Jefferson complex, a four-toed, and several eastern newts across two local roadways. Two additional newts were victims of vehicular traffic but nothing compared to the carnage that a "Big Night" can produce on these same roads. A few spring peepers were heard vocalizing in a small wetland but no frogs or toads were encountered out on the roads this night.
- Steve Chorvas

3/12 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 76: It started raining about 2:00 AM with the air temperature in the low 50s. By 3:00 AM, I started seeing a few frogs jumping across the road, even jumping onto what was left of snow banks. By 5:30, there were hundreds of mostly brown frogs jumping across and all over the road. I had to stop several times so I didn't hit groups of them.
- Michael Paul

3/12 - Town of Fishkill, HRM 63.5: As I walked to my mailbox before first light this morning, I heard just one, a single spring peeper singing from the vernal pool over at Stony Kill Farm. By nightfall I heard an entire symphony of what sounded like thousands of spring peepers having come alive since early this morning.
- Andra Sramek

3/12 - Furnace Woods, HRM 38.5: In the colloquial parlance of farmers, today's storm was a "chicken soaker!" We had twelve and more hours of steady rain with almost two inches in the rain gauge. We needed it, and the spring flowers were responding already, with tulips and daffodils thrusting up out of the cold soil.
- Christopher Letts

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