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Hudson River Almanac March 21 - March 28, 2013

OVERVIEW

The eggs of Hudson River watershed bald eagles are hatching! For most it has been 30 days or more of incubation. The needs of the newly-hatched nestlings will be met, in large part, by the influx of river herring from the sea.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK


3/21 - Saugerties, HRM 102: I saw a seal eating a fish about 25 feet off Lighthouse Point by the Saugerties Lighthouse today. It then swam to about 15 feet from me, I suppose to get a look. I had my binoculars: I only saw its head and neck but they were gray and smooth with large dark eyes.
- Eileen Cunningham

[This was almost certainly a harbor seal. While they can be seen, on occasion, almost any time in the estuary, especially in winter when they haul out on ice floes, spring is their season. As schools of river herring and shad ascend the river, the seals are not far away. Tom Lake.]

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES


3/21 - Pattersonville, Schenectady County, HRM 166: We never use our front door so the eight-square-foot porch with big white cedars on both sides makes a great bird feeder. Today I heard a strange noise and looked out to see wild turkeys standing on my front porch. With a ten-inch snowfall, thousands of crows, and now red-winged blackbirds, I guess there isn't much left in the cornfields.
- Dee Strnisa

3/21 - New Paltz, HRM 78: Well after dark as I was driving on Shivertown Road a small, white, furry mammal ran across the road in front of me. It was not a cat - its body was lower and more elongated and its head and ears were much smaller. It was an ermine, a short-tailed weasel in winter form. It bounded very fast along the power line clearing, almost instantly blending in with the snow on the field, and was soon lost beyond the periphery of my headlights.
- Deb Weltsch

3/21 - Furnace Woods, HRM 38.5: A winter wren has been joining the more usual birds at the suet feeder.
- Christopher Letts

3/21 - Croton Point, HRM 35: Cardinals, mourning doves, red-winged blackbirds, and song sparrows were singing lustily this morning. A single meadowlark was handsome perched on a fence post, bright breast taking a little of the gloom off the day.
- Christopher Letts

3/21 - Spring Valley, HRM 31: As I walked above the Pascack Brook this evening a Cooper's hawk grabbed an unlucky starling from a tree on one side of the brook and coasted down toward the opposite bank. But it didn't land on the bank. Instead, it landed in the water and stood there with its prey fully submerged for nearly a minute. Then it hopped up onto the bank with the limp drowned bird and eventually carried it off to dine elsewhere.
- Linda Pistolesi

3/21 - Brooklyn, New York City: I was sitting inside my houseboat in Sheepshead Bay in late afternoon watching out the window with a small pair of binoculars I always have close by. I saw something unusual and looked through the glasses to see a harbor seal with his head out of the water. I excitedly ran outside to the top deck to get a wider view. Alas, no more views, but a great memory and a first after many years of living here.
- Lisa DeFrancesco

A dead central mudminnow lays on the black mesh of a eel net

3/22 - Ulster County, HRM 85: In the process of setting up a glass eel fyke net at Black Creek today, Sarah Mount, Susan Hereth, Anthony Coneski, and I found a freshly dead central mudminnow.
- Steve Stanne

[C. Lavett Smith once remarked that "mudminnows are somber little fish that look a lot like cigar butts with fins." The central mudminnow is not native, nor common, and probably owes its presence to the canal system that has linked mid-America, where they are native, with the Hudson River watershed. A second mudminnow species, the eastern, is native to the Hudson River watershed. They are somewhat related, taxonomically, to pike, but resemble killifish. Bob Schmidt and I have collected both mudminnow species from Manitou Marsh where they appear to hybridize. Tom Lake.]

3/22 - Manhattan, New York City, HRM 12.5: It was day three of spring and while the temperature climbed through the thirties, the sunlight had a winter clarity that showed every tree and rock of Inwood Hill Park in high definition. A dozen or so Canada geese were foraging on the field by the inlet of Spuyten Duyvil Creek. Patches of snow remained in the woods, but snowdrops and periwinkle (Vinca) were blooming. Robins were back; we saw three, all silent. A mockingbird and a downy woodpecker were silent as well, a mourning dove almost so. The highlight of our morning was a red-tailed hawk that flew over me to perch on top of a snag; as it landed, the spread tail was striking.
- Donna Mendell & Thomas Shoesmith

3/23 - Denning's Point, HRM 69: The wintering eagles had pretty much checked out and headed north as the watershed thawed and their far northern breeding grounds became less problematic. Still we counted three perched on Denning's Point and a fourth not far away on Hammond's Point, all adults. The recent post-equinox snow, continual sub-freezing weather, and the promise of more to come may have them reconsidering their options.
- Tom Lake, T.R. Jackson

3/24 - Columbia County, HRM 113: For the first time in a long time, there were waterfowl on the Olana pond. I'd begun to think there was nothing in the pond for them to feed on. The last bird I had on this pond, a year ago, was a pied-billed grebe - not even mallards or Canada geese. This morning there was a combined flock of wigeon, ring-necked ducks, and one pair of hooded mergansers.
- Mimi Brauch

3/24 - Germantown, HRM 108: Red-winged blackbirds were cleaning out my bird feeders almost as fast as I could fill them.
- Mimi Brauch

3/24 - Staatsburg, HRM 86: I had noticed owl pellets under a pine tree in my yard for the last few weeks. Today I saw more of them so I looked up inside the tree and saw a long-eared owl looking back.
- Karen Simmons

3/24 - Hyde Park, HRM 82: While observing a pair of wood ducks in Hyde Park Wetland 5 (and hoping they would select the nesting box we placed there last year) a red-shouldered hawk perched directly overhead and began calling. The wood ducks took flight and the hawk started circling overhead for many seconds, continually calling. A red-tailed hawk appeared and the red-shouldered hawk headed toward the river with the red-tail following. Several minutes later the red-shouldered, still constantly calling its whistled "kee-rah," a distinctive sound of the forest, returned to the wooded wetland.
- Bill Jacobs, Judy Kito

3/24 - Town of Poughkeepsie: Incubation Day 26. In midday, the female was sitting in the eagle nest (NY62) out of the cold wind and bathed in a warm spring sun. The male arrived shortly, perched in a hardwood a hundred feet away and began chortling. Within a few minutes he flew to another perch a hundred feet below the nest and continued vocalizing. About 30 minutes after he had arrived they made the switch: the male went to cover the eggs and the female flew off to the river.
- Tom Lake, T.R. Jackson

[The adults share incubation responsibilities. While it may vary from pair to pair, on average, the female incubates 18-20 hours a day getting relief once or twice a day in order to go and forage for food. For the same reason that we do not eat cheese doodles in our tents when camping in the High Peaks, no food is ever brought to the nest until a hatching occurs. The scent of food attracts unwanted visitors such as raccoons. However, once there is another mouth to feed, one that cannot fend for itself, the adults bring small fish and other food to the nest. Tom Lake.]

3/24 - Stormville, HRM 67: After a pause of few days, my wife Nipun and I again saw the snowy owl. I was able to snap a photo from distance before it flew away in the woods. I don't know if it is the same snowy owl or a different one. It is really very beautiful bird to watch.
- Sudhir Sharma

***When the photo came in to the Estuary Program in early April, it clearly showed a barred owl. A correction was published in the 3/29/13-4/4/13 issue. Steve Stanne.***

3/24 - Croton Point, HRM 34.5: I flushed two eastern meadowlarks off the landfill. There were also two kestrels perched on "methane" posts and two immature bald eagles in the air.
- Larry Trachtenberg

3/25 - Voorheesville, Albany County, HRM 146: Upon my arrival home, my eyes were drawn to a bright white-breasted duck that I had never seen on our pond. I thought it could be a wood duck but it was not shy so I knew right away it was something different. I ran in and - grabbing binoculars - was able to make out a pair of hooded mergansers. They were just beautiful. Later I spotted four wood ducks as well. Now I want to stay home and just watch the pond!
- Kathy Ricci

3/25 - Columbia County, HRM 119: My arm keeps getting a little bit longer when my dog, Loki, lunges on his leash in his continual sniffing quest to find interesting things on the trails. Today at the Greenport Conservation Area he flushed a ruffed grouse that startled both of us as it flew up in front only six feet away.
- Fran Martino

3/25 - Rhinebeck, HRM 90: Visiting my feeder for the past week, along with red-winged blackbirds, various woodpeckers, common redpolls, wrens, chickadees and other finches, was a northern mockingbird. He seemed drawn to the suet. I was also privy to a pair of mourning doves' mating activities. There was still snow several inches deep over most of the yard, but the wetlands across the road were teeming with life. A great blue heron winged past at shrub-top level and headed for the lake. The first fat robin arrived and stayed for awhile. Slowly the spring season is on its way.
- Joanne Engle

3/25 - Poughkeepsie: Upon arriving for my Monday morning shift at the "Home of Rock N' Roll," two killdeer were calling away, maneuvering between the open field area containing two large radio towers and the small pond adjacent to the parking lot.
- Michael Fraatz

3/25 - Monroe, Orange County, HRM 47: After the wintering common mergansers had their respite, as they always do on Round Lake this time of year, and left to continue their journey north, a horned grebe appeared. It was quite the diver and fast moving swimmer (underwater). When he got near enough for good viewing, his red eyes almost looked on fire. He stayed away from our domestic ducks, the three coots that linger here from October to May, and the convoys of Canada geese that come and go. This horned grebe was a first for us and quite a treat.
- Lyn Nelson, Debbie Korwan

3/25 - Croton River, HRM 34: Four dark, immature bald eagles squabbled at the edge of the sandbar just outside the railroad bridge - the cause of the rumpus unknown. Two flocks of high-flyer Canada geese went over, headed northeast. I always imagine them splashing down in Long Island Sound in half an hour or so, taking a break on the way to their breeding grounds. A single double-crested cormorant flew over, headed north, the first I had seen here for months. The weather predictors are hyping the next winter storm, and so the sight of the cormorant and the high flyers reminded me - spring is right around the corner.
- Christopher Letts

3/25 - Tallman Park RM 23: "Superstorm" Sandy and following storms felled a large group of trees, opening the canopy through Tallman State Park and providing a clear view of several eastern bluebirds flitting through the trees with a quick stop to perch. Behind the birds was the persistent croaking of wood frogs. Hiking back to the interior ponds seemed to silence the frogs' duck-like calls. After a moment our eyes could pick out their prone shapes as they glided fully extended along the pond surface. Heading back we almost stepped on one small frog crouched still as it crossed the pathway, perhaps hoping for a bigger pond with better pickings.
- Margie Turrin, Linda Pistolesi

3/25 - Manhattan, New York City: The most recent dolphin sighting was this morning. An unidentified dolphin was reported swimming in the Hudson River by the Financial District. The observer was on a ferry and watched the animal for several minutes. No photo or video was taken so the species cannot be determined. The last reported sighting of the (presumed) bottlenose dolphin was on 3/19 - a lone animal reported swimming in the East River around 96th Street in Manhattan. Photo documentation was lacking and the description was vague but this is the area in which the bottlenose dolphin was originally seen.
- Kim Durham, Riverhead Foundation

[To report a marine mammal sighting, call the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation's 24-hour Hotline, (631) 369-9829.]

3/26 - Town of Poughkeepsie: Incubation Day 28. In early evening, the female rose up in the nest and called. No one showed. Her relief was late. She sat back down. We were getting close.
- Tom Lake, T.R. Jackson

3/26 - Brewster, Putnam County, HRM 52: As we drank in this morning's cherry-red spectacle of a sunrise, a beautiful red fox passed just a few yards away. He stopped, regarded us warily, thought better of its course, turned and headed back for the cover of the trees. We always feel privileged by encounters like this.
- Bruce Iacono, Maureen Iacono

3/26 - Crugers, HRM 39: As we were enjoying watching the usual birds at the feeders, a welcome harbinger of spring flew in: a big, beautiful robin! It landed on one of the branches of our olive tree but didn't stay long.
- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson

3/26 - Furnace Woods, HRM 38.5: Amid much grousing about late spring and lousy weather on all fronts the past couple of weeks, a wild turkey gobbled, loud and long, in the woods across the road, not something we hear everyday around here. I admired the banks of Lenten rose, snowdrops, and crocus, splendid and in full bloom. A warm early spring gives us just a few days to enjoy these flowers, but weather like this seems to keep them happy and at prime for weeks.
- Christopher Letts

3/26 - Riverdale, HRM 14: From the Metro North commuter train to Grand Central this morning I spotted a single long-tailed duck on the river. It's been several years since I've seen one.
- Larry Trachtenberg

[Their former name, oldsquaw, still found in old field guides, was dropped from common usage in favor of long-tailed duck more than a decade ago. This was done for several reasons, among which was the negative connotation of the English word and its offensive reference to Native Americans. Tom Lake.]

3/26 - New York Harbor, Upper Bay: Observed from a Staten Island ferry: During our harbor crossing of the Upper Bay we counted five common loons, still in winter plumage, two red-breasted mergansers, and three mallards (two drakes, one hen), plus many gulls.
- Thomas Showalter, Louise Donargo

3/27 - Furnace Woods, HRM 38.5: The barred owl chorus began in the usual way, with the male and female calling back and forth: "Who cooks for you, who cooks for you all?" And then, cacophony - a full five minutes of grunts, groans, mutterings, and wheezes. I had gotten out of bed to toke the stove, but after that serenade a return to sleep was out of the question. One of the birds was calling from a big sugar maple that overhangs the house. It was close enough that it could have been calling down the chimney.
- Christopher Letts

3/28 - Valatie, HRM 129: I was caught between cardinals at Kinderhook Creek. One cardinal on the south side of the creek, another on the north side where I almost had to cover my ears they were so noisy. Two male cardinals were making their intentions loud and clear.
- Fran Martino

3/28 - Columbia County, HRM 113: I ride my bicycle a lot at work. At lunch yesterday it was like most afternoon rides except if felt like spring. Sure enough the signs were there: a big "Tom" turkey dogging a small flock of hens. I heard my first spring peepers; every puddle seemed to have a pair of geese; the first crocus were tucked back in a warm corner of a house; and passing a farm I caught the smell of freshly spread cow manure. Spring all was well until I turned back into the north wind and knew the reality that spring was close but yet so far.
- Jon Powell

Two adult bald eagles feed a sunfish to their young while in their nest

3/28 - Town of Poughkeepsie: On Day 29, we had a hatch at eagle nest NY62. This was early since the average is 32-35 days. They may have begun a day earlier and we missed it. Food, in this case fish, was brought to the nest for the first time. Some excellent photos clearly showed both adults in the nest tearing a large pumpkinseed sunfish into hatchling-sized pieces. How many nestlings? It is very difficult to see into this nest - there is no good vantage - so the behavior of the adults will have to tell us. [Photo of bald eagles in nest by Tom McDowell.]
- Tom McDowell, Terry Hardy, Tom Lake

3/28 - Furnace Woods, HRM 38.5: The goose wars are on, and little Pine Lake was a hotly contested territory. The dominant gander was on patrol constantly, and the goose has been sitting for almost a week now. Interlopers are driven off quickly and furiously unless they perch on one of our ridgepoles or on a branch of a big white ash overhanging the lake. Both of these escapes are used each year and are tolerated by the guard duty gander. The ducks - ring-necks, woodies, and hooded merganser - are also tolerated.
- Christopher Letts

3/28 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: I was delighted this morning to see signs of life at the tip-ends of the azalea twigs. That lovely, favorite bush, got severely "pruned" when Sandy pushed a huge oak tree over last fall. I worried that it had been too mashed to recover, but now there are tender lavender/pink bud tips appearing on the reshaped bush. I don't know if the lilac bush will be as lucky in its recovery. It was really crushed. But hope - and spring - springs eternal.
- Robin Fox

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