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Hudson River Almanac November 12 - November 18, 2013

OVERVIEW

Autumn migration in the air continued with raptors, waterfowl, and songbirds. While the Hudson Valley hasn't seen real winter conditions yet, the urgent message of the coming season has been heeded by birds from the north, which have lost their open water and dining options in Canada and northern New England due to ice and snow.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

11/15 - Orange County, HRM 35: Early last April we had a black bear and her yearling cub visit our backyard in Sterling Forest. She clearly was walking the territory to show her cub where to find food since she was about to send him out on his own. First they visited the bird feeders where they had a snack, then the apple tree, and she seemed to make it clear that he should check back later in the season. A couple of weeks later the youngster was back alone and twice made off with the suet feeder and then climbed the apple tree to check it out. We didn't see either of them for the rest of the summer, but today we spotted the youngster, scaring him off just in time to rescue our feeders. He came back again later to check out the feeders and look longingly up into the now-leafless apple tree. His rump and undersides were sopping wet so we assumed he'd just come from fishing in a little pond down the hill. What a joy to be able to witness an early teaching moment in the life of a young bear and see how well the lesson stuck several months later.
- Mary Yrizarry, John Yrizarry

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

11/12 - Wappinger Falls, HRM 67.5: The first snow of the season, in the form of windy squalls, left a dusting to a bit more. Coot and common mergansers patrolled Wappinger Lake. Following their preferred prey, the coot were inshore and the mergansers offshore.
- Tom Lake

11/12 - Bedford, HRM 35: Right on the heels of this morning's passing cold front, we had a coat of freshly fallen snow on the landscape at the Chestnut Ridge hawkwatch. Snow reflection allowed me to enjoy some of the best and most complete views of individual birds that I can recall having this season. It also offered superb contrast for picking out low-flying birds that might otherwise have been difficult or impossible to spot at a distance. Migrants were low-flying, with few birds making it above eye-level. Also counted were two common ravens, 367 common grackles, 478 American robins, 125 cedar waxwings, and 253 Canada geese. Current season totals of vultures: 2,130 turkey vultures, 60 black vultures.
- Arthur W. Green

11/13 - Staatsburg, HRM 86: The highlight of the Waterman Bird Club's field trip to Mills Mansion was a good look at a long-tailed duck. It was on the river near the point at the south end of the cove below the mansion.
- Carena Pooth

[The long-tailed duck was formerly called "oldsquaw." That name was dropped from common usage in favor of long-tailed duck a decade or more ago for several reasons, among which was the negative connotation of the English phrase and its offensive reference to Native Americans. Long-tailed ducks breed in the Arctic and pass down the flyway during migration to spend the winter on the ocean and coastal waters. Tom Lake.]

11/13 - Wappinger Falls, HRM 67.5: At dawn's light the shrubbery along the shore of Wappinger Lake was coated in frost following our first hard freeze. A sharp northwest breeze caught a small gathering of male hooded mergansers; their elegant crests looked like mini-sloops gliding across the water.
- Tom Lake

11/13 - Bedford, HRM 35: It was a lackluster flight day with indiscernible flight-lines at the Chestnut Ridge hawkwatch. It was not the post-frontal flight we were expecting and we would not have been surprised if the raptors were out along the coast today. Also counted were four common ravens, 422 common grackles, 40 American robins, and 39 cedar waxwings. Current season total for red-shouldered hawks: 402.
- Arthur W. Green, Chet Friedman

11/14 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 76: For a quarter-mile along Route 9, every mature tree was chock-full of crows. The length and breadth of this communal night roost will quadruple over the next two months.
- Tom Lake

[From late November through much of the winter, great numbers of crows, beginning in the hundreds, then increasing to many thousands, collect each late afternoon. While this behavior has its obvious benefit as a winter night roost, it may also serve social functions for crows. Tom Lake.]

11/14 - Wappinger Falls, HRM 67.5: The hooded mergansers, common mergansers, and coot were still staking out their areas of Wappinger Lake on the west side of Route 9. On the east side, in the shade of a stand of cottonwoods, were two dozen gadwalls, an uncommon sighting here, and then only in migration.
- Tom Lake

[Gadwalls are marsh ducks related to mallards and black ducks. Their primary breeding area is the prairie pothole region of the northern Great Plains and southern Canada. In New York, they breed on Long Island; Staten Island; in Jefferson County along the shore of Lake Ontario; and several scattered locations such as the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge. They are considered uncommon in migration in Dutchess County. Barbara Butler.]

11/14 - Bedford, HRM 35: Eighty percent of the sightings at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch today were vultures and red-shouldered hawks. Also counted were seventeen Canada geese, fifteen cedar waxwings, and one American woodcock flushed from the trail on the way up to the platform. Current season totals of vultures: 2,165 turkey vultures, 66 black vultures. Current season total for red-shouldered hawks: 409.
- Tait Johansson

11/15 - Wappinger Falls, HRM 67.5: In late afternoon, on the west side of Wappinger Lake, I counted eighteen hooded mergansers as they flew in to join eight common mergansers. The gadwalls were still on the east side of the lake.
- Deb Kral

11/15 - West Point, HRM 51: We spotted a great blue heron fishing in the pond near the main entrance to Keller Army Hospital. It was plucking fish of various colors and sizes from the water. At one point, a loud noise caused the heron to fly to an adjacent pond, where it resumed its fishing in a more secluded setting.
- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson

11/15 - Peekskill, HRM 44: The near full moon high tide was well up on the shoreline rip-rap. The bay held scores if not hundreds of Canada geese. We heard our first-of-the-season white-throated sparrows, a winter visitor ("Poor Sam Peabody, Peabody, Peabody"). The river was 51 degrees Fahrenheit and the salinity was 2.0 parts per thousand [ppt].
- Tom Lake, T.R. Jackson

11/15 - Bedford, HRM 35: It was a very casual, well-rounded flight day at the Chestnut Ridge hawkwatch with regard to numbers, diversity, and height of flight. For a change, nearly all migrant raptors exited in reasonably close proximity to the watch platform, with only a handful of birds exiting far to our south. The fifteenth golden eagle of the season was a bonus. Also counted were two common ravens and about 1,700 common grackles. Current season total for red-shouldered hawks: 415.
- Arthur W. Green

11/15 - Sleepy Hollow, HRM 28: A movement outside my window caught my eye this morning. An adult coyote was standing there with only six feet and a pane of glass between us. He looked calmly at me and then wandered off into the neighbors' yards, stopping twice to scratch his neck. This fellow was about the size of a small German shepherd and looked quite healthy with a bushy, lightly ringed tail. Perhaps his robust health was a result of the plethora of squirrels in the area.
- Doug Maass

11/15 - Tarrytown, HRM 27: When driving past the Tarrytown Reservoir we always stop to look for birds and waterfowl. We get out the scope and scan the water, hoping for something nice. You can imagine our delight when we found two river otters. They seemed quite at home. We have had some good sightings here over the years but this one topped them all.
- Peter Johnson, Ron Conzo

11/16 - Milan, HRM 90: While traveling home this afternoon, I spotted a beautiful male ring-necked pheasant. It acted skittish as it scurried into the brush along the edge of the road. I've seen pheasants in Dutchess that were near shooting preserves but this was the first that I've seen in my area, which is far from any hunting clubs.
- Frank Margiotta

[The ring-necked pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) is native to Asia but has been extensively introduced into North America and is raised as a game bird. Seasonal holdovers from hunt club introductions find it difficult to survive in the wild in the presence of robust coyote and fox populations. According to DEC's ring-necked pheasant webpage, the pheasant population in New York has declined nearly 90% since 1970. Most biologists believe it is because of a lack of fallow grasslands for nesting and brood-rearing. Much of the land once in farming has grown up into forest or been developed. Tom Lake.]

11/16 - Stanfordville, HRM 84: Driving past Tamarack Lake, I spotted a bald eagle flying low down the middle of the lake. There was a young boy fishing alongside the road and as I went by. I motioned with my arm hoping he would notice. Moving past, I looked in my rearview mirror. The boy was still staring after the eagle with his mouth open, fishing pole down. His look was priceless.
- Debi Kral

[Tamarack Lake, also known as Bontecou Lake, is a shallow 123-acre pond in northeastern Dutchess County. Debi Kral]

11/16 - Wappinger Falls, HRM 67.5: I watched an interesting interaction among ducks at Wappinger Lake today. A female common merganser was hanging out with hybrid/domesticated ducks. Whenever the ducks moved to a different spot, she went with them; where they went, she went, like old friends. [This is odd because of the diving duck/marsh duck mix.]
- Terry Hardy

11/16 - Bedford, HRM 35: The first raptor of the day at the Chestnut Ridge hawkwatch, a bald eagle off to our south, was not seen until 10:31 a.m. Also counted were 43 cedar waxwings and a female eastern red bat zipping back and forth in front of platform repeatedly in the beautiful mid-afternoon light. Current season totals of vultures: 2,205 turkey vultures, 66 black vultures. Current season total for red-shouldered hawks: 426.
- Tait Johansson

11/16 - Croton Point, HRM 35: I passed a flock of 42 snow buntings in the sports field as I entered the Point. On the landfill, I spotted a kestrel on a post; a harrier hunting; and a great horned owl sitting in the open just off the road.
- Larry Trachtenberg

11/16 - Sleepy Hollow, HRM 27: My neighbor, five doors to the north, called this morning to report that a healthy-looking coyote spent half an hour in midday lounging on his back patio grooming. It may have been the same coyote I saw yesterday. Several months ago, another neighbor had spread coyote urine around his house to ward off white-tailed deer. This resulted in a call to the police complaining that his house was surrounded by coyotes and he couldn't leave.
- Doug Maass

11/17 - Staatsburg, HRM 86: I was able to find the red-headed woodpeckers, first spotted by Susan Rogers and Christina Baal a few days ago, through the drizzle and mist today in a stand of old locusts near the Mills Mansion. They were foraging in a large oak and were located by their vocalizations.
- Debi Kral

11/17 - Beacon, HRM 61: A strong south wind was pushing the river up and even over the beach at Long Dock. It was no day for songbirds - too much energy needed to move about. Still, despite the loud rustling of branches, we could hear white-throated sparrows; tufted titmice; black-capped chickadees; and dark-eyed juncos calling from within the heavy brush. The river was 51 degrees F and the salinity was 1.25 ppt.
- Tom Lake, Phyllis Lake, T.R. Jackson

11/17 - Dutchess County, HRM 68: From the DEC boat launch this afternoon, I spotted a long-tailed duck on Sylvan Lake. I was not sure about the sex or age; the plumage was different from the one we saw on the Mills Mansion field trip four days ago. Also counted were 210 ruddy ducks and 25 American coot.
- Carena Pooth

11/17 - Bedford, HRM 35: Visibility at the Chestnut Ridge hawkwatch today was complete "junk." The fog, with a steady light drizzle, was even thick enough to affect views of the bird feeder. The daily count was cancelled at 12:30 p.m.
- Arthur W. Green

11/17 - Manhattan, HRM 12: We watched a sizable south-bound movement of common grackles and red-winged blackbirds over Inwood Hill Park. In just twenty minutes, standing in the middle of the soccer field looking west over the ridge, we had more than 1,100 grackles and 300 blackbirds. Surely many more flying through the low cloud cover were undetectable, as we could occasionally see their ghostly silhouettes through the mist.
- Nadir Souirgi, James Knox

11/18 - Stanfordville, HRM 68: I stopped by Tamarack Lake to count the coots (nine) today after not seeing them for a few days. While I was there, an immature bald eagle flew in, perused the lake, and then perch in a tree on the east bank.
- Debi Kral

11/18 - Kowawese, HRM 59: Since the day was warm, we decided to seine one more time to try to catch some fish for our Hudson Highlands Nature Museum estuary exhibit. It was a late-afternoon low tide and a southerly breeze made the surf choppy and difficult. After three hauls with our 45-foot-long net, our fish count included eight young-of-the-year striped bass, eight white perch, seven spottail shiners, a yellow perch, and the big surprise, three common carp (each eighteen inches long). The water was 50 degrees F.
- Pamela Golben, Jim Farkas

11/18 - Cornwall on Hudson, HRM 57: While out raking leaves on a glorious 63 degree F afternoon, I was surprised to see a pair of red foxes scurrying across my neighbor's back yard. This was a first for me. Could they have been after the chipmunks that were very active in the nearby rock walls or just passing through?
- Robert Anderson

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