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Hudson River Almanac January 5 - January 11, 2014

OVERVIEW

The thirty-sixth annual Bald Eagle Census for the Hudson River watershed was conducted this week. Eagles seeking consistently open water for hunting found favorable ice conditions south of the Hudson Highlands.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

1/10 - New Hamburg to Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 67-34: A few of us surveyed sites along the river for the annual bald eagle census, and did well. We found an adult at Cedarcliff (Middlehope), two more at Sloop Hill (New Windsor), eleven adults and four immatures at Stony Point (Rockland County), thirteen adults and five immatures in the Hudson off Croton (Westchester County), and lastly, eighteen more whose age was obscured by the fog. We had a total of 54 eagles across 33 miles of river.
- Malcolm Grant

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

1/5 - Stillwater, HRM 172: A little north of where County Route 54 joins Route 113, I saw a lot of "brown" in a field. There were four immatures and an adult bald eagle feasting on a deer carcass. In the trees along the hedgerow of the field that bordered the river, there was another adult and an immature - seven eagles!
- Helen Meehan

1/5 - Stillwater, HRM 171.5: Separately, we both saw one redhead duck at Admiral's Marina in the partially iced-over Hudson River. There were also one lesser scaup, six common goldeneyes, and one adult bald eagle.
- John Hershey, Nancy Kern

1/5 - Halfmoon, HRM 164: A tiny bit of open water still persisted on the south shore of the Mohawk, just upstream from the Cohoes power station. A large group of gulls had assembled, including one immature glaucous (second-year bird) and three Iceland gulls. Two of the Iceland gulls were very dusky (first-year birds); a third seemed to be a much cleaner white as it flew over the road. Just before leaving, we watched an immature bald eagle on the ice below the dam (it had more white in the body and wing plumage than any I had seen before).
- Gregg Recer, Cathy Graichen

1/5 - Saratoga County, HRM 159: After missing the snowy owls at the Albany Airport, I decided to go off the beaten track and check out southwest Saratoga County along the Mohawk River. There was an adult bald eagle at Vischer Ferry power station, a dark-phase rough-legged hawk at Charleton, and a merlin on a telephone pole in Providence.
- Ron Harrower

1/5 - Cohoes, HRM 157: Late this afternoon I spotted four bald eagles, two adults and two immatures, in the trees above the falls. The adults were holding still, but the immatures flew over almost as soon I got to the Falls View Park. What an amazing sight! There were crows by the thousands coming in to roost for the night in the trees along the Mohawk River.
- Melissa Maslanka

1/5 - Green Island, HRM 153: I spotted a male white-winged scoter in the river from Tibbits Avenue. Drake white-winged scoters are always interesting because of their odd-looking bill.
- John Hershey

1/5 - Albany, HRM 145: We found two snowy owls, one dark juvenile and a very white bird (probably an adult - maybe a female), and a rough-legged hawk at the Albany International Airport near Runway Avenue.
- John Hershey, Jackson Mesick

1/5 - Dutchess County, HRM 85: After seeing ten bald eagles, four immatures and six adults, near Stanfordville, several members of the Waterman Bird Club came upon several thousand blackbirds (red-winged and others) heading northeast at dusk on Bangall-Amenia Road.
- Deb Kral

1/5 - Annsville Bay, HRM 43.5: There was an adult bald eagle perched in a tree near the entrance to Camp Smith. That bird, or one just like it, had been there every day this week. On the other side of Annsville Creek, four more adults were in trees. A short distance down river we came upon another adult and two immatures - an eight eagle day.
- Dianne and Phil Picciano

1/5 - Oscawana, HRM 38.5: The river around Oscawana Point was filled with ice. In early afternoon you could not see the other side because of a dense fog. Although it was raining and visibility was poor, we spotted four eagles, three adults and one immature, high on the Point.
- Dorothy and Bob Ferguson

1/5 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: I didn't really need to check the thermometer. One of Nature's thermometers, the rhododendron, told me that it was barely above freezing. When rhododendron leaves are folded tightly, hanging like bunches of dark fingers close to their branches, it is wicked cold.
- Robin Fox

[Rhododendron are an "evergreen" shrub in that they do not shed their leaves in autumn but keep them through the winter. Tom Lake.]

1/6 - Upper Hudson Valley: I have counted thirteen snowy owls in the past three days, and 21 different individuals so far this winter. I keep wondering if I will ever again experience such a remarkable irruption for this species in my lifetime. I have observed a trend in my sightings - most occurred between 1:00-4:30 p.m. It appears that they mostly roost through the morning hours but actively hunt in the afternoons. The few individuals I have found in the morning were roosting with closed eyes. I have observed the owls perched on silos, telephone poles, metal and wooden fence posts, trees, the ground, and bales of hay.
- Joan Collins

1/6 - Coeyman's Landing, HRM 133.5: A high flying great blue heron went over the Hudson River in southern Albany County today at about noon. The bird was headed north! How do you say "Turn around!" in Great-blueish?
- Rich Guthrie

1/6 - Stanfordville, HRM 82: It was another eagle-palooza day at Tamarack Lake, thanks to another dead deer. There were seven birds in total. One adult was banded but I could not make out the color other than it was a silver band. There was lots of vocalizing from all over the lake.
- Deb Kral

[Silver bands on bald eagles are from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Tom Lake.]

1/6 - New Paltz, HRM 78: Yesterday I was walking down Butterville Road and around the Lenape fields when I spotted a lone raptor with pointed wings circling high above. The bird dropped down to where I could clearly see that it was a peregrine falcon. I couldn't help but think back to spring 1970 when SUNY New Paltz's Heinz Meng brought our Vertebrate Zoology class to these same fields to fly one of his falcons. I had never seen a peregrine in flight until then, and yesterday I was able to see a wild bird fly where once only a captive flew.
- Bob Ottens

1/6 - Peekskill, HRM 43: The newly grounded tree off China Pier (see 12/30/13) was gone, swept away by the considerable mass of floe ice. I thought I could discern what was left of the drift tree a quarter-mile north, locked in a jumble of ice near the Peekskill Bay navigation tower. Scattered across the ice or flying just above it, I counted a dozen eagles. In the mist and rain most appeared to be immature birds, but in the poor visibility all I could do was guess. Two other adult eagles were on the ice just north of Indian Point.
- Christopher Letts

1/7 - Fort Edward, HRM 202: I came upon a rough-legged hawk and watched it for quite a while as it was being continuously harassed by crows. It would fly from one perch to another but the crows would follow and continue their harassment. It finally found a small perch and the crows seemed to lose interest.
- Ken Harper

1/7 - Columbia, HRM 123: A snowy owl was reported on Flint Mine Road, near the Coxsackie Correctional Facility.
- Rich Guthrie

1/7 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 75: I spotted a brown creeper foraging up and down the bark on the long-needle pine outside my window. He blended in nicely with the bark, but lucky for me the movement caught my attention.
- Linda McCluskey

1/7 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: It was -3 degrees Fahrenheit at first light; with a strong northwest wind it felt like -29 (wind-chill). Scanning the river for eagles and waterfowl in the face of that wind was just about impossible. Within seconds the tears began to flow and then numbness set in. Before giving up, I managed to find three blurry images of adult eagles spaced evenly along Soap Hill, in the lee of the rise and out of the wind.
- Tom Lake

1/7 - Newburgh, HRM 61: I stopped by the waterfront in mid-afternoon and discovered, just 50 yards offshore, a small flotilla of eleven redhead ducks, all of them drakes. That beats my all-time high count of six for Orange County seen in November 1979.
- Ken McDermott

1/7 - Peekskill to Ossining, HRM 44-33: I needed a tea kettle of hot water to get my truck door open this morning - the outdoor world was in lock-down. Along the eleven miles from Peekskill to Ossining there were very few birds. The lower Croton River had open water and thronged with ducks, geese, and gulls. Six ruddy ducks, the first I had seen here this season, were diving near the railroad bridge. Cormorants and common mergansers were in the open leads off Verplanck, but not an eagle to be seen.
- Christopher Letts

1/7 - Croton Bay to Tarrytown, HRM 34-27: It was a very low tide this morning along this seven-mile reach and from my Metro North commuter car I counted thirteen eagles, in the air and on the ice, ten immatures and three adults.
- Thomas Rhindress

1/7 - Croton Bay to Tarrytown, HRM 34-27: A little later along the same seven-mile reach, aboard another Metro North commuter train, I counted four eagles, two immatures and two adults, including an immature soaring off Philipse Manor. There were none south of Tarrytown.
- Larry Trachtenberg

1/7 - Manhattan, HRM 7: The air temperature fell to 4 degrees F today at Central Park, breaking a 118 year-old record low for the date. The wind-chill was -17 degrees.
- National Weather Service

redhead duck1/8 - Cohoes, HRM 157: I found seven male redhead ducks just downstream from the Crescent Power Station this afternoon, on the Cohoes side of the Mohawk River. They were associating with a group of mallards and a single merganser that may have been a female red-breasted. [Photo of adult male redhead duck by Dave Herr, U.S. Forest Service.]
- Tom Williams

1/8 - Austerlitz, HRM 124: White-tailed deer hunters leave unusable deer parts in a field behind my house and each winter over the last eight years, I get both bald eagles and golden eagles coming in to feed. It was very cold this morning and a beautiful adult golden eagle flew down to check out the menu that the ravens were calling about. The golden sheen on the top of its head and down the back of its neck was gorgeous in the sun. The legs were thickly feathered down to its feet, and the body was larger and the head smaller than the bald eagles that usually stop by.
- Nancy Kern

1/8 - Norrie Point, HRM 85: The Hawser, a U.S. Coast Guard ice cutter, spent about 45 minutes breaking up the ice in front on the Norrie Point Environmental Center. The ice appeared to be about six inches thick.
- Brianna Rosamilia, James Herrington

1/8 - Beacon, HRM 61: The air temperature early this morning was 5 degrees F, but the brisk northwest wind made it feel like -13. I came to view the winter gathering of gulls, about one hundred, along the waterfront, looking in particular for all-white gulls (Iceland or glaucous). Gulls are not easy to spook, but as I watched the entire assemblage took flight. Seemingly out of the clouds came a pair of adult bald eagles. They strafed the ice with indifference before heading over to land at Long Dock.
- Tom Lake

1/8 - Peekskill, HRM 43: All this talk and excitement about seeing bald eagles! My living room window must be the best place on the whole river to watch them eating fish or ducks, or doing nothing, or flying solo or in pair. They've even taken a liking to an occasional sit in the tree right outside my window, an apparently great perch from which to spy potential prey anywhere on the east side of Peekskill Bay. If I don't see at least half a dozen eagles - and sometimes more than that in one little group, watching another dine on some choice morsel out on the ice - then something's wrong!
- Peter Schechter

1/8 - Croton Bay, HRM 34: A crazed vista of jagged sheets and blocks of floe ice, fused together, jumbled every which way. No smooth sledding here, except for the contrasting glass-smooth surfaces where the night chill had stilled open leads. Waterfowl were concentrated in the lower Croton River, which is still open and somewhat protected. The eagles were everywhere, scattered from bank-to-bank, in trees, on the ice, or flying above it. I counted 25 and doubted that I had seen half of the birds present.
- Christopher Letts

1/8 - Ossining, HRM 33: On Metro North this morning, at the lower end of Croton Bay, my friends and I spotted two adult bald eagles flying over the frozen Hudson. You see them for only a few seconds, but it's a great way to start the day.
- Hugh L. McLean

1/9 - Cohoes, HRM 157: On the Mohawk River at the Crescent Power Station we found the previously reported group of seven drake redheads. A few hundred gulls were on the ice just upriver from the station, including at least one glaucous gull and one Iceland gull (but almost certainly more). An immature bald eagle flew right over us and put up all the gulls. We also had front-row seats to an immature peregrine falcon dining on an unlucky ring-billed gull on the edge of the river.
- Tristan Lowery, Bill Lee

1/9 - Albany, HRM 145: We quickly found three snowy owls, one each of red-tailed and rough-legged hawks, and two northern harriers at the Albany International Airport. No short-eared owls were seen, however.
- Tristan Lowery, Bill Lee

1/9 - New Baltimore, HRM 131.5: I heard a pair of great horned owls holding a duet outside this evening. One of them sounded different than what I'm used to hearing. It had an up-lifted note at the beginning of the song. It went something like ... "WHO-who-who-who." The other owl joined in almost immediately with a "normal" song.
- Rich Guthrie

1/9 - Kingston Point Park, HRM 92: I took a walk out the causeway of the old Ulster and Delaware Railroad. Most notable was an immature bald eagle. At the time it gave me the initial impression of a golden eagle, but I immediately called it an immature bald eagle due to the location on the Hudson River. Back home, looking at my rather poor digital images of the bird, I noted a distinct white tail with black tail band (that did not jump out at me in the field). In the end, however, I stuck with my initial identification, an immature bald eagle (second year based on mottling, although that is clearly a gross estimation due to lack of more detailed observation). I did see an adult bald eagle perching in a high white pine snag above the Kingston Point Park, on the opposite side of the bay created by the railroad causeway.
- John Garesche

[In the last decade, golden eagles have become less than rare, but not quite common, during Hudson River Valley winters. For more information, visit DEC's golden eagle webpage. Tom Lake.]

1/9 - Clinton Point, HRM 69: The river was frozen nearly bank-to-bank, with only a narrow ribbon of open water in the channel where the ice breakers had worked. If there were any eagles on the ice they easily could have been hidden among the many jagged shards of upended floes. Two immatures flew past but it would seem that most of the birds had traveled south for open water. It was just too hard to make a living here with all the ice.
- Tom Lake

1/9 - Manhattan, HRM 12.5: It was a fantastic day for eagle watching on the Hudson River from Inwood Hill Park. In the morning I spotted a lone adult, and then a lone immature eagle very patiently floating down the river on the ice. The tide was going out and the ice was moving at a good clip. Both of them eventually passed by me at the Dyckman Ballfields and headed south. Then in the afternoon I got to see four eagles, all perched and feeding on one icy patch upriver. Their patience had paid off and someone obviously had caught lunch.
- Sunny Corrao

1/10 - Fort Edward, HRM 202: In late afternoon I spotted a snowy owl on top of a utility pole.
- Barb Putnam

1/10 - Cohoes, HRM 157: I found two glaucous gulls on the Mohawk River at the Crescent Power Station this morning. They were mixed in with a group of about 500 gulls that included herring, greater black-backed, a few ring-billed, and three Iceland gulls. An immature bald eagle was in the area, out on the ice at times, and periodically its presence would scatter the gulls.
- Tom Williams

1/10 - Knox, Albany County, HRM 147: With a loud crump, a blue jay that had been on the feeder crashed into the sliding glass door that overlooks our patio. It fell to the ground and was immediately pounced on by a red-tailed hawk that it had tried to evade. The hawk held the jay until it stopped struggling and then flew off with its lunch. All this was intently watched by our two cats less than eighteen inches away behind the glass barrier.
- Pat Price, Bob Price

1/10 - Albany, HRM 145: At least one snowy owl continued at the Albany Airport this morning.
- Zach Schwartz-Weinstein

1/10 - Germantown, HRM 108: In early afternoon, with snowflakes in the air, I spotted a dark phase rough-legged hawk and eighteen rusty blackbirds in several large maple trees.
- Nancy Kern

1/10 - Clinton Point, HRM 69: Today was the thirty-sixth annual Mid-Winter Bald Eagle Census for the Hudson River watershed. Two inches of new snow did not help our search for bald eagles. Even more problematic was the fog that shrouded the river, obscuring the far side. A spotting scope was of little help as it only condensed the fog. The river was still clogged with ice. We spotted two immature bald eagles, both in fight low over the ice, and both being pursued by a single crow. Later, we would find two more eagles farther south, both adults.
- Tom Lake, T.R. Jackson

1/10 - Newburgh, HRM 61: Each day this week there has been at least one Iceland gull at Newburgh. All birds have been first-year gulls, with two exceptions when a "darker" adult and later a "lighter" adult were seen. These are the first two adult Iceland gulls that we are aware of in Orange County in at least 40 years. Each year we get first-year birds, but adults have eluded us. Daily gull numbers this week have ranged from 1,000-5,000 birds. In years past, we have had daily numbers climb to nearly 10,000 birds so we are still anticipating a boom.
- Curt McDermott, Ken McDermott

1/10 - Denning's Point to Iona island, HRM 60-45: Overall, I saw few eagles today (four) for the bald eagle census. I spotted three over or on the Hudson River between Denning's Point and the Newburgh waterfront and one at Iona Island (Rockland County). All were adults. I did not see any golden eagles (or bald eagles) from Little Stony Point, although at least one golden eagle had been reported over the Hudson near Storm King Mountain where two have wintered for several years now.
- Jesse Jaycox

1/10 - Verplanck, HRM 40.5: As others have reported, there has been a noticeable uptick in bald eagle numbers and activity in the Lower Hudson Important Bird Area. An hour before sunset this afternoon from Steamboat Dock, no fewer than 21 bald eagles were in view at once, sitting on the ice or coming in to roost at George's Island County Park and across the river at Stony Point Battlefield State Historic Site in Rockland County.
- Anne Swaim

1/11 - Town of New Paltz, HRM 80: I spotted a snowy owl this morning at the Ulster County Fairgrounds on Libertyville Road. The bird was on the west side of the road near the parking area.
- Christine Guarino

1/11 - Norrie Point, HRM 85: Despite impossible weather - driving rain and impenetrable fog - sixteen hardy souls made it to the Norrie Point Environmental Education Center for our bald eagle watch. As huge enveloping fog banks drifted upriver, shrouding Esopus Island in white, it was as if the far side of the river was not even there. Unless a bird came within a hundred feet, we missed it. The single exception was a formation of four black ducks flying downriver not far off the ice and close enough to glimpse. We briefly heard the call of an eagle from out of the gloom, but no bird showed. We also saw the tip of a tug's superstructure as it eerily moved past. The best we could do was to offer alternate viewing locations and a better day (tomorrow) for spotting eagles.
- Tom Lake, Jay Meyer, Doug Gallagher, Denise McGuinness

1/11 - Long Dock, HRM 61: After the Bald Eagle and Winter Waterfowl program was fogged-out, we took the advice offered and went to Long Dock in Beacon. We immediately saw a gorgeous adult bald eagle out on an ice floe.
- Denise McGuinness

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