Hudson River Almanac 01/13/18 - 01/19/18

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Wallkill Floodplain courtesy of Kristin MarcellHudson River Almanac
January 13 - January 19, 2018
Compiled by Tom Lake, Hudson River Estuary Program Consulting Naturalist


Snowy owls were still a weekly feature and Fort Edward and the Albany International Airport have been their centers of abundance. On the estuary, the freezing and thawing of ice has created miles of ice floes, perfect for the transport of bald eagles. In the uplands, eagles were making ready for their mating season. 


1/15 – Poughkeepsie, HRM 75: After many days of below freezing air temperatures, the Hudson River at Kaal Rock Park had completely frozen over except for the shipping channel. This morning, however, the massive sheets and blocks of ice had almost completely disappeared after the record warmth of January 12-13. In the open water, I counted 15 snow geese, a first time sighting for me. I was delighted when they took off and formed a long straight line, flying low over the river and hugging the shoreline as they headed upriver. Their brilliant white feathers were perfectly accented by their black wing tips.
- Cathy Leak


1/13 – Ulster County, HRM 102-78: Most of the Hudson River was covered in ice and largely devoid of waterfowl for the Ulster County segment of the annual New York State Ornithological Association’s January Waterfowl Count. Traditionally productive sites in the north (Saugerties1 Lighthouse and Glasco) were iced over. Inland waters and a few fields provided the most attractive habitat for this year's survey. Seventeen participants in eight field parties tallied 2,041 individual birds representing 13 species. Diversity was near average but abundance was well below the ten-year average of 6,244. Among the 13 species were Canada geese (1,263), snow goose (1), mallard (669), and American black duck (34). A total of 23 bald eagles (17 adults, 6 immatures) were noted during the course of the count.
- Steve M. Chorvas

Pileated Woodpecker1/13 – Hopewell Junction, HRM 67: I saw a large bird in a distant tree from my window today. Due to its size, I first thought it was a hawk. I went outside and could hear its call and loud pecking (hammering). Then it turned its head and I saw the red crest: pileated woodpecker. This was the first time I have seen a pileated here. After a short time, a second one came out of the thick brush to hang out with the first woodpecker. This was probably a mated pair. (Photo of a Pileated Woodpecker courtesy of Tom McDowell)
- Jennifer McCabe

[Whenever I read of birds being a direct morphological link to extinct dinosaurs, I think of pileated woodpeckers (Dryocopus pileatus). Their countenance is such that when you see one flying from tree-to-tree, you can almost imagine a pterodactyl in flight. Tom Lake]

1/13 – Highland Falls, HRM 50: It was midday and we (three Edgar A. Mearns Bird Club members) were just above the Bear Mountain Bridge watching bald eagles. An immature flew near us and then out over the river. Minutes later two adults flew in unison (mated pair?) over the river and then put on a short but dynamic aerial courtship display.
- Amy Greher

1/14 – Fort Edward, HRM 202: We spent most of today at the Fort Edward Grasslands. While birds were few and far between, we saw one snowy owl near Route 197. We also found some snow buntings and an American kestrel.
- Scott Stoner, Denise Stoner (Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club)

1/14 – Saratoga County, HRM 157: I was at the Vischer Ferry Power Plant on the Mohawk River in midday and was pleased to find three redhead ducks hanging out very close to shore below the dam. The water below the dam was completely open but these were the only waterfowl I saw in the river.
- John Hershey (Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club)

1/14 – Cohoes, HRM 153: In mid-morning, there were two snowy owls visible at the Albany International Airport. One was on the ground at the far northern end of the north-south runway.
- Tom Williams (Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club)

1/14 – Albany, HRM 145: Among about 75 gulls down by the Port of Albany, there was one immature Iceland gull and one immature lesser black-backed gull with its diagnostic dark wings and a wide dark tail band.
- Richard Guthrie (Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club)

1/14 – Dutchess County, HRM 101-58: We conducted the Dutchess County Waterfowl Count today, covering the county from Tivoli south to Pollepel Island, as well as inland to the Connecticut state line. Highlights included Canada geese (4,179), cackling geese (2), American black duck (70), mallard (1,592), green-winged teal (5), ring-necked ducks (31), hooded mergansers (14), common merganser (152), American coot (4), and one each of northern pintail, common goldeneye, and pied-billed grebe.
- Adrienne Popko

1/14 – New Hamburg, HRM 67.5: It was a late morning high tide. The river had scattered ice floes, four of which held immature bald eagles patiently allowing the river to take them along, maybe providing dining opportunities. Out in the deep water channel, the current was still pushing the ice upriver at a barely discernible pace. Inshore, however, the ebb current had begun and the ice was streaming past heading seaward. It was a fascinating juxtaposition of “two rivers of ice” each heading a different way.
- Tom Lake, B.J. Jackson, T.R. Jackson

[This phenomenon occurs every six hours on average in the tidal Hudson but is best seen with the presence of winter ice. It is not an illusion, but rather is caused by the physics of water depth and current velocity. Current is the horizontal measurement of tidewater movement. The river can cease to rise or fall vertically (tide), but the current can continue to move up or down stream (the larger volume of deep water takes longer to slow down). In the language of Algonquian speakers, the original residents of the valley, “Mahicanituk” is generally translated as “the river that flows both ways.” Some people wonder if this is the intent of the Indian folklore to describe the “river that flows both ways,” not just the two tides. (Since American Indians had an oral tradition, our spelling of their word is a phonetic approximation.) Tom Lake]

Snowy Owl1/15 – Fort Edward, HM 202: We found two snowy owls today. One was on the south side of Route 197 and the second was out in a field. Other raptors included an American kestrel, two rough-legged hawks, and three red-tailed hawks. (Photo of Snowy Owl courtesy of Curt Morgan)
- Curt Morgan (Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club)

[The sex of snowy owls (Bubo scandiacus) can be determined with some accuracy by noting if there are dashes that touch the center vein of the feather (rachis) both on the tail and the mid-secondary feathers. If they touch, it is likely a female. If they do not (looks more like spots than dashes), then it is likely a male. Curt Morgan]

1/15 – Hudson Valley: With the appearance of multiple snowy owls in our area this winter, I want to remind everyone that the Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club endorses the American Birding Association's Code of Birding Ethics. It can be found at
- Gregg Recer (Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club)

Juvenile Red-winged Blackbird1/15 – Poughkeepsie, HRM 75: A little juvenile red-winged blackbird showed up this morning at my feeder with a few starlings. It seems that winter red-wings are not as uncommon as they once were. (Photo of Juvenile Red-winged Blackbird courtesy of Sheila Bogart)
- Sheila Bogart

1/15 – Town of Wappinger, HM 67: An adult red-winged blackbird was at my feeder today. I had never seen one here in winter before. Rich Guthrie told me that we are at about the northern limit for them in winter.
- Eileen Chadwick

1/15 – Peekskill Bay to Croton Bay, HRM 43-34: We made our annual Martin Luther King Holiday trip from Croton Bay upriver to Charles Point at Peekskill. We counted more than two dozen bald eagles at the various stops, many on ice floes. An early highlight was at the Croton Point landfill. We were walking along the landfill's southern edge when we spotted a large bird on the ground. We moved for a better angle and realized it was a female northern harrier dining on a small animal. We got some great looks, taking care not to disturb her. Perhaps our best sighting, however, was a large raft of canvasbacks just off shore at Verplanck. We counted 197 ducks on our first try and more than 200 on our next.
- Bob Rancan, Janet Rancan

[Populations of canvasbacks (Aythya valisineria), the largest North American diving duck, have fluctuated in recent decades. Scientists trace their decline to loss of habitat including the absence of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) in their breeding ground, the prairie pothole marshes of western Canada. Twenty-five years ago, a canvasback on the Hudson River was a rare sighting. Today, their numbers seem to be rising. Tom Lake]

1/16 – Saugerties, HRM 102: The numbers were in for the 13th annual Esopus Bend Nature Preserve Winter Bird Count held January 7. Environmental conditions were very challenging with extremely frigid air temperatures (-5 degrees Fahrenheit (F) at the start). We surveyed the 160-acre preserve from 5:10 a.m. to 5:10 p.m. recording a total of 477 individual birds of 35 species that included more than two hours of nocturnal “owling” (pre-dawn and after dusk using recorded owl calls). All of the Preserve’s ground-source tributaries were open but did not attract any discernable bird activity. Species diversity was near our average of 35 but abundance fell below our average of 547 birds. A very cooperative red-shouldered hawk, perched low on a tree branch, represented a highlight as well as a new species for this annual survey advancing our 13-year cumulative to 67 species. Photos of the interior of several wood duck nest boxes revealed no signs of roosting owls. However, an eastern screech-owl was heard vocalizing pre-dawn.
- Steve M. Chorvas, Alan Beebe

1/16 – Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 70:  In all the years we have lived here, and with all the sightings of pileated woodpeckers in our woods, this was the first year that we have had them at our suet feeders. As those feeders are very close to the house, we are getting great views.
- Doreen Tignanelli 

Carolina Wren1/17 – Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: I had been hearing the birdsong "tea-kettle, tea-kettle, tea-kettle, tea" for a few days and today I saw the singer, a Carolina wren on my suet feeder. I have yet to grow accustomed to their presence in the Hudson Valley. During my introduction to birds long ago, I thought of Carolina wrens as more of a southern bird (they are the state bird of South Carolina). (Photo of Carolina Wren by Mark Musselman courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) - Tom Lake

[The Carolina wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus), is very sensitive to extreme winter weather at the northern edge of their range. The 1934 edition of Roger Tory Peterson’s A Field Guide to Birds (Eastern Lands and Water Birds), describes their range as “lower Hudson Valley (sparingly).” Rich Guthrie notes that having made great progress expanding their range northward over the last few decades, Carolina wrens are not so uncommon these days. He had two coming to his feeder. Barbara Butler adds that their songs are loud, attention-grabbing, and welcome, especially in winter. They are around each winter but after the harsher winters their populations are noticeably reduced. This year’s Dutchess County Christmas Bird Count found 43 of them. - Tom Lake]

1/17 – Rockland County, HRM 40: Bald eagle nest NY150 at the Stony Point Battlefield State Historic Site has been refurbished. We have been watching one adult come to the nest at a time  but today, there were three in the nest tree, two adults and one immature. These are good signs for the upcoming nesting season.
- Dianne Picciano

[Immature bald eagles that frequently show up in the vicinity of nests during breeding season have long been a mystery. Theories range from the birds being last year’s fledges, to their memories when food magically appeared, to just plain young bird curiosity. - Tom Lake]

1/18 – Fort Edward, HRM 202: We visited the Washington County Grasslands this morning to see if we could locate the recently reported snowy owls and other winter specialties. To avoid any possible disturbance to the snowy owls, should we come upon them, we did our best to stay in approved observation areas. And we did see two snowy owls, both at a distance. One was way out on a fence pole in a huge field; the other was in a gully and then in a field. It never came closer and we never ventured out, leaving us with okay photos, and a clear conscience. Among the eighteen species we counted was a bald eagle, red-shouldered hawks (6), rough-legged hawks (5), and common ravens (9).
- Ron Harrower, John Hershey

1/18 – Valatie, HRM 129: The warming air temperatures at Patchaquack Preserve allowed the Kinderhook Creek ice to flow at two different speeds. The western channel was a mild meander, while the eastern side was a more exhilarating Class 4 rapids. Two mergansers, a hen and a drake, chose the quieter side for a downstream float.
-  Fran Martino

1/18 – Gardiner, HRM 73: The air temperature was -2 degrees F at dawn this morning along the Wallkill River. Scores of Canada geese were packed along the shoreline of an island in the river. With their heads tucked under their wings, they appeared to be sleeping. Then a few of the geese began honking as they took notice of an immature bald eagle that had landed in the top of the tree at the tip of the island. The eagle did not stay long, taking off south along the river, and the geese settled back in. 
- Jeremy Baracca

Bald Eagles Adult pair at NY621/19 – Town of Poughkeepsie: With more than three dozen bald eagle nests along the Hudson River from the Adirondacks to the sea, we often use the Town of Poughkeepsie nest (NY62) as an example of what is likely going on with many of the others. We have followed this pair since 2001 through three nest sites. This year there is a new male, replacing the original of 16 years that was struck and killed by a train last February. The original female (she has fledged 16 nestlings in 16 years) and the new male have been refurbishing the nest and, day by day, have become physically close as mating season nears. Today they were perched side-by-side on a tulip tree limb with no light showing between them. (Photo of adult pair of Bald Eagles at NY62 courtesy of Bob Rightmyer)
- Tom Lake

1/19 – Town of Wappinger: As we walked along the river today, we noticed a new bald eagle nest high in the crown of a tulip tree. We have spotted two adults there regularly, bringing nesting material and perching together in and around the nest.
- Eileen Chadwick, Pat Chadwick

[This new nest had been assigned NY459B. It is assumed, and at this point we do not have hard evidence, that this pair moved from a nest (NY459) in New Hamburg, just a short distance away. Last year a pair built a substantial nest there but did not seem to have any breeding success. Tom Lake]

1/19 – Croton Point, HRM 35: We were excited with the opportunity to watch a rather uncommon male long-tailed duck swimming quite close to the shoreline behind the Nature Center. It was diving repeatedly. It was joined by a common goldeneye and several Buffleheads.
- Karalyn Lamb, Fraser Lamb, John Phillips, Edward Mertz


Saturday, February 24 - 1:00 p.m.
The Changing Ecology of the Hudson River Flyway
Tom Lake, Hudson River Estuary Program’s Consulting Naturalist
Five River Environmental Education Center, Delmar
Hosted by the Audubon Society of the Capital Region with Southern Adirondack Audubon
For information, e-mail John Loz 


The Hudson is measured north from Hudson River Mile 0 at the Battery at the southern tip of Manhattan. The George Washington Bridge is at HRM 12, the Tappan Zee 28, Bear Mountain 47, Beacon-Newburgh 62, Mid-Hudson 75, Kingston-Rhinecliff 95, Rip Van Winkle 114, and the Federal Dam at Troy, the head of tidewater, at 153. The tidal section of the Hudson constitutes a bit less than half the total distance – 315 miles – from Lake Tear of the Clouds to the Battery. Entries from points east and west in the watershed reference the corresponding river mile on the mainstem.


The Hudson River Almanac is compiled and edited by Tom Lake and emailed weekly by DEC's Hudson River Estuary Program. Share your observations by e-mailing them to

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National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration online tide and tidal current predictions are invaluable when planning Hudson River field trips.

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NY Open for Hunting and Fishing Initiative 
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     This year's budget also reduces short-term fishing licenses fees; increases the number of authorized statewide free fishing days to eight from two; authorizes DEC to offer 10 days of promotional prices for hunting, fishing and trapping licenses; and authorizes free Adventure Plates for new lifetime license holders, discounted Adventure Plates for existing lifetime license holders and regular fee Adventure Plates for annual license holders.

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