As the water chills and finding fish becomes more difficult, the fall migration of raptors and waterfowl, as well as woodland wildlife, begins to dominate our observations. Among the songbirds showing up this week was a rarely seen species, and a first for Albany County.
HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK
11/10 - Wallkill, HRM 66: We were thrilled to see an adult bald eagle feasting on a large fish on the east bank of the Wallkill River at dusk. As we watched, a healthy-looking red fox approached from downstream, stealthily making his way toward the eagle. It paused a short distance from the huge bird to eye what it hoped was to be an easy theft. The eagle paused, and then continued feeding. The fox seemed to weigh its chances and then slowly walked past, stopping to look back longingly at his missed meal. After the fox was out of sight, the eagle flew into the middle of the river - shallow this time of the year - and drank deeply before lifting away on his large wings. [Photo of adult bald eagle and red fox courtesy of Betty and Jim Enos.]
- Betty Enos, Jim Enos
[A similar scenario between a red fox and an adult bald eagle played itself out at Kowawese, Orange County, several winters ago. The eagle was enjoying a gizzard shad out on the ice and the fox tried to sneak up on the bird, looking for easy theft. It was my good fortune that I had 30 students from New Windsor Elementary School there to share the moment with. The eagle won that encounter as well. Tom Lake.]
NATURAL HISTORY NOTES
11/9 - Saratoga County, HRM 173: We had a black bear visit our bird feeders and bee hives this evening in Ballston Spa. It wasn't aggressive, just hungry, and there was no damage to the feeders.
- Donia Conn, Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club
11/9 - Albany, HRM 145: At noon today I saw a first-winter male white-winged scoter on the Hudson River, a few hundred feet north of the Corning Preserve boat ramp in Albany.
[White-winged scoters (Melanitta fusca) are the largest of the three scoters in our area - the others being black and surf scoter. These sea ducks are Arctic breeders and are seen almost exclusively in migration here. All three species have been reported in the Hudson River watershed this fall and their presence reminds us of how faraway places are connected by the Hudson River flyway. Tom Lake.]
- John Kent, Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club
11/9 - Mill Creek, HRM 129: We spotted a banded adult bald eagle on the Hudson today. We could make out the letter “W” on what looked like a gold band, followed by another letter and a number that we could not make out. The gold band meant that this probably was a Massachusetts bird (gold bands were used there from 1989 to 1998). Could this eagle be 20-29 years old?
[From the photos supplied, this looks like a male, but I couldn’t make out anything on the auxiliary band. We have had several Massachusetts birds nesting on the Hudson. As for its age, it certainly could be that old. We recently recovered (hit by car June 2015 in western New York) one of the birds I banded in 1977, making that bird 38 years old, the oldest bald eagle ever confirmed. Pete Nye.]
- Julie Elson
11/9 - Stanfordville, HRM 84: I came upon a huge flock of red-winged blackbirds at Tamarack Lake this evening - many hundreds of birds; the sound of them lifting off was amazing.
- Deborah Tracy-Kral
11/9 - Millbrook, HRM 82: I spotted my first-of-the-season American tree sparrow today on Andrew Haight Road. [Photo of American tree sparrow courtesy of Deborah Tracy-Kral.]
- Deborah Tracy-Kral
11/9 - Town of Fishkill, HRM 63: I was enjoying the warm air temperatures (high 50s Fahrenheit) as I watched three pairs of bluebirds sitting happily on the edge of their ground-level birdbath, often jumping in for a splash.
- Andra Sramek
11/9 - Bedford, HRM 35: There was some red-shouldered hawk activity today at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch with a kettle of 13 spotted in mid-morning (season total 177). Non-raptor observations included three purple finches, 22 Canada geese, a common loon, and five common ravens.
[“Kettle” is a birding term that describes an aggregation of birds, usually raptors or vultures, circling upwards in the warm, rising air of thermals. The circular movement of the birds creates the appearance of the contents of a cauldron being “stirred” by the wind, thus a kettle. While kettles can occur almost any time of the year, they are particularly common during fall migration. Tom Lake.]
- Charlie Plimpton, Christiana Ricchezza, Jason Tellone
11/10 - Saratoga County, HRM 164: It was Day 109 for the gray seal that we believe, with no evidence to the contrary, is still residing in the Hudson River above tidewater. There are plenty of places for it to haul out at night and there will be more when the locks are closed and the river level drops. Lock One, where the seal has been sighted most frequently, will be shutting down completely for routine repair and maintenance, so it will not be workable if it were to want to get below the lock and dam after it has closed.
- Shannon Fitzgerald
11/10 - Bedford, HRM 35: The only bird to take to the skies today at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch was a sharp-shinned hawk (season total 1,508). Non-raptor observations were limited to 14 Canada geese.
- Charlie Plimpton
11/11 - Saratoga County, HRM 184: My survey of Loughberry Lake today did not include any great rarities, but the volume of ring-necked ducks (500), Canada geese (900), and scaup (greater 25; lesser 45) was impressive on a relatively small lake.
- Ronald Harrower, Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club
11/12 - Saratoga County, HRM 159: I spotted three black scoters (my first of the year) this afternoon above the Mohawk River dam at the Vischer Ferry Power Plant.
- John Hershey, Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club
11/11 - Albany County, HRM 149: An adult Harris’ sparrow was spotted visiting a feeder in Loudonville. The bird was rather elusive and feeding in dense shrubbery. It made only three brief visits in the hour and half we were watching.
[Rich Guthrie comments further that Harris’ sparrow, which nests west of Hudson Bay in Canada and winters in the Midwestern U.S., is very rare here, with only a few (less than ten) records for the region and none for Albany County. Barbara Butler adds that for Dutchess County, only three occurrences are on record: January-May 1968; October 1969; December 1981-February 1982. All three were at feeders. Tom Lake.]
- Richard Guthrie, Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club
11/11 - Town of Schodack, HRM 137: I counted five species of birds in my Town of Schodack survey today including 1,100 Canada geese feeding in a harvested cornfield.
- Nancy Kern, Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club
11/11 - Town of Stuyvesant, HRM 127: I counted 11 species of birds in my Town of Stuyvesant survey today including five red-winged blackbirds and 600 Canada geese feeding in harvested corn fields.
- Nancy Kern, Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club
11/11 - Walden, HRM 65: As I watched, a small flock of white wings rose in an erratic flight around the lake and landed in the grass at Olley Park. It was exceptionally windy, the clouds were passing swiftly, and the sun was in and out, making the flock difficult to see on the ground. Each bird was hunched down and walking rapidly, almost parrot-like. As I finally focused on one bird, I could see a beautiful rich chestnut circling on the chest and on the top of its head. I was watching Lapland longspurs! I remembered sighting one or two in here last year, but it was a treat to see so many. They continued to take off with any disturbance but then land again in the grass. They looked so rich and glowing in the changing light. I had the thrill of being in their company for nearly an hour.
- Patricia Henighan
11/11 - Bedford, HRM 35: Among the raptors spotted at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch were a merlin headed north and a sharp-shinned hawk off to the southwest, soaring with a full crop. Non-raptor observations included 22 Canada Geese, 50 common grackles, and three common ravens.
- Tait Johansson
11/12 - Bedford, HRM 35: There was not much activity in the skies at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch today, just a few turkey vultures that ventured out (season totals 2,451). Non-raptor observations were limited to a single common loon.
- Charlie Plimpton
11/12 - Manhattan, HRM 1: We caught two juvenile black sea bass this week at The River Project’s sampling site on Pier 40 in the Hudson River Park, as well as three large adult blackfish (tautog) in our fish traps. We were wondering if they were looking for a snug spot to spend the winter.
- Jessica Bonamusa
11/13 - Albany County, HRM 149: In the hour that a group of us watched for the Harris’ sparrow in Loudonville, the bird showed twice: Once for about three seconds and again for less time. Not everyone got to see it. While waiting, Tom Williams spotted a Bohemian waxwing. [Photo of Bohemian waxwing courtesy of Tom Williams.]
- Rich Guthrie, Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club
11/13 - East Fishkill, HRM 66: After a long absence, my ravens were back! They are so much fun to watch. Their warning calls (screams) are extremely loud when there is something in the woods that is making them unhappy. The 30 wild turkeys that came out of the woods today, however, did not raise an alarm.
- Diane Anderson
11/13 - Bedford, HRM 35: It was a decent day at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch, considering the flying conditions - a mix of sun and clouds with strong west winds ranging from 10-15 mph and gusts higher than 20 mph. Early on we spotted a northern harrier; in mid-day there was an adult northern goshawk seen to the south and proceeding to the west. Non-raptor observations included 21 Canada geese and 63 American robins.
- Charlie Plimpton
11/14 - Cohoes, HRM 157: I made five stops along the Mohawk River looking for Franklin's gulls without any luck, but did see a dark immature Iceland gull - small black bill and brown wing tips - on the flats below the falls at Cohoes.
- Frank Mitchell, Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club
11/14 - Albany County, HRM 146: In late afternoon I was driving north on Route 156 past Farnsworth Middle School in Guilderland when I spotted a very large group of vultures circling the tall white pines near the road. There were close to 100 birds that I initially thought were crows. But they were vultures, both black vultures and turkey vultures. It was really impressive. When I passed by a half hour later they were gone.
- Larry Alden, Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club
11/14 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: This was going to be good! In addition to two skeins of high-flyer geese being pushed by a strong west wind, an adult northern goshawk was spiraling down and looked like it might land in our woods. At the last moment however, the noise from a half-dozen leaf blowers in the neighborhood made the hawk reconsider (whatever happened to leaf rakes?). It pirouetted up and struck out to the southwest. A nice look, but not nearly what it might have been. [Photo of northern goshawk by Karen Laubenstein, courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.]
- Tom Lake, T.R. Jackson
11/14 - Croton Point, HRM 35-34: After two days of wind - “half a gale” as the rivermen say - the trees had been stripped of all their leaves. Over the landfill a harrier was rocking and rolling in the gusts. A single pipit flashed white tail feathers at me and was whirled away in the wind. A haggard flock of red-winged blackbirds, the first I had seen in weeks, passed overhead in a hurry. There was a change of venue in order right now.
- Christopher Letts
11/14 - Bedford, HRM 35: It was a good day of activity at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch with five northern harriers seen and many more reported to the south. A peregrine falcon and an American kestrel were nice to see. Non-raptor observations included eight brant and 108 Canada geese.
- Charlie Plimpton, Kate Branch
11/15 - Rensselaer County, HRM 155: I took a walk at the Mud Pond Preserve this afternoon and heard what sounded like several wood frogs calling. I hear a few spring peepers every fall but wood frogs in November was a first.
- George Wilson
11/15 - Columbia County, HRM 132: After circling over Kinderhook Lake, two adult bald eagles split up - one perched in a tree and the other one dove toward the lake. I thought it was after a fish but instead it was a duck. Even with binoculars it was hard to tell what kind of duck it was. The eagle hit the duck repeatedly before grabbing and drowning it. The eagle then used its wings as paddles to reach the shore, plucked the duck, and was joined by the second eagle. They shared the meal.
- Matthew Kirk
11/15 - Croton Point, HRM 34: On a late afternoon walk I counted three American pipits, five snow buntings, two northern harriers, an adult bald eagle, and my first three American tree sparrows of the season.
- Larry Trachtenberg
11/15 - Bedford, HRM 35: It was finally a big buteo day at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch! We had the most red-shouldered (44) and red-tailed (34) hawks seen for the season. We were also graced with four more bald eagles and three northern harriers, including an adult male. Non-raptor observations included four fish crows, 31 Canada geese, and one cackling goose in with a flock of Canada geese.
[The genus Buteo includes the broad-winged, fan-tailed soaring hawk species; in our area these are the red-tailed, red-shouldered, broad-winged, and rough-legged hawks. Steve Stanne.]
- Charlie Plimpton, Kate Branch, Lou Schuettenberg, Sue Schuettenberg
HUDSON RIVER MILES
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.
TO CONTRIBUTE YOUR OBSERVATIONS OR TO SUBSCRIBE
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National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration online tide and tidal current predictions are invaluable when planning Hudson River field trips.
For real-time information on Hudson River tides, weather and water conditions from eight monitoring stations, visit the Hudson River Environmental Conditions Observing System website.
Visit the U.S. Geological Survey’s Hudson River Salt Front website for historical information on the salt front’s movements in the estuary.
Information about the Hudson River Estuary Program is available on DEC's website at http://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/4920.html .
Smartphone app available for New York outdoor enthusiasts!
DEC, in partnership with ParksByNature Network®, is proud to announce the launch of the New York Fishing, Hunting & Wildlife App for iPhone and Android. This FREE, cutting-edge mobile app gives both novice and seasoned outdoorsmen and women essential information in the palm of their hands. Powered by Pocket Ranger® technology, this official app for DEC will provide up-to-date information on fishing, hunting and wildlife watching and serve as an interactive outdoor app using today's leading mobile devices. Using the app's advanced GPS features, users will be able identify and locate New York's many hunting, fishing and wildlife watching sites. They will also gain immediate access to species profiles, rules and regulations, and important permits and licensing details.
NY Open for Hunting and Fishing Initiative
Governor Cuomo's NY Open for Fishing and Hunting Initiative is an effort to improve recreational opportunities for sportsmen and women and to boost tourism activities throughout the state. This initiative includes streamlining fishing and hunting licenses, reducing license fees, improving access for fishing and increasing hunting opportunities in New York State.
In support of this initiative, this year's budget includes $6 million in NY Works funding to support creating 50 new land and water access projects to connect hunters, anglers, bird watchers and others who enjoy the outdoors to more than 380,000 acres of existing state and easement lands that have gone largely untapped until now. These 50 new access projects include building new boat launches, installing new hunting blinds and building new trails and parking areas. In addition, the 2014-15 budget includes $4 million to repair the state's fish hatcheries; and renews and allows expanded use of crossbows for hunting in New York State.
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.
Copies of past issues of the Hudson River Almanac, Volumes II-VIII, are available for purchase from the publisher, Purple Mountain Press, (800) 325-2665, or email firstname.lastname@example.org