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Hudson River Almanac April 12 - April 18, 2015

OVERVIEW

As spring fully took hold this week, the heron rookeries were filling up, glass eels were arriving in record numbers, and spring wildflowers were adding color to valley landscapes.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

4/17- Quassaick Creek, HRM 60: Our fyke net collected an unbelievable 3,500 glass eels overnight. It took seemingly forever for our Mount Saint Mary College team to count the eels and then transport them far upstream to be released. [Banner photo of glass eels courtesy of Chris Bowser.]
- Rebecca Houser

[This quantity of glass eels was as much as four times the number we would catch in an entire season (80 days) just ten years ago. Once counted, the glass eels are transported upstream and released so they are not counted twice. Tom Lake.]

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

4/12 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Our lakes and ponds were still iced-over but today's warm temperature (57 degrees Fahrenheit) was enough to open the river channel. While ice remains on the edges and in the small bays, the main channel of the Hudson is finally clear of ice. The open water was a beacon to some waterfowl, with mallards, black ducks, wood ducks, ring-necked ducks, and hooded and common mergansers being spotted.
- Charlotte Demers

4/12 - Saratoga National Historic Park, HRM 177: What a gorgeous day for a walk on the Wilkinson Trail loop. Along the way I spotted four kestrels, golden-crowned kinglets, yellow-bellied sapsuckers (so much fun to see and listen to their chattering and staccato druming), and red-breasted nuthatches ("party horns"). I also watched a white-breasted nuthatch courtship during which the male was pursuing a female, offering her a pine nut. I suggested that he try a one-plus carat diamond.
- Marne Onderdonk, Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club

4/12 - Albany County, HRM 144: Several of us went motorcycling out to Thatcher Park where we saw a pair of golden eagles flying along the cliff face above the waterfall. They appeared healthy and strong with glossy brown feathers. They were beautiful. I have never seen them so close before - they were only a few feet away from us. There were still patches of slushy snow and ice along the Ladderback Trail.
- Vivian S. James

[John Boyd Thatcher State Park is in the Helderberg Escarpment, a geologic formation about 1,100 feet high and about ten miles west of Albany. The escarpment is a series of sedimentary rock layers from sandstone to limestone to chert. These are remnants of the deep past of the Hudson Valley, beginning more than 400 million years ago when this part of the northeast was a shallow salt sea. Tom Lake.]

common loon swimming on the water, reeds in the background

4/12 - Athens, HRM 118: We had our first common loon sighting on Sleepy Hollow Lake today. Sporting breeding colors, it was just passing through but was nice to see. [Photo of common loon by William Troyer, courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.]
- Bill Cavanaugh, Renee Cavanaugh

4/12 - Catskill, HRM 114: While birding from my deck at midday, I counted seven bald eagles at one time - four adults and three immatures. What a glorious sight. While watching the big birds I also saw four tree swallows, my first of the spring.
- Barry Wolven

4/12 - Town of Poughkeepsie: Dad was on the NY62 eagle nest in midday when Mom arrived from the river, her talons clutching a stick that was more than twice the length of her body. They made their switch-over and, after circling in a thermal above the nest for five minutes, Dad took off toward Wappinger Creek where the tide was nearing low, with good prospects for fishing.
- Tom Lake, T.R. Jackson

4/12 - Croton Point, HRM 34.5: It was a brilliant morning with hundreds of tree swallows flashing bright in the sunshine. At least one barn swallow was among them, the first I had seen this season. Flickers were drumming and whinnying from one end of the point to the other.
- Christopher Letts

4/13 - Annandale to Poughkeepsie, HRM 99-76: Our research fyke nets caught 99 glass eels today - one on the Sawkill, twenty on Crum Elbow Creek, and 78 at the Fall Kill in Poughkeepsie. I think we were literally watching the vanguard of the run move upstream.
- Chris Bowser

4/13 - Coxsackie, HRM 124: I spotted a seal hauled out on a dock along the river at Coxsackie today.
- Aaron Fallon

[A photo revealed that this was a young, probably a yearling, harbor seal. With the river herring spawning run well underway, it was not unusual to see a seal in the river in spring - it is expected. Tom Lake.]

4/13 - New Paltz, HRM 78: With a south wind on a warm day and rain on the way, it promised to be another "amphibian night" along the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail wetlands. With the temperature at 57 degrees F, male American toads had started their long trills, blending with the spring peepers and a few late or very enthusiastic wood frogs.
- Roland Bahret

adult eagle and an eagle nestling in a nest in a tree

4/13 - Town of Poughkeepsie: There was concern this morning at bald eagle nest NY62 when we spotted Dad feeding morsels of cottontail, delivered earlier, to only one nestling. At first we were not overly concerned but after the midday switch-over, Mom was also feeding just one nestling. The second nestling was missing. [Photo of adult and nestling bald eagle courtesy of Bob Rightmyer.]
- Tom McDowell, Terry Hardy, Bob Rightmyer, Debbie Quick

4/13 - Beacon, HRM 61: It was a good fishing day! I caught and released two carp and a channel catfish at Long Dock. The largest carp was 14 lb. 4 oz., 31 inches long, while the channel catfish was 3 lb.
- Bill Greene

4/13 - Croton Point, HRM 34.5: I counted at least a half dozen kestrels this morning. With no breeze, they were spread out across the landfill, perched on posts and well markers - conserving energy.
- Christopher Letts

4/14 - Newcomb, HRM 302 - The spring bird migration had begun in earnest: Yellow-bellied sapsuckers, tree swallows, eastern bluebirds, hermit thrush, white-throated sparrows, and pine warblers had all arrived within the last day or two. The mammals didn't want to be left out so we spotted our first eastern chipmunk today as well.
- Charlotte Demers

4/14 - Saratoga County, HRM 166: While out kayaking on Ballston Lake, I saw my first common loon along with several black-backed gulls, common mergansers, and Canada geese. All were being watched by an adult bald eagle flying overhead. But a new visitor caught me by surprise when I got back on dry land and found an inquisitive least weasel on my deck checking things out. It still had its beautiful white winter coat.
- Christa Ippoliti

[Like the long-tailed and short-tailed weasels (ermine), the least weasel's fur also becomes white in winter but lacks the black-tipped tail of the former two. The color change is an adaptation for concealment in northern latitudes where snow predominates in winter. Tom Lake.]

4/14 - Defreestville, Rensselaer County, HRM 142: There were seven wild turkeys - one male displaying - all mingling on the lawn of the Evert Van Alen House in Rensselaer. Tis' the season for socializing. Then, from out of the brush stepped two white-tailed deer. It was a nice way to start my workday.
- Roberta Jeracka

4/14 - Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge, HRM 96: Crossing the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge this morning, I spotted a peregrine falcon flying high above the Hudson River.
- Bill Jacobs

4/15 - Ballston Spa, HRM 178: We walked to the heron rookery in Ballston Creek Preserve this afternoon. There was an osprey on the farthest nest and a great horned owl in the second to the last nest; the other nests were occupied by ten to twelve great blue herons.
- Dorothy Kellihere, Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club

4/15 - Schodack, HRM 139: I saw my first mourning cloak butterfly today. It was amazing to think that it wintered here and survived, considering how cold and snowy it was.
- MaryEllen Grimaldi

4/15 - Town of Poughkeepsie: Two days after first noticing the missing nestling in NY62, there was still was no sign of it. If the nesting had died, the list of possible causes would be long, from a birth defect to sibling rivalry to an accident in the nest. While parental negligence was possible, this pair has had fifteen years of experience in eagle parenting, lessening that possibility.
- Tom Lake, T.R. Jackson

[Against all protocols of sound wildlife management, admirers of the NY62 eagles named the surviving nestling "Destiny," admittedly a fitting name. Tom Lake.]

4/15 - Wappinger Creek, HRM 67.5: It can be hard to pinpoint the first "real" spring day, but today would certainly be in the running. Anglers were out fishing the tidal reach of the creek and the yellow perch were cooperating - several had stringers of fish up to 14 inches long. Others jigged their Sabiki rigs from the bridges and caught alewives up to a foot long. The tributary was 53 degrees F, ten degrees warmer than the river (43).
- John Rega, Tom Lake, T.R. Jackson

4/15 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: Suddenly it was spring. The sturdy green leaves of daffodils were pushing the mounded leaves up into little hill shapes as they reached for light and robins were zipping back and forth on the still-brown lawn. This morning I noticed the bud tips on the early azalea were showing their lovely pink-lavender color. Just beyond the house, the spice bush in the woods was frothy with tiny yellow blossoms. Colt's foot, spread out at the base of a dripping rock wall along Route 129, mirrored the bright sunshine. Time to plant the peas.
- Robin Fox

4/15 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 34: As I waited for the train this morning at the Croton-Harmon Station, I watched one of the adult ospreys carry a fish as it flew to the nest on the cell phone tower. In previous seasons, there have been fish heads and other remains found at the bottom of the tower.
- Hugh McLean

4/16 - Newcomb, HRM 302: A common loon, probably a male, was spotted today on Belden Pond, a small body of water just west of the Hudson River. Males typically arrive back to their breeding territory ahead of the females.
- Charlotte Demers

4/16 - Albany County, HRM 152: As I watched, an osprey fishing at The Crossings Park in Colonie dove into the pond and caught a goldfish [koi?] about ten inches long.
- Heidi Klinowski, Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club

[The Crossings Park, located in the Town of Colonie, is approximately 130 acres in size and has rolling fields, thick stands of trees, walking paths, an orchard, bike trails, and a three-acre pond. Town of Colonie Parks and Recreation.]

4/16 - Wappinger Creek, HRM 67.5: Ten anglers lined a bridge over the tidewater creek, jigging their Sabiki rigs for alewives. Occasionally the shoreline would erupt with river herring, eager and frantic to spawn. A muskrat emerged from the derelict pilings along the shore and deftly made its way across the creek weaving in and out of the fishing lines. We all stopped jigging for a full minute, and then resumed catching alewives.
- John Rega, Tom Lake, T.R. Jackson

4/16 - Quassaick Creek, HRM 60: On our first sampling day of the season for glass eels in this Hudson River tributary, we were immensely surprised and pleased as we counted and released 2,051 glass eels!
- Rebecca Houser, Kacie Giuliano, Megan Lung, Carl Heitmuller, Megan Hoffman

4/16 - Manhattan, HRM 13.5: On the path up through the Clove at Inwood Hill Park, the snowdrops had finished but Dutchman's breeches were beginning to bloom - it is said that this is the only place on Manhattan Island where it grows. Spicebush was beginning to bloom too - it has blossoms before leaves - making the path fragrant. Young leaves of garlic mustard were abundant and also some of lesser celandine. The seed I spread brought only three mourning doves and a white-throated sparrow, but I heard a blue jay scolding, a woodpecker drumming, and watched a downy working its way up an oak. Up on the ridge, forsythia was fully blown, periwinkle was blooming in sunny spots, and the woods, mostly bare, were sprinkled throughout with the little yellow spicebush blossoms.
- Thomas Shoesmith

4/17 - Cohoes, HRM 153: While driving on the Northway (Interstate Route 87) in midday in the vicinity of Albany International Airport, I spotted two sandhill cranes flying across the highway at low altitude, headed in a southeasterly direction.
- Gary Goodness, Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club

4/17 - Inbocht Bay, Greene County, HRM 109.5: The bald eagle nest on Marsh Island looked well-tended but I could not see any activity. A few hundred yards west of the nest I spotted an adult and at the other end of the island an immature.
- Kaare Christian

4/17 - Manhattan, HRM 1: We caught our first three northern pipefish of the season in the Hudson River this week for The River Project: two were from Pier 25 and one from Pier 40.
- Jessica Bonamusa

4/18 - Columbia County, HRM 119: I spotted 40-50 painted turtles today basking on logs in a pond in Hillsdale.
- Bob Schmidt

leucistic (white) red tailed hawk in flight against a clear blue sky

4/18 - Dutchess County, HRM 85: "Lucy," as a near-white hawk has been dubbed, is a leucistic red-tailed hawk that I have been photographing in the Stanfordville-Clinton Corners area for the past three years. She seems to have moved her territory now to the Upton Lake-Clinton area. [Photo of leucistic red-tailed hawk courtesy of Deborah Tracy-Kral.]
- Deb Kral

4/18 - Beacon, HRM 61: Another good fishing day on the Hudson River. I caught and released two carp, two channel catfish and two brown bullheads at Long Dock. The largest carp weighed 12 lb.; the largest channel catfish weighed 4 lb. 10 oz.
- Bill Greene

4/18 - Quassaick Creek, HRM 60: As we checked our fyke net for glass eels this morning, the first thing we noticed was intermittent commotion along the shoreline riprap. Alewives on their spawning run had certainly arrived in the lower tidewater reach of this tributary. Volunteers from the Quassaick Creek Watershed Alliance counted 579 glass eels in the cod end of the net, a major dip from yesterday's incredible 3,500. We probably sampled the end of the pulse of the last couple of days. The water temperature was 54 degrees F.
- Wayne Chernek, John Gebhards, Peter Gennuso, Ted Kohlmann, Diana Krattter, Nick Tulve, Sibylle Tulve, Peter Smith, Tom Lake

[A fyke net is a sampling device used most often for fish, but occasionally for turtles. They are a series of hoops connected by mesh netting to form a tunnel 10-12 feet long leading to a "cod end" where captured fish accumulate. When used in a Hudson River tributary, fykes are set facing downstream to collect fish such as glass eels heading upstream. At the downstream opening, a section of netting is angled away on either side from the initial hoop to serve as a guide, encouraging fish to take the path of least resistance toward the mouth of the net. Tom Lake.]

4/18 - Bedford, HRM 35: Everything was looking good at the great blue heron rookery off Route 121. Of the twenty nests, it appeared that about half were occupied again. The female heron usually lays 3-5 eggs with both parents incubating for about 28 days. I believe that some of the early nesters might be at the half-way incubation stage. It is still a mystery as to why only some of the nests are occupied. The bigger mystery is what created the conditions to attract the herons. The Saw Mill River Audubon Society did some research, looking at old aerial maps showing that in the past it was a hardwood forest. At some point water started flowing into the 25 acre area, creating a wetland that killed the trees.
- Jim Steck

4/18 - Croton River, HRM 34: My husband and I went for a walk and saw a killdeer hurrying along the shore. It paused now and then but ran on. What a beautiful and easy to identify shorebird. I'm used to seeing them more in fields; this one was running along the strand where the sand seemed dry.
- Susan Butterfass, Stephen Butterfass

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