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Hudson River Almanac April 19 - April 25, 2015

OVERVIEW

Contributors found many ways this week to express both the coming of spring and their delight in its many faces - from butterflies to flowers to songbirds and fishes.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK
close up of bloodroot, a flowering plant with white petals and a yellow inside, on the forest floor

4/19 - Ulster Park, HRM 87: Spring made itself felt today: The dawn chorus was deafening; a spotted salamander crawled across the drive toward a wetland; a Louisiana waterthrush was singing away; and, farther on, the beautifully wispy strains of the winter wren greeted my ears. Beside the path I could pick out bloodroot, red trillium, coltsfoot, and many Dutchman's breeches. Numerous spring azures darted past me and a splendid mourning cloak butterfly drifted overhead, almost landing on me. It was a gorgeous spring day! [Photo of bloodroot by Dave Moore, courtesy of U.S. Forest Service.]
- Kent Warner

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

[Note: Almanac readers Jesse Jaycox, Mark Fitzsimmons, and Joseph Okoniewski pointed out that we likely misinterpreted Christa Ippoliti's least weasel report from Ballston Lake (see April 14). While the least weasel is known from New York State, the literature notes that their present range does not reach the Saratoga area. A second look at the details of the report suggests it was most likely a short-tailed weasel. Tom Lake.]

4/19 - Greenwich, HRM 186: The great blue heron rookery just outside of Greenwich in the Battenkill watershed had about 11-15 nests and was very active. There were many young hatched there last year and this year looks promising as well.
- Ken Harper, Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club

broad winged hawk in flight against a grey-blue sky

4/19 - Town of Pleasant Valley, HRM 77: As we drove along on Route 44, Debbie Quick noticed an impressive raptor perched in a tree along the road. As it took flight, we recognized it as a buteo, a "buzzard hawk." [Photo of adult broad-winged hawk courtesy of Bob Rightmyer.]
- Bob Rightmyer

[Bob Rightmyer's photo revealed that it was an adult broad-winged hawk, its chest thickly barred with chestnut and with dark and light bands of nearly even width across its tail. In England, buteos are called buzzards, but they are not related to the vultures colloquially called buzzards in the New World. Steve Stanne.]

4/19 - Town of Poughkeepsie: The single nestling in eagle nest NY62 was now 22 days old. Mom came to the nest in the afternoon with an alewife (river herring) after a fishing trip in Wappinger Creek. We watched as she shredded the fish and fed the nestling,
- Tom McDowell

4/19 - Town of Fishkill, HRM 63: While transplanting irises on the south side of my house, I dug up a gray treefrog (Hyla versicolor). I had never been up close and personal with a gray treefrog, so I was amazed at the bright yellow coloring on its legs and thighs. What a beauty! There was no leaf litter in this area so I was surprised to find this creature in the moist, very friable soil about two inches deep.
- Andra Sramek

4/20 - Quassaick Creek, HRM 60: Today our Mount Saint Mary College partners counted 1,900 glass eels caught overnight in our fyke net.
- Rebecca Houser

4/20 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: It seemed to me this morning, as I rubbed my eyes first thing, that suddenly, there it was: forsythia, in bloom, bright and golden. I don't remember it being there yesterday. Maybe the windy night shook out the blossoms.
- Robin Fox

4/21 - Saratoga Lake, HRM 182: There were still many ring-necked ducks and buffleheads near shore. Out in the middle of Saratoga Lake there was a large raft of at least 300 lesser scaup, five greater scaup, buffleheads, and common goldeneyes. Elsewhere on the lake were three common loons, four horned grebes, and two hen red-breasted mergansers.
- Ron Harrower, Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club

4/21 - Schoharie County, HRM 155: We spent six hours birding and located 64 species. Among the highlights were two pairs of northern shovelers, a pair of American wigeons, and a greater yellowlegs at Lower Gilboa Reservoir. At Cobleskill Reservoir, we saw a drake red-breasted merganser and two Bonaparte's gulls.
- David Harrison, John Roosenberg, Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club

4/21 - Town of Poughkeepsie: The variety of food items that the adults have been bringing to the eagle nest (NY62) continues to grow. We watched two separate deliveries today: the first was a foot-long striped bass and the second was a ten-inch alewife.
- Bob Rightmyer, Debbie Quick

4/21 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: The birdsong at dawn has become nearly deafening, with cardinals, white-throated sparrows, flickers, titmice, and chickadees all contributing. The many goldfinches in summer plumage have turned our yard into a grove of lemon trees.
- Tom Lake, T.R. Jackson

4/21- Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: This has been a very good spring for my azalea mucronulatum (Rhododendron mucronulatum). It has been especially beautiful when the tiny, now golden, goldfinches perch amidst the blossoms and the crowd of bees.
- Robin Fox

adult eagle and eagle nestling in nest

4/22 - Town of Poughkeepsie: Earth Day. It was fitting that a special menu would be available to the eaglet in NY62 on Earth Day. Mom arrived in mid-morning with much flapping and an eight-inch-long American eel in her talons. Within a short time she was feeding the nestling. [Photo of adult bald eagle feeding an American eel to nestling courtesy of Tom McDowell.]
- Tom McDowell

4/22 - Manhattan, HRM 13.5: They came as an Earth Day gift: a flock of 40 brant geese flew in and landed in the water close to the east side of the Hudson River at Spuyten Duyvil, just north of the Amtrak swing bridge where the Harlem River meets the Hudson. They feasted on the bright green algae growing on rocks along the shore, before flying north up the river in separate groups. It was such a treat to see them. [Banner photo comparing Canada goose (right) and brant (left) courtesy of Steve Stanne.]
- Jennifer Scarlott

[Waterman Dery Bennett used to mark the seasons by noting how brant, a small species of goose, left Sandy Hook, NJ, around Memorial Day after spending the winter, and headed north. In his words, "they would shove off for the Canadian Arctic where they will breed, fledge young, and then return around Columbus Day." Tom Lake.]

4/23 - Haverstraw Bay, HRM 38-35: While juvenile Atlantic sturgeon tagging in Haverstraw Bay, the NYS DEC Hudson River Fisheries Unit spotted a red-throated loon and many Bonaparte's gulls. The loon was within a hundred yards of shore at the Haverstraw Bay County Park, and the Bonaparte's gulls seemed to be everywhere in the bay (or perhaps just following us all day while we worked).
- Joe Lydon

4/23 - Bedford, HRM 35: There are currently more than 30 nests in the great blue heronry off Route 121. About two dozen appear to be active and occupied with adults brooding eggs. Experience tells us that the eggs will probably hatch in early May and the nestlings should be visible by the middle of the month, peeking up over the edges of the nests. It looks like there are six to eight new nests this year.
- Rick Stafford

4/23 - Westchester County, HRM 28: Jeff Seneca photographed what appeared to be a black-throated gray warbler at the Gate-of-Heaven Cemetery in Hawthorne. This is a western U.S. songbird species that rarely wanders to the east coast.
- Anne Swaim

[Photos confirmed this sighting. This is only the second record of a black-throated gray warbler for Westchester County. The first one was near Cross River Reservoir on August 6, 1962. Michael C. Bochnik.]

4/23 - Palisades, HRM 23: A few spring migrants appeared this week at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory: A female ruby-crowned kinglet was seen flitting about a tree; a towhee sang from a small wet woodlot; and flocks of chipping sparrows have been spotted almost daily.
- Linda Pistolesi

4/24 - Minerva, HRM 284: Normally by this time of the season, the spring peepers would be peeping and the wood frogs would be quacking. Instead, the pond in the back had a cold, steely grey look that makes me think of early November. There was nothing freshly green out there in the woods, no pussy willows near the pond, very little sign of spring birds except for a few sad red-winged blackbirds and lonely song sparrows. The ice was completely off the pond, but we got a dusting of snow last night. My small maple sap season ended a week ago with my usual pint of syrup.
- Mike Corey

4/24 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 75: While driving a group of students past the front ponds at the Vassar Farm and Ecological Preserve, we could clearly see a hen common merganser (with her drake counterpart) snacking on a bright orange fish. It was perhaps someone's released pet, a goldfish or a koi?
- Michael Fraatz

4/24 - Brewster, HRM 52: As we pulled into our driveway this evening, we were greeted by the inquiring faces of three or four fox kits and one adult. The adult turned her back and sat down while the kits continued their wrestling and exploration. The kits had grown significantly since the last time we saw them and were now a quarter the size of Mom. Another immediately noticeable change was the color of their fur. It was now turning the same color red as Mom's, still partly charcoal but well on its way to the beautiful coat of the adults. After a while they went for the cover of our shed. We wondered if we were mistaken several weeks ago [see 3/22] when we thought they had left, or perhaps they were just making a return visit.
- Bruce Iacono, Maureen Iacono

close up of a spotted sandpiper perched on a log

4/24 - Croton Point, HRM 34: Out of the wind on Croton Bay today we had a Bonaparte's gull as well as a surprise red breasted merganser. Along the shore we saw a fully breeding plumaged spotted sandpiper. [Photo of spotted sandpiper courtesy of U.S Fish and Wildlife Service.]
- Larry Trachtenberg

4/24 - Manhattan, HRM 1: The River Project caught one more northern pipefish and another rock gunnel this week. We've also had many fairly large grass shrimp. Our fish and shellfish are caught in un-baited killifish traps, set mostly at Pier 25 off the historic steamship Lilac, restored by our partners the Lilac Preservation Project.
- Jessica Bonamusa

["Grass shrimp" is a collective common name for three species of small shrimp found in the salty and brackish waters of the estuary including two species of shore shrimp (Palaemonetes pugio and P. vulgaris) and sand shrimp (Crangon septemspinosa). The "grass" reference comes from their preferred habitat: submerged aquatic vegetation in estuarine shallows that is colloquially referred to as "grass." Tom Lake.]

4/25 - Minerva, HRM 284: It was just 28 degrees Fahrenheit here this morning, and standing water had not forgotten how to ice over. With the wind chill, it felt no more than 20. Walking around, I found one blooming coltsfoot, heard one extremely forlorn-sounding peeper, and spotted two broad-winged hawks moving over the woods, cruising and calling.
- Mike Corey

4/25 - Stillwater, HRM 171: I estimated that there were at least 2,500 swallows along the Hudson River between Blockhouse and the Route 125 bridge downstream. Most of them were tree swallows, but there were quite a few rough-winged swallows also.
- Ron Harrower, Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club

4/25 - Saratoga County, HRM 166: I stopped by Lock 2 near Mechanicville and found a lot of swallows resting on the concrete wall. There were at least eight cliff swallows, numerous tree swallows, two barn swallows, and several rough-winged swallows.
- Ron Harrower, Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club

4/25 - Vischer Ferry, HRM 159: There was not much bird activity this evening at the Vischer Ferry Preserve, but I did hear a very clear, sustained bird song which I was almost certain was a Baltimore oriole. I checked the Cornell Lab Macaulay Library to confirm because I did not see the bird. There I found one recording that was right on target. This was the earliest spring record I have for Baltimore orioles.
- John Hershey, Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club

4/25 - Hannacroix Creek, HRM 132.5: Our glass eel season was underway at Hannacroix Creek. Our catch today included two elvers and numerous amphipods. The water temperature was 44 degrees F.
- Jean Cardany

[Elver is the next life stage we encounter following glass eel (see 4/1: Furnace Brook). These are primarily last year's glass eels that have lingered in the tributary and matured to the point where they look like miniature adult eels, in both physical characteristics and darker pigmentation. As glass eels are already six months to a year old, elvers are minimally two-year-olds with sizes ranging from 100 to 200 millimeters total length. Tom Lake.]

4/25 - Black Creek, HRM 85: Much to our amazement, we found no glass eels from our overnight set of the fyke net. The one elver we caught told us that the net had been "fishing," but no glass eels had come upstream on our side of the creek overnight.
- Chris Bowser

[The many mysteries of American eels make up much of their allure. Black Creek is a Hudson River tributary that has, in recent times, recorded more than 5,000 glass eels in a one night set. Yet here was a night in prime time when there were none. Over the next few days, the glass eels returned, with 173-217 each night. Tom Lake.]

4/25 - Quassaick, HRM 60: The Quassaick Creek Watershed Alliance volunteers patiently counted 2,216 glass eels, thirteen elvers, and some amphipods from their research fyke net - another enormous number. Two black-crowned night herons were perched nearby, probably some of the five that were hanging around yesterday.
- John Gebhards, Rebecca Houser

4/25 - Piermont Pier, HRM 25: A single yellow warbler was singing in a field near the Pier. An osprey and a broad-winged hawk circled overhead. All three were firsts-of-the-year for us. Around the corner from the Pier, a snowy egret hunted in Sparkill Creek.
- Linda Pistolesi, Marcel Jaloveckas

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