Hudson River Almanac March 31 - April 6, 2004
Spring's colors were slowly moving up the valley. Forsythia and magnolia were blooming along the first 25 miles of the river. The first shad and river herring were showing up in commercial nets, eagles were incubating eggs, glass eels were ascending tributaries, and salamanders were mating in vernal pools. Contrast this with intense snow squalls against a backdrop of four feet of snow in the High Peaks and you get a good picture of early spring in the Hudson River watershed.
HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK
3/31 - Town of LaGrange, HRM 74: Some people think spring starts with the first robin, but I have a different signal. I am a Turtle Field Technician, working with and researching Blanding's turtles and eastern box turtles. I saw lots of painted turtles out basking three days ago, but the real thrill was seeing one of our Blanding's turtles, radio and all, catching some rays. Yesterday, I saw my first box turtle of spring, in Hyde Park, all covered with dirt, radio on his back, red eyes blinking in the sun. "Sam" is up and on the move. I also saw the first snake of spring, but it wasn't nearly as much fun as seeing the turtles.
- Jude Holdsworth
NATURAL HISTORY NOTES
3/29 - Brandow Point, HRM 117: Andy Turner, Larry Federman and I observed a swarm of honeybees flying in and around on old locust tree with several cavities.
- Liz LoGuidice
3/29 - Cornwall, HRM 58: Along a rocky ledge in the woods by the Boulevard site of the Museum of the Hudson Highlands is a beautiful cascade of blooming winter aconite. Its warm yellow color is a very welcome sight and an exciting change from the drab colors of winter! Our red-winged blackbirds are busy pulling fluff from the cattails to build nests and the tree swallows and bluebirds have selected their bird boxes for the spring.
- Ann Szigethy
3/30 - Furnace Woods, HRM 38.5: It was 9:00 AM when panic struck and the dozens of birds at the feeders flew every which way, some bouncing off doors and windows in their fright. I looked out to see feathers drifting down, and beyond them, a female Cooper's hawk pinning a struggling mourning dove to the ground. The hawk footed the dove for about three minutes, and as the struggling ceased, began to pluck the dove. After five minutes of plucking, the hawk began to feed, the dove held with one foot now, breast side up. The feeding went on until 9:30 when she was scared off by the arrival of the garbage truck. She took what was left of her brunch with her, leaving a 2x3 foot plot thickly covered with feathers.
- Christopher Letts
3/30 - Croton River, HRM 34: It was a remarkable day. Two red-necked grebes were close to the railroad bridge in the early morning. An hour later I spotted a peregrine falcon perched in a tree on Croton Point. As I watched, a pack of dogs and their walkers passed right under the perch. The bird did not move and none of the two-legged or four-legged members of the pack noticed the falcon.
- Christopher Letts
3/30 - Newcomb, HRM 302: This morning I saw tree swallows by the Route 28N bridge over the Hudson, as well as my first chipmunk of the season. That means the bears should be lumbering out of their slumber fairly soon. My crocuses are out and the Johnny-jump-ups are already blooming.
- Ellen Rathbone
3/30 - West Park, HRM 87: Peeping spring peepers and quacking of wood frogs were making quite a ruckus at the John Burroughs sanctuary in West Park. Coltsfoot has made its appearance along the roadsides.
- Carol Anderson
3/30 - New Paltz, HRM 78: Tonight it rained and we went to look for spotted salamanders at our local vernal pool. The peepers had arrived and the wood frogs were quacking away. By 9:30 PM we saw a few hundred spotted salamanders, but there were many places in the pool where there were none to be found. A few hours later, Rebecca Johnson went over while the rest of us slumbered, and she found thousands!
- Fran Dunwell
3/30 - New Paltz, HRM 78: Tonight was the night! Around 11:00 PM thousands of spotted salamanders were in the vernal pool courting each other. We walked around the pool to see how many spotted salamanders there were and found too many to count. An unusual sight was the spring peeper egg mass hanging from a branch about four feet over the pool. The eggs must be in water to hatch. Will these dry up or fall into the water? On the way to the pool we found four Jefferson salamanders and one two-lined salamander crossing a nearby road, as well as toads, wood frogs, and peepers.
- Rebecca Johnson
3/30 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 75: Ah, nothing like a rainy spring morning. The river was up to 41°F, one degree warmer than yesterday - an important degree when you are waiting for fish to arrive from the sea.
- John Mylod
4/1 - Nyack, HRM 27: Our first river herring, alewives, showed up in our nets overnight.
- Robert Gabrielson Jr.
4/2 - Minerva, HRM 284: We can hear the songs of robins, and the grackles' somewhat raucous and creaky notes are actually overwhelming the evening grosbeaks' shrill calls. There is still six inches of snow in the woods.
- Mike Corey
4/2 - Glasco, HRM 101: In 2000 I relocated two bluebird boxes from near our wetland to our front yard, a quiet rural setting. On March 29 I noticed, for the first time this year, a fluffing of the bedding material in one box. Today both boxes were occupied for the first time this season. One has added more finely shredded juniper bark and the other has added a yellowish-green fiber that feels synthetic. This seems typical of how the season starts - separate boxes. I suspect one is male and one female. As the weather gets warmer they will move in and spent many of their days together in the same box, but occasionally will sleep in separate boxes. So far we have not witnessed any offspring. Who knows, maybe this year!
- Dan Marazita
4/3 - Hudson, HRM 118: At 8:30 AM I watched a peregrine falcon that had just taken a ring-billed gull in the Fairview Plaza shopping Center in Hudson. The falcon was eating the bird not 15 feet from the road with cars whizzing by. A few stopped to watch him. One person had binoculars and said he could see green bands on the leg of the falcon.
- Nancy Ploeger
[The NYSDEC Endangered Species Unit used black over green bands on young peregrines raised at wild nests on bridges. We have a nest on the Rip Van Winkle Bridge, not far away, so perhaps it was one of those birds. Barbara Loucks]
4/3 - Glasco, HRM 101: I watched two very large formations of Canada geese flying north, one of about 460 and the other about 178 birds.
- Dan Marazita
4/3 - Town of Ashokan, HRM 91: At last the reservoir was ice free and there was an impressive waterfall going over the spillway. It was a pretty sight with the Catskills in the background. There were sixteen hungry deer white-tailed deer feeding in a group along the dike. We saw some elegant wild turkeys along the road on the way up. - Bill Drakert, Fran Drakert
4/3 - Piermont, HRM 25: The striper fishermen are out, especially on Piermont Pier where I saw an 8 pound, 25" bass taken on bloodworms today. Small groups of ruddy ducks were watching.
- Dan Wolff
4/3 - Bergen County, NJ: Forsythia was in bloom through the lower end of the estuary.
- James Beemer
4/4 - Boreas River, HRM 284: In late afternoon there was a brief but intense horizontal snow squall that instantly took me back to winter. The grosbeaks, pine siskins and crossbills became more noticeable and the robins and grackles were suddenly scarce.
- Tom Lake
4/4 - Minerva, HRM 284: I got out into my swamp this morning. Not much going on; ice is still present, although some water is exposed around the margin. No sign yet of either peepers or wood frogs. I did catch the tentative songs of a song sparrow and a winter wren, both of whom sounded a tad lost and bewildered. Even redwings and grackles were quiet, which is unusual for them.
- Mike Corey
4/4 - Nyack, HRM 27: Our first shad of the season showed up today, a nice plump roe. Dinner.
- Robert Gabrielson Sr.
4/4 - Eagle Nest, Dutchess County: Mama was sitting higher in the nest today, which may not mean a thing. She has been incubating for about a month. The average hatch time is about 35 days. Maybe she senses something imminent.
- Tom Lake
4/4 - Wappinger Creek, HRM 67.5: It was bitterly cold at first light. The air was 25°F, and a frigid northwest wind gusted at 20 mph, creating a windchill of about -5°F. A pair of common mergansers were swimming along "trolling" with their eyes" for their morning meal.
- Tom Lake
["Trolling with their eyes" is behavior that is usually associated with loons. These birds peer beneath the surface looking for and locating fish before beginning their dive. (see John McPhee's "The Survival of the Bark Canoe")].
4/5 - Garrison, HRM 50: With the winds blowing from the northwest it seemed that a lot of migrants were holding over and waiting for a change. At Castle Rock Preserve in Garrison we had a dozen kestrels hunting in the field in back of our office. From 9:00-11:00 AM I was able to spot them perched on the telephone lines, chasing each other, and hovering and diving for prey in the fields. The resident nesting pair of kestrels was not thrilled with all the company, but by mid-afternoon it seemed that the visitors had moved on.
- John Hannan
4/6 - New Baltimore, HRM 131.5: I stepped outside this afternoon to behold a whole slew of tree swallows swooping and swirling low over the river. I did a quick sweep count and came up with 86, but this number could be off a bit because of their constant shifting and mixing. It was a welcome sight, however many there were. They should be showing up at nest boxes and vacant woodpecker holes in your neighborhood soon.
- Rich Guthrie
4/6 - Round Top, HRM 117: The maple sap season is over. Spring peepers have been out since last week.
- Jon Powell
4/6 - Constitution Marsh, HRM 51.5: There was still at least one adult bald eagle roosting in the marsh.
- John Hannan