Hudson River Almanac April 7 - 12, 2004
American shad have reached the Mid-Hudson area and are heading further upriver, heralded by the blooming of forsythia and magnolia. The High Peaks are still looking for some color. Alewives and white suckers have begun their spawning runs up the tidal tributaries. The blooming of shadbush and the arrival of striped bass upriver are next.
HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK
4/2 - Town of Saugerties, HRM 101: Concerning the observation, in last week's Almanac, of nesting materials in bluebird boxes, it turns out the occupants are flying squirrels. Their nests are neatly tailored from 4"-6" of finely shredded redcedar or juniper bark. Active only at night, in summer they spend their days lying in the bluebird boxes on the soft juniper fluff, sometimes cuddled in each other's arms or lolling on their backs, sometimes in separate boxes. In winter they add more shreddings to the nest and wriggle down into the center, pulling the duff insulation fully over their heads. They'll let me look in on them as long as I move slowly and talk quietly to them. So far we have not witnessed any offspring.
- Dan Marazita
NATURAL HISTORY NOTES
4/7 - Newcomb, HRM 302: No forsythia or shadbush in bloom yet, but today we found pussy willows all grey and fuzzy - a pretty good sign that spring is on the horizon. Robins were out for the early worms this morning, the first time I've seen them hopping on lawns this spring. Up until now they've been lurking in the trees with the rest of the birds.
- Ellen Rathbone
4/7 - Brandow Point, HRM 118: Crocuses bloomed a few days ago and a few daffodils are opening despite the persistent cold.
- Liz LoGuidice
4/7 - Hunter's Brook, HRM 67.5: Despite an air temperature of 28°F and a brook temperature of 39°F at dawn, the strongest overnight tides so far this spring brought the first significant number of glass eels up Hunter's Brook. With frosted fingers, this morning I counted eight in my net. At the mouth of the Sawkill, 31 miles upriver, ten glass eels were collected.
- Tom Lake
4/8 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 73: Drifting for shad on the end of the ebb and the early flood today, I caught four bucks and four roe shad - my first of the season. There were a dozen stripers, too, and in two bait nets I had 60-80 river herring. Just three gizzard shad. The water temperature was 44°F.
- John Mylod
4/8 - Eagle Nest, Dutchess County: I think we've had a hatch! Mama eagle brought a good-sized fish to the nest at 10:30 AM (it looked like a white sucker), joining Papa who was already there. They sat on either side of the nest with the fish between them as Mama tore it apart, perhaps for hungry mouths below.
- Tom Lake
[When eggs are being incubated, the adults take turns in the nest, one on eggs while the other one goes hunting. When hatching occurs and there is another mouth to feed, the adults begin to bring offerings, usually fish, to the nest. Pete Nye]
4/8 - Hunter's Brook, HRM 67.5: The strong spring tides associated with the recent full moon brought 15 glass eels and six elvers into our net overnight. When I went to empty it this morning, I found a 17" female white sucker hunkered down in the gravelly riffle under one of the net's wings. I gently picked her up and a stream of lemon-yellow eggs spewed over my hand. I saw no males around. I set her back where she was and worked around her. The creek was 46°F.
- Tom Lake
[White suckers are one of several catadromous river fish, meaning that they ascend tidal tributaries to spawn. Suckers swim above the reach of tide and spawn in gravelly riffles, one female usually accompanied by several males.]
4/8 - Dennings Point, HRM 60: Volunteers from Stony Kill Farm enjoyed a hike on the Point with volunteer instructor and long time Beacon resident Gordon Ticehurst. This afternoon the Hudson was so calm, as smooth as glass, you could barely tell which way the tide was going. Along the trail we were treated to the sight of several spring beauties, a delicate small white flower with thin pink lines going into its center. I always want to call it the peppermint flower.
- Carolyn Plage
4/8 - Constitution Marsh, HRM 52: The Dutchman's breeches are flowering. They are growing high enough up the banks of Indian Brook to have avoided the terrific scouring of the floodplain that took place this winter.
- Eric Lind
4/8 - Furnace Woods, HRM 38.5: Today I got my hands on the first shad roe of the season and dug my first bucket of dandelion crowns. Hard to say one is better than the other, that salad of dandelions, or the entree of lightly sauteed shad roe. I envy no man his dinner tonight.
- Christopher Letts
4/8 - Nyack, HRM 27: We caught 25-30 alewives overnight in our bait net - one nice roe shad as well. - Bob Gabrielson Sr.
4/9 - Town of Athens, HRM 116: With the sharp and savory taste of onion grass on my tongue, I set off in search of spring wildflowers at Cohotate Preserve. Coltsfoot in full bloom festooned sunny spots on the forest floor, but I was in search of a more elusive prey. Finally, I spotted it - the large green hairy leaves of hepatica shaded by a single, delicate flower. Despite the recent cold, the bloom of hepatica leads me to believe that spring has truly arrived.
- Liz LoGuidice
4/9 - New Paltz, HRM 78: A SUNY New Paltz biology class with Heinz Meng came to look at the vernal pool during the day. There were no more than a dozen egg masses, maybe fewer. It was raining that night, so my daughter, Lia, wanted to see if anything was happening in the pool. We found dozens of spotted salamanders, not hundreds, not thousands (but we didn't go back at midnight to see if things heated up as the night went on). We will check soon to see if the number of egg masses goes up.
- Fran Dunwell
[In response to last week's observation of an egg mass on a branch over the water at this vernal pool, naturalist Erik Kiviat noted that spring peepers lay single eggs, so the "spring peeper" egg mass was probably a wood frog egg mass. The branch and egg mass might originally have been in the water, later to be sprung upwards by melting ice or a footstep.]
4/9 - Wappinger Creek, HRM 67.5: I counted 20 common mergansers - 10 pairs - on the creek this morning. They seem to be staying around longer than usual this spring. By now most of them should have left for northern breeding grounds.
- Tom Lake
4/9 - Town of Fishkill, HRM 63.5: It is such a joy to watch spring unfold. As I drive to Stony Kill Farm I've been enjoying the reds and yellows of the maples and willows. On the Stony Kill Woodland Trail, spicebush has begun its show of yellow and Dutchman's breeches are beginning to bloom. One lone bloodroot looked glorious, poking up through the leaf matter. On the road between the Barns and Manor House swallows are checking out nest boxes and moving into those not already claimed by bluebirds. A pair of kestrels was also hanging out on fence posts along Farmstead Lane.
- Carolyn Plage
4/9 - Newburgh, HRM 62: On this breezy day, two American kestrels beautifully garbed in blue-gray and chestnut gave a grand performance. The setting was an old field of waving grasses and stubble, sparsely populated with small trees on a knoll against a backdrop of blue sky and high summer-like clouds. The kestrels were first seen perched on the trees, but then took to the air, arcing to a point where each would hover with trembling wings or remain motionless as if the air was stilled. They would stoop to unseen prey and then sweep to the sky to repeat the aerobatics, sometimes crossing each other's path in grand circles as if purposely choreographing a show.
- Ed Spaeth
4/9 - Haverstraw Bay, HRM 36: The Hudson glowed pink, reflecting "rosy-fingered dawn," and mist clung to the Hudson Highlands as I rode down the "new" Storm King highway to Haverstraw with the Hudson River Fisheries Unit. Tom Kehler, US Fish & Wildlife Service, remarked, "It's so flat out there today we don't even need a boat. We could use a sheet of plywood." Amanda Cosman, Jenifer Temple and Tom spent the day setting and retrieving gillnets to catch juvenile Atlantic sturgeon. In 12 sets, we caught only seven fish from the still chilly waters: a roe shad, a white perch, two river herring, and three juvenile Atlantic sturgeon. We tagged, measured, and weighed the sturgeon, and took a tiny clip from the pectoral fin which may give a clue to their age. This is the first study of the size and health of the Atlantic sturgeon population in the Hudson since the moratorium on commercial fishing went into effect in 1996.
- Bethia Waterman
4/9 - Croton River, HRM 34: A long, mid-air hover, a breathtaking plunge, and the first osprey of the season missed its breakfast. - Christopher Letts
4/9 - Manhattan, HRM 2: Low tide at Pier 26 drew 10-15 brant to feed hungrily on algae growing on the old pier platforms. There were frequent displays of territoriality as one brant would lower its head, hiss, and walk menacingly towards another, intimidating it off the platform. The exiled brant were often not welcome on other platforms either. In a show of force, a Canada goose swam over, performed the same maneuver, and ousted all the brant from the platform. The goose stood a moment surveying its new kingdom, then hopped back in the water and swam back to the piling it had been perching on previously. Minutes later the brants returned tentatively to their platform and life continued as before.
- Chris Mancini
4/10 - Nyack, HRM 27: There are so many striped bass in the Tappan Zee right now that I had to take my herring bait nets out of the river. I'll wait a week until some of the bass move upriver before setting them again. I have never seen so many striped bass in my life. - Bob Gabrielson Sr.
4/11 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 75: I went out on the end of the flood early this Easter morning to pick two herring nets. It was a beautiful gray, calm morning just after sunrise. The air temperature was in the low 30s. The bait nets produced about 40-50 alewives and my shad net caught eight. I managed to avoid lots of debris lifted off the shore by high tides. The river temperature was 44°F.
- John Mylod
4/11 - Croton Point, HRM 34: Westchester County is about 40% down on annual rainfall, so a forecast of two days of cold rain was not exactly bad news. Determined to get in a morning hike, I left the house early. The first thing to greet me was a tree full of black and turkey vultures just across the road. While I watched them, a flight of great blue herons passed overhead, five in a V formation. In the next two hours I saw 54 species of birds, half a dozen more herons and four osprey, three of them bearing fish. The first wave of kestrels had arrived and there seemed to be a bobbing falcon on every post and pole on the landfill. I was much improved in spirit by now, and then I spotted the first warbler of the season. A beautiful yellow warbler landed a few feet away and sang.
- Christopher Letts
4/12 - Newcomb, HRM 302: The merlins are back! Seeing and hearing merlins is always a nice way to start the day. I do not know if they've selected a nest site yet. Still no froggies, but I remain hopeful. - Ellen Rathbone
4/12 - Catskill, HRM 113: The river is still cold on this end of the Hudson. It was 40°F today. The forsythia is blooming, as is coltsfoot in many places.
- Jon Powell
4/12 - Hillsdale, HRM 111: Tonight we drove our favorite road in Hillsdale to look for amphibians. It's late in the season for this activity, but the rains and temperature were perfect. If we add up all the amphibian species we have seen in early spring over the years, the perfect night could produce 11 species. Last night we saw 8 of the 11 - not bad! The best was a four-toed salamander - a good find because they are both rare and very small. It is a pretty good trick to see them on the road in the rain from a moving car. - Bob Schmidt, Alec Schmidt
4/12 - Wappinger Creek, HRM 67.5: A continuous band of coltsfoot lined River Road for over a mile - "Follow the yellow brick road!" came to mind. As Hunter's Brook warms our glass eel catch is becoming more predictable. I put them in white buckets to see them; they disappear in a dark-colored pail. Even against a white bottom we see only pairs of black specks - the eyes of the transparent eels - like two dots of black pepper swimming around.
- Tom Lake, Phyllis Lake
4/12 - Highland Brook, HRM 53: The dog-tooth violets (also known as trout lily and adderstongue) emerged over the weekend. No flower stems visible yet, but they should appear very soon. These are a true spring flower; the bloom, leaves, and all completely disappear by summer. I first remember reading about these flowers in Jean George's book "My Side of The Mountain," where Sam Gribley finds the patch of flowers and remembers that the plant has an edible root. I have tried them; though quite small, they have a delicious flavor to them.
- Jim Beemer
4/12 - Constitution Marsh, HRM 52: Our adult eagle was joined by another today. I heard that squeaky cry and saw them way, way up in the sky above Indian Brook. I cannot find the words to describe how beautiful they were, as they slowly circled south. What a view of the river they must have had. White suckers are moving into Indian Brook. A Louisiana waterthrush is back today. He is bouncing around on elastic pink legs, picking insects off stones in the stream. Two winter wrens were singing back and forth this morning - their songs are so gorgeously complex.
- Eric Lind