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Hudson River Almanac April 13 - 19, 2004

OVERVIEW

The Hudson River Valley is gradually turning green, and spring is finally reaching the Adirondacks. The first warblers are beginning to show and American shad and river herring continue to move upriver. Commercial shad netters are catching modest numbers of shad and the sighting of a harbor porpoise near Hyde Park perhaps indicates that there are enough river herring out there to lure a marine mammal in from the sea.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

4/19 - New York Harbor, Upper Bay: In early afternoon, with a strong onshore wind blowing, a large fish washed up against the foot of the Statue of Liberty. Alerted by 80-90 visitors, Park Ranger Ken Bausch waded out into the harbor to retrieve a four-foot-long Atlantic sturgeon. Its gill covers were moving; it was still alive. Ken worked the fish back and forth in the current, forcing water across its gills, and in short order it revived. Up above, Park Ranger Kenya Finley interpreted for the crowd what this interesting fish was and what we were doing to try and save it. Once he resuscitated it, Ken released the sturgeon which swam away to the applause of onlookers. We had to repeat this effort two hours later when the fish drifted back inshore. This time Ken gave it a good push out in the current as he released it. The fish moved away and disappeared. While Ken was working on the sturgeon the second time, he noticed several horseshoe crabs mating in the shallows. This was a good sign since their presence in this area has diminished in recent years.
- Jim Elkin, NPS Park Ranger

[Two sturgeon species inhabit the Hudson. The Atlantic sturgeon passes through New York Harbor on its spawning runs from the Atlantic to freshwater reaches of the Hudson. Females don't return to the Hudson to lay eggs until they are at least five feet long; spawning males may be smaller. The shortnose sturgeon generally lives its entire life in the Hudson; it isn't as big as the Atlantic, but a few shortnose over three feet long have been caught in the harbor recently.]

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

4/13 - Newcomb, HRM 302: We had a half inch of snow overnight, but then it is only mid-April. An adult bald eagle flew overhead this morning. It was really high up, but one could still get the idea of how big it was, and then I saw the white tail. I think that's the first eagle I've seen in Newcomb.
- Ellen Rathbone

4/13 - Catskill, HRM 113: The willows and red maples on Roger's Island were showing color.
- Jon Powell

4/14 - Ramshorn, HRM 112.2: Our first Wednesday morning RamsHorn-Livingston Sanctuary Bird Walk was a damp and drizzly one. We saw, and heard, a red-shouldered hawk over the marsh; this was the third sighting of the red-shouldered in a week. One sighting was of the bird as it came tumbling out of the sky apparently thinking about grabbing one of approximately 500 carp swimming near the dock. We also heard a common loon. The bird was far into the marsh, possibly stranded until the next high tide.
- Larry Federman

4/14 - Saw Kill, HRM 98.5: We arrived at the mouth of the Saw Kill at 7:00 PM. A bald eagle left as we appeared. After dark, when the tide had adequately risen, we took three alewife in our herring net. All were males about ten inches long. We also caught four white perch. One of the alewives had a large contusion on its flank and had lost most of its scales. It's not unusual to find injured alewife in the spring tributary runs. I usually classify them as attempted predation by striped bass (contusions, abrasions, and scale loss), herons (single punctures, like from a spear), or osprey/eagle (symmetrical punctures on both sides - talon marks). Given how difficult it is to keep alewives alive, I am always amazed at how beaten up they can be and still be swimming into the tributaries.
- Bob Schmidt, Mallory Eckstut, Isaac Privett

4/15 - Hannacrois, HRM 132.5: As darkness fell, Orion (my favorite constellation) was already setting in the crystal clear western sky. Soon it will be absent from our view - another sign of the changing seasons. Forsythia is blooming by the riverside, but those here in the hills aren't.
- Liz LoGiudice

4/15 - Stony Creek, HRM 100.5: We arrived at the mouth of Stony Creek at 8:00 AM. This time a great blue heron took offense at our presence and left. While watching our herring net catch nothing, we saw a hatch of small brown caddisflies (with nothing around to feed on them) and a few small black stoneflies. When we were pulling our nets to leave, a pileated woodpecker cursed at us for hanging around his tree.
- Bob Schmidt, Alec Schmidt

4/15 - Wappinger Creek, HRM 67.5: In mid-afternoon the tide was low and being pushed out by the second day of a strong west wind. An osprey wheeled out of the wooded hillside and made a pass across the shallow, clear creek. Peering down at what must have been a superb view of multitudes of fish, it seemed to be window-shopping.
- Tom Lake

4/15 - Town of Fishkill, HRM 62: As the snowdrops fade away, our moist hillside is a carpet of green that will soon be a carpet of gold when the marsh marigolds fully emerge. The Dutchman's breeches with their feathery blue-green leaves and pendulous blossoms are slowly unfolding. Meanwhile, the bloodroots' cream-colored blossoms are still encased in cocoon-like leaves that have yet to unfurl. The bleeding hearts, too, have begun to show their leaves.
- Ed Spaeth

4/16 - Catskill, HRM 113: I saw an osprey this morning at the Rip Van Winkle Bridge. Tamaracks are showing a little green. The Hudson was 45 °F.
- Jon Powell

4/16 - Ramshorn, HRM 112.2: A bald eagle in juvenile plumage was seen over the dock. We also spotted a Cooper's hawk patrolling over the marsh.
- Larry Federman

4/17 - Hyde Park, HRM 83: While sitting along the shore at the Vanderbilt Estate we spotted a lone dolphin. It swam near the opening of a small inlet on the north side of the peninsula, out into the middle of the river, downriver a quarter-mile, and then returned. It did this three times in the 30-45 minutes we were watching. It was solid and very dark, about 6-7 feet in length, and its snout seemed a little too short to be a bottlenose dolphin. It was wonderful, dipping and rising so fluidly. It would disappear and then appear again fifty feet away. While it may have been a harbor porpoise, the position of the dorsal fin looked to be a little more forward on the body and its shape seemed to be more of the crescent design of a dolphin. It did not breach high enough for us to see the snout, so we cannot describe it other than it could have been either a porpoise or a dolphin.
- Theresa Cassaboon, Matt McDermott

[The physical description and behavior sound like a harbor porpoise. There have been seven dolphin and porpoise sightings documented in the Hudson River over the last ten years of the Almanac.]

4/17 - Wappinger Creek, HRM 67.5: At first light the tide was low, but the overnight flood tide had brought 29 glass eels to my net. While resetting the gear I spotted a young white-tailed deer walking slowly along the beach on the other side. My form was no mystery to the deer, but it ducked its head every few seconds to check the trail for scent. On May 15 last year, I watched a grizzled coyote walk that same line.
- Tom Lake

4/17 - Staten Island, New York Harbor, Lower Bay: Watching oystercatchers and brant feeding on the shoreline at Princes Bay, we were struck by the absence of shorebirds [other than oystercatchers].
- Regina McCarthy

4/18 - Newcomb, HRM 302: I may have heard a northern parula (warbler) this morning, its call being an upward rising zzzzzziip. Last evening I either heard one wood frog quack twice, or two wood frogs each quack once. The ice is only just off their little vernal pool so it may be early for the full chorus, but it was nice to hear the two lone quacks. Coltsfoot was in bud this morning.
- Ellen Rathbone

4/18 - Coxsackie, HRM 124: At first light the first thunderstorm of the season was passing through after two days of building heat and humidity. A pair of common mergansers beat a quick and low flight for cover across the channel. A great blue heron also took off for better cover from the short but torrential rainfall. After 15 minutes the river was once again as still as a mirror and a light haze hung in the valley.
- Rene VanSchaack

4/19 - Newcomb, HRM 302: We have a good stiff wind blowing, but it is very warm. It may be just what we needed. I walked the Sucker Brook Trail and heard spring peepers and a belted kingfisher. I spotted a pair of hooded mergansers on Belden Pond, and the coltsfoot had finally opened up - lots of bright faces turned towards the sun.
- Ellen Rathbone

4/19 - Minerva, HRM 284: Tonight the wonderful clucking sounds of wood frogs filled the air. The ice was off the swamp in back of our home and these amorous little amphibians were having a fine time. They usually precede the peepers and this spring has been no exception. There were phoebes calling today as well - a sure sign of warm days ahead.
- Mike Corey

4/19 - Stony Creek, HRM 231: The forsythia was about to burst.
- Karen LaLone

4/19 - Catskill, HRM 113: We caught our first shad of the season, 25 roe in three drifts of the net.
- Jon Powell

4/19 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 75: I saw my first osprey of the season today,. The river temperature jumped from 44°F this morning to 48°F this evening.
- John Mylod

4/19 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 69: A record air temperature of 88°F was set today, bettering the old record for this date - 85° - set in 1976.
- National Weather Service

4/19 - Eagle Nest, Dutchess County: Today was my weekly ground-check under the nest tree looking for cast off food, fish heads, etc... I found nothing. However, 92 feet over my head I could hear a soft squeaking. Mama was perched on the side of the nest, panting. The very warm southwest breeze was doing little to cool her.
- Tom Lake

Suggestions for Submissions

We invite readers to submit entries to the Almanac (see below). Keep these points in mind when you do:
1. Please identify yourself. We sometimes get wonderful stories from anonymous contributors.
2. Where did the sighting occur? Try to be specific in relationship to the river or watershed.
3. Due to the volume of submissions, we cannot guarantee that your entry will be included in the E-Almanac. However, it will be entered into the larger database of Almanac records.

Correction

In last week's description of finding a white sucker under a net set for eels, the fish was inadvertently described as catadromous. The Hudson's white suckers are potamodromous; they ascend tributaries to spawn. Eels are catadromous; they live most of their lives in fresh and brackish water but return to the ocean to spawn.

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