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Hudson River Almanac April 20 - 27, 2004

OVERVIEW

Spring arrives in pulses, from the warming of the air, to colorful songbirds, to migrating fish, to the blooming of flowers. This week shadbush was mirrored on waters teeming with river herring but with fewer shad than we have come to expect by the end of April. A harbor porpoise, perhaps the one reported last week, made a showing at the northern gateway to the Hudson Highlands. Nestling bald eagles were now looking like fuzzy footballs with endless appetites.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

4/27 - Kowawese, HRM 59: It was just after lunch, and our estuary program with tenth graders from Roy C. Ketcham High School was about over as we collected our equipment on the beach. One of the teachers spotted something porpoising in the river a short distance off shore. Through the binoculars we could make out a large dark shape, diving and rising to the surface as it moved along. The behavior, the size, and the brief look we got at its head, led us to believe it was a harbor porpoise.
- Rebecca Johnson, Jeanne Ditton

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

4/20 - Coxsackie, HRM 124: In the early evening I spotted three pairs of common loons on the river. They flushed as I approached, and I was uncertain what they were until they settled across the river. Within 15 minutes they began calling to each other. It was a still night, and their calls carried crisp and clear across the water. On the lightly wind-dimpled surface of the river, their sleek profile and coloring made them all but impossible to see.
- Rene' VanSchaack

4/20 - Verplanck, HRM 40.5: The shad fishing has been extremely slow. At a time when I should be seeing dozens of fish, I caught six today. Yesterday I caught only two, neither of which was a roe shad.
- Cal Greenburg

4/21 - Newcomb, HRM 302: While sitting in the back yard at dusk, the beautiful voice of a hermit thrush floated from the woods beyond the fence. Thrushes rank right up there with loons, in my opinion, as a sound of the wilderness. Still no forsythia or shadbush, but my dandelions are blooming very nicely now.
- Ellen Rathbone

4/21 - Town of Athens, HRM 116: Twice during our Wednesday morning bird walk at Cohotate Preserve we spotted a broad-winged hawk, once while it carried nesting materials toward a stand of white pine. Several red-breasted mergansers swam out on the river. Rue anemone was out and trout lily was blooming in a sunny spot on the shoreline. Wild cherry had been in bloom for a few days.
- Liz LoGiudice, Larry Federman

4/21 - Catskill, HRM 113: The strong spring breezes have been forcing us to use shorter length drift nets. Longer nets are unwieldy in the wind. We're seeing a few more shad, but nothing memorable. The shadbush is in bloom along the river.
- Jon Powell

4/21 - Manhattan, HRM 2: We caught a 100 mm lined seahorse in our trap at The River Project today on Manhattan's west side. The inshore river temperature was 59°F.
- Chris Mancini, Scott Wingerter, Jeremy Frenzel

4/22 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Wood frogs were in full voice, the first time I've heard them in chorus this year.
- Ellen Rathbone

4/22 - Stony Creek, HRM 231: Forsythia are now in full bloom and beautiful and the lilacs' leaves are popping out. Our chives are coming up as well. A planting tip I've been told is that it's safe to plant flowers and vegetables after the chives have bloomed.
- Karen LaLone

4/22 - Catskill, HRM 113: We tried three different mesh sizes but still only caught 32 roe shad and six big bucks. The water temperature was 49°F.
- Jon Powell

4/22 - Ramshorn, HRM 112.2: A pair of osprey were fishing Ramshorn Creek. The first eastern towhees were seen along the trail. I've seen snapping turtles active, both on the shore and in the water. One kept bumping into my kayak, trying to get under, thinking I was just a log!
- Larry Federman

4/22 - North Germantown, HRM 109: We caught a few dozen shad and far more striped bass than we would have liked.
- Everett Nack

4/22 - New Paltz, HRM 78: We have kestrels in our nest box in the backyard. Today we saw the male and female guarding the box. Soon there will be babies.
- Rebecca Johnson

4/22 - Wappinger Creek, HRM 67.5: This spring's migration of glass eels into the estuary has been spotty at best, considerably fewer than last year at this time. We have no idea if this means anything. Today there was a minor spurt of 29 eels. At least the office decor was colorful: shadbush and wild cherry were in full bloom.
- Tom Lake

4/22 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: Five wild turkeys, four hens and one tom, were feeding in a grassy field overlooking Wappinger Creek. Fifty feet away I spotted the tips of two small, gray furry ears. This was a house cat with visions of grandeur.
- Tom Lake

4/22 - Town of Fishkill, HRM 62: The spring migration was in full swing: In the morning I watched a male rose-breasted grosbeak at our feeders. Later I spotted a solitary vireo unraveling the webbing of an insect larva hanging from a red maple and then consuming the larvae, while a male eastern towhee foraged in the leaf litter along the forest edge.
- Ed Spaeth

4/22 - Garrison, HRM 52: I saw my first snapping turtle of the season near the boardwalk at Constitution Marsh Sanctuary. For such an ugly creature it looked remarkably fluid and graceful swimming in the muddy water. The air temperature was almost 80°F and the blooming shadbush stood out in relief from the stark hillside. With the birds singing and killifish jumping it was a perfect Earth Day at the marsh.
- Connie Mayer

4/23 - Town of Fishkill, HRM 62: A blue jay carried a seed from our feeder to a black walnut tree where its partner waited. As a gesture of affection, he gently fed his partner in a display of courtship. Nearby a tiny spring azure butterfly and a cabbage white butterfly were flitting about.
- Ed Spaeth

4/23 - Beacon, HRM 60: On a damp, rainy morning ten members of the Waterman Bird Club helped with the River Sweep cleanup near Fishkill Creek. Northern rough-winged swallows were busy all morning, feeding over the creek. While picking up junk that had washed on shore with the tides, a northern cardinal and a Carolina wren chattered and white-throated sparrows sang nearby. The highlight of the morning was a common loon flyover.
- Barbara Michelin

4/23 - West Point, HRM 51.5: The West Point Harbormaster reported that the crew was out practicing "man overboard" rescues when they spotted a harbor seal about 100 yards downstream of the South Dock.
- James Beemer

4/23 - Manhattan, HRM 2: We caught two grubbys in our killifish pots today, bringing this year's total to eleven. We caught only two all of last year. The river temperature had fallen to 51.8°F.
- Chris Mancini, Scott Wingerter, Jeremy Frenzel

[The grubby is a resident marine fish of the lower estuary. They are a type of sculpin, fish that frequent hard substrate, bottom structure that affords hiding places and provides small mollusks and other invertebrates as forage.]

4/24 - Newcomb, HRM 302: I heard a loon out along the Rich Lake Outlet. Mike Tracy told me that he has been hearing them, too. They must be headed back inland for the summer.
- Ellen RathboneMar 4/22 - Catskill, HRM

4/24 - Clermont, 103.5: It was a beautiful spring morning for the monthly bird walk at Clermont State Historic Site: sunny, mild, and drying from an overnight rain. We were treated to two pine warblers, an osprey flying north over the river, cormorants flying south, bluebirds, and much more.
- Leanna O'Grady

4/24 - Town of Ashokan, HRM 91: The reservoir was still on overflow, lthough barely. It was very windy walking across the dike and there were practically no birds to be seen. The shadbush was in full bloom. Coltsfoot, my sign of spring, was fading fast as was forsythia. The best bird sighting was a common yellowthroat.
- Bill Drakert, Fran Drakert

4/24 - Sandy Hook, NJ: Our shadbush was in bloom at Sandy Hook.
- Pam Carlsen, Dery Bennett

[Shadbush blooms a little later at Sandy Hook, where the Hudson meets the sea, due to chilly breezes off cold ocean water. In an average year, shadbush blooms at Sandy Hook about the time it blooms in Greene County, 130 miles upriver.]

4/25 - Kingston, HRM 91: I went to the Rondout Lighthouse to do some cleaning for the upcoming season, and there was an adult bald eagle perched on the remains of the old lighthouse.
- Fran Drakert

4/25 - Yonkers, HRM 18: The low areas near the Saw Mill River were all aglow with fully-blooming marsh marigolds. For decades, wooded areas from the high ridge above the river at Lenoir Preserve and the borders of the Saw Mill Parkway as far north at Irvington have been infested with invasive vines like porcelainberry. In winter the unleaved vines lie like grey shrouds over the trees beneath. Beneath this burden, trees are never truly sturdy. Some naturalists argue that the vines should be left alone: they provide habitat as well as food for bird migrations.
- Diggitt McLaughlin

4/26 - Minerva, HRM 284: The near-freezing weather at night has cooled the heels of our spring peepers. I found 10 ball-shaped gelatinous clusters of wood frog eggs attached to submerged sticks in the flooded pools at the swamp in back of our house. When the nights aren't too cold I'm still hearing a few of these frogs amongst the pleasant din of the peepers. I heard my first warbler of the spring yesterday, a yellow-rumped, which may have just been passing through. The bloodroots in the woods have just begun to bloom, as have the scattered populations of coltsfoot along roadsides.
- Mike Corey

4/27 - New Baltimore, HRM 132: There was no wind this morning and the river was very calm. Cool still air and warmer water brought thick fog that obscured the sunrise and did not clear off until 9:00 AM. There were a few double-crested cormorants diving and moving around. As one took off it splashed nosily, then flew close to the water. Its down strokes created little dimples on the surface, looking like little footprints along its flight path. An immature bald eagle flew close to shore and an osprey perched in a cottonwood, both waiting for the tide to go out so they could fish for herring along the shore. Fish crows have been very active and noisy across the river. There is a group of about ten or so. They seem to be more gregarious than American crows this time of year. The river was 56°F.
- Rich Guthrie

4/27 - Catskill, HRM 113: We had one good drift with 30 roe shad and a lot of bucks. Four miles south at North Germantown, Everett Nack is catching twice as many fish, but he is fishing twice as much net.
- Jon Powell

4/27 - Town of Fishkill, HRM 63.5: I was headed north on Route 9D when traffic halted in both directions. I looked for the flashing red lights of a stopped school bus but saw none. For thirty seconds I wondered what was going on. Then an adult Canada goose emerged from in front of a pickup three vehicles ahead. Close behind came five goslings, round yellow balls of fluff, each with its own idea of where Mama was going, but all instinctively following her lead. In another thirty seconds traffic resumed as the goslings slipped through the wire fence into the Stony Kill Farm pasture.
- Tom Lake

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