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Hudson River Almanac April 3 - April 10, 2005

OVERVIEW

The heavy rains of April 2-3 left their mark - high water marks. Such flooding hadn't been seen for many years in much of the Hudson Valley: the Rondout Creek at Rosendale reached levels expected only once in 50 years on average, flooding on the Esopus Creek was the highest on record. As floodwaters receded in the tributaries, they impacted the mainstem. Typically, flooding due to runoff does not have much effect on the Hudson south of Catskill; river level is governed by sea level and ocean tides. This episode was an exception: the National Weather Service issued flood warnings for the Hudson south to Poughkeepsie. What did this onslaught do to salinity in the estuary? One could track this on the U.S. Geological Survey's Hudson salt front website, their link is provided at the bottom of this page. USGS defines the salt front as the point where the concentration of chloride reaches 100 milligrams per liter (mg/L). For reference, background levels of chloride in the freshwater Hudson are generally around 20-30 mg/L. At the USGS monitoring station in Hastings-on-Hudson (Hudson River Mile 22), chloride concentrations are almost always greater than 3,000 mg/L, also expressed as 3.0 parts per thousand (ppt). Runoff from heavy rains on March 28-29 had already pushed the salt front down through the Tappan Zee. As this weekend's downpour ended on Sunday, April 3, the front was at Hastings. With runoff hitting the mainstem, the salt front retreated seaward. By April 7, the Hudson at Hastings was fresh, while salinity readings at Pier 26, one mile north of the Battery, were at low levels usually seen much further upriver.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

4/7 - Eagle Nest, Dutchess County: We may be "with eaglet!" At first light this morning, one of the adults (still too dark to tell which one) brought a fish to the nest. For the next half hour, the adults stood at the edge of the nest peering down inside. A hatchling? The behavior seemed to suggest that something had occurred. It was the first time I'd seen the "fish to the nest" behavior this spring. Our best guess is that Mama started incubating around March 5. Today would be 33 days. Hatching occurs on an average of 32-35 incubation days. This scene may also be unfolding in the other ten Hudson Valley tidewater nests.
- Tom Lake

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

4/3 - Nyack, HRM 28: I set a short piece of gill net for three hours today and caught just one shad, a 4 lb. roe. All other fish, 40 striped bass, were released.
- Bob Gabrielson Jr.

Commercial fishing gear for American shad can be fixed or non-fixed. In the shallower areas of the river, where nets would catch on the bottom if not fixed in place, gill nets are anchored or attached to stakes. In areas of deep water, where anchoring would be impractical or impossible, nets hang from buoys and drift with the current.

Arrival of first American shad in the Hudson. (Water Tempterature/Dates)

  • 40° April 6, 2003
  • 41° April 4, 2001
  • 43° April 2, 1996
  • 44° April 3, 2005; April 4,2004; April 3, 1997
  • 45° March 26, 2000; April 10, 1999
  • 47° March 31, 2002
  • 48° March 30, 1998; March 29, 1995; April 18, 1994

4/4 - Newcomb, HRM 302: We did not get as much rain as areas further south in the Hudson Valley. We had 1" in the rain gauge and by 8:00 PM it turned to snow. The National Weather Service is predicting 1-3" today, 2-4" tonight, and more rain and snow all week.
- Ellen Rathbone

4/4 - Round Top, HRM 113: We received 7" of rain. The river had so much debris floating in it that there was no way I could fish a gill net. This may slow down the arrival of shad. I just hope we do not get one of these storms right in the middle of the season.
- Jon Powell

4/4 - Ramshorn, HRM 112.2: Thirty tree swallows flew over the marsh, our first of the season. The first swamp sparrow also arrived. Above them all, an immature bald eagle made an appearance.
- Larry Federman

4/4 - Gardiner, HRM 73: We found a very small vernal pool on our land yesterday and were able to watch the wood frogs make their duck-like vocalizations. The frogs and the peepers probably haven't seen a person in years; we were able to get quite close. The peepers were wondrously loud.
- Anne Albright Smith

4/4 - Mid-Hudson Valley: Over the last couple of days we have had nearly 3" of rain, in the last week well over 5"
- Tom Lake

4/4 - Sleepy Hollow, HRM 28: We had just finished setting nets below the Sleepy Hollow Dam on the tidal Pocantico River when we noticed a black-crowned night heron standing on the shore about 10' downstream of the dam. He was very intently staring at the water. We had the same thought. Any fish?
- Bob Schmidt, Tom Coote.

4/4 - Hudson Estuary, Atlantic sturgeon wild fish summary and update: During the last two weeks of March we sampled the upper bay of New York Harbor, Newark Bay and river miles 0-39, the Battery to Haverstraw Bay. Of the nine wild fish with sonic tags, six were spotted in Haverstraw Bay in either December 2004 or March 2005. The other three have not been located since September. There is strong suspicion that these three fish have left the estuary. They include one from the 1997 year class - the oldest fish tagged - and two of four fish from the 1998 year class. The six sturgeon that were found in Haverstraw Bay either this spring or last winter are from the 1998, 1999, and 2000 year classes - our youngest fish.
- Gregg Kenney

4/4 - Manhattan, HRM 1: A subterranean creek ran through the Fulton Street subway station, as it always does, littered with every manner of candy wrapper. I watched as a very large Norway rat scampered about, crossing the creek occasionally to sniff at one particular wrapper or another. I wondered what the world looked like for a rat in the train station. Did it ever cross the tunnel to Brooklyn? Could it still hear? Were there predators anywhere between stops? A young couple standing on the platform eventually noticed what I was looking at. "Gross," said one of them, while she finished her candy bar and threw the wrapper onto the tracks.
- Dave Taft

4/5 - West Ashokan 92: It was a bright, clear day after the storm and I was back at Ashokan Reservoir. There was no need to go to Niagara Falls; we had one in Ulster County. The ice was all gone but there was still snow in the Catskills. Common mergansers were swimming very close to the waterfall; apparently they can deal with it. A person would be gone in an instant!
- William Drakert

4/5 - Round Top, HRM 113: The peepers were out and singing their wonderful chorus, letting the world know that the rock-hold of winter ice is gone. Deer ticks were also out! I picked one off me today.
- Jon Powell

4/5 - Sleepy Hollow, HRM 28: We checked the research nets below the dam on the tidal Pocantico to see what species of fish had migrated in from the river, a mile downstream. There were yellow perch, mostly males, but a few females - their eggs like lemon pearls strung out on the net - as well as three massive female white suckers that had come in to spawn.
- Tom Lake

4/6 - Ramshorn Creek, HRM 112.2: Observations from the RamsHorn Livingston Sanctuary tower: Half a dozen palm warblers, several golden-crowned kinglets and ruby-crowned kinglets, a pair of eastern phoebes looking to re-nest on the tower, two fox sparrows, swamp sparrows and a brown creeper singing, a female northern harrier hunting the marsh, three red-tailed hawks cruising overhead, numerous male red-winged blackbirds establishing their territories, several song sparrows, three savannah sparrows, and a flock of double-crested cormorants flying over the marsh, trying to "V-up" like geese.
- Larry Federman

4/6 - Mid-Hudson Valley: The air temperature reached 76°F, today, tying the record for the date. It was the warmest day in the Hudson Valley since last September 26.
- National Weather Service

4/6 - Town of Wappinger: This had been a cooperative feeding site. A small white-tailed deer had died from unknown causes. Coyotes arrived first, disassembling the carcass and getting their fill. Later, two adult bald eagles landed and helped to further disarticulate the deer, ripping and tearing, and leaving a scattering of bones and deer hair. Finally, with the whitetail reduced to a few lean sections, the coyotes returned and dragged the remnants of the skeleton off into the woods.
- Bruce Pung

4/6 - Dobbs Ferry, HRM 23: As I walked to the train station on this gloriously warm and sunny spring morning, I spotted a very large bird walking out of the Memorial Park playground. It took a few seconds, but I realized that it was a turkey. Perhaps it was playing in the sandbox? It crossed the road and disappeared into someone's side yard.
- Denise Woodin

4/6 - Manhattan, Pier26, HRM 1: In mid-afternoon, at low tide, we checked some river parameters: The water temperature was 45.5°F, with a pH of 7.75 and dissolved oxygen of 8.8 ppm. The river was very fresh (salinity 4.0 ppt, or 4,000 mg/L), very turbid (a Secchi disk disappeared 0.3 meters under the surface), and still carrying a heavy burden of detritus. The influence of the rains continues to be felt.
- Michael Levandowsky

4/7 - Newcomb, HRM 302: There has been an adult bald eagle feeding on a deer carcass on the ice in a side bay off the Hudson River at the Route 28N bridge.
- Ellen Rathbone

4/7 - Jamaica Bay, Queens, New York Bight: Spring was calling loud and clear this morning at the Jamaica Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Red-winged blackbirds, Carolina wrens, and a beautiful chorus of American goldfinches filled the air while the first glossy ibises foraged. An osprey brought twigs to its mate on the nesting platform that has been used for almost 10 years now. Flocks of tree swallows were pairing up and perching on their nest boxes.
- Dave Taft

4/8 - Lake Hill, HRM 100: Last evening the spring peepers were finally awake in Lake Hill. Not quite in full force, but definitely there. This morning there were three tom turkeys in my backyard strutting around, all puffed up and displaying their colors. The red and blue on their heads was very visible. A little later there were five deer and a cottontail rabbit in the yard. No wonder all my plants get eaten. Except for a few tiny residual patches, the snow is almost all gone. Spring has truly arrived in Lake Hill.
- Reba Wynn Laks

4/8 - Hunter's Brook, HRM 67.5: A pair of wood ducks whistled past and two great blue herons stood on deadfalls and watched, like lawn ornaments, as I checked my eel net. The birdsong was almost deafening. Much of it was white noise to me, but I could pick out a few that were familiar. This was day 26 of sampling for glass eels at Hunter's Brook. Last spring the number of glass eels dropped 65% from the year before. This spring we are still looking for our first one. It is like watching the sand run out of an hourglass.
- Tom Lake

4/8 - Eagle Nest, Dutchess County: Papa arrived at the nest, carrying a fish, at 9:05 AM, and immediately left. This occurred just after low tide. It is easy to speculate that the nestlings are fed on a 12-hour cycle of low water, when hunting is easiest for the adults.
- Tom Lake

4/9 - Saw Kill, HRM 98.5: I caught three glass eels this morning in our Saw Kill fyke net. Two were totally unpigmented and the third was just starting pigmentation, so they were, presumably, quite fresh from the sea. I also caught two pigmented eels [elvers] and a "world's record" 46 fourspine sticklebacks. Two trout fishers came over to find out what I was doing and were impressed with the glass eels. One had a 12" brook trout and a 16" brown trout - nice fat fish. I told them that I thought that most of the trout in the lower Saw Kill were coming in from the tidal Hudson and they readily agreed. They told me they often catch trout in the Hudson River down around Hyde Park.
- Bob Schmidt

4/9 - Wappinger Falls, HRM 67.5: As I watched a pied-billed grebe busily diving in mid-stream, a large broad-winged bird carrying a fish in its talons flew low over the water. As it flew away from me with a slow, methodical wing beat, my first thought was "eagle." Then it turned and showed a flash of white and I knew we had our first osprey of the season hunting the tidewater Wappinger. Not ten minutes later an immature bald eagle flew past, reminding me how much larger they are than osprey.
- Tom Lake

4/9 - Beacon, HRM 61: It was late afternoon in Madam Brett Park and Fishkill Creek was roaring over the Tioronda Dam falls from all the rain of late. We spotted two turkey vultures between the old hat factory and the marsh.
- Mike Boyajian, Jeri Wagner

4/9 - Croton Point, HRM 34: A dozen years ago the hemlock-shaded gorge leading up to the oak grove was a sea of lovely flowering Dutchman's breeches at this time of the year. The hemlock succumbed to the hemlock woolly adelgid, a tiny sap-sucking insect. The abundant daylight has permitted dense stands of alien Japanese knotweed to take over. It is rapidly becoming a monoculture. The Dutchman's breeches are still there but in greatly reduced numbers.
- Christopher Letts

4/10 - Blue Point to Milton, HRN 74-71.5: The M/T Net Company's shad season got underway with a meager catch of three shad, two striped bass, and three river herring. The bass were small, barely legal if we were angling for them, but they went back in the river as per state regulations for commercial fishermen. The water was 45°F on a drift between Blue Point and the Milton dock.
- John Mylod, Judy Lombardi

4/10 - Hunter's Brook, HRM 67.5: The current emptying this tributary's watershed was still very strong, but the creek was as clear as crystal. This was day 28 of sampling and our first glass eels - four - appeared in the net. I had feared all the glass eels had gotten lost on their way in from the sea. The water was 49°F.
- Tom Lake

4/10 - Town of Cortlandt to Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 38.5-34.5: Dandelions, forsythia, and daffodils were trying to turn the world yellow today.
- Christopher Letts

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