Hudson River Almanac April 11 - April 17, 2005
While tales of bird and fish migration were commonplace, the fragrances and colors of spring dominated the week. Magnolias and forsythias provided the backdrop for the start of the shad and herring spawning runs as well as the arrival of our first warblers and other spring songbirds.
HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK
4/16 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 69: Codie Vileno, a Dutchess Community College Field Archaeology student, found a palm-sized potsherd, a piece of broken ceramic from a quart-sized bowl, eroding from a ridgeline over the river. From its thickness and net-marked incisings, we determined that it was from a period that archaeologists call the Point Peninsula, roughly AD 500, and used by ancestors of the native people who greeted Henry Hudson in 1609. We could clearly see a 1,500 year-old thumb print of the maker, probably a woman, that had been impressed on the wet clay before the pot was fired.
- Tom Lake, Stephanie Roberg-Lopez
NATURAL HISTORY NOTES
4/10 - Croton Point, HRM 34: Squads of common flickers were everywhere, yelling their heads off, drumming, flashing spring colors, foraging. On Teller's Point, a crowd of anglers had struggled down the slope to cast from the rocks out along the reef. Two dozen boats were anchored over several acres of water, casting their lines in toward shore. In the no-fisherman's land in between the two groups was a swath of roiling water about 50 yards wide. Up popped a red-throated loon in winter plumage, unconcerned about all the commotion. It was fishing the reef, too, making seemingly effortless dives in the churning tide.
- Christopher Letts
4/11 - Catskill, HRM 113: Our forsythia is showing color and the larches are showing green.
- Jon Powell
4/11 - West Shokan, HRM 92: Carolina spring beauty, one of our most watched seasonal markers here on the banks of the Bushkill, started blooming this morning - compared with our earliest record, March 30, 2002 and our latest, April 19, 1994.
- John Bierhorst
4/11 - Croton Point, HRM 34: The Hudson is in spate, churned to a coffee-double-cream hue. "I've never seen it like this," longtime riverman George Hatzmann told me. By contrast, the Croton River was as clear as tap water, although running high. During this morning's flood current the Croton was squeezed up against the south of Croton Point by the Hudson. In a dark, clear stream 30 yards wide it forced itself into the bigger river for about 100 yards and then, in almost a right angle turn, went north. The Croton River water remained an intact stream, separate from the Hudson for a quarter-mile. After a half mile, it was gradually assimilated into the main stream. It was a lesson in flow dynamics.
- Christopher Letts
4/12 - Storm King Mountain, HRM 56: I drove up Route 218 on my way home and stopped at the parking area next to The Clove, a valley between Storm King and Crow's Nest. The late afternoon sun burnished Breakneck Ridge and Mount Taurus in a rich orange while the sky and river were quite blue. I had always been curious about the tide marsh below, between the railroad and the mouth of a brook flowing down the clove. Deciding this was the day, I hiked down, noting the fuzzy buds of the striped maple opening up and its characteristic bark standing out in the afternoon sun. As I neared the bottom, two white-tailed deer patiently watched to make sure I was no threat. Along the brook next to an old Civilian Conservation Corp camp road, a patch of Dutchman's breeches were in full bloom. Turkey vultures were enjoying the thermals and an adult redtailed hawk flew up into a tree to check out this new visitor. At the bottom, before the floodplain forest opens up to the tidal pool, some coltsfoot was starting to appear and a large patch of skunk cabbage, with its bright green leaves, lent additional color to this photographer's moment.
- Jim Beemer
4/12 - Catskill, HRM 113: Mike Aguiar caught three alewives, river herring in from the sea to spawn, in Catskill Creek today. The first we've seen.
- Jon Powell
4/13 - Esopus Meadows, HRM 87: Dutchman's breeches has begun to flower. Trout lily and round-lobed hepatica are also blooming, and bloodroot is not far behind.
- Peter Relson, Carol Anderson
4/13 - Eagle nest, Dutchess County: We have at least one eaglet in the nest. We won't know if there is more than one for another month. Papa brings breakfast soon after first light; Mama does most of the tending, occasionally relieved so she can go catch a snack (and a break). Papa then brings another meal in late afternoon. Mama spends the night in the nest with the young while Papa spends his night in a conifer roost several hundred feet away. I can hear them communicating, back and forth, after dark. Nothing loud and boisterous, just soft chirps and squeaks, probably just reassuring each other and reaffirming their whereabouts.
- Tom Lake
4/13 - West Point, HRM 52: I went to check on the Pendragon pair of red-tailed hawks to see how their nesting was progressing. They've changed light towers, having moved two towers south of their nest site last year. Igraine was sitting tight on the nest; I almost could not see her. Uther, her mate, was soaring and then sitting, watching for unsuspecting prey. I should add that this tower was the same one on which their sole offspring from 2002, Morganna, practiced her nest-building skills last year. Apparently it was a solid foundation if Uther and Igraine decided to commandeer it. (See Volume XI: West Point, September 20, 2004)
- Jim Beemer
4/13 - Newtown Creek, New York Harbor: I was out with my students from the New York Harbor School for an afternoon on Newtown Creek, on the border between Brooklyn and Queens. With the help of Riverkeeper investigator Basil Seggos, Captain John Lipscomb, and their trusty boat Ian Fletcher, we were patrolling the creek. Standing on the dock at the Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center, we were very excited to watch a cormorant diving and getting its fill of hogchokers. The students were especially excited when a bold gull came in for a closer look at the action and a struggle ensued for the cormorant's third hogchoker of the afternoon. Further down the creek, near the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge, we saw a black-crowned night heron fly by and perch in a bedraggled tree growing out of the concrete bulkhead. Topping off our afternoon, the students documented three different great egrets in the area.
- Ann Fraioli
4/13 - Queens, New York City: Spring warbler migration was getting into full swing despite the continuing cool weather. The previously reported prothonotary warbler at Forest Park in Queens was joined this week by a Swainson's warbler. Four days ago, Hempstead Lake State Park provided a temporary stopover for a summer tanager, prothonotary warbler and a yellow-throated warbler. Another yellow-throated warbler has been seen "flycatching" around Turtle Pond in Central Park for the past week. Hopefully, many more warblers will pass through our local parks and preserves over the next few weeks.
- Joe O'Connell, Ellen O'Connell
4/14 - Newcomb, HRM 302: We have not seen any mourning cloaks yet, although yesterday I spotted a Compton's tortoiseshell butterfly. I heard merlins this morning, and a local birder reported that the loons are back. We still have some patches of snow, but for the most part the ground is bare. My daphne is blooming, and the daffodils are open.
- Ellen Rathbone
4/14 Waterford, HRM 159: On the northern leg of our estuary tour with new interns and staff, we stopped at the mouth of the Mohawk River in Waterford, by the big sign directing boaters to the Erie or Champlain canals. We spoke with a group of four anglers about what they had been catching: bullhead catfish, eels, white perch, and - according to a woman in the group - mudpuppies. She caught one on Saturday 4/9 and two Wednesday 4/13.
- Steve Stanne
[The mudpuppy is truly unique. The Peterson Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians calls them "...big bizarre salamanders that look more like bad dreams than live animals." Besides being large (they average 8-13 inches in length), a prominent feature are external gills that look like feathery plumes. In the South they are called "waterdogs," and smaller ones are used for live bait. Mudpuppies will eat almost any aquatic animals they can swallow and are more than willing to take an angler's worm. - Tom Lake]
4/14 - Hunter's Brook, HRM 67.5: Just as I was thinking there would be no run of glass eels this year, the current subsided, the water warmed up, the tides pulsed into this tiny brook, and 29 glass eels appeared in the net today. Part of the allure of the estuary is its unpredictability.
- Tom Lake
4/14 - Sleepy Hollow, HRM 28: We set an eel fyke in the tidal Pocantico River in late afternoon. As we were walking back to the car, we saw a crow take flight from the path and then spotted a newly dead garter snake. It had one puncture wound and the tracks in the dust indicated that the snake had crawled onto the path and was killed by the crow. We didn't know crows would do that.
- Bob Schmidt, Tom Coote, Mer Mietzelfeld, Adrienne Sussman
4/14 - Yonkers, HRM 18: I set an eel pot off the city pier two days ago in the hope that I would have something exciting to show students from the Hostos Microsociety School in Yonkers. Indeed, the piece of chicken sandwich I left in the trap rewarded us with one of the longest American eels I have ever seen, by my rough estimate at least 2½ feet long.
- Daniel Kricheff
4/15 - Town of Athens, HRM 116: We got a jump on Scenic Hudson's Great River Sweep by cleaning up the Cohotate Preserve with the help of students from Coxsackie-Athens High School's Environmental Science class. The students were terrific - very energetic and enthusiastic. They cleaned up a tremendous amount of garbage and debris deposited on the ice house site during recent flooding. They even removed a huge truck tire from the tidal flat and retrieved a section of halyard from a barge. We were so inspired by their hard work that, after the students left, Brenda Gerry and I continued to pick up garbage, heading north along the shoreline. We observed a bird floating calmly off shore, preening itself. At first we thought it was a cormorant, but then we noticed white on its breast. A look through the binoculars confirmed that it was a common loon! We had an excellent look at this bird, even seeing its red eyes. We watched as it dove and resurfaced several times. As we resumed our garbage picking, we noted hepatica blooming among bits of styrofoam.
- Liz LoGuidice
4/15 - Red Oaks Mill, HRM 73: We spotted an osprey sitting in a large sycamore near the dam on Wappinger Creek, its gaze fixed intently on the water. The pool just south of the dam is a known hangout for brown trout.
- Bill Lenhart, Donna Lenhart
4/15 - Town of Fishkill, HRM 63.5: An afternoon hike on the Sierra Trail at Stony Kill Farm with Vassar students working on a project titled "Signs of Human Encroachment in the Forest" revealed more lovely signs of spring. We were either followed by the same two or three spring azures, or there were many of these small blue butterflies in the woods. Along the trail we spotted one lone bloodroot and then a wonderful patch of round lobed hepatica. Most mystifying was the sighting of up to a dozen butterflies, perhaps painted ladies, dining on sap running down the bark of a tall tree off the trail.
- Carolyn Plage, Ian Murphy
4/15 - Sleepy Hollow, HRM 28: The tidal Pocantico River, a mile from the Hudson, continued to baffle us. In previous springs, our sampling nets filled with scores of fish of a half dozen species. Thus far this spring we've seen only a handful of fish, and almost all have been yellow perch. In the distant past, in the far north of the watershed, Huron Indians had a "fish preacher" in every home. They spoke to the fish, and had great power to attract them to their nets. I was beginning to feel as though I needed one right now.
- Tom Lake
4/16 - Rondout Creek, HRM 92: Along with Eli Schloss and Ken Nestler, I did a photo survey by boat of the tidal Rondout from the lighthouse to the Eddyville Dam, straddling either side of a 3:00 PM low tide. The creek was in full preparation mode for the fishing season. Docks were being put into place, boats trailers were readied, and eager fisher folk were out in craft or along the shore. Quite a few people were fishing near the Eddyville Dam; gear included one boat-mounted scap net. There were few herring, however. Several attempts by the scapper netted only one or two fish. There seemed to be pairs of ducks in every cove.
- Chris Bowser
4/16 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 73: it was a busy birding day, right in our backyard. Along Wappinger Creek we spotted three adult bald eagles, 200' overhead, following the creek south. Yellow-rumped warblers were heard and white-breasted nuthatches were seen checking out nest cavities.
- Bill Lenhart, Donna Lenhart
4/16 - Fishkill, HRM 63: We spotted a pileated woodpecker in a tree in our yard this morning. It had a pronounced red crown and looked to be the size of a chicken!
- Mike Boyajian, Jeri Wagner
4/16 - Ossining, HRM 33: When Bill Sparacin removed the winter cover from his boat at Shattemuc Yacht Club he found a bird in the bow incubating two eggs, nestled between his anchor and a large fender. We thought he should change his name to Bill "Sparrowcin," but, alas, the bird was a mourning dove. Mom seems either quite tolerant of humans, or else determined not to get off her eggs, because even with people three or four feet from her nest, she didn't move an inch. Bill's not sure how or when he's going to launch his Bristol Cutter.
- Doug Maass
4/17 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Depending on where one stood, it was in the high 60s or low 70s. It was a day to revel in the sunshine. Lots of juncos are lurking about these days and I think I heard a hermit thrush. Sandy Bureau reported that she heard a wood frog last night. Peepers shouldn't be far behind. The winter wrens have been singing for about a week now, and dandelions are blooming. But is has been a very dry spring in the Adirondack headwaters. There is a burning ban in several Adirondack counties until further notice.
- Ellen Rathbone
4/17 - Yonkers, HRM 18: There are moments of such orchestral coincidence on the Hudson that any faint doubts about why we work here are quickly washed away. Low tide occurred today at 11:26 AM. At 11:20 I went to the beach at Beczak Environmental Education Center, marveling at the beauty of the spring morning. Next door, the members of the Yonkers Canoe Club were out tending their garden. Hundreds of what appeared to be killifish splashed in the low-tide pool in the marsh, feeding on insects. The geese began honking incessantly. Down the river a little way, the schooner Mystic Whaler appeared, headed north, back in town for another season of Clearwater education programs. Then, what I like to call a Hudson "mystery wake" came crashing onto the beach, apparently from nowhere. My watch read 11:26 AM, dead low tide.
- Daniel Kricheff