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Hudson River Almanac April 17 - April 24, 2005

OVERVIEW

Spring took its time but by week's end it had spread all the way north to the headwaters of the Hudson. While the bio-indicators of spring are many, most people recognize the sounds of peepers and songbirds, the colors of forsythia, magnolia, red maple, and shadbush, and the daily increase of green lace in the forest.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

4/19 - Hannacrois, HRM 132.5: While winter is a season that accentuates the senses of sight (snow falling) and touch (b-r-r-r-r), spring awakens all of our senses, particularly those of hearing and smell. This evening, as I sat basking in a waxing moon, the smell of soil, daffodils and forsythia on the brink of bloom wafted through the air. I listened, enraptured, to the love songs of spring peepers, woodcocks and a screech owl. Such a serenade!
- Liz LoGuidice

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

4/17 - Thompson Pond, HRM 94: As we drove past Thompson Pond we noticed a hunting osprey circling overhead. It made a few aborted lunges and dove into the water four times. The osprey missed its prey until the last dive when it came up carrying a fish I guessed to be about a foot long. The bird carried it to a tree on a small island in the middle of the pond and settled down to eat its prize. A short while later, we spotted a second osprey circling and diving without success. After its second dive, the bird remained in the water, bobbing around for two minutes. We wondered whether this was common. It appeared to be in distress and submerged its head repeatedly. Was this osprey unable or unwilling to release a fish too large for it to lift clear of the water? We were happy to see him finally get back into the air. The first osprey was still dining on its fish as we left.
- Catherine De Nicola, Bud De Nicola

4/17 - Dennings Point, HRM 60: While fishing for striped bass along the shoreline I caught a 20" channel catfish on a bloodworm. I've caught numerous white catfish and other bullheads from the Hudson and its tributaries, but as soon as I pulled this fish from the water I noticed something different. It was unusually slender for a catfish, with a forked tail and small pinpoint black spots along its sides. I immediately identified it as a channel catfish. I have fished the Hudson for many years and, surprisingly, this is the first channel catfish that I've seen from this area.
- Jesse Jaycox

4/19 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Flickers were all over in great quantity. I still haven't heard any frogs, or seen any salamanders or newts, but I remain hopeful. There are patches of snow in shady areas, but for the most part, the ground is bare. There have only been a very few woodcocks so far this year. I'm on the lookout for our first bluebirds. High Peaks Audubon and the Town of Newcomb are putting up bluebird boxes at the new golf course and in a few other areas of town, creating a bit of a bluebird trail. The boxes were built by students at Newcomb High School.
- Ellen Rathbone

4/19 - Minerva, HRM 284: It's spring. I know this because the wood frogs are quacking in the watered areas behind our house. A few minutes ago (10:30 PM) they were going to town with their quacking, enough to drown out the somewhat lame calls of the few vocal spring peepers. After a few days the wood frogs will grow silent and the peepers will dominate the swamp voices. The only snow to speak of is in dense piles on the north side of the house under the eaves. The phoebes have been singing as well.
- Mike Corey

4/19 - Highland, HRM 75.5: The shadbush, or serviceberry, was beginning to bloom, its clean white blossoms arriving while leaves were exploding from the trees. This plant was named the shadbush because its blooms generally appeared at the time the American shad was beginning its run up the Hudson. Listening to and reading some of the reports from the river fishermen this spring, I'm wondering if something has happened to the fish.
- Jim Beemer

[In recent years, the season and the dynamics of the shad population have shifted so that the shadbush bloom corresponds more to the "height" of the run. However, since there is a measurable decline in the Hudson River shad population, the peak of the run is less noticeable. Tom Lake]

4/20 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 75: The air temperature reached 86°F today, breaking the record of 84°F set in 1985.
- National Weather Service

4/20 - Eagle Nest, Dutchess County: The air temperature here reached 88°F. Mama was taking a break from her new brood, as yet unseen. She was perched on the rim of the nest, tongue hanging out, panting like puppy dog.
- Tom Lake

On the occasion of such record-breaking heat, I thought it might be nice to relive one of the cooler days of late winter, via a poem from a 6th grader's visit to the river.
- Tom Lake

As Far As The Eye Can See

Ice on the river,
as far as the eye can see.
Like a sheet of crumpled paper,
it looks like it could be.

By night nature passes by,
it doesn't like to be seen.
The Hudson always looks beautiful,
be night or day, brown or green.

The animals under water,
have scattered out and about.
Each one choosing a different place,
each one choosing a different route.

Seasons come and pass right by,
it keeps a steady flow.
It travels on every day,
to the ocean it will go.

In winter the Hudson seems to talk to me,
through its groans and moans.
The other way it talks to me,
are through its creeks and drones.

I feel the heart of the river,
beating oh so slow.
I feel so connected to it,
sitting in the snow.

- Hasan Awwad, Vails Gate Elementary

4/20 - Brockway Brook, HRM 63: The warm weather had prompted the gray tree frogs to start calling. Just before dark, a pack of coyotes gave a recital.
- Steve Seymour

4/20 - Edgewater, NJ, HRM 8.5: Good news, fiddler crab fans! I noticed a small number of holes and live crabs running about on the northern end of the catch basin where I have been keeping track of them for five years. In October and November they appeared to have been wiped out, perhaps by the tremendous influx of fresh water from the heavy rains of early fall. There were roughly a hundred or so crabs and holes visible. Compare that to last summer when the holes covered the bottom of the catch basin from end to end and there must have been 10,000 crabs in the colony.
- Terry Milligan

4/21 - Croton River, HRM 34: Shadbush was in glorious bloom. I watched the first flock of migrating blue jays I had seen come in over Croton Bay and disappear into the trees on the banks of the Croton River. Their "open-order" flight pattern gave them away as far as they could be seen.
- Christopher Letts

4/22 - Glens Falls, HRM 208: Buds were busting out all over. What a difference a week makes. Every Friday I trek down here to get my groceries, and between last Friday and today, the red maples are blooming and the aspens and birches have put out those stunning bright green leaflets that sing out "Spring is here!"
- Ellen Rathbone

4/22 - Mohawk River, HRM 159: We were out in search of overwintering blueback herring in the Mohawk for the SUNY College of Environmental Science & Forestry. We fished three 21' long x 6' deep fine-meshed gillnets in various places near Lock 6. We still have not caught overwintering bluebacks. It was a sunny day; shadbush, maples, and birches were in bloom and leaves were breaking out on many shrubs. The surface water temperature was 57°F and the massive floods of a couple of weeks ago had left rafts of detritus and water chestnut seeds strewn on the lawn at the boat launch, easily six feet above where the water level was yesterday. We caught several small fish in our nets, including: a spottail shiner; an eastern silvery minnow; two juvenile yellow perch, and one white crappie. We have still not learned where in this large river blueback herring overwinter.
- Karin Limburg, Mike Bednarski

[Blueback herring surge in from the sea each spring, ascend the many locks associated with dams on the upper Hudson and Mohawk rivers, and then travel west into central New York State to spawn. There is evidence (carbon stable isotope ratios in muscle tissue and the trace elemental signatures in fish otoliths) that some of the young-of-the-year do not out migrate to the Atlantic Ocean in the fall, but rather winter in the Mohawk River. Tom Lake, Karin Limburg]

4/22 - Roeliff Jansen's Kill, HRM 111: At noon the tide was half up on the flood, and two osprey were visiting tide pools, hunting for alewives and other fish that had come upstream to spawn.
- Tom Lake

4/22 - Mid-Hudson Valley: We had our first measurable precipitation in 14 days.
- Tom Lake

4/22 - Hastings to Newburgh, HRM 21-63: One more example of the dynamic nature of the estuary: after the deluge drove the salt front down below Hastings, the following period of dry weather allowed it to quickly push back up all the way to the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge.
- Steve Stanne

4/22 - Tuxedo Park, HRM 39: Even naturalists use train time to catch up on their reading, but while riding NJ Transit along the Ramapo River north of Tuxedo Park, I did glance up to see a double-crested cormorant sitting on a snag projecting from the water. I think of cormorants as birds of big open water, but here the Ramapo was no more than 20' wide and hemmed in by trees on both shores.
- Steve Stanne

[The Ramapo parallels the New York Thruway roughly from Harriman to Suffern. Its waters flow via the Pompton and Passaic Rivers to Newark Bay, which is connected to Upper New York Bay and the Hudson via the Kill Van Kull.]

4/22 - Furnace Woods, HRM 38.5: An adult blue-winged warbler has visited our suet feeder at least three times. I don't recall seeing warblers at suet feeders before.
- Christopher Letts

4/22 - Sandy Hook, NJ: Our shadbush was in bloom today at Sandy Hook.
- Pam Carlsen, Dery Bennett

4/23 - Hudson, HRM 118: A baby eastern timber rattlesnake was spotted along the railroad tracks on the Hudson waterfront. We heard the rattle of a bigger snake but did not find it.
- Andy Bicking

4/23 - Tivoli Bays, HRM 100: The path from Kidd Lane to the dock revealed several very large groupings of trout lily and some bloodroot here and there.
- Christine Papele

4/23 - Croton Point, HRM 34.5: We had misty weather with a very low ceiling and frequent sprinkles. It was a day for loons. Four times I looked up to see loons flying north, just under the ceiling - two pairs, two singles. My heart goes with them.
- Christopher Letts

4/24 - Newcomb, HRM 302: "And the rains came down and floated them away, and that's why you've never seen a unicorn to this very day." Those words from an old hit song by the Irish Rovers came to mind as it is raining and raining and raining - thundering down heavy rain right now. We recorded 0.86" yesterday morning and 0.78" this morning, and more on the way. I've heard chorus and wood frogs, and even a peeper or two.
- Ellen Rathbone

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