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Hudson River Almanac March 31 - April 9, 2006

OVERVIEW

While many of our "signs of spring" are to be enjoyed - wild flowers blooming, songbirds singing, and a general greening of the landscape, for example - there are those that make us long for snowflakes. Blackfly season is here!

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

4/1 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: I took advantage of the balmy weather to harvest a great crop of dandelion crowns. One of our favorite salad ingredients and a sure spring tonic, we hope they will be served with the first herring roe of the season.
Recipe: Search out a patch of dandelions in an areas not frequented by automobiles, pet walkers, or other obvious sources of contamination. With a sharp knife, sever the root beneath the ground, under the green crown. (Harvest before the plant blooms if possible.) Trim the root at the base of the crown and trim back the leaves about an inch and a half. Drop the crown in a bucket of water; the crowns will be washed as you wander in search of more. They are wonderful as a sauteed vegetable or raw as salad.
- Christopher Letts

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

3/31 - Denning's Point, HRM 60: This was the day before the park reopens from its winter closure. Fittingly, I had no bald eagle sightings between 6:00 and 10:00 AM. My only visitors were a pair of blue-winged teal.
- Marty McGuire

4/1 - Newcomb, HRM 302: The overnight rain must have been gentle because I never heard it, but by morning its evidence was everywhere: puddles and the first worms of the season. There were robins galore on the lawns as evening approached and woodcocks spiraling and twittering in the dim light of dusk. I'm sure by now the Hudson is virtually ice-free at the Pump House.
- Ellen Rathbone

4/1 - Saw Kill, HRM 98.5: I was checking our elver fyke on April Fool's Day (translated: only a fool would be checking an eel fyke on that day). My finely trained eyes spotted a moderately large (12.7") bright orange goldfish in 6" of water near my fyke. I grabbed it with my dip net and discovered that it was quite deformed. The front right side of its head, including its eye and jaw, was essentially gone, either a congenital defect or an old wound that had completely healed. I am constantly amazed at how much damage these animals can take yet still function and grow. I also found a dead white sucker (16") in the mouth of the Saw Kill. This was a breeding male, reddish streak on its sides and many nuptial tubercles. It had a large gash on its side behind the head that opened the body cavity. I wonder if the Tivoli Bay resident bald eagle had grabbed and then lost it.
- Bob Schmidt

[Goldfish, well known as aquarium fish, are a non-native minnow to the Hudson watershed. Their presence in the river, where they reproduce and can reach a length of 14", is often attributed to parents releasing the contents of their children's neglected fish tanks. They were introduced into North America in the early 19th century, probably from Asia. Their color ranges from flame orange to a soft yellow to a brassy gold. Unlike carp, with which they are often confused, they have no barbels. Tom Lake.]

4/1 - Ulster Park, HRM 85: The flower of the day was hepatica. The daffodils and forsythia were almost out.
- Bill Drakert, Fran Drakert

4/1 - Hunter's Brook, HRM 67.5: The pair of mallards were back in the throat of my eel net this morning just after dawn. If left alone I wonder if they'd somehow nest in the folds of the net. I approached upstream slowly but they knew what was up, and sprang up in flight just a few feet over my head, quacking up into the hardwood canopy. Inside there was another slew of glass eels from the overnight flood tide. The resurrection continues.
- Tom Lake

4/1 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: Now that spring is officially here, we notice subtle changes in our backyard visitors: Cardinals are less numerous, the blue jay population seems to have increased, and we are now treated to the antics of red-winged blackbirds, house finches and robins. As we awaken each morning we hear the sounds of mourning doves and red-winged blackbirds in the high trees.
- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson

4/1 - Furnace Woods, HRM 38.5: Some gardening and spring cleanup was accomplished today, but the radio weather people used the word "muggy" for the first time this season, and that means blackflies. April Fool on me for working up a sweat in T-shirt and shorts. I'll have welts for a week.
- Christopher Letts

4/1 - Croton River, HRM 34: There is a wonderful green "plume" in the Croton River which lends a bright, almost Caribbean, hue to the usually dark water. We think it is algae from the bottom of the reservoir indicating that the lower gates of the Croton dam are open. Our flock of wood ducks have moved on; a lone swan and the geese remain. Unlike years past, there is no litter or jetsam . Perhaps this is because the access to the reservoir has been limited or our habits have improved?
- Sandy Plotkin

4/2 - Gardiner, HRM 73: As I worked in my garden over the weekend I came across five garter snakes.
- Rebecca Johnson

4/2 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: Our magnolias were showing color, a nice change from all the yellow.
- Tom Lake

4/2 - Croton Point, HRM 35: There is a fine hickory tree on a hilltop here, and for years I've been trying to outmaneuver the gray squirrels when the nuts fall in October. I always manage to get a few, but the fuzzy ones cheat - they climb, and cut the nuts down and that's that. However, this season the ground beneath the tree was white with nuts, bushels of nuts, and I took all I wanted probably several years' supply. Six months later the rest of the nuts are still there, something I've never seen under any bearing hickory, anywhere. Back at home, the Gray Plague never appeared this year. For the first time in more than two decades the live traps went unused, no feeder damage occurred, and it was pleasant to have one or at the most two well mannered furballs gleaning seed under the feeders.
- Christopher Letts

4/3 - Round Top, HRM 113: Forsythia is out in Catskill and Round Top. Does that mean that the shad are here?
- Jon Powell

4/3 - Rip Van Winkle Bridge, HRM 114: Nesting peregrine falcons have returned to the Rip Van Winkle Bridge. I spotted one on the nesting platform under the bridge this morning. The peregrines have also returned to the Mid-Hudson Bridge in Poughkeepsie. Using the camera that the New York State Bridge Authority has set up on that box, I spotted one of the falcons nesting. Later it appeared that there were two eggs, possibly a third.
- Scott Emslie

4/3 - New Paltz, HRM 78: We headed over to our favorite vernal pool this evening to help the salamanders cross the road. I had visited the pool early in the afternoon to find it thawed out (it had been frozen a few days earlier) and found many salamanders under logs waiting for the next rain to move into the pool. At 7:30 it started to rain and by 9:30 they had started to cross to the roads and move into the pool. I estimated that there were hundreds of spotted salamanders in the pool. By 12:30 there were thousands of salamanders wiggling around dropping their spermataphores. Even though we go to see this amazing event every year, each year I get more excited! These are the moments I will remember for the rest of my life.
- Rebecca Johnson

4/4 - Hunter's Brook, HRM 67.5: We had 1.5" of rain overnight and I thought of the phrase "come hell or high water" this morning as I waded up through Hunter's Brook. It was a torrent, an incredible current, even at low tide. I had to take the eel net completely out of the creek to get 13 glass eels. My 4 re-bar supports had came out of the bedrock and had to be pounded back. It was 90 minutes of bracing myself against a current that would have liked to flush me out into Wappinger Creek.
- Tom Lake

4/5 - Purling, Greene County, HRM 120: I was looking out my bay window when I saw the first fox sparrow of the year at the feeders. Then appeared what I thought was an "off-color" goldfinch. But I noticed a lot of streaking and a non-finch-like sharply pointed bill. The bird ignored the seeds but eagerly ate some suet. Then it hit me: must be a palm warbler. Makes sense - right time of year for this earliest of warbler migrants and as an insect eater feeding on suet. But I haven't heard of them coming to feeders before.
- Larry Biegel

4/6 - Rensselaer, HRM 145: On a cloudy and cold morning, 39°F but feeling a lot colder, with a light breeze, I went down to the Rensselaer Riverfront Park to watch the peregrine falcon nest underneath the Dunn-Memorial Bridge. As soon as I approached I saw, and heard, an adult peregrine perched on one of the bridge piers. Then it flew around a bit, occasionally perching, continuing to call off and on. The other adult had flown up into the nest box a few minutes earlier, so I suspected an incubation exchange had just occurred as there were 5 eggs in the nest box. Shortly, an adult perched on one of the bridge supports silently dropped down and began to make passes at a belted kingfisher that was low over the water. The kingfisher stayed as close to the water as possible, occasionally hitting it, and it appeared to be taking advantage of the peregrine's apparent reluctance to go into the water to make its escape, which the lucky kingfisher soon did by disappearing under a low bridge over the nearby Mill Creek. Perhaps the peregrine wasn't that hungry, as they are known to chase prey without intending to kill it.
- Barbara Loucks

4/6 - Croton Point, HRM 34.5: On Tuesday, male redwings owned every post and perch on the landfill, displaying and singing lustily. On Wednesday, two kestrels appeared. This morning I counted nine at one time, and the redwings had discreetly removed themselves to the landfill perimeter. As I hiked to the cap of the landfill to check for unseen kestrels, a small flock of meadowlark flushed and planed away, bright in the morning sun, the first I had seen since autumn, I believe.
- Christopher Letts

4/7 - Croton Bay, HRM 34: It was a lovely, crisp morning. Gino Garner reported ice on the gunwales when he lifted his herring net before sunrise. By 10:00, the high flying tree swallows were right on the deck, and blackflies had begun to bite. Who needs the Weather Channel to know rain is imminent?
- Christopher Letts

4/8 - Pocantico River, Westchester County, HRM 27: We were setting nets last evening in the tidal Pocantico when we saw 2 muskrats zipping around in the tidal basin and were visited by a young beaver who spent a lot of time around our canoe. He only splashed at us twice. I was surprised to see a beaver in brackish water. We measured salinity of about 5.0 ppt, but there were cutting signs all the way down to the mouth of the river where it meets the Hudson, and where salinities should be much higher. When we pulled the nets this morning, we had caught many yellow perch - there is a really substantial run of these fish up to the Philipse Manor dam in Sleepy Hollow. We also saw many egg strings from yellow perch near the dam. My personal triumph was collecting a white sucker that was longer than half-meter (50.7 cm TL). Other people have caught white suckers that large, but this is my first one.
- Bob Schmidt, Alec Schmidt

4/8 - Hastings-on-Hudson, HRM 21.5: Our first spring peepers in Hastings were singing lustily.
- Dave Wood

4/9 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Spring is still wending its way northward. I had three crocuses blooming. The wind yesterday was like knives cutting into one's flesh . . . brrrrrr. Today dawned sunny and brisk, but at least the wind has diminished. Fox sparrows and juncos are as common as fleas on a dog these day.
- Ellen Rathbone

4/9 - Eagle Nest NY62, Dutchess County: Bald eagle eggs hatch, on average, between days 32 and 35. Today was Day 32 for this nest. At midday Mama was riding higher in the nest, not as hunkered down as she had been for the last month. I have not seen Papa bring food to the nest yet, an indication of a small mouth that needs to be fed, but I could have missed the delivery. The air about the nest tree suggests something has happened.
- Tom Lake

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