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Hudson River Almanac April 8 - April 16, 2006

OVERVIEW

Spring is coming on at full speed. Each day, everywhere you look, there are new things to see and hear. This is the season to grab a field guide, family, or friends, and head out along the river to get to know nature on a first name basis.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

4/11 - Esopus Island, HRM 85: I was kayaking with my son, Corley, out to Esopus Island for a paddle and lunch. There are rocks 50-100 yards north of the island that are exposed at low tide and often have cormorants perched on them, as was the case on this day. A bit north of them was what initially appeared to be a log. But as we got closer, it was obviously alive. I thought to myself "seal," and my binoculars confirmed that it was, indeed, a harbor seal, light brown and tan with many dark brown spots. We drifted within 40' before he took off. He had hauled out on a rock just inches below the waterline, so we got a full view of him. Spectacular!
- Tad Herman

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

4/8 - Lake Hill, HRM 100: Not only had the resident flock of wild turkeys returned to my backyard, but one male was doing a full display in my driveway! Further back in the yard was another male also doing a display, but this one didn't look quite as impressive.
- Reba Wynn Laks

4/9 - Furnace Woods, HRM 38.5: A wave of phoebes came in overnight and as I worked around the grounds, I had their company all day. Rough-winged swallows and chipping sparrows were back, and leopard frogs were singing.
- Christopher Letts

4/10 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 75: This was the M/T Net Company's first drift of the season. We set our gill net on the last of the ebb and then drifted through the start of the flood tide, from 6:45 to 9:45 AM, netting 4 buck shad, a roe shad and a gizzard shad. The water temperature was 46°F.
- Judy Lombardi, John Mylod

[Commercial fishing gear for American shad is divided into two categories: fixed and non-fixed. In the shallower areas of the river, where nets would become hung on the bottom if not fixed in place, gill nets must be anchored or attached to stakes. In areas of deep water, where anchoring would be impractical or impossible, nets are drifted with the current. Tom Lake.]

4/10 - Town of Fishkill, HRM 63.5: With air temperatures rising into the 60s, and the sun shining brightly, we had to take time for a hike on the Woodlands and Verplanck Ridge trails at Stony Kill Farm. On our way into the woods we spotted several mounds of Dutchmen's britches and lots of spicebush in bloom. On our way out we saw two delicate little bloodroot flowers fully opened amidst the brown layers of fallen leaves.
- Carolyn Plage, Kirstin Burke

4/10 - Yonkers, HRM 18: It is now officially spring at the Beczak Center: we did our first seining of the season. Twenty fifth-graders from our HSBC Environmental Club joined us for a beautiful day. The water was a bit chilly at 46°F, but neoprene gloves, the warm sun, and the beautiful view erased any chill. We caught one bluegill, a visitor to these parts, possibly from the Saw Mill River just south of us. The rest of our catch was comprised of invertebrates: 5 comb jellies, 15 sand shrimp, 2 clams, and 2 oyster shells. The salinity was 5.6 ppt. All in all, a great day!
- Jennifer Mokos, Vicky Garufi

4/11 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Coltsfoot has burst into bloom so spring is well and truly here. Robins and juncos were out in great numbers and purple finches have appeared at our feeders at the ADK Visitors Interpretive Center. It is nice to see their splash of color. Later, as I sat in my Adirondack chair, I heard a corvid croaking persistently. I looked up and saw a kettle of vultures soaring around on thermals and a raven going after them. It was croaking loudly, trying to climb to their altitude, while they just drifted along, ignoring him. Finally he caught up and went for one vulture, then another. This went on for several minutes. The vultures would pull in their wings, tip over and out of the raven's path, and then continue drifting along. Eventually, the raven started soaring along with them, croaking all the while.
- Ellen Rathbone

4/11 - Rip Van Winkle Bridge, HRM 114: It's official: the peregrine falcons on the bridge have laid 4 eggs. This was verified by a DEC biologist this afternoon when she checked to see if they had indeed nested. We'll certainly be keeping an eye out for when they hatch.
- Scott Emslie

4/11 - Eagle Nest NY62, Dutchess County: Both adults were in the nest at daybreak but I just missed seeing if either of them had brought food. The were fussing around and, although I cannot see into the deep nest, they do not seem to be incubating.
- Tom Lake

4/12 - Minerva, HRM 284: They're here! Tonight I heard them for the first time. It was a tad chilly in the back forty swamp, but the wood frogs were feeling frisky. The 12:15 AM air temperature was 38°F.
- Mike Corey

4/13 - Beacon, HRM 61: In a full day of fishing at Long Dock, I caught and released one carp, 26½" long, 7 lb. I had quite a number of short, sudden bites over the day that I was not able to hook, except for the very welcome carp. I have seen no catfish yet.
- Bill Greene

4/13 - Eagle Nest NY62, Dutchess County: Mama was alone in the nest at dawn. She seemed to be in her incubating posture, hunkered down. After a while she stood, stretched, and moved to the side of the nest with a view out to the river. I saw movement on the other side of the nest: A small, skinny, wobbly, fuzzy-headed nestling edged over the lip of the nest, a 4 day-old baby bald eagle!
- Tom Lake

4/13 - Furnace Woods, HRM 38.5: The barn swallows returned, at least a week earlier than usual.
- Christopher Letts

4/13 - Haverstraw Bay, HRM 36: The NYSDEC Hudson River Fisheries Unit was sampling for juvenile Atlantic sturgeon. We caught 12 sturgeon in all, half Atlantics, half shortnose sturgeon. The largest was a 3' shortnose. It was amazing consider how old it might be: 30, 40 years? A similar sized Atlantic sturgeon might be only be five years old. The scutes on the shortnose were well worn from age; the much younger Atlantics' scutes were still sharp and well-defined. These are truly beautiful fish!
- Rebecca Johnson

[The shortnose sturgeon does not usually go to sea, and adults of this species are much smaller than adult Atlantics. However, both species are long-lived. Scutes are the bony armor plates found in five rows along a sturgeon's body. Steve Stanne.]

4/13 - Inbuckie, HRM 33.5: I was looking out the window from the northbound Metro North train when I spotted an adult bald eagle perched on a floating plank in the bay on the east side of the tracks just south of the Croton-Harmon stop.
- Bob Geis

4/14 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Our first daffodils were in bloom.
- Ellen Rathbone

4/14 - New Paltz, HRM 78: As part of a cultural resource assessment, I was walking across acres of former farmland, now returning to scrub. The good and the bad of springtime in the Hudson Valley followed me every step: the sweet songs of rufous-sided towhees and the maddening presence of blackflies
- Tom Lake

4/14 - Hunter's Brook, HRM 67.5: A full moon tide is a study in contrasts: The middle of the night high tide had risen to the top of my 4' research net; now, six hours later the brook was reduced to a low tide trickle, barely covering my boot tops.
- Tom Lake

[Around the new and full moon, tides tend to be higher and lower than usual and are called spring tides. Around the first and third quarter moon, they are less extreme than usual - high tides are lower and low tides are higher - and are called neap tides. For explanations of tidal phenomena, visit http://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/education.html . The website for tide predictions is listed at the end of this and each E-Almanac.]

4/14 - Garrison, HRM 51.5: I took a walk this morning in Constitution Marsh. The cowslip was in full bloom and the shadbush was spectacular.
- Eric Lind

4/15 - Oliverea, Ulster County, HRM 101: For an hour I watched a green heron make its way around the edge of Winnisook Lake taking small fish. It caught 8 while I watched. The heron's head was a dark slate blue, upper body feathers a deep green with just a touch of gold outlining the edges of the larger feathers. The chest was a pale pink-beige and its legs were bright orange (breeding age I believe). It struck some incredible poses among the new iris sprouts. Once more I longed for a camera with a telephoto lens.
- Vivian Wadlin

4/15 - Mid-Hudson, HRM 70-60: The river and its tidal tributaries reflected the soft white glow of shadbush in bloom on both banks.
- Tom Lake

4/15 - Croton Point, HRM 34: In mid-afternoon we set out in search of the great horned owl's nest. In the crotch of a tree near the south side of the point, we spotted the female in the nest. Apparently frightened by our arrival, although we weren't noisy, she flew to a nearby tree, exposing a cute little baby owl. We were delighted to watch it at a distance through our spotting scope. It was gray with a dark mask and huge golden orange eyes that peered down at us.
- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson

4/15 - Newcomb, HRM 302: I heard my first white-throated sparrow of the season today, as well as the first spring peepers. No wood frogs yet, which is odd since we usually hear them before the peepers. We've had lots of merlin activity, either one merlin that is busy making the whole area his, or several making claims on the eastern end of town. Seems like wherever we walk, we see and hear them.
- Ellen Rathbone

4/16 - Stony Creek to Saw Kill, HRM 100-5-98.5: I fished a herring gill net in the mouth of the Saw Kill and in Stony Creek on Easter Sunday, part of my annual look for migratory fishes. I caught one alewife in the Saw Kill and 2 in Stony Creek. It was not a major run, but compared to the last two years, somewhat reassuring. Could this signal larger alewife runs this year? I saw my first spring azure butterfly in Stony Creek while retrieving my net.
- Bob Schmidt

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