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Hudson River Almanac April 17 - April 24, 2006

OVERVIEW

While birders bird and fishermen fish, many of us gauge the northward spread of spring in terms of wildflowers. After trudging through the dreary monotone of the late winter landscape, the colors of this season lighten on our step.

HIGHLIGHT OF A PREVIOUS WEEK

4/14 - Nutten Hook-Coxsackie, HRM124: I paddled my kayak across the channel from the historic ice house at Nutten Hook for a look on the west side. There they were, the Nutten Hook bald eagles, two immatures sitting in a tree at the nine o'clock and eleven o'clock positions. After a long pose for my binoculars, the nine o'clock bird flew off. Its mottled color made it look like it was wearing a dark cape across its shoulders. The eleven o'clock bird held its position. As I watched it watching me, I noticed a dark band around its eyes as though it wore a mask. Back on the east side of the river, south of the ice house, I played tag with 3 painted turtles that kept popping their heads up in the waters of the low tide.
- Fran Martino

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

4/17 - Beacon, HRM 61: I caught and released my first channel catfish of the new season at Long Dock: 21", 2 lb. 11 oz. An occasional carp crashed out of the water but I couldn't get a bite from them. Saw 3-4 fishermen trying at the end of the pier area with worms and fish chunks, going for striped bass and catfish. One of them told me he managed a 10 lb. striped bass a few days ago.
- Bill Greene

4/17 - Croton Point, HRM 35: There were banks and banks of lovely Dutchman's breeches just past the park entry station and up the hill to the northeast. Hepaticas were just beginning to catch sun and do their blooming thing below the nature center.
- Joan Coffey

4/17 - Croton Point, HRM 34.5: The resident great horned owl, nesting for some weeks now, could be spotted from the service road even without binoculars, clearly visible at 40 yards. I had to look twice this morning: a great hulking owlet filled the nest, shrouded in gray-white fluff, staring down at me. A second later I spotted the adult perched a few feet away in another tree.
- Christopher Letts

4/18 - Saugerties, HRM 102: I spotted a great egret hunting in the cove overlooking the brush blind at the eastern end of the meadow at the Esopus Bend Nature Preserve. Though rather common in summer in the wetlands along the creek, this is my first recollection of one in spring. I also revisited a small vernal pool in the preserve today and observed hundreds of pollywogs and several amphibian egg masses at early stages of development. The pool is currently inhabited by spring peepers and green frogs. Pickerel frogs started vocalizing on April 14 and I heard a first-of-season American toad on April 16. Several large snapping turtles were seen moving about the shallows today and trout-lily (adder's-tongue) was starting to bloom in the preserve.
- Steve M. Chorvas

4/18 - Town of Fishkill, HRM 63.5: Another summer-like day and the wildflowers on Stony Kill Farm's Wildflower Loop were blooming away. As we walked the new handicapped accessible trail we spotted a few lingering bloodroot and Dutchman's breeches. Trout-lily, celandine poppy, lots of twin leaf and a few sweet violets were in full bloom. Trillium buds were also evident.
- Sue Kmiotek, Jim Herrington, Carolyn Plage

4/18 - Staten Island, New York Harbor: Early morning found me sitting at Fort Wadsworth's overlook at the base of the Verrazano Bridge. While finishing breakfast and reviewing notes for a meeting, Mike Miller, a visitor from New Hampshire, asked me whether we ever see turkey vultures at the park. I remarked that we do, but that they're relatively rare. Almost on cue, a pair of huge vultures lifted off from their night roost in a nearby London plane tree, tipped and banked on their big black wings, and passed over.
- Dave Taft

4/19 - Ramshorn, HRM 112.2: On a morning bird walk with Larry Federman at the RamsHorn Livingston Sanctuary we spotted 3 sharp-shinned hawks, 2 great blue herons, 2 kingfishers, an osprey with a fish in its grip, red-winged blackbirds, swamp sparrows, golden-crowned kinglet and quite a few goldfinches. The tide was high and the herons and kingfishers appeared happy with the fish supply.
- Susan Hereth

4/19 - East Fishkill, HRM 64: Just as my observant daughter, Kirstin Burke, had said, there they were in a wetland, high up in the tree tops, perhaps a dozen large nests and several of those awesome great blue herons attending to their homemaking.
- Carolyn Plage

4/19 - Eagle Nest NY62, Dutchess County: Just after dawn, Papa brought a fish to the nest. Mama tore it into nestling-size piece for the baby eagle. For much of the rest of the day, the eaglet seemed to be fascinated by what was left of the fish, as he picked at it. It will be a few more weeks before this baby eagle can rip and tear its own food.
- Tom Lake

4/19 - Haverstraw Bay, HRM 36: Springtime's urge to push north must have been strong in a broad-winged hawk over Haverstraw Bay Park this afternoon. Broadwings typically use favorable winds and thermals to migrate with a minimum of effort, soaring to their destinations. But this one was beating hard into a 15-20 mph headwind, and making slow headway. It finally turned east across white-capped Haverstraw Bay, heading across the widest part of the Hudson on what sailors would call a broad reach, and disappeared from sight.
- Steve Stanne

4/19 - Brooklyn, NY: This fire at Floyd Bennett Field was our 12th fire of the year and it was only March. This one burned 45 acres of mixed young woodlands and phragmites. Walking the burn zone after the flames have been repressed, the remnants of all kinds of lives; old bicycles, beer kegs, and boards were revealed. Our last fire at Gateway National Recreation Area, our 11th fire, revealed a series of boards. Out of curiosity I turned over several. Each revealed a family of beautiful white footed mice tucked into their nests, startled, but completely unscathed by the rapid burn. This last fire was a much hotter flame, and I didn't have the heart to look under anything.
- Dave Taft

4/19 - Staten Island, Upper Bay, New York Harbor: I was advised by members on patrol of a sighting at high tide of an unknown and unidentified large marine mammal in the vicinity of the Kill Van Kull and the Upper Bay between Staten Island and Bayonne, NJ. The report stated that the marine mammal was dark-colored (almost black) and appeared to partially roll over and display a pectoral fin that was approximately 2½' in length and 10" wide. The sighting occurred during high tide.
- Jonathan Fritz, NJ State Police, Marine Bureau

[What was it? I would guess a dolphin but without an approximate full size of the animal it would be hard to say definitively. Kim Durham, Rescue Program Director, Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation.]

4/19 - Sandy Hook, NJ: The shadbush was in full bloom.
- Pam Carlsen

4/20 - Hannacrois, HRM 132.5: Our shadbush was in full bloom and I also heard my favorite sound of the season: a wood thrush's call.
- Liz LoGuidice

4/20 - Catskill, HRM 113: American shad had arrived in the river at Catskill. We did well today drifting our nets for them.
- Jon Powell

4/20 - Croton Point, HRM 34.5: Boisterous north winds had buffeted the Point all week. Out on the north seawall, cutting shad for shad festivals, I was dressed for foul weather: full oilskins and an insulated sweatshirt. The wind swept over Haverstraw Bay at 25 mph, gusting 40, with a fetch of 15 miles over 45 degree water.
- Christopher Letts

4/21 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Last evening I glanced up toward the darkening sky, wondering if the dark shape that caught my eye for a fraction of a second was a bat. I had not seen any this spring. I didn't think about bats again until this morning when I woke to a bat flitting about my bedroom. I've never had a bat in my house before and so I was excited. I closed the door, opened a window, and waited. Around and around the ceiling it flew coming to rest for a blink of an eye on the molding between wall and ceiling, then it was off again. Several times it flew near the window but wouldn't go out. In what was probably less than a couple of minutes, but seemed like much more, it found the window and flew to safety. I took it as a sign of good luck for the day.
- Ellen Rathbone

[What species of bat? I'm not sure if it was a little brown or big brown bat. I'm leaning toward big brown, but when they are moving, they tend to look larger than they really are. This one's wingspan was about 8-10". When it alighted on the walls it seemed a bit larger than a little brown. Big browns are quite common and are considered the number one bat in houses. Ellen Rathbone.]

4/21 - Saratoga County, HRM196: Shadbush seems to be in full bloom, brightening an otherwise dull landscape. For me the blossoming of the shadbush and dogwood means the shad fishing season and the wild turkey hunting season are almost upon us.
- John DeLisle

4/21 - Croton River, HRM 34: The hard northerlies moderated for the first time in days, and the migration was on again: sharp-shinned and Cooper's hawks, vultures and red-tailed hawks, all catching thermals and lining out to the north and east. The blue jay migration had begun, long straggling flocks of 50-100 jays passing every few minutes.
- Christopher Letts

4/21 - Alpine NJ, HRM 18: Using chunks of fresh mackerel, I caught and released 7 white catfish in the Hudson, fishing from shore at the Palisades Interstate Park Boat Basin. They ranged 1½-2½ lb. When I fish at Beacon, 43 miles upriver, I catch mostly channel catfish with a few freshwater bullheads thrown in.
- Bill Greene

4/22 - Putnam Valley, HRM 55.5: The sighting of yellow-shafted flickers [common flickers] was on schedule, but this year I was struck by their abundance - many white rumps flying off across the open grass.
- Nancy P. Durr

4/23 - Newcomb, HRM 302: We'd received 1.31" of rain as of 9:05 this morning; the ground let out a collective sigh of relief. This evening, Toby Rathbone and I spotted a black-backed woodpecker whacking away on a utility pool.
- Ellen Rathbone

4/23 - Columbia County, HRM 112: We stopped to watch 2 male ring-necked pheasants scuffling in the rain on the side of a back road in Columbia County. They bobbed their heads up and down and occasionally flew at each other. One would walk away a few feet, the other would pursue, and they would do it again. We got bored (video game generation, need to have quick resolution of conflict) but it looked like they were in it for the long haul.
- Bob Schmidt, Alec Schmidt

4/23 - Croton Point, HRM 34.5: I paid a visit to the great horned owl nest today and was shocked to find the nest gone, no owl to be seen. The nest probably took a hit from the heavy winds and the hard rains of the past few days. A couple of hours later I checked again and was relieved to spot the owlet on the nest tree. It seemed healthy. In 5 days it had acquired color, a plumage that was pigmented and patterned, and visible ear tufts.
- Christopher Letts

4/23 - Manhattan, HRM 5: A record rainfall for the date - 2.34" - fell in Central Park. The old record had been 1.57" in 1931.
- National Weather Service

4/24 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Trillium were up and the buds were ready to open as soon as a good warm day arrives. We've had over 2" of rain in the last two days. The river was up and the grass was growing like gangbusters.
- Ellen Rathbone

4/24 - Catskill, HRM 113: The buck shad are big this season and right now are about 25% of the catch. Were seeing a few osprey around, passing through. The river is muddy from all the rain, making fishing difficult.
- Jon Powell

4/24 - Hunter's Brook, HRM 67.5: Over 2" of rain in 24 hours turned the brook into a torrent. A 20' Norway maple had swept downstream and wiped out my eel research net. Seven of the eight re-bar supports were ripped from the bedrock. The last section somehow held and the fyke net was snagged on it. If not for that, I'd be looking for my gear somewhere out in the Hudson. I counted at least six dead male white suckers that appeared to have been battered by the current.
- Tom Lake

4/24 - Eagle Nest NY62, Dutchess County: The interior of the eagle nest must have been pretty sodden. The eaglet and Mama were perched near the rim of the nest, drying off.
- Tom Lake

4/24 - Manhattan, HRM 5: Over 4½" of rain fell in Central Park over two days.
- National Weather Service

4/24 - Brooklyn, NY: Rounding the Belt Parkway at Flatbush Avenue, I noticed one of the largest peregrine falcons I've ever seen perched on a street light. The bird was preening and stretching its wings. My apologies to the guy in the Honda Civic next to me; he had to share his lane for a time.
- Dave Taft

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