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Hudson River Almanac March 23 - 28, 2004

OVERVIEW

Weather extremes ran from days in the 60s to nights below freezing. The first American shad of the season was taken in Croton Bay, and white suckers, a traditional sign of spring in the watershed, were on the move as well. Huge Vs of Canada geese, "honkers," remind us of spring's progress every day - and night - with their migration song. Forsythia is about to bloom in the lower reaches of the estuary, and river herring will be nosing their way into the tidal tributaries by the time you read this.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

3/26 - Hannacrois, HRM 132.5: We had spring peepers for the first time this evening. We were up in the barnyard vaccinating our sheep; they are all so full of lambs it seems they will burst. Several woodcocks were performing their courtship dance, accompanied by the wonderful sound of the peepers.
- Liz LoGuidice

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

3/23 - Ulster Park, HRM 85: On my bike trip today, I stopped at the spot where I first see coltsfoot each year and was rewarded by the first two blooms of the spring, barely peeking out.
- Bill Drakert

3/23 - Hunter's Brook, HRM 67.5: The air was so cold at sunrise that the knots closing the cod end of my fyke net were frozen solid. I had to stuff the knots under my arms for fifteen minutes to soften them enough to untie, only find that there weren't any fish inside. The water temperature in the brook had fallen all the way to 34°F, down ten degrees Fahrenheit in one week. A phoebe, perched fifteen feet over my head, found something to sing about. Just outside the confluence with Wappinger Creek, about 150 feet away, nine gorgeous hooded mergansers caught the first light of dawn.
- Tom Lake

[The cod end is where fish trapped in the net end up. In this instance the cod end is upstream of the net's open mouth. Migrating American eels swim upstream into the ten-foot-long fine-mesh net, moving through smaller and smaller compartments, and become trapped in the final section. This section is tied shut with twine and rope to ensure that the fish will not escape, but also to allow the researcher easy access (on warm days) to remove the catch.]

3/24 - Croton Bay, HRM 34 : On this sunny, warm, perfect spring morning Gregg Kenney, Tom Kehler, and I checked the gill nets we had set two hours earlier as part of a Hudson River Estuary Program/ NYSDEC/ US Fish and Wildlife Service juvenile Atlantic sturgeon study. The water was 38.3 F with a salinity of 0.2 parts per thousand. The nets had a few of the usual gizzard shad, white perch, and white catfish as well as some small striped bass. There were no small sturgeon this time but, much to our surprise, there was a nice fat roe American shad - the first of the season! Thousands will soon follow on their annual run up the Hudson to spawn.
- Kris McShane

3/24 - New Baltimore, HRM 131.5: Blue jays are not uncommon here; as many as 12 may feed in the yard. They're usually a noisy lot. This morning though, I watched a quiet twosome. One had just fed on some cracked corn on my deck. The second sidled up to that one and offered a kernel of corn. The recipient, which I presume to be a female, took the offering, very slowly. She didn't just take the kernel and swallow it. She held on to it while he also held on to it. After a bit of gentle tussling, he let her take the kernel. She held onto it for a bit, then swallowed it. He hopped slowly sideways, then left. It was a very gentle tender exchange. A little while later, the pair were at it again. Again, another gentle exchange. Nice. This afternoon, there was a pied-billed grebe sleeping on the calm waters of the Hudson. Also, a common merganser is swimming by slowly, alone.
- Rich Guthrie

3/24 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 75: While on my back porch I noticed two squirrels climb off my roof and onto the power line. They made their way about fifteen feet until they came to a silver maple tree. The first squirrel jumped up about a foot to a branch that was hanging over the line. He quickly scurried about halfway up the branch. The second squirrel attempted the same. She missed the branch but was able to grab the power line to keep from falling. As she was fussily pondering her next move, the other squirrel inched his way back down the branch. His weight eventually lowered the branch until it was touching the line. The stranded squirrel immediately took advantage of the help offered and scurried onto the branch. The male squirrel put his head down low on the branch so she could go over him to more stable tree, which she quickly did. I had never seen one animal helping another like that before. Later behavior showed me that I had accurately identified the male and female.
- Judy Lombardi

3/24 - Tappan Zee, HRM 27: It was late morning and I was heading upriver on Amtrak. As we approached the Tappan Zee Bridge I spotted a mature bald eagle, white head and tail, flying along the river close to shore. Its white underbelly made me think that it was a new adult. - Michael Boyagian

3/25 - Brandow Point, HRM 117: The thermometer read 73°F today at 3:00 PM. It felt really nice, but seems a bit ridiculous for the end of March!
- Liz LoGuidice

3/25 - Town of Ulster, HRM 96: At milepost 94.5 on the New York State Thruway I spotted two leggy great blue herons standing together on one of the nests in the rookery in a swamp of dead trees to the east of the interstate. This is the first time I have seen herons there, although the nests have always been quite visible. This morning, I checked out the vernal pool across the street from my house in New Paltz. The pond is still iced over, with about six inches of melted edge on one side. Will the spotted salamanders come out tonight? Rain is predicted.
- Fran Dunwell

3/25 - Hunter's Brook, HRM 67.5: Spring's first glass eel arrived today - two of them in fact. A water temperature rise from 38°F to 44°F, coupled with a strong flood tide, may have prompted their appearance.
- Tom Lake

3/25 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: One of the joys of spring could be heard tonight. I fell asleep to the sound of honkers high overhead, a midnight migration of Canada geese.
- Tom Lake

3/25 - Beacon, HRM 61: As I walked along the river this late afternoon in a slight drizzle, ten common mergansers took flight from the boat club's sheltered cove and flew to midstream. Four lesser scaup rode the waves unperturbed by my presence. Other birds out and about on the landing were robins, grackles, fox sparrows and mourning doves.
- Ed Spaeth

3/25 - Nyack to Dobbs Ferry, HRM 28-23: Cynthia Fowx and I each had separate wood duck sightings this morning. Cynthia saw one fly across the Saw Mill River Parkway and land high in a tree near Dobbs Ferry. I glimpsed one in a small marshy area alongside the New York State Thruway near Nyack.
- Niall Cytryn

3/26 - Minerva, HRM 284: It is beginning to look like spring in Minerva. I put out my first half-gallon plastic jug on the side yard sugar maple a couple of weeks ago and am finally getting some of this sweet sap. Now I have to change jugs. There was still a block of ice in there from last week. The red-wings are seriously back, but no sign of females yet. The chickadees are into their spring songs. And the evening grosbeaks? They're still nailing the sunflower seeds.
- Mike Corey

3/27 - Tivoli South Bay, HRM 98.5: I waded into the bay at the mouth of the Saw Kill to check our elver fyke net. It was very sunny and water temperature was above 50°F for the first time this year. A pair of moderately large white suckers was sheltering under the wing of my net. As I messed with the net and removed the catch (1 small pigmented eel, 2 fourspine stickleback, 6 banded killifish), the suckers stayed put. Eventually I irritated them enough and they sped off leaving large wakes in the very shallow water. It's nice to see the denizens of the river becoming active in the early spring.
- Bob Schmidt

3/27 - Town of Ashokan, HRM 91: We went to the reservoir early on a mild spring day and walked across the dike. There were many horned grebes in the reservoir, as well as a few loons and pied-billed grebes. The local ponds had common and hooded mergansers, ring-necked ducks, black ducks, and Canada geese. A large V of geese added their calls as they flew over. Land birds were not missing; we saw many phoebes (our first) and a few chipping sparrows. There were many juncos and robins of course. The water had opened up at last; the ice was gone. No eagles, but we saw a kestrel and a Cooper's hawk. The coltsfoot is coming out and spring is here!
- Bill Drakert, Fran Drakert

3/27 - Eagle Nest, Dutchess County: In midday the air temperature was 65°F. Mama was sitting on the nest, looking very serious. Papa has not been as around as much as he was last year during incubation. I hope he is not shirking his duties. In a week or so he will be very busy catching river herring.
- Tom Lake

3/28 - Kingston, HRM 91: At Kingston Point this morning it was sunny and clear but a stiff northeast wind created quite a surf along the beach. We spotted some ring-necked ducks offshore and the usual bunch of ring-billed gulls. It was not green and spring-like, but the robins and song sparrows were singing.
- Bill Drakert, Fran Draker

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