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Hudson River Almanac March 21 - 27, 2006

OVERVIEW

Evidence of spring is popping up all over: flower blooms and butterflies, eagles incubating eggs, alewives and harbor seals, osprey and meadowlarks, peepers, turtles, and a warming sun. But don't count winter out yet: there are still redpolls, evening grosbeaks, and even bohemian waxwings in the Adirondacks.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

3/27 - Gardiner, HRM 75: We visited the Shawangunk Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge today to see the meadowlarks that come here every year to nest. We saw a dozen beautiful males staking out their territory. As we were walking, to our surprise we flushed 5 short-eared owls.
- Rebecca Johnson, Brian Houser

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

3/21 - Newburgh, HRM 61: In a wooded portion of this vast airfield near a secluded pond, we spotted a red-tailed hawk flying to its nest high up in a tree. Meanwhile, red-winged blackbirds perched on dead trees sang, defining their territory. An eastern phoebe darted out for flying insects, and a hairy woodpecker probed a dead snag in the water, while a pair of mallards dabbled along the shore.
- Ed Spaeth

3/22 - Eagle Nest NY62, Dutchess County: Mama is spending much of her day incubating. Papa moves between two nearby pines and a tamarack looking anxious, much like an expectant dad (just a bit of hyperbole there).
- Tom Lake

[When eggs are being incubated, the adults take turns in the nest: one will incubate while the other hunts. When hatching occurs, and there is another mouth to feed, the adults begin to bring offerings, usually fish, to the nest. Pete Nye.]

3/22 - Haverstraw, HRM 36: During the day we saw a muskrat multiple times eating grass and swimming around the Haverstraw Bay Rockland County Park boat launch. It didn't seem to be afraid of people. It walked around the vending machine room and eventually made its way back down to the water, where the salinity was about 3.0 parts per thousand (ppt).
- Amanda Higgs, Hudson River Fisheries Unit

3/22 - Croton Point, HRM 35: The northerlies and accompanying cold air temperatures notwithstanding, the cottonwoods had broken out of their buds and were wearing a handsome frieze of green. In the shelter of the old bathhouse at Croton Point, magnolia buds were showing color.
- Christopher Letts

3/22 - Palisades, HRM 23: Visiting researchers, Mike Siddoway and Christine Siddoway from Colorado Springs, were transfixed by a small flock of cedar waxwings busily attacking the dried berries on a tree outside the Lamont-Doherty oceanography building. One was hanging practically upside down with red-tipped wings raised like a flag. The Siddoways noted that they don't see waxwings in Colorado Springs. Mike grew up in Montana where the bohemian waxwings were a regular visitor, flocking in numbers large enough to cover the trees.
- Margie Turrin

3/23 - Newcomb, HRM 302: I thought I had seen a small flock in a crabapple next to my house in mid-February, as well as a few times since, but always without binoculars and I could not be 100% sure. Well, today they were back in the same tree: bohemian waxwings. This time I had binoculars. Wildlife biologist Ray Masters said it was a new species for Newcomb. There were fewer than a dozen, but still, they were beautiful. Common redpolls have finally discovered our feeders at the ADK Visitors Interpretive Center. Evening grosbeaks were still around and a couple of purple finches have put in an appearance. We even had a goldfinch the other day.
- Ellen Rathbone

3/23 - Town of LaGrange, HRM 76: A few days ago I saw my first basking turtles of the season, a group of painted turtles on a log in a small pond just northeast of Poughkeepsie. Today I went out to telemetry turtles and saw two garter snakes at James Baird State Park. One was in the water poking its head out, and the other was heading towards the water of a vernal pool that was teeming with noisy wood frogs. Later in the day I saw several ring-necked ducks and a few American wigeons on Horton's Lake in Hyde Park. I also had my first deer tick crawling on my shirt.
- Jude Holdsworth

3/23 - Beacon, HRM 61: On my first foray into my yard to check the condition of my bulbs, I was greeted by a butterfly. What a surprise! It was a Compton's tortoiseshell sunning itself on a log.
- Bennett Gray

3/23 - Fishkill, HRM 61: While cleaning leaf litter from my flower beds, I disturbed a mourning cloak butterfly in a nearby grassy area. It arose and flew over my garage. It was my first butterfly this spring.
- Ed Spaeth

3/23 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: The daffodils have begun to bloom.
- Christopher Letts

3/23 - Riverdale, HRM 15: I opened the door to take our golden retriever, Tully, out for her morning walk and found myself in the midst of an extraordinary fracas. We had startled a hen wild turkey that had been sitting on our doorstep. The turkey flapped off with alarm cries with Tully in hot pursuit. The turkey made it into a tree at Wave Hill, just across the street, and then sat there clucking at us. Tully was delighted with the noise and the wingbeats, and it was quite a circus for a few minutes.
- Ned Ames

3/23 - Sandy Hook, NJ: One of the joys of having an office on Sandy Hook is the commute, a five-mile drive north along this still unspoiled sand spit, with water on both sides and all kinds of natural history there for the looking. The reward today was the arrival of the Hook's first osprey to its platform nest on the bay side. That's about the usual date; over the last 10 years, it has ranged from March 16-27. We celebrate the osprey's arrival with our 27th annual squid and spaghetti dinner on the last Monday in March: sauteed squid; squid with pine nuts, lemon juice, garlic over spaghetti, and squid rings in tomato sauce over spaghetti. At dusk, just before supper, we go out to watch the spring mating flights of woodcocks.
- Dery Bennett

Osprey Return to Sandy Hook, New Jersey
1988 - 3/25
1989 - 3/21
1990 - 3/21
1991 - 3/19
1992 - 3/25
1993 - 3/30
1994 - 3/29
1995 - 3/22
1996 - 3/28
1997 - 3/27
1998 - 3/25
1999 - 3/24
2000 - 3/16
2001 - 3/19
2002 - 3/25
2003 - 3/24
2004 - 3/22
2005 - 3/24
2006 - 3/23

3/24 - New Baltimore to Catskill, HRM 131-113: For three weeks, Rich Guthrie has watched gulls and common mergansers feed on small fish from the river at New Baltimore, Coxsackie, and Catskill Point. Rich offered right away that they looked like small catfish (see March 5). The behavior sounded odd for catfish and we discussed other possibilities like gizzard shad. Today we had the opportunity to look at some digital photos Rich had taken and, sure enough, the birds have been feasting on one-year-old (yearling) channel catfish.
- Tom Lake

[Channel catfish are not native to the Hudson River watershed. While they are widely farm-raised and often stocked in ponds and lakes, ours appear to have come via canal from the Mississippi system, where they are native, over the last 30 years. Tom Lake.]

3/24 - Esopus Meadows, HRM 87: I'm fairly certain I saw an eared grebe at Esopus Meadows this morning. It was smaller than a typical horned grebe, and had "tuftier" cheek patches. It seemed to be loosely associating with a gaggle of Canada geese.
- Chris Bowser

3/24 - Highland, HRM 75.5: It is 7:00 PM, and I just heard my first spring peepers. I think they are late this year. We usually hear them around St. Patrick's day.
- Vivian Wadlin

3/24 - Balmville, HRM 63: In an area of upscale homes overlooking the Hudson, a coyote crossed River Road. As we approached, we noticed the coyote warily watching us while limping its way up a resident's steep lawn. Unfortunately, much of the animal's natural wooded cover and a home for woodland birds is being stripped bare along this area as new homes are being built.
- Betty Witherel, Ed Spaeth

3/24 - Beacon, HRM 61: The captain, crew and passengers of the Metro North Beacon-Newburgh commuter ferry have been watching a seal that apparently has made a stopover in Beacon. We have seen it hauled out on a rock pile, near shore, a few hundred feet upriver from the ferry slip. For the last three days, when the tide is low, we have seen the seal resting on these rocks.
- Ken Daley

[This may have been the harbor seal spotted by Rich Guthrie, 72 miles upriver at Coxsackie, on February 5.]

3/24 - Fishkill, HRM 61: While driving along Fishkill's Main Street, I spotted a crow flying overhead carrying a stick to its nesting site high in a pine tree. With an avian nursery right along its busy thoroughfare, Fishkill has something to crow about.
- Ed Spaeth

3/25 - Ulster Park, HRM 85: We spotted our first coltsfoot in bloom today.
- Fran Drakert, Bill Drakert

3/25 - Awosting Reserve, Ulster County, HRM 70: We were walking at the Awosting Reserve when we spotted our first phoebe of the year.
- Rebecca Johnson, Brian Houser

3/25 - Beacon, HRM 61: A thorough low-tide search of the shoreline from a few miles below to a few miles above the low-tide rock pile at Beacon, produced no sightings of the seal. Our first river herring of the spring are now in the river and they are a great motivator for seals and other marine mammals. As I scanned the empty shoreline with binoculars, I could almost visualize him hauled out on a rock miles down river, chewing on an alewife.
- Tom Lake

3/25 - Crugers, HRM 34: I was sitting at my kitchen table watching the birds at the feeder 15' from my window. A sharp-shinned hawk landed on the roof of the feeder, descended to the ledge in front of the window, and then walked into a mugo pine. I watched as it climbed through the branches. A sparrow soon emerged in flight with the hawk in pursuit. Both disappeared over a nearby embankment but the sharp-shin quickly emerged and landed, dinner-less, in a nearby tree.
- Jim Grefig

3/26 - Columbia County, HRM 112: I saw my first butterfly of the year - a mourning cloak, of course.
- Bob Schmidt

3/26 - Ulster Park, HRM 85: Tonight we heard our first spring peepers of the season.
- Fran Drakert, Bill Drakert

3/26 - Chelsea, HRM 65: The U.S. Geological Survey's monitoring of the river's salinity found the salt front at river mile 65, north of the Beacon-Newburgh Bridge. Where's the spring runoff?
- Steve Stanne

[The USGS marks the salt front where the chloride concentration reaches 100 mg/L, or 0.1 ppt; the background chloride concentration in the freshwater Hudson is about 25 mg/L. This leading edge of ocean salt water is very dilute in comparison to full strength seawater, in which the chloride concentration is about 35,000 mg/L, or 35 ppt. Steve Stanne.)

3/27 - Saugerties, HRM 102: In my driveway today I saw a beautiful eastern comma butterfly.
- Dan Marazita

3/27 - Town of Fishkill,, HRM 63.5: As we were walking to the barn this morning at Stony Kill Farm, Jim Herrington and I saw a tree swallow flying over the hayfield.
- Kerri Brady

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