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Hudson River Almanac March 27 - 31, 2006

OVERVIEW

Of all the signs of spring, many observers who are close to the river see the arrival of river herring - alewives - as their confirmation. Everything seems new on a warm spring day, from the flowers to birdsong to the mating rituals of woodcock.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

3/30 - Haverstraw Bay, HRM 35.5: Gino Garner collected 20 river herring from his bait net, all nice big specimens. My personal stake in it, as much as I'm fond of shad roe, is that I esteem the smaller roes of alewives even more. Sauteed gently and served on toast, they make an elegant dish. There was a mystery fish in the net as well, or part of one: a set of gills and gill rakers and nothing more from what we estimated to be a 10-15 lb. fish. My guess was that a harbor seal had visited Gino's net.
- Christopher Letts

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

3/27 - Furnace Dock Road, HRM 37.5: Coltsfoot and daffodils were in bloom: yellow yellow yellow.
- Christopher Letts

3/27 - Haverstraw Bay, HRM 35: Gino Garner hauled his bait net and found the first American shad mixed with 8 alewives. One herring was then used to catch an 8 lb. striped bass off Croton Point. Midgie Taube used another to take a 7 lb. bass off the Croton Riverfront Park.
- Christopher Letts

First Hudson River American Shad
Year Date Water
2006 3/27 42°
2005 4/3 44°
2004 4/4 44°
2003 4/6 40°
2002 3/31 47°
2001 4/4 41°
2000 3/26 45°
1999 4/10 45°
1998 3/30 48°
1997 4/3 44°
1996 4/2 43°
1995 3/29 48°
1994 4/18 48°

3/28 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Juncos were scattered about in numbers that were rising daily, and flies were buzzing everywhere. There is open water on the Hudson at the bend near the Pump House.
- Ellen Rathbone

3/28 - Hannacrois, HRM 132.5: What a beautiful spring morning! There was a playful spirit in the air as birds sang their mating songs and the sun warmed the earth. On my daily walk, I spotted a fairly unusual sight, 6 great blue herons flying together, heading north. This makes me wonder if they migrate in groups.
- Liz LoGuidice

3/28 - Columbia County, HRM 98.5: I saw my first coltsfoot of the spring blooming near Tivoli Bays today.
- Bob Schmidt

3/28 - New Paltz, HRM 78: At 5:30 PM on Route 299 just east of the Thruway entrance, a moving ripple in the vast Swartekill-Plutarch wetland caught my eye. I spotted a beaver gnawing on a stick, half of it bare of bark and white, the other half still brown. It was unperturbed, not more than 50' from a busy state highway.
- Frances F. Dunwell

3/28 - New Paltz, HRM 78: At 9:00 PM, from a vernal pool, I could hear the low chorus of wood frogs, my first of the season. No spring peepers yet, and no sign of salamanders.
- Frances F. Dunwell, Wes Natzle, Lia Natzle,

3/28 - Croton Point, HRM 34.5: The resident great horned owls have been incubating eggs for several weeks - their exact start date is unknown. Speculation is that the eggs have hatched. The brooding bird is sitting much higher in the nest the past few days.
- Christopher Letts.

3/29 - Newcomb, HRM 302: The first peent of a woodcock was heard out in the pasture at the end of the street.
- Ellen Rathbone

3/29 - John Boyd Thatcher State Park, HRM 144: Nancy Engel, Megan Mansfield and I were looking at a very diminished wetland. In one pool we watched a Jefferson/blue-spotted salamander laying eggs. This went on for what seemed an eternity before she finished and came up for air. Then we saw something we can only speculate about. There were many eastern newts in the pool and some were eating the salamander's eggs. One newt seemed to attack a salamander, wrapping tightly around its head. They both went under the murky water and we couldn't see the outcome, or even the reason why. Territory? Rubbing the slightly poisonous glands on the larger salamander?
- Dee Strnisa

3/29 - Saw Kill, HRM 100: Two other interns from the Hudson River Research Reserve and I were collecting stream animals for a children's program at the Tivoli Bays Visitor Center when we noticed several larger fish darting away from our nets. We were excited. Aside from eels, this part of the creek typically has no fish bigger than 2" long. These were easily a foot. We were able to catch two of them in our nets, white suckers, traveling upstream to spawn. Rather than subject them to any more stress, we released them back into the creek.
- Dan Zinder

[White suckers are one of the several river fish species that ascend tidal tributaries from the Hudson each spring to spawn. This migration is called potamodromy. Female suckers will swim above the reach of tide to gravelly riffles to spawn, accompanied by several males. Tom Lake.]

3/29 - Fishkill, HRM 61: A Carolina wren has been visiting our yard since November, and has now begun building a nest in an old country mailbox propped beside a tree in our backyard.
- Ed Spaeth

3/29 - Hunter's Brook, HRM 67.5: There was a new moon tide this morning - very low water following very high water. At dawn the air was 28°F, the creek had dropped to 42°F (from 48°). The net and the knots were frozen hard (on low tide, the top half of the net is exposed to the air). Glass eel numbers continued to surprise; we had 68 this morning, the highest overnight total since May 4, 2003. It is a reminder that we never know so much that we cannot be surprised by the behavior of a wild population of animals. As I climbed out of the creek to leave, I accidentally flushed a pair of gorgeous wood ducks.
- Tom Lake

[This eel research focuses on the transformation of glass eels, fresh from the sea, into pigmented elvers. When they first arrive in March they are translucent, almost transparent, thus "glass" eel. In the bottom of a white bucket 100 of them disappear; all you see are pairs of dots moving about: their two black eyes. They eventually transform into what is termed a yellow eel, a life stage that they retain from 7-30 years, until it is time for them to return to the open seas of the North Atlantic to spawn. These color phases are likely adaptations to their habitat.]

3/29 - Eagle Nest NY62, Dutchess County: Mama eagle was still incubating. The nest has been buzzed by a red-tailed hawk each of the last two days. Mama never even opened her eyes. For the last 3-4 years there has been an active red-tail nest up the hill in the woods, and the red-tail pair never miss an opportunity to let their eagle neighbors know they are there, and on guard. On the way home from Hunter's Brook, I sidled up to our blue spruce blind and peered at the nest with my spotting scope. I saw nothing at first. They a bit of a stir, then a huge white head peeked between the branches. With those searing yellow eyes. She knew I was there, albeit 300 feet away.
- Tom Lake

3/30 - Gardiner, HRM 73: I've been enjoying hearing and watching the woodcocks in my backyard this week. I had a clear view of one in the middle of the field and could see the striped patterns of its head and back. It threw back its head and opened its bill wide with each peent. I was lucky enough to see it do its display flight twice! When the woodcock starts its downward fall, is the twittering sound made by the feathers, or is it a vocalization?
- Sharon Gambino

[The twittering is emitted from the outer wing feathers during the plunge fall part of their descent. The gap between the stiff outer primaries produces the sound. Rich Guthrie.]

3/31 - Newcomb, HRM 302: I watched an eastern phoebe darting about in the early morning sunshine. It was either catching insects rising above the yews as the sun warmed them, or it was doing a sun-worshiping "dance" of its own. By afternoon I was watching assorted sparrows (song, tree and fox) jostling with the juncos for sunflower seeds. The redpolls and Bohemian waxwings seem to have moved on.
- Ellen Rathbone

3/31 - Albany, HRM 145: The air temperature reached an unseasonably warm 75°F in Albany.
- National Weather Service

3/31 - Delmar, HRM 142: I saw my first snapping turtle crossing the road at Five Rivers today. It was a large algae and mud-covered lady, not going to lay eggs, just moving to another pond. Mike Kallagi and I watched and guarded the road as she took her slow lumbering walk, with rest stops, to the next pond.
- Dee Strnisa

3/31 - Stockport Creek, HRM 121.5: I shared the quiet southern backwater channel with more than 50 ducks of all kinds. The wood ducks allowed my kayak to get pretty close to them before whistling off to find another spot. The male and female mallards seem to sense my approach more quickly, and one black duck that was hanging out with them left with the crowd. Six common mergansers patrolled the shoreline: a male leader, 4 females right behind him, and another male taking the caboose position bringing up the rear. Two cormorants were catching some rays as they stood on a dead tree stuck in the. After they left, a crow took their place in the sunshine and seemed to have a lot to say about the glorious day.
- Fran Martino

3/31 - Eagle Nest NY62, Dutchess County: Forsythia was in full bloom. Mama was on the nest this afternoon sitting in the sunshine (72°F) panting like a puppy. I made my bi-weekly under-the-nest-tree search for discarded food items, but found none. I could her squeaking almost 100 feet overhead. No little squeaks yet.
- Tom Lake

3/31 - Beacon, HRM 61: My first carp catch of the new year from Long Dock was 12 lb. 14 oz., 28½ " long, with a 20" girth. As usual,I released the fish.
- Bill Greene

[Carp are a non-native minnow introduced into North America in the early 19th century, probably from Eurasia. The initial Hudson River stocking may have taken place at Newburgh in 1831. Their color ranges from a grayish-brown to a brassy gold. Unlike goldfish, with which they are often confused, they have barbels at the corners of their mouth. In the Hudson River, carp can grow to 30-40 lb. and have a small but loyal following of recreational anglers.]

3/31 - Town of Cortlandt, HRM 38.5: Forsythia, magnolia, spicebush, coltsfoot, daffodils, all in riotous bloom following three days of sultry weather. This has been the driest March on record; people who care about plants and gardening are getting nervous.
- Christopher Letts

3/31 - Croton Point, HRM 35: I'm seeing 1-2 eagles a day, 50:50 adult and immature. I watched a flock of red-winged blackbirds buzz an immature eagle on the tip of Croton Point today. The eagle made a fast move and nearly took one out of the air and that was the end of that annoyance.
- Christopher Letts

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