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Hudson River Almanac April 1 - April 8, 2007

OVERVIEW

Spring was here in fits and starts; peepers, salamanders, woodcocks, and nesting geese were teasing us through snowstorms and sub-freezing nights.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

4/3 - Town of Esopus, HRM 87: Louie Yess, Doreen Miller, and I were standing in the sun on a terrace this afternoon when an adult river otter ran across the stone dam in front of us. Every ten feet he would stop, look over the edge, decide it was too high to jump, and move on. When he reached the far side, he turned around and ran back toward us, finally finding a place to slide down into the water. He swam to the center of the stream and headed east, got out of the water to avoid a culvert under the road, crossed the road (without looking!) got back into the stream and continued his hurried trip.

- Vivian Yess Wadlin

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

4/1 - Rhinebeck, HRM 95: For the second year Maria D'Alessandro and I helped spotted salamanders cross River Road near Ferncliff Forest in Rhinebeck. Each year, during the first warm night rain after the snow melts, hundreds of these beautiful critters, 5-10 inches long, come out for their annual migration to breeding territory in swamps and vernal pools. Roads are their biggest adversary. We helped 39 salamanders reach their destination this year but unfortunately were too late to help many others that were squashed by unknowing drivers.

- Dan Zinder

4/1 - Hunter's Brook, HRM 67.5: The bank of the creek was crunchy, frozen, the air was 32°F, making the 41°F water feel almost comfortable. For the first time this season, the brook seemed normal at low tide. The raging torrent that had been delivering heavy meltwaters had subsided enough so the collection gear was reasonably manageable. Our first eel appeared in the net today, unfortunately not a glass eel but an elver, 60 mm long, fully pigmented - last year's glass eel.

- Tom Lake

4/1 - Navesink River, NJ: The Navesink is a tributary of Raritan Bay, part of the New York Lower Bay complex. The bay is open to the direct (rake and eat) harvest of hard clams until the end of April. In a light drizzle I counted 22 rakers on the flats, landing all sizes: top necks, little necks, cherrystones, and chowders. We also scratched up 3 small horseshoe crabs and a blue crab, and were watched by cackling brant and 2 noisy oystercatchers visiting one sand bar after another, constitutionally unable to fly by without yelling at each other and us. The oystercatchers nest here; the brant will leave the end of May to nest in the high Arctic.

- Dery Bennett

4/2 - Hoosic River watershed, HRM 176: There was one magic moment last evening when the full, pink moon rose briefly through a clear slot in the black eastern cloud bank just as the first spring woodcock, peepers, and wood frogs began to sing. It seemed everything was waking at once to the moon. This morning, doves rustled in the spruce behind the house in Cambridge. Ahh, spring!

- Doug Reed

4/2 - Saugerties Lighthouse, HRM 102: On a calm and overcast morning, the only stirring on otherwise unruffled waters of Esopus Creek was a solitary pied-billed grebe, diving along the bulkhead.

- Patrick Landewe

4/3 - Gardiner, HRM 75: The air temperature rose past 60°F and the sun was full of glorious spring warmth. While walking on the Gardiner rail trail, I saw a single coltsfoot in flower. Although a non-native plant, well adapted to disturbed places, the solitary yellow flower was a bright herald of native species yet to bloom.

- Laura Heady

4/3 - Hannacrois, HRM 132.5: The fog was thick this morning, but echoing with spring sounds. Crows, robins, phoebes and tufted titmice filled the thick air with their calls. Today was the first day this spring that I noticed spider webs in the woods and fields. They seemed to be everywhere, as if hungry spiders were busily setting traps all night. Resting in the woods, I watched a flock of white-breasted nuthatches foraging on the trees. I heard a red-shouldered hawk, as I have for several days. The bird was close by and I was glad to see it clearly as it flew overhead. It surprised me by landing on a large nest made of leaves in a nearby tree. I had watched this particular nest all winter as it was close to the oak tree that a porcupine had lived in during the cold months. The nest had not seemed occupied this winter, and I wondered what the hawk was doing. The hawk hopped around a bit on the nest, wings flapping, then took off carrying something in its mouth. I do not know what it was carrying, but it looked to be a good meal for the hawk.

- Elizabeth LoGiudice

4/3 - Germantown, HRM 108: Chuck Nieder spotted 3 sandhill cranes this morning on the ground in a wetland on the east side of Route 9G just south of Germantown in Columbia County.

- Erik Kiviat

[The Hudson River Almanac has documented 4 other sandhill crane sighting in recent years:

2003: December 7 (seven at Fishkill) and December 9 (one at Yonkers), sightings of sandhill cranes migrating down the Hudson Valley.

2005: November 5 (several), Gardiner, Ulster County (probably the same four birds seen November 10, flying over Greenwich and Litchfield, CT.)

2005: November 20, at Beacon, a single southbound sandhill crane over the eastern shore of the river near Brockway. Tom Lake.]

4/3 - Beacon, HRM 61: One of the regular Long Dock anglers fishing at the end of the pier caught a nice size white catfish today, 18-19" long, well over 3 lb. I fished on a dropping tide and, other than a few nibbles, I caught nothing.

- Bill Greene

4/3 - Cornwall-on-Hudson, HRM 57: It was a warm (mid 60s) and muggy day for our Spring Break Camp at the Museum of the Hudson Highlands on the Boulevard in Cornwall. Carl Heitmuller was leading our kids on a hike along the forest trail when we heard loud "quacking" sounds. The group stopped and listened. Carl asked the children what they thought was making the sound. All of them guessed it was some type of bird. A side trip to a vernal pool revealed a hundred or more little masked wood frogs "quacking" away. Our presence did not deter their calling one bit. Already there were a dozen or so egg masses in the deeper end.

- Pam Golben

4/4 - Town of Esopus, HRM 87: Something flying between the house and the river caught my eye this afternoon - two ducks. They flew at frightful speed through the trees, diving and drafting each other, in and out of the tree branches. I actually feared for their lives. I had never seen ducks fly so fast, and in woods. Then they turned back toward the house and landed in the tree right in front of the window. A pair of wood ducks. I had never seen them that close before - spectacular coloring in the male. They sat in the tree for ten minutes, then flew away.

- Vivian Yess Wadlin

4/3 - Tappan Zee, HRM 34-25: Captain Bob Gabrielson reported that anglers are catching up to 60 striped bass a day on Piermont Pier. The fish are mostly small, but a few are up to 35 lb. He has yet to see a shad or herring in his bait nets but on the east side of the river at Croton, bait netters are seeing catches of up to 50 alewives a night.

- Christopher Letts

4/4 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 74: The pond in the Red Oaks Mill playground on Spackenkill Road was teeming with spring peepers this evening. We couldn't imagine how many were there. It was a delight to hear. Their peeps are always such a joyful and uplifting sound, nature's Hallelujah Chorus.

- Bill Lenhart, Donna Lenhart

4/5 - Newcomb, HRM 302: It is a very white world out there today. We only got a couple of inches of snow, but it stuck like glue to the trees, making it all very pretty. The sun is peeking out now and again, and there is the occasional swatch of blue sky, but mostly it is shades of black and white. When Toby Rathbone and I headed out this morning, it looked like we were walking into an Ansel Adams photo, with the random bit of color hand-painted in: a pale yellow house, an orange snow fence, a female cardinal at our feeder, and a couple of golden male evening grosbeaks, until a red squirrel chased them off.

- Ellen Rathbone

4/6 - North River, HRM 263: Driving between North River and Weavertown, I spotted 2 yellow-bellied sapsuckers, a northern flicker, and a pair of hooded mergansers. Spring is slowly working its way northward, thumbing its nose at the snow!

- Ellen Rathbone

4/6 - Hunter's Brook, HRM 67.5: This was a dark and gloomy April morning with a black sky and a wind-driven snow squall limiting visibility. Maybe that is why a great blue heron lowered its landing gear to settle on the far side of Wappinger Creek, nearly landing in a goose nest. The gander spread its wings and charged the heron. The great blue immediately went into a back-peddle and lifted away. The air was a frigid 25° and in nearby Hunter's Brook, the water temperature had dropped from 45° to 38°F in 3 days.

- Tom Lake

4/6 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: The bird feeder was hung with a cluster of little golden finches this morning. The four feeding holes were being visited by several birds at once, all teetering on the posts and fluttering for a turn. There was so much action I couldn't get a count. I imagine there were a least a dozen yellow bodies, goldfinches, at the feeder. The nearby lilac bush was aflutter with other little birds hoping for some breakfast.

- Robin Fox

4/6 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: Even though snow was falling, I could see the cheery yellow of coltsfoot along the roadside as I drove home. The bright yellow patches lay at the base of an outcropping of rock that had been hung with a thick mantle of ice for months. The ice has melted, and the roadside is muddy, just right for spring-time coltsfoot.

- Robin Fox

4/7 Delmar, HRM 143: Driving back to my parent's house along a suburban street, I saw a flash of color cross the side yard of someone's home and was treated to the uncommon sight of a "wild" ring-necked pheasant. When I reported the sighting to my father, he remembered that when he was a teenager in the 1950s, his father was good friends with a man who worked for NYS EnCon at the Delmar Game Farm (now known as Five Rivers Environmental Education Center). The man raised pheasants to release into the wild. My grandfather took great pleasure in helping him release the pheasants in the then-undeveloped land near Normanskill Creek and the border of Albany. However, my father couldn't remember ever seeing a wild pheasant so close to his own home.

- Denise Woodin

[The ring-necked pheasant is a grassland species native to Eurasia and has been widely introduced in North America as a game bird. In the Hudson Valley of the 1950s and 60s, with plenty of farmland, edge habitat, fields and hedgerows, pheasant populations peaked. However, with the slow disappearance of these habitat types, their population has declined by nearly 90% since 1970. Tom Lake.]

4/7 - Peekskill, HRM 43: Although the calendar said April 7 the thermometer said January (35°F) as I pulled into China Pier this morning. I spotted an immature bald eagle circling the channel marker before flying north to Annsville Creek. It made the very cold spring day much more enjoyable.

- Jack Callaghan

4/8 - Newcomb, HRM 302: We've been visited by the Easter Deer Herd. They moved into our front yard where they stripped the cedar hedge and also discovered that they could jump the fence and check out the rest of the yard as well. It is 25°F today, and windy. Brrrr. Winter may be officially gone, and the Hudson River is ice-free, but up here it is still cold and snowy.

- Ellen Rathbone

4/8 - Town of Wappinger: We think we have had a hatch. Papa eagle brought a fish to the nest today (NY62) for the first time. Mama was still sitting on the nest, but since yesterday has been facing east (for the last 4 weeks she has always been facing west). That may not mean a thing. She is also sitting "higher" on the nest, behavior that may indicate one egg has hatched and the other not quite yet. So maybe we have a nestling.

- Tom Lake

[For the 32-35 days of incubation, the adult eagles leave the nest to feed; food is rarely if ever brought to the nest. This is done, instinctively, for the same reason campers do not eat in their tents. Why invite large, furry midnight visitors? For eagles, this usually mean raccoons. When a hatch occurs and a hungry mouth is added to the nest, the adults will begin to bring food. Tom Lake.]

4/8 - Bear Mountain, HRM 46: It's funny - the different ways we celebrate holidays. Above Bear Mountain State Park's Hessian Lake, in the midst of a faint snow, a hundred tree swallows, all, far as I could see, males with steely-blue backs, skimmed the water's surface fighting the north wind. They dipped and dropped for insects, riding the breeze to the south end of the lake, then struggling back north again, intent, focused bodies on an Easter hunt.

- Dan Wolff

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