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Hudson River Almanac April 24 - April 30, 2007

OVERVIEW

This week is a story of an awakening landscape. Like a train arriving and passengers disembarking, there are tales of returning songbirds, hummingbirds, butterflies and wildflowers against a backdrop of new greenery.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

4/28 - Stockport, HRM 121.5: In late afternoon my sister and I were walking on Southers Road in Stockport. As we neared the fork at Alvords Dock Road, we spotted two spring azure blue butterflies at about eye level, exuberantly swooping and diving at each other. Though they were tiny, their color was an exquisite, bright periwinkle. They looked like living jewels in the early spring landscape that is just beginning to show flashes of bright green, with new grass and little white wildflowers here and there.

- Christine Kulisek, Ellen Kulisek

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

4/24 - Hunter's Brook, HRM 67.5: Six days ago, the water exiting this brook was 39 degrees F. Today it was 61 degrees F and schools of spawning alewives were forging up stream in the clear water. While the water temperature of the tidal Hudson tends to fluctuate more gradually, tributaries often exhibit sudden and dramatic changes.

- Tom Lake, John Mylod, Bud Tschudin

4/24 - Town of Wappinger: Following a flyover of the nest today, we received the sobering news: bald eagle nest NY62 had failed this year. There was a single unhatched egg in the nest and the adults were not there. This is not uncommon. This nest was established in 2001 but no eggs were laid. Then there were five successive and successful years, 2002-2006, that produced 7 fledgling eagles. Now, in year seven, something did not work the way it was supposed to. Perhaps the severe spring storms played a part. Eagles do not brood over these things and, very likely, the pair from NY62 will be back next year in late winter to refurbish the nest and try again.

- Tom Lake

4/24 - Town of Esopus, HRM 87: American toads gathered along the edge of a pond to trill, swoon, and spoon. The males were in fine voice and it seemed to have paid off well. A quick, and by no means complete, count was 150, but there were probably at least three times that (their camouflage was excellent). The strands of poppy seed-sized eggs in clear jelly covered all the foliage from last season that was now down in the water. Fish waited in a half ring about 5' out from the toads - anticipating eggs for dinner, I suspect.

- Vivian Yess Wadlin

4/24 - Crow's Nest, HRM 53: My staff and I were conducting a snake survey, hoping that the recent warm weather had started to stir some snakes from their winter sanctuaries. As we were moving across a talus field a red-tailed hawk flew down the mountain past us and stopped in a tree about 150' away - it was Igraine Pendragon. She appeared to have been feeding well, although she was cautious. I spoke to her gently, trying to reassure her. But, when I took the camera out to take a picture, she flew further down the mountain. Mourning cloak butterflies were active. Several Dutchman's breeches were blooming as were several yellow harlequins. As we headed back to the office, we came upon a doe deer giving birth. We did not wish to stress her out so we left the area as quickly and as quietly as possible.

- James Beemer, Christopher Pray, Frank Hammond, West Point Natural Resources Branch staff

4/24 - Croton Point, HREM 34.5: Shadbush was finally in bloom, the latest date in at least 14 years. Last year it first bloomed here on April 11.

- Christopher Letts

4/24 - Staten Island, New York Harbor: While talking with Joe D'Agosta, our new maintenance foreman at Fort Wadsworth, I looked up to see 7 turkey vultures riding thermals past the vivid backdrop of the Verrazano Bridge. Joe and I had survived an all day meeting, but perhaps we didn't look that way. We wondered out loud if they were after him or me.

- Dave Taft

4/24 - Edgewater, NJ HRM 8.5: I finally saw our first resident barn swallow today. This is the latest they have arrived in the 7 years I have been watching, with the first arrival on the 20th, plus or minus a day or two. Perhaps the huge storm delayed them but at last the serious business of raising a new family has begun.

- Terry Milligan

4/25 - Tivoli South Bay, HRM 98.5: There were two osprey circling Tivoli South Bay this afternoon. I liked hearing them calling to each other. Perhaps they were searching for spawning suckers.

- Bob Schmidt

4/25 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: Turkey vultures are not known for their aerial finesse. Imagine walking along a very narrow curb, arms outstretched for balance, and you can picture the teetering flight of the vulture. At midday, it appeared that 3 turkey vultures lazily soared too close to a crow's nest. Two adult crows burst out of the sycamore and engaged the vultures. For a few brief seconds, the turkey vultures far exceeded their genetic code as they performed some tricky and rarely seen evasive maneuvers to escape.

- Tom Lake

4/25 - Hudson Highlands, HRM 46: We went upriver today on the RV Riverkeeper patrol boat, with John Lipscomb and Colorado Riverkeeper John Weisheit. Shadbush was in bloom up to Bear Mountain, looking skeletal white in the unleafed trees.

- Dan Wolff

4/25 - Croton River, HRM 34: The damage of fishing line (monofilament) carelessly left behind by sportsmen was graphically, almost tragically evident by the cut tendons of a mute swan. It has joined our nearly tame mute swan. Both are on land, happily eating three squares of cracked corn diligently set out for them and fresh blades of grass. This is small payment for the serene pleasure they have given us as they glide and bask in the river, paddling up stream and floating down the rapids just for the sheer fun of it. The current in the swollen Croton is far too treacherous for a wounded bird to navigate. Nature will take its course and the leg will heal.

- Sandy Plotkin

4/26 - Minerva, HRM 284: A few tentative wood frog voices were heard this evening in one of the wet areas behind the house, along with a solitary spring peeper. A pair of common loons passed through with a quick stop on the shallow water of the swamp.

- Mike Corey

4/26 - Yonkers, HRM18: The last pile of snow across the river at the base of the Palisade cliffs was gone when I woke up this morning. It had survived the nor'easter and several days of above average temperatures. The talus slopes at the base of the cliffs have cold upwellings and I wonder if this could have contributed to the snow pile's longevity.

- Bob Walters

4/26 - Minerva, HRM 284: Tonight it was a different story: a good number of peepers, though not an army, were calling. Earlier I heard my first brown creeper of the season, one of my favorite spring sounds. A few roadside coltsfoot were blooming today.

- Mike Corey

4/26 - Norrie Point, HRM 85: This was the NYSDEC Region 3 Take Your Kids to Work Day. We seined several times on an ebb tide, catching a spring bouquet of spottail and golden shiners, white perch, pumpkinseeds, and a yellow perch. The highlight may have been a northern water snake sunning itself on the seining beach. We guided it to the river, where it instantly disappeared in the big muddy.

- Chris Bowser

4/26 - Gardiner, HRM 75: On my walk along the rail trail on this overcast morning, I saw this spring's first eastern towhees and yellow-rumped warblers. While everything but Japanese barberry and honeysuckle was barely leafing out, the shadbush looked spectacular in full flower. And in the forest along Bridge Creek Road, amidst the vast carpets of trout lily leaves, I saw one single yellow bloom, an ample reason to return in a few days.

- Laura Heady

4/27 - Stony Creek, HRM 231: Our shadbush was not yet blooming but our spring peepers began tonight. The river was still very high on the flats.

- Karen LaLone

4/27 - Saratoga County, HRM 196: Our shadbush began to show signs of bud swelling early last week but really did not bloom until today. Still, the delicate, white blossoms are not fully bloomed due to the cool, overcast weather.

- John DeLisle

4/27 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 67.5: This is the time of the spring when the riverbanks begin to go from black-and-white to color, a transition from old to new. With fringes of new green as a backdrop, the various cherries with their stark white, and the shadbush, with its soft white glow, give a three-dimensional feeling of life.

- Tom Lake

4/27 - Staten Island, New York Harbor: I walked through one of those quiet places tucked into the increasing crowds of Staten Island. Had water tables and septic systems not been altered here, I'd be standing on a trout stream. Trout lily and blue cohosh were in bloom. The leaves of Virginia waterleaf, Canada mayflower, bell flower, and Solomon's seal peeked up through the dried leaves of a largely winter landscape. I'd come to see a patch of bloodroot that my friend Richard Lynch had mentioned. I thought I was pushing the season as I arrived, but I hadn't thought I'd missed it completely. The large colony was bereft of flowers, fresh petals still strewn over the forest floor. So I took some photos of what was left and, hoping against odds I'd find other plants still in bloom, I hiked up the small stream. I wasn't disappointed - one plant remained, still blooming beautifully.

- Dave Taft

4/28 - Gardiner, HRM 75: The eastern tent caterpillars are back. I saw a nest today with lots of squirming, 1.0 cm-long young. Bring in the cuckoos!

- Laura Heady

4/28 - Hunter's Brook, HRM 67.5: Working in the evening on the water in late April can invite a black fly invasion. This evening there were none and I was thankful. I was thinking that spring might still be step slow this year when I heard "witchity-witchity-witchity" - a common yellowthroat, an early spring warbler.

- Tom Lake

4/28 - Alpine, NY, HRM 18: In our 23rd year of shad bakes along the Hudson, we continue to have the river provide surprises. As we demonstrated smoking and baking American shad we noticed that many in the crowd were looking skyward instead of at the cooking. Overhead, against the tall reddish-gray Palisades, two immature bald eagles soared on thermals. Many were surprised that eagles were here, and many more slapped themselves on the back to celebrate such a wonderful sight, their first eagles.

- Tom Lake

4/29 - Newcomb, HRM 302: As Toby Rathbone and I were walking down to the river tonight, we stopped at an ephemeral pond along the way, always a good place for early amphibians. I thought I saw a frog dive underwater at our approach, but we heard nothing. The ice was out, though, so I figured we should hear frogs soon. I saw the head of a beaver cutting its way across the river as it headed downstream. The water had gone down significantly , 4-5' lower than it was a week ago. Later, about midnight, I stood by the door and could hear the gentle quacking of wood frogs in the woods behind the house. Spring peepers should be following soon. According to my records, the wood frogs are 2-3 weeks later than usual.

- Ellen Rathbone

4/29 - Catskill, HRM 113: Shadbush was flowering. We could see several large blooms across the Hudson from Dutchmen's Landing, as well as just south along the RamsHorn near the observation platform of the west side of the marsh.

- Larry Federman

4/29 - RamsHorn, HRM 112.2: Our first broad-winged hawks arrived this morning. Other first-of-the-season area sightings included black-throated green warbler, blue-gray gnatcatcher, blue-headed vireo and many ruby-crowned kinglets.

- Larry Federman

4/29 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 75: Yea! First bite of the season. I did not get a carp on my dough bait but it was the first action of the spring. A few youngsters next to me caught a dozen channel catfish on nightcrawlers. I was happy for them but I choose to go for the carp as they put up on heck of a fight. I may mix some cornmeal and sugar flavors now that I know there is at least some interest. I may also try my hand at stripers as I promise each spring.

- Glen Heinsohn

4/29 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 74: Our hummingbird feeder, cleaned, filled and hung just yesterday, went up in the nick of time. Our first hummer of the season, a male, was at the feeder before noon and was with us all day. We don't know if he'll stay the summer or move on, but this intrepid little voyager is welcome for as long as he wants.

- Bill Lenhart, Donna Lenhart

4/29 - Beacon, HRM 61: I fished most of the day on Long Dock and got many light nibbles but only caught a 10" bullhead catfish. A group of 4-5 fishing off the end of Long Dock, using worms and cut-bait, were going for striped bass. They only managed a few small bullheads among them as well.

- Bill Greene

4/29 - Inwood Park, HRM 12.5: Well over 600 people jammed into a corner of Inwood Park in northern Manhattan for our 15th annual Hudson River Foundation shad bake. All enjoyed a taste of smoked, baked, and pickled shad. Behind us in the bay, the tide kept falling until it was nearly empty. The lower the water went, the more interesting it became as shorebirds and wading birds, mostly common egrets, showed up to feed.

- Andra Sramek, Christopher Letts, Tom Lake

4/29 - Alley Pond, Queens, New York City: Hiking through a suddenly spring landscape, palm warblers bobbed their tails, yellow warblers sang their sugary songs, bellflower flowered, Solomon's seal prepared to bloom, and then, that raspy screech from a tree along a nearby pond. Looking up into a nearby oak, Debbie Morrison and I saw one, then 3 cat-sized birds. Great horned owls had obviously nested successfully in these woods. An adult female, and 2 nearly adult young flew about, the adult feeding on a large mouse or rat, while the young screeched nearby. This was Debbie's first great horned owl.

- Dave Taft

4/30 - North Greenbush, HRM 144: While sitting at my kitchen table, having lunch, I saw my first hummingbird of spring. The bird was looking around my garden for food. Now, I have to go fetch a feeder and food!

- Pat Van Alstyne

4/30 - Hyde Park, HRM 82: Today we were surprised to see a male rose-breasted grosbeak feeding at our suet feeder less than a foot away from the kitchen window. An hour later, a male Baltimore oriole appeared on the same feeder. I have never seen either of these birds at our feeders, let alone both in one day!

- Jude Holdsworth

4/30 - Hunter's Brook, HRM 67.5: Twelve days ago, the water exiting this brook was 39 degrees F. Six days ago it had risen to 61 degrees F. Today it was back to 51 degrees F. The abrupt dynamics of many Hudson River tributaries never fail to amaze, even more so when you consider the resiliency of the aquatic life. The schools of alewives are absent for now.

- Tom Lake

4/30 - Town of Wappinger: I was called out this morning to investigate a red fox family living at the edge of the woods in a semi-rural backyard. The mated pair of red foxes found a fairly large, compacted brush pile 25 feet into the woods to be a perfect location for a maternity den. The male is a grayish-phase, almost charcoal, while the mother is the typical light reddish color. The female has been out and about, mostly at dawn and dusk, with her litter for about a week, though they likely were born several weeks ago. Some mornings at dawn the female sits on top of a three-foot-high mound of mulch at the edge of the woods while the 4 kits nurse, two on each side. On cool mornings, the extra warmth from the decomposing organics probably provides some comfort. Both the male and the female have brought squirrels to the den; today I found a baby woodchuck skin and partial carcass nearby. In the month or so that this fox family has been around, neither adult fox has ventured into the yard, always staying at the edge of the woods. In a week or two, once the young are fully weaned, the female will probably move the den to another location.

- Tom Lake

[If the presence of a fox or a fox den makes homeowners nervous, for reasons of pets at risk or the possibility of rabies, you can encourage the foxes to relocate by being more active near the den. Leaving a gas powered push lawn mower running for a while near the den will usually cause the family of foxes to relocate. Lou Berchielli, NYSDEC Wildlife Biologist.]

4/30 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: Here it was, the last day of April, late afternoon, still warm, getting breezy, the air golden with forsythia, birds all over the yard, pecking, fussing, and singing. I noticed that the hummingbird feeder I hung nine days ago looked less full and then, sure enough, I saw my first hummingbird of the season! It buzzed up to drink deeply. Welcome back little friend!

- Robin Fox

4/30 - Manhattan, HRM 5: With over 13" of rain this month, New York City had its second wettest April (most was 1933: 14.01").

- National Weather Service

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