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Hudson River Almanac April 16 - April 22, 2008

OVERVIEW

The "greening" of the Hudson Valley occurs like a wave, slowly moving up the watershed in April as tree leaves and grasses begin to backlight the emerging flowers. The steady spread of color from the yellow forsythia to the stark white of cherries is like a light going on along the river. Shadbush and flowering dogwood are close behind.


HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

4/16 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: Our red fox family continues to delight. Today Mama was sitting next to the tool shed under which she has her nest. I commented to her from my back door that she must have beautiful little pups. Scarcely a minute later 2 tiny fox kits trotted out from under the shed. In a week or two, once the young are fully weaned, the female will probably move the den to another location
- Diane Lowry

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

4/16 - Furnace Woods, HRM 38.5: Our forsythia was in full bloom now, pickerel frogs were calling, and yet there was frost on the windshield. At dawn the air temperature was 23 degrees F. As temperatures rise, even at 50 degrees, black flies have become ferocious. Yard work will be a bloody business this week. Coincident events just about every year: the flowering cherries break into bloom, and the first barn swallows return to Pine Lake.
- Christopher Letts

4/16 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: On a warm and breezy day, the spicebush in our woods burst into blossom.
- Robin Fox

4/16 - Hudson River Estuary: The NYSDEC Hudson River Fisheries Unit has resumed its annual tracking of sonic tagged adult Atlantic sturgeon. These fish spend the first few years of their life in the river where they were born, then move out to ocean waters where they spend most of their life. Once mature (about 10 years old for males, 15-20 for females), they return to fresh water in their natal river in late spring through early summer to spawn.
Last year our remote receiver, anchored in the river near Hastings-on-Hudson [HRM 21.5], indicated that a few fish showed up early and were missed by our mobile boat tracking crew. This year we started early to listen for any fish on their way into the Hudson to spawn. To our surprise and delight, "Minerva McGonagall," a 7.5 foot female Atlantic sturgeon, was found in the river on April 8. (Note: Atlantic sturgeon tagged in 2006 were christened with names of Harry Potter characters.) She stayed near Stony Point [HRM 40] at the upper end of Haverstraw Bay for nearly a week. She has now begun to move with the tide into the lower Hudson Highlands.
Minerva was tagged with a long term [5 year] sonic tag near Roger's Point [HRM 82], just north of Poughkeepsie. The objective of the program is to identify Atlantic sturgeon spawning areas and gain insight into their behavior and habitat preferences during their spawning run. The long term tags will also confirm how often males and females spawn.
- Amanda Higgs

4/17 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: I consider the ornamental magnolia tree to be the new "shadbush" in the Mid-Hudson reach of the river. The true shadbush, a native species, has been, at least colloquially in some areas on the East Coast, considered a harbinger of shad arriving in estuaries. However, in the last several decades, either shadbush is blooming later, shad are arriving earlier, or our observations are becoming more precise. The bright, beautiful, and immensely fragrant magnolia was in full bloom today. As it began to show color a week or more ago, the first shad were nosing up the river.
- Tom Lake

4/17 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: This morning I went out with my second cup of coffee to look for the newest "spring-thing." The slowly greening lawn was dotted with very tiny composite flowers - more a bunch of pin-head sized white dots than flowers. But, they carpeted much of the still-brown lawn. I looked, hoping, at the area where I expect the spring beauties to flower. There was nothing showing. But just now, in late afternoon, I went out to look again and to my delight, there they were: the first spring beauty blossoms trembling in the breeze!
- Robin Fox

4/18 - New Paltz, HRM 78: I travel on Route 32 each morning and feel fortunate to enjoy a wonderful sight. Along the way I often pass wild turkeys, at least 15, both toms and hens. I guess the toms know it's spring because they strut about with their beautiful tails fully open for all the hens to admire.
- Gail Logan

4/18 - Hunter's Brook, HRM 67.5: Another day without rain; the brook level was dropping and the flow decreasing. Students from Dutchess Community College and Roy C. Ketcham High School helped with the eel net. Even with the stronger tides of the full moon approaching, our count was only 10. A dead male white sucker drifted slowly downstream. These fish ascend freshwater streams in spring to spawn, a dangerous activity in shallow water. Predators. This one had a huge chunk ripped from its back. With no talon marks from an eagle or osprey, we guessed it might have been a lost fox or coyote lunch.
- Angela Anderson, Kathryn Goerge, Kayla Rath, Tom Lake

4/18 - Beacon, HRM 61: During an enjoyable seven-hour session in the great weather on Long Dock, I caught and released 4 carp, all decent size, the largest of which weighed 8 lb. 6 oz. The carp were occasionally rolling at the surface. Anglers at the end of the pier were catching small striped bass, white perch, and an occasional brown bullhead.
- Bill Greene

4/18 - Furnace Woods, HRM 38.5: We dined on the fruits of the new season: shad roe, dandelion crown and mustard greens salad, and rhubarb pie. Finest kind!
- Christopher Letts

4/18 - Sandy Hook, NJ: Hard clam season in the Navesink River runs out the end of this month so we hit the low tide around noon today to build up a small backlog. The clam bed showed signs of wearing thin; it's been pounded since November 1. But we landed our share accompanied by the soothing mutterings of brant and the incessant, raucous chatter of oystercatchers arguing over mates and territory.
- Dery Bennett

4/19 - Newcomb, HRM 302: We hit 80 degrees F today, in a shady spot! Somehow 80s in April in the Adirondacks just isn't right. So much for spring. The river was back up, though. It had crested earlier in the week and was going down, but the abnormally hot weather over the last two days did a number on the snow pack in the High Peaks, resulting in a flush of water downstream. Meanwhile, "spring" is bursting out all over. At 1:30 AM wood frogs were "quacking," I heard peepers this afternoon, and the toads have been trilling for the last three nights. I don't recall ever hearing them this early, and certainly not before the frogs. I saw a merlin this morning, a killdeer has been around for a couple of days, and I heard my first woodcock "peent" as well.
- Ellen Rathbone

4/19 - Minerva, HRM 284: I heard my first peepers and scattered wood frog calls tonight. The open water area in the swamp near my house is still pretty much iced in, although the small ditches and associated pools away from the swamp are open. We have many male red-winged blackbirds acting territorially. A phoebe made itself known to me today - a first for the year. We still have around 18" of snow in the woods behind the house, despite the 78 degree weather. Snow is melting fast.
- Mike Corey

4/19 - Stony Creek, HRM 100.5: I was walking along the path to Stony Creek with the intention of setting herring nets. It was great to see blooming bloodroot and a huge patch of blooming dogtooth violets (a.k.a. troutlilies). I had a stand off with an American toad on the path and saw a great butterfly (probably a comma, but I have trouble telling them from question marks on the wing). There was also my first snake of the season, a very rusty colored garter snake in the mouth of the Saw Kill. Later I managed to intercept a small run of male yellow perch (210-240 mm) in the mouth of the Saw Kill.
- Bob Schmidt

4/19 - Norrie Point, HRM 85: Through binoculars from the NYSDEC Environmental Center patio, I found an osprey flying wide circles west of Esopus Island until an adult bald eagle zoomed into view and "attacked" the osprey. There was a brief scuffle, then a short acrobatic "dogfight" with circling loops, and dives, until the osprey flew downriver and the eagle landed in a large pine on the west shore. Shortly the osprey returned and made several looping passes in front of the perched eagle, then finally gave up.
- Dave Lindemann

[Eagles and ospreys often have a very contentious relationship along tidewater.Osprey, the great "fish hawk," are the equal of an eagle at fishing. Bald eagles, however, have a tendency to be lazy. They are noted for their in-flight pirating of fish caught by osprey with harassing, body-bumping, talon-raking, and feather-scattering intimidation maneuvers designed to force the osprey to give up the catch. Tom Lake.]

4/19 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 76: Craig Hoover, a student at Dutchess Community College, and his father, Skip Hoover, a teacher at Kreiger Elementary, found a whopping 84 glass eels in the fyke net set up on the Fall Kill. That's the record for that site this season.
- Chris Bowser

4/19 - Town of Wappinger: It is looking bleak for the production of nestlings from the NY62 nests this spring. After five successful season of fledging eaglets this may be the pair's second barren year in a row. The male brought a fish to the new nest (NY62B) this week, ordinarily a sign that there is a third mouth to feed. But the fish, a gizzard shad, was never offered to the nest and was instead eaten on a nearby feeding perch. At dawn this morning both adults were at the new nest, but neither were inside. They perched side-by-side on a limb a few feet away.
- Tom Lake

4/19 - Furnace Brook, RM 38.5. Ossining High School students Laura Hellmich and Dara Illowski, along with their mothers, Heidi and Susan, and their teacher Valerie Holmes, sampled glass eels for three days around this month's full moon. After the first full day and night, they found 101 glass eels in their fyke net. The water was a warm 68 degrees F. They are setting the nets as part of a high school research project to see what kind of environmental factors, such as lunar cycles, affect glass eel numbers in their local tributary.
- Chris Bowser

4/19 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: Spied the first bloodroot blossom in the garden today. I expect the deer will spy it next. I also picked my first batch of fiddlehead ferns for supper!
- Robin Fox

4/20 - Newcomb, HRM 302: A heard a hermit thrush last night! Presently, a winter wren is singing its little heart out outside my office window at the Adirondack Park Visitors Interpretive Center.
- Ellen Rathbone

4/20 - Minerva, HRM 284: I heard one solitary, lonely little peeper in the back end of the swamp behind our house this evening. Still no wood frogs. I'm wondering if their population is sinking everywhere? I recall hearing none, or few of them, last year. While standing and musing, I did hear "peenting" and twittering coming from sky; although I couldn't actually see the woodcock, I knew it was there. Song sparrows were out and about, robins were noisily hanging out in the woods, and one wood duck was desperately seeking open water.
- Mike Corey

4/20 - Columbia County, HRM 118: I was standing in my yard when I heard an unmistakable sound: our yellow-bellied sapsucker had returned and was pounding on my metal 911 sign.
- Bob Schmidt

4/20 - Hunter's Brook, HRM 67.5: After two days in the 80s, the air today was more April-like - in the 60s. Glass eel and elver numbers in the net continued to be unpredictable. Discovering what motivates them to swim upstream is still elusive after six years of paying attention. Out in Wappinger Creek, the carp were beginning their spring behavior of rolling and splashing, mostly tied into spawning. Carp are a nonnative species of minnow, meaning that Colonial Americans did not witness these often stunning performances.
- Tom Lake

4/20 - Furnace Brook, RM 38.5: On the second day of their sampling, Ossining High School students Laura Hellmich and Dara Illowski found 48 glass eels in their fyke net. The water temperature had fallen 9 degrees F in 24 hours, an amazing number that underlines the resiliency of these fish. As the students worked, 2 bald eagles circled overhead.
- Chris Bowser

4/20 - Furnace Woods, HRM 38.5: Where two barn swallows flew four days ago, three dozen now dipped and soared, mingling with tree and rough-winged swallows. We hope their appetite for the wicked black flies is sharp.
- Christopher Letts

4/20 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: A female eastern towhee came to the bird feeder several times this afternoon. What a pretty bird and a first for me.
- Robin Fox

4/21 - East Fishkill, HRM 61: As we passed a semi-truck heading west this evening on I-84, we saw, ever so briefly in the glare of our headlights, a lone coyote on the highway median. Upon arriving home, we listened to a neighbor's message on our answering machine alerting us to the presence of coyotes heard in our nearby woods and suggesting that we not let our cat outdoors.
- Ed Spaeth, Merrill Spaeth

4/21 - Staatsburg, HRM 85: I went up the road to check on the resident kestrels. As I got there, the male flew up from the ground to a telephone wire with a small snake in his talons. It was 6-8 inches-long, still alive, but too far away to identify. The kestrel put the snake's head in his mouth and slurped it down like a piece of spaghetti.
- David Lund

4/21 - Furnace Woods, HRM 38.5: Tulips and redbud were flowering and shadbush was finally in full bloom.
- Christopher Letts

4/22 - Staatsburg, HRM 85: The red shouldered hawks are definitely nesting. One or the other of them has been more-or-less constantly on the nest since April 11. When I go by, there's always a head or a tail sticking out over the edge of the nest.
- David Lund

4/22 - Highland, HRM 76: Most people know wood ducks nest in hollow trees, using cavities carved by pileated woodpeckers. But have you ever seen them just perched in a tree for no particular reason? Such was the case as I was walking my dog in the early morning hours. We had just passed our mailbox and the silhouette of two large birds in a red oak caught my attention. I took a closer look and saw it was a mated pair of wood ducks perched on a pair of limbs 30 feet above the ground. I live a half-mile from Black Creek and have seen them on a large vernal pool in wet springs. But this year being so dry, I guess they stopped in the tree to wonder "what happened to our summer home?"
- Jim Beemer

4/22 - Hunter's Brook, HRM 67.5: Students from Randolph School combined their 15 minutes of volunteer river herring observation with a check of our eel fyke. We counted 13 glass eels and noted that at least half of them were beginning to show some darker pigment, an adaptation that we think is linked to their switch from ocean to estuarine habitat. A few of them resembled tiny black threads, a major change from the near transparency of a month ago.
- Tom Lake

4/22 - Sandy Hook, NJ -The shad bush is blooming here, about on schedule. We have had strong onshore winds the past few days, keeping the temperature about 15 degrees F cooler than inland.
- Pam Carlsen

[Since 1994, shadbush bloom dates for Sandy Hook have ranged from 4/8 to 4/28, with an average date of the third week in April. Tom Lake.]


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