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Hudson River Almanac March 27 - March 31, 2010


At least two harbor seals were spotted in the lower estuary this week, a quite reliable indicator of herring and shad in the estuary. Glass eels have arrived in the tributaries and eagles are incubating. This is also the season of extremes, with ice still in the High Peaks yet summer-like days near the sea.


3/28 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 74: About ten feet up in a tree in a small wood patch we spotted a red-shouldered hawk. There has been a pair hanging around since last year and we figured this was one of them. As expected, the squirrels were noticeably absent. Later we spotted a red-breasted nuthatch foraging on the ground.
- Bill Lenhart, Donna Lenhart


3/27 - Hillsdale, HRM 119: Despite temperatures below freezing in our yard in Columbia County, I noticed the first myrtle flowers of the year. For another, less welcome, sign of spring, we picked two ticks off of our cats in the last four days (the cats don't like the process). Anyone who strays off the pavement in the Hudson Valley needs to be aware of ticks and Lyme disease beginning now.
- Bob Schmidt

3/27 - Pleasant Valley, HRM 75: I spotted a large sparrow underneath my feeder, a fox sparrow, one that I had not seen before. It is quite a beautiful bird with its rusty red and gray color and streaked breast. Sometimes it fed on sunflower seeds; at other times it just sat there on the ground looking like it was almost falling asleep!
- Kathy Kraft

3/27 - Ossining, HRM 33: Since the wintering bald eagle season has ended, I have been watching a red-tailed hawk nest near the river. Right now they are incubating, so there is only the occasional fly in or out by one of the pair. I noticed five turkey vultures soaring over the nest. I took some photos but didn't bother to download them until later when, to my surprise, there was a bald eagle and a red-tailed hawk flying with the vultures. None of the birds seemed to be perturbed by any of the others.
- Bonnie Talluto

3/28 - Ulster County, HRM 95: I was pleased to see my first meadowlarks of the year at the Galeville Airport [Shawangunk Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge]. They are brilliant golden yellow when facing you, but blend into the grasses as they forage.
- Macska

3/28 - Town of Poughkeepsie: On January 25, strong winds gusting over 50 mph split the bifurcated trunk of a giant tuliptree that housed a bald eagle nest near the river. While the half still standing contained the nest, eagle activity has decreased until over the last few days, the nest tree has been empty.
- Tom Lake

3/28 - Town of Wappinger: Nearly every day when I visit the eagle nest (NY62) I am convinced that it is empty. Since the nest is deep and incubation demands a certain amount of "hunkering down," I spend the first fifteen minutes trying to find a vantage that will allow a definitive peek. Today I was more than 300 feet away peering into the scope before a pair of yellow eyes peered back between some loose branches on the rim of the nest. She knew I was there and within seconds I could hear her soft chortling, a sweet and unmistakable music. This was incubation Day 26.
- Tom Lake

3/28 - West Haverstraw, Rockland County, HRM 39: After two days of an empty glass eel fyke, Laurie Seeman and Joanna Dickey reported seven glass eels in Minisceongo Creek.
- Chris Bowser

[Freshwater eels have survived global cataclysms for millions of year but now some populations appear to be diminishing, even disappearing, worldwide and scientists are not quite certain why. While American eels are considered freshwater fish, they are born at sea and many of them spend much of their lives in tidewater. Glass eels are one of the juvenile life stages of the American eel. They arrive by the millions in the estuary each spring, swimming into the Hudson's tributaries following a six-month to year-long journey from the Sargasso Sea where they are born. Glass eel refers to their lack of pigment and near transparency. This is a particularly vulnerable time for them and little is known about this period in their life history. In anywhere from 12-30 years, depending upon their sex, they will leave the Hudson River watershed for the sea where they will spawn once and then die. Tom Lake.]

3/28 - Furnace Woods, HRM 38.5: It was 26 degrees F this morning with frost on the windshield and a quarter inch of ice on the birdbath.
- Christopher Letts

3/28 - Manhattan, HRM 4: An immature harbor seal was spotted hauled out on a piling at 64th Street on the west side of Manhattan.
- Tom Lake

3/29 - Minerva, HRM 284: We woke up this morning to two inches of massively wet snow. The ponded area of our swamp was still quite iced in, even safe to walk on - as much as 8-10 inches of ice. Yet, despite the 32 degree F weather, the male red-winged blackbirds were up and at 'em, singing away in the shrubs around the iced-in areas. I guess that's spring.
- Mike Corey

3/29 - Croton Point, HRM 34: A harbor seal was spotted basking on a rock in the river at Croton Point.
- Jeanne D. Shaw

3/29 - Memory Lane, The Shad Camp, Edgewater NJ, HRM 8.5: This was a new and delectable world for me, a flat-water boy from the Michigan midlands. The North Jersey accent was thick, the beer thin, and we were on tidewater, the Algonquian's "river that flows both ways." Edgewater's Palisades Amusement Park was still alive and well. We hauled our nets to a calliope cadence and the chorus of shrieks and screams that poured from the top of the Ferris wheel over the Palisade cliffs and flowed across the water to our boat.
We were shad fishers, but in this season, and so proximate to the ocean, we caught many species of fish including other herrings and anchovies by the bucketful. They spangled the net in the morning sun, painted a silvery hue across the timbers of the shad skiff. I learned to gather them up and to cook them at home - flounders, both left-eyed and right eyed, oyster toadfish ("mother in law" fish, Charlie Smith called them), sea robins, horse mackerel, and striped bass. Early in the season, we had tomcods, white catfish, white perch and rarely, a freshwater stray like a chain pickerel or walleye. From warmer water later in the season we caught menhaden, weakfish, and butterfish. Once in a while we caught small sharks, smooth dogfish and spiny dogfish; a dozen times a season we caught seahorses that had been pinned to the net by the force of the current. We once caught a lumpfish (with the lovely Latin name Cyclopterus lumpus), the only one taken this side of Montauk and now in the American Museum of Natural History's collection. A couple of times a season we would see a huge monkfish, also called an anglerfish, up to 30 lb. We heard the story again of the itinerant Swedish fisherman who, as he hauled one aboard in the midst of a midnight thunderstorm yelled "The Devil!" and jumped over the side. They were an awesome sight.
- Christopher Letts

3/30 - Altamont, Albany County, HRM 155: Mole salamanders were crossing the roads to their breeding pools during this evening's rain. On two roads that experience annual spring amphibian migrations, we found several spotted salamanders, one Jefferson's salamander hybrid, and one blue-spotted salamander. Wood frogs and spring peepers were also seen on the road and peepers were heard calling from a nearby wetland. A search of a roadside marsh for other species revealed a lone northern red salamander moving through the clear, shallow water. (This was a near repeat of an observation in the same locations from March 22, by Al Breisch, Jesse Jaycox, Mary Beth Kolosvary).
- Jesse Jaycox, Paul Novak, Jenny Murtaugh

3/30 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67.5: Another nor'easter dropped two inches of rain, adding to the two inches already in the rain gauge. Tributaries in the mid-Hudson reach were torrents. The tidal Wappinger, running like café au lait, was over its banks and up in the trees at high tide. In some areas, Hunter's Brook was indistinguishable from a pond.
- Tom Lake

3/30 - Town of Wappinger: The tall tuliptree swayed through the wind and driving rain, but the eagle nest (NY62) clung to its limbs like they were embracing arms. There was no changing of the guard during the storm as the female, with furrowed brow and pinched expression, gutted it out. This was incubation Day 28.
- Tom Lake

3/30 - Oscawana, Westchester County, HRM 38.5: A raging nor'easter slammed the northeast and caused the already swollen lakes and ponds in the area to go even higher. From the overlook at Oscawana, the river reminded us of the Mississippi's nickname, "Big Muddy."
- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson

3/30 - Furnace Woods, HRM 38.5: The rain gauge held well over three inches. Furnace Brook was a raging torrent, a braided whitewater stream, flowing over low bridges in some places. This will be a verdant and floriferous spring.
- Christopher Letts

3/30 - Haverstraw Bay, HRM 39: "Fyke nets out!" Spring deluges such as this one have the power to suck collection gear right out of the tributaries. At such times of high water collection efforts are suspended for both practical and safety reasons.
- Chris Bowser

[A fyke net is a collection device used most often for fish, but occasionally for turtles. Most are a series of several hoops connected by mesh netting through which fish pass, leading to a "cod end" where captured fish accumulate. When used in a Hudson River tributary, fykes are set facing downstream to collect fish, such as eels, heading upstream. A section of netting is angled away on either side from the initial hoop serving as a guide, encouraging fish to take the path of least resistance toward the net. Tom Lake.]

3/31 - Newcomb, HRM 302: The rain stopped. While we got three inches over two days, for all of March we only had 3.71 inches of rain with 1.5 inches of snow, a record low for the five years I've been tracking the weather at the Adirondack Park Visitors Interpretive Center.
- Ellen Rathbone

3/31 - Manhattan, HRM 5: In contrast to the High Peaks of the Adirondacks, it was the wettest March ever for Manhattan: 10.63 inches of rain.
- National Weather Service

3/31 - Furnace Woods, HRM 38.5: Coltsfoot popped up and bloomed, seemingly overnight. In a few days, the Dutchmen's breeches in the gorge behind the Croton Point Office will be in bloom, a sight I look forward to seeing each year.
- Christopher Letts

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