Hudson River Almanac April 22 - April 27, 2010
During what has traditionally been the beginning of the peak of the spring shad season on the Hudson River, DEC's Hudson River Fisheries Unit has documented the journeys of some of these fish as they travel from the sea to their freshwater spawning areas above the Hudson Highlands.
HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK
4/25 - New Hamburg, HRM 68: Mary Lou Lamping called me at midday to say that a seal was hauled out on a dock at the New Hamburg Yacht Club. By the time I got there it was gone. Vinnie Panaro had seen it first, swimming inshore near the boat ramp, looking as though it wanted to haul out. He thought it was a dog: "It had whiskers!" The seal swam out to the far corner of the southernmost dock, and hauled out facing the river. It laid on its right side for a while, then half-rolled over onto its left side with its bifurcated tail flipper in the air, reclining in its "banana-like" pose. A neighborhood dog barked and then the seal barked as well. Vinnie showed me some photos he took which confirmed that it was a harbor seal. It was there for about two hours before it finally dove back into the river.
- Tom Lake
[Herring netters have been doing very well in the last week for both alewives and blueback herring, so the presence of this seal was not surprising. Tom Lake.]
NATURAL HISTORY NOTES
- An addendum to our sandhill crane sighting of April 21:
Jesse Jaycox and Rich Guthrie reminded us that sandhill cranes have successfully bred in central and western New York, in particular at the Northern Montezuma Wildlife Management Area, part of the 50,000 acre Montezuma Wetlands complex in southeastern Wayne County and northwestern Cayuga County between Rochester and Syracuse. For more information, please see Environment DEC's article on the subject.
- Tom Lake
4/22 - Minerva, HRM 284: I had my first listen to our annual "plumbing bird," an American bittern, out in the low shrubs and emergents of the swamp behind our house. (Their call sounds like a drain coming unplugged.) Along with the sora rail, it's a welcome addition to the spring sounds up here.
- Mike Corey
4/22 - Wynantskill, Rensselear County, HRM 149: We went collecting fishes with our backpack electro-shocker for an exhibit of live fish. We visited the mouth of the Poesten Kill with some success but saw nothing spectacular. We then stopped in the Wynantskill a few miles downriver to round out our catch. At one thickly vegetated spot, something was disturbing the plants. A fast dip with the net and we pulled up a muskrat (a rather angry one).
- Bob Schmidt, Bryan Weatherwax
4/22 - Sandy Hook, NJ: The beach plums were beginning to pop. This is an observation that Dery Bennett and I often made together each spring. While they are not yet fully in bloom, it still seems like it's early; the range of dates over the last decade has been May 2-5.
- Pam Carlsen
4/23 - Troy, HRM 151.5: I arrived at the Poesten Kill where Bob Schmidt and others had reported seeing blueback herring. Sure enough, there were schools of them coming up between the 1st and 2nd Street bridges. I watched for some time. The herring would school up in groups of 30-50, and then make a run through the middle of the stream heading up toward the shallow waterfall (we have observed them spawning there in past years). Sometimes a school would spook, and return back to the pool, gathering up their courage again. This was clearly the place that local fishers knew about for getting their bait. Eventually a couple of white suckers entered the arena. If the herrings' movements were like a choreographed ballet, these guys danced more of a boogie-woogie, resting on large blocks in the stream bed, eventually "boogie-ing" on upstream. A fisherman spotted a large northern pike sitting upstream, waiting for the herring.
- Karin Limburg
4/23 - Sandy Hook, NJ: There are ten nesting pairs of osprey on Sandy Hook this spring.
- Scott Barnes
4/24 - Wynantskill, Rensselear County, HRM 149: I saw a female prairie warbler this morning in a hedgerow, pumping her tail like she's supposed to. The eastern towhees are back.
- George Wilson
4/24 - Hillsdale, HRM 119: I saw my first tiger swallowtail today. It was nectaring on a flowering almond shrub in my yard in Columbia County.
- Bob Schmidt
4/24 - Town of Poughkeepsie: As my field archaeology students excavated their meter-square units (we did not find any treasure!), I had a long chance to look out at the glassy-smooth river. It was the last of the morning flood tide and I wondered how many shad were swimming past. For so long we did not have to imagine; we'd set our nets and they would tell us.
- Tom Lake
4/25 - Ravena, Albany County, HRM 134: Today saw an end to a dry spell we'd been having. The rhubarb and the peonies were emerging and the garden was already off to a good start. This has seemed to be an especially good year for flowering trees and shrubs. Our forsythia has been really thick. Also notable however, has been the abundance of small flowering plants on our scrubby lawn. This year we're seeing mats of field pussytoes and bunches of bluets popping up. What's really taking off however is a variety of violet-like flowers that are all over the hillside. None of them are very high (3-4 inches) but the cumulative effective effect is wonderful.
- Larry Roth
4/25 - Saw Kill, HRM 98.5: I was sampling fishes in the mouth of the Saw Kill, catching yellow perch and alewives coming in to spawn. As I was measuring the alewives, I noticed a common marsh resident climbing up my pencil. It was a marsh treader, a very small animated hair, extremely thin black insect with long legs. You can see them walking on the water chestnut plants later in the season, sometimes in large numbers. The adults overwinter on the shoreline and I guess I disturbed this one. Later on in the day I realized that I had numerous cuts on my hands- reminding me of one of the common names for alewife, the "sawbelly."
- Bob Schmidt
[Herring and shad have rather sharp ventral or belly scutes (sawtooth scales) that serve to streamline the fish as it swims, and perhaps give predators second thoughts (more like a momentary hesitation) when they try to swallow the herring tail-first. Tom Lake.]
4/25 - Clinton Point to Garrison, HRM 69-51: I had a "triple play" of eagle sightings along Metro North today: I saw two immatures perched in a tree on Clinton Point, and then a single adult in a usual haunt between Cold Spring and Garrison.
- Glen Heinsohn
4/26 - Minerva, HRM 284: Shadbush was blooming for the first time today. I also heard what sounded very much like black-throated green and yellow-rumped warblers back in the woods. Little northern white violet flowers (which are very low to the ground) are out and about in the wood in Minerva. They are a very appealing, smallish violet.
- Mike Corey
4/26 - Hudson River Estuary, HRM 146-11: Forty-four American shad have been caught in nets and tagged this spring with sonic tags along the 85-mile reach from the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge to the George Washington Bridge. Tracking (detecting the sonic tag) will help identify migratory routes and the rate at which they ascend the estuary, as well as specific spawning locations and congregation areas; GPS fish locations will be linked with available or collected habitat information of the bottom of the Hudson River. For 2010, we named the fish after 1980s bands and singers!
- Amanda Higgs, NYSDEC Hudson River Fisheries Unit
During the week of 4/19, we covered the river from Newburgh Bay to the Troy Dam. Each day the crew had a specific section to cover and "listen" for tagged fish. We heard tagged fish in all sections of the river. For example, on the first day:
- Shad tagged in Haverstraw Bay on 4/14 and 4/16 (Tiffany and the Pointer Sisters) were found near Milton and the Mid-Hudson Bridge respectively, 35-40 miles upriver. The following day, these same fish had moved 20-25 miles upriver to the southern tip of Kingston Flats.
- Debbie Gibson and Journey, tagged in Haverstraw Bay on 4/14 and 4/16 were heard near Rondout Creek and Port Ewen respectively, 50-55 miles upriver.
- Phil Collins, tagged at the George Washington Bridge on 4/8 was on the heard at the Saddle Bags shoal near Glasco, 89 miles upriver in about eleven days.
- Paula Abdul, tagged in Haverstraw Bay on 4/16, was heard 71 miles upriver near Germantown.
Moving farther north the next day, we continued to hear tagged fish.
- Prince and the Weather Girls, tagged in Haverstraw Bay on 4/14 and 4/16, were found 80-85 miles upriver near Stockport Creek.
- Cyndi Lauper, tagged at the George Washington Bridge on 4/8, was detected near the Coxsackie boat launch, more than 130 miles upriver.
- Phil Collins, detected the day before on the Saddle Bags, was also found near the Coxsackie boat launch, 25 miles upriver.
- The Bangles was hanging out with Phil Collins and Cyndi Lauper near Coxsackie, and Debbie Gibson, detected the day before near Rondout Creek, was heard near the Roeliff-Jansens's Kill, 19 miles further upriver.
- Still farther north, we detected Madonna. She was tagged at the George Washington Bridge on 4/8 and was heard near the southern tip of Schodack Island, having traveled 120-125 miles upriver in two weeks.
- Phil Collins, Prince, Cyndi Lauper and the Weather Girls continued to push north and were found near Castleton-on-Hudson, 14 miles upriver. Salt-N-Pepa, tagged in Haverstraw Bay on 4/14, was also found hanging out near the Castleton-on-Hudson with the other fish. For Salt-N-Pepa, that was a 100 mile journey in a little more than one week.
- During the final day, we detected Cheap Trick. He was tagged in Haverstraw Bay on 4/14 and was detected just north of Bethlehem, more than 100 miles upriver, also in a little more than one week.
- Prince, last heard at Castleton-on-Hudson, was now detected six miles north near the Port of Albany.
- Culture Club, tagged in Haverstraw Bay on 4/14 was detected near Albany's Patroon Island Bridge, having traveled a distance of 105 miles in less than two weeks.
- A short distance north of the Patroon Island Bridge, we detected Paula Abdul, having traveled 37 miles in three days from when we last heard her near Germantown.
4/27 - Ulster Landing, HRM 97: The lilacs were in full bloom; this sure seems early, especially with this cold north wind blowing!
- Peg Duke
4/27 - Gardiner, Ulster County 73: There have been two chipping sparrows at our suet feeders for the past week. While this not to say they weren't there before - we do look at the birds quite often and I keep a pretty good record of what we see - we don't recall ever seeing them before in 19 years of living here.
- Roland Ellis
4/27 - Town of Wappinger: It was another sad day at eagle nest NY62. The female, Mama, was back for an hour. As she did two weeks ago, she sat in the nest, tilted her head back, and called, at least "mouthing" a call, with no sound that I could hear. There has been no sign of her mate. Finally, as a long crow began to harass her, she lifted off in an impressive show of size, strength, and beauty, and glided down the hill toward the river.
- Tom Lake