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Hudson River Almanac March 16 - March 23, 2011

OVERVIEW

This week marks the beginning of year eighteen for the Hudson River Almanac. The Almanac, through citizen participation, seeks to capture the spirit, magic, and science of the Hudson River Valley through narratives that define the season, from the High Peaks of the Adirondacks 320 miles to the sea. Across those eighteen years, the Almanac has matured from a published hardcopy distributed to a limited audience to an online weekly natural history journal sent free via e-mail to over 2,700 people by DEC's Hudson River Estuary Program.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

3/20 - Town of Poughkeepsie: I checked the eagle nest (NY 225) once last time before nightfall. The female's big white head glowed in the last rays of sunset as she settled on her eggs for the night. She faded to gray, and finally away. While this was only a single nest, similar events were occurring at two dozen other bald eagle nests from the head of tide at Troy 130 miles south through the Tappan Zee.
- Tom Lake

[As daylight faded and evening arrived, with it came the vernal equinox, as well as the start of the eighteenth year of the Hudson River Almanac. Tom Lake.]

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

3/16- Minerva, HRM 284: The crowds of male red-winged blackbirds were in the trees; they seemed to arrive in large groups and were quite talkative. Yesterday I heard the very recognizable song of a brown creeper, and the chickadees' spring songs are all over the place. But, we still have around three feet of snow in the woods and a foot of ice on the pond.
- Mike Corey

3/17- Saugerties, HRM 102: This afternoon I heard my first spring peepers of the season, vocalizing at two sites in northern Saugerties Township. A few individuals could also be heard vocalizing from trees, having not yet made their pilgrimage to their breeding sites. Several smaller sites hosted dozens of red-spotted newts, with the vast majority paired and coupled. I have previously seen red-spotted newts mating on many occasions and over an extended season, but this is the most intensified breeding effort I have ever witnessed from this species, one that can spend seven years as a terrestrial juvenile before returning to their aquatic breeding sites.
- Steve M. Chorvas

3/17- Town of Poughkeepsie: We are holding our collective breaths. This was Day 17 - halfway to a possible hatch date - of what seems to be earnest incubation in the bald eagle nest in the crown of a heart-rotted tuliptree.
- Tom Lake. T.R. Jackson

[This nest, now in its third year of sporadic usage, has finally been given a designation by the NYSDEC of NY225. Pete Nye.]

3/17 - Beacon, HRM 61: Last year I began my carp fishing season on St. Patrick's Day as well, as soon as the ice was out. It is always worth a try, although you may have to sit a spell. Today I caught and released a 10 lb. 9 oz. carp, 28" long with an 18" girth. This was the first of what I'm hoping will be a good season.
- Bill Greene

3/17 - Croton River, HRM 34: Workers at the Croton Pump Station reported the riverbanks are strewn with the bodies of millions of alewives, or "sawbellies," and that gulls, mergansers, and even an eagle were feeding on them.
- Christopher Letts

3/18 - Town of Ulster, HRM 100: An intermittent woodland pool off of East Chester Street was busy this morning with a loud chorus of wood frogs, in stark contrast to the conditions that existed just the previous morning. No frogs were vocalizing at this site on any of the previous nights or mornings this week, and there had been no precipitation the last few nights to initiate a land movement. I speculate that there was a mass movement of wood frogs to this site earlier in the week, and upon encountering frozen wetlands the frogs silently "chilled out" at the edge of the pool, awaiting the thaw brought on by the past two days of warm air temperatures. No activity was detected at this site at 2:00 AM today, but by 10:00 AM, frogs were in the pool, wasting no time immediately initiating their very vocal breeding affairs.
- Steve M. Chorvas

3/18 - Furnace Woods, HRM 38.5: It was a splendidly warm day with a light breeze and low humidity. The breeze, from the southwest, carried a heavy freight today: As I puttered about the yard, goose music floated down as flock after flock headed north to the Promised Land.
- Christopher Letts

3/18 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 68: At the end of a wonderful spring-like day (70 degrees Fahrenheit), spring peepers were calling loud and long in the wetlands along Sheafe Road.
- Phyllis Lake

3/19 - Minerva, HRM 284: I started my annual and sometimes frustrating but always ultimately fun tapping of sugar maples. The temperature was in the mid-upper 30s but the holes were nevertheless drilled (four of them). The sap was indeed flowing (albeit slowly). Ah spring - the stovetop awaits!
- Mike Corey

3/19 - Columbia County, HRM 130: I drove south across the line into Columbia County to where there were open fields. Then I looked east and, sure enough, "Super Moon" soon rose above the horizon, huge, round and orange. However, a cloud then covered the top half and then the whole thing. The upper and bottom edges of the cloud exhibited thin strips of light. Halfway home I turned the car around and looked back. Super Moon had reappeared.
- Wilma Ann Johnson

[The full moon of March, dubbed "Super Moon" by astronomers, is simply a full moon that happens to be close to earth. The last full moon as big and close to earth occurred in March of 1993. Tom Lake.]

3/19 - Town of Fishkill, HRM 63.5: It was near sundown at the Stony Kill Environmental Center. The cows, sheep, bluebirds, red-winged blackbirds, mourning doves, white-tailed deer, Canada geese, mallards, spring peepers, killdeer, robins, and starlings were all adding excitement to the countdown to the approaching Super Moon. When it came it was well worth the wait. What a treat!
- Andra Sramek

3/19 - Town of Fishkill, HRM 64: On the eve of the vernal equinox, I took a walk on the still-flooded Woodland Trail at Stony Kill Farm and caught one of the first ephemeral spring flowers, snow drops, in all its glory. A nice early spring sign of hope.
- Richard Balint

3/20 - Newcomb, HRM 302: We had a few inches of snow this week but not enough to compensate for the loss of snow from the warm, sunny days and some rain. Snow on the ground was now less than a foot-and-a-half deep. Canada geese, song sparrows and a chipmunk sighting seemed to promise that spring was just around the corner. While a few more late-winter snow storms are to be expected, I'll be keeping my eye out for my first robin of the year.
- Charlotte Demers

3/20 - Staatsburg, HRM 86: I have noticed spring peepers awakening and singing within a week of the equinox. This is a signature sound synchronized more tightly than any other I know, pried from beneath the recent frozen ground of vernal pools by the precise balance of light and dark.
- Daniel Seymour

3/20 - Crugers, HRM 39: Spring officially arrived. The forsythia was budding, there were robins on the lawn, and the mourning doves were very vocal in the early morning hours. The great blue heron across the street was mucking around in the muddy pond and pairs of Canada geese were flying over. I spotted a red-tailed hawk gliding across the vivid blue sky, and later at night, the illuminating "super" moon.
- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson

3/21 - Minerva, HRM 284: In our first full day of spring, we got five pretty wet inches of snow. It was all stuck to the trees, and it looked great! Winter continued to continue.
- Mike Corey

3/21 - Schodack Island, HRM 139: On the first full day of spring, heavy snow fell and a song sparrow sang continuously. Lovely, but it seemed wrong. Spring in the Hudson Valley!
- Mary Ellen Grimaldi

3/21 - Castleton-on-Hudson, HRM 137.5: I got in the car at dawn on the first day of spring and headed south. By the time I arrived at work in Hudson, the wet globs on the windshield had started to look like snow. Two hours later, looking out my window, it was still coming down and it had already covered the ground.
- Wilma Ann Johnson

3/21 - Rhinebeck, HRM 90: There were two pairs of common mergansers on the pond out back this morning. Between dives, snow collected on their backs, inconspicuous on the females but easy to see on the black crown and back of each of the males.
- Phyllis Marsteller

3/22 - Columbia County, HRM 118-111: March is the month for cabbage: Corned beef and cabbage for the celebrants of St. Patrick's Day, and skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) for celebrants of the coming of spring. This incredible plant with its beautiful maroon and yellow-green colored leaves has the ability to produce heat. As the flower buds within the plant begin to grow, they create enough heat (as much as 70 degrees F even in freezing weather) to melt the snow around the plant. Maybe I'll plant some around my driveway next winter and give my snow shovel a rest.
- Fran Martino

3/23 - Rhinebeck, HRM 90: There was a single pied-billed grebe on the pond out back this morning. Not long ago, I also saw a single male hooded merganser with six female (or first-spring male) mergansers.
- Phyllis Marsteller

3/23 - Gardiner, HRM 73: Walking along the Shawangunk River at the confluence with the Wallkill River in Gardiner, I counted three tree swallows hawking insects over the water surface. It was snowing at the time.
- Paul Osgood

3/23 - Croton Bay, HRM 34-33: It was a dreamy scene: big, sloppy snowflakes had coated trees and fields, and though it was not sticking to the roads, the forecast was for six inches, perhaps more, overnight. The riotous courtship antics of a flock of buffleheads were cheering, as they flashed and flew and splashed down again near the railroad bridge at the mouth of the Croton River. I turned the binoculars toward the open water to check on the several large logs left grounded by the freshet of last week. I was delighted to see them well populated by dozens of small birds, swirling and dipping over the water. The tree swallows were back, about 200 of them, and I was mighty glad to see them.
- Christopher Letts

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