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Hudson River Almanac April 8 - April 15, 2011

OVERVIEW

Having passed through the average of 32-35 days for incubation of bald eagle eggs, it is very likely that two dozen Hudson River estuary nests are now supporting nestlings. The timing corresponds almost perfectly to the arrival of river herring from the sea, a prime source of food for the eaglets. Adult eagles fishing in the river will be a common sight over the next 10-12 weeks as they nurture their nestlings.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

4/15 - Town of Poughkeepsie: After an hour of scope-watching from a hilltop blind this morning, we spotted two small gray fuzzy heads in the eagle nest at Bowdoin Park (NY225). As we watched, the male brought what was clearly a foot-long alewife to the nest and passed it to the female, who then began to feed the two fuzzy heads. The male flew off to a nearby perch and the adults exchanged "chortles" as the nestlings fed.
- Tom Lake, Terry Hardy

[The female in NY225 appears to have a blue "ankle" band (New York State DEC). There is the possibility that this is the pair that abandoned NY62 about one mile south. Once the nestlings get active and the female spends more time perched outside the nest, we may be able to read her band. Tom Lake.]

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

4/8 - Kinderhook, Columbia County, HRM 128: I spotted a piebald white-tailed deer grazing in a field with several deer of normal coloration. I estimated this particular deer was about three-quarters white with a mostly brown face, neck, and chest. At first it looked like a goat was in the field. This is at least the third piebald deer I've seen over the years and I'm always impressed by how unique they look.
- Jesse Jaycox

4/8 - Catskill Creek, HRM 113: By all accounts, river herring arrived here this morning in Catskill Creek.
- Tom Gentalen

4/8 - Kingston, HRM 92: As we prepared to dock at the Kingston lighthouse at the mouth of Rondout Creek to ready it for this season's visitors, we were surprised to come upon an adult beaver swimming next to the jetty. We were able to approach within a few yards before he swam ahead of us and submerged.
- John Miller, Kate Mitchell, Kyla Haber

[While their lodges are generally limited to lakes, ponds, and swamps, beaver are not infrequently seen foraging in tidewater, particularly in Hudson River tributaries. See New Hamburg, 4/9, for another beaver sighting this week in tidewater. Tom Lake.]

4/8 - Black Creek, HRM 85: While walking in the gravel tide flat near low tide at the outflow of Black Creek to the Hudson River - tending the glass eel research fyke net - I came upon a uniquely interesting rock, two inches by an inch and a half in size.
- Jason Clark

[A digital image of the rock provided by Jason revealed a piece of coral. In the "deep time" of the Hudson Valley, about 360 million years ago, our area was a salt sea. This "rock," the calcareous remains of communal animals that lived during the Upper Devonian geologic period, was a remnant of that shallow ocean environment. Tom Lake.]

4/8 - Fall Kill, HRM 75: A dozen Poughkeepsie High School students and several from Marist College were on hand at low tide as we checked our catch in the eel fyke net. Despite being a common fish, the information collected this spring on American eels by many such stations in Hudson River tributaries will provide baseline data on a poorly-understood species. In the cod end of the nest we counted 19 glass eels and one, estimated three-year-old, elver about 95 millimeters [mm] long. The water temperature was 9.7 degrees Celsius (49.5 degrees Fahrenheit).
- Tom Lake

4/8 - Denning's Point, HRM 60: While I saw no carp surfacing - it's early in the season - there were fish on the prowl. Today I caught, weighed and released three carp: 11 lb. 8 oz; 10 lb. 8 oz; and 7 lb. A 20" nicely proportioned channel catfish was also in the mix.
- Bill Greene

4/8 - Goshen, HRM 46: On my way home from work, I spotty two rusty-colored sandhill cranes in a flooded field just east of Route 17A. Their red crowns punctuated the color of the muddy cornfield as they minced through the rows on graceful legs.
- Ranny Dykstra

4/8 - Crugers, HRM 39: We have a pileated woodpecker feasting on ants in the stump of an old apple tree. Having caught the bird out of the corner of my eye and due to its size, at first I thought it was a squirrel climbing the stump.
- Jim Grefig

4/8 - Tappan Zee, HRM 33: Gino Garner reported that he had netted more than 200 of "the biggest herring I have seen for many years," even though the river was significantly colder than this date last year. These were probably alewives.
- Christopher Letts

4/9 - New Hamburg, HRM 67.5: While walking across my bridge - we live on an island in the Hudson at the mouth of Wappinger Creek - I saw what appeared to be my friendly local muskrat. I stood to watch him for a moment and marveled at how he had grown. Much to my surprise, my "muskrat" was a beaver, with a lush pelt and broad paddle tail - a strong swimmer and quite large.
- David Cullen

4/9 - Alpine, HRM 18: We were on a ten-mile kayaking day trip from Nyack to Alpine and back. Just north of the Alpine Boat Basin, our group came upon a white-tailed deer swimming west across the Hudson from Hastings-on-Hudson to New Jersey. She hauled out at the most inhospitable shoreline on the river, the "Giant Steps" reach of the Shore Trail. A half-mile south we came upon two more swimming deer that chose a much friendlier shoreline to end their swim. All three seemed to be swimming effortlessly.
- Jim More

4/10 - Black Creek, HRM 85: Near the eel monitoring fyke net during the morning ebb tide, we counted more than ten river herring. There may have been more, but light was a limiting factor.
- Rachel Lowenthal

4/10 - Dutchess County, HRM 77: We spotted a bald eagle flying north over Wappinger Creek just downstream of the hamlet of Salt Point this morning. We were a couple hundred yards away, but had a clear view of the white head and tail contrasting with the black body.
- Alan Berkowitz, Eli Berkowitz

4/10 - Fishkill Creek, HRM 60: From the Madam Brett boardwalk, with excellent water clarity during the flood tide, at least ten river herring were counted in the tidewater of Fishkill Creek.
- Rachel Lowenthal

4/10 - Tappan Zee Bridge, HRM 27: I peered south from the bridge today. Half-a-dozen sport fishing boats were out after stripers, "the mosquito fleet" as they are sometimes known. Absent were the net floats and the boats of the commercial shad fishermen, fixtures here at this time of year since before this bridge was built. At one time, half-a-dozen crews hauled nets within sight of the bridge. None are left; shad fishing for any purpose was banned in 2010 because of depleted stocks. The only bright spot for the day was the riotous, dazzling bloom of forsythia, yellowing the landscape. With no effort I could hear a voice from the past, Captain Bob Gabrielson of Nyack: "When the forsythia is in bloom, the shad are in the river." How we hope that there will be shad and more shad in the years to come; that our generous, bountiful shad population will rebound to former levels, and that the people of the Hudson Valley will once again be able to celebrate the fish that delivered itself to your doorstep.
- Christopher Letts

4/10 - Tappan, Rockland County, HRM 24: I spotted my first snake of the season today, an 18-inch-long garter snake sunning itself on my concrete and stone walkway.
- John Deans

4/11 - Newcomb, HRM 302: American woodcock "peented" from the open patches of lawn in the backyard. I could hear his flutter flight and the twittering his wings made as he spiraled high above the ground. Now I'm confident that spring is on the way.
- Charlotte Demers

4/11 - Minerva, HRM 284: On this warm day, I actually heard a chipping sparrow singing!
- Mike Corey

4/11 - Highland, HRM 75.5: The honey bees were out again on one side of the house and on the other side, the female mason bees were hatching. The mason bees live in houses made for them, and when they start hatching, I put the nesting block on my porch table and watch the action, up close and personal. I keep the block there and watch the females go about preparing for the brood of 2012.
- Vivian Yess Wadlin

4/11 - Orange County, HRM 60: We counted a dozen northern cricket frogs, New York's smallest frog, in upland vernal pools around their breeding habitat. The frogs have emerged from their upland wintering areas and have made their way to their aquatic stopover habitat while they wait for things to warm up a little. These frogs will slowly make their way to their breeding habitat over the next month or so, but won't get serious about breeding until June. The northern cricket frog is New York's only state listed endangered frog.
- Gregg Kenney, Kelly McKean

4/11 - Annsville Creek, HRM 43.5: I've watched an unusual number of cormorants in the Annsville lagoon the last couple of days. Today, there was a group of them paddling together alternately diving. I wondered if they were acting in concert.
- Scott Craven

[According to the Birds of North America Online, when feeding on schooling prey, cormorants may form loosely coordinated foraging flocks, sometimes in lines or shallow crescents. These cormorants were likely drawn together by the irresistible lure of river herring, probably alewives, traveling in migratory schools numbering in the hundreds heading upstream to spawn in Annsville Creek, Sprout Brook, and Peekskill Hollow Creek tributaries. What looked like group behavior may have just been a large number of cormorants showing little restraint in their frenzied feeding. Tom Lake, Steve Stanne.]

4/11 - Furnace Woods, HRM 38.5: It was unseasonable warm - 80 degrees F - and the mourning cloaks were flying. So were the first "scout" barn swallows of the Pine Lake colony. And so were the pesky blackflies, as early as I have ever seen them. It is well to remember their importance as fish food; the loathsome little critters should offer some good to go along with the annoyance and discomfort they bring.
- Christopher Letts

4/12 - Pleasant Valley, HRM 75: I noticed several white-throated sparrows feeding on seeds below my feeder today. These are pretty little birds that I have not seen all winter; perhaps they are on their way north for the summer? I also heard my first eastern phoebe this morning calling out the familiar "phee-bee" amongst the chorus of birds singing this morning. It's nice to have them back!
- Kathy Kraft

4/12 - Putnam County, HRM 53: While working in the interior of Fahnestock State Park looking at deer browse impact to the forest and determining deer density in the area, we observed, heard, or saw signs of several species that one would expect in this location: red-spotted newt (adults and red eft stage), spring peepers (calling), barred owl (calling), ruffed grouse (drumming), and white-tailed deer (droppings, tracks, and other sign). What we didn't expect was to find moose droppings. First we came across two piles of older droppings spaced several feet apart on a low ridge just above a small wetland that is choked with highbush blueberry and sphagnum moss (highbush blueberry bog thicket). We speculated on when this moose may have passed through this area and decided it was some time ago given the darkened appearance of the droppings. On our way back out of the woods, and several yards into another highbush blueberry bog thicket, we found a third pile of moose droppings, this time much newer, and speculated that this moose passed through sometime in the recent past, perhaps within the past two weeks. Tracks were also obvious adjacent to the droppings.
- Jesse Jaycox, Nathan Ermer

[This is the fourth moose that has been reported in this area in the last couple of years. Biologists speculate that these moose wandered over from northern and western New England. Jesse Jaycox.]

4/12 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: Today's on-and-off rain and warming temperatures made the world misty. It was just the right conditions for a special sign of spring's approach: The woods, the treetops, the bushes, everything, glowed with the blush-haze of buds ready to burst.
- Robin Fox

4/13 - Newcomb, HRM 302: A Cooper's hawk was checking out the bird buffet at my feeder today. He could have chosen from the newly arrived white-throated sparrows, purple finches, or the large flocks of dark-eyed juncos that seem to be in abundance right now. I don't think the Cooper's was successful; all of the smaller birds scattered quickly when he landed above the feeder.
- Charlotte Demers

4/13 - Minerva, HRM 284: This evening, the dogs and I headed out to the still iced-over pond in the back, making our way through the one- to two-feet-deep grainy snow. Upon arrival, the pond had a cold mist hanging over it. But a new sound was in the air: a woodcock was peenting, twittering, and burbling. I couldn't see this fine bird, but really didn't need to.
- Mike Corey

4/13 - Brooklyn, New York City: A pair of double-crested cormorants appeared at the head of the Gowanus Canal, just off Buttermilk Channel, between the Union Street Bridge and the Carroll Street Bridge, perched on two light poles in a phone repair truck parking lot, overlooking the canal. Later they were seen diving. In years past, a cormorant pair has used the oil boom near the Union Street Bridge to rest and dry their wings. The Gowanus Creek Canal is a tidal tributary that enters the Upper Bay of New York Harbor in Brooklyn.
- Robert Sullivan

[There was a time, in the not too distant past, when cormorants would have bypassed a biologically degraded and severely polluted Gowanus Canal. Very low dissolved oxygen generally precluded the presence of forage fish. Tom Lake.]

4/14 - Ulster County, HRM 78: Our peregrine falcon observations along the Shawangunk Ridge began at The Trapps. There was good reason to believe that a female falcon was on eggs. One odd sighting was a male flying very fast northward and meeting up with a female (obvious size difference). They circled and came close to one another only to split up with the female flying away and the male returning to a tree directly. Was this our nesting female or a stranger being driven off? At the Millbrook site, the male was very active attacking most anything that went by, aggressively going after a raven. There appears to be an active raven's nest towards the lower portion of the cliff. A lone falcon was spotted periodically flying in and out of our field of view.
- Thomas J. Sarro

4/14 - Edgewater, NJ, HRM 8.5: Thirty brant flew in for a brief rest today. We don't see them often here. They paddled along slowly and were last seen going around a pier seemingly in no particular hurry. Six ruddy ducks that had been diving and roosting here for a few days were unimpressed.
- Terry Milligan

2011 - Kowawese: HRM 59:
The sun is shining brightly,
Through the snow, I see the ground.
Sounds of freezing from the Hudson River.
I do not see any animals,
But only their footsteps.
I can see the frozen river,
I don't see any boats
The trees serve as a canopy for the sun,
Which is good to not see.
At night you could hear the natives,
And see their tracks from when they were out at night.
- Carlos Mera, 6th Grade, Vails Gate Tech Magnet School

4/15 - Edgewater, NJ, HRM 8.5: The first swallow of the season appeared today. As far as I could tell it was alone. Last year they came late for some reason; but this year they were right on the money. At least one more will show up, if the past can be trusted, and the two (sometimes as many as six) will settle down building a nest under our pier. They will raise one or two young and disappear about August 15, or precisely four months from now.
- Terry Milligan

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