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Hudson River Almanac March 7 - March 13, 2012

OVERVIEW

Among many "early arrivals" this season have been spring peepers. First reports to the Almanac over the last twelve years have ranged from March 20-26; last year's was March 21. Our first report this year was March 7 in Westchester County, suggesting that they were calling even earlier in points south along the estuary.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

3/8 - Staten Island, New York City: Rob Brauman counted more than 2000 glass eels in Richmond Creek today, nearly ten times what he had yesterday. And yes, he counted every one!

- Chris Bowser

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

3/7 - Newcomb, HRM 302: An American robin came to my bird feeder this morning along with a small flock of red-winged blackbirds. The robin checked out the food selection and was quickly on its way. The blackbirds and two European starlings found the suet feeder to their liking and hung around all day. Later I watched Canada geese flying over Goodnow Mountain. A number of flocks were heard and seen during an extremely mild and sunny day.

- Charlotte Demers

3/7 - Ulster Park, HRM 87: Our "squirrel-proof" bird feeder hosted a visitor last night that was light enough to pass the test and gain access. It was a squirrel, but one that we had not seen before - a flying squirrel. It had big eyes, very light sides, and a blackish divide between the light sides and the gray of its back and tail.

- Peter Relson, Carol Anderson

3/7 - Staatsburg, HRM 85: It was not all that long ago that any vulture seen in the skies over Staatsburg was almost certainly a turkey vulture. But this afternoon there was a kettle of eleven vultures lazily drifting north over town and all of them were black vultures.

- David Lund

3/7 - Croton Point, HRM 35-34: Male red-winged blackbirds had been singing and displaying for two weeks now, and today for the first time they had an audience: Flocks of females arrived overnight on the southerly winds. Local daffodils were beginning to bloom.

- Christopher Letts

3/7 - Staten Island, New York City: In the light of the full moon, we caught 230 glass eels in our fyke net on Richmond Creek. This was our first attempt in this stream and the results were most impressive.

- Rob Brauman

3/8 - Northern Saugerties Township, HRM 102: Large numbers of migrant blackbirds continued to congregate at The Great Vly Wildlife Management Area. I heard twelve first-of-season rusty blackbirds associating with much larger flocks of red-winged blackbirds and common grackles. In late afternoon at the southern end of the marsh I estimated 150 tree swallows circling high in the sky and another 500 swirling upward out over the marsh in a feeding frenzy. Later there was a mass gathering of blackbirds returning to roost for the night. Approximately 2,500 blackbirds descended on the surrounding trees just prior to diving into a small stand of Phragmites to roost. The evening ended with nine American woodcocks vocalizing on the ground in the open fields

- Steve M. Chorvas

3/8 - Rhinebeck, HRM 90: I looked out the window this morning and spotted a male goldeneye swimming past on the pond beyond my deck. There have been mallards, Canada geese and occasionally a great blue heron on or around the pond, but the goldeneye was the first one I've seen here.

- Phyllis Marsteller

3/8 - Ulster County, HRM 78: Continuing our peregrine falcon observations, conducted by the Mohonk Preserve, we saw a pair at both the Trapps and Millbrook Mountain. At the Trapps, nuptial flight, a prey exchange, copulation, and possible site selection by the male was seen. At Millbrook we had a delightful treat seeing a raven chasing an immature bald eagle and being followed by a peregrine falcon, all in one field of view. As has been the case for the past couple of years, the Millbrook pair seems about two weeks behind the Trapps pair with respect to their breeding behavior.

- Tom Sarro

3/8 - New Paltz, HRM 78: We stepped outside just above the floodplain of the Wallkill River as it got dark to listen to the evening birdsong and feel the mild breeze. The robins were singing as well as a cardinal, and white-throated sparrows were practicing their "Oh sweet Canada, Canada, Canada" song. There was a "bzee" of a woodcock, and then another. Looking up in the darkening sky, hoping to get a glimpse of the woodcock's plunging, twittering display flight, we were surprised to see a largish bat fly through the trees. Its wingspan looked to be the size of a robin's.

- Lynn and Allan Bowdery

[This may have been a big brown bat, our largest cave bat, with a wingspan of nearly 13 inches. Tom Lake.]

3/8 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 75: The air temperature reached 70 degrees Fahrenheit today, a record high for the date.

- National Weather Service

3/8 - Cornwall-on-Hudson, HRM 58: I counted nine black vultures milling around in a grassy area along the river in midday. With no carrion in sight, it was not clear what they were up to. With air temperatures in the low 70s, there was no lack of thermals for them to climb.

- Tom Lake

3/8 - Minisceongo Creek, HRM 39: We caught our first glass eels (3) - the season is on!

- Laurie Seeman

3/8 - Croton Point, HRM 34.5: The turf and thickets were thronged with foraging robins and red-winged blackbirds; brown-headed cowbirds had arrived and were feeding with them. A dozen tree swallows swooped and soared over the landfill. In years past I have worried about what these early arrivals might find to eat, but not this year. Flying insects have been present almost every day for the past month.

- Christopher Letts

3/8 - Croton River Landing, HRM 34: I watched an unusually large kettle of 33 turkey vultures, probably in migration, circle overhead.

- Scott Craven

3/9 - RamsHorn, HRM 112.2: From a vernal pond just beyond the entrance at RamsHorn-Livingston Sanctuary, I heard a chorus of wood frogs.

- Larry Federman

3/9 - Saugerties, HRM 102: I heard a wood frog "quacking" in mid-afternoon from a tiny cattail pool at Falling Waters Preserve.

- Steve M. Chorvas

3/9 - Kerhonkson, Ulster County, HRM 77: I "spotted" a yellow spotted salamander bravely trying to cross the road. It had an injured tail and may have been clipped by a car, but was still moving vigorously. Its abdomen was very distended, which likely meant that it was expecting a happy event. Seeing a nearby vernal pool in the direction she was heading, I gently placed her in the water and watched her wriggle under the submerged leaves, the better to lay her eggs.

- Sarah Underhill

3/9 - Wappinger Creek, HRM 67.5: The full moon tide had drained the mouth of the creek, exposing an extensive array of old pilings, deadfalls, and mud flats. An adult and an immature eagle were perched on two such stick-ups. These events are fortuitous for eagles as the extremely low tide traps fish in shallow tidepools, making them easy targets.

- Tom Lake

[Over the course of a lunar month, the tides at the time of new and full moons - "moon" or "spring" tides - are generally more extreme: Highs are higher and lows are lower, while the associated ebb and flood tidal currents run more swiftly. The less extreme tides and currents associated with first and third quarter moons are called "neap" tides. Tom Lake.]

3/9 - Manhattan, HRM 5.5: The rufous hummingbird remained around the feeders adjacent to the entrance to the planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History. It is now one week short of three months since the bird was discovered here.

- Tom Burke, Tony Lauro

3/9 - Manhattan, HRM 0: While waiting outside a building near the Battery I saw a herring gull fly high over the sidewalk and drop an object to try and crack it open. This is typical gull behavior for breaking open mussels and clams and I wondered what kind of bivalve it could have obtained in an area with a shoreline of vertical sea walls. I walked over to the busy traffic island between the Customs House and a subway entrance and saw it wasn't a bivalve; a clever urbanized gull can perform this behavior with chicken bones too. And it worked; the thick femur was cracked and the bird had extracted marrow.

- John Waldman

3/10 - Staatsburg, HRM 86: Two red-shouldered hawks, male and female, were very much in evidence around the center of town for about an hour this morning, "kee-ahing" and "chupping" to each other.

- David Lund

3/10 - Norrie Point, HRM 85: DEC's Jim Herrington led a group of us out to look for woodpeckers and their signs. During a 90 minute walk through the Norrie Point woods, we spotted yellow-bellied sapsucker holes in a basswood tree, numerous pileated woodpecker holes in various species of trees, one red-bellied woodpecker, two bluebirds, a pair of Canada geese, a pair of mallards, signs of beaver, and two beaver lodges. Using buds, branching, and bark, Jim also identified many trees in the woods. Tree identification can be somewhat unreliable when using only the leaves. Trees without leaves, however, allow one to see the entire tree and the glorious designs that nature can accomplish. At the end of the program, we watched an adult bald eagle perched in a riverside sycamore.

- Bill Jacobs, Judy Kito

3/10 - New Paltz, HRM 78: We could hear the loud "peenting" even before we got out of the car, as we went to see if American woodcocks had returned to the fields behind the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail. There were several males in various stages of their courtship routine of calling, twittering and spiraling with a background chorus of spring peepers.

- Linda Weinstein

3/10 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: I never get tired of watching coyotes. The difficult trick is not letting them know. With stealth and absolute silence I spent twenty minutes watching three coyotes, big ones with heavy winter coats, slowly walk with deliberate steps across a grassy field, heads down, looking and listening for small mammals.

- Tom Lake

3/10 - Highland Falls, HRM 48: At the winter tree identification program at Fort Montgomery State Park we were treated to several raptor sightings. There were red-tailed hawks coming in close to the group as we walked the ruins of the fort. Circling together high in the sky above Bear Mountain was a pair of immature bald eagles. Then, as we walked through the fortifications, we heard a peculiar "quacking" from a peregrine falcon as it zipped by on its way to the Bear Mountain Bridge.

- Scott Horecky, Kathy Sutherland

3/10 - Croton Point, HRM 34.5: I spotted a woodcock in the wooded marsh at the entrance to the point and a Wilson's snipe in a water-logged ditch on the top of the landfill. Also on the landfill were two horned larks and a kestrel, and I heard a screech owl in the Croton Point campground. I was unable to locate the pine warbler reported from the same area.

- Lewis Lolya

3/11 - Rockland State Park, HRM 33: We came upon several pairs of northern shovelers and a couple of pairs of American wigeons at the north end of Rockland Lake. Each species was a life bird for me. The coloration on the shovelers was just gorgeous: black, iridescent green, white, chestnut brown, orange, powder blue. Their bill is spatulate and twice as long as its head, making identification easy. The wigeons had their own unique identifying feature: The breeding male looked like someone painted a broad white stripe from the tip of its bill to the crown of its head.

- Pat Joel, Bill Joel

3/11 - Palisades, HRM 23: A walk near the small pond on the Lamont-Doherty Observatory grounds yielded a brief sighting of a pair of wood ducks. I see one or a pair of them every year around this time, sometimes in the pond, sometimes in the nearby woods. They never stick around and I often wonder if they are just migrating through or if the resident pair of Canada geese chased them off.

- Linda Pistolesi

3/12 - Minerva, HRM 284: It looks like spring in Minerva with the changing of the clocks and the 60 degree weather - our 18-20 inches of snow had shrunk by half. I made a visit to four sugar maple trees in the woodlot behind the house to check on the taps and bucket placement. I have worked a little late in the season, I suspect, to collect enough sap for delicious maple syrup. On the way down to the swamp I heard red-winged blackbirds, a brown creeper (with a beautiful song), and a chickadee spring song.

- Mike Corey

3/12 - Albany, HRM 145: United States Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced the National Historic Register designation of 13 new National Historic Landmarks today, among them the destroyer escort USS Slater, docked in Albany. The USS Slater is a rare and extraordinarily intact example of an important class of warships designed for convoy protection during World War II.

- National Park Service

3/12 - Town of Knox, HRM 134: We know that it is spring as a bunch of Canada geese were walking around on the ice of the house pond. The ice was 80% gone; in the marsh it was all gone. The geese have taken up residence in both the marsh and one of the hay fields, and the usual squawking and aggressive behavior is going on as the adults try to chase away last year's children. Our two new one year-old kittens sat on the stone wall, staring - tails fluffed up - at the huge birds.

- Pat and Bob Price

3/12 - Germantown, HRM 108: Over the last two days at the Keep Conservation Preserve in Germantown there were at least three woodcock "peenting" in the closest meadow. I saw one bird through its entire display. I had my first mosquito bites in the garden today.

- Mimi Brauch

3/12 - Hyde Park, HRM 82: At 4:00 AM, a black bear knocked over the sunflower can and was having a good old time.

- Peter Fanelli

3/12 - Town of Newburgh, HRM 60: The air temperature reached 70 degrees F today, a record high for the date.

- National Weather Service

3/12 - Brockway, HRM 63: While low tide was predicted for about 10:30 AM, it was already very low two hours earlier and the extremely low water persisted until well past noon. In one of those hard-to-understand moments, an adult bald eagle perched in a riverside hardwood while two pairs of buffleheads and several common mergansers paddled around just offshore. Was the raptor somehow conveying the message that it was not hunting?

- TR Jackson, Tom Lake

3/12 - Denning's Point Bay, HRM 60: With almost no winter, the river temperature was eight degrees higher than last year at this time, so it was easy to anticipate that carp and catfish would make good early season fishing targets. Today's catch included two carp (27.25 and 25 inches long) and one channel catfish (19 inches long). All were measured, weighed, and released.

- Bill Greene

3/12 - Denning's Point, HRM 60: I counted three red-eared sliders basking on a log, and wood frogs had begun calling from the point.

- Jesse Jaycox

3/12 - Cold Spring, HRM 54: The river had the glassy smooth look of April. The air temperature was in the low 70s as seven black vultures lifted off from their riverside perches and grabbed a thermal spiraling up from the river.

- TR Jackson, Tom Lake

3/13 - Schodack, HRM 139: In the pasture just beyond our house, at dusk at the end of a very warm and spring-like day, I heard two woodcocks. One was "peenting," another was in courtship flight song. Such a thrill! This is about the earliest we have ever heard them.

- Mary Ellen Grimaldi

3/13 - Blue Point, HRM 74: From on top of Blue Point, a huge rock monolith, there is a wonderful ten-mile view south beyond New Hamburg. From several hundred feet off the river we watched mute swans fly beneath us down on the Hudson. Indian artifacts found at the summit suggest that people have been sharing this view for more than 8,000 years. The challenge is to strip away the modern landscape and see it as it was eight millennia ago.

- Tom Lake, John Mylod, Beth Selig

3/13 - Minisceongo Creek, HRM 39: What a difference a week can make. Last week we crunched through ice on the creek edges. Our fingers were numb as we untied knots and lines to check the empty net. Today the air and water had warmed and we peered into the net to find 62 glass eels wiggling and one young elver eagerly seeking a means to be free to move upstream. Counting clusters of glass eels is all about the eyes; we use the eyes to locate the heads as the first trick to separating them into individual specimens. Once counted, they weighed in at just over a gram apiece. With wishes for a successful transit, we released them further upstream.

- Margie Turrin, Kim Kastens, Laurie Seeman

3/13 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: My daughter "rescued" a bullfrog from being run over on Hunter Brook Road near Croton Reservoir. My daffodils were starting to bloom, yet the snowdrops hadn't even finished. It is time to start putting out yarn lengths for the songbirds; they're already beginning to look for nesting materials.

- Susan Butterfass

3/13 - Croton Point, HRM 35-34: Across four hours of birding, I saw 57 species and many individuals unexpected for the middle of March. Highlights included tree swallow (100), peregrine falcon, kestrel, American pipit, meadowlark, screech owl, fox sparrow, Wilson's snipe, and nine displaying American woodcock in the late evening.

- Lewis Lolya

3/13 - White Plains, HRM 23: I watched a raven fly up from a downtown parking lot. That was unusual in itself, but in addition, the bird was carrying a big bit of food (looked like a bagel or roll) as it flew off. I watched it continue on and disappear around one of the skyscrapers. In Breeding Bird Atlas parlance, that would be "CO-FY", meaning "confirmed breeding - adult carrying food for young." However, as ravens and other corvids are prone to caching chow, I'd hesitate to jump to that conclusion just yet. It may also be bringing some take-out back to its mate. Either way, it does present an interesting possibility that, with the continuing expansion of this species' breeding range in New York, bears monitoring. I might add that there are plenty of both American and fish crows in downtown White Plains - a three crow city.

- Rich Guthrie

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