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Hudson River Almanac March 20 - March 27, 2012

OVERVIEW

We began the nineteenth year of the Hudson River Almanac with a week that included record-setting numbers of migrating glass eels, record-setting air temperatures, and continued reports of early flower blooms.


HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

3/22 - Black Creek, HRM 85: Over the previous 24 hours, our glass eel fyke net had collected 2773 eels, the most we have ever seen here. The number is exact, since I counted every one.
- Susan Hereth

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

3/20 - Ulster County, HRM 78: We began observing the Trapps (Mohonk Preserve) in mid-morning and almost immediately spotted the female peregrine falcon when it flew off the ledge for a quick prey exchange with a male. There was another prey exchange about an hour later. Presently, there is reason to believe that the female is either on eggs or in the process. In late morning at Shaft Road, we noticed a peregrine going after a red-tailed hawk and a short while later another falcon was seen flying below the area of the suspected raven nest site.
- Tom Sarro, Les Lynn

[If anyone wishes to be added to our listserv to be made aware of our most recent observations and to join us if you'd like, send an e-mail to thomas.sarro@msmc.edu . Tom Sarro.]

3/20 - Furnace Woods, HRM 38.5: On the first day of spring I celebrated by planting potatoes, accompanied by a cloud of blackflies. They aren't biting yet, just buzzing. We call this "amnesty week," and when it is finished, there will be no gardening without a slather of bug repellent. The little pests are easily three weeks early this year.
- Christopher Letts

3/21 - Minerva, HRM 284: This evening wood frogs were calling in both Minerva and in North Creek (river mile 257). This first chorus was weeks early! I heard a beautiful song from a winter wren today, along with red-wing blackbirds and a song sparrow from the still iced-over pond in the back forty. The daffodils were peeking above the lamé landscape.
- Mike Corey

3/21 - Columbia County, HRM 113: There were clear skies, light wind, and warm air, the perfect recipe for the mini "dust devil" that whirled leaves and pine needles along one of the trails at Olana State Historic Site. While living in Arizona, I experienced a dust devil so fierce that it swirled patio furniture up and off the ground, making the swimming pool look like a washing machine on the rinse cycle.
- Fran Martino

3/21 - Croton Point, HRM 35-34: Another wave of wood ducks had arrived, as well as huge numbers of robins. I was digging the first dandelion salad of the spring when half a dozen bluebirds landed nearby - always a cheering sight.
- Christopher Letts

3/21 - Tappan Zee, HRM 33: "Bunker," or Atlantic menhaden, had begun to show up in DEC fisheries research nets.
- Kris McShane

[The Atlantic menhaden (also called bunker, mossbunker, or pogy) is a species of herring that spawns in salty to brackish water. For as long as any riverman can recall, the arrival of bunker from the sea in the lower estuary signaled the beginning of the end of the commercial shad season, and usually occurred in mid-to-late April. Tom Lake.]

3/22 - Poestenkill, HRM 151.5: We were surprised to see about 200 herring in the shallows of the Poestenkill, including two instances of spawning behavior. We caught eighteen in a cast net - all were alewife males in breeding condition. This was certainly the earliest we have seen herring in the Poestenkill. We also saw a few dozen white suckers in full breeding colors and observed a bout of spawning. There were about five moderately large carp (15 lb. range) in the same area.
- Bob Schmidt, Rick Morse, Bryan Weatherwax

3/22 - Palenville, HRM 110: It was near midnight when I heard at least five American toads calling north of our house. Is this way early? Also, two or three wood frogs were calling from the same direction.
- Larry Federman

[The normal window for hearing American toads calling is early April to end of May, so - yes - this report is early. However, it's in keeping with the unusual phenology reported elsewhere in this Almanac. Reports have come in of American toads calling and breeding in the past week as far north as Albany County. Steve Stanne, Laura Heady.]

3/22 - Roeliff-Jansen's Kill, HRM 111: I wonder if the trout know that it's almost trout season. The trout lilies sure do, as the trail along the creek was loaded with trout lily leaves, some more than three inches in length. Trout lily (Erythronium americanum) gets its common name from its likeness to our official New York State fish, the brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis).
- Fran Martino

3/22 - Ulster County, HRM 78: Almost immediately upon setting up at Trapps (Mohonk Preserve), we saw the female peregrine falcon on the eyrie ledge, situated immediately to the south of what looks like the remains of a raven's nest. The sticks comprising the nest appeared to have been moved closer to the front of the ledge in recent days. The female falcon left the ledge in mid-morning to be greeted by the male carrying prey. After the exchange, she went to a ledge to pluck as he replaced her at the eyrie (ledge exchange). The male soon left the eyrie heading north and out of sight. Later the male was seen flying back and forth across the cliff, with the female carrying her prey to the site of the 2011 eyrie (we are proposing that they might be using this as a cache site). The female then returned to the eyrie and moved quickly towards the back out of view.
- Tom Sarro, Joe Bridges, Glenn Proudfoot

3/22 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 75.5: The Fall Kill was busy today. Halfway up the falls a dozen large white suckers were jockeying in the foam for purchase and a chance to climb up a level higher. One or two at a time, they would swim out of the shelter of a crevice, hold steady in the fast current using their mouths as an anchor, then take a chance and twist and surge into the foam; whether they made it up or got swept back down was hard to say, but there was no lack of contenders ready to attempt an ascent.
- Chris Bowser

3/22 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 75: The air temperature reached 78 degrees Fahrenheit today, a record high for the date.
- National Weather Service

3/22 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: At dusk on a day when the air temperature reached 82 degrees F, I watched four or five bats in erratic flight, pursuing insects.
- Phyllis Lake

3/22 - Yorktown, HRM 44: I went for a walk in the woods and found the ground near some streams carpeted with trout lily leaves. No sign of flowers yet, but it's still very early even for the leaves. It's as if the warm weather has compacted the growing season; spring plants are coming up and blooming all at the same time rather than in sequence.
- Susan Butterfass

3/22 - Furnace Woods, HRM 38.5: Weeping cherries all along the road burst into bloom today, and tulips were coming into bud. We like our springs long and orderly, to get the full effect of spring blooms; it isn't going to happen this year.
- Christopher Letts

3/23 - Rensselaer County, HRM 154: We were on a morning hike along the Taconic Crest Trail near Berlin Pass on the way to Berlin Mountain. Wood frogs were in chorus from vernal pools; fresh as well as two-or-three day-old eggs were seen. Closer to the summit of Berlin Mountain a small garter snake along the trail was experiencing its first spring. A male ruffed grouse was heard drumming on our way in and out.
- Todd Hunsinger, Kathleen Fazio

3/23 - Ravena, HRM 124: While driving up Bushendorf Road this evening, my wife and I got to the place that curves around a good-sized pond and looked up from the Canada geese to see an adult bald eagle flying just above tree top level. The white head and tail feathers were very distinctive. I've seen them perching in trees down at Henry Hudson Park in the Town of Bethlehem, but this is the first time I've seen one this far away from the river.
- Larry Roth

3/23 - Milan, HRM 90: I heard a flock of cedar waxwings flying around my home this morning. I decided to wait quietly near a few cedar trees and sure enough the birds (30+) came in very close, so close that I didn't need binoculars to truly appreciate their beauty. I watched them feed on berries and occasionally fly out to hawk insects. It was a great way to begin a morning.
- Frank Margiotta

3/23 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 75: The air temperature reached 74 degrees F today, a record high for the date.
- National Weather Service

3/23 - Gardiner, HRM 73: I was staring at the explosion of magnolia outside my window when suddenly a little bit of yellow caught my eye. I looked closer and saw the black and white stripes of a yellow-rumped warbler.
- Tom O'Dowd

3/23 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: The chorus began just before midnight with more symphony than harmony. The coyotes were less than quarter-mile away and their voices carried well through open windows in the cool spring air. We could detect several different pitches among a half dozen that may have been related to either age or sex. Before long they were drowned out by the howling of neighborhood dogs, perhaps having ignited a primordial ember in their souls.
- Tom Lake, Phyllis Lake

3/23 - Beacon, HRM 61: While digging for earthworms to feed our aquarium fish Maija and I saw a brilliant whiteness in the leafless forest at University Settlement. We went closer and discovered the biggest shadbush (Juneberry) we had ever seen. Taller than the abandoned cabin there by double, it was probably 40 feet high. I think the birds will get the berries of this monster come June, since I don't have wings.
- Tom O'Dowd, Maija Niemisto

3/23 - Town of Newburgh, HRM 61: The air temperature reached 73 degrees F today, a record high for the date.
- National Weather Service

3/23 - Cold Spring, HRM 54: The silhouette briefly looked like a cardinal or blue jay, until the bird landed on a sunny branch. It was a lone cedar waxwing. It is very unusual to see just one; they often travel by the score or more.
- TR Jackson, Tom Lake

3/23 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: This evening we were thrilled by a gorgeous sunset over the Rockland highlands. We watched in awe as the large red orb slowly descended over the horizon against a pale pink and blue backdrop, and made a bright pink reflection across the water.
- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson

3/24 - North Creek to Saratoga Springs, HRM 257-185: The Saratoga & North Creek Snow Train left the Saratoga Springs at 7:00 AM and reached North Creek just over two hours later. The dome car proved to be a good place from which to observe the countryside. The single track line passes through a variety of habitats: marsh, meadow, forest, farm, and village. Very few of the hardwoods along the line had started budding out; the only green seemed to be from conifers and moss. Because nothing had leafed out yet, it was easy to see into brush and enjoy the views. I didn't see any spring forest flowers or other early plants despite keeping watch. Canada geese, startled by our early morning passage, were already paired off. The northern part of the line parallels the Hudson; it was high, but nowhere near flood stage. Besides geese, I saw several ducks and a pair of cormorants. The only snow or ice was scattered along the river between Stony Creek and Riverside, and on a few trails on top of Gore Mountain. This was not the best year to revive the Snow Train, but it was still a great way to see the upper Hudson River Valley.
- Larry Roth

3/24 - Columbia County, HRM 119: I drove past a pond that has historically had two great blue heron nests. The nests had fared poorly over the winter, but a heron was standing in one of them with his neck and bill stretched vertically upward.
- Bob Schmidt

3/24 - Black Creek, HRM 85: The water exiting Black Creek was 58 degrees F, considerably warmer than this time last year. Two alewives were swimming in circles in a pool under the Route 9W bridge. While our 24-hour glass eel collection did not reach the proportions of two days ago (2773), we did count 153 in the fyke.
- Takeya Megget, Chris Bowser, Susan Hereth, Tom Lake

3/24 - Pleasant Valley, HRM 76: I watched a male goldfinch at the feeder today, almost completely back to his bright yellow hue. What a pretty sight!
- Kathy Kraft

3/24 - Mid-Hudson Valley: Purple azaleas were in full bloom everywhere we looked. I ordinarily associate their blooming with late April, near the tail end of the commercial shad fishing season, making them, also, a month early.
- Tom Lake

3/24 - Bear Mountain State Park, HRM 45.5: I had a great day in Bear Mountain State Park today, hiking the Cornell Mine Trail. Later I saw some 10-12 inch long fish with dark reddish and brown stripes gallivanting in the shallows of Doodletown Brook - spawning male white suckers migrating in from the river through Iona Marsh.
- Robert Sullivan


3/24 - Yonkers, HRM 18: The new daylighting project in downtown Yonkers has uncovered a thousand foot section of the Saw Mill River to create an urban park. The project incorporates a fish ladder at a small dam. Workers have reported fish going up the ladder but have not identified the species. We put on waders today and, with hard hats and lights, went underground in the old flume to see if fish were making it through the remaining tunnel. We found an eight-inch-long white sucker struggling through a one-inch-deep eddy. At a bottom pool we found seven larger suckers, 10-13 inches long. We had been in this tunnel many times over the years but had never documented the fish.
- Bob Walters, Andy Hudak, Brian Reyes

[White suckers move into tributaries from the river in spring to spawn. They will swim upstream, often above the reach of tide, even the fall line, to find a gravelly bottom, an optimum spawning substrate. Tom Lake.]

3/24 - Manhattan, HRM 3-1: Walking south in the Hudson River Park I once again spotted brant geese. The first group of nearly 20 was enjoying eating the algae growing on the old pilings just south of Pier 57. Another 10 were happily eating algae from the rocks of the rip-rap on the south side of Pier 52. I saw three more eating algae from the pilings by the air shaft for the Holland Tunnel. Could this gaggle be the same group of 40 or so that I saw in nearly the same vicinity on March 2? I think it is likely. There are fairly sheltered places for them to rest both in and out of the water where humans are not likely to bother them, and there are lots of pilings covered with nutritious algae within easy reach.
- Caleb Davison

3/25 - Four-Mile Point, HRM 121: I spotted a lone male white-winged scoter in flight on the Hudson River this afternoon while I was watching swarms of tree swallows milling about mid-river. An immature bald eagle flew into the trees near where a pair of adults had been building a nest earlier in the year. As the young eagle went unchallenged, I suspect that the adults had abandoned that nesting area.
- Rich Guthrie

3/25 - Delmar, HRM 143: I have been keeping track of the return date of a warbler called the Louisiana waterthrush along the Vloman Kill at the Five Rivers Environmental Education Center for about five years. My previous earliest observation of them was on April 9, 2011. This year I found one on March 25.
- John Kent

[In 36 years of records at Five Rivers, our previous earliest Louisiana waterthrush report was April 8 (twice). Craig Thompson.]

3/25 - Pleasant Valley, HRM 76: This morning I was watching a red-shouldered hawk perched and calling up in the trees when another hawk appeared and landed on her back, pausing for a few seconds, and then flying away. I assume they were mating. After the male flew off the female just sat there on the branch as if nothing had happened.
- Kathy Kraft

3/25 - Furnace Woods, HRM 38.5: Hooking up the garden hose system has always been a mid-April thing, until this year, when I did that chore in mid March. We were more than 50% short of normal rainfall, and after a warm and open winter, the soil was dry. Many thousands of maple seedlings sprouted this week, turning the garden beds green. They all had to come out. Some I can get with a hoe; most will have to be hand weeded. I am trying to keep count, and have yanked more than a thousand - just a beginning.
- Christopher Letts

3/25 - Croton Point, HRM 35-34: Bluebirds were calling and phalanxes of robins spangled the greens. Dutchman's breeches that usually flower here the first week in May were in bloom. Japanese knotweed was sprouting, also a good month early.
- Christopher Letts

3/26 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: The soft white glow of shadbush was bringing the forests alive. Their blooming was always a sign that the shad run in the Hudson was commencing, and occurred in the first week or so of April. They were clearly early this year, and likely so were the shad. A severe frost is predicted for overnight; I am worried for all of the early blooms.
- Tom Lake

3/26 - Blooming Grove, HRM 55: While I watched two live-cams on my laptop, a pileated woodpecker landed on a tree just outside the window. They have had a nest in the woods for several years. I heard its calls the last week. It is always an awesome sound (that funny laugh) to go with a unique and unmistakable appearance. The barred owls have been very vocal lately with their calls and hair-raising maniacal laughter. We have also been treated with calls from a great horned owl.
- Carol Coddington

3/26 - Croton Point, HRM 34.5: The weeping willows were in full bloom, and in high winds the green-gold branches waved and danced, showing off tiny leaves and catkins in the bright sun. Crimped, crenulated, corn-rowed like some wonderful hairdo, I have been much taken with them this season.
- Christopher Letts

3/27 - Castleton-on-Hudson, HRM 137.5:
The freeze came on Tuesday night
Decimating month-early blooming magnolias,
Leaving brown petals clinging to trees,
Looking, from a distance,
Like shriveled up oak leaves in November.
Oh, to mourn the premature, lost beauty of a tree,
The blossoms of a plant, which has survived eons,
Could not survive one, cold night.
- Wilma Ann Johnson

3/27 - Norrie Point, HRM 85: Over the weekend, the shadbush around Norrie Point blossomed into beautiful beacons of spring. Esopus Island, a half-mile away, looks frosted with white sprays among the rocks and dark pines.
- Chris Bowser, Jim Herrington

3/27 - Newburgh, HRM 61: I stopped at the Newburgh waterfront to do some "speed birding" for gulls. Within ten seconds I had a first-year Iceland gull sitting on the pilings just south of Torches Restaurant.
- Curt McDermott

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