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Hudson River Almanac March 29 - April 4, 2013

OVERVIEW

The amphibians of April highlighted this week. With warming water and air, damp and humid nights, the breeding season was well underway. Reports of successful bald eagle hatchings were arriving from all corners of the watershed.


HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

3/29 - Fort Miller, HRM 192: Four banded Canada geese (white lettering on orange base) were spotted on the Hudson River. The neck band codes were read as the birds fed with about 7,000 other Canada geese on this reach of the river. This is a traditional stop-over area for many migrating geese and ducks. Also seen in the vicinity were twenty snow geese, one greater white-fronted goose, one female Barrow's goldeneye, more than twenty common goldeneyes, eleven black ducks, numerous mallards, both common and hooded mergansers and three ring-necked ducks. Other observers found three redhead ducks as well.
- Rich Guthrie

[I subsequently received reports on three of the four banded Canada geese: two were banded in Quebec and the third in Greenland. Rich Guthrie.]

1. Neck band code H1W7 Canada goose was banded at Varennes, Quebec, Canada, on July 5, 2007 while it was a fledgling (too young to fly). It was later seen four miles southeast of Gansevoort, Saratoga County, on March 23, 2013.

2. Neck band code F1F7 Canada goose was banded at Varennes, Quebec, Canada on July 3, 2010, also as a fledgling. It was more recently seen near Fort Miller, Washington County, on March 23, 2013.

3. Neck band code GA1 (with a quote from Tony Fox, Research Professor, Department of Wildlife Ecology and Biodiversity, National Environmental Research Institute, University of Aarhus, Kalø, Grenåvej 14, DK-8410 Rønde, Denmark) Canada goose "was ringed [banded] at a lake simply known as 'I' to the catching team (very few lakes in this area have 'Greenlandic' names) in an area known as Isunngua, immediately north of the airport at Kangerlussuaq in west Greenland. GA1 was a male, was at least in its second summer or older, part of a catch of sixteen birds (all adults and therefore likely non-breeders) on 14 July 2009."]


NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

3/29 - Columbia County, HRM 113: At Columbia-Greene Community College the spring peepers were calling - the peepers and frogs were out in full force. I was cutting some new nature trails and came across three garter snakes. I think it was two males and one female, as I watched one snake move off and the other two go into a "mating twist." It is amazing what a few degrees in air temperature can do to the natural world.
- Jon Powell

3/29 - Town of Poughkeepsie: The female eagle brought a fish to the nest (NY62) today to feed the nestling (there still seems to be only one). The fish appeared to be a striped bass.
- Terry Hardy, Sheila Bogart

3/29 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: Not long after dawn it began: a procession of high-flyers against a backdrop of vivid blue, all Canada geese, a mile high, heading due north along the river. Most were check marks in the sky but a few were more conventional Vs.
- Tom Lake

3/29 - Stormville, HRM 67: After further investigation of a reported snowy owl sighting on 3/24, including viewing photographs and consulting experts, we have concluded that the owl was, in fact, a light-colored barred owl.
- Steve Stanne, Tom Lake

3/29 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: Today's warming sun lit springtime patches of golden coltsfoot glowing along the muddy road-side.
- Robin Fox

a wood frog sits on some leaf litter

3/30 - Saugerties, HRM 102: Sixteen participants attended today's annual Esopus Bend Nature Preserve vernal pools walk. The intermittent pools were shrinking fast, due to a lack of recent precipitation and snow melt, but the larger pool hosted a very vocal chorus of wood frogs. At only roughly twenty percent capacity, the remaining water concentrated numerous wood frogs in a relatively small area, providing exceptional views of several pairs in amplexus and dozens of recently deposited clear egg masses, including several that had not yet expanded from water absorption. [Photo of wood frog by Amy Bloomfield.]
- Steve M. Chorvas

3/30 - Ulster Park, HRM 87: Two mourning cloak butterflies took advantage of the spring warmth for a fly-about at Shaupeneak Ridge.
- Peter Relson, Carol Anderson

3/30 - Ulster County, HRM 84: We visited an eagle nest near Rondout Reservoir today and there definitely was a baby in the nest. We had a spotting scope and saw Mom ripping a fish apart and putting it in the nestling's tiny beak.
- Linda Trummer-Napolitano

3/30 - Croton Point, HRM 35-34: During my walk this morning I came upon killdeer, kingfishers, and Cooper's hawks, but not much else. I did see flocks of robins and heard house finches singing for the first time this spring.
- Christopher Letts

3/31 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Winter was still hanging tough up here but it was slowly loosening its grasp. There was just about a foot of snow at the snow-stake but bare patches, especially on any south facing slopes, were teasing of a spring that will show up eventually. The Hudson River was mostly open at the Route 28N bridge but still frozen farther up river. Lakes and ponds are still covered in a layer of ice but they are beginning to open at the edges and look sodden and rotten. I have seen a single, lonely, misguided robin but the red-winged blackbirds, brown-headed cowbirds, common grackles, and (unfortunately) European starlings have been frequenting the bird feeders. Now that there is open water on the river, I am waiting impatiently for some waterfowl to arrive.
- Charlotte Demers

3/31 - Albany Pine Bush, HRM 146: Wood frogs and peepers near the Kaikout Kill were enthusiastically proclaiming "spring is here" with their calls. A brown snake found on the Yellow Trail seemed to feel otherwise as its movements were very slow and gradual while it moved to find a warm place in the sun.
- Fran Martino

3/31- Saugerties, HRM 102: A relatively warm and consistent rain triggered a big movement of salamanders across local roadways tonight in extreme northern Ulster County. We assisted nearly 200 amphibians across two rural roads during nearly a three-hour effort. The vast majority (132) were spotted salamanders and more were coming out onto the roadways as we were calling it a night. Vehicular traffic was exceptionally light resulting in only four recorded road-killed salamanders and two unidentifiable frogs.
- Steve M. Chorvas, Alan Beebe

3/31 - Croton Point, HRM 35-34: It was calm, clear, and frosty this Easter morning. The ranks of the bank fishermen [striped bass] had thinned since yesterday but the catch was the same: nothing, not even any bait-stealers. Birdsong was everywhere - from squeaky cowbirds to strident grackles, cardinals and song sparrows joining in. Robins were everywhere, handsome in Easter finery, and caroling, singing, for the first time this year. More killdeer had arrived and we saw perhaps a dozen in the hour we walked.
- Christopher Letts, Nancy Letts

3/31 - Manhattan, HRM 12.5: Inwood Hill Park was notably quiet today. A long meandering walk, including the ball fields along the river, resulted in one eastern phoebe and one osprey moving north up high along the river. The numbers for expected bird species at this time seemed very low, especially for white-throated sparrows and robins. Of note was a Canada goose with a yellow neck band labeled RY87. It also had a silver band around the right tarsus too worn to read. There was also one Canada goose that looked like a possible "Richardson's" cackling, though I'm sure lesser cackling goose is more likely. The bill was relatively blunt, conical, though longer than I expected. It was also the smallest goose in the flock, short legged, and uniformly pale gray breasted up to the neck.
- Nadir Souirgi

3/31 - Queens, New York City: I visited Breezy Point today to do some spring shorebird reconnaissance and had the following notables: Piping plover (3), eastern phoebes (2), my first-of-the-season American oystercatchers (17), sanderling (240), and dunlins (3). In a first for me at Breezy Tip, I had killdeer (5) roaming around where there used to be dunes. Out on the ocean, a handful of northern gannets were seen, all adults. No massive staging of waterfowl, with only a smattering of long-tailed ducks.
- Andrew Baksh

4/1 - Town of Poughkeepsie: The male was in the nest with the eaglet and seemed to be getting impatient for the female to return. A few minutes later they both escorted an immature bald eagle away from the nest area. The immature was banded but unfortunately was too far away to see the band color, no less the number.
- Deb Kral

[I would have guessed that this was one of last year's two immatures. However, since it was banded, it was not their offspring, and in fact was probably not even a New York bird since DEC has discontinued banding its nestlings. Tom Lake]

4/1 - Crugers, HRM 39: We were delighted to look out the window and see a female pileated woodpecker visiting one of our trees. She hacked out huge chunks of bark, creeping along some almost horizontal branches and choosing her spots carefully. As we watched, another pileated woodpecker peeked around the trunk (it was bigger than the female) and then flew to a distant tree, vanishing behind it, giving us only occasional glimpses of its head as it worked its way up the other side of the trunk. They stayed for twenty minutes before flying away. What a treat to see those brilliant red crests!
- Stephen Butterfuss, Susan Butterfass

4/1 - Croton Point, HRM 35: I heard it first, that sweet song, and then a male bluebird landed in the grass in front of me and dazzled me with those gorgeous colors. They always seem to stop me dead in my tracks and I spend the rest of the day being grateful.
- Christopher Letts

4/2 - Clarksville, HRM 143: We had an inch of snow here this morning, at the foot of the Helderbergs, along with a fox sparrow.
- Pete Nye

4/2 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 66-67: They came a little later this year, but there they were, on the southwest-facing hillside near Wappinger Creek, a golden covering of coltsfoot.
- Phyllis Lake

4/2 - Highlands, HRM 76: There was a full frog "orchestra" today along the Hudson Valley Rail Trail heading east from Tony Williams Park and extending to the Black Creek bridge. There had been some baritone notes that shared a tonal range with Canada goose honks, and by today had strengthened and been joined by a tenor/alto section. The peepers added strong soprano and piccolo notes and there were some picked-bass sounds at the other end of the tonal range. The frog hunting in this wetland must look promising to the heron population!
- Jane Ann Williams

4/2 - Brockway, HRM 62: A ride on Metro North commuter rail offers a brief glimpse of special wildlife moments. Today we watched an immature bald eagle hovering in the wind outside our window like a rough-legged hawk (a true "windhover"), hunting above the wind-beaten, white-capped, low tide shallows ... and then we were gone. How did it play out? A catfish? An eel? A muskrat? Or empty talons?
- Tom Lake, T.R. Jackson

4/3 - New Hamburg, HRM 67.5: Two days of strong west winds had blown the water out of the tidal Wappinger and kept it out well past ebb slack. An adult bald eagle was sitting on the mud flats, "footing" a large catfish, probably a channel catfish. The fish struggled in eagle's talons. It looked too heavy to carry so it would be partially consumed there before remnants were brought to the nest, quite likely NY62. "Blowout" tides are prime hunting opportunities for eagles.
- Tom Lake, T.R. Jackson

4/3 - Croton Point, HRM 35-34: Osprey had returned; how very nice to have them back in the Valley, even if they are just moving through for the most part. On the tide flat outside the railroad bridge, three dark eagles were standing in the shallow water, just a few feet apart, waiting for - what? The wind had blown the tree swallows off the open river and they were doing their dips and swoops over sheltered shallows and marsh inside the bridge.
- Christopher Letts

4/4 - Town of Poughkeepsie: The male in eagle nest NY62 has really picked up his "Dad game" this year. He has been feeding the nestling, even when Mom tries to push him away. He actually brought a fish to the nest today and left it there for the family!
- Terry Hardy

[Over the course of the last dozen years, the male half of the eagle pair in NY62 has earned a bit of a "me-first" reputation. On occasion he will bring a fish to a perch near the nest, eat the "best parts," and then deliver the rest. Tom Lake.]

4/4 - Crugers, HRM39: Air temperatures reached the 60s this afternoon. A Canada goose pair marched along the concrete wall of Ogilvie's Pond, maybe the same pair we saw there this time last spring. On the opposite side of the pond, its legs submerged in muddy water, the great blue heron stood stock-still with its neck in the striking position. We hadn't seen it in the pond since late January and were thrilled to have it back in the neighborhood again. Suddenly its beak struck the water and plucked out a large orange fish. We caught a fleeting glimpse of it as it disappeared down the heron's long neck.
- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson

[Dorothy described these fish - there were others - as "wild" goldfish. In the Hudson River watershed they are "wild" goldfish of domestic stock. Goldfish, a minnow, are not native to the estuary. Their presence can be traced to bait fish introduction or, more likely, parents dumping the occupants of their children's unattended goldfish bowls into the river. Tom Lake.]

4/4 - Croton Point, HRM 34: Today I watched fisherman catching and releasing small "schoolie" striped bass from south Croton Point (Sarah's Point) and another trying to catch river herring with a "stoolie." Water temperature finally hit the 40 degree Fahrenheit mark here.
- Tom McDowell

[A "stoolie" is a colloquial as well as a pejorative name given to a fish that is tethered to a line by an angler and allowed to swim free for the purpose of attracting others near enough to be netted. In defense of the stoolie, it hardly has a choice in the matter. Tom Lake.]

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