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Hudson River Almanac April 5 - April 11, 2013

OVERVIEW

The floral bio-indicators of spring were spreading up the valley: crocus, forsythia, daffodils, hyacinth, magnolia, and others. Soon to come will be shadbush, dogwood, and lilac. These blooms once marked the various stages of migratory fish runs. Today they simply brighten and sweeten the landscape.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

4/5 - Manhattan, HRM 12.5: Nadir Souirgi reported a Canada goose at Inwood Hill Park (see 3/31) that had a yellow neck band labeled "RY87." The Canada goose was originally banded on June 29, 2012, near Demarest, NJ.

- Matt Rogosky, Bird Banding Laboratory, Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, MD

[Demarest, Bergen County, NJ, is about ten miles, as the goose flies, northwest of Inwood Hill Park. Where that goose might have traveled in the intervening ten months is the intriguingly mysterious part of the story. Tom Lake.]

Natural History Notes

4/5 - Croton Point, HRM 34: The ancient magnolia on the site of the old Croton Point homestead near the beach on the south side of the Point had struggled into full bloom yet another year. Twenty-five years ago I spoke with Cal Greenburg about that tree. Cal was born in the old house, an Underhill family legacy and a fine dwelling. The house was bulldozed twenty years ago, but Cal said that the magnolia "looks the same now as when I was a kid." Without troubling the tree with a core sample there is no way to determine its age, but Cal's account would suggest that it was on the century path when he first knew it in 1950.

- Christopher Letts

4/6 - Delmar, HRM 143: We had one black vulture flyover and one osprey at the NYSDEC Five Rivers Environmental Education Center this morning. Both were first-of-season for Five Rivers.

- Scott Stoner, Denise Hackert-Stoner

4/6 - Town of Poughkeepsie: It has become very apparent that bald eagle nest NY62 has only one nestling this spring. If there was another egg, it likely did not hatch. That could have resulted from several causes including uneven incubation, a sterile or broken egg, or even raccoon predation. Over the last two days, Deb Kral, Sheila Bogart, and Terry Hardy have taken photos of Mama feeding the nestling what appeared to be "nestling-sized" pieces of fish.

- Tom Lake

4/6 - Furnace Woods, HRM 38.5: The relatively sunny days this week have made a liar of me. Daffodils began to show color overnight, and if the forecast for the next few days is on the money, we will have bouquets of daffodils in every room in a week. The first of the trillium, wake robin, were in bloom in sheltered beds. Always a spring favorite and common in Westchester woods a few decades ago, they have been extirpated by the "hoofed hordes" (white-tailed deer) invasion. They are safe only near the house. Over the past two days, peony shoots have thrust six inches up from the soil.

- Christopher Letts

4/7 - Tillson, Ulster County, HRM 84: I heard, and then saw, a pileated woodpecker fly onto a tall tuliptree. As I watched, she began flapping her wings and circling the trunk flapping some more. Curious, I thought, but then another flew onto the trunk just below, and together they circled up the trunk, with the first one occasionally flapping. I took this to be a courtship ritual, though did not observe any mating.

- Deb Weltsch

4/7 - Fishkill, HRM 61: We watched a raven hunt a wooded ridgeline of the Fishkill Mountains, mostly gliding on thermals, occasionally flapping, turning after several hundred yards and doubling back. It was onto something.

- Tom Lake, Phyllis Lake

4/7 - Black Creek, Ulster County, HRM 85: Our eel fyke captured 960 glass eels overnight, a very high number.

- Chris Bowser

[Freshwater eels have survived global cataclysms for millions of year but now some populations appear to be diminishing, even disappearing, worldwide and scientists are not quite certain why. While American eels are considered freshwater fish, they are born at sea and many of them spend much of their lives in tidewater. Glass eels are one of the juvenile life stages of the American eel; they lack pigment and are nearly transparent. They arrive by the millions in the Hudson and other estuaries along the East Coast each spring following a long journey from the greater Sargasso Sea area where they were born. This is a particularly vulnerable time for the tiny eels and little is known about this period in their life history. In anywhere from 12-30 years, depending upon their sex, they will leave the Hudson River watershed for the sea where they will spawn once and then die, or so we think. Tom Lake.]

4/7 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 76: As with Black Creek, nearly ten miles upriver, our eel fyke caught high number (200) of glass eels overnight.

- Chris Bowser

4/8 - Town of Poughkeepsie: The eagle nest (NY62) was left alone for fifteen minutes this afternoon. The lone nestling was truly alone. Is this common?

- Jay Meyer

An old photo of two shad fishermen pulling their catch onto their boat

4/8 - Hudson Highlands, HRM 55-45: You could not help but look at the river as our Metro North commuter train sped south to Manhattan. Beneath the gray "opaqueness" of the Hudson, thousands, probably many thousands, of American shad were pulsing up the river with the rising tide and current as they have since there has been an estuary. But for the first time since humans have resided in the valley, it is only a rumor. The era of authentication - for many millennia, fishers catching shad - is past.

- Tom Lake

[According to those who once worked the river in springtime 75 years ago, there was a nearly continuous presence of shad nets from the Upper Bay of New York Harbor north at least one hundred miles to Columbia County. As the story goes, from any shad net you could see the poles or floats of the next. However, significant declines in the Hudson's shad populations (and those of many other Atlantic coast rivers) led to closure of the Hudson's commercial and recreational shad fishery after 2009. Tom Lake, Steve Stanne. Photo from NYS Archives.]

4/8 - Fishkill Creek, HRM 60: At morning high tide at the confluence of Fishkill Creek and the Hudson, an adult bald eagle was perched at Hammond's Point and an immature was perched across the bay at Denning's Point. They were biding their time for the tide to drop and improve hunting prospects. In the late afternoon low tide, an adult and an immature bald eagle (same eagles from the morning?) were standing on the mud flats in the bay alongside the out-flowing trickle of the creek. Each was using its beak to tear apart an alewife clamped down in the mud.

- Tom Lake

4/8 - Croton Point, HRM 35-34: Red maples were in flower, and cabbage white butterflies were fluttering around. A carpet of robins sang, skirmished, and poked for breakfast, watched by a wave of kestrels that had come in overnight. Flocks of brown-headed cowbirds and red-winged blackbirds were moving by, and I had the impression that they had crossed the Tappan Zee within the hour. On the way off the Point, I stopped to recover my gloves, hat, and jacket, stashed behind a tree after the temperature climbed what seemed like 20 degrees Fahrenheit in an hour.

- Christopher Letts

4/8 - Scarborough, HRM 32: The Tappan Zee was flat as glass. An osprey (the "fish hawk") could clearly be seen out on Scarborough Light in the Tappan Zee, an "inland sea," now teeming with shad, herring, and striped bass. Fishing would be good.

- Tom Lake

4/8 - Queens, New York City: I encountered my first mourning cloak butterfly "attack" for the year. The beast was trying to drive me off the fire break trail at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.

- Dave Taft

4/9 - Town of Knox, HRM 146: Today marked our unofficial date for spring: The last of the ice was gone from the ponds; a pair of Canada geese had taken up residence in the marsh and have a nest on top of one of the muskrat mounds; red-winged blackbirds and robins were about; and the frost was gone from most of our fields.

- Pat Price, Bob Price

4/9 - Columbia County, HRM 116: I headed south looking for coltsfoot in bloom. After crossing into Columbia County, I found them growing, just yellow flowers and stems, alongside the parking pulloff for the Lewis Sawyer Preserve. The leaves, whose shape gives the plant its name, arrive later.

- Wilma Ann Johnson

4/9 - Ravena, HRM 133.5: It is wonderful to still have sunshine after getting home from work as the days lengthen. With air temperatures in the high 50s, late afternoon yard work becomes more pleasant. Hyacinths, daffodils, and tulips were emerging around my house; the crocuses were blooming; and the air was full of sounds. Off in a marshy area across the road I could hear a massed chorus of spring peepers. From every direction birds were filling the air with songs.

- Larry Roth

A young boy holds the end pole of a seine net

4/9 - Kowawese, HRM 59: By mid-morning the near-shore shallows had warmed to 50 degrees F on a day when the afternoon air temperature would reach the mid-70s. It was a delightful blue-sky spring day. We hauled a seine just off the beach across the sandy bottom and caught spottail shiners, a Hudson River staple. While the catch was meager, there was no better place to be on a day like this than knee deep in a cool river with a sampling net in our hands. [Photo by Tom Lake.]

- Tom Lake, T.R. Jackson

[Seines are commonly mentioned in Almanac observations pertaining to fisheries research and education. A seine is a net with a floating seamline on top, a lead seamline on the bottom, and tight meshes in between. The word seine is French, from the Latin sagëna, which means a fishing net designed to hang vertically in the water, the ends of which are drawn together to enclose the fish. Those referenced in the Almanac range in length from 15-250 feet long, 4-8 feet in depth, and mesh sizes from a quarter-inch to nearly three inches (measured diagonally) depending upon application. They are an excellent tool that is used to sample an area and collect aquatic animals without injuring the catch. "Haul seines," very long nets that require a boat to set and many strong arms to help haul, were used in Hudson River commercial fishing from colonial times until the last decade of the 20th century. They have since been outlawed; in the hands of competent fishers, they are simply too efficient. Tom Lake.]

4/9 - Crugers, HRM 39: It seems like overnight green things are emerging from the ground and the tightly-curled buds of practically every flowering spring plant have exploded open: forsythia, pussy willow, red maple, and more. Spring has arrived and we can really enjoy those hours of extra daylight! I've also been seeing crows flying with beaks full of twigs and other less-identifiable objects. Their breeding season approaches.

- Susan Butterfass

4/9 - Croton Point, HRM 35-34: A vesper sparrow, seen recently, was still present near the model airplane field along with 12-20 savannah sparrows and a field sparrow. Other birds seen in the general area included American kestrel, killdeer, robins, starlings, song sparrows, northern flickers, Carolina wren, white-breasted nuthatch, red-bellied woodpecker, turkey vulture, and greater black-backed gulls.

- Sean Camillieri

4/9 - Westchester County, HRM 30: I took a short walk around Rockefeller State Park this morning hoping to see my first warblers of the season. I was rewarded with 26 palm warblers and two pine warblers as a bonus. Most were found in a short stretch along the Pocantico River Trail. A male eastern bluebird, electrically-brilliant in the morning light, was icing on the cake.

- Greg Prelich

4/9 - Staten Island, New York City: Despite a slow start this spring on Richmond Creek, the glass eel migration had at last kicked in. The warmer water temperatures and upcoming new moon brought 952 glass eels to our fyke net over the past two days. In total, we have captured 2,572 eels to date this year.

- Rob Brauman

4/10 - Columbia County, HRM 127:

The lavender hepatica

Does not know

That it is small;

That it is pretty.

It pushes its way

Up through leaf mulch

In the woods

And comes to full flower.

This ephemeral

Simply is

In THE NOW

Of a sunny, spring day.

- Wilma Ann Johnson

4/10 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: At 2:25 AM, a brief but fierce storm rolled across the river with thunder, lightning, high winds and heavy rain (half-inch in 30 minutes). At times like this I lie in bed and think of the ten-day-old nestlings in the many eagle nests in the Hudson Valley and hope that every one of them is safely tucked under their mother's wing. I also remember the resiliency of the species, one that has been enduring under these conditions long before we walked the land, and I feel comforted enough to go back to sleep.

- Tom Lake

4/10 - Beacon, HRM 61: I was able to spot a school of river herring under the Tioranda Bridge at the head of tide on Fishkill Creek.

- Jerry Goodman

4/10 - Quassaick Creek, HRM 60: Our first day (after an overnight) of glass eel fyke net sampling on the Quassaick resulted in 2,917 glass eels!

- Zoraida Maloney

4/10 - Furnace Woods, HRM 38.5: Forsythia and blackflies were in bloom, rough-winged swallows had returned, and the marmorated stink bugs had emerged from their winter hiding places. It was nice to note that there appear to be fewer of them this year - so far.

- Christopher Letts

[The brown marmorated stink bug (Halyomorpha halys) has made quite an impression in many areas of the Mid-Hudson Valley in the last couple of years, invading homes, businesses, schools, garages, and automobiles, often in overwhelming numbers. Also called the shield bug, they are invasive insects native to Asia and introduced in the northeast in the 1990s. They are considered agricultural pests since in large numbers they can suck plant juices and damage crop production. Tom Lake.]

4/10 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: A call from a friend sent me hastening to the Croton waterfront where I took on a cargo of a dozen large river herring (alewives), some of them more than a foot in length. Herring roe and a dandelion salad sounded very good, and a lot like spring.

- Christopher Letts

4/10 - Upper Nyack, HRM 31: The first broad-winged hawks of the season arrived today at (over) the Hook Mountain Hawk Watch.

- Steven Sachs

4/10 - Staten Island, New York City: A very quick walk into the woods was just what the doctor ordered. I found my target: a beautiful patch of woodland with blooming bloodroot I've come to know. As if to make spring that much more obvious, a palm warbler perched, tail bobbing, in a flowering red maple above it all.

- Dave Taft

4/11 - Beacon, HRM 61: We spotted four red-breasted mergansers early this morning at Madam Brett Park on Fishkill Creek. Also seen was a kestrel, bald eagle, osprey, ruby-crowned kinglets and, near the factories on the creek, rough-winged swallows coming out of the building.

- Aimee LaBarr

4/11- Beacon, HRM 61: This evening I just saw lots of white suckers at the falls below the Tioranda Dam at Madame Brett Park on Fishkill Creek. They were all about a foot-and-a-half long, dark gray backs, orange sides and pale bellies. I saw about a hundred or so in the hour I watched them making their way up the steps.

- Jerry Goodman

[This is the prime spawning season for white suckers. They move into the Hudson River tributaries in early-to-mid-April, ascending upstream seeking the right (gravelly) bottom substrate with a modest current, usually above the reach of tide, to lay their eggs. During the breeding season, male white suckers develop a reddish stripe down each of their body. Tom Lake.]

4/11 - Queens, New York City: While at Jamaica Bay Wildlife refuge this afternoon doing some barn owl box maintenance, I managed to get in some birding on the East and West Ponds. The notables were, on the East Pond, green-winged teal (14), snowy egret (23), great egret (13), black-crowned night-heron (43), northern shoveler (37), and laughing gull (4) - on the West Pond, great egret (7), greater yellowlegs (3), and palm warbler (3).

- Andrew Baksh

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