Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Hudson is Open!

 The sun shone bright today, but darn, it still was COLD!  I don't think it rose out of the 20s all day, and here it is, mid March.  But despite the continuing sub-freezing temperatures, the Hudson River is running wide open along some stretches, including most of way between Schuylerville and Ft. Edward.  And reports are coming in that flocks of migrating ducks have been seen on these open waters. So that's where my friend Sue and I went today,  hoping to catch a glimpse of our visitors.

Our first stop was the Hudson Crossing Park near Lock 5 at Schuylervile, where we pulled on our studded grippers to walk the icy trails along the river.  We didn't see any migrating ducks along these banks, but we were amused by a number of metal sculptures of birds that are situated along the trail.

Our disappointment at not finding ducks at this site (aside from some resident Mallards) did not prevent us from thoroughly enjoying our walk.  As our longtime blog readers probably know well, Sue and I are very easily amused, and today we delighted in finding some really enormous Cottonwood trees.

We also rejoiced in discovering many Hackberry trees growing along the river.  I don't come across this species of tree very often, but it's always immediately recognized by its remarkably furrowed bark.

Sue was the first to spot this interesting pod that was tumbling across the surface of the snow, but I was the first to recognize it as the hollow fruit of American Bladdernut.

We searched and searched for the source of the pod, and it was Sue who spotted this shrub with many bladders still dangling from its branches.  This is only the second place I have found this native shrub in northern Saratoga County, so we were quite excited to find it here.

American Bladdernut has a distinctive stripey bark, which allowed us to locate a number of the shrubs along the trail, although we found no other that still held on to the fruit.  We shall have to return in late May to look for its distinctive clusters of white bell-shaped flowers.

 Thoroughly chilled by a brisk wind that pushed the cold under our coats, we were glad to continue our search for waterfowl from the comfort of a heated car.  We next headed north toward Ft. Edward, taking the West River Road from Bacon Hill.  With the afternoon sun at our backs, we could easily search the sky-blue surface of the open river.  Very light traffic along this road allowed us to inch along at a bird-watcher's pace.

 And our search was well rewarded!  I know you can't tell from this photo, but there are lots of ducks out there, splashing and diving and always, always moving out of reach of my camera's zoom.  Luckily, we could see them quite clearly with Sue's binoculars.  One group we saw included Goldeneyes, American Mergansers, Canvasbacks, Red-headed Ducks, and Scaups.  Sue also saw some Ring-necked Ducks and a pair of Hooded Mergansers.

We ended our search for migrating ducks at the boat basin in Ft. Edward, a very nice riverside park that would certainly be worth revisiting when the weather warms and the grass grows green.

Ah yes.  Some day the weather WILL warm and the grass grow green.  Dear Lord, may it be soon.  I am growing very weary of this snowy cold.


Carolyn H said...

wow,the blue sky reflected in the river is just gorgeous! Nice to see some open water again!

Woody Meristem said...

That is one very impressive cottonwood!

The Furry Gnome said...

Nice outing! I love the picture of the Hackberry bark.