In April, warm spells alternate with late-winter snowstorms, and wild temperature swings occur. Along the banks of the Truckee River, leaves emerge on riparian trees and shrubs such as willows and cottonwoods, and the muted browns of winter suddenly give way to the vivid greens of spring.
Early in the month, swallows begin to return from wintering grounds in Central and South America. Watch for them swooping, swirling and diving as they hunt for insects in the air above the channel. The Cliff Swallow, a common Truckee River species, begins building mud nests on the underside of bridges, making frequent trips to puddles and riverbanks to gather mud pellets. Other species of swallows that you may begin to see near the river in April include Tree Swallows, Northern Rough-winged Swallows, Violet-green Swallows, and Barn Swallows.
As temperatures begin to warm, Lahontan cutthroat trout and Cui-ui migrate upstream from Pyramid Lake into the lower Truckee River to spawn. To see these fish up close, pay a visit to the Marble Bluff Dam in Nixon; during high water years, biologists use a “fish-elevator” to lift fish approximately 40 feet over the Marble Bluff Dam, helping them to access upstream portions of the river, where they will lay eggs for the next generation. Another place to see spawning Lahontan cutthroat trout is the Pyramid Lake Fisheries facility in Sutcliffe.
As the month goes on, look for the first flower buds and white blossoms on the Chokecherry and Utah serviceberry. These will develop into berries by mid-summer, favored food items for many species of Truckee River birds. Many species of willow flower in April as well.
Water Watch: April 2016
After several winters of drought in the Lake Tahoe Basin, a winter of average snowfall is helping Lake Tahoe to refill. On April 9, the water level reached Tahoe’s natural rim of 6223 feet (shown as the 3.0 line on the graph below) — about a two foot rise since December. As of April 30, the water level in Lake Tahoe had reached about four inches above the rim of the lake, and should keep rising as the snow melts. For current lake level information, check USGS’s Lake Tahoe gage in Tahoe City.
The rising lake level is great news for the Truckee River in Tahoe City, CA, which has been mostly dry since October 2014. As the lake refilled in April, water once again began flowing into the river via the Lake Tahoe Dam. By the end of the month, flows were still lower than normal, but quickly approaching the historic mean of 60 cubic feet per second (shown as the series of orange triangles on the graph below). For current river flow information, view the USGS’s Truckee River gage in Tahoe City.
Downstream in Reno, the Truckee River flowed at slightly above-average levels during the first half of April, then dropped to below-average levels by the end of the month. Water is now being captured in upstream storage reservoirs (Stampede, Boca and Prosser) for use during summer months. For current river flow information, view the USGS’s Truckee River gage in Reno.
New on Truckee River Guide: April 2016
In April, the planning team from the One Truckee River project requested a copy of the wildlife data that has been submitted to this project. They are drafting a new management plan for the Truckee River, and it is exciting to know that the data we all have been collecting is going to help in the effort to protect the Truckee River in the future.
New species accounts added to the site this month were:
Happy spring, and keep the species observations coming!