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Hudson River Almanac May 1 - May 9, 2005

OVERVIEW

The Almanac tries to include observations of many kinds of wildlife of the Hudson Valley. It doesn't always have room for extensive reports on angler's catches. However, the month of May is defined not only by flowers, butterflies, and songbirds but also by huge striped bass and other migrating spawners. This was a week of big fish.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

5/5 - Green Island, HRM 153: It was Mike Miller's birthday and fittingly he was hard into a large fish that just didn't want to be landed. After what seemed like ten minutes, and probably was, he guided the fish into the landing net and I brought it ashore. We removed the hook and measured the fish before releasing it. At 44" total length it was the largest shortnose sturgeon we had ever seen. The river was 50°F.
- Tom Lake, Christopher Letts

[Shortnose sturgeon spawn in spring far up the estuary near Albany and Troy. They are occasionally hooked by anglers fishing for American shad and striped bass. When this happens, they must be released, as this sturgeon is listed as an endangered species.]

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

5/1 - Croton River, HRM 34: We were admiring the hundreds of dipping swallows, flying low this cool, rainy morning. A semipalmated plover and a spotted sandpiper were working the beaches. At the far end of Inbuckie Cove, a large bird appeared, harassed by a smaller one. The binoculars revealed an adult bald eagle being pestered by a crow. The eagle perched at the water's edge for half an hour, prompting all sorts of speculation about what it was doing there.
- Christopher Letts

[By late spring, most adult bald eagles are found in the vicinity of their nesting area. At present, there are no known bald eagle nests in the Croton-on-Hudson area. The exceptions might be a young adult who has not yet found a mate, or an older adult who has lost its mate.]

5/2 - Newcomb, HRM 302: It was a brisk day up north, with snow in the air. According to Ray Masters, the old-timers claim winter isn't over until the peepers freeze three times.
- Ellen Rathbone

5/2 - Diamond Reef, HRM 67.5: Four days after the gasoline spill at Diamond Reef, Danny Lyon and I each caught a striped bass less than 50 feet from the spot where the barge hit. I recommend a beer-and-egg overnight marinade. Fillet the striper. Mix a bottle of beer with two eggs and marinade overnight. Dust with flour. Salt and pepper to taste. Fry. This fish was so fresh I could have had it as sushi. Delicious!
- Dan Wolff

5/2 - Croton Point, HRM 34: Two common loons were fishing off the south side of the point, diving repeatedly in about three feet of water. White-crowned and white-throated sparrows were thick, and the first Baltimore orioles had returned.
- Christopher Letts

5/3 - Coeyman's Landing, HRM 133.5: Larry Winter caught a 36 lb. striped bass in the Hudson on a live herring. It was 41½" long.
- Tom Gentalen

5/3 - Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge, HRM 96.5: Meanwhile... Dan Fitzgerald was landing an even larger striped bass, caught on cut herring, just north of the Kingston-Rhineclif Bridge. Dan's 43" bass weighed 41¼ lb.
- Tom Gentalen

5/3 - Wappinger Falls, HRM 67.5: Our first ruby-throated hummingbird of the year made his appearance at our feeders today. It was right on time.
- Bud De Nicola

5/4 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: Lilacs were in bloom, about the same time as last year.
- Tom Lake

5/5 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Today dawned bright and sunny, but chilly - frost on the proverbial pumpkin. But it was good to see the blue sky and sunshine. Our red/purple trillium are in bloom. The first ones opened two days ago in complete defiance of the weather.
- Ellen Rathbone

5/5 - Green Island, HRM 153: Several fishing boats were anchored in the current just beyond our casting range; they were catching American shad. The roe shad were being put on ice, the buck shad were being tossed back over the side. Shore-bound anglers often fare pretty well in the Hudson but today, despite the rapidly rising tide, it paid to be out in deeper water. One of the smaller buck shad must have been stunned for it floated down river a short distance until an adult bald eagle swooped down and plucked it off the surface. With the 15" shad in its talons for all to see, the eagle flew low over our heads and disappeared north above the federal dam.
- Tom Lake, Christopher Letts

5/5 - Poesten Kill, HRM 151.5: We were looking for migratory fishes and trying out some new equipment. In previous years, we have seen large numbers of alewives and other spring migrants, but this time the river was mostly empty. We decided to do some electrofishing with a backpack shocker, something that we had never done in the Poesten Kill. The majority of the fish we caught were American eels. We did catch a single specimen of central stoneroller. This is the first record of this fish in tidewater along the Hudson. The closest known populations are in the vicinity of Schoharie Creek in the Mohawk River.
- Bob Schmidt, Rick Morse, Brian Weatherwax

[The central stoneroller is a member of the minnow family, the largest family of fishes in the Hudson River watershed (33 species). The central stoneroller is not native to the watershed and are believed to be a canal immigrant, via the Mohawk River, from the Mississippi River system. Tom Lake]

5/5 - Rip Van Winkle Bridge, HRM 113.5: With river herring difficult to come by so far this spring, anglers have been substituting chunk shad. Today Fred Steup caught a 44.1 lb. striped bass near the Rip Van Winkle Bridge on a piece of American shad that Jon Powell had caught in his drift net the day before. Fred's fish was 44" long.
- Tom Gentalen

5/5 - Croton River, HRM 34: Captain John Lipscomb anchored the RV Riverkeeper in the river off Ossining and we motored north in a shallow tin boat to the Croton River. On the way we saw an osprey hover and an adult bald eagle fly the shoreline and then cut inland. At the mouth of the Croton River the water so clear we had visibility to 5'. Several hundred feet up the Croton, on a dead tree arching up out of the phragmites and spring-green willows, two immature marsh hawks surveyed the landscape.
- Dan Wolff

5/5 - Manhattan, HRM 11.5: Early this evening I was walking through Fort Tryon Park, just below the Cloisters, when something scurried very fast up a tree near me and then soared across the walkway into another tree. I was stunned. Then another light brown figure followed. I was able to see 3-4 individuals "fly" by. Flying squirrels. It was amazing.
- Alan Carrier

5/6 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Toby Rathbone and I walked a not-yet-ready-to-be-opened-new-trail at the Adirondack Parks Visitors Information Center and were surprised to find spring beauties blooming. This is the first time I have seen this flower here. This new trail is quite different from our others; the small section of hardwoods, combined with the southern slope exposure, is enough to make all the difference. Bluets were in bloom and I saw some pussytoes as well. This morning I heard my first black-throated blue warbler of the season. Hummingbirds should be showing up soon, so we need to get our feeders out and cleaned.
- Ellen Rathbone

5/7 - Stockport Creek, HRM 121.5: The day began with a forecast of mild temperatures and winds to 5 knots. As we headed out, we noticed that the wind was picking up to 10+ knots, yet the sky looked promising. Properly equipped, both of us skilled kayakers, we thought out the worst case and how the Hudson would act with wind against tide. Satisfied we could handle it, onward. An exciting and moderately challenging northward passage for five miles found us at an icehouse that served New York City before modern refrigeration. On the return leg, we spotted an adult bald eagle in its nest, its mate rising on a thermal in the sky overhead. Lost in awe of this exhibition of wildness, we were jolted when the wind sharply increased to 20+ knots, gusting to 30. The tide had turned current against wind; the waves were now heavy rollers. Surfing the rollers I felt both excitement and concern that this could turn unmanageable, but my partner and I found our way in them. Kayaking is a connection to the world, not an escape - the hand to the paddle, the body to the boat, the water embracing. It is romantic, exhilarating, joyous, the boat responding to the surfing conditions, letting the boat take me, one with everything. Then we spotted two canoes attempting to cross the river at its widest point - into the rollers, water coming over the sides, the two boats far apart. "It looks easier on the side they left. Why are they crossing?" my partner asks. We don't know. They don't have PFDs or floatation and the water is less than 50°F. We watched from afar, too far to help. They struggled each on their own, and made it across. "The condition of the sea is murderous." Homer calls it "wine dark," not because of its color but because it is thick with the intoxication of darkness. It is loved, sentimentally, by the ignorant and by romantics.
- Evan Shaw

5/8 - Eagle Nest, Dutchess County: This was the second day of a screaming north wind, gusting over 20 mph, and the nest tree was doing its usual swaying and leaning. Being a supple white pine, it could easily list 10°. To Mama and her offspring, it may have seemed like a carnival ride. There was still no indication if there was more than one baby eagle. Directly under the nest tree I found the carcass of a small striped skunk, eviscerated. Eagles have little or no sense of smell.
- Tom Lake

5/9 - Newcomb, HRM 302: As I drove to work this morning two crows flew low out of the woods toward the road. At the same time a gray squirrel darted out. All stopped at the edge, but not for long. The squirrel dashed across and the crows followed. It looked like they were chasing the squirrel. One of them even seem to make a grab for the squirrel as it reached the other side. Was this simply just harassment? This was a beautiful spring day, with an air temperature near 70°F. There will not be too many more like this before the blackflies arrive.
- Ellen Rathbone

5/9 - Green Island, HRM 153: After two days of a stiff north wind, the ebb tide just kept dropping, running a full hour longer than predicted. When the tide finally turned to flood and the current moved up along the shore, schools of blueback herring, fresh from the sea, could be seen in the clear water. Many of these river herring will crowd into the lock at the Federal dam to get up and over on their way to the Mohawk River to spawn. A dozen boats fished just offshore and two dozen anglers crowded the beach, all casting for American shad. For the first hour of the flood, the action was negligible. Then, in a matter of minutes, Wally John hooked and landed a pair of 6 lb. roe shad. The water was 53°F.
- Tom Lake

5/9 - Town of Athens, HRM 116: The jack in the pulpit and wild ginger are blooming at Cohotate Preserve. There are so many jack in the pulpits! They are really a sight to behold.
- Liz LoGuidice

5/9 - Yorktown, HRM 33: Our house wrens arrived today. This is the latest they have arrived in the 34 years that we have been recording.
- Midge Arnold, Bill Arnold

5/9 - Croton Point, HRM 34: Many flocks of blue jays were arriving from the west side this morning. I estimated well over a thousand during a walk that lasted a little over an hour. From one vantage, I could hear a mockingbird, several catbirds, and a brown thrasher singing. Yesterday, no catbirds had been singing. In a large black willow an orchard oriole was singing from one perch and on the other side of the tree a Baltimore oriole was doing the same. Scores of chimney swifts filled the air, all foraging, and all making net progress to the east and north, off the point.
- Christopher Letts

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