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Hudson River Almanac May 15 - May 21, 2005

OVERVIEW

The colors of warblers and wildflowers brightened up the week. The spring migration of fish from the sea has waned for shad and herring but continues for striped bass and Atlantic sturgeon.

HIGHLIGHT FROM THE PREVIOUS WEEK

5/13 - Esopus Meadows, HRM 87: Seven-year-old Gabby Agostaro, from Janet Gulliti's second grade class at Duzine Elementary in New Paltz, found a small spear point eroding out of the sand along the shore during our program at the Esopus Meadows Education Center. This was the second here in the last three years. On April 11, 2002, eight-year-old Christos Kavouras, likewise from Duzine, found a large spear point in a similar setting.
- Eli Schloss, Dave Conover

[Both of these stone points were of a type called Snook Kill from the Terminal Archaic period of Northeast prehistory (3500-3000 years ago). The type is named for the site where it was first discovered in 1953 by state archaeologist William Ritchie, along the Snook Kill in Saratoga County, HRM 198. Charcoal from a hearth at the Snook Kill site radiocarbon dated to 3,470 years old. This point was fashioned from a red Normanskill chert, outcroppings of which can be found in Greene County, about 40 miles upriver. Glacially deposited cobbles and pebbles of red chert are not uncommon along the river as well. It would have been hafted onto a wood, bone, or antler handle and used as a spear point or knife by the ancestors of the Algonquian Indians.]

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

5/15 - Jamaica Bay, New York Bight: It was one of those rare days at Jamaica Bay National Wildlife Refuge when everything pulls together to form a unique whole: a brilliant, cool, sunny Sunday morning; a bird walk scheduled that draws hundreds of visitors; thousands of migrant birds. No one was disappointed, least of all me. The highlights included: sora rail, warblers (northern parula, magnolia, black-throated green, black-throated blue, chestnut-sided, bay-breasted, Blackburnian, yellow-rumped, black-and-white, Wilson's, Cape May warbler, American redstart, common yellowthroat, and ovenbird), white-crowned sparrow, Baltimore oriole, scarlet tanager, vireos (red-eyed, white-eyed, solitary, and Philadelphia), rose breasted grosbeak, black-billed cuckoo, laughing gull, osprey, tricolor heron, ruby-throated hummingbird, and more.
- Dave Taft

5/16 - Newcomb, HRM 302: This morning I saw a tree swallow fly into the nest box that housed bluebirds last year. Message to the bluebirds: If you drag your feet, someone else will move into the house! But that's okay, I like tree swallows as much as bluebirds, so they are welcome.
- Ellen Rathbone

5/16 - Green Island, HRM 153: Riverside at 7:00 AM, 90 minutes after low tide, I expected to see the tide creeping back in. Instead, it was rushing in - one of vagaries of tidewater. There were eight anglers along the shore; half of them were catching shad, and all were catching blueback herring. I lost a nice heavy shad before I hooked, fought and landed three. Two were 6 lb. roes. All would be displayed at our shad bake in Catskill the next Saturday. I had watched the river warm over the previous two weeks: May 5: 50°, May 9: 52°, and today: 60°F. The mid-50s seems to be prime time for shad on rod and reel. The morning was quiet, cool and relaxing. Talk among some of us turned to lure color. Several swore by red and white shad darts. I offered chartreuse (I caught two of my shad on red and white, one on chartreuse). The secret elixir of river fishing is the way it reduces the stresses of the world to the question "Red and white or chartreuse?"
- Tom Lake

5/16 - North Germantown, HRM 114: Michael Gao caught a 43" striped bass weighing 36.5 lb. on a live river herring under the Rip Van Winkle Bridge.
- Tom Gentalen

5/16 - Cold Spring, HRM 53: Conducting a survey of bird life at the West Point Foundry Preserve and Foundry Marsh, I spotted greater yellowlegs, solitary sandpiper, pileated woodpecker, eastern kingbird, marsh wren, eastern bluebird, and orchard oriole.
- David Diaz

5/16 - Croton Point, HRM 34: The flow of blue jays had slowed, but still hundreds of birds were following the "Blue Jay Interstate," up the tree line on the south side of the point. On the little beach known as Mother's Lap, an assemblage of shorebirds was foraging. Spotted, least, and semipalmated sandpipers were all represented. Eastern kingbirds were reestablishing discipline over the resident crows.
- Christopher Letts

5/16 - Manhattan, HRM x: Uptown, downtown, all around the town, spring was in full force. The resident pair of robins on West 24th Street had returned, and hopefully will choose to nest in our Japanese cherry where they have been for the past several years. On the east side of 55 Water Street, facing the East River, peregrine falcons Jack and Jill are raising four young.
- Regina McCarthy

[Real time images of peregrine nests along the estuary can be viewed on the web. Links are at the bottom of this page.]

5/17 - West Point, HRM 52: The Pendragon red-tailed hawk chicks hatched two weeks ago. Today I spotted Uther, the adult male, sitting on top of the Catholic Chapel steeple, scanning about for squirrels and rabbits. The crows seem to leave him alone when he is sitting there. From the viewing site, I could see Igraine (the adult female) standing up in the nest and I was delighted to see two fuzzy, white chicks moving about. The smaller of the two appeared to try and hide behind its mother. While I will not know for sure for a couple of weeks, it does look like there is one male chick (the smaller of the two) and one female. Therefore, the male will be called Lancelot and the female will be named Guinevere.
- James Beemer

5/17 - Garrison, HRM 51.5: From the James P. Rod boardwalk at the Constitution Marsh Sanctuary, some guests and I noticed some perfectly round holes, about the size of a quarter, in the surface of mud recently exposed by the outgoing tide. I thought maybe somebody was poking with around with a stick, but I knew I'd seen them before at marshes south of here. Sure enough, a red-jointed fiddler crab peeked out, saw me and ditched it deep down his borrow. First time I've ever seen them in Constitution Marsh.
- Eric Lind

5/17 - Annsville Creek, HRM 43.5: In a large tree adjacent to a parking lot along the creek, we spotted a pair of nesting kingbirds. As a crow approached, the two took exception to its proximity to their nest and promptly escorted the intruder out of their territory.
- David Baker

5/17 - Croton Point, HRM 34: Blue jays continued to flow; more than 350 passed over my head in half an hour. An osprey was hunting over Croton Bay. Later, an immature bald eagle flew right over the tables where I was conducting a class on fish morphology and adaptations. These birds always present mysteries when they show up at this time of year.
- Christopher Letts

5/18 - Hunter's Brook, HRM 67.5: The glass eel migration is slowing; we're seeing only a few each day and those have darkening pigmentation indicating they have been in the estuary for a month or so. After checking my net this afternoon I waded downstream, eyes on the water, carefully navigating over slippery cobbles. As I reached the junction with the tidal Wappinger I looked up. Two turkey vultures stood on the sand no more than 20' away, watching me. That's enough to make you take a step back. They looked like two big birds that had been through the wash cycle. At their feet, just above the reach of tide, was a large, dead carp, left there by an angler. We gazed into each other's eyes: them pleading to be allowed to keep their prize, me wishing they would step aside so I could exit the brook. I blinked first, and found another jump out point.
- Tom Lake

5/19 - Garrison, HRM 51.5: There was a eastern pine elfin butterfly on a pitch pine on a bluff above the river at Constitution Marsh Sanctuary. I had never seen one of them before.
- Eric Lind

[The eastern pine elfin is a small (1¼-1½ inch) brown hairstreak butterfly that is often seen in groves and stands of pine trees.]

5/19 - George's Island, HRM 39: Birding with a class of second graders can be challenging, to say the least, but hugely rewarding as well. I spend a lot of time trying to remember that my eyes are about 3' higher than theirs, and my binoculars vastly superior to the low-powered, plastic-framed models they use. We spend a lot of time on catbirds, robins, and redwings. Today was special. From the kettle of three red-tailed hawks and two vultures to the myriad Baltimore orioles singing and flitting about, something was going on every minute. We listened to a yellow-billed cuckoo calling close by, and a minute later spotted two of them in a rare clear view that lasted a couple of minutes. A great crested flycatcher "wheeped," and then showed itself. A pileated woodpecker did a flyover. And a pair of mute swans were waiting for us at the river's edge.
- Christopher Letts

5/19 - Manhattan, HRM 0: A double-crested cormorant began our day of bird watching at the Battery Park City Parks Conservancy as it coasted along under the watchful gaze of the Statue of Liberty. Our bird list included starlings, English sparrows, American robins, an ovenbird, Louisiana waterthrush, female common yellowthroat, male red-bellied woodpecker, blue jay, house finch, pigeon, and northern parula warbler. A brilliant scarlet tanager concluded the day, in Rector Park, perched in a tall gingko tree, as scarlet as red gets. Sadly, as I walked back to the train station, a dead ovenbird was a reminder that not all these migrants would be successful on their journeys north.
- Dave Taft

5/20 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: At dusk I spotted three northbound common nighthawks over Wappingers.
- Stephen Seymour

5/20 - Eagle Nest, Dutchess County: It was late afternoon and I was at the nest blind less than two minutes before Mama came flying in over my head and landed right on the tamarack next to the nest. This has been her favorite perch this spring. She perched there for 15 minutes, straight and beautiful. Then she flew off toward the river.
- Mary Borrelli

5/20 - Ulster Landing, HRM 97.2: It was mid-morning and as the crew approached our sampling site, two immature bald eagles took off. We set our 500' haul seine and as we pulled it in, the splashing began. There were fish everywhere! We had caught the largest number and highest weight haul in NYSDEC Hudson River Fisheries Unit history: no fewer than 440 striped bass, adult fish, some in the 40 pound range. We penned about half of them to measure and weigh before release, and let the others go immediately.
- Amanda Cosman

5/21 - Mid-Hudson Valley: Dame's rocket was in bloom, one of the most fragrant wildflower of spring, blanketing the hillsides with purple, pink, and white flowers.
- Tom Lake

5/21 - Manhattan, HRM 0: The highlight of today's bird walk at the Battery Park City Parks Conservancy was a pair of falcons. One was clearly a merlin, with the usual dark, stocky build, flying in a straight shot high over the West Side Highway. The other was a female kestrel, with the lovely tawny brown color and thinner build of this species. It flew circles high over Rector Park, returning again and again to the same space. Under the kestrel we spotted a large dragonfly, probably a green darner. We also saw a pair of common yellowthroats.
- Dave Taft

5/21 - Manhattan, HRM 2: A bright, sunny morning became a dramatic late afternoon for Debbie Morrison and I. Large angry clouds quickly rolled in from the New Jersey side of the Hudson in the late afternoon; before we could return to the car, heavy rains soaked us both. Finally sitting and drying in my car, the sun began to poke through the dramatic cloudscape. Debbie didn't seem particularly comforted as I informed her of the absolutely perfect rainbow conditions we were witnessing, but as we drove over the Brooklyn Bridge, she beamed as we witnessed a perfect double rainbow. Spanning the bridge, one pair of the famous pots of gold must have been on Montague Street, the other pair somewhere in Red Hook.
- Dave Taft

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