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Hudson River Almanac May 1 - May 7, 2006

OVERVIEW

Spring has reached the High Peaks of the Adirondacks any way you measure it. Black bears and blackflies are as traditional as shadbush and songbirds. In the lower Hudson, the shad spawning run is winding down, trees are mostly leafed out and, as a result, birding has become a challenge.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

5/1 - Eagle Nest NY62, Dutchess County: The carcass of a partially eaten fish was lying on the rim of the nest. A passing crow made a quick bank and descent on the nest. Mama swivelled her head to watch and the eaglet squeaked. The crow made several pirouettes low over the nest eying the fish, deciding if the risk of a theft was too great. The crow let out a loud caw and continued on its way. Mama must have had that look in her eyes.
- Tom Lake

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

5/1 - Newcomb, HRM 302: The stinking Benjamins (purple trilliums) were blooming today. It was in the 70s yesterday (I saw our first blackflies) and again today. The blackflies are not biting yet, but they were almost as annoying just flying about my head.
- Ellen Rathbone

5/1 - Catskill, HRM 113: We made three drifts today with our shad net and caught 30 roe, mostly small fish. The best part was there were no striped bass.
- Jon Powell

5/1 - West Point, HRM 52: The latest additions to the Pendragon clan of red-tailed hawks arrived sometime over the past few days. I had a suspicion it was April 28, when I saw Igraine (the adult female) off the nest, sitting on a rail above it looking intently down at something. Today, I saw the fuzzy head of one chick poke above the nest. Won't know for sure how many chicks were hatched for at least two weeks. The Pendragons changed nest locations once again, choosing the light tower in between the other two nest sites for the past four years. I was worried this year because I had received a report that a red-tailed hawk had been found dead behind an officer's quarters. However, when I collected the bird, I saw it was a 2-year old, either Anna, Elaine or Arthur from the 2004 nesting season. The bird succumbed to an assortment of conditions, with starvation playing a contributing role. No matter how well the parent hawks may instruct their offspring, sadly, not every chick learns how to be an effective predator.
- James A. Beemer, West Point Natural Resources Manager

5/2 - Newcomb, HRM 302: A father and his young son came in first thing today and reported seeing not one, not two, but three moose all together out Blue Ridge Road earlier in the morning!
- Ellen Rathbone

5/2 - Hannacrois, HRM 132.5: I saw my first hummingbird today, poking around the daffodils, looking for a drink.
- Liz LoGuidice

5/3 - Catskill, HRM 113: There had not been much change in the poor shad fishing situation; we were still seeing 10 or fewer fish a drift in 600' of net. Then our last drift this morning netted us 30 roe, a nice change.
- Jon Powell

5/3 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 75.5: Each of the last three mornings the Clearwater educators and I gathered macroinvertebrates in Fallkill Creek to use for our education programs aboard the schooner Mystic Whaler. We used a kick net and a small aquarium dipnet in the swift water a few hundred feet above where it meets the Hudson. Amongst the Gammarus amphipods, blackfly larvae, caddisfly larvae, and the occasional crawfish, we caught some glass eels. Over three days we caught 15 glass eels and 2-3 pigmented elvers. We returned most of the tiny translucent eels to the creek immediately, saving a few to show 3rd to12th graders.
- Jason Novak

5/3 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: I saw our first hummingbird of the season yesterday. This morning, I was buzzed by 2 little hummers as I picked a bouquet of lilies of the valley. For the rest of the day, the fierce little birds zipped back and forth between the coral bells, columbine, fuschia basket and the nectar feeder, challenging each other for position. Now, as I look out towards the woods, I see a pileated woodpecker, its red head flashing like an axe, chips flying as it works over a rotting log.
- Robin Fox

5/3 - Yonkers, HRM 18: The tidal marsh at the Beczak Environmental Education Center is not very large - perhaps the size of a basketball court. But to a migrating savannah sparrow looking for a spot to rest and eat in urban Yonkers, this patch of grass, sand, and mudflat was the closest match to its preferred wide open field habitat. The bird busily foraged nearby as we examined a dead 13" long striped searobin that had washed into the marsh on the flood tide.
- Cynthia Fowx, Vicki Garufi, Sarah MacDonald, Steve Stanne

5/4 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Pussytoes and creeping phlox were blooming in peoples' lawns.
- Ellen Rathbone

5/4 - Minerva, HRM 284: The shadbush in Minerva began to bloom today, showing color, which is about the time it popped out last year. It's been fun watching for it, and seeing the blooming advance up from the Glens Falls area with the rise in elevation.
- Mike Corey

5/4 - Lake Hill, HRM 100: Sitting by the glass windows in the Little Bear restaurant and eating dinner, I noticed a male ruby-throated hummingbird zipping from flower to flower among the azalea bushes. What a difference in size from the bald eagle I saw last week.
- Reba Wynn Laks

5/4 - Croton Point, HRM 34.5: After more than three weeks of anxious vigil, we breathed a collective sigh of relief today. The clutch of 4 killdeer eggs had hatched, the police tape guarding the nest came down, and mother and babies were doing well. Spitting images of their parents except with one breast stripe instead of two, the youngsters skimmed over the playing field and parking lot, gleaning tiny morsels and acting very grown up for their age.
- Christopher Letts

5/5 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Shadbush was blooming all the way north to Minerva, 18 miles south of us, but not yet in Newcomb. Glens Falls (river mile 208) seems to be weeks ahead of us. Their trees not only have recognizable leaves already but their flowering trees (crabapples, plums) are in full glory! This evening in Newcomb we saw a pair of bluebirds, the male singing away, checking out a couple of our nest boxes. We had almost given up hope of seeing any bluebirds this year - they are almost three weeks later than last year.
- Ellen Rathbone

5/5 - Minerva, HRM 284: Our first yellow-rumped warblers arrived in town today.
- Mike Corey

5/5 - Eagle Nest NY62, Dutchess County: There was a hatch at NY62 around the first week of April. I've been watching Mama and one eaglet since then. Today I heard stereo squeaking from the nest and saw a second eaglet. One seems larger than the other which, I guess, means one hatched a few days earlier than the other. Mama is leaving them alone for short periods, and Papa is around (he brings breakfast). This morning Papa, flew around me and the spotting scope, deftly "hidden" in a blue spruce, chortling and chirping before perching on the tip-top of a busted off dead tamarack at nest-level 20 feet away from the tall white pine. He was eaglet-sitting while Mama was out on the river. Through the scope, the eaglets - though mis-matched - look hale and hearty.
- Tom Lake

Note: Subsequent observations in the next week would fail to see the second, smaller eaglet.

5/5 - Eagle Nest NY62, Dutchess County: I arrived to monitor the nest in early evening. One of the adults was in the nest, eaglet-sitting. I watched them for a while and was about to leave when the second adult flew in from the river over my head with a fish. With food in the nest, all of them began to feed. I saw one eaglet, wings flapping
- Mary Borrelli

5/5 - Peekskill, HRM 44: From the Metro North train to Manhattan, I spotted an immature bald eagle spiraling down to the banks of the river on the north side of Peekskill.
- Michael Boyajian

5/6 - Newcomb, HRM 302: During the night, Toby Rathbone sensed something was outside. When we set out at 7:30 AM, the first thing we saw was the remains of a bird feeder. A black bear had been by. Neighbors said there had been a number of bear reports this last week around town, getting into garbage, one even getting into an ice shanty. It must've smelled fish. The bear went in through the front door and made a backdoor as it exited out the other side. Bird feeders are coming in at night now. It was only a matter of time. I have a feeling that food is a bit scarce for bears this spring, with the paucity of snowfall, rain, and the delay in arrival of natural foods.
- Ellen Rathbone

5/6 - Minerva, HRM 284: This was a black-throated green warbler day in Minerva.
- Mike Corey

5/6 - Clermont, Columbia County, HRM 104: The tall oaks and maples along the river served as way stations for waves of newly arrived songbirds. Among the warblers were yellow-rumped, black-and-white, American redstarts, and common yellowthroats. Baltimore orioles were also moving through, flashing flame orange in the sunlight. Aldo Leopold described the oriole's flash as "like a burst of fire."
- Tom Lake, Christopher Letts, Andra Sramek, Phyllis Lake, Barry Keegan

5/6 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 74: Our hummingbird feeder had already been up a week and we were beginning to fret since none of the flying jewels had showed up yet. Today, the first ruby-throated, a female, arrived hungry at our feeder. She is thin but has a good appetite. The male should be along any time now.
- Bill Lenhart, Donna Lenhart

5/6 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 69: Jolene Van Wagenen, Kristin Lamake, and Samantha Browne, Dutchess Community College field archaeology students, were excavating along a small brook that runs into the Hudson River when they found a small stone point called a Jack's Reef. The style dates to about AD 800, very close to the time when the use of bow and arrow technology was becoming common in the Hudson Valley. (It is named for its type site in Onondaga County.) Nearby, another student, Bryan Connell, found a small potsherd. From its thickness and net-marked incising, we determined that it was from a period archaeologists call the Point Peninsula tradition, the same people who made and used the arrowhead. Located only a few hundred feet from the river, this brook probably had a spring herring run 1250 years ago. This could have been a fishing camp, something further investigation may reveal. These Indians were likely the ancestors of the Algonquian people who greeted Henry Hudson in 1609.
- Stephanie Roberg-Lopez, Tom Lake

5/7 - Newcomb, HRM 302: We woke to a hard frost. It was downright chilly outside with a very brisk wind. The black bear must have detoured our neighborhood last night; there were no signs anywhere. I put the feeders back out this morning, much to the delight of the goldfinches, chickadees, blue jays and crows.
- Ellen Rathbone

5/7 - Minerva, HRM 284: I heard my first wood thrush today.
- Mike Corey

5/7 - Fort Lee, NJ, HRM 11.5: This was our 20th annual Shad Bake at Ross Dock. For the first decade of this event, commercial fisherman Ron Ingold of Edgewater would have his anchor gill nets set just off the park. A highlight of the festivities would be to go out and see what he caught on that tide. Ronnie is gone and so are his nets; no one fishes this reach of the Hudson anymore. It is not for lack of good, marketable fish, but for lack of interest. Today there was a fishing contest where anglers caught Atlantic tomcod, white catfish and small striped bass. Afterwards, as has been the tradition, nearly 300 people sampled our baked, pickled, and smoked shad.
- Tom Lake, Andra Sramek, Barry Keegan

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