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Hudson River Almanac May 1 - May 6, 2007

OVERVIEW

Baltimore orioles returned this week, right on schedule, along with myriad other colorful songbirds. We have had 6 rose-breasted grosbeaks sightings already; last year there was only one report for the entire season. As one observer noted, this is the time of the year when you cannot afford to miss a walk in a park or along the river. Bring those binoculars!

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

5/4 - Tappan Zee, HRM 34: We caught an Atlantic sturgeon in our research gill net near Croton Point today. We are trying to catch sturgeon to tag them so we can chart their movements and migrations. Last year we fished for a couple of months in that area of the river and caught none. We tried bottom lines this year and, in only one week, have already caught a fish. This sturgeon was 6 feet, 3 inches long and weighed about 75 lb. We were unable to tell if it was a male or female. We attached a sonic tag to it to trace its movements.

- Amanda Higgs, NYSDEC Hudson River Fisheries Unit

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

5/1 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 75: I caught my first fish of the year! After watching some youngsters catch a dozen channel catfish on worms, I changed bait and put on some porkchop meat. Soon I had my first fish, another channel cat, and that was followed by many more. They seem to like meat; I've even caught them on hot dogs a few times. I was happy to read that Bill Greene got a bullhead catfish at Long Dock in Beacon. I have not caught a bullhead in almost 2 years. The channel cats seemed to have taken over in Poughkeepsie.

- Glen Heinsohn

5/1 - Croton Point, HRM 34: Dozens of blue jays signaled the beginning of their spring journey, streaming along the south shore of the peninsula. Soon there will be flocks of hundreds. House wrens were singing, yellow warblers, magnolia warblers, and yellow-rumped warblers flitted in the underbrush, and ovenbirds poked in the puddles. Evidence of the great rains of two weeks ago was still piling up on the bathing beach, with debris stacked high all along the tideline. In the Croton River, great logs and whole trees have come to lodge between the railroad bridge and Route 9 bridge - great for kingfishers, hard on boaters.

- Christopher Letts

5/2 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Toby Rathbone and I were taking a walk on the golf course this evening when we saw a snowshoe hare in its summer coat - that is, all but its feet, which were still a gray-white color.

- Ellen Rathbone

5/2 - Green Island, HRM 153: The river was still "mid-April" at the Troy Dam - no shad, no herring, few bass - the spillway was a curtain of cold water from the Adirondacks. The shad and herring are, I'd guess, a week late. To punctuate the lingering late winter, as I was taking the water temperature, a pair of snow geese flew over heading north. A real head-shaker! They were probably just stragglers, but about five weeks late. While the inshore shallows were a warm 53 degrees F, the deeper offshore channel was likely colder.

- Tom Lake

5/2 - Albany, HRM 145: Eight miles down river, we were scouting the Erastus Corning Riverfront Preserve for a shad bake to be held on May 19. The USGS monitoring station at the park had the river at 49.3 degrees F.

- Tom Lake

5/2 - Barrytown, HRM 97: A fisher darted across my driveway this evening two hours before dusk, giving me a good up close look at this normally reclusive critter. This appeared to be the same animal I had seen once before earlier this winter [see 1/18 Barrytown for another report on what may have been the same fisher]. After retreating a safe distance, it cautiously poked its head from behind a big hemlock tree to study my actions. Deciding I posed no serious threat, it shuffled off in a lazy stilted gait into the hemlock woods. Perhaps it has taken up residence in the area and is making regular reconnaissances of the Mudderkill Creek looking for food.

- John Sperr

5/2 - Gardiner, HRM 78: Last year I began a project with my tracking dog, an Australian cattledog, to monitor the box turtle population on our land. He indicates the turtles by sitting, not by touching or picking up. We found 7 different ones. Then they disappeared, leaving us to wonder where they went for the winter. Today we were hiking in the woods below our field, a nice hardwood swamp, and found 3 turtles. We walked down to the Wallkill River and, upon our return, found another. We discovered through photos that this was one of the same ones that we had seen about 20 minutes earlier. The turtle had traveled quite a distance southwestward toward our field. All 3 of these turtles were very muddy so we are guessing they were just emerging from their winter habitat. The 3 found today bear no resemblance in their carapace and plastron photos to the ones we had noted before. We hope to continue following their progress and also find some of the ones who were here last year.

- Anne Allbright Smith

5/2 - Beacon, HRM 61: Caught, weighed, and released my first carp of the season, 24" and 5 lb, 14 oz, near the top of the flood tide at Long Dock. In the 7 hours I was there, I saw only one carp break the surface.

- Bill Greene

5/2 - George's Island Park, HRM 39: Clutching red plastic binoculars, my 2nd grade birders from Irvington struck it rich. In an hour, they had great looks at singing orioles and cardinals, catbirds, and the first wood thrush of the season. Yellow warblers chased each other right through the ranks of kids, and a warbling vireo warbled. An osprey soared and an ovenbird walked the wet woods floor. In all more than 20 species clearly seen and heard. I was pleased to have a count of 50 species by day's end.

- Christopher Letts

5/2 - Furnace Woods, HRM 38.5: I ate breakfast standing up at the kitchen sink this morning, rejoicing at the sight of a flock of rose-breasted grosbeaks at the feeders - a sight too fine to miss.

- Christopher Letts

5/2 - Croton Point, HRM 34: You just can't afford to miss a morning walk at this time of the year. Too much is happening too fast. The canopy was filled with warblers; sadly, the leaden sky provided scant light for identification of the little birds. Bluebirds and hermit thrush were foraging, up on the landfill. I exalted at the first bobolinks of the year. Everywhere there were puddles I found shorebirds, killdeer, but also woodcock, semipalmated sandpipers, and greater yellowlegs. A frustration greater than not being able to identify the warblers set in when I topped the landfill and scanned the mudflats in the Croton River. I could see scores, maybe hundreds of shorebirds of several sizes in the shallows and on the mud, but at extreme range. Identification was not possible. I had to conclude that winds overnight had encouraged, then stranded many of these birds. The morning breezes were stiff northerlies.

- Christopher Letts

5/2 - Crugers, HRM 34: I had 3 male and one female rose-breasted grosbeaks at the feeder today. Also, black vultures, previously an occasional sighting in Crugers, are more frequent this year.

- Jim Grefig

5/3 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Spring was rushing in: peepers, wood frogs, and now warblers. I saw a yellow-rumped, heard a common yellowthroat, and then there were the usual mystery birds. One "warbling" bird had a black throat and yellowish markings on the sides, but the trees were in the way, the story of spring birding. There was also a thrush, but I couldn't say if it was wood or hermit. It refused to voice an opinion. An eastern phoebe perched on my fence this morning, bobbing its tail before flitting to a shrub and doing the same. Trout lily leaves are up but, besides coltsfoot, I haven't seen anything blooming in the woods yet.

- Ellen Rathbone

5/3 - Saugerties, HRM 102: I was driving my son to school this morning when we saw 3 sandhill cranes, two adults and an immature, a quarter-mile from our house on Blue Mountain Road in Saugerties. They were standing in a swampy field near a stream and pond. I've seen them before, but never in New York. [See 4/3 Germantown for another sandhill crane sighting.]

- Lisa Krause

5/3 - Rondout Creek, HRM 92: While readying the boat at Hideaway Marina, I spotted a very large beaver chewing on brush along Island Dock. I wondered if it had made residence in one of the old barges along the creek. Two irate crows chased the beaver into the creek and it made quite a splash!

- Tom Burt

5/3 - Milan HRM 90: Our first hummingbird of the season made a quick visit to one of our feeders today. It was a female, checking out the neighborhood.

- Marty Otter

5/3 - Hunter's Brook, HRM 67.5: Flowering dogwood added its splash along the brook today and alewives were still filling the stream on the flood tide. Even with only a short 250 feet run to the fall line, they were surging upstream and ascending the gravelly rapids. It was impressive, far more of them than I've seen here, or anywhere for that matter, in recent years. As I watched in the foot-deep clear water where the brook edged up over the tideline into a rocky riffle, I noticed a different looking "herring." A closer look with polarized sunglasses revealed it to be a gorgeous foot-long brook trout.

- Tom Lake

5/3 - Beacon, HRM 61: The day's fishing "take" (caught and released) at Long Dock was 3 channel catfish, 2 carp (4 lb. range), 2 bullhead catfish, and a golden shiner. They all took a corn kernel and bread bait. Carp were rolling at the surface and jumping periodically all day.

- Bill Greene

5/3 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: I was thrilled yesterday when 3 male rose-breasted grosbeaks made their first time appearance at my bird feeders. They were back today. I'm hoping they'll stick around.

- Jane Shumsky

5/3 - Croton River, HRM 34: Black-crowned night herons had returned. Hundreds of swallows of 4 species were feeding over the marsh - a fine sight. A pair of blue-winged teal paddled on the appropriately named Croton Duck Pond in the heart of the village. Four common snipe flushed from the thick grass on the edge of the marsh, protesting loudly as they sailed away.

- Christopher Letts

5/3 - Hastings-on-Hudson, HRM 21.5: This is the first year that we have had rose-breasted grosbeaks at our bird feeder, three males today were eating seeds.

- Barbara Morrow, George Morrow

5/4 - Hunter's Brook, HRM 67.5: Maybe it was the full moon tides; maybe it was just their time - but on the overnight flood tide 88 glass eels found their way into our fyke net. This tied for the second most we've caught in one night. The previous 88 was also on May 4, in 2003. The highest number was 98, May 2, also 2003. The fact that these high numbers occurred four years ago illustrates the apparent decline in freshwater recruitment of these juvenile American eels.

- Tom Lake

5/4 - Town of Wappinger: I returned to the residential home and the red fox family living at the edge of the woods in a semi-rural setting (see April 30). There we found a collection of evidence that the fox and kits were apparently doing fine: a rabbit's foot (unlucky for someone), a woodchuck foot, a couple of used squirrel skins, and a mouse skin. The landowner frequently sees the family out at dusk digging, running, playing.

- Tom Lake

5/4 - Croton Point, HRM 34.5: The eastern meadowlarks had returned; spurge had surged. Ah, the many joys of May!

- Christopher Letts

5/4 - Sandy Hook, NJ: This is the time for an early morning walk, when the spring birds are migrating through. Sandy Hook acts like a funnel, concentrating birds before they cross to New York City and Long Island: cardinals, blue jays, catbirds, towhees, house finches, field sparrows, white-throated sparrows, goldfinches, common yellowthroats, Carolina wrens, yellow warblers, and lots that my stale eyes missed. There appeared to be 6 active osprey nests, with females setting on 4. The brant are still here, along with the single snow goose, way past its migration time, probably unable to make it farther north. Our terrier mix (we used to call them mongrels) treed a young woodchuck that froze on a tree limb, successfully boring the dog. Two satisfied surf fishermen came off the beach with 3 bluefish tails sticking out of a spackle can.

- Dery Bennett

5/5 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Tree swallows have returned and they have been making multiple rounds of my nest boxes. One morning last week I saw bluebirds checking out the box they used last year. Now they seem to be gone and the tree swallows are here. It's not that tree swallows are not welcome, too, but ... I really like having the bluebirds.

- Ellen Rathbone

5/5 - Tivoli South Bay, HRM 98.5: I was dipping glass eels out of our fyke at the mouth of the Saw Kill around noon when a shadow passed over me. I looked up to see an adult bald eagle.

- Bob Schmidt

5/6 Newcomb, HRM 302: Mike Tracy told me he had a hummingbird zip past him today. I knew I should've put out my feeders, but I figured the nectar would just freeze up. So, I just made up a batch and when it cools I'll fill the feeders.

- Ellen Rathbone

5/6 - Schodack Landing, HRM 136: There were bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, and great blue herons flying overhead while below there was some heavy tick action today in the woods along the backwaters of Schodack Creek. I discovered one crawling inside my shirt, one crawling inside my pants by my knee, one outside my shirt, and the grand finale, one just starting to bite me on my left hip. That last one and two of the others were deer ticks, the other a wood tick. Ticks aside, it was great to be out in the woods along the Hudson backwaters on this fine spring weekend. Even the just newly sprouted poison ivy, red and glistening, looked good after this past long gray winter and our stuttering start to spring. The riverbanks glowed chartreuse with fresh new green leaves, along with occasional pastel oranges and reds all fresh and sparkling with renewed life.

- Steve Andreski

5/6 - Ulster Park, HRM 85: Our first hummingbirds arrived at the feeders today.

- Bill Drakert

5/6 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 68.5: Lilac was in bloom pretty much everywhere in the mid-Hudson Valley, just about on time. Last year lilacs were out a week earlier. It seems no matter how early or late spring arrives, by May the season has caught up with itself.

- Tom Lake

5/6 - Hastings-on-Hudson, HRM 21.5: For the last week, as we drove by a field edging the Saw Mill River Parkway, I've noticed a field filled with little white wildflowers. Today we walked down the rail trail to the field and discovered that the flowers were Virginia spring-beauty.

- Barbara Morrow, George Morrow

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