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Hudson River Almanac May 7 - May 13, 2007

OVERVIEW

This week saw the spring warbler "invasion." For birders, it is a special time when the canopies of hardwoods and hedgerows come alive with color and sound, and you can actually see the birds since most leaves are not quite fully formed.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

5/12 - Doodletown Brook, HRM 45.5: The New York Rare Bird Alert reported the sighting of a sub-adult Mississippi kite flying over Doodletown Road for a couple of minutes this evening. There were no additional sightings of this bird.

- National Birding Hotline Cooperative

[The Mississippi kite is a graceful, falcon-like, merlin-size raptor of the southern United States, ranging from Virginia to Florida and west into Texas, that rarely wanders north. Tom Lake.]

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

5/7 - Ulster Park, HRM 85: Our first Baltimore orioles showed up today, three days late by my calculations.

- Bill Drakert

5/7 - Rhinebeck, HRM 88: I saw my first Baltimore oriole of the spring today. Beautiful!

- Inyo Charbonneau

5/7 - Town of Fishkill, HRM 63.5: We heard the sweet song and then spotted 8 male bobolinks, with their yellow helmets and white shoulders, perched in the bushes at the Stony Kill Farm's Environmental Education Center.

- Jason Novak, Jim Herrington

5/7 - Peekskill, HRM 43: This is my first spring living in Peekskill and I was eager to see what birds would appear in my yard. White-crowned sparrows have been visiting the past few days, a handsome sparrow with a pink beak and bold black and white stripes on its head. I had not seen them since I lived near the river in Tivoli [58 miles upriver]. Our list is growing daily with the additions of the white-crowneds, chipping sparrows, chimney swifts, and a rose-breasted grosbeak. I also hear a flicker marking its territory, and have heard a few different warblers in nearby trees. May is such a great birding month!

- Carol Capobianco

5/8 - Stony Creek, HRM 231: This morning I saw a flock of snow geese land on the golf course across the street. That was a first for me!

- Karen LaLone

5/8 - Rondout Creek, HRM 92: Saw the beaver again tonight [see 5/3] and 2 others as well. The smaller of the 3 stayed close to the bank but another carried a green twig in its mouth as it swam just 15 feet from the boat. Island Dock teems with wildlife. It will be a sad day when it is finally developed. We see great blue herons in the branches, turkey vultures come to roost at night, giant snapping turtles live there, and giant carp swim by. It is a birders' paradise.

- Jeanie Burt, Tom Burt

5/8 - Blue Point, Ulster County, HRM 74: With the wind blowing me upriver after just finishing a drift for shad, I spotted an adult bald eagle slowly making its way south above the east shore. Within seconds a crow was airborne on the chase, like a spitfire dogging a giant bomber. Now watching the scene play out through binoculars, I was surprised that the black bird kept pace with the eagle as both birds gained altitude. The eagle soared in a wider circle but the crow matched the path and made a lunge for the much larger bird. At one point the eagle swiftly glided downwind toward the crow and displayed its talons. The now small, black flapping dot in the binoculars relentlessly flew on, dodging the mini display of superior everything and making a pass at a bird five times its size. Now a mile south of my position, the crow made one last lunge at the eagle and finally broke off the pursuit with an abrupt change in course and quick descent into the forest. The eagle flapped on against the headwind and continued south.

- John Mylod

5/9 - Newcomb, HRM 302: As Toby Rathbone and I were walking at Camp Santanoni we saw a male ruffed grouse with his tail all fanned out, cocked at a jaunty angle, strutting about with its "ruff" all puffed. Then we saw a second male about five feet from the first, doing the same. With an explosive burst, the female, who was sitting in a shrub over their heads, took off, causing an instantaneous flight reaction from her suitors.

- Ellen Rathbone

5/9 - Minerva, HRM 284: There's something wonderful about the swamp behind our house - it's a magnet. Early this morning I was out with the dog and the birds were in town for sure. In the swamp I heard a common moorhen, invisible but noisy, along with spring peepers, red-winged blackbirds and swamp sparrows. In the woods surrounding the swamp were ovenbirds, yellow-rumped warblers, winter wren, two unknown warblers, and a pileated woodpecker. Late this evening, again out in the boggy mat area of cattails, I heard an American bittern, doing its bad plumbing sound. Something's missing this year, though. No wood frogs in their usual place (we normally find 3-4 balls of wood frog eggs in their favorite breeding area). Our first shadbush was blooming today.

- Mike Corey

5/9 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: Appropriately named "chorus frogs," hundreds of wood frogs were playing Wagner for much of the night only 100 feet from my bedroom window. At first it was like listening to falling rain, very loud, but soothing. However, they were waking me up whenever they changed their chord. What a racket!

- Tom Lake

5/9 - Fishkill, HRM 61: A brilliantly-colored male scarlet tanager flew to the heights of a tall cottonwood tree in my yard before moving on northeastward. A little closer to the ground a pair of bluebirds continued their nesting activities.

- Ed Spaeth

5/9 - Haverstraw Bay, HRM 38.5: A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service research crew caught a 6 foot, 7 inch male Atlantic sturgeon in upper Haverstraw Bay near Grassy Point today.

- Amanda Higgs

5/10 - Hudson Valley: A cold front swept over the watershed during the night, delivering heavy rain with impressive hail. Hail stones to ¾" were reported in Greene County, up to an inch in Schoharie County, and 1½" diameter in Essex County.

- National Weather Service

5/10 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Many spring sightings today: spring beauty, purple trillium and trout lily were all blooming; I heard ovenbirds, black-throated blue warblers, and a black-throated green warbler.

- Ellen Rathbone

5/10 - Black Creek, HRM 85: During an early evening walk at Black Creek Forest Preserve we were happy to see lots of red trillium in full bloom. Sticking with the color theme, we watched a small red-backed salamander cross the trail right in front of us.

- Ann Murray

5/10 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: The wood frogs outside my bedroom window were clamoring away - a deafening, unrelenting chorus - when a thunderstorm arrived. At its peak, there was a loud clap of thunder with simultaneous lightning, very near, and the wood frogs immediately shut up! Once the storm passed, except for a few peepers, there was relative silence.

- Tom Lake

5/10 - Fishkill, HRM 61: I was watching a robin foraging on my lawn when I saw a large, dark-winged shadow cross my field of vision. The robin instinctively flew toward a nearby tree. Just then, I saw the shadow in the form of a male pileated woodpecker fly into the nearby woods. For days we had noted distinctive tapping in our nearby woods and had remarked that there must be pileateds about. They may not be as elusive as ivory-billed woodpecker, but for me they will always be quite mystical.

- Ed Spaeth

5/11 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Our shadbush was finally in bloom. It is amazing what one week and a little rain will do for growing plants. Yesterday we were hit with heavy rain (1.3"), hailstones, high winds, and a drop of about 24 degrees F in half an hour.

- Ellen Rathbone

5/11 - Esopus, HRM 87: A 4' black snake was sunning on the door of our basement. When I tried to move him, he insisted on getting back into the basement - no mice, chipmunks, or rats, now.

- Vivian Yess Wadlin

5/11 - Highland, HRM 75.5: A Carolina wren was nesting just outside my entry door in a broken light globe. I did not know she was there until I took the globe down to replace it. I carefully leaned the broken globe on a planter against the house and the wren was still tending to it. In addition to her own eggs, she was sitting on someone else's. There is a very interested mockingbird hanging around.

- Vivian Yess Wadlin

5/11 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 75: We were heading east on Titusville Road this evening when from a front yard a black bear galloped into the road in front of us and into fairly heavy rush hour traffic. Luckily, everyone was able to stop, mostly all with jaws dropped, as we watched it run into some thick shrubbery on the other side. It was quite a handsome bear and a very unexpected sighting.

- Donna Lenhart, Bill Lenhart

5/11 - Hunter's Brook, HRM 67.5: With a lessening of runoff from spring storms, Hunter's Brook had resumed its nature as a crystal clear brook rising from tidewater into the fall line and the uplands. Alewives were still ascending the brook to spawn and in their flurry of activity they occasionally bounced off my boots in the shallow water. After releasing a dusky salamander from my glass eel trap, I watched a nearly pure white koi, about 18 inches long, swim slowly upstream, accompanied by a pair of slightly smaller brassy-bronze carp. I assumed she was the female and the two males were there to fertilize her eggs.

- Tom Lake

[Koi are a domesticated variety of the common carp, but have been bred for color as aquarium and pond fish. This particular koi may have been a "sanke," a type of koi bred for their unusual colors, including white, and orange with black patches. Tom Lake.]

5/11 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: It seems that this is the year for rose-breasted grosbeaks. There has been a small flock of them, both male and female, at the bird feeders here. Most years, I see one, then none. but this year, they have stayed around. They are gorgeous!

- Robin Fox

5/12 - Cornwallville, Greene County, HRM 125: A cousin and I were sitting on the deck discussing how nice it was, unlike last year, to be able to hike in the woods, turkey hunting, without getting tangled up in forest tent caterpillar webbing. Suddenly, a long tailed bird flew past and landed in an open tree. When it started calling I recognized it as a cuckoo. My cousin had time to put the binoculars on it and saw some yellow on the bill. Hopefully this sighting of a yellow-billed cuckoo is not an ill omen of a late caterpillar hatch.

- Larry Biegel

5/12 - Manhattan, HRM 0: The weather was beautiful, and the early bird walk at the Battery Park City Parks Conservancy resulted in some real notables for downtown Manhattan. Highlights included a female black-throated blue warbler, common yellowthroats, yellow warblers, black-and-white warbler, American redstart, and bay-breasted warbler. Sadly, at some large glass museum windows I've learned to check, visitors got to see some birds much too close. A northern parula warbler and a male yellow warbler were fresh kills, having hit the glass. A beautiful male kingfisher had died there last week. This was the first time we had seen a kingfisher at the park.

- Dave Taft

5/13 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 73: I took a quick paddle in the Wappinger Creek were it runs past our property in Red Oaks Mill. I spotted a very active least flycatcher catching insects and chasing other birds, several yellow warblers on territory, 2 male rose-breasted grosbeaks chasing each other, and our yearly pair of eastern kingbirds perusing nest trees. Later, a male chestnut-sided warbler landed on our back steps. It was a stunning perspective being that close.

- Bill Lenhart

5/13 - Jamaica Bay, Queens, New York Bight: It was Mother's Day with mom and wife at the Jamaica Bay National Wildlife Refuge. It was very cool and I expected a quiet morning, but the trees came alive with birds for all of us. Highlights included common yellowthroats calling and yellow warblers singing, American redstarts, a female rose breasted grosbeak, northern parula warblers, black-throated blue warblers, Blackburnian warblers, a wood thrush, magnolia warbler, and a Connecticut warbler. Towhees called with cardinals in the background. A grey tree frog tucked himself into a wood crevice we happened to notice as we surveyed for birds.

- Dave Taft

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