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Hudson River Almanac May 14 - May 21, 2007

OVERVIEW

New state records for American shad and striped bass in inland waters were announced this past week. While ecologists are as likely to measure the health of an estuary by the biomass of smaller fish, the presence of such world-class gamefish make the Hudson a prime springtime destination for anglers.

HIGHLIGHTS OF A PAST WEEK

5/8 - Grahamsville, Sullivan County HRM 85: We're two miles from Rondout Reservoir in the Town of Neversink. While working in my garden I heard a squawk above. Seconds later an 8" goldfish landed six feet from me. Overhead was a bald eagle that had lost its grip on the fish.
- Judy Timke

5/11 - Kingston, HRM 91: Ian Kiraly landed a 55 lb. 6 oz. striped bass, establishing a new inland waters record for New York State. The fish surpassed the old record, set in 2003, by 6 ounces.

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

5/14 - Greenport, HRM 119: There's nothing better than being able to enjoy the fruits of your labor, and today it happened while kayaking in the North Bay of the Greenport Conservation Area. Several years ago, I worked with volunteers to construct and erect wood duck nesting boxes. As I kayaked past one of the boxes, Mama wood duck flew into it with such force it seemed like I had just seen a 90 mph fastball zoom past. After a bit of fussing, she settled down to tend to her young. It was great to see that nesting box in use.
- Fran Martino

5/14 - Hunter's Brook, HRM 67.5: The spring glass eel season was winding down. The streams were low, the flow was slow, and the water temperature was rising. From 15-30 baby American eels a day two weeks ago, we are now seeing only 2-3 a day. Their pigmentation has increased from transparency to translucency to where they now look like 2" black threads swimming around in the bucket. The rate of increase in pigmentation, we suspect an adaptation to the inland waters of the estuary, is one of the primary types of data we are collecting.
- Tom Lake

5/15 - Newcomb, HRM 302: We had gentle rain this morning on our way to the river. Forsythia and wild strawberries were in full bloom and we heard a hummingbird.
- Ellen Rathbone

5/14 - Mohawk River, HRM 157: A 30" carp took my 6 canned corn kernels at 5:00 PM today. Awestruck anglers cleared the wall along Lock E-11 near Amsterdam as I fought the fish hundreds of feet downstream to the beach. I guided the carp into a tiny tributary that substituted for a net and facilitated another catch-and-release. The Lock E-11 main channel surface temperature was 61 degrees F.
- Kenneth Blanchard

5/15 - Green Island, HRM 153: Unlike striped bass fishing, American shad on rod and reel requires water clarity for the fish to see the lure. These were near perfect conditions: it had not rained appreciably in a few days, the wind was light, and there was just enough haze to blunt the strong sunlight. There were 20 boats offshore, mostly anchored in the channel, lines played off the stern into the current. Forty anglers lined the shore, almost all casting shad darts. Ordinarily, sportfishing for shad is not the sole purview of boaters, but today they were catching and the shore-bound were not. One fisherman muttered, after a hundred empty casts, "This is the worst shad season in 34 years." A single 6 lb. roe shad in three hours of casting left time for mind-wandering, such as watching black-backed gulls glide across the face of the federal dam's power station, trailing shadows of pterodactyl-like proportions. The inshore shallows were 60 degrees F.
- Tom Lake

5/15 - New Paltz, HRM 78: This warm muggy evening foreshadowed the season soon to come, as did the visitor that our dining room light attracted to the windowscreen: a lovely green luna moth.
- Margaret Stanne, Steve Stanne

5/15 - Staten Island, New York Harbor: John Warren, a historian and education specialist at Gateway National Recreation Area, was leading a group of students through historic Fort Wadsworth when the group encountered a large bird on the mowed lawn of Battery Weed. Later, on the phone, John said it was a large bird with a white head. When I unlocked the gate and walked into the battery, a large osprey was sitting on the grass as if waiting for me. I called Chris Nadareski of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, a raptor specialist, who happened to be working with peregrines on the Brooklyn tower of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. He accepted the bird, and transported it to the Raptor Trust in New Jersey. If all goes well, we hope to release the osprey again in a few weeks. It isn't banded now, but if all goes well it will be soon.
- Dave Taft

5/16 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Cold front on its way - more rain, possible snow later on. But, the pussytoes put in an appearance overnight, which is always a happy thing.
- Ellen Rathbone

5/16 - Staten Island, New York Harbor: Walking with John Peri, the maintenance foreman at Fort Wadsworth, I kept hearing the clear piercing call of an oriole. After trying to get a decent view through maple leaves, the bird finally emerged onto an empty branch, only to be upstaged by a turkey vulture and a common egret that flew past just seconds after he came into view.
- Dave Taft

5/16 - Staten Island, New York Harbor: Bank swallows were nesting in a recently eroded cliff at Great Kills park. Probably every birder on Staten Island knows this, but Richard Lynch and I felt we'd made a significant discovery! The bank was pierced by neat holes at 12" intervals, each with a pair of swallows flying in and out.
- Dave Taft

5/17 - Newcomb, HRM 302: I'm pretty sure we had snow in the High Peaks last night; they looked quite a bit whiter than normal this morning. While leading a group of second graders on a bear program walk, we saw that white violets, American fly honeysuckle flowers, and purple and painted trillium were blooming. Canada mayflower looks like it should bloom in a few days, and the Clintonia also has buds. We still have not seen witch-hobble blooming here, but it is going full-tilt near Raquette Lake and Old Forge.
- Ellen Rathbone

5/17 - Albany, HRM 145: NYSDEC Commissioner Pete Grannis announced a new rod and reel record for American shad in New York State. It was caught by Robert Kubica, of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, on May 9 in the Hudson River in Albany County. The fish, taken on a shad dart, weighed 9 lb. 4 oz. and was 28" long. In the last few decades, Hudson River commercial fishermen have caught American shad up to 13 lb. in gill nets and seines. However, hooking and landing one that size on rod and reel, given the necessary light tackle and the fragile nature of a shad's jaw, has always been problematic. Nevertheless, knowing that such world-record size shad visit the Hudson each spring continues to be an attractive lure for anglers.
- Tom Lake

5/17 - Beacon, HRM 61: Busy day at Long Dock. We caught and released 2 carp, 7 to 7.5 lb., and lost 2 others. The hook pulled out on one and the other ran into the rocks.
- Bill Greene

5/18 - Norrie Point, HRM 85: We were having lunch on the deck of the Norrie Point Environmental Center when I heard a familiar call. Shortly I was able to point out to the new Regional Director, Willie Janeway, a circling pair of red-shouldered hawks (a "Species of Special Concern" in New York).
- Larry Biegel

5/19 - Mill River, Vermont, HRM 188: Mill Creek feeds Otter Creek which in turn joins the Battenkill winding its way to the Hudson River in Washington County. Tiny Mill Creek was a raging flume today after days of rain. Walking through yet more rain this afternoon, I searched a narrow stream bank where some years ago I'd seen showy orchis grow. Though no orchid appeared to me this year, there were many highlights. The best of them included wild ginger in flower, loads of toothwort, wake robin, yellow violet, wild sarsparilla, bishops miter, and Canada mayflower.
- Dave Taft

5/19 - Albany, HRM 145: A predicted nor'easter stayed far enough out to sea so that we only had to endure overcast skies and a steady mist at the Erastus Corning Preserve. Despite 23 years of shad bakes on the Hudson, this was the first time one was held to honor the original people of the area, the Mohicans. While the weather forecast kept the crowd to a minimum, the river never looked better, smooth and glassy, sprinkled with boatfuls of anglers fishing for shad and striped bass. The diffused light along the shore made the rather steady stream of orioles and warblers glow like candles.
- Tom Lake, Steve Comer

5/20 - Newcomb, HRM 302: This morning I saw some barn swallows, the first I've seen here in a couple years. A tree swallow poked its head out of one of my nest boxes. The bluebirds are around and I think may be taking up residence in the box they used last year. While tilling my garden I stirred up a red-bellied snake. Fortunately, it wasn't injured so I scooped it up and relocated it under a pile of last year's plant stems. Later, during my wildflower walk on the Rich Lake Trail, we came upon a garter snake. As for wildflowers, sessile-leaved bellworts are still blooming and Solomon's seal and foamflower are just starting.
- Ellen Rathbone

5/20 - Lye Brook Wilderness, Vermont, HRM 188: Lye Brook looked like Coca Cola as its tannin stained water sped through its narrow canyon on the way to the Battenkill and the Hudson. Huge heads of white foam collected in the back eddies, but for two whole hours it was not raining, and Debbie Morrison and I hiked one of the narrow trails of the wilderness area. There was much to see, but the highlights included: mocassin flower (leaves, no flower), Goodyera tesselata, (checkered rattlesnake plantain; again no flowers), painted trillium, white violet, dwarf ginseng, foamflower, Indian cucumber root, and wood ferns. We were escorted into the trail by a singing scarlet tanager, a drumming yellow-bellied sapsucker, ovenbirds, and a black-throated green warbler that seemed to be following us. When we reached a point on the trail where a rushing stream blocked our progress we turned back. It began to rain heavily and we ran back, stopping only once to admire two red efts coming out to enjoy the rain.
- Dave Taft

5/20 - Schodack Creek, HRM 136: In the long awaited sun between rain showers, I went bushwhacking in the hardwoods along the banks of the Hudson's backwaters today. The trail took me through white blossoming garlic mustard standing almost chest high and over tiny yellow florets of false Solomon's seal. On the drive home I found a young deer tick about the size of the period on this sentence holding tight on my forehead where my hatband had slowed its earlier progress scalp-ward. Another deer tick crawled across the back of my shirt below my neck. No others were found after close inspection. The ticks seemed a small price to pay for the beautiful views of a male ruby-throated humming bird sipping honeysuckle nectar nearby and a brief but noisy mid-air scuffle when an adult bald eagle intruded on the nesting territory of another pair of eagles with young in their nest.
- Steve Andreski

5/20 - Hunter's Brook, HRM 67.5: After 20 consecutive days of glass eels in the net, today there were none. This is the earliest in 5 years of sampling that the spring migration had turned to zero. While there may be a few more to come in the days ahead, this tributary of a tributary of the Hudson is finished recruiting for the year.
- Tom Lake

5/21 - Castleton-on-Hudson, HRM 137.5: In late afternoon I put the binoculars what looked to be just another ring-billed gull flying upriver and was surprised to see a blood-red bill, a short forked tail, and a black cap. It was a Caspian tern. Also keeping us company were bald eagles (attending a nearby nest) and an osprey. The birds were more interesting than the fish. We caught just a few herring and one small buck shad.
- Alan Mapes

[Caspian terns, nearly as large as herring gulls, are common in the Great Lakes region. They winter in the Southeast and along the Gulf Coast and are very uncommon in the Hudson Valley, seen almost always in migration. Two previous Almanac records occurred May 16, 1998 at Alpine, NJ, and September 3-4, 2003 at Croton Bay. Tom Lake.]

5/21 - Fourmile Point, HRM 121: A common loon in non-breeding plumage was visible from Fourmile Point Road, just south of Coxsackie this evening.
- Rich Guthrie

5/21 - Saugerties, HRM 102: This morning I spotted a large weasel, probably a long-tailed, running across Route 32 carrying a mouse in its mouth.
- Larry Biegel

5/21 - Milan, HRM 90: Two pileated woodpeckers made an appearance today. Perhaps they are the same two I saw here last year. At least one was a male.
- Marty Otter

5/21 - Town of Wappinger: The eagle nest designated as NY62 failed this year when the single egg did not hatch (see 4/24 Town of Wappinger). Yet, interesting behavior by the adult pair continues. Both adults have been staying around the nest, on occasion both are inside, and Papa even brought a fish there yesterday. If these were human, I'd speculate that this was a kind of simulated nurturing of young that did not exist.
- Tom Lake

5/21 - Beacon, HRM 61: It was another good day fishing at Long Dock. We caught 6 carp (to 7 lb., 2 oz.), golden shiners and an eel, all taken on a combination of corn kernels and bread. Individual carp were broaching and jumping all day long in mid-bay and in the main channel, although there was no sign yet of their shallow water spawning activity.
- Bill Greene

5/21 - Irvington-on-Hudson, HRM 24.5: We seined today at the Scenic Hudson park with a group of 5th grade students from Irvington. Our catch included a yearling striped bass, a bay anchovy, 3 white perch, and a small male blue crab. The river temperature was 57 degrees F.
- Rebecca Johnson, Chris Bowser, Beth Roessler

5/21 - Jamaica Bay, Queens: The hatchling diamondback terrapins had broken out of their wintering lairs and were moving around the dunes of Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. We caught one today that we marked last year, so clearly it wintered outside the nest. The others were unmarked, so who knows if they emerged last fall or wintered in the nest?
- Russ Burke, Hofstra University

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