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Hudson River Almanac May 3 - May 11, 2009

OVERVIEW

This week saw fresh snow in the High Peaks and summer in the city - New York City. We added a new fish species to our list - not one that Henry Hudson would have encountered in September of 1609. Not to be dismissed as unimportant, we may have had a new species of spider recorded for the Hudson Valley as well.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

5/8 - Newcomb, HRM 302: This morning, the crème de la crème of springtime arrived: the first wood thrush! Every spring I swear I hear a wood thrush singing for one or two mornings, and then all I hear are hermit thrushes, so I convince myself that the wood thrush was really a hermit thrush. This morning I heard the lovely fluted music that could only be a wood thrush. I spent some time listening, trying to garner any small detail that I could so I could verify it inside with a recording. What stood out was the stuttering start to the "ee-o-layyy." I rushed to the Thayer's Birding Software and cued up the wood thrush. There it was, the stuttering start followed by that sweet, sweet song. It's nice to know that all these years I was right: wood thrushes sing here before the hermits. But then what happens? Do they all move on to better habitats, leaving just the hermits behind?
- Ellen Rathbone

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

5/3 - Columbia County, HRM 118: We found a small unusual spider today. It was a pale, vaguely yellowish color with striking black spots on the abdomen arranged in rows. Whenever we find a creature that we don't recognize, we have to find out what it is (doesn't everyone?). According to our Golden Nature Guide, Spiders and Their Kin (highly recommended), it is Scytodes thoracica, a member of the "Spitting Spider" family that shoot bits of webbing at their prey. You can see good pictures by searching the Latin name in Google. I could find no indication on the Internet that this species has ever been reported from New York State.
- Bob Schmidt, Kathy Schmidt

5/3 - Hunter's Brook, HRM 67.5: I expected to see some alewives running upstream today, and although I looked along a 100 yard reach for an hour, I saw none. The water was 56 degrees, a typically cool early May temperature, perfect for spawning tributary fishes. The fyke net held a half dozen glass eels, about the only life in the stream that I could see. However, this was more than made up for by the half dozen Baltimore orioles that passed through. Their incredible color takes my breath away.
- Tom Lake

5/3 - Fishkill, HRM 61: There was a lot of tapping going on early this morning. A male cardinal was attacking one of our living room windows in an apparent attack on his own reflection. Meanwhile, sitting on a lamp table on the inside was our cat, swatting at the bird fluttering outside the window.
- Ed Spaeth

5/3 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: My first ruby-throated hummingbird arrived this afternoon sampling the lilacs, hovering, and then vanishing. I looked out another window and saw it perched on the hanger that, in season, holds the nectar feeder. I'll have to get a batch stirred up. I also watched a pair of blue jays tussling with the strips of an old torn bed sheet I use for tying up tomatoes in the garden. It's nest building time. I watched for a few minutes as they really struggled. So I went out, cut the cloth free and into smaller pieces, so that they could be carried off easily. Several hours later all the strips had been taken. I like to think of baby blue jays bedded down in our old sheets!
- Robin Fox

5/4 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Lots of firsts happening now - the first wild strawberry flowers and the first bluets. In Minerva (HRM 284) shadbush finally came into bloom today.
- Ellen Rathbone

[In the 16 years of the Hudson River Almanac, the average bloom date for shadbush in Essex County has been May 8. Tom Lake.]

5/4 - Milan, HRM 90: I still have some pine siskins at my feeder and I'm wondering if they are establishing a breeding population in Dutchess County. I spoke to some fellow R.T. Waterman Bird Club members and they thought it may be possible. Is anyone else reporting a lingering presence of pine siskins?
- Frank Margiotta

5/5 - Newcomb, HRM 302: I checked my bluebird boxes tonight after putting up a replacement box. I found one wren nest, one chickadee nest, and one chickadee nest with a chickadee in it! Actually, she flushed when I knocked on the side of the box. Winter cress was blooming as was the forsythia around town.
- Ellen Rathbone

5/5 - Minerva, HRM 284: Shadbush continued to bloom. All snow was gone and the blackflies were just starting to get interested in drawing blood. The worst of these little creatures is yet to come.
- Mike Corey

5/5 - Town of Wallkill, HRM 57: It was reported today that, on April 30, Doug Carlson collected an oriental weatherfish (Misgurnus anguillicaudatus) in the Dwaarkill, a tributary to the Wallkill River, where he found them to be common.
- Bob Schmidt

[The oriental weatherfish becomes species number 216 for the Hudson River watershed fish species list. For an electronic Microsoft Word copy of the fish list, request via e-mail to trlake7@aol.com . Tom Lake.]

5/6 - Newcomb, HRM 302: It must be from all of the rain we've had last month, but I'm seeing more firsts. Today it was the first creeping phlox.
- Ellen Rathbone

5/6 - Poughquag, HRM 68: A black bear has recently been visiting our home in Poughquag. This same bear, number 176, has taken out two feeders in our neighbor's yard.
- Jane Bryant Quinn, Carl Tucker

[This black bear, Green 176, was captured in an urban situation in Peekskill, Westchester County, on June 6, 2008, where the local police treed him on Main Street. NYSDEC Wildlife staff drugged, tagged, and released him on Cranberry Mountain in Patterson, Putnam County. He was seen in Connecticut a week or two later. Wildlife has been getting numerous reports of him getting into people's garbage and bird feeders in the Holmes, Dutchess County, area this spring. Matt Merchant, DEC wildlife biologist.]

5/6 - George's Island, HRM 39: I spotted both Baltimore and orchard orioles in the park along the river today, as well as a black-billed cuckoo and many wood ducks.
- Christopher Letts

5/7 - Newcomb, HRM 302: I spotted our first pussy toes in bloom today.
- Ellen Rathbone

5/7 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: Having heard several reports from Almanac contributors of hummingbirds returning, I filled my feeders and almost immediately a striking male ruby-throated arrived and drank for almost five minutes.
- Tom Lake

5/8 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Toby Rathbone and I were cruising the golf course for our evening stroll. As we were climbing the hill at the second hole, I noticed Toby looking straight up. When I looked up I saw something I had never seen before: four great blue herons flying overhead in close formation. I had never seen herons in groups before, unless I was at a rookery. They are usually solitary animals. The blackflies have begun to bite, 2-3 weeks early.
- Ellen Rathbone

5/8 -Gardiner, RM 70: Resting on the airy Grand Traverse Ledge in late afternoon, up on the Trapps Cliffs at the belay tree above the second pitch of Middle Earth climb, our three-man group heard angry bird cries coming from the cliff section that has been closed due to peregrine falcon nesting. As we watched astounded, two peregrines came off the cliff and mobbed a flustered (and massive) adult bald eagle, driving it along the cliffs towards the Mohonk Tower. As the chase continued at our eye level, the eagle became more active in evasion, and the peregrines became more aggressive, making repeated dives from above and beside, attempting strikes with talons out as the eagle juked and dodged with its white head and tail. It was Batman and Robin versus Superman, a super-hero bird battle! The birds moved swiftly past us and along the cliffs to the Mohonk Tower, still engaged, becoming dots in the sky. Then one peregrine peeled off and came zooming back toward the nest in level flight, riding the cliffside updraft, no wing beats, tucked, full speed, a feathered bullet, 30 feet off the cliff, looking angry she streaked past. A moment later the second peregrine returned more leisurely, higher up, satisfied, with relaxed wing beats. We roped up for the top pitch, joking about complaints from the rattled eagle to the uppity peregrines. "Are you bridge-dwellers carved above the steps at the Capitol with lightning bolts in your claw? Are you on the quarter? Are you on brass belt buckles at the VFW hall? I don't think so!"
- Joe Hayes, Mike Hayes, Roger Ennis

5/8 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: This was not a night for sleeping. The world outside my bedroom was a forest full of sounds not unlike a night in the rainforest. What sounded like hundreds of the appropriately named "chorus frogs," our gray tree frogs, played a three-hour concerto. Sporadically chiming in were several coyotes, one great horned owl, at least two barred owls, something that was doing a nice imitation of a whip-poor-will, and a neighbor's dog. Then, almost like an orchestral conductor dropping their baton, it all ceased at midnight.
- Tom Lake

5/9 - Minerva, HRM 284: It was already 55 degrees at 7:30 AM, the start of a nice day, and where better to begin than down at the swamp behind my house, cruising the dirt road that edges the ponded area. There were red-winged blackbirds, common yellowthroats, swamp sparrows, and a single sleeping Canada goose. In the woods were ovenbirds, black-throated green warblers, and a pileated woodpecker. The sparse leatherleaf was in full bloom, with the sweet gale flowers fading. Red and painted trilliums were out nicely, with bloodroots mostly leaf, with a few scattered blooms.
- Mike Corey

5/9 - Furnace Woods, HRM 38.5: We had more than 4.5 inches of rain in the last eight days.
- Christopher Letts

5/10 - Sandy Hook, NJ: The American Littoral Society sponsored a surf fishing class today for a dozen beginning anglers, demonstrating equipment, knots, weights, hooks, lures, bait, and casting. This was followed by an hour or so of real surf fishing with clams for bait. The close-in surf was loaded with 18 to 24-inch striped bass the day before, but 30 mph northwest winds overnight blew warm surface water offshore and colder offshore water welled up and onto the beach, putting the stripers off their feed (or so one theory goes). So we had to be satisfied with a puffer, a northern sea robin, and a small skate. Raucous laughing gulls and screaming ospreys entertained overhead. It was a good day at the beach.
- Dery Bennett

5/10 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: I was on the Silver Lake Trail with Elky, my constant four legged companion. We spotted a pileated woodpecker, which is always a delight. Trillium was up, not yet in bloom, but jack-in the-pulpits were in bloom. Realizing that it was the time for hummingbirds, I put up my feeders four days ago and they have been coming every day since. Although males are usually the first to arrive, so far I have seen only females.
- Jane Shumsky

5/11 - Newcomb, HRM 302: In the bright sun this morning I could see that the High Peaks were all newly coated with snow.
- Ellen Rathbone

5/11 - Minerva, HRM 284: At first light this morning it was 30 degrees Fahrenheit with a pretty good frost on the pumpkin.
- Mike Corey

5/11- Hunter's Brook, HRM 67.5: In a replay of a week ago, the brook looked barren. No alewives in sight. Heavy rain and the resulting runoff had sucked nearly all of the re-bar holding my eel net right out of the brook bottom. No easy task. Walking downstream to collect the 8 scattered pieces along the bottom, I could see several elvers, last year's glass eels, darting between cobbles.
- Tom Lake

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