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Hudson River Almanac May 8 - May 15, 2011

OVERVIEW

Spring continued to pour into the Hudson Valley with migrating songbirds and an intense greening of the landscape. The blooming of shadbush finally reached the headwaters in the High Peaks of the Adirondacks.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

5/11- Klyne-Esopus Kill, HRM 85: I watched a savannah sparrow visit a small tide pool and realized that this was the first time I had seen one of these in a stream-side setting. We tend to get all misty-eyed over the color of bluebirds, and their beauty is undeniable, but the two male scarlet tanagers that perched in the sunlight along the brook took my breath away.
- Tom Lake

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

5/8 - Delmar, Albany County, HRM 145: I spotted my first fuzzy little Canada goose hatchlings [goslings] following their parents around - a personal marker for the season.
- Larry Roth

5/8 - Hunter's Brook, HRM 67.5: We saw three very active groups of river herring: two small ones of fewer than ten fish and one larger grouping. There was lots of activity so they were hard to count. Then we were treated to quite a show by a pair of 3-foot-long northern water snakes. What we assumed was a male dove into the creek very close to us with a splash and swam up and down the sides for some time. On his second lap we noticed that there was a second snake slowly emerging from the brush, we assumed a female. After quite a bit of interaction the second snake slowly entered the creek and after some swirling and splashing they headed upstream together. We lost track of the herring after that.
- Alan Thomas, Robert Thomas

5/8 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: Dogwood was in full flower and was joined by lilac as the last of the string of spring blooms brightened the forests along the river. The blooming of native wildflowers served as a calendar for prehistoric people. As certain flowers bloomed, they could be assured that certain fish had arrived from the sea, all based on the connection between upland soil temperature and the river's water temperature.
- Tom Lake

[Phenology is the study of natural phenomena and their periodic, often predictable, cycles of occurrence. Included are such events as the first robin of spring, the last monarch of autumn, the blooming of flowers, the mating of eagles, the buzz of the last cicada, and the first killing frost. The spring run of flowers includes forsythia, magnolia, shadbush, dogwood, lilac and many others, all blooming in a relatively predictable order. Tom Lake.]

5/8 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: What a lovely sight this morning: three swallowtail butterflies feeding in the lilac bush, sharing the abundance with two hummingbirds.
- Robin Fox

5/9 - Newcomb, HRM 302: More wood warblers arrived over the last two days: black-throated green, black-throated blue, northern parula, etc. I heard the first flycatchers this morning (lots of least flycatchers). Spring ephemerals were also in bloom: trout lily, spring beauty, Dutchman's breeches, two-leaved toothwort, painted and red trillium.
- Charlotte Demers

5/9 - Ulster Park, HRM 85: Pileated woodpeckers are not common in our non-forested yard but this morning one spent some time on the ground hammering away. The spot was where our neighbor had been digging. I had never seen a pileated digging in the ground before. Flickers, often, but not the big one!
- Bill Drakert

5/9 - Town of Poughkeepsie: It looks as though the eaglets in NY62C may be eating on their own. We could see one making jerking movements like it was pulling on something. The second one was nearby watching and it appeared as though it was also eating. Mom still stays in the tree for hours at a time. She does leave the nest to eat for herself and we still see her handing off food to the nestlings.
- Terry Hardy, Tom Ferber

5/10 - Hyde Park, HRM 82: While walking today at one of the National Parks in town I came upon dozens of morel mushrooms coming up in a roadside swamp. I had never seen so many morels in one place before.
- Karen Becker

[Just like favorite fishing spots, the location of prime mushrooms, such as morels, is usually closely guarded. Tom Lake.]

5/10 - New Paltz, HRM 78: We spotted a pair of African dewlap domestic geese on a woodland pond that was also occupied by a family of Canada geese with five goslings.
- Roland Ellis, Alice Ellis

[The gray dewlap African goose, native to China, is an exotic introduction readily available from commercial dealers in waterfowl. The neck and back are primarily brown, gradually shading to a light gray on the underside. A dark brown and black stripe runs down the length of their back. The knob and bill are black and the feet are orange. Tom Lake.]

5/10 - Town of Poughkeepsie: In mid-morning, the female came into the eagle nest (NY62C) with what we thought was just a fish. But after closer observation, we could see that it was an American eel.
- Terry Hardy, Tom Ferber

[Prey items found in Hudson Valley bald eagles nests include blueback herring, gizzard shad, American shad, alewives, eels, brown bullheads, chain pickerel, common carp, striped bass, Atlantic sturgeon, freshwater drum, white suckers, goldfish, snapping turtles, blue-winged teal, pied-billed grebe, muskrat, squirrels, and beaver. Tom Lake.]

5/11 - Minerva, HRM 284: I was driving north to Newcomb this morning on Route 28N when I spotted the unmistakably large, dark brown, well-tailed form of a fisher rushing across the road. It was only the second time I'd seen an actual live one (I have spotted several very dead roadside fishers in the Newcomb area). After arriving in Newcomb I heard several early warblers in the mixed conifer-hardwood forest near Newcomb Central School: black-throated green, black-throated blue and yellow-rumped. Spring feels (and sounds) good.
- Mike Corey

5/11 - Norrie Point, HRM 85.5: On our way to sample for invertebrates in the Indian Kill, our bus with juniors and seniors from Franklin D. Roosevelt High School had to dodge Canada geese and their trailing goslings as they crossed the park road. In the ten-foot-wide creek, a mile from the river, we turned over cobbles and with small dip nets and quick hands we scooped up a variety of animals including half-a-dozen rusty crayfish, tessellated darters, elvers, insect larvae, and small amphipods called Gammarus.
- Tyler Clark, Jim Liebrand, Jean McAvoy, Tom Lake

5/11 - Norrie Point, HRM 85: Eleventh and twelfth grades students from Franklin D. Roosevelt High School seined the tidal bay and caught six species of fish: banded killifish, bluegill sunfish, pumpkinseed, spottail shiner, and tessellated darter. The river was 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Glen Burger, Tyler Clark, Jim Liebrand, Tom Lake

5/11 - Esopus Meadows, HRM 85: The Clearwater education staff went on a low tide beach walk across a very rocky expanse. Mixed in with the countless pebbles and cobbles were remnants of prehistoric occupation: purple quartzite pebble hammerstones, fire-cracked rock, chert scrapers, and waste flakes from stone tool production. A collection of artifacts from the area has provided evidence of human habitation at Esopus Meadows for at least the last 5,000 years.
- Mira Fink, Rick Nestler, Donna Nestler, Larry Kosofsky, Bryan Perrin, Travis Jeffries, Betty Boomer, Dave Conover, Eli Schloss, Tom Lake

[Fire-cracked rocks are artifacts of hearths, campfires, and human food-processing that predate the advent of pottery in the Northeast about 2,000 years ago. They are often made of quartzite that, when fire-heated, will crack, spall and fracture in a way that is diagnostic to archaeologists. Given the number of campfires and hearths that were used in the Hudson Valley across 12,000 years, it is easy to see why "FCR" is commonly found strewn along the river. Tom Lake.]

5/11 - Greenville, Orange County, HRM 60: Alongside Interstate 84 are two bodies of water in the median and I was happy to see that the resident blue heron had returned and was poised in the water. We also had two Canada geese that were blessed with four goslings. Now, however they were down to just one. Two more geese had since moved in and the adults were guarding the baby like it was a celebrity. It waddled around the grass always surrounded by the adults.
- Ann Reichal

5/11 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 34: Three bald eagles flew in a circle as two crows harassed them. They would fly right at the eagles and then swerve away. I was amazed at the courage of the crows to take on such a larger foe.
- Glen Heinsohn

[Crows just cannot help themselves. It is in their DNA to harass raptors. Being more maneuverable, they find it easy and with relatively little risk. On the other end of the scale, eastern kingbirds make a living from harassing crows, with the advantage of agility being theirs. These are examples of a real life "pecking order." Tom Lake.]

5/11 - Westchester County, HRM 30: As we walked along the main trail to the lake this morning at Rockefeller State Park, we saw a male scarlet tanager singing. Then a second flew in, and then a third, and then a fourth! One was a female. For ten minutes we watched the males posing on branches, hopping around, flying back and forth but never away - a stunning sight.
- Joe Wallace, Sharon AvRutick

5/11 - Manhattan, HRM 4: Overlooking Central Park from my hospital room in Mount Sinai Hospital, fish crows, grackles, American crows, and indeterminate warblers flit through the finally emerging leafage. Soft, subtle, greens paint each leaf, and hide the smaller birds. It's taken about three weeks for the leaves to reach this stage, and though I have, for health reasons, not been out much, I can't help but suspect the season's migration is as late as the leaf-out.
- Dave Taft

5/12 - Catskill, HRM 113: We caught many freshwater drum today when we were electro-fishing.
- Rachel Lowenthal, Robert Adams, Kris McShane

[Electro-fishing is a technique used by fisheries biologists to sample fish in freshwater. Two rods are put in the water and a current is passed between them. The electric current temporarily stuns fish in the general area, causing them to float long enough to be dip netted. Tom Lake.]

5/12 - Town of Poughkeepsie: One of the eagle nestlings was getting curious, standing on the edge of the nest and looking down. Mom left the nest a few times and brought food back later in the day.
- Terry Hardy, Tom Ferber

5/13 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Witch-hobble was in bloom. Despite how much I dislike witch-hobble in the summer when it grabs at ankles and feet, I love it in the spring. Shadbush was just starting to blossom as well. Most of the trees have leafed out but are still in their baby green attire.
- Charlotte Demers

5/13 - Accord, HRM 78: We spotted our first firefly of the season tonight, one loner high in the trees behind our house
- Peter Nelson

5/13 - Town of Poughkeepsie: It was Day 43 for the nestlings in NY62C. One of the eaglets began jumping in the nest and flapping his wings. It looked like it was dancing.
- Terry Hardy, Tom Ferber

[As the eaglets grow they begin to take notice of themselves, their wings in particular. Their natural inclination is to flap their wings and in time they will discover that this gives them lift. But it will take another month for all of this instinctive understanding to culminate in their first flight. Tom Lake.]

5/13 - Pleasantville, Westchester County, HRM 32: I had my second spring sighting today of a beautiful red fox with a magnificent white tip on his tail. The birds made a hasty retreat from my feeders.
- Joan Coffey

5/14 - Wappinger Creek, HRM 67.5: The "crashing splashes" had begun. Spawning carp will put on a show in shallow tidewater all along the estuary for the next month at least. To the uninitiated they may seem like "unidentified fish objects" (UFOs) as they breach the surface, sometimes hovering briefly in the air, before crashing back into the water. Dedicated carp anglers like Bill Greene and Glen Heinsohn will do battle with fish that commonly run to 30 pounds or more in the river.
- Tom Lake

5/14 - New Windsor, HRM 60: My backyard abuts a rather small stretch of woods and while I've seen fox and white-tailed deer, I had never seen coyote. This morning I looked out and saw a coyote pup on the edge of the woods. The pup, about half the size of a red fox, looked too small to be on its own. It looked lost, and the nesting birds in my yard mercilessly chased and harassed it. I hoped the pup would be alright.
- Joanne Zipay

5/15 - Ulster Landing, HRM 97: The osprey (or an osprey) was back along with striper fishermen in their boats, some staying overnight in hopes of catching "the big one."
- Peg Duke

5/15 - Alpine, NJ, HRM 18: This was our twenty-sixth annual public fish bake in partnership with the NY/NJ Palisades Interstate Park Commission. For us, these have been a long-running educational opportunity to teach the ecology of the estuary. For the first 24 years, we served American shad, prepared in the traditional methods of planking (baking), smoking, and pickling. For the last two years, with the closure of shad, we have cooked and served steelhead (sea-run rainbow) trout. Despite a steady rain, more than a hundred people said please and thank you as we gave out free dishes of smoked and planked trout. Even though the Palisades at our back was shrouded in fog and rainy mist, we could hear the occasional "cheeps" of an osprey wheeling overhead.
- Tom Lake, Phyllis Lake, Christopher Letts, Andra Sramek, Barry Keegan

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