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Hudson River Almanac April 25 - April 30, 3012

OVERVIEW

Birders describe the sudden (and much anticipated) overnight appearance of colorful spring warblers as a "fallout" - the birds drop out of the sky in small groups and larger flocks. Along with Baltimore orioles, rose-breasted grosbeaks, and other species they add wonderful color to the landscape.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

4/27 - Manhattan, HRM 12.5: We made a dash into Inwood Hill Park this morning for the Space Shuttle Enterprise fly-by and had great views from the overlook above the Hudson River. Almost as if NASA's public relations department had arranged it, on our way out of the park an adult bald eagle circled overhead. In the quick pass through the park there were lots of singing yellow-rumped warblers. I also heard single singing blue-winged and black-throated blue warblers and a scarlet tanager.

- Joe DiCostanzo, Ann Shaw

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

4/25 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Despite the cold, wintery weather (snow showers, air temperatures in the 30s) some lovely signs of spring were in the woods today. Aptly named eastern spring beauty (Claytonia virginica), trout lily (Erythronium americanum), sessile-leaf bellwort (Uvularia sessilifolia), red trillium (Trillium erectum), and fly honeysuckle (Lonicera canadensis) were all seen in bloom. Yellow-rumped warblers were also back for the summer season.

- Charlotte Demers

4/25 - Green Island, HRM 153: Fishing at the head of tide near the federal dam in spring has always had its allure considering the number of gamefish species present there. In addition to migratory striped bass and American shad, other notables include northern pike, tiger muskellunge, walleye, black bass (largemouth and smallmouth), and even the occasional brown trout. While seasonal regulations apply to trout, black bass, musky, pike and walleye, there is a closure on American shad; any taken must be released. An increasing number of shortnose sturgeon are also being caught here, almost all being accidently foul-hooked by artificial lures.

- Tom Lake

[It is illegal to target and keep shortnose and Atlantic sturgeon; both are endangered species. If caught inadvertently while fishing for other species, they must be released immediately without undue harm. Captain Michael N. St. Jeanos, NYSDEC Region 4 Law Enforcement.]

[Every so often, a large sturgeon takes a baited hook meant for some other fish, is fought and landed, or the reel is stripped of its line, rekindling the idea that they can be targeted. Pacific coast sturgeons - the green sturgeon and white sturgeon that translate roughly to our shortnose and Atlantic - are fished for sport. However, even if sturgeon fishing here was not illegal due to our species' endangered status, both would be difficult to find and hook, given all of the other fish in the river eager to take a worm or cut bait. Tom Lake.]

4/26 - Minerva, HRM 284: My trip to the Minerva transfer station was quite productive. In addition to doing some recycling, I was pleased to hear an American bittern calling from the marshes of the Minerva Stream that passes by very close to the station.

- Mike Corey

4/26 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 69: Looking out my patio door just after sunrise this morning, I saw an animal curled up at the edge of the woods. It was a red fox and he appeared to be asleep. I managed to get one photo before he heard me, raised his head, and then scampered off into the woods.

- Margie Robinson

4/26 - Town of Poughkeepsie: When not napping, the two nestlings in eagle nest NY62 could be seen bobbing up and down to the rhythm of the wind. At nearly four weeks old, they look to be the size of a duck. The adult male was perched on a limb just over the nest, facing the river. Out there, somewhere, his mate was hunting. She came back in late afternoon with a fish - the silhouette suggested a large herring or a small shad - and all four birds met at the nest to hungrily feed.

- Tom Lake

4/26 - Manhattan, HRM 12.5: The blooms of the Dutchman's breeches seem to be finished; three weeks ago there was a bright little spread of them near the bottom of the Clove at Inwood Hill Park. This may be the only place in Manhattan where they can be seen. Violets were also nearly finished - just one flower here and there - but the leaves covered much of the ground. Bluebells were blooming as well as a few wild columbine. In an hour of walking I saw one butterfly, a new one for me, sulfur-yellow with brown spots - just beautiful.

- Thomas Shoesmith

4/26 - Queens, New York City: We visited Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge in search of the reported white-faced ibis with no success. But we did spot some FOS [first of season] birds: tricolored heron [formerly known as Louisiana heron], glossy ibis, merlin, clapper rail, American oystercatcher, greater yellowlegs, solitary sandpiper, willet, Forster's tern, and boat-tailed grackle.

- Joe Giunta, Debbie Martin

4/27 - Saugerties, HRM 102: I spotted a coyote while driving on the New York State Thruway. It was walking in a small clearing close to the road. It appeared to be healthy, had a nice coat, and the wind was ruffling its fur, giving it the appearance of a having a full ruff around the neck.

- Reba Wynn Laks

4/27 - New Hamburg, HRM 67.5: On our way to visit Rabbit Island, a 1.3 acre of upland surrounded by water, we fittingly came upon a cottontail. In a bit of irony, David Cullen told us that he did not see a rabbit for the first 30 years that he lived on Rabbit Island. A strong and chilly west wind blew whitecaps across the bay, forcing the resident Canada geese to stick around on the leeward side of the island. There were a mated pair and their five little yellow-green goslings, each no larger than the palm of your hand. As we watched, they nervously shoved off and slowly paddled away, the adults in the lead and the five fluffy chicks working double-time to keep up.

- Tom Lake, TR Jackson

4/27 - Wappinger Creek, HRM 67.5: I spotted an osprey fishing the creek near its confluence with the Hudson River at New Hamburg.

- Terry Hardy

4/28 - Minerva, HRM 284: More "spring-like" birds have been returning. I've heard chipping sparrows as well as swamp sparrows and we are back to actual spring weather.

- Mike Corey

4/28 - New Paltz, HRM: 78: As volunteers potted up seedlings on Arbor Day, we witnessed a great blue heron flying west over the DEC Region 3 office. Apparently there is a nearby rookery. This is the second heron I've seen in a week; the first was flying east over Route 299 in the late afternoon, following me home from work.

- Danielle Laberge

4/28 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: As we were planting a small white pine for Arbor Day, we could hear the "croak, croak" of a raven not far away. There will soon be a plethora of young woodchucks scurrying around the edges of the woods and the raven will, no doubt, be watching.

- Tom Lake

4/28 - Senasqua, HRM 36: We hauled our seine for 14 onlookers at the Earth Day program for the Croton Conservation Advisory Committee. We caught one fish, a child's palm-sized hogchoker. We were sure that it was an empty net until one of the several brown leaves moved. The river temperature was 55 degrees Fahrenheit and the salinity was 3.0 parts per thousand [ppt].

- Tom Lake

4/28 - Croton Point, HRM 35-34: I have been going to Croton Point for twenty years. This morning, just before 7:00 AM, I had a new bird on the point (for me): wild turkey. Seeing me, it scurried (well, as turkeys scurry) into the woods.

- Larry Trachtenberg

[While wild turkey populations have increased in the Hudson Valley in recent times, they have remained rare on Croton Point. Much of this might be attributable to the presence of coyotes, known to take their toll, especially in a confined area like this peninsula. Tom Lake.]

4/28 - Sleepy Hollow, HRM 28: Eight miles downriver from Senasqua the water temperature was 56 degrees F and the salinity was 3.5 ppt. A strong west wind had rollers coming on the beach. Several Canada geese and mallards were dabbling in the tumultuous and foamy littoral zone ten feet offshore. Normally they would have sought a leeward shelter from such wind but this must have been a significant foraging opportunity for them.

- Tom Lake

4/28 - Manhattan, HRM 8.5: Taking my dinner break outside in the park on the City College campus in Harlem, I was thoroughly entertained for a half hour by the antics of a brood of house sparrow babies. Clearly just fledged, they took cautious short flights from branch to concrete wall and back on their little wings. But mostly they did a lot of pestering mom and dad, who came to check on them every once in awhile, but generally kept their distance. It was all a good show and I hated to leave them to go back to work

- Joanne Zipay

4/28 - Manhattan, HRM 7.5-5.5: I led a bird walk in Central Park this morning between Strawberry Fields and the Castle and, although it was blustery and chilly, we did pretty well. There had been an influx of migrants over the past couple of days and many of them were singing, including northern parula, palm, pine, yellow-rumped, and black-and-white warblers, ruby-crowned kinglets, eastern towhees, a swamp sparrow, and a brown thrasher. The highlights were a blue-winged warbler "beee-bzzzzing" in an oak tree at the edge of the meadow north of the Upper Lobe area and the Kentucky warbler, which was moving around in the Shakespeare Gardens.

- Gabriel Willow

4/29 - Minerva, HRM 284: I gave myself a couple of hours to relax and did some fishing in a fine little stream not too far from my house. The stream is Deer Creek, and it feeds into the Hudson River to the west of my home in Minerva. It was a nice day for fishing and I came back with a couple of little (eight inches long) but wonderfully marvelous native brook trout. The shadbush was in full bloom, as were sweet white violets. Purple trillium was not quite blooming, but their three-leaved ways and flower buds were quite evident.

- Mike Corey

[The brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) is the official New York State fish. It is a native species and one of a dozen or so that are considered to be peri-glacial in origin, among the first fish to occupy the watershed in post-glacial times - sort of like pioneer fishes. When found in small mountain streams, brook trout tend to become stunted due to the confined space and limited food. Tom Lake.]

4/29 - Milan HRM 90: We had a couple of spring returnees today, a male rose-breasted grosbeak on the feeder and a tiger swallowtail butterfly on the lilacs. We have been overrun with starlings this spring. We had a pair last year nest in a hole in my eave that I patched over the winter. This year they are in both ends of every gutter on the house and have somehow have gotten under the leaf guards I've installed. They awaken us at first light with their scratching as they come and go with nesting material. I have to plan an eviction after the nesting season.

- Marty Otter

4/29 - Town of Poughkeepsie: Mama from NY62 flew in from the river this morning and perched with a "pink" fish on a limb over the nest. One of the two eaglets seems very curious and active while the other one lays low in the nest most of the time. Feeding, however, seems to be equal between the two with Mom ensuring each gets an equal share.

- Terry Hardy

[NY62 had two nestlings last year that exhibited similar behavior: one assertive nestling that we presumed was male; the other, probably female, quite passive. This is typical nest behavior and can be used to make a good guess as the sex of nestlings. They will switch those roles over the next three years with the female becoming much more assertive. A digital photo of Mama with the "pink" fish revealed that she had caught a ten-inch-long goldfish. Goldfish, a minnow, are not native to the estuary. Their presence can be traced to baitfish introduction or, more likely, parents emptying the occupants of their children's sorely unattended aquaria into the river. Tom Lake.]

4/30 - Town of Poughkeepsie: The air space over eagle nest NY62 was very crowded this morning. Soaring at the top were four red-tailed hawks, two of which nest nearby; the other two might have simply been taking in the thermal. Just below were four turkey vultures, teetering in circles. At the eagle nest, the adult female was on a popular perch just above the nest with an open view toward the river as her two nestlings lounged about. Also in the air at nest-level, but forty feet away, were dozens of tree swallows that had cornered a rising hatch of insects.

- Tom Lake, TR Jackson

4/30 - Rockland County, HRM 45: Birding along Mine Road and at Doodletown this morning, I counted seven different warblers: yellow, blue-winged, black-and-white, cerulean, magnolia, hooded, and black-throated green. I also heard a warbling vireo.

- Curt McDermott

4/30 - Crugers, HRM 39: Common grackles seem to be hanging around longer than usual this spring and are always the bullies at the feeder. The blue jays are always feisty, but the male red-bellied woodpecker instills table manners to them all.

- Jim Grefig

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