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Hudson River Almanac May 1 - May 7, 2012

OVERVIEW

The first week of May is often associated with the arrival of Baltimore orioles and ruby-throated hummingbirds, and they did not disappoint. Descriptions and activities of birds seem to overwhelm the Almanac in spring. The reason is twofold: Their visible migration symbolizes the birth of a new growing season and they also epitomize the bright colors and sweet songs of spring.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

5/6 - Yonkers, HRM 18: We caught three silver hake 75-100 millimeters [mm] long in our minnow traps, baited with mackerel in tomato sauce, hanging from the Science Barge. We also pulled our two eel mops on the Sawmill River and found two glass eels

- Bob Walters, Science Barge Crew

[The silver hake, also known as whiting, is one of eight members of the cod family (Gadidae) found in the Hudson River estuary. Among the other seven are some familiar names such as the red hake (ling), Atlantic cod, Atlantic tomcod, pollock, spotted hake, white hake, and the ephemeral fourbeard rockling. All are considered to be marine strays except for the tomcod, a diadromous (migrating between salt and fresh water) species that enters the estuary each fall to spawn under the winter ice. Tom Lake.]

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

5/1 - Four Mile Point, HRM 121: Five tundra swans were spotted on the river from Four Mile Point Road.

- Alan Mapes

[Tundra swans, native to North America, nest north of Hudson Bay in the Arctic tundra. They can usually be heard calling long before they are seen, which accounted for their former common name - whistling swan. David Sibley remarks that distant flocks sound like "baying hounds." They can be differentiated from the mute swan, more common in the Hudson Valley, by their smaller size, black bill (mute swans have a knobby orange bill) and a straight neck (mute swans have a lazy S-shaped neck). Tundra swans are occasional visitors to the Hudson Valley during fall and spring migrations. Tom Lake.]

5/1 - Town of Ulster, HRM 88: From the Charles Ryder Boat Launch, the agitated calls of an osprey drew our attention as the bird - a fish grasped in its talons - left its perch in a riverside tree and flew out over the Hudson, pursued by an immature bald eagle. The smaller raptor dodged this way and that but the eagle stayed with it through every evasive maneuver. When the fish hawk finally surrendered its catch, the eagle was right there, snatching the prize from the air before it had dropped more than a few feet. The pirate then flew in leisurely fashion back to shore to enjoy breakfast; the osprey went back to fishing.

- Kris McShane, Steve Stanne

5/1 - Esopus Meadows, HRM 87: While striper fishing in early morning near the Esopus Meadows Lighthouse, we spotted two flocks of brant flying north. These were the first we've seen this year.

- Andrew van der Poel

5/1 - Iona Island, HRM 45.5: While birding here, we saw both Baltimore and orchard orioles as well as a great crested flycatcher

- Ken McDermott, Curt McDermott

5/1 - Rockland County, HRM 45: Along Mine Road, we counted eight species of warbler, among them cerulean, American redstart, hooded, black-throated green, and blue-winged. We also saw snipe, woodcock, and scarlet tanager, and heard a whip-poor-will.

- Ken McDermott, Curt McDermott

5/1 - Manhattan, HRM 7.5-5.5: An indicator of a very good migration of neo-tropical-wintering birds was the sudden appearance today of gray catbirds, many hundreds of them. This overnight increase (easily twenty-fold, perhaps even fifty-fold) is virtually always a strong sign of this sort of push northward into an area. Ruby-throated hummingbirds were also flying high and fast. I wonder if this is typical of migratory passage as well? They weren't feeding, just zipping by around the tree-top level.

- Tom Fiore

5/2 - Newcomb, HRM 302: More birds were arriving at their breeding grounds. Nashville and black-throated blue warblers were singing this morning, as were an American bittern and a rose-breasted grosbeak. Shadbush and witch hobble were in bloom and pin cherry was just starting to flower.

- Charlotte Demers

5/2 - Athens, HRM 116: I've always enjoyed taking things apart, and putting them back together again. What fun it was to find dense patches of horsetail (Equisetum) along the trails at Cohotate Preserve. Horsetail is an ancient plant from prehistoric times with hollow green stems that are jointed and rigid. The stems can be pulled apart, and then built together again, each one fitting together perfectly, and effortlessly. An activity for when you've got some thinking to do.

- Fran Martino

5/2 - RamsHorn-Livingston Sanctuary, HRM 112.2: We had eight first-of-season sightings on our spring birding series walk today - osprey, veery, wood thrush, blue-gray gnatcatcher, rose-breasted grosbeak, Baltimore oriole, and black-throated green, blue-winged, and yellow warblers.

- Larry Federman

5/2 - Pleasant Valley, HRM 76: On my morning walk I heard my first gray catbird singing in the bushes as well as my first house wren singing its bubbly song. Chipping sparrows arrived about a week ago, and this year I seem to hear a lot of them singing in the trees compared to past years.

- Kathy Kraft

5/2 - Wappinger Lake, HRM 67.5: A mute swan pair had 5-6 cygnets and Canada geese were swimming around with their goslings. I spotted an osprey fishing the lake. It began to rise out of a dive, fell back into the water, and finally flew out with a good-sized fish.

- Terry Hardy

5/2 - Newburgh, HRM 61: In a very wet swamp tightly bordered by the New York Thruway, I spotted at least three active great blue heron nests on some dead trees. At one nest, as the adult heron was standing and stretching, I was able to see some small fuzzy heads moving about in the bowl of the nest. Not far away in a drier part of the wetland, I saw the masked face of a raccoon surveying its surroundings from its abode in a dead hollow tree even as grackles flew across the scene

- Ed Spaeth

5/2 - Fort Montgomery, HRM 46.5: I just saw an osprey flying over the old Fort Montgomery Marina, carrying a fish.

- Scott Craven

5/2 - Peekskill, HRM 43: A few days ago I looked out my window at my native roses (Rosa virginiana) and saw what I thought was a flower but dismissed it as probably a fallen leaf from a nearby tree. Today I took a closer look and saw that, indeed, it was a flower, and it had been joined by other blooms. I can't believe how early the roses are flowering.

- Carol Capobianco

5/2 - Croton Point, HRM 35-34: Baltimore orioles and gray catbirds were winging, black-and-white warblers and yellow warblers were singing in the trees, and kestrels were perched on the landfill.

- Christopher Letts

5/2 - Ossining, HRM 33: The Ossining police boat reported that osprey were sitting on a nest in the Tappan Zee, but there was no sign of anything being hatched yet.

- Scott Craven

5/2 - Manhattan, HRM 7.5-5.5: Our New York City Audubon morning birding group in Central Park had a very "birdie" day. A total of 59 species were seen. The highlights were: warblers (15 species), vireos (four species), flycatchers (two species), and thrushes (five species), as well as scarlet tanagers and Baltimore orioles.

- Joe Giunta

5/2 - Manhattan, HRM 7.5-5.5: Two more birds of note from Central Park today: a male golden-winged warbler as well as an adult male summer tanager.

- Tom Fiore

5/3 - Norrie Point, HRM 85: During a walk this morning at Norrie State Park, I saw clumps of the bright red and yellow native columbine, buttercups in bloom, Solomon's seal with buds below the leaves, wild geranium in bloom, and the usual garlic mustard, skunk cabbage, and lots of horsetail (Equisetum arvense), which has been around since the days of the dinosaurs.

-Phyllis Marsteller

5/3 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 76: I passed an osprey today and that was surprising because it was perched at the edge of a swamp on Van Wagner Road. I would expect to see one along Wappinger Creek or the Hudson River where there is a better food supply.

- Malcolm Castro

5/3 - Gardiner, HRM 73: I spotted what looked like a small dog near a pond on a farm next to the Catskill Aqueduct in Gardiner. As I leaned on a fence to get a look, making it creak, the canine spotted me. It took its time to smell at an old stump before trotting away to the relative privacy of the aqueduct. Seeing its entire profile, I could tell it was a fox because of its size and its long, fluffy tail. It was probably a red fox, but it was very black and gray, with only the slightest hints of orange-brown.

- Tom O'Dowd

5/3 - Peekskill, HRM 43: The chimney swifts were back. While I was poking around in the garden I heard their familiar chatter and looked up to see several flying around.

- Carol Capobianco

5/3 - Manhattan, HRM 7.5-5.5: What does one say for a day in which more than 30 species of wood-warblers were found? It was a variety not seen much in recent years of spring migrations. Flyovers at the north end of the park included snowy egret and green heron.

- Tom Fiore,

5/4 - Newcomb, HRM 302: More birds were on the scene - black-and-white warbler, least flycatcher, ovenbird, Blackburnian warbler, magnolia warbler, northern waterthrush, common yellowthroat and white-crowned sparrows. Painted trillium joined the red trillium already in bloom.

- Charlotte Demers

5/4 - Hyde Park, HRM 82: We finally had two hummingbirds at our feeder this morning. They seemed to be about two weeks later than usual.

- Ed Juras

5/4 - Wappinger Creek, HRM 67.5: A large snag jutting out of the middle of creek a mile upstream from the Hudson has had a bird perched on it three days in a row at low tide - three different birds. Today it was an adult bald eagle; yesterday it was an osprey; the day before a great blue heron.

- Tom Lake

5/4 - Croton Point, HRM 35: I sat on a guard rail for half an hour listening to birdsong from a big hackberry tree only a few feet away. A Baltimore oriole and an orchard oriole were singing a duet and foraging on their way through the canopy.

- Christopher Letts

5/5 - Rhinebeck, HRM 90: I saw my first hummingbird, a male ruby-throated, at the feeder early this morning. He returned several times; he could be hungry after his travels.

- Phyllis Marsteller

5/5 - Ulster Landing, HRM 87: We can join the crowd now as our first hummingbird arrived to the feeder this morning.

- William Drakert

5/5 - Town of Montgomery, HRM 62: As I was checking out the birds visiting my feeder, I saw a full-sized adult grackle with one middle tail feather that was completely white. At first, I thought something was stuck to its tail, but then I realized it was its actual tail feather but lacking all pigment. As it flew off, it made a strange sight with that long middle feather fanning out so white in stark contrast to the other black feathers.

- Patricia Henighan

5/5 - Fishkill, HRM 61: We had a nice long visit from a rose-breasted grosbeak today. This was the first time we have spotted one. There are still lots of brown-headed cowbirds about, as well.

- Mary Ellen Griffin

5/5 - Denning's Point, HRM 60: I walked out on Denning's Point before dawn and spotted a barred owl that was being harassed by a pair of cardinals. An indigo bunting was singing in the treetops. I also saw a palm warbler, two Baltimore orioles, and a brown thrasher by the old pin factory building.

- Steve Seymour

5/5 - Rockland County, HRM 45: There were spring migrants at Doodletown today including a Blackburnian and two Tennessee warblers. Cerulean warblers were everywhere and seemed to outnumber hooded warblers. A Brewster's warbler was heard singing an alternate song (not a "bee buzz" variant). We saw and heard a blue-winged warbler singing a golden-winged warbler song.

- Kurt McDermott, Derek Rogers

5/5 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: I'd hung out a filled hummingbird feeder the other day, just in case. This morning, Cinco de Mayo, I looked out to see my first hummingbird of the season. It was wearing a bright serape and one of those wonderful over-sized sombreros.

- Robin Fox

5/5 - Brooklyn, New York City: Early morning at just around high tide, there was a particularly large amount of flotsam and jetsam in Gowanus Bay off the Upper Bay of New York Harbor. In the adjacent Atlantic Basin, where the debris was less, several brant were spotted. They may have been from a flock of about 125 on the Red Hook Playing Fields, 500 feet from Gowanus Bay.
- Robert Sullivan

5/6 - Selkirk, HRM 135: As I worked in my yard, enjoying the flowering bushes, I began to wonder if there were any hummingbirds about. All I could think was "feed them and they will come." I did and they did. I still marvel how excited I am over such a little bird. They are so unique.

- Roberta S. Jeracka

5/6 - Pleasant Valley, HRM 74: Spring is just bursting out all over and new birds are arriving daily. Today I heard my first great crested flycatcher calling in the trees: "wheep, wheep, wheep, cronk, cronk, cronk."

- Kathy Kraft

5/6- Alpine, NJ, HRM 18: On a gorgeous day, more than 250 people said "please" and "thank you" as we gave out free samples of smoked and planked fish. This was our twenty-eighth 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 25 years, we served American shad, prepared in the traditional methods of planking (baking), smoking, and pickling. For the last three years, with the closure of American shad fishery, we have cooked and served steelhead (sea-run rainbow) trout. The tradition of spring riverside fish bakes dates back to colonial times, though no doubt they were enjoyed by native people before then. PIPC naturalists seined the full moon tide and caught an amazing number of bay anchovies, both adults and young-of-the-year [YOY], along with white perch, mummichogs, and both YOY and adult Atlantic tomcod (65-120 mm). The most unusual catch was an immature Atlantic croaker (45 mm). The river water was 61 degrees F. and the salinity was 9.5 parts per thousand.

- Tom Lake, Phyllis Lake, Christopher Letts, Andra Sramek, Barry Keegan, Chris Bowser.

5/7 - Cold Spring, HRM 54: If the color blue catches your eye, then an indigo bunting will take your breath away. We passed one perched at eye level on our way to the village dock. With no wind, the river was flat calm, belying the energy of the ebb current racing seaward. An impressive early morning low tide followed yesterday's "King Tide." We spotted a lone white-winged scoter flying low upriver.

- TR Jackson, Tom Lake

[Full and new moon "spring" tides are generally extra high and extra low. First and third quarter "neap" tides usually have less than average ranges between high and low water levels. Yesterday's "King Tide" - the highest tide of the year - was a full moon spring tide. The currents associated with these spring tides are usually quite strong since they must go from high to low in the same time (about six and a half hours) allotted to neap tides, but spring tides have farther (vertically) to travel. Tom Lake.]

5/7 - Croton Point, HRM 34: I was delighted to hear, for the first time in several years, a brown thrasher singing. Common here twenty years ago, they nest here less frequently these days.

- Christopher Letts

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