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Hudson River Almanac April 26 - May 2, 2013

OVERVIEW

There was a happy ending to our moose story this week, our first ruby-throated hummingbirds arrived, and the incredible spring run of river herring into our tributaries continued.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

5/2 - LaGrange, HRM 78: After more than a week of watching a wandering moose, DEC decided to relocate the animal once it became a potential public safety hazard. Much of the time it was within 20-30 feet of the Taconic State Parkway. DEC Region 3 wildlife biologists, assisted by Region 5 staff experienced in moose relocation, were able to tranquilize the young moose - a one-year-old male. It was given ear tags and fitted with a radio collar. DEC staff then took the moose north to the Adirondacks and released it in Essex County. The moose looked good and walked right out of the trailer.<
- Ted Kerpez, DEC Region 3 Wildlife Manager

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

4/26 - Town of Schodack, HRM 139: It was chilly at the town park this morning and the trout lily and the bloodroot, in the shade, stayed tightly closed. I'm so happy that the magnolias did not open prematurely this year. They are blooming beautifully right now in lower Rensselaer County.
- Wilma Ann Johnson

4/26 - Black Creek, HRM 85: The incoming tide brought an amazing number of river herring into Black Creek today. There were many thousands of alewives and probably blueback herring as well. The DEC fish counter recorded 24,000 fish.
- Chris Bowser

4/26 - Croton Point, HRM 34.5: Seemingly overnight a huge crop of spurge had bloomed, glowing green-gold in the bright morning sun. Down below the tide marsh was beginning to turn green.
- Christopher Letts

4/27 - Milan, HRM 90: I spent a noisy evening on the deck listening to red-winged blackbirds, cardinals, blue jays, mourning doves, red-bellied, downy and hairy woodpeckers, crows, and squirrels defending their space, bumblebees strafing my head, the far-off sound of a pileated woodpecker hammering out a home, the whinny of a horse from a nearby farm, and a farmer plowing his field. What glorious noise! A rose-breasted grosbeak was on the feeder today and other feeders were hung with care in hopes that the hummingbirds soon will be here.
- Marty Otter

4/27 - East Chatham, HRM 129: We have had one pine siskin for the last two days, feeding with purple finches and juncos beneath a black oil sunflower feeder. Rose-breasted grosbeak males showed up yesterday. An interesting overlap.
- Dan Lynch

4/27 - Norrie Point, HRM 85: As many as 73 eager anglers, across three hours, lined the patio and boardwalk at the Norrie Point Environmental Center for an afternoon of fishing. With the tide high and the river cool (52 degrees Fahrenheit) the action was slower than expected. Twenty-eight fish were caught and released, with brown bullheads (13) being the most common. Among the others were white perch, yellow perch, golden shiner, rudd, and a huge (30 inches long) American eel. The award to the most handsome went to a male redbreast sunfish in brilliant breeding colors.
- Ryan Coulter, Courtney Albright, Tom Lake

4/27 - Esopus Island, HRM 85: Through binoculars, I counted 30 double-crested cormorants huddled on a small reef of exposed rocks just above Esopus Island. I guessed that there were 30, but it was not unlike counting jelly beans in a jar. As the tide rose, they huddled closer each desperately holding their diminishing space. Finally their feet began to get wet and, one by one, they reluctantly left.
- Tom Lake

4/27 - Black Creek, HRM 85: Again today, the rising tide drew huge numbers of herring into the creek, matching - if not exceeding - the volume yesterday. The DEC fish counter once again recorded 24,000 fish.
- Rebecca Houser

4/27 - Manitou, HRM 47: Late in the evening I thought I saw a very large muskrat swimming in the Hudson River so I got out my binoculars. I followed it along the shore as it headed upriver. As it neared Manitou Marsh I figured that it would go in, but it didn't, it just kept swimming. It finally decided to go ashore but the presence of a angler caused it to slap the water so loud with its tail that there was no question that it was a beaver.
whimbrel - Zshawn Sullivan

4/27 - Croton Point, HRM 35: I spotted a whimbrel this morning during our annual beach cleanup. The big, dusky-gray shorebird skimmed away from the beach toward Mother's Lap.
- Christopher Letts

[The whimbrel, formerly called the Hudsonian curlew, is a very large shorebird with a long bill that curves downward. Mother's Lap is a colloquial name for a small, sheltered cove on the northwest end of Croton Point. When commercial fishing was in its heyday in the mid-twentieth century, fishermen knew they could find refuge from wind and tide in this little bay as their nets worked offshore. In that regard, it reminded them of the calm and solace of sitting in "mother's lap." Tom Lake. Photo of whimbrel courtesy U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.]

4/27 - Westchester County, HRM 30: We were walking along the grassy-field part of the Pocantico River Trail in Rockefeller State Park when a juvenile American kestrel flew over. They once were common, but we rarely see them anymore. As we walked on, another flew past, and then a third. Finally, we counted at least five kestrels, perching together, circling over the fields, over our heads, and then landing again. They were beautiful. All appeared to be young birds, though there might have been one adult female in the bunch. No males.
- Sharon AvRutick, Joe Wallace

4/28 - Hillsdale, Columbia County, HRM 119: We spotted an unusually colored bird in our yard today. When we finally got a good look, it turned out to be a "piebald" white-throated sparrow in with a small flock of white-throated sparrows. The front half of the bird was white with small brown patches, but it still had the yellow lores (the region between the eye and bill on the side of a bird's head). The back half of the bird was its normal brown sparrow color.
- Bob Schmidt, Kathy Schmidt

4/28 - Hudson, HRM 117: Justin Brown landed a 42.8 lb. striped bass, the largest taken so far this spring, on a live river herring.
- Tom Gentalen

4/28 - Tivoli Bay North, HRM 101: Elisa Johnson Shaw found a Lawrence's warbler (singing a blue-winged warbler song) at Tivoli Bay North today. Lawrence's warbler is a hybrid of the blue-winged and golden-winged warbler. Both species are considered uncommon in Dutchess County. The Lawrence's hybrid is seen very infrequently.
- R.T. Waterman Bird Club

4/28 - LaGrange, HRM 78: The young moose, first seen eight days ago, was attracting much attention as it browsed on some plants in a wetland near Route 55 and the Taconic State parkway.
- Brian Herbst

4/28 - Putnam Valley, HRM 55.5 At least five barn swallows had returned since yesterday to nest in their traditional basement stairwell roost. Yesterday, a loner announced itself with a thump into the glass door; after a brief, stunned rest it headed down the stairwell. There were plenty of mayflies (shad flies) to eat, and the shadbush was in bloom; all coordinated and within schedule according to a casual phenologic record of more than twenty years. The first chipmunk appeared today, and that seemed late and reduced in number. The bluebirds that group-roosted in two nest boxes over the winter have disappeared (moved north?); replacements have not (yet?) arrived to use the nest boxes for breeding.
- Nancy P Durr

[Phenology is the study of nature through the appearance of seasonal phenomena. The word comes from the Greek "phaino," meaning "to appear," or the Latin "phenomenon," meaning "appearance or happening, display or event." Coupled with "logy," from the Greek "lego," meaning to have the knowledge of, phenology becomes the study of appearances. Tom Lake.]

4/28 - Furnace Woods, HRM 38.5: Blackflies were abundant and active, forcing us to resort to insect repellent for the first time this year. They seem especially numerous this year, as do the deer ticks. I've had to shed three hitchhikers in the past week.
- Christopher Letts

4/28 - Croton River, HRM 34: When I pass through this area I try always to find a few minutes to visit this special place, the confluence of the Croton and Hudson Rivers. It was worth it today: a black-bellied plover was feeding on the low tide mudflats. The first goslings of the year were likewise getting their feet muddy. The first kingbirds of the year were displaying their stuttering flight, and cliff swallows had made an appearance. All this on a fine spring morning, a harbinger of a fine week to come.
- Christopher Letts

4/28 - Croton Point, HRM 35: An orchard oriole was seen and heard singing this morning on the wooded slope across from the ball field at the entrance to Croton Point.
- Anne Swaim

4/28 - Piermont Pier, HRM 25: The pier was alive with activity this morning. Tree swallows guarded nest boxes, waves of blue jays traveled the length of the pier to shorten their inevitable river crossing, flickers hopped between trees, and downy woodpeckers were in the phragmites. In the tide marsh, a steady chorus of yellow warblers, common yellowthroat, song sparrows, and Carolina wrens were heard. On the last few steps toward the parking lot, the brief and mellow song of a Baltimore oriole was heard just before the bird flew over.
- Linda Pistolesi

4/28 - Manhattan, HRM 3: Due to the fantastic spring weather, we took a trip to Manhattan's West Side for a walk on the High Line. This old elevated freight rail line is now a public park that starts at 30th Street and extends to the West Village (at Gansevoort Street). Flowering trees and spring bulbs were all in bloom and made for a very pleasant stroll. We spotted four osprey above us, headed north.
- Dianne Picciano, Phil Picciano

4/29 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Spring continued to unfold with the trout lily, spring beauty and yellow violet all in blossom. Trilliums have budded along with another spring ephemeral, dwarf ginseng. Some warbler species have arrived and more and more are heard in woods every day including yellow-rumped, magnolia, and black-throated blue warblers.
- Charlotte Demers

4/30 - Milan HRM 90: A Baltimore oriole visited our hummingbird feeder several times today.
- Marty Otter

4/30 - Ulster Park, HRM 88: As spring moves on, adult beavers send their offspring on their way. A relatively small beaver made its way to our pond, perhaps from a lodge upstream at Louisa Pond at Shaupeneak Ridge.
- Peter Relson, Carol Anderson

4/30 - Klyne-Esopus Kill, HRM 87: This small, unpretentious Hudson River tributary can, with a long stride, be stepped across. Today we chose to stand and watch as the crystal-clear stream passed us, spilling onto the tide flats at Esopus Meadows. Two northern water snakes, each about three feet long, drew our attention as they nosed about foraging and hunting in the cold water.
- Betty Boomer, Eli Schloss, T.R. Jackson

4/30 - Esopus Meadows, HRM 87: We embarked on a low tide beach walk to discover what last October's storm surge from Hurricane Sandy might have uncovered. The erosion from such flood events often exposes the shoreline of the past like turning the pages of a book. At first glance the rocky shoreline seemed to be just an expanse of sand, pebbles, and cobbles. Looking closer, however, we found much evidence of those who lived along the river in prehistoric times, perhaps as long ago as 5,000 years. Among the artifacts of the Stone Age were quartzite hammerstones, stone knives and scrapers, a core made from red Mount Merino chert, and much fire-cracked rock. Mourning cloaks fluttered in our advance among the cobbles.
- Tom Lake, T.R. Jackson, Eli Schloss, Clearwater Educators

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

4/30 - Town of Poughkeepsie: The nestling eagle was alone in the nest but the adults were perched nearby. All was very peaceful until an immature bald eagle arrived and began making slow, tight circles around the nest. The adult female flew into the nest and shielded the eaglet with her wings. The adult and immature vocalized loudly until the intruder finally left the area.
- Ed Solan

[It is not uncommon for both adult and immature bald eagles to occasionally "visit" (uninvited) nesting pairs. The reasons for these visits are probably many and varied, and poorly understood. Rarely do the intruders stay long as the nesting adults invariably chase them away. Tom Lake.]

An small blue bird called the indigo bunting stands at a bird feeder

4/30 - Garnerville, Rockland County, HRM 45: A beautiful blue indigo bunting came to one of my feeders today. I had never even seen one, even on the nearby trails. It stayed for one day.
indigo bunting
- Caroline McDonald

[Like the Eastern bluebird, the indigo bunting is one of those incredible bluer-than-blue songbirds whose appearance stays in your mind all day. Tom Lake. Indigo bunting photo by Caroline McDonald.]

4/30 - Palisades, HRM 23: An orchard oriole was singing loudly this evening from the top of an oak tree as it moved around the buds gleaning insects. I've rarely seen orchard orioles and all those I have seen have been here at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. The song is more complex than the Baltimore oriole but just as lovely.
- Linda Pistolesi, Yasmin Yabyabin

5/1 - Delmar, HRM 143: The trout lilies and bloodroot were blooming at Five Rivers Environmental Education Center along the Vlomankill. Coltsfoot was everywhere. The water was still cold, but we caught a great diversity of macro-invertebrates and several larval northern dusky salamanders.
- Dee Strnisa

5/1 - Germantown, HRM 105: Our dark-eyed juncos appeared to be on their way back to Canada, and the goldfinches were finally here. I have not seen any white-throated sparrows in the last couple of days, either.
- Mimi Brauch

5/1 - Tivoli South Bay, HRM 98.5: While getting ready to count glass eels in mid-afternoon at the Bard College fyke net at the mouth of the Saw Kill, I noticed a lot of splashing in the shallow water. As I watched, a greenish-blue "torpedo" shot into the outstretched wing of the net. I went closer and spooked what revealed itself to have two dorsal fins as it turned on its side to go under a log in the water. From there the largemouth bass fired away from me again.
- Tom O'Dowd

5/1 - Orange County, HRM 56: I put out our hummingbird feeders today in New Hampton and in no time a male arrived. Still no females, however, which is a surprise because our experience has been for them to be the first returnees.
- Jane Groves

5/1 - Croton Point, HRM 35-34: Legions of blue jays drifted through today, in loose straggling flocks. I was amazed to see lilacs in bloom today, several weeks earlier than a century ago.
- Christopher Letts

[Springtime in the Hudson Valley has long been measured by the appearance of flowers, an example of phenology (see above). Those who worked on the river came to associate certain blooms with events unseen, such as the shadbush and the arrival from the sea of American shad and river herring. The progression moves in an orderly manner from forsythia to shadbush to magnolia to dogwood, with lilac being the final signal that spring is ready for summer. Not too long ago, the lilac bloom was a mid-May event, advising commercial shad fishers to take their nets out - the season was finished. In recent years, however, perhaps due to milder weather, the lilac has become an April bloom and may have lost its connection to the fish. Tom Lake.]

5/2 - North Germantown, HRM 109: I spotted two immature bald eagles circling over the parking lot at North Germantown Boat Launch. No binoculars were required. I saw them earlier, barely detectable, in the gap on the west side of the river. I watched them gradually come east until they were directly overhead.
- Mimi Brauch

5/2 - Milan, HRM 90: We were visited this morning by a black bear and her two cubs. The cubs were fairly large, not this year's young. The bird feeders did not survive.
- Marty Otter

5/2 - Hyde Park, HRM 82: Our first ruby-throated hummingbird of the season arrived this afternoon. They were running about a week late for this area. Our feeders have been out for two weeks, since they usually show up in late April. I think the colder than normal weather was making them late.
- Ed Juras

5/2 - Town of Poughkeepsie: The tall tuliptrees along the dolomite ridgeline, home to eagle nest NY62, share the dense forest with red oak and shadbush in bloom. In a surprising change of tactics, the local red-tailed hawks, intent on daily harassment of the eagles, were coursing through the trees like a woodland hawk (Accipiter), repeatedly "buzzing" the adult female as she sat on the nest. The chicken-sized nestling was sitting at the side of the nest facing the river. The adult male was out there hunting and it seemed that the eaglet already knew from which direction the food arrived.
- Phyllis Lake, Tom Lake, T.R. Jackson

5/2 - Croton Point, HRM 35: Both Baltimore and orchard orioles were singing, as well as several house wrens, yellow warblers, and a lone American redstart. Two kestrels, male and female, were on the landfill.
- Anne Swaim

5/2 - Croton River, HRM 34: From the Croton River shoreline within Van Cortlandt Manor, we had good views this morning of the active cliff swallow nests under the Route 9 Croton River bridge. A green heron was also there along the shoreline.
- Anne Swaim

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