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Hudson River Almanac June 21 - June 27, 2015

OVERVIEW

Fledging bald eagles and wandering black bears stood out this week, yet we chose the amazing parental instincts of robins as the highlight, a lighter and perhaps more insightful observation.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

6/26 - Town of Fishkill, HRM 63: If I hadn't seen this with my own eyes, I would not have believed it. A fledgling blue jay had been hanging around my yard for two days. It was able to hop but not fly. An adult blue jay had also been around, raising a ruckus with anybody or anything that might get a little too close to the little one hopping across the lawn, me included. This morning I looked at a bird bath that sits directly on the ground and perched on the rim was the little blue jay. In the five minutes I watched, two robins brought mouths-full of worms and insects to this baby blue jay. One waited patiently as the first robin fed the baby, and then took its turn feeding the little one. Robins feeding a blue jay? Neither returned, but the baby blue jay sat there happy.
- Andra Sramek

[I have heard of similar situations with other species and with extended families within a species. An adult feeding a fledgling may be just a response of parents of an abandoned or lost nest reacting to a begging fledgling. Rich Guthrie.]

[According to the Birds of North America Online, on rare occasions robins have been observed feeding the young of other birds. Steve Stanne.]

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

6/21 - Saratoga County, HRM 177.5: I spotted a black squirrel at the Saratoga Battlefield this evening. I had never seen one south of Montreal before.
- Bill Crawshaw

[Melanistic, or "black" squirrels, are a genetic variation, a sub-group of the eastern gray squirrel, that has increased melanin resulting in black fur. Biologists have suggested that black squirrels may have a selective advantage over gray squirrels (natural selection) due to an increased cold tolerance. While overall they are not particularly rare in the Hudson Valley - they are common in parts of Canada - it is estimated that only about one in 10,000 gray squirrels is melanistic. Tom Lake.]

6/21 - West Sand Lake, HRM 145: We saw the most amazing sight this morning: two mink! We were walking in the garden when movement on a small knoll caught our attention. Two large blackish creatures were moving with serpentine grace. We apparently took them by surprise as much as they did us, as they both paused for a moment to look up. I later found out that they are very fond of rabbits, something we have in abundance. We also have a rivulet that runs all summer, supporting a variety of frogs.
- Audrey Van Genechten, Kevin Van Genechten

6/21 - Hudson Valley, HRM 85-75: Three bald eagle nests in this reach of the Hudson Valley each had two nestlings getting ready to launch. Those in the Town of Clinton nest (NY261) were about 80 days old; Town of Esopus (NY142) 72 days; and Staatsburg (NY143) 63 days old. young bald eagle taking flightExcept for occasional food deliveries, the parents were now free to relax. Even the food deliveries will diminish once the young fledge and begin to forage for themselves.
- Dave Lindemann

young eagle in flight above green trees agains a blue, partly cloudy sky

6/21 - Town of Poughkeepsie: The eagle nestling in NY62, dubbed "Destiny" by her devoted nest monitors, became a fledgling on the morning of the Summer Solstice, Day 85, at 8:30 a.m. [Photo of young bald eagle in flight courtesy of Bob Rightmyer.]
- Bob Rightmyer, Lynne Rightmyer

[This fledgling became number 15 in fifteen years for this adult pair. Day 85 matches the longest time-as-nestling date with both 2002 and 2011. The shortest time-as-nestling was 69 days (2006). The average fledge date across fifteen years is 79.6 days. Tom Lake.]

6/21- East Fishkill, HRM 66: Two weeks after I saw a bear walk across my back deck, I found it in the trees trying to reach the bird feeders high on wires. After I shouted at the bear, it climbed down, grunted at me, and went back into the woods. I'm sure it will be back.
- Tony Anderson

[At this time of year, yearling bears are leaving their mothers and may "wander" in order to find a new territory of their own. They often pass through residential areas, and will stay a few days or weeks, in order to find an area with good food availability. This is normal, and people should not be alarmed, but they should take the time to consider if their property is attracting bears. This could mean garbage not stored properly, bird feeders out, or pet feeding bowls outside. If you would like more information on preventing human/bear conflicts or on bear behavior in general, check out DEC's Reducing Human-Bear Conflicts webpage. Katie Allen, DEC Bear Technician.]

6/21 - Beacon, HRM 61: I was standing at the offshore end of the ferry dock in Beacon this afternoon, watching someone rig up his small sailboat. The Farmers Market was buzzing with people and I heard a loud peep. Very close. Barn swallows were flitting about but I saw none close by. Then another loud peep. I looked again for one that might have landed near me. Still nothing. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw something on my shoulder. I must admit it startled me because I felt nothing. It was a juvenile barn swallow. It flew off and landed nearby. A first for me!
- Bob Kacur

6/21 - Oscawana, HRM 38.5: This morning, as we crossed the bridge over Furnace Brook, we were delighted to see a great egret moving slowly through the very shallow water in the inlet. Since we'd never seen one there before, it was quite a nice Father's Day surprise.
- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson

close up of black bear

6/22 - Town of Nassau, HRM 141: A healthy-looking adult black bear visited today and was enjoying itself on our suet and sunflower seeds. We have not had one come by in a few years. There is a deer fence around the yard that seemed intact but there is a gate entry area that it could step over. The bear lumbered away after having its fill. [Photo of black bear courtesy of Barbara Nuffer.]
- Fred Nuffer, Barbara Nuffer

[Looking at Barbara Nuffer's photo it is hard to tell without some kind of scale for reference, but I would say it was a yearling based on the size of the ears compared to its head. It's impossible to tell sex unless you physically check, and - especially at that age - size doesn't really correlate to sex as much. It's a good-looking bear and hopefully it is not getting into trouble! Katie Allen.]

6/22 - Hyde Park, HRM 82: Butterflies and fireflies! A baker's dozen of great spangled fritillary butterflies, radiant in the summer sunshine, ganged up on our milkweed garden. This evening, fireflies (lightning bugs) made an appearance along the edges of our woods. Meanwhile, the planets Jupiter and Venus made a bright pair in the western sky, as they moved into close visual alignment for their June 30 finger-width conjunction. In actuality, they are more than 500 million miles apart and on opposite sides of the sun!
- Dave Lindemann

6/22 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: The cell tower osprey nest was a flurry of activity this afternoon. We saw the female (identified by her "necklace" feathers) standing in the middle of the nest. Her head bobbed up and down until the male flew in, making a food delivery. We still could not see any nestlings from our vantage but we know that something was going on up there.
- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson

small water celery plant in a peat pot held in someone's hands

6/23 - Norrie Point, HRM 85: Several members of the DEC's National Estuarine Research Reserve and Hudson River Estuary Program, as well as the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies [IES], planted a plot of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) in the Hudson River at the Norrie Point Environmental Center. Stuart Findlay of IES taught us how to assemble a four-by-four-foot PVC cage covered with chicken wire, install the cage in soft-bottomed shallows, and plant small peat-pots of wild celery (Vallisneria americana). Additional plots will be planted over the next week-and-a-half by staff and students for a total of 40 peat-pots in three different settings: caged, semi-caged, and open exposure. [Photo of young wild celery plants in peat pot courtesy of Chris Bowser.]
- Chris Bowser

[SAV presence in the freshwater estuary was greatly reduced due to heavy sedimentation following Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. The effort at Norrie Point is a pilot project to see if the plants can thrive and grow. If it is successful, the staff may expand the project next year to include more students and even a classroom component. Chris Bowser.]

prickly pear cactus growing near a rock with one bright yellow bloom

6/23 - Bear Mountain, HRM 46: After a short scramble, we stopped at a rocky outcrop near Bear Mountain where we found a beautiful gathering of eastern prickly pear cactus, many with gorgeous yellow flowers. We were impressed by the large amount of relatively new growth, based on the lighter green pads. [Photo of prickly pear cactus in bloom courtesy of Chris Bowser.]
- Chris Bowser, Katie Friedman

[The eastern prickly pear, the only native cactus in northeast North America, is present in the Hudson Valley in a few locations best kept secret (from collectors). Prickly pear are always found in full sun and almost always open to a south-southwest exposure. While tolerant of marginal soils, they are sensitive to human disturbance and are protected by law in New York State. Just north of Croton-on-Hudson in Westchester County is a hill called Prickly Pear. Habitat loss due to development over the last few decades destroyed the considerable number of cacti that once grew there. Tom Lake.]

6/24 - Chelsea, HRM 62.3: As our Metro North commuter train sped south toward Manhattan we flushed an adult bald eagle that had been fishing along the shore. The bird flew parallel to the train for a few hundred feet and I could see that she had a blue band on her leg. Being only a few minutes eagle-flight from nest NY62, I wondered if this was the female of the pair, N42.
- Tom Lake

6/24 - Denning's Point, HRM 60: There is a dead tree at the base of the Point that has, over the years, been a favorite hunting, feeding, and loafing perch for raptors, in particular eagles and osprey. The bay was emptying as the tide dropped and an osprey patiently perched, waiting for the falling water to reveal prey.
- Tom Lake

6/24 - Crugers, HRM 39: We drove past Ogilvie's Pond, hoping to catch a glimpse of the great blue heron that we have usually seen on the opposite side of the pond. Today it was right above us on a high branch of a dead tree. It was looking across the water, over the decaying spatterdock, its long neck curved and its beak moving up and down.
- Dorothy Ferguson, Dianne Picciano

6/25 - Beacon, HRM 61: A true summer-wind blew from the southwest, strong and warm, pushing the river up on the beach to create a high energy zone of wave action. Predictably, the shallows in the surf were filled with white perch, foraging on small prey swept up in the turbulence. Six of us took turns catching and releasing dozens of small fish with our seine. Mixed in were handfuls of young-of-the-year alewives 25-32 millimeters [mm] long, often so small they escaped through the mesh. The river was a very tepid 78 degrees Fahrenheit, five degrees warmer than on this date last year.
- Henry Bram, Gordon, Bram, Tom Lake, T.R, Jackson

6/25 - Westchester County: For the last few years, osprey have nested on a navigational aid in northern Westchester County. I spotted an adult in the nest today, and a second appeared with a fish. They seemed to be feeding nestlings and I thought I may have heard some peeping sounds, as I kept my distance in my kayak.
- John Hallinan

6/25 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: The hummingbirds are having a hard time getting to the feeders this year. My garden has not really begun to bloom yet, so the bees - very large bumblers, plain large bumblers, big bees, and clouds of smaller bees - have been massing themselves over the feeders to drink, fighting each other for access. The hummingbirds dart through the action but cannot reach the nectar. I've put feeders in different spots hoping to divert the bees, but I think I've just brought more of them to the scene.
- Robin Fox

6/25 - Bedford, HRM 35: The great blue heron rookery nestlings were growing rapidly and appear to be about two-thirds the size of the adults. I spent about 30 minutes watching the nestlings, and in that time I might have seen only a couple of adults fly to a nest with its occupants eagerly awaiting to be fed. The adults are at the nest for less than a minute before leaving in search of more food. With several nests having four mouths to feed, the adults are doing an outstanding job providing enough for the nestlings.
- Jim Steck

6/26 - Town of Poughkeepsie: In late afternoon on Day 6, we could hear the eagle fledgling from NY62 calling very loudly from the nest tree. We could not see her but we sure could hear her. She was back and hungry. Dad was in "his" nearby white pine, ignoring her. He left and did not come back for a couple of hours, but he had a fish. He flew in the direction of the nest tree and seemed to be enticing her to come out. Both adults have been attempting to get the fledgling to go to offerings left outside the nest, which is not easy given how long she has associated the nest with food.
- Kathleen Courtney, Mark Courtney

6/26 - Fishkill, HRM 61: A mother wild turkey and her four poults chose to relax on a garden bench in a sunny spot in my yard. The hen was preening herself while sitting on the seat of the bench, while her brood was all perched on the back of the bench. As the sun moved about the yard, the turkey group moved with the sun, sitting for a while in each sunny spot
- Ed Spaeth, Debbie Pereira

6/26 - New Windsor, HRM 59: I spotted a coyote pup in the far corner of my backyard at the foot of Snake Hill this afternoon. It was running at its own pace; mom and the den must have been nearby.
- Nathan F. Vesely

6/26 - Manhattan, HRM 1: In our pots and traps this week at Pier 40 off the west side of Manhattan, we caught our first adult blue crab of the season. It was a male, about six-inch carapace width. We also caught two yearling striped bass (100-120 mm), a northern pipefish, and two adult oyster toadfish.
- Jessica Bonamusa

6/27 - Schodack Creek, HRM 132: Our group of fourteen adults and five children paddled canoes provided by the Hudson River Estuarine Research Reserve in partnership with Rensselaer Land Trust on a northbound journey in the pleasant backwaters of Schodack Creek at Schodack Island State Park. Fiona Lally, one of the parents, shared these comments: "It was great to hear the kids describe in the car afterwards all their favorite parts of the day. They were amazed that the waterway was tidal, and that they could really see the difference in water depth between the canoe trips' down and back. The trees that had branches dipping in and over the water were a hit. They enjoyed the other people they met on the trip, especially Loki (my dog, who clearly qualifies as a person). They were also interested in the way this waterway exists in a kind of invisible world, alongside the railroad tracks and under the big bridge, but still peaceful and beautiful." The experience of canoeing it, we thought, was not too different from what it might have been like in the days of the Mohican people, through whose ancestral homeland we paddled.
- Fr an Martino

6/27 - Gardiner, HRM 73: While driving over the mountain on Route 44/55, at the edge of the road we spotted an adult black bear that we estimated to weigh about 400 pounds.
- Rebecca Houser, Sylas Houser, Sebastian Houser

6/27 - Crugers, HRM 39: We questioned the cause of the decaying spatterdock we saw at Ogilvie's Pond three days ago, and submitted some photos of the leaves covered with insects.
- Bob Ferguson, Dorothy Ferguson,

[These look like water-lily leaf beetles (Galerucella nymphaeae), 4.0-5.0 mm-long tan beetles with a dull yellow margin around the wing covers and most of the back. The larvae look different but both stages eat the leaves, especially spatterdock (Nuphar advena). This is a common and very widespread insect that is considered native to North America as well as Eurasia. In addition to spatterdock, they also like to eat Eurasian water-chestnut, purple loosestrife, and smartweeds. In Hudson River marshes, the beetles eat the portions of the leaves that project at high tide, so the taller leaves often wilt and die in July but the shorter ones, and new leaves, carry on. Erik Kiviat.]

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