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Hudson River Almanac June 28 - July 4, 2015

OVERVIEW

Several contributors commented on the warmth of the river (hovering around 26 degrees Celsius, 79 degrees Fahrenheit) so early in the season. If this continues and couples with increased salinity, we may see some exotic marine fishes in the lower estuary by late summer and early autumn. Many, if not most, of our bald eagle nestlings have become fledglings.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

7/2 - Greene County, HRM 113: While sitting on our porch, we counted four adult and sixteen baby wild turkeys. They walked as a group to a cherry tree that was full of ripening fruit. We were amazed as the little ones, one by one, jumped up into the tree to get to the cherries. They clumsily hung on to the lower branches trying to gather the fruit. It was funny to see such good-sized birds (even as babies) perched on very slender branches. One of the adults began to hop up and down, with each hop reaching for and grabbing a cherry.
- David Crosby, Ellin Crosby

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

6/28 - North Germantown, HRM 109: After just over an inch of rain, the Hudson was high, turbid, and a warm 72 degrees F. With the air temperature at 50, a heavy fog lay over the river. We seined the boat launch slip which, for some reason, often provides a better catch than netting along the beach. Our haul was nearly all young-of-the-year [YOY] river herring, most slipping right through the quarter-inch mesh and sliding back into the water. Many were alewives, with a smaller number of blueback herring. While the alewives were a bit larger on average, all ranged from 23-34 millimeters [mm] long.
- Tom Lake, A. Danforth

6/28 - Hyde Park, HRM 82: A recent story in the Almanac of a red fox with food for its young came to mind today as I spotted one in my backyard. This fox's catch was not nearly so nutritional (see 6/20: a baby woodchuck and a gray squirrel). Stepping proudly, pausing once to adjust before disappearing into the woods, the fox had garnered a bag of Nabisco Fruit-Newton Thins. Which flavor cookie, however, I was not sure.
- Barbara Wells

barred owl perched on a flower pot hanger

6/28 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 72: For past two weeks, we have had a barred owl in our yard watching intently the area under our bird feeder where many chipmunks congregate. It has shown no interest in any of the birds perched in nearby bushes. [Photo of barred owl courtesy of Doreen Tignanelli.]
- Doreen Tignanelli

6/28 - Piermont, HRM 25: At 82 degrees F, the river continues to be very warm. Just two days ago the Rockland Conservation and Service Corps joined me for seining at the Pier. We hauled our net three times, collecting a male mummichog showing off his bright breeding colors, a couple of small striped bass, and a pair of feisty young blue crabs (one male and one female). The fish did not seem to be bothered by the warm water, even then at 82. The salinity was a low 2.5 parts per thousand [ppt].
- Margie Turrin, Kathy Galione, Rockland Conservation & Service Corps

6/29 - Columbia County, HRM 120: A bald eagle nest in this reach of the river had three nestlings again this year (the adult pair has had three nestlings three times in recent years). Today, all three were perched on the edge of the nest but did not appear to have fledged yet.
- Julie Elson, Michael Kalin

6/29 - Town of Clinton, HRM 85: Bald eagle nest NY261 had fledged its two nestlings. Both were up and out on branches. I was very fortunate to see one of them take its first flight at 2:15 PM. (My first viewing of a maiden flight!)
- Dave Lindemann

6/29 - Town of Poughkeepsie: The adult male in eagle nest NY62 came to the nest today with a river herring for the "beggar" fledgling. Given the season, and looking at Bob Rightmyer's photos, it was almost certainly an adult blueback herring.
- Tom Lake

6/29 - Beacon, HRM 61: Today's fishing at Long Dock today produced exclusively channel catfish. Of the four I caught, three were a pound-and-a-half each. The fourth one was about two pounds. The carp spawning activity had apparently ended. The brown bullheads were absent as well.
- Bill Greene

five-lined skink eating a bug

6/29 - Bergen County, NJ: I was hiking in the Ramapo Mountain State Forest today and came upon a juvenile five-lined skink with its gorgeous blue tail. It appeared to be eating a dragonfly or possibly a damselfly. [Photo of young five-lined skink courtesy of Susan Salant.]
- Susan Salant

[Skinks and other reptiles favor sunny, rocky places. As a juvenile, the five-lined skink (Plestiodon fasciatus) has an incredibly beautiful blue tail that may serve as an adaptation for survival: Predators grabbing the skink by its colorful tail will find that it breaks off. The skink escapes, and regenerates another tail. Tom Lake.]

6/30 - Newcomb, HRM 302: We were in Newcomb for a couple of days, helping a grad student with his T.T. Polgar Fellowship study. As we were finishing up our work today, we saw three black bear cubs cross the internal road at the Huntington Wildlife Forest. I handed my camera to Sam Beguin (Polgar student) and he managed to snap a photo of one cub shimming down a tree before disappearing into the woods. Newcomb has received ten inches of rain this month, so the Hudson River was quite high.
- Karin Limburg, Tom Evans

6/30 - Greene County, HRM 112: For the first time in 25 years in West Kill, June has ended and we did not see a single luna moth. We usually see them the first or second week in June. Some years there are dozens, other just a few, but this year there were none. When they are here, they are very conspicuous, battering themselves against lights at night and planting themselves on the cabin's outside walls during the day.
- Emily Plishner

6/30 - Beacon, HRM 61: A nice crowd of the curious gathered on the beach to see how successful we'd be hauling our 85-foot seine on the fringes of the water chestnut. The warm river (74 degrees F) was refreshing. As we slid the net up on the sand most of the onlookers exclaimed "No fish." To the uninitiated, that appeared to be true since there were no bulges of big fish in the bag. But we knew better. We had nearly 200 YOY alewives (35-40 mm) inside the folds of the net. To some, that seemed like a disappointment until we explained the role of the estuary as a nursery for baby fish. A blue crab (three-inch carapace width) spiced things up a bit.
- Tom Lake, A. Danforth

6/30 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35 One of the adult osprey at the cell tower nest returned with a large eel. After a bit of fluttering around, the two adults took up positions on adjacent antennas while at least one nestling hopped around in the nest, clearly visible as it jumped up and down, apparently wrestling with the eel. It is possible that there was more than one pair of wings, although I was only able to see one set at a time. This is good news!
- Hugh L. McLean

7/1 - Town of Poughkeepsie: We had a wonderful afternoon monitoring bald eagle nest NY62. In late afternoon the adult male (Dad) arrived with a channel catfish and flew around, enticing the fledgling ("Destiny") from her perch in the nest tree. She screeched the entire time (three months of free meals is not easy to overcome).
- Deborah Tracy-Kral, Fannie Rose

7/1 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: First thing today we went to check on the cell tower osprey nest to see if last night's violent storm did any damage. We were relieved to see one adult standing on the nest and a head and wing of a nestling occasionally popping up from inside.
- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson

7/1 - Bronx, HRM 14: I heard the insistent, repetitive whining of a gull. Stepping out on my balcony that overlooks the Hudson River just north of Spuyten Duyvil and the Harlem River, I saw the gull swooping and diving at an adult bald eagle. Both were flying low over the river, north along the eastern shoreline. There used to be a number of bald eagles on the shoreline in North Riverdale that used large canopy trees as hunting and feeding perches in winter, but many have been felled, despite the area being a Special Natural Area District.
- Jen Scarlott

7/2 - New Baltimore, HRM 131.5: Fall migration had begun. I saw several adult ring-billed gulls winging down the Hudson River over the last two days. Their numbers will increase steadily now.
- Richard Guthrie

7/2 - Catskill, HRM 113: We were sitting on a bench in the park at Catskill Point late this evening, looking across the Hudson at a passing Amtrak train, when a sturgeon (at least four feet long) completely breached from the water in the middle of the river! It was remarkable to witness, having heard about this behavior. I'm hoping some of the Amtrak passengers were watching, too.
- Ingrid Haeckel

7/2 - Greene County, HRM 112: The white admiral butterfly hatch in West Kill continued with numerous individuals, both those with white and those with no white. It has also been a good year for great spangled fritillaries.
- Emily Plishner

immature hooded merganser swimming in water that is reflecting green

7/2 - Hyde Park, HRM 82: This evening I watched a juvenile hooded merganser swim slowly down Crumb Elbow Creek where it meanders through the Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site. It caught and tossed around a crayfish; one of the crustacean's claws broke free and went flying over the merganser's head but the duck held onto its prize. [Photo of immature hooded merganser courtesy of Terry Hardy.]
- Terry Hardy

[Rich Guthrie identified the waterfowl as a juvenile hooded merganser, but the crayfish proved to be more problematic. It was either a rusty (invasive) or spinycheek (native) crayfish. Tom Lake.]

7/3 - Greene County, HRM 112: The chanterelles are up early this year in West Kill. I picked enough for dinner at my favorite patch, which isn't usually ready for harvest until after July 4.
- Emily Plishner

[Chanterelles (Cantharellus sp.) are a delicious mushroom, considered "choice" by mycologists. Tom Lake.]

7/3 - Town of Poughkeepsie: When I arrived in late afternoon to monitor bald eagle nest N62, I could hear the fledgling calling from the nest tree. Dad flew in right past the tree; she saw him with dinner and began chortling for the fish. Once she had it, she accidently dropped it off the limb. A while later Dad flew toward the river and the fledgling followed. Yet, before long, the little stinker was back in the nest tree! The adults have been working hard on teaching the fledgling to hold onto her food and strongly suggesting that she begin to feed away from the nest tree.
- Kathleen Courtney, Bob Rightmyer

7/3 - Kowawese, HRM 59: The Independence Day holiday crowd had arrived a day early. The small beach was nearly filled; more than 100 people were enjoying the warm water (78 degree F). Kayaks were launching and landing and runabouts were rafted offshore. Our small group of program-goers made its way to the water and managed to set our seine in and among people and pets. To the surprise of all, as the net came ashore, it was filled with hundreds of tiny fish, YOY alewives (28-49 mm) and striped bass (22-24 mm). Most were slipping though the mesh and becoming stranded on the wet sand. We need a rescue! Vicki Losano, Crystal Losano, and T.R. Jackson set about, with wet hands, to carefully return as many fish as they could to the river. Those that did not make it would likely become dinner for the blue crabs.
- Tom Lake

7/4 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 77: I drove to Longview Park at Marist College near the college boathouses this afternoon to do some bird watching. While standing on the dock at the river, I saw a very large bird fly slowly toward the top of a tall tree overhanging the water. Through binoculars, I was able to see that it was an osprey. This was the first time I had seen an osprey here. High tide was just turning to ebb, so good fishing would probably be a while in coming.
- Cathy Leak

7/4 - Ossining, HRM 33: I saw one kit (gray fox) and one adult (presumably mother) this evening at dusk. They occasionally amble through the yard (see 6/3 - Ossining), so the den is likely nearby. The kit even went up a tree.
- Patricia Loquet

[Through a unique adaptation in its claws, the gray fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) has the ability to climb, mostly scramble, up trees. This offers two major advantages: avoiding predators and expanding their range of food sources to include bird's nest and eggs. Tom Lake.]

7/4 - Manhattan, HRM 1: Our catch this week at The River Project on Hudson River Park's Pier 40 included two seahorses (110 mm each). One was a heavily "pregnant" male. Male sea horses have a brood pouch in which they carry fertilized eggs deposited by the females. In one of the rare instances in the animal kingdom, it is the males that give live birth. But perhaps our most exciting catch of the week was a mating pair of blue crabs, called a "doubler."
- Jessica Bonamusa

[A doubler marks the beginning of a protracted mating procedure. As the female nears the time of her final moult, she releases a powerful pheremone into the water. This attracts suitors, who dance and wave their claws at her. When she selects a mate, she submits to being cradled in his walking legs. The two remain coupled until she makes her final moult at which time the male deposits packets of sperm in the female. He then resumes carrying her, sometimes for a few days, until her shell has hardened and she can defend herself. Riding the tides, she will then journey until she finds conditions that are favorable for producing young [generally higher salinity water at the estuary's lower end]. Only then will she break the sperm packets and fertilize her eggs. Christopher Letts.]

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