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Hudson River Almanac August 20-August 28, 2004

OVERVIEW

A sense of reluctance to lose summer permeates the Hudson Valley. We will not miss the incredible humidity, but the long, warm days and warm water that makes summer special will slowly ebb into autumn. Signs of the fall migration are there to see for those who look, from blackbirds to swallows to osprey and eagles. In the river, acres of young-of-the-year shad, striped bass, and river herring are slowly moving seaward.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

8/23 Croton River, HRM 34: Sturgeon have been the topic of many conversations in the past few months. At this informal gathering place of rivermen, stories are once again being told about dozens of fish up to 5' long leaping from the water, sometimes narrowly missing falling into boats in their descent. Fishermen using nets for menhaden are seeing more and more of both shortnose and Atlantic sturgeon in the webbing. They are considered a nuisance in the nets, but nonetheless are carefully extricated and returned to the water.
- Christopher Letts

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

8/20 Poughkeepsie, HRM 75: The crabs today were a little bigger than I had been getting, so I have some hope. There were a fair number of immature female crabs as well, at least 12-18 out of a total of 20 dozen. Ten dozen were market-size. Ospreys are fishing in this reach of the river regularly and I see at least one each trip out to my traps. The river was a reddish-brown and Buttermilk Falls on the west side was roaring from all the rain. I had better than 3" of rain in one of my fish lugs this morning; that should drive the salt back down river.
- John Mylod

8/21 Mid-Hudson Valley: Another sign of impending autumn has begun: the flocking of blackbirds. While the migrating flocks along the river have mostly been common grackles, there have also been some red-winged blackbirds and brown-headed cowbirds mixed in.
- Tom Lake

8/21 Croton River, HRM 34: After a rain that lasted most of the night, much bird life was to be seen working the low tide flats. Little blue herons, green herons, great blue herons and snowy egrets, semipalmated sandpipers and killdeer vied with kingfishers and diving osprey for the small white perch, snapper bluefish, and striped bass to be seen in the clear waters of the lower Croton River.
- Christopher Letts

8/22 Ulster County, HRM 91: In late May or early June, Joe Krein happened upon a single, rather large, bird egg within a small rock overhang near Onteora Lake just west of Kingston. I guessed what it was and Joe's observations eventually led to seeing the mother: a turkey vulture. The egg hatched at the end of June. As of today, the baby is a rather large white fluffball, with an all black face. Blackish wing feathers are growing in and he hisses, not moving his beak, more guttural, when someone goes to see him (we try not to do that much).
- Peter Relson

8/22 Yonkers, HRM 18: The annual Hawk Watch at Lenoir Preserve began today and will continue through the end of November. The first migrant of the season was an immature bald eagle followed by a few broad-winged hawks. A number of non-migrating ospreys, red-tailed hawks and turkey vultures filled in the gaps. Although there were few migrating raptors, we had a number of passerines moving through, including scarlet tanagers, rose-breasted grosbeaks, and some warblers. Unfortunately, we also had a large flock of brown-headed cowbirds move through. A new record was set this summer at Lenoir. In 2003 we had bluebirds nest at Lenoir for the first time in over 50 years. This season, Lenoir was fortunate to have bluebirds nest twice. A total of five bluebird chicks hatched in two separate nests. It was a banner year for Lenoir.
- Joe O'Connell, Ellen O'Connell

8/23 Nutten Hook, HRM 124: Seventeen preschoolers from Columbia Children's Center in Hudson let out a "group squeal" as the river came into their view after walking to my seining beach at the end of Ferry Road. I had them close their eyes and listen to the waves-they were so quiet, we could hear a conversation across the river over at Coxsackie Riverfront Park. We collected "red stones" (little bits of brick) and each child described the shape and texture of their very special stone . We had a memorable catch in our net as well, a Barbie doll with long, dark hair who became known as our "littlest mermaid." I knew the resident bald eagle was watching us all the while the children were there and as soon as the kids boarded the bus, he came out and dipped his wing as if to salute me for a great day with some great kids on our great river.
- Fran Martino

8/23 Esopus Meadows, HRM 87: The river seems full of water chestnut along this reach at the Esopus Meadows Preserve. Above the water, hawking insects, were dozens of cedar waxwings. They didn't simply sally out from a branch but flew back and forth after the insects.
- Peter Relson, Carol Anderson

8/23 Croton Point, HRM 34: August birdwatching, with few exceptions, marks the low ebb of the year around here. The dawn chorus is all but stilled, and with the exception of shorebirds and wading birds on the low tide flats, most species seem to be lying low. Among the bright spots today were seeing a Cooper's hawk nail a starling in the middle of the commuter parking lot at the Croton Railroad Station, then perch on a No Parking sign and begin to pluck its breakfast. Later an immature red-tailed hawk was flushed from a treetop on Croton Point and instantly harangued by a family of eastern kingbirds. The best came when I stood under a grove of trees and watched a pair of blue-gray gnatcatchers doing their flycatcher routine and vocalizing, only a few feet from my head. Such good viewing of this delightful little bird comes all too rarely.
- Christopher Letts

8/23 Manhattan, HRM 5.5: Young-of-the-year striped sea robins (20 mm), caught in our otter trawl, were a big hit this week during our education programs on board the Hudson River sloop Clearwater at the 79th Street Boat Basin. With their enlarged pectoral fins resembling the wings of a bird, the numerous young made a big impression.
- Daniel Kricheff, Captain Samantha Heyman, and the Clearwater Crew

8/23 Edgewater, HRM 8.5: I've been watching daily for my first indication of the coming of the end of summer. Today it happened. The last barn swallow has left. Three pairs nested and raised families under our pier and the last nervous young one must have started its long journey south yesterday afternoon or early this morning. Several young were seen speeding about during the summer. The parents arrived early this year on April 18th and their job is now finished.
- Terry Milligan

8/24 Croton Point, HRM 34: The first monarchs I had seen this season spiraled high over Croton Point and headed out across the estuary for the Rockland County side. The steady easterly breeze made it a good time for the crossing. A few minutes later a sharp-shinned hawk made several passes at a fishing osprey before it too found a thermal and made a westward passage across the Tappan Zee. The bright spot of this morning was the sight of a group of Baltimore orioles feeding on a porcelainberry near the old brick warehouse. They were active and just as bright as a mid-May morning - a joy to watch.
- Christopher Letts

8/25 Hallenbeck Creek, HRM 113: I stood along the river in "Everett Nack country," overlooking Hallenbeck Creek, a tidal backwater of Roger's Island, recalling one of my first memories of Everett. It was January, 19 years ago, when he took Christopher Letts and me out to ice fish on tidewater. We used tip ups, and none too well. The catch for the day was a lone 10" yellow perch. But we were there as much for Everett's stories as for the fish. He took us a half-mile down river on the ice under the Rip Van Winkle Bridge. Everett told us how he frequently checks the ice under the bridge in winter to see what people have tossed off the roadway from above. He had found hats, gloves, old shoes (never a pair), beer cans, quarter kegs (always empty), old TVs, and purses (also always empty). "I'll never get rich but I still like to look," Everett told us. He once found an empty cash register, probably tossed from a get-away car after a heist.
- Tom Lake

8/25 Town of Olive, HRM 90: I saw my first flocks of Canada geese flying toward the Ashokan Reservoir today. Five large Vs flew over my house near the Ashokan spillway. In total there must have been about 250 geese honking away.
- Susan Hereth

8/25 Esopus, HRM 87: While visiting the Shaupeneak Ridge Cooperative Recreation Area today I spotted an adult female northern harrier hunting over the bog and marsh in Louisa Pond. It caught something but I was unable to see what it was. An immature bald eagle watched the harrier for a while then swooped down over it. The harrier didn't react; it just looked up at the eagle. There were also many phoebes, cedar waxwings, and goldfinches flying around.
- David M. Diaz.

8/25 Edgewater, HRM 8.5: The fiddler crabs that I have been observing for several years now are having a so-so year. The main colony in a catch basin for our town mall seems to be doing fine and the derived colony in a second catch basin is surviving, but not what I would call thriving. On the other hand the colony that, in the past, has formed behind a sunken barge in the river itself did not seem to even get started this year, whereas last year it appeared to be thriving for a while. It still isn't clear what the problem is for this outlying colony. I have hypothesized that the water is more agitated by boat wakes at that site as compared to the much more quiet waters within the protection of the catch basins, but this is not entirely satisfying since the waves don't appear to be very large when I am there.
- Terry Milligan (See VIII:97.)

8/26 Crum Elbow, HRM 80: As I was walking in our backyard on the bank of the Hudson, I heard a strange call, repeated three times. Not far away in an old tree I spotted an osprey with a fish in its talons. Since this was our first osprey of the year, at first I thought it was an eagle. He took off, circled overhead, and then landed back in the tree to eat his fish.
- Nicole Kayes, Kenneth Kayes

8/27 Crum Elbow, HRM 80: I heard no sounds today but when I looked at the old tree, there was the osprey. He perched there for more than an hour.
- Nicole Kayes, Kenneth Kayes

8/27 Eagle Nest, Dutchess County: Until the last couple of days, the adult pair and their two fledglings from this summer (see June 16) had not been seen since late July. Recently, however, Mama (N42) has been spending time around the nest, perched nearby in a large white pine used as a spring feeding perch. Today she was perched on a limb next to the nest, looking down at me. Her mate and her two young were elsewhere.
- Tom Lake

8/28 Esopus Point Park, HRM 87: I paid a first-time visit to little Esopus Point Park today. Along the trails I saw many kinds of mushrooms: pink, red, yellow, little gold ones, some white staghorn types, lavender and grey, but best of all were both white and brown trumpet-shaped ones. I also came upon a sizeable, and lethargic, black snake who couldn't be bothered to move for us. It just opened its mouth to sense that I was there.
- Jen Rabinowitz

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