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Hudson River Almanac August 7 - August 17, 2005

OVERVIEW

If you spend some time along the river in late August, you can sense the impending rush of fall even though we're still in the lazy, hazy days of summer. Monarch butterfly sightings should increase, the Hudson is burgeoning with young-of-the-year [yoy] fish, more birds tend to be flying downriver than up, and the first faint colors of autumn are beginning to show, especially in the uplands.

HIGHLIGHT FROM LAST WEEK

8/5 - Croton Bay, HRM 34: The float line on the bait net surged forward; then half a dozen of the floats momentarily disappeared, yanked under by something powerful. That something was a 4' Atlantic sturgeon that suddenly cartwheeled over the float line to swim free. I was out with Gino Garner, who was netting menhaden for crab bait. It was going to be another hot, muggy day, but at 7:00 AM, we were cooled by a fresh southerly breeze. Ospreys chirped overhead, the Croton Marsh was greener than green, and the lovely forms of menhaden appeared in the net every few feet. Another similarly sized sturgeon was easily freed, two dozen menhaden went into the cooler, and the rest of the bycatch - a large blue crab and a small white perch - went over the side. The sun was up and the breeze was dying. As we motored under the railroad bridge into the Croton River it looked like it was going to be all downhill the rest of the day.
- Christopher Letts

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

8/7 - Minerva, HRM 284: While on an evening hike around the swamp bog in the back forty, my spouse and I, and our dog, scared up a young black bear that was getting a drink from a small stream. A fine young bear, around 100 pounds, sleek and very black. The bear took off in an appropriately opposite direction, paused for a look at us and our bowser, and then continued on. Although the slope the bear was loping up was pretty steep, I was amazed at its speed.
- Mike Corey, Sue Corey

8/7 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 75: At 5:30 this afternoon the river was 83°F. Last year on this date, it was 77°.
- John Mylod

8/7 - Edgewater, NJ, HRM 8.5: Red-jointed fiddler crabs have completely repopulated the catch basin next to the giant Target building. This is quite amazing since in November of 2004 they appeared to have been completely wiped out, perhaps by the surge of fresh water from the heavy fall rains. The basin is approximately 30' x 100' and now contains several thousand fiddler holes (nests). In early March there were perhaps 100 holes. I would imagine that they all descended from a few survivors of the fall '04 die-off or from larvae floating into the basin through its culvert from the river and finding acceptable conditions for settling down.
- Terry Milligan

8/8 - Newcomb, HRM 302: There has been no rain for days and things are very dry. However, it is a bumper crop year for cherries! Even the seedlings that are only about knee-high are loaded with clusters of fruit. Lots of raspberries and blueberries, and it seems the blackberries are starting to ripen as well. Goldenrod is blooming and asters are in full swing. Pearly everlasting, one of my favorites, is blooming, and has been for a couple of weeks.
- Ellen Rathbone

8/8 - Hudson River Estuary: The tracking of sonic tagged sub-adult Atlantic sturgeon released in the spring and early summer of 2004 continues. This summer we searched for fish between river miles 22 and 85 twice in July and once during the first week of August.

Wild Fish: All nine wild fish tagged and released in the spring of 2004 were found in the Hudson River in July or August. Seven have spent July and the first week of August in the Hudson Highlands region. One of these "typically" Highlands region fish (five observations in the Highlands between June and August) was found once in Haverstraw Bay. Another "typically" Highlands fish (three observations in the Highlands between June and August) was found once in Newburgh Bay and once in Haverstraw Bay in July and the first week of August.

The two remaining fish don't seem to spend the summer in the Hudson Highlands region. Fish 2640, Bass Man, is a wild fish of unknown year class that has spent all of July and the first week of August in Haverstraw Bay. This fish displayed similar behavior last summer; it was only found in the Highlands once in June and once in November. Fish 2628, Jackie Childs, has a similar aversion to the Highlands, preferring the Tappan Zee. This fish is from the 1998 year class and has spent a considerable amount of time outside of our search area, presumably south of Hastings on Hudson. This fish was released in April of 2004 and was spotted twice in Haverstraw Bay in May 2004. Mr. Childs was then unaccounted for until October when he was observed twice in the Tappan Zee. In winter and spring of 2005 he disappeared again. In the third week of July 2005, 271 days since the last observation, we found Mr. Childs near Hastings on Hudson and during the first week of August near the Tappan Zee Bridge.

Hatchery Fish: The hatchery reared Atlantic sturgeon continue to dribble out of the estuary. In July and the first week of August, ten of the original twenty five were distributed from Piermont (RM 25) to Roseton (RM 66). Only two fish were in the Highlands region where the majority of the wild fish were spending the summer. Five fish were found in the Tappan Zee, two in Haverstraw Bay, and one in extremely northern Newburgh Bay near Roseton.

During July we passed the guaranteed battery life for the tags inserted in the sturgeon, but many tags continue to emit signal. We will continue tracking the fish until the batteries on all tags have been exhausted. At that point we can begin data analysis and prepare a report on the habitat use and seasonal movement of hatchery reared and wild Hudson River Atlantic sturgeon.
- Gregg Kenney, Hudson River Estuary Program, Hudson River Fisheries Unit

8/9 - Garrison, HRM 52: I wanted to pass along what I thought to be an odd goldfinch food choice on the Constitution Marsh Sanctuary bottom this morning at low tide: filamentous green algae.
- Eric Lind

8/10 - Rams Horn River, HRM 112.2: We have seen at least two bald eagles, one of this year's young and another sub-adult, on a regular basis during our interpretive paddles on the Rams Horn over the last two weeks. We have also seen another pair of sub-adults over the Rams Horn-Livingston Sanctuary on a regular basis this summer, and we hope they will eventually build a nest within its borders.
- Larry Federman

8/12 - Rams Horn River, HRM 112.2: We counted fourteen great egrets in Embought Bay today, along with eight great-blue herons and two bald eagles.
- Larry Federman

8/13 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 75: The river water temperature again reached 84°F this morning. By 1:30 it was 83°F. As the sun hit the water just right, when I was over on the west shore, I saw what would be, extrapolating for broader areas of the river, hundreds of thousands, or millions or billions, of small fish, eyes mostly, about an inch long and picking up the color of the submerged vegetation, a soupy spinach-looking green mass. Young-of-the-year river herring.
- John Mylod

8/13 - Manhattan, HRM 5: Eastern screech owls were calling in several locations in Central Park this past week, including West 79th Street adjacent to the lake, and the area of the Boathouse (East 74th Street) on the south end of the Ramble. This past spring screech owls nested for the second time in the last four years - the first successful breeding records in the park since 1949. The owls now breeding here were released from 1998-2002. We are cautiously optimistic that they will establish a permanent breeding population once again in Central Park.
- Robert DeCandido and Deborah Allen

8/14 - Newcomb, HRM 302: The air temperature was in the 60s today, and it was raining. Ah, bliss! It wasn't raining a lot, but we'll take what we can get. You can cross the Hudson River down at Newcomb pump house without getting wet above the knees. The leaves are starting to change color and drop already. Nothing dramatic yet, but a few leaves here and there, an occasionally branch and some crowns starting to yellow.
- Ellen Rathbone

8/14 - Port Ewen, HRM 91: I spotted an unusually large creature trying to crawl or fly to the eave of our roof. It was large, but too small for a bird, and seemed to be struggling to go up and then dropping down again. I finally got a good look when it came to eye level. It was two species of insects entwined with each other in a rather odd position: a cicada killer wasp, black and yellow stripes across the thorax, with its prey. Audubon's insect guide says that female cicada killers work together to create nests in sandy soil where they place one or two cicadas in each of the two to three cells at the end of each tunnel. Port Ewen does have very sandy soil, but I couldn't see any entrances to tunnels below the window or why the wasp would have been heading upward on the house.
- Lorraine Herschkorn

8/15 - Pleasant Valley, HRM 82: I had been watching a great blue heron for more than a half hour, about 100' up from our stream. It was standing in a rough-cut field by a patch of huckleberries, sometimes on one foot, slowly moving in a circle. Its beak was slightly open and it was moving its tongue up and down rapidly. Catching insects? Having trouble digesting? It swallowed frequently. I've only seen them fishing before now.
- Naomi Brooks

8/16 - Rams Horn River, HRM 112.2: We spotted four or five osprey working the Hudson near the mouth of the Rams Horn.
- Larry Federman

8/16 Highlands, HRM 76: I watched two bald eagles, one adult, one less so, gliding along the west shore of the Hudson at about eye level with my front porch, headed north.
- Vivian Wadlin

8/17 - Yonkers, HRM 18: We had a rare catch seining at the Beczak Center this afternoon. A spectacular 6" male blue crab made its way into our net. It was the largest we have seen in the seine this summer. We also caught a water scorpion and a naked goby along with multiple Atlantic silversides, young striped bass, smaller blue crabs, white-fingered mud crabs, and too many shore shrimp to count.
- Jennifer Mokos, Vicky Garufi

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