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Hudson River Almanac August 7 - August 13, 2006

OVERVIEW

The manatee's progress up the river has been like a series of Elvis sightings. There have been many, but none substantiated with photos or video. The river continues to percolate, as warm as it has been in recent memory. Blue crabs appear to be flourishing. This week in particular, it is nice to note the many ways in which people enjoy the Hudson, at all hours, bird watching, fishing, hiking, canoeing, kayaking, and just sitting by the river and telling stories.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

8/8 - Nyack, HRM 27: At the annual Crabs & Concert event I delighted in telling the crowd that seafood dealers in Maryland and Virginia will happily buy every Hudson River blue crab they can get their hands on. When I picked up five bushels of the Hudson's finest this afternoon, Captain Bob Gabrielson refreshed my memory: "They drive up to get them, they bring me bushel baskets, and they pay me on the spot. Last week the driver told me he hadn't seen crabs like these since he was a kid. And when I showed him a bushel of whales, he said those would fetch $150.00 a basket in Maryland." About six hours later, that driver drove his truck under a sign that reads "Crisfield, Maryland, Blue Crab Capital of the World." The Hudson blue crabs would be steamed and served to seafood lovers, including many Hudson Valley residents who could catch their own any day of the week.
- Christopher Letts

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

8/7 - Beacon, HRM 61: This evening, while walking along Beacon's Riverside Trail, I heard and then saw an indigo bunting singing on overhead wires. It continued its aria high in a nearby tree. An eastern bluebird was in another tree. Two monarch butterflies fluttered past. Queen Anne's lace nodded in the breeze, goldenrod has begun to bloom, and pokeweed stalks were bending low with the weight of berries still unripened.
- Ed Spaeth

8/7 - Manhattan, HRM 12.5: Inwood Hill Park on the Harlem River was the setting for today's training workshop for the Hudson River Estuary Program's annual Day in the Life of the Estuary event October 12. While the teachers were willing to believe that fish swam in the muddy water, there was obvious surprise and excitement when our first short pass with a seine net actually produced over 100 mummichogs, the second dozens of striped bass plus a few blue crabs and white perch, and the third more of the same plus 15-20 Atlantic silversides and a snapper bluefish. More matter of fact acknowledgment of the productivity of this urban estuary came from the great egrets, kingfisher, osprey, and immature bald eagle that dropped by to look for meals here as the day went on.
- Rebecca Johnson, Jason Novak, Steve Stanne, Margie Turrin

8/8 - Delmar, HRM 143: I was out in the Vlomankill at Five Rivers with some kids - picking up rocks looking for critters - when one rock fit my hand perfectly. The top rounded into my palm and two flat sides fit my thumb and fingers. The bottom was flat with chipped edges. An Indian hammerstone? People have occasionally found "arrowheads" here and while putting in a waterline an Indian campsite was discovered. I do not usually collect rocks, only what's under them, but in this case I brought it back to the Environmental Center.
- Dee Strnisa

8/8 - Fishkill, HRM 61: Hearing a strange squeaking noise repeatedly made me take notice of a flock of wild turkeys that were passing through my yard. There were at least 2 hens, a tom turkey and several poults of varying ages - in total at least 20.
- Ed Spaeth

8/8 - Philipstown, HRM 55: For the past 2-3 weeks we have been visited daily by a large white-tailed deer buck with an impressive rack, together with a doe and two fawns. The fawns actually sprint about and run up to the male and seemingly "play" with him. I have never seen a deer family unit staying together, so it has been fun to watch this foursome.
- Connie Mayer-Bakall

8/9 - Green Island, HRM 153: Just below the Federal Dam, the testing done by another group of teachers training for the Day in the Life of the Hudson Estuary event determined that the water was fresh. But the site's connection to the faraway Atlantic Ocean was evident in the fall and rise of the tide and by today's seine catch. Among the resident freshwater fish (banded killifish, golden shiners, spottail shiners, yellow perch, and smallmouth bass) were young of the year striped bass and alewives that would soon be headed out to sea, along with two blue crabs that had traveled far up the estuary from their birthplace in saltier water near New York City.
- Rebecca Johnson, Steve Stanne, Margie Turrin

8/9 - Six Mile Waterworks, Albany, HRM 145: Some say you can never go home, but today proved them wrong as I paddled my kayak at the Six Mile Waterworks, also known as Rensselaer Lake, and now part of the Albany Pine Bush Preserve. A place I remember as a child - rent a rowboat, catch a fish - smack dab in the middle of Albany, just three-quarters of a mile from Crossgates Mall. If it hadn't been for the constant din of Northway traffic, I would have thought I was somewhere in the Adirondacks. Greeted by a great blue heron, the afternoon was filled with more wonderful experiences: getting hung up on a log alongside a large mud turtle that also couldn't make it across; dragonflies and damselflies of all colors; a green heron no more than 6' away; 8 American black ducks; a Cooper's hawk swooping after a determined kingfisher; painted turtles; fish of all kinds, all happening just a short distance from the food court, movies with 18 screens, and cash registers ringing up retail sales. Thanks go to the Albany Pine Bush Commission for saving this place.
- Fran Martino

8/9 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 75: The river was 82°F today.
- John Mylod

8/9 - Croton Point, HRM 35: A full moon hung like a glittering disc in the sky. In the pre-dawn cool I walked the low tide flats, gathering moulted blue crab shells to be frozen and shared with school children in the coming months. Herons and egrets croaked and flew off when I got too near. Scores of big carp were porpoising and swirling, sometimes coming all the way out of the water. And I had it all to myself.
- Christopher Letts

8/9 - Croton Bay, HRM 34: The moon was still hanging over the Palisades; the first brilliant colors of dawn brightened the Ossining shoreline. The manatee alert was still on, but it's a big estuary - a manatee might almost as well be a mouse when it's 3 miles to the far shore. I did spot eagles, perhaps one of our newly resident pair. An osprey freighting a fish lumbered past, and out of the sky came a wraith in gray to harass it: a male harrier. Its speed and grace made the osprey look slow and clumsy. The osprey landed, the harrier continued out across the Tappan Zee toward the west bank. For all that immature and female harriers frequent this peninsula, wintering here in most years, male harriers are an unusual sight. If I see them 2-3 times a year I consider myself fortunate.
- Christopher Letts

8/10 - Stockport Creek, HRM 121.5: Paddling my little red kayak in the backwater of the Stockport Creek led to another first for me. Rounding the bend, I heard moans, groans, and whines that almost made me think I had interrupted a romantic tryst when I realized the sounds were coming from within a beaver lodge. I left them to their reverie. On my return I saw a very large beaver swim across the creek, eyeing me, and giving the more familiar beaver sound: the tail slap telling me to leave well enough alone.
- Fran Martino

8/10 - Denning's Point, HRM 60: While sitting overlooking the cove north of Denning's Point and appreciating the setting sun, I observed some unusual behavior from a gray squirrel: The squirrel would scamper across the rocky shore, perch on a rock near the water's edge, or even hop to rocks farther out in the water, so that it could uplift the leaves of nearby water chestnuts. It would then bite off the water chestnut seed, normally below the water's surface, and then scamper back to shore to consume its new-found treat.
- Ed Spaeth

8/10 - Croton Bay, HRM 34: An osprey dove and grabbed a fish off the bay just outside the railroad trestle. Almost immediately, a bald eagle arrived out of the blue, the osprey screamed, and dropped the fish. A classic summer-on-the-Hudson scene.
- Gino Garner

8/11 - Newcomb, HRM 302: The last batch of chickadees fledged from the nest on the golf course. Now all the nest boxes are empty. Toby Rathbone and I drove to a wildlife rehabilitator's at Goodnow Flow this evening to drop off an injured juvenile purple finch. On the drive back out, a porcupine crossed the road in front of us. It was a large specimen with very long legs. I tend to think of porkies as short and waddling, more like a badger, but this one was more like a wolverine in its long-legged strut across the road, not paying any attention to us.
- Ellen Rathbone

8/11 - New Paltz, HRM 78: I was driving along the Wallkill River this morning when I spotted a lone coyote trotting across a new-mown field. Later, I watched 2 black coyotes running through the overgrown field in my backyard. They are fascinating creatures!
- Sharon Gambino

8/12 - Beacon, HRM 61: At Long Dock today I caught a 3 lb. carp, a small channel cat, and a first for me, a golden shiner about 9" long. The shiner took the bread/corn kernel bait, same as the carp. I gave the shiner to some fellows for crab bait. They seemed to be doing quite well - they had a dozen or so good sized blue claws. They told me that they had 40 crabs the day before. Looks like a very good year for crabs; they were regularly stripping the bait off my hooks.
- Bill Greene

8/12 - Cold Spring, HRM 53.5: Fourteen paddlers from as far away as Mahwah, NJ, and Nyack came to experience paddling under a near-full moon and enjoy a late night explosion of wonderful events. We left Foundry Dock Park in Cold Spring at 9:30 PM and headed north. Sunset had occurred 90 minutes earlier, so all was dark. The stern lights on our kayaks moved like wandering birthday candles on a large liquid black cake. The Big Dipper hung almost directly over the river. As we paddled leisurely towards Breakneck Ridge we spotted a few meteors; it seemed we had stumbled into the annual Perseid meteor shower. Just spits of light going so fast. One bright, white flash of a burning, melting, disintegrating meteor slashed to the south. The glow from the moon illuminated the tail of the meteor like a jet's contrail. What a sight!
- Walt Thompson

8/13 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Cardinal flowers have started to bloom; not too many, but they are around. We've had some gloriously cool weather with nights downright chilly. There are frost warnings further north. I've been covering my tomatoes, but I don't think we got hit.
- Ellen Rathbone

8/13 - Croton Bay, HRM 34: We caught 70 bunker [menhaden] in our bait net today (for blue crabs). It has been feast or famine - one day 70, next three days nothing. An 8" striped sea robin was caught in the bay next to the railroad trestle.
- Gino Garner

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