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Hudson River Almanac July 1-6, 2004

OVERVIEW

The Great Hudson River Paddle (145 miles) commenced on July 6. Paddlers will be able to see the Class of '04 - more than a dozen newly fledged bald eagles - along the tidewater Hudson. Hudson River nests have produced as many as 60 bald eagles in the last eight years, after having produced none in the previous 100. Young herons, bear cubs, and barn swallows are also learning their way in the world.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

7/2 - Inbocht Bay, HRM 110: Larry Bowen was casting for largemouth and smallmouth bass around a rockpile just offshore. Conditions were not optimal. It was late morning, the tide was low and the water was a warm 76°F. Maybe the overcast helped, because on his retrieve of a chartreuse Bagley diving plug, Larry hooked what he thought was a big smallmouth. When he finally boated the fish, it turned out to be a trophy Hudson River walleye, 28½" long and just over 8 pounds.
- Vince Francese

[In the mid-twentieth century, there were sporadic catches of walleye in the Hudson, particularly north of Kingston. By the 1980s they had become very rare. In the last decade, as a result of NYSDEC stocking in the watershed and possibly emigration of young fish from the Mohawk River population, walleye are now not uncommon in tidewater. In winter they are taken through the ice in Catskill, Esopus, and Rondout Creeks, and they are taken occasionally by anglers casting for striped bass, black bass, and American shad.]

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

7/1 - Newcomb, HRM 302: As Toby Rathbone and I were concluding our walk we went under the drive-through for the bank so I could check out the progress of the barn swallows. Just as I was getting close enough to count beaks, the chicks exploded from the nest - just like watching one of the old Jiffy Pop popcorn pans explode on the stovetop. They bulged upwards like a dome and then erupted into feathered missiles. All took off and, as we emerged from the overhang, I watched the parents chasing off a merlin that must've been lurking nearby.
- Ellen Rathbone

7/1 - Lake Hill, HRM 100: My next-door-neighbors informed me that a large black bear ran through my front yard at 6:30 this morning and disappeared into the wetlands on the other side of the house. This may have been the mother of the two cubs that have been hanging around. My daughter spotted mother and cubs a couple of weeks ago as they cut through the wetlands to reach Cooper Lake on the other side.
- Reba W. Laks

7/1 - Croton River, HRM 34: During most early day low tides this season, a great blue heron, or two, or three, could be seen fishing on the edges of the exposed flats. In the past few days the numbers have greatly increased; I spotted at least eight this morning. The adult birds were fishing, and in several instances, being followed by inept young. The frowsy fledglings waded clumsily, made sloppy splash landings, and trailed the adults in a hunched over, "feed me" posture. An hour into the flood tide there was enough salt in the water to taste, about 5.0 ppt or 15% of seawater.
- Christopher Letts

[Ocean salinity, at this latitude in the Western Atlantic, is 32-35 parts-per-thousand (ppt). Throughout the year, the Hudson estuary's salinity is diluted depending upon the volume of freshwater flow from the watershed. In the aftermath of a prolonged storm or Adirondack snowmelt, salinity may be very low all the way south to New York Harbor's Upper Bay. However, at times of drought, you can taste salt in the water (> 3.0 ppt) 70 miles upriver.]

7/2 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Coyotes were yipping and yowling like mad last night and this morning. At first I thought it was a flock of loons, but then I thought, loons don't travel in flocks. It was coyotes.
- Ellen Rathbone

7/3 - Eagle Nest, Dutchess County: For the first time since March, there were no eagles in or around the nest for 48 hours. The eaglets' universe has expanded as they discover the river, its fish, and the west wind on which to soar. A foot-long short-tailed weasel scooted across the road as I was leaving. The resident pair of red-tails must have been napping.
- Tom Lake

7/3 - Furnace Dock, HRM 38.5: As we turned off Route 9A onto Furnace Dock Road in deepening twilight we saw a large raptor sail from one side of the wooded roadway to the other, nicely outlined against the sky. There was no mistaking the accipiter form, the size, and the power of the bird. A northern goshawk had just passed directly over us.
- Christopher Letts, Nancy Letts

7/4 - Farmer's Landing, HRM 67: A fifty-foot wide tide line had formed in the river a few hundred yards off shore. It was mid-morning; the tides were changing. The last of the ebb current was still heading seaward, the first of the flood tide was moving up along the shore, and where they met, a quarter-mile-long slick of vegetation and other flotsam had come together. Much of it was water chestnut, but there were also patches of pondweed and duckweed. In that quarter mile were no fewer than 9 great blue herons, 50 Canada geese, and dozens of mallards and black ducks. All were feeding and using the slick as a refuge from the open river.
- Tom Lake

7/4 - Croton Point, HRM 34.5: In the misty, heavy dawn the slopes of the landfill looked like a savanna, complete with a dazzling herd of white-tailed deer. In place of cattle egrets, red-winged blackbirds were hitching a ride on the backs of some of the deer and feeding enthusiastically on whatever life forms were pestering the deer. The deer paid no attention but grazed on across the slopes.
- Christopher Letts

7/5 - West Shokan, HRM 92: After a rain the night before, chanterelles (Cantharellus cibarius) were up, at a woodsy bend in the road half a mile west of the house. The mushrooms were growing exactly where an ovenbird had fledged her chicks three weeks ago.
- John Bierhorst

7/5 - Farmer's Landing, HRM 67: Thunderstorms were all around in early afternoon; in places the sky was as dark as night. Below, on the river's surface, the quarter-mile-long tide line had again coalesced on contrary currents. Now there were well over one hundred mallards and black ducks floating and feeding. While there were fewer great blue herons, there were a half dozen cormorants preening and drying out, perched on logs caught in the vegetation. Many of the adult Canada geese seemed to have double broods - some goslings were small, others were nearly the size of their parents. An adult bald eagle came out of the trees along the shore, flew over my head out to mid-river, and then soared in circles in the black sky.
- Tom Lake

7/6 - Eagle Nest, Dutchess County: For the first time in four days the newly fledged eagles were back near the nest. The male was perched in a white pine ten feet west of the nest; the female was perched in a dead tamarack ten feet to the east of the nest. They seemed to prefer the sturdy branches to the nest. After all, these were now sophisticated birds, world travelers. As I watched from a couple hundred feet away, the male took off and flew directly at me. White blaze prominent on his chest, he filled the viewing field of my 10x50 binoculars before flaring away. It looked like he was showing off.
- Tom Lake

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