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Hudson River Almanac July 5 - July 12, 2005

OVERVIEW

Author Edward Abbey had a life-long quest to see a grizzly bear that he was never able to satisfy. We have another such ongoing search in the Adirondack High Peaks headwaters of the Hudson River, in this instance for moose. With New York's small population of moose slowly increasing, this quest may soon bear fruit.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

7/12 - Tivoli North Bay, HRM 100.5: We were out on Tivoli North Bay pulling seines for our annual fish monitoring program. For the first time in several years we caught young-of-the-year river herring in the bay and, in fact, caught all three species: alewife, blueback herring, and American shad. Bluebacks were the most abundant. As we were canoeing back to the boat launch, we noticed several small schools of herring "dimpling" the surface. It appears that they are feeding on small organisms in the surface film. I have not noticed this behavior in the bay for several years.
- Bob Schmidt, Mer Mietzelfeld, Perry Vasta

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

7/5 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Melissa Vaughn spotted a bull moose, antlers in velvet, as it crossed Route 28N. Ann Bush saw its head above her hedge, called for her husband, and in doing so scared it off. Then it moseyed out into Lake Harris where it was seen swimming across the bay. Naturally, I missed it.
- Ellen Rathbone

7/6 - Newcomb, HRM 302:. Water level continues to be low in the river. My chickadee eggs hatched - little dark blobs with huge yellow mouths. The tree swallows have been foraging like mad to keep up with their hungry crowd, too.
- Ellen Rathbone

7/6 - Hannacrois, HRM 132.5: I spotted a black bear as I rode my bike not far from home. At first I thought it was a gigantic dog. It was foraging around in the woods quite near the road and startled when it heard my bike. Then it returned to snuffling around the ground. Once I realized that it was a bear I almost stopped to ogle. But, since we were in close proximity, I decided it wise to ride off.
- Liz LoGuidice

7/6 - Fishkill, HRM 62: It's summer and the living is easy and quite delightful as we enjoy the great fritillaries and ruby-throated hummingbird finding sustenance in our flower garden. There are also numerous skippers fluttering about the coneflowers and zinnias.
- Ed Spaeth

7/7 - Croton Point, HRM 34.5: The peak of the mulberry season has arrived, and this peninsula is a fine place to celebrate. Scores of trees were fruiting, all well-attended by songbirds. But the "orchard" that interests me most is a row of trees along the main road opposite the bathing beach. All about the same age, the three dozen trees have little else in common. A third of them seem not to fruit at all. The rest vary impressively. Some are bowed down with the weight of fruit, some are almost devoid of it. The fruits range in size from raisins to a large grape, and in color from white through pink, mulberry, to almost black. Some are bland while others are richly sweet. My favorite has luscious, large berries with a sweetness and aftertaste that reminds me of dates. I spend most of my time under the trees with the largest, darkest berries, and those are the ones most frequented by the birds. Five decades ago, we kids beat the birds to all but the topmost branches of fruit, but in two decades of enjoying Croton Point mulberries, I've never seen another human eat a single one.
- Christopher Letts

7/7 - Yonkers, HRM 18: The Beczak tide marsh is in the midst of summer glory. Salt meadow grass, salt water cordgrass, three square sedge, rushes like black grass, and flag iris are among the many plants found here. In the dune area above the marsh, butterfly milkweed, lance-leaf tickseed, and still-leaf aster are all in bloom. Recent bird sightings include a recurring green heron, a willet, a double-crested cormorant and the ever-present Canada geese. Any human visitor with a sharp eye will be sure to find blue crab molts large and small - we have on display ten or so molts that have been casually collected over the past two weeks.
- Dan Kricheff

7/7 - Alpine, HRM 18: We were fishing with the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater's trawl this morning off Alpine and caught just over 200 hogchokers, complemented by three blue crabs and a spotted hake, a saltwater species of cod. I know hogchokers are common but I've never seen so many in one trawl. Several of them had an enlarged orange area on their underside; I thought that it might be roe.
- Jeannine Cahill

[Hogchokers are delightful little soles, ranging in size from a penny to the palm of your hand. They are found in the western Atlantic from Massachusetts to Panama and July is the peak of their spawning season in the Hudson. Christopher Letts and I, trawling in Haverstraw Bay in the summer of 1997, caught so many hogchokers in one haul that we decided to answer, once and for all, that age-old question: how many hogchokers fit in a 5-gallon bucket. The answer: 763, plus adequate water to keep them happy until they were all released. Tom Lake]

7/8 - Brandow Point, HRM 117: I sat in the kitchen at the Willows and watched a small coyote come up the trail, much in the same manner as the fox I had recently seen. She was very cautious, watching the house for many minutes before continuing on her way.
- Liz LoGuidice

7/8 - Town of Athens, HRM 116: Betsy Blair braved the inclement weather and led a group of intrepid souls on a aquatic plant adventure. We found wild celery, pickerelweed, spatterdock, arrow arum and arrowhead growing in the tide flats at the Cohotate Preserve. We also identified a number of invasive plants, including purple loosestrife and Asiatic bittersweet.
- Liz LoGuidice

7/8 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: Just before dawn we were awakened by faint and faraway yips. In the summer, with windows open at night, unusual sounds carry. We went outside and enjoyed a chorus of coyotes coming from the northwest, maybe a mile distant. We could make out two distinct levels of song, high and low, squeaky and bold. We went back in with the first glow on the eastern horizon as well as the first drop of rain. Tropical storm Cindy was on its way and by day's end we would have 1.42" of rain.
- Phyllis Lake, Tom Lake

7/8 - Tappan Zee, HRM 34-27: Crabbers and bait collectors are reporting good catches of blue crabs, plenty of mossbunker in their bait nets, and some nice bluefish to 12 lb. on chunks of bunker. At Ossining the salinity has been between 5-6 ppt. With leftovers from a tropical storm headed this way, salt, bunkers, and blues may well go south on us, washed out by heavy rains.
- Christopher Letts

7/9 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Rain, glorious rain! It rained all day, a long, gentle soak, the kind of rain that gets into the ground and not just into the storm drains. Everything has perked right up.
- Ellen Rathbone

[Cindy's effect on the salt front was less than might have been expected, perhaps because dry soils soaked up the steady rain, limiting runoff. According to the U.S. Geological Survey's salt front website (see below), the front was near HRM 61 at Newburgh on 7/8. It moved south a bit to HRM 56 at Storm King Mountain on 7/9, and to West Point at HRM 53 on 7/10. But by 7/11, the salt front had rebounded northward to HRM 58.5, and it was back at HRM 61 by 7/12. Steve Stanne]

7/10 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: A sunny dawn came with a brisk and clearing west wind, and zipping by in its grasp was the first monarch butterfly I'd seen this year.
- Tom Lake

7/10 - Fishkill, HRM 62: There was quite a bit of avian activity in my yard this morning as tufted titmice, a black-capped chickadee and a worm-eating warbler were busily gleaning insects from my white pine boughs, even as a huge shadow of an unseen bird passed over them. In another area of the yard, a ruby-throated hummingbird made the rounds of zinnia and monardia blossoms.
- Ed Spaeth

7/10 - Bear Mountain, HRM 46: As we approached the end of the Dayliner dock, I saw several anglers holding ten-inch-long porgies (scup), salt water panfish. That caught my interest; we were at least 60 miles inland from porgy territory. It took me a minute to realize that these were market fish, brought to Bear Mountain to be used as blue crab bait. The anglers, who were catching white catfish, channel catfish, and eels, were also crabbers. Looking in their pails we could see many 5"-6" blue crabs, even a few #1 Jimmies.
- Phyllis Lake, Tom Lake

Blue crab size (carapace width):
Jumbos are the biggest and the best of the catch, the prime market crab (7"+).
#1 Jimmy are the next largest crab and most commonly caught size (6"+).
#2 are smaller crabs but marketable, the minimum market size (5-5½").
Throwbacks are less than 5".

7/10 - Queens, New York Bight: Special events mean many cars at Gateway National Recreation Area, and someone has to park them. Today was my turn at Jacob Riis Park's Parking Lot on Rockaway Peninsula. Luckily, even in the afternoon heat, wildlife was present. Dragonflies flew over the exhaust fumes, hawking insects from bay to ocean. Green darners, ten-spots, and saddlebags kept me amused for reasonable stretches of the afternoon. Common terns flew past at intervals, some carrying small fish. At sunset, four oystercatchers flew past noisily, most probably one of the pairs of birds that nested on Riis Park beach, along with their offspring.
- Dave Taft

7/11 - Queens, New York Bight: Life returned to normal at Jacob Riis Park, after a large park event. Making the most of our maintenance crew, anxious laughing gulls, herring gulls, and pigeons maneuvered behind busy rakes. I could not decide if they were discriminating gourmands or merely resourceful survivors as they picked up a chicken bone here, some potato salad there. On the beach, oystercatchers noisily called each other as if 38,000 people hadn't just been visiting.
- Dave Taft

7/12 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: For the second straight day, air temperatures reached into the low 90°s. In early evening thunderstorms rolled across the river from the northwest, ending at dusk. Then the coyotes began. Two groups, one to the southwest the other to the northwest seemed to echo each other's calls. When they ended the tree frogs and cicadas began their chorus. The summer symphony.
- Tom Lake

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