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Hudson River Almanac July 26 - July 31, 2005

OVERVIEW

An extended period of hot weather has produced some of the warmest Hudson River water temperatures in recent memory. Ordinarily, getting wet in the river can be a respite from the heat for all of the fauna along the Hudson, from bald eagles to overheated humans. But with the river in the low 80s, it feels more like a hot tub. One of the effects from the warm water will be the accelerated growth of blue crabs. While the lower river is already enjoying an excellent crabbing season, the Hudson Highlands and points north may see a bumper crop in August and September.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

7/28 - Mohonk, HRM 82: I watched a female monarch butterfly laying eggs in a field of milkweed. She would land gently, curve her black abdomen under the leaf, and leave a single tiny perfect oval fluted cream colored egg (one of about 300). I basked too in a happy moment of sunshine, thankful I can still spot the ova. She would abandon her task periodically to nectar at the plant's intensely sweet blossom or when chased by two amorous males, all three spiraling into the air in fast escape or pursuit. Once free again she would greatly slow her flight, glide to the next milkweed leaf and resume her opus magnum, or great work as Charlotte of the Web called it. So the monarchs were back and my fear of their absence once more decreased. I have found eggs and larvae from Kingston Point to the Shawangunks. It has not been as easy as years past, but a half hour spent looking may yield an egg and two caterpillars as it did this morning. Ten years ago I could find five eggs and eight caterpillars in an equal amount of time. As the habitat changes here and in southern wintering locations, as we use pesticides on our gardens and crops, and we pave over America, we find our hillsides less populated by butterfly miracles. Never will I forget former Clearwater Captain Betsy Garthwaite turning the great Hudson River sloop around so we could net a fluttering monarch somehow caught on a wave. "It could be a female filled with eggs," I pleaded. The rescue went off without a hitch and the butterfly continued flying in a southerly direction once released on land. So let that milkweed grow along your driveway and in your gardens, and watch for your own sighting of egg, caterpillar, and butterfly along the shores of the Hudson.
- Betty Boomer

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

7/26 - Lake Hill, HRM 100: When I drove up my driveway at about 8:30 p.m., my next-door neighbor informed me that I had just missed seeing a relatively small black bear in my side yard, first munching on something in the grass, and then walking leisurely into the woods behind the neighbor's house. This was the first bear sighting this summer. Usually a few cross my yard over the course of the season as the surrounding woods and wetlands make a natural travel lane. Last summer, bear sightings were almost an everyday occurrence along Route 212 in Lake Hill.
- Reba Wynn Laks

7/26 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 68: The air temperature reached 96°F today, breaking the record of 95°F for the date.
- National Weather Service

7/26 - Fishkill, HRM 62: The heat and humidity had been oppressive all day. While I sat in a lawn chair, one of our cats just lolled on its back trying to keep cool. A curious ruby-throated hummingbird appeared and hovered about two feet above the cat, making an assessment, I presumed, of its marauding potential. Realizing there was little danger in the lazing cat, which merely blinked its eyes, the hummingbird then proceeded to find nectar in the nearby hosta blossoms.
- Ed Spaeth

7/27 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 75: I picked some of my crab pots this morning and then re-baited them. There were a few crabs of market size. Last year I did not see any market size crabs until August 10.
- John Mylod

7/27 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 68: The air temperature reached 97°F today, breaking the record of 96°F for the date, set in 1949.
- National Weather Service

7/27 - Furnace Woods, HRM 38.5: A powerful cold front swept through in late afternoon, leaving little in the way of rain but chaos in this neighborhood from wind damage. I estimated the gusts to be close to 50 mph. Local roads were closed because of downed trees, power outages occurred, and we were gifted with a yard full of large and small debris that would take upwards of two days to clean up.
- Christopher Letts

7/27 - Newark, NJ: Air temperatures topped 100°F and in late afternoon violent thunderstorms swept across the lower Hudson Valley, producing major power outages in Rockland and Westchester counties.
- National Weather Service

7/27 - Upper Grandview HRM 25.5: Up on Clausland Mountain, overlooking the Tappan Zee and all its glory, nothing excites us more than watching a bird in our raspberry patch, or counting the new wild turkeys, or seeing fawns gradually lose their distinctive spots. My seven-year-old was floored as we walked up our angular, steep driveway to watch a red fox taking refuge under the front deck. We waited, whispered, watched, as did the fox. We have seen it often in the same spot and finally realized it crouches low waiting for the daily march of the turkeys up and across the driveway. It can wait until just the right moment as they come up the slope, pecking, to scoot out of cover and chase them. Can those turkeys fly! We've yet to see our wily companion out-fox the birds.
- Ann Donzella Owens

7/29 - Coxsackie, HRM 125-130: I took my wife, Lisa, and my mom, Sylvia, out in a rented 19' water ski boat a boat for a day of eagle watching. We launched at Coxsackie, ate lunch at Hudson River Islands State Park, and then headed upriver. In the approximately five miles between Coxsackie Island and Houghtaling Island we saw nine bald eagles - five adults, four immatures. At least eight of them, if not all nine, were different birds.
- Scott Davis

7/29 - Tivoli North Bay, HRM 100.5: Embarking on our bi-weekly seining expedition to Tivoli North Bay, we paddled into the mouth of Stony Creek, our first sampling station. There was a small cluster of blooming cardinal flower to cheer up the river bank. We found a shed exoskeleton (moult) of a blue crab in the mouth of the creek. It was from a male about 3" point-to-point across the shell. It is not unusual to see blue crabs well upriver in freshwater, but we don't see them every year.
- Bob Schmidt, Mer Mietzelfeld, Perry Vasta

7/29 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: On these hot, sultry days, cicadas were becoming background chatter to katydids. Several fledgling orioles, like lemon birds, were staying cool in the shady branches of a black locust. A second brood for a pair of robins had produced four nestlings, and now they looked altogether too large for the nest. A great spangled fritillary landed on the stringer of my deck a few feet from the nest. Four little heads watched. A meal?
- Tom Lake

[I've observed robins in the nest for about two weeks. I think they can stay in as long as 18 days. Sounds like these are ready to fly out. Then they'll be hanging around the lawn for another two weeks or so. Mama may go back for yet another brood attempt. Rich Guthrie]

7/29 - Croton Point, HRM 35-34: I try to get here as soon as possible after any big weather event to assess what the storm blew in. Lots of big trees were down. I hiked for more than an hour, ending out on the south tip of the peninsula where I caught sight of an unusual bird. The little red hen scuttled into the underbrush leaving me to wonder how it had arrived here. A few minutes later a handsome coyote floated across the road in front of me; things were not looking good for the hen.
- Christopher Letts

7/30 - Town of Northumberland, HRM 190: I live on the Hudson River above Lock C-5 of the Champlain Canal, just north of the Northumberland Town line. I periodically spot interesting wildlife and today it was four great egrets, with their yellow bills and black legs, spending the afternoon resting and feeding. This was a first for me as they rarely make an appearance in our area.
- John Guyer

7/30 - Gardiner, HRM 73: Recently I have been seeing many butterflies in my yard; monarchs and swallowtails are enjoying our purple cone flower, bee balm, and St. John's wart. In total I've seen about ten different species of butterfly.
- Rebecca Johnson

7/30 - Croton Point, HRM 34.5: I saw quite a few monarch butterflies on the landfill. At one point three were flitting around together. I also saw two cottontails, one baby and one juvenile. I haven't encountered the usual number of skunks this year but have seen bunnies and adult rabbits in profusion this summer.
- Kathy Sutherland

7/30 - Croton River, HRM 34: More than 70 semipalmated sandpipers foraged in the railroad station parking lot. Three osprey, a common tern, seven great egrets, and a black-crowned night heron enlivened the scene at the railroad bridge. The huge blooms of rose mallows glowed like lanterns along the edges of the marsh.
- Christopher Letts

7/31 - Fishkill, HRM 62: A large (2-3") black-and-yellow Argiope spider was hanging upside down in the center of its orbed web, strung across the space of a quiet corner of my garden. It had what looked like a half-consumed grasshopper in its clutches.
- Ed Spaeth

7/31 - Popolopen Creek, HRM 46.5: We had stopped to take a refreshing swim along the red and white trail that runs alongside the creek. After our swim I climbed over to admire a lovely patch of cardinal flowers. I even contemplated picking a few. A fat insect zipped past my head that turned out to be a female ruby-throated hummingbird. It began feeding on the cardinal flowers just a few feet from where I stood. The beautiful little creature ignored me as she drank from nearly every blossom. Now I will never pick a cardinal flower, or even think about it. There was a nice variety of fish in the creek and we saw a kingfisher flying around, checking out the fare.
- Kathy Sutherland, Scott Horecky, Jasper Horecky

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