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Hudson River Almanac July 8 - July 15, 2006

OVERVIEW

Are we getting better at recognizing and detecting them, or is the climate changing? I cannot recall ever hearing of tornados in my Hudson Valley youth of the 1960s, yet today we seem to have a couple of them each year. Our second tornado of the summer (see Almanac, June 25) tore across Westchester County. In its wake would come the warmest air of the season.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

7/8 - Newcomb, HRM 302: I spent a couple of hours bluebird watching. The babies were restless and I was sure they would fly, but no luck. I took a bunch of photos, hoping to capture the first fledge. There was all kinds of flapping inside the box as they took turns poking their heads out. One even gripped the opening with its little feet and wedged half its body out. It must be an amazing thing for them to see the great outside world since all they have seen previously is the inside of their box. What an incredible sight it must be the first time they look out: color, light, wind, sounds with sources. The parents were out doing their duty. Mom was stuffing her beak with a half-dozen mealworms at a time to take to the babies, while Dad was off scrounging up more wild fare such as grasshoppers and other weird-looking bugs.
- Ellen Rathbone

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

7/9 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Well, as I might have expected, the baby bluebirds took off today while I was at work. When I got home I went to the nest box. No noise. I poked my fingers in the opening, still no noise. I opened the door and found it empty but for a lone meal worm crawling up the side of the nest. No note, no forwarding address. They just up and left. It seems like only yesterday that they were mere eggs.
- Ellen Rathbone

Note: See "Empty Nest Syndrome."

7/9 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 75: Well, it happened again. On my way down the driveway this morning to pick up the papers, a tell-tale sign of summer erupted in - fittingly enough - a nearby locust tree. First one and then another and then another. The crackly chatter of locusts buzzing their way out of their "skin" and into the next stage of a whirlwind life cycle. The sweet music of a summer morning. Then, as the buzzing sputters to an end, watch for the erratic flight of the speedy locust as it emerges on wings of instinct and determination, leaving behind its paper-thin shell that might be found later, carefully removed and then placed on your sister's arm when she wasn't looking.
- John Mylod

7/9 - Fishkill, HRM 61: We watched for a long time as a monarch butterfly fed on the flowers of our milkweed plant. It would feed, then flutter around and then feed some more. This is the first one we have seen this season.
- Mike Boyajian, Jeri Wagner

7/10 - Town of Philipstown, HRM 58: Our weary students were enjoying lunch, perched on rocks along the river. As we sat there, I looked down between my boots and spotted, lying under a goose dropping, a near perfect Rossville point. It had to have eroded out of the river bank. It was made of quartz and showed a little water-wear. This type of Indian spear point, named for a site on Staten Island, dates to the Early Woodland Period in the Hudson Valley, about 2,500 years ago (the bow and arrow would not arrive in the Hudson Valley for another thousand years). Serendipity can play a big role in discovery.
- Tom Lake

7/10 - Nyack, HRM 27: Crisfield, Maryland, bills itself as the "Blue Crab Capital of the World." It's a hard chore to get anyone from the Eastern Shore to admit that estuaries other than the Chesapeake might enjoy similar blue crab production. However, Marylanders who sat down to a blue crab dinner last week may well have been eating Hudson River blue crabs. Captain Bob Gabrielson reported that a Crisfield buyer sent a truck to Nyack to buy a load of what he called "gorillas." And they'll take more whenever they can get them.
- Christopher Letts

7/11 - Hannacrois, HRM 132.5: I saw a whole bunch of tiny wood frogs in the moist leaves of the forest floor this morning. It is amazing to see how far these "froglings" can fling themselves with those diminutive legs! I also think that I saw two juvenile eastern towhees foraging on the forest floor.
- Liz LoGiudice

7/11 - Westchester County, HRM 23-28: Strong thunderstorms storms swept across the Tappan Zee, Westchester County, and on into New England, toppling hundreds of trees. In Massachusetts, 3" diameter hailstones were reported.
- National Weather Service

7/11 - Tappan Zee, HRM 27: A few bluefish were being caught, and lots of blue crabs, but the abundant rains of June and early July had pushed the salt front far downriver, adversely affecting the fishing. Most anglers were trailering their boats to Long Island to load up with big blues and striped bass.
- Christopher Letts

7/12 - Tivoli South Bay, HRM 98.5: We were sampling for killifish when we spotted and caught a yearling map turtle, the first we have seen in South Bay. These little map turtles have a sharp serrated ridge down the center of the shell and sharp points around the margins, both of which wear with age. We know there are places in the Hudson River where map turtles are regularly seen, but this was new for us.
- Bob Schmidt, Alec Schmidt, Valerie Gono, Mallory Eckstut

7/12 - Sleepy Hollow, HRM 27: At 3:40 PM, an F2 tornado (113-157 mph winds), traveling west to east, passed through Sleepy Hollow, Pocantico Hills, and continued across Westchester County. The National Weather Service reported that the funnel cloud remained in contact with the ground over the entire distance. Observers reported that the storm formed coming off the mountain near Orangeburg, in Rockland County, passed through Grandview-on-Hudson, created a water spout as it crossed the river at the Tappan Zee Bridge, and made landfall at Sleepy Hollow. Numerous mature trees were either uprooted or snapped off 8' above ground. The twister blew out windows at Sleepy Hollow High School.
- Doug Maas

7/13 - Town of Fishkill, HRM 63.5: I just returned from a walk at Stony Kill Farm Environmental Center. In a matter of thirty minutes I saw bluebirds, barn swallows, Canada geese, woodchucks, cottontails, blue jays, white-tailed deer, cows, sparrows, bats, a small garter snake, sheep, lambs, muskrat, and a monarch butterfly eyeballing some milkweed flowers. I couldn't have asked for a more lovely evening.
- Andra Sramek

7/13 - Denning's Point, HRM 60: Our Vassar College students appreciated a twenty minute respite from their work as we watched a gorgeous indigo bunting perched just over our heads in a mulberry tree. As has been said before, they out-blue the sky. Monarchs were out in pairs, it seemed, and we counted a dozen throughout the day. Some of us watched a white-tailed deer with antlers in velvet silently cross an old railroad siding and dissolve into the woods.
- Tom Lake, Jessica Park

7/14 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 73: We have barred owls on our property as well as the adjoining former Girl Scout Camp on Spackenkill Road. They have been very active the past few weeks; nightly we have heard the "wheezing" noise of the juveniles. In addition to their familiar call, we have also heard the caterwauling of the adults at 4:00 AM.
- Doreen Tignanelli

7/15 - Greene County, HRM 110: Our group did a through-hike in the northeastern Catskills from North-South Lake Park to Colgate Lake in the Blackhead Range Wild Forest. In between there were a variety of different landscapes. We began on the Rock Shelter Trail that starts off in a very dark, dense, mixed forest, and then took the Mary Glen and Escarpment Trails to North Mountain for all-around views. The Escarpment Trail levels off along the ridge and then descends down to the Colgate Lake Trail intersection to the swamp area. In between these points we saw a mink run across the trail. Meadow-rue, (a 3' plant with a white flower), was in bloom along the trail around the swamp. The weather was cloudy, humid with some sun, temperatures in 80s, perfect for a dip at the end of this 12 mile hike.
- Richard Balint

7/15 - Denning's Point, HRM 60: Students from the River Summer program came ashore from their research vessel Sea Wolf for a tour of Denning's Point. One and all were impressed by the 5' black racer we encountered on the trail. (This is near maximum size for this snake.) A few of our Vassar students gave presentations on their projects at the water's edge. As a backdrop to their talks, tiger swallowtails, black swallowtails and monarch butterflies cruised the beach and electric blue damselflies alighted on water chestnut rosettes. As the day ended, an immature bald eagle flew low overhead, crossing the bay to Hammond's Point.
- Tom Lake, Lucy Johnson, Margie Turrin

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