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Hudson River Almanac July 14 - July 22, 2006

OVERVIEW

The Hudson Valley from late June through July is famous for being hazy, hot, and humid. This week the lower Hudson was battered again with strong storms. One of the phenomena that marks the arrival of summer for ecologists is the song of the katydids; another is the appearance of young-of-the-year [yoy] shad and herring.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

7/22 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: Briskly scooting across Wheeler Hill Road like a troop of Scouts, 15 quarter-sized immature wild turkeys followed a hen. Traffic stopped. With more cars adding to the backup, the last two were reluctant to cross. A trailing hen popped up on the bordering stone wall and, like a crossing guard, herded the remaining pair to her side. Across the way, the lead hen stood on another stone wall and looked across. You could sense some non-verbal communication transpiring. The stopped cars behind me were getting antsy, so I inched forward and passed. I was pretty sure that the hens had it under control.
- Tom Lake

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

7/14 - Tivoli North Bay, HRM 100.5: As we were paddling through the marsh, on the way to do some seining, two large black birds flew overhead pursued by a small redwing blackbird. Their gravelly croak gave them away as ravens. When we turned a corner we saw a white-tailed deer swim across the tidal channel and disappear in the cattails.
- Bob Schmidt, Valerie Gono, Mallory Eckstut

7/14 - Edgewater, NJ, HRM 8.5: I spotted an immature double-crested cormorant on a broken piling standing alone in the Hudson, a remnant of the extensive system of piers that served the shipping industry here until the 1960s. The immature is smaller than the adult, has a white breast and neck in front, black head, and black back of its neck.
- Terry Milligan

7/15 - Verplanck, HRM 43.5: Thomas "Tucker" Crawford died today. He was 80, a riverman, and had been a fixture on Haverstraw Bay for decades. Tucker was not a huge man, in the mode of fellow fisherman Charlie White, but that did not deter him from hauling 200 lb. sturgeon, gillnets full of shad, and pots full of blue crabs over the gunnel of his boat all day long. Tucker was a symbol of a fading way of life along the Hudson: communities facing the river; riverman harvesting its resources.
- Tom Lake

7/16 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: Today would be the first of three consecutive days with air temperatures over 90°F.
- Tom Lake

7/17 - Nutten Hook, HRM 124: Youngsters from a summer program sponsored by City of Hudson Department of Youth looked through binoculars, explored the historic ice house location, and were treated to several bald eagle sightings. Two immature eagles curiously watched, then flew in for a closer look as we seined for fish. We pulled our seine through mostly spottail shiners and banded killifish with one exception, a dead 8" channel catfish. The bright Crayola crayon yellow color around its deeply forked tail looked as if it was outlined with a black magic marker.
- Fran Martino

7/17 - Little Nutten Hook, HRM 123: While kayaking, I spotted an adult bald eagle wading at the river's edge trying to beat the 92°F heat. An immature sought shade in the nearby cottonwood. Both had their mouths open, panting like Labrador retrievers.
- Fran Martino

7/17 - Saugerties Lighthouse, HRM 102: The resident osprey caught a fish again this evening and returned to its perch along the shoreline. Its dinner was interrupted by an immature bald eagle who wanted the fish. A chase ensued and the osprey eluded the eagle. Giving up, the eagle flew away downriver. Wary, the osprey flew to a more secluded perch up Esopus Creek.
- Patrick Landewe

7/17 - Denning's Point, HRM 60: The interior of Denning's Point was like a rain forest. The multiple layers of the forest canopy held in the 96°F heat. We were visited by another black racer. At 4½' long, this one was a little shorter than the snake we saw two days earlier.
- Yesmelin Davis, Domingas Cahango, Tom Lake

7/17 - Town of Philipstown, HRM 58: Merlon Pinnock found a perfect spear point, a Lamoka, along the river. This style, dating to about 4,200 years ago, was made and used by a band of hunter-and-gatherer Indians, people for whom the Hudson River was an important stop in their seasonal migrations.
- Tom Lake

7/18 - Cold Spring, HRM 55: The cottontail rabbit population seems to have really swelled this year. Up on East Mountain, rabbits are extremely plentiful. They frolic on the lawns and dart around all over (while the coyotes sing at night along the ridge). Has anyone else noticed this increase in their population?
- Connie Mayer-Bakall

[Cottontails have been very common on Denning's Point this June and July, and others have commented on their abundance in the Mid-Hudson Valley. The reasons for their apparent large numbers are unknown. Tom Lake and Steve Stanne.]

7/18 - Westchester County, HRM 18: Another day of blistering temperatures and storms. A third major storm in seven days roared across Westchester County (see 7/12-7/13). This one was identified as a micro-burst, a straight line storm with intense, high winds.
- National Weather Service

7/19 - Tivoli North Bay, HRM 100: Jean McAvoy gave us some paddling tips and the basics of Hudson River tidal marsh ecology before we launched our canoes into the beautiful cattail marsh of Tivoli North Bay. Pausing to admire tidal wetland plants, beaver lodges, and birds' nests, and to discuss the repercussions of invasive plants, we made our way out to Magdalen Island for lunch. As we beached our canoes on the south end of the island, we watched a circling osprey, white-chested and wobbly-winged, as it dove for its lunch. After three fruitless dives the bird crashed into the water once again. It sat in the river for several seconds before attempting to pull a large fish into the air, only to drop it after carrying it a short distance. Sighting osprey this time of year is especially interesting as they are not known to breed here. Could there be a nest, or is this a post-nesting adult or non-breeding juvenile?
- Jason Novak

7/19 - Esopus Meadows Preserve, HRM 87: We spotted 4 great blue herons on floating logs within 200' of each other, hunting in the mass of water chestnuts. They were unruffled by each other, or by the 40 children observing them from shore during a Clearwater Tideline Discovery Program with students from Kingston Parks Department Day Camp, Forsyth Nature Center Junior Naturalists, and Kingston 4-H members. The students also caught 3 small blue crabs in our seine, including one soft-shelled. Two were female and one male.
- Eli Schloss

Seining the Hudson: On a trip from Syracuse south to Orange County for a meeting with the Moodna Creek Watershed Coalition, we decided to take the opportunity to do some collecting for yoy blueback herring for my long-term studies of how the species is doing with zebra mussels in the Hudson. We sampled 3 sites from south-to-north over two days: Kowawese State Park, North Germantown, and the Mohawk River at Lock 6 in Waterford. Note that the first two sites are in the tidal estuary, but the third is beyond the Troy dam and thus is non-tidal. We caught herring (species in the genus Alosa) at all 3 sites, with the interesting distribution that only American shad were caught downriver. Three species (shad, blueback herring, and alewife) were caught at Germantown, and as expected, only blueback herring were observed in the Mohawk. The southernmost shad were quite small - their average size was 36.6 mm, or less than an inch and a half long. Those at North Germantown were mostly larger, although some small ones were present there as well. As I've seen in the past, the blueback herring up in the Mohawk were considerably larger than those downstream at North Germantown (49.0 vs. 38.6 mm total length). Why? Were they born earlier in the season, or do they grow faster because of better river conditions?

7/19 - Kowawese, HRM 60: In late afternoon, we made three hauls of our 50' seine on the incoming tide, catching 8 species of fish and blue crabs. None of the eight were overly abundant but we were delighted to see 7 yoy American shad. I also caught my first channel catfish - a juvenile about 5" long.

7/20 - North Germantown, HRM 109: In mid-afternoon, we made two hauls of our 50' seine on the dropping tide, catching 10 species of fish and blue crabs. In addition to shad, blueback herring and alewives, we caught many tessellated darters, banded killifish, and striped bass. Among the striped bass we collected, 3 were at least a year old; one of them looked to be at least two years old. That is unusual in my experience

7/20 - Waterford, HRM 158: We made three hauls of our seine on the Mohawk River at Erie Canal Lock 6, catching 17 species of fish. Comparing the three locations that we seined over two days, it was here that we found the greatest species richness and sheer biomass. We caught many minnows - including 4 protesting carp - numerous sunfishes and basses, two pickerel that I believe were chain pickerel, many yellow perch, and even a walleye and a freshwater drum. The bulk of our catch was golden shiner, about 100 individuals, with yoy blueback herring also plentiful. These were the progeny of sea run adults that had made the incredibly long and difficult journey up through tidewater, ascending a long series of locks, to spawn in the Mohawk River. Adults are not infrequently observed as far west as Rome, New York, and occasionally in Oneida Lake. That's a long way from the sea.
- Karin Limburg, Molly Ramsey, SUNY ESF

7/20 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 75: It was about 10:00 PM, as I walked in my driveway, when I heard one, and then the echoed responses of my first katydids of the summer. Magic.
- John Mylod

7/20 - Denning's Point, HRM 60: The river was just shy of 80°F today (79.5°). The density of water chestnuts seems to grow as you watch. The bayside habitat has become much more abiding to herons, egrets, and kingfishers, and much less so for eagles, osprey, and harriers.
- Tom Lake

7/21 - Newcomb, HRM 302: I was heading for the Elizabethtown Farmer's Market this morning when I was distracted by some chittering. I turned and there were 2 red-breasted nuthatches upside down on the base of a spruce tree. One was an adult and one appeared to be a juvenile, getting lessons on how to hunt for insects under the spruce bark.
- Ellen Rathbone

7/22 - Newcomb, HRM 302: We got over an inch of much needed rain today. After the rain let up in the early evening, the birds descended upon my yard. It was great. The bluebird family put in an appearance, as well as lots of sparrows: Birds in the trees, birds in the shrubs, birds on the clothesline, in the grass and in the gardens. Must've been they were all after insects. It was delightful to see.
- Ellen Rathbone

7/22 - Pocantico River, HRM 27: We were sampling eels in the tidal basin of the Pocantico River. A belted kingfisher was making lots of noise, a usual occurrence for this spot. We saw 2 osprey, one sitting on the top of a tree, the other soaring overhead. The kingfisher made a run across the basin and the soaring osprey folded its wings and made a vertical twisting dive, going after the kingfisher and missing by inches. The kingfisher flew yelling (clattering) into the reeds. We don't quite understand what the osprey was trying to do.
- Bob Schmidt, Alec Schmidt, Tom Coote

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