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Hudson River Almanac May 26 - June 7, 2004

OVERVIEW

The Hudson River watershed is open to the sea on one end and rises to over 5,344 feet on the other. Between those extremes are more than a lifetime of surprises and adventures, as we are reminded by reports of turtles nesting in the Adirondacks, giant sturgeon in the Mid-Hudson, and blue crabs and oyster toadfish from the lower estuary. Pete Nye of the NYSDEC Endangered Species Unit reports that there are now a dozen bald eagle nests along the Hudson River. There were eleven eaglets in the first ten nests he recently visited, with two left to be checked. Many of these eaglets are very close to fledgling, or taking their first flight. This is an amazing recovery considering that it was only seven years ago that the Hudson Valley produced its first fledgling bald eagle in 100 years.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

5/31 - Newcomb, HRM 302: This evening, while out on a stroll, Toby Rathbone and I noticed a flash of orange - a wood turtle digging out a nest. We were pretty excited; this is not a species we see very often. We did not want to cause her stress so we walked along our way. A pine marten dashed across the road in front of us. Soon we encountered a second wood turtle at a turn-around in the road. She had already dug one nest (a false start, apparently) and was working hard on her second. We watched for a while and then headed home. We were reflecting on how good it was that there was no traffic when five cars passed us headed that way. I hailed the first with a warning to watch out for the turtles, but the others just cruised by. At home I grabbed my camera and rushed back. By now turtle number one had already laid a few eggs. I drove down to see if turtle number two had survived the traffic. She had - busily laying her eggs and arranging them in the shallow hole that was her nest. When she finished laying her eggs, oval and slightly tinted with orange, she spent twenty minutes packing the sand over them. Then she reached out with her back legs and scooped sand across the nest, making fists with her back feet and grinding the sand into place.
- Ellen Rathbone

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

5/26 - Yonkers, HRM 18: We have been unable to use our beach at the Beczak Environmental Education Center for two years due to construction activity so it is exciting to report our catch from the site once again. Sari Givner's second graders from Fieldston Lower School in the Bronx braved the morning rain and waited out a lightning storm to seine with us. They caught white perch (up to 230 mm), several striped bass (50 mm), three Atlantic tomcod, and schools of bay anchovy. As the thunderstorm swept over Yonkers they came inside to measure the salinity of a river water sample at 2.2 parts per thousand.
- Cynthia Fowx

5/26 - Yonkers, HRM 18: The day started off misty and cool, but the fifth graders getting on board the Hudson River sloop Clearwater were not dissuaded. The sloop's trawl net caught quite a few species: two oyster toadfish, five juvenile Atlantic tomcod, bay anchovies, hogchokers, a spotted hake, comb jellies, and an 8" herring. Many were put into onboard tanks for observation and later released.
- Jennifer Dupont

5/27 - Town of Prattsvile, HRM 125: While fishing in Schoharie Creek tonight I kept hearing a loud bird call: "brzzzt, brzzzt." My buddy Bob said "woodcock" but I knew differently. Finally, at dusk, two nighthawks flew over. We caught five walleye - a culinary treat!
- Larry Biegel

5/27 - Eagle Nest, Dutchess County: At midday Papa was again perched on the tippy top of a dead tamarack twenty feet from the nest. He was facing away from the nest, toward the sun, and his eyelids were drooping. He clamped onto the top with his right foot. His left foot was crossed over and resting on top of his right. Maybe he dozed, because he started to slip and the top six feet of the dead tree snapped off. After catching himself and fluttering around a bit he regained purchase on the new top, now a much stouter perch.
- Tom Lake

5/27 - Yonkers, HRM 18: Karen Merille's group of second graders from Fieldston Lower School seined at our beach at the Beczak Environmental Education Center. The catch included striped bass (to 120 mm), white perch, Atlantic tomcod, several blue crabs, one Japanese green crab (20 mm) and one beautiful northern pipefish (160 mm).
- Cynthia Fowx

5/28 - Eagle Nest, Dutchess County: In late afternoon Papa was perched on the broken tamarack top twenty feet from the nest. Unlike Mama, his legs have no bands (Mama has a blue band number N42). Both eaglets were sitting in the nest, just looking around. A red-tailed hawk dive-bombed the adult and he took off. As he flew over we could see that there was one missing primary feather in each wing. The red-tail harassed the eagle for a few minutes before both birds disappeared out toward the Hudson, the hawk still in hot pursuit.
- Phyllis Lake, Tom Lake

[N42: Mama is from a nest we call Tusten, along the Delaware River in Sullivan County just below Narrowsburg. She was one of three young born in 1995 to a pair of eagles that have often raised three young annually. Pete Nye]

5/30 - Hannacrois, HRM 132.5: While keeping a lookout for monarchs I observed several viceroys, pearl crescents, tiger swallowtails, and hosts of little wood satyrs, but not a single monarch.
- Liz LoGiudice

5/30 - Esopus Island, HRM 85: I was idling along in my boat 30' off the east shore of Esopus Island near Norrie Point, looking for my elusive relatives who were on the island, and blowing the boat's horn, when up from the depths came a huge brown log that turned out to have a head and a living body complete with eyes and fins. I had never seen anything over three feet long in the Hudson before, let alone this seven foot Atlantic sturgeon. It lifted his head out of the water as if to say hello and look at the boat. After the fish finished sizing me up, it dropped down and actually bumped my boat before swimming casually off. I felt most privileged to have been visited by the giant fish and humbled to know what we share with the river. The Hudson is still a mysterious place with many surprises!
- Wayne M. Birch

5/30 - Hunter's Brook, HRM 67.5: Our glass eel research season on the tidewater of Hunter's Brook ended today. When compared to our data from spring 2003, this season's catches were down 65.2% for glass eels (age 1 year) and 54.7% for pigmented eels (age 2+ years). In an interesting note, for the time in 162 days of collection, our eel net caught fish other than American eels. In the back of the net were four young-of-the-year tessellated darters, all 18 mm long.
- Susanne Lake, Phyllis Lake

6/1 - Rondout Creek, HRM 92: I watched an adult bald eagle wheel over the south side of the Rondout Creek near its mouth on the Hudson. It was a nice complement to the several great blue herons finding a meal in the shallows.
- Dan Shapley

6/1 - Ulster Park, HRM 85: Mama wood duck and fifteen babies were swimming along in a pond just off Old Post Road in Esopus. It was fun watching the ducklings chase each other, scooting along the top of the water.
- Peter Relson, Carol Anderson

6/1 - Manhattan, HRM 2: Our crab pots on Pier 26 are living up to their name. After an entire day of field trips with PS3, where fishing had yielded only shore shrimp and snails, we checked the traps one last time. The only thing better than pulling a 7" jimmy crab out of the Hudson River is pulling it out with twenty third graders screaming in fear and excitement. This is our third adult blue crab this year; we caught another 7" male and a 6" female last week.
- Chris Mancini, Kairo Joseph

6/2 - Queens, New York Bight: Jury duty has its moments. Standing on Queens Boulevard during a short recess, I observed an adult red-tailed hawk flying very low and making the best of rising hot air emanating from the Queens Municipal Court building. I thought for a moment that all this hot air might simply be the sun warming the court house roof, but then I remembered the defense attorney's arguments just moments before.
- Dave Taft

6/3 - Crum Elbow Creek, HRM 82.5: I watched a great blue heron wading in Crum Elbow Creek today. This section of the creek curves, creating an area of relatively calm water.
- Sally Decker

6/3 - Tappan Zee, HRM 28: While out sailing in the afternoon we watched the research vessel Oceanus slowly make its way up the river from the Tappan Zee to Haverstraw, then back down to Sleepy Hollow where it turned around again and headed back north. Oceanus was displaying ball-diamond-ball day shapes, signaling underwater operations, and was trailing a cable over her stern. She pretty much kept to the channel. The 177' Oceanus is owned by the National Science Foundation and operated by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. According to Woods Hole's Web site, Oceanus is doing research for the Navy on a five day trip to the "NE shelf."
- Doug Maass, Diane Maass

6/4 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 75: An adult female turkey and her brood of 12 chicks emerged from chest-high grass in the field behind my house this afternoon and carefully made their way past shad nets spread out for repair. The adult, ever watchful, brought the young birds into the shade of a Norway maple where the chicks hunkered down and began nit-picking before retracing their steps and disappearing into the tall grass. Two young deer, with the new stumps of their first antlers, leaned their heads down low to, with some wonder, observe the chicks more closely as they scurried by. A mockingbird at the top of a spruce tree rattled on, gloriously.
- John Mylod

6/5 - Rondout Creek, HRM 92: We did our usual lighthouse duty today and the usual birds were around. Rain was forecast but it didn't start until after we left. The stars of the show were the very active spawning fish (carp?) in the shallows all around the lighthouse. This is their time, and many of the visitors to the lighthouse spent more time looking at the fish rather than the historic building!
- Bill Drakert, Fran Drakert

6/5 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 75: Hilary Schneck was jogging on the Mid-Hudson Bridge today when she was dive-bombed by a peregrine falcon. She was hit in the head hard enough to create a ¾" gash and draw blood. Incredibly, this is the second time she has been hit. The previous time was exactly 53 weeks ago. I think I'll get her a hard hat.
- Elaine Andersen

[Peregrine falcons nest on the Mid-Hudson Bridge, as they do on all Hudson River bridges. This was likely a female, defending her territory from what she believed was an intrusion and a possible threat to her fledglings.]

6/5 - Piermont Marsh to Alpine Boat Basin, HRM 25-18: Our Hackensack River Canoe and Kayak Club put in at Piermont Marsh just before high tide. Later, while paddling back into the marsh near Tallman Mountain, we heard marsh wrens and caught a quick glimpse of one that popped up to check us out. There were many barn swallows as well. Continuing down the river to Alpine, the highlight of the gray day was a brilliant scarlet tanager along the shore just south of the old Forest View picnic area. It was hopping around bushes of multi-flora rose and gave us some good looks.
- Bob Rancan, Robyn Lowenthal, Phil Brown, Kevin Foster

6/6 Kingston Point, HRM 92: As we walked around Kingston Point we came upon a huge snapping turtle laying eggs near the ball field. If ever there were eggs laid with zero chance of success, these were the ones. Turtles have been around a long time but wisdom does not necessarily come with longevity.
- Bill Drakert, Fran Drakert

6/7 Eagle Nest, Dutchess County: Both eaglets were still in the nest at dawn, finishing up their morning delivery of fish. Each had their own, it seemed, as they were feeding at either end of the nest. As he has done in each of the last two years, Papa brings his fish to a dead tamarack several hundred feet away, eats all the good parts, and then brings the rest to the eaglets. This morning he carried an 18" eel in his talons to the feeding perch.
- Tom Lake

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