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Hudson River Almanac June 13 - 22, 2004

OVERVIEW

This week the Almanac again reminds us of the breadth of diversity that our river and valley enjoy. We were treated to black bears, river otters, sturgeon, horseshoe crabs, and stinkpot turtles. Our newly fledged bald eagles are providing daily entertainment as they test the commitment of their parents. The presence of blue crabs upriver confirms that summer has arrived.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

6/13 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: A black bear had been sighted earlier in the morning three miles downriver at Chelsea. Now it was visiting us. I heard my neighbor, John Holmes, calling for his dog and by the time I looked out all I could see was the back of the bear cutting a wide swath through the tangled jewelweed heading into the woods. We estimated that the bear weighed at least 300 pounds.
- Eileen Chadwick

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

6/14 - Yonkers, HRM 18: Bluebirds nested at Lenoir Preserve again this year. Three chicks fledged today. Last year was the first time that bluebirds had nested in Yonkers in more than 50 years.
- Joe O'Connell, Ellen O'Connell

6/15 - Eagle Nest, Dutchess County: Day 72. The male eaglet (Y56) was again out on the edge, poised over open air, looking very confident. The female eaglet was down in the nest out of sight. Papa perched on guard in a white pine not far away. In midday, Mama joined him, and he soon took off for the river - a changing of the guard.
- Tom Lake

6/15 - Fishkill, HRM 62: Typically late to breed, two American goldfinches were spotted in the act of "courtship feeding" as they briefly paused on an abandoned bluebird nestbox before flying into the nearby woods. While I painted some windows, an eastern comma, a striking orange and brown butterfly, properly punctuated the task at hand by settling nearby between the first and second coats of paint, allowing me to enjoy its presence while the first coat dried.
- Ed Spaeth

6/16 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Toby Rathbone and I found white columbines yesterday evening while walking around the Sucker Brook Trail. I've never seen white before and, according the Newcomb's Wildflower Guide, there's no such thing. Must be a genetic anomaly.
- Ellen Rathbone

6/16 - Black Creek, Town of Esopus, HRM 79: While electro-shocking Black Creek as a part of our sampling efforts for American eels in Hudson River tributaries, we came across two stinkpot turtles. I know these turtles are in the Hudson Valley, but I rarely see them. A quick look at the NYS DEC's Amphibian and Reptile Atlas showed that this species apparently has not been reported from Black Creek. There are still quite a few surprises left in the streams of the Hudson Valley.
- Bob Schmidt, Alec Schmidt, Len Machut, Nsikan Akpan

6/16 - Fishkill, HRM 62: While our kitchen door was ajar, an Appalachian brown butterfly, its wings lined with small blue spots, flew into our home. After exploring our living room and dining room, it became trapped at our kitchen's garden window in its attempt to escape. Fifteen frustrating minutes went by before I was able to coax it on to a kitchen utensil and then release it outside. It rested momentarily on a lilac bush, but then was off for parts unknown, none the worst for wear.
- Ed Spaeth

6/16 - Eagle Nest, Dutchess County: Day 73. The male eaglet (Y56) has left the nest. I was not there to see it but his spot in the nest was vacant. Both adults were also missing; they are probably out tending to the new fledgling. This is exactly one year to the day when the male eaglet (V72) left last year (Day 77).
- Tom Lake

6/17 - Town of Athens, HRM 116: We had taught and entertained 3rd and 4th graders from the Martin Van Buren School in Kinderhook for the last two days at Cohotate Preserve. We investigated the north bay and the students found some very small eels just starting to get pigment (we could still see the red of their gills). These were formerly "glass eels" that had entered the estuary in late winter from the sea where they had been spawned 6-8 months ago. Two of them measured 55 mm and 85 mm in length.
- Liz LoGiudice, Fran Martino

6/17 - Eagle Nest, Dutchess County: Day 74. The female eaglet has also left the nest. The adults are nowhere to be seen and the nest is empty. An hour earlier, at dawn, I spotted an immature eagle soaring over the river a half-mile due west of the nest. It could have been either fledgling; the light was poor and I could not see the leg bands.
- Tom Lake

6/17 - Wappinger Creek, HRM 67.5: We had stopped at the New Hamburg Metro North Station in early evening, hoping to see a bald eagle. While no eagles were spotted, we did see two black-crowned night herons standing on one of the old wooden boat slips in Wappinger Creek next to the parking lot. One bird was an adult, looking quite dapper in its plumage, while the other was a juvenile, most recently fledged. The juvenile had the black crown but was not decked out like the adult.
- Jim Beemer, Kaylee Seagraves

6/18 - East Greenwich, HRM 188: Eleven miles upstream of its confluence with the Hudson River at Schuylerville, the Battenkill was running moderately high at 65 degrees F. As I stepped down to its edge to collect some river bugs for the Clearwater Hudson River Revival, a muskrat followed right beside me and took to the flowing stream with a mouthful of green vegetation neatly stacked in one direction and held halfway up the stalks. I was amazed how the bugs survived the remarkable parade of curious kids all weekend under the shade of Clearwater's education tent. The whirligig beetles were still spinning three days later when I returned them home.
- Doug Reed

6/18 - Hyde Park, HRM 82: A series of intense, slow-moving thunderstorms crossed the valley overnight. Thee inches of rain was reported in Hyde Park.
- National Weather Service

6/18 - Farmer's Landing, HRM 67: I spotted ten goslings of varying sizes and two adult Canadas clustered together out in the middle of the river today, a half-mile from either shore. There was no wind and it was very calm. The smallest goslings were not yet of flight size. I cannot recall seeing small goslings that far offshore before.
- Tom Lake

6/18 - Haverstraw Bay, HRM 35: Local residents crabbing off the Charles Point dock in Peekskill earlier this week had reported slow going. Today the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater pulled a pair of large blue crabs from Haverstraw Bay, a possible portent of better hauls for Peekskill crabbers in the days to come. And trawling off Croton Point (HRM 34), the crew of the sloop found themselves face to face, yet again, with an Atlantic sturgeon. Our second sturgeon in three weeks! This one was 20" long. A miraculous catch indeed, as the net also contained three good sized menhaden, 5-6 juvenile striped bass, a couple of blue crabs, dozens of hogchokers, Atlantic tomcod, and several white perch.
- Daniel Kricheff

6/18 - Manhattan, HRM 2: Tim Forman visited The River Project today. Tim keeps the riverfront clean and free of debris along the lower west side of Manhattan for the Doe Fund. He had a garbage can with him, inside of which was the biggest horseshoe crab I have ever seen and her much smaller mate. Tim found the crabs while cleaning trash out around Pier 54. They were mating on a small corner of exposed sand at low tide, but were blocked from returning to the water by an itinerant log that had been washed ashore. The female was 23 inches from tip to tail and covered in a map of barnacles, slipper shells and other hangers on. They are currently residing in our largest tank, burrowing around in the sediment and trying to get to our young oysters, which they would probably find delicious.
- Chris Mancini, Jeremy Frenzel, Scott Wingerter

6/19 - Eagle Nest, Dutchess County: The fledglings were back and looking fit, 2-3 days after their maiden flight. In early morning both were perched in a tall white pine 100 feet from the nest. This had been Papa's station when he was on nest duty. The young male, near the top, was being very vocal; the young female, a third of the way down the tree, was very quiet. Mama was perched nearby, watching, listening. By late afternoon, Papa had returned and was perched only ten feet from the female fledgling. The involvement by Papa is much more than I'd witnessed with his fledglings in the last two years. In those instances, with just a single eaglet, Mama did nearly all of the coaching. With two fledglings, Papa is needed. A quarter mile south, the male fledgling was hanging in the breeze, hundreds of feet overhead, in perfect equilibrium with a warm west wind. Not far away, Mama was making circles in the sky.
- Cathy Behnke, Phyllis Lake, Tom Lake

6/20 - Port Ewen, HRM 91: There has been a pair of river otter in the Hudson around my landing for a couple of weeks now. I often see them swimming and playing together.
- Tom Turck

6/20 - Eagle Nest, Dutchess County: Father's Day morning and Papa was in the white pine with the female fledgling. They had both roosted there overnight. Unlike the young male, she seems reluctant to fly. Off to the south I could hear red-tails calling. Papa did as well and he took off. From that direction came the male fledgling, dodging the rush of the hawks. Papa flew close to them and as he banked away he drew the red-tails with him. The young male continued on to the white pine, which by now had become a sanctuary for the young eagles. Trying his best for a smooth landing, he bounced off several branches before finding a stout limb. After a full minute of diatribe, he settled down, not ten feet from where his sister perched. By late afternoon the young male had flown into the nest and was vocalizing loudly. He was hungry and associated the nest with being fed. From his perch he could see the river and probably Mama hunting somewhere out there.
- Tom Lake

6/21 - Tivoli North Bay, HRM 100.5: During the Hudson River Research Reserve's Welcome to Summer paddle we were welcomed by two great blue herons as we paddled the Tivoli North Bay marsh. Half of the group spotted an adult bald eagle circling over the outflow of Stony Creek. We also saw red-winged blackbirds and marsh wrens. We enjoyed views of the Catskills to the west and paddled amongst narrow-leaf cattail, phragmites, spatterdock, yellow flag, jewelweed, arrow arum and water chestnut.
- Molly Shubert

6/22 - Eagle Nest, Dutchess County: At first light both fledglings were back in the nest and Mama had just delivered a fish. Even though the nest is eight feet across, with three full-size eagles vying for space, it was crowded. At one point both fledglings spread their wings and Mama had no choice but to hop up onto a branch over the nest. This could have been a scene from ten days ago. If the young eagles get too comfortable in the nest, they may have to re-fledge.
- Tom Lake

6/22 - Cold Spring, HRM 54: While photographing views of the Hudson River and Storm King Mountain from the riverfront park in mid-afternoon, we saw a ruby-throated hummingbird nectaring at the flowers about the base of the gazebo. It then whizzed over to the flower boxes at the Hudson House restaurant.
- Fred Colver, Fidel Muguerza, Corinne Muguerza, Matthew Muguerza, Ed Spaeth

6/22 - Croton River, HRM 34: At least three osprey were fishing for breakfast this morning. The one mature bird promptly captured a good-sized fish and headed off to Croton Point. The two immature birds missed several strikes each. The real question is, where did they come from and what were they doing here at this time of the year?
- Christopher Letts

[While bald eagle nests are on the increase along the estuary, ospreys are not known to nest here. They are common during spring and fall migration.]

6/22 - Tappan Zee, HRM 27: Bob Gabrielson has been soaking 100 crab pots off Nyack, pulling a third of them each day. He has been catching ten bushels a week (750-800 crabs), most of them #1 Jimmies. He has two buyers for every crab - the demand is great.
- Christopher Letts

[Blue crabs have interesting colloquial names. Adult males are called "jimmies," mature females are called "sooks," and immature females are known as "sallys." Their size (point to point across the carapace) is described as follows. Jumbos are the biggest and the best of the catch - the prime market crab (7"+). #1 Jimmies 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".]

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