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Hudson River Almanac June 22 - 30, 2004

OVERVIEW

The release of 110 Atlantic sturgeon into the Hudson River near Kingston was an exciting and festive event. Roughly ten years old, these fish were not yet full grown, but were still impressive in size and appearance. They are primitive-looking and wonderfully adapted creatures whose evolutionary origin reaches back to the Triassic, at least 200 million years ago. Further south, the salt front was steadily creeping upriver. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, it was just north of the Newburgh/Beacon Bridge on June 30. Behind the salt front, near Croton, bluefish were chasing menhaden up the estuary.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

6/28 - Esopus Meadows, HRM 85: At Esopus Meadows, dusk is often prime time to see river mammals. Tonight I saw what I could only guess was an injured beaver paddling awkwardly around the fringes of the water chestnut beds. Once the spotting scope came into focus, I laughed. This was no beaver or muskrat in distress. It was a young porcupine intent on reaching shore. Though not as sleek in the water as its river rodent cousins, the porcupine at least has a coat made from hollow quills that must make staying afloat easy. Once on land, it waddled across the small wooden bridge where I was standing, ignoring my presence, and proceeded to march loudly into a thicket of Japanese knotweed before disappearing from view.
- Dave Conover

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

6/22 - Town of Ulster, HRM 95: The giant tractor trailer with a flatbed carrying three large circular tanks full of Atlantic sturgeon arrived at Charles Rider Park right on schedule. The truck, on loan from the state of Maryland, had loaded 110 sturgeon at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife hatchery in Lamar, PA, early that morning. These fish, the progeny of Hudson River fish spawned at the hatchery, weighed up to 50 pounds and measured as long as four feet. All were tagged, and ten had implanted sonar devices that will allow DEC fisheries staff to track their movement to learn more about what habitats sturgeon are using.

After a brief address from DEC Commissioner Erin Crotty, the eager crowd of DEC staff, representatives of other agencies, and curious members of the public lined up to carry the fish one by one down the boat ramp to the water where fisheries staff helped launch them on their way. Imagine the shock of being liberated in the wide Hudson River after a decade in a hatchery. Some of the fish took a few minutes to get their bearings. Some leaped out of the water. An amazed great blue heron landed nearby to take a look. The impact was equally great on all the humans who participated.

The next day, Hudson River Fisheries Unit staff found six of the sonar tagged sturgeon in deep water between the Kingston-Rhinecliff bridge and the Esopus Lighthouse. The other four may have headed north. We'll find out more in the coming days.
- Bethia Waterman, DEC Hudson River Estuary Program

6/22 - What a marvelous gift to be a part of the Atlantic sturgeon release. The exhilaration of being so close to those young, yet ancient, fish has was intense. As I carried a juvenile sturgeon in a net, heading for the water, it occurred to me that this act was the reverse of the time-worn ritual of sturgeon-human interaction. Rather than capturing the fish and hauling it onto land, we were releasing it back into its native waters. As a naturalist, I look forward to seeing updates in the Almanac on the activities of the sturgeon with the internal sonar tags.
- Liz LoGiudice

6/22 - This was the first time I had ever seen a sturgeon. Some of the fish were quite large, about 4 feet. I got to carry a fish down to be released. Now I get to say, "I helped release a sturgeon into the Hudson River!"
- Annika Beard, Nancy Beard

6/22 - Fishkill, HRM 62: We walked along gathering the ripened highbush blackberries that were abundant along the roadside, and admiring the cream-colored blossoms of foxglove blooming in areas dappled by partly-shaded sunlight.
- Fred Colver, Fidel Muguerza, Matthew Muguerza, Ed Spaeth

6/22 - West Point, HRM 52: We went down at lunch time to watch the "Pendragon" clan of red-tailed hawks that nest each spring on the light towers at the U.S. Military Academy's Shea Stadium. While the mated pair and this year's triplets were not present, Morganna, the female progeny from 2003, was perched two towers south of the active nest location. She was practicing weaving twigs into a nest using a "nest pile" on her tower, the product of previous years' practice sessions.
- Jim Beemer, Kaylee Seagraves

6/23 - Cornwall-on-Hudson, HRM 57: While traveling back and forth between our two Museum of the Hudson Highlands locations in Cornwall and Cornwall-On-Hudson, we were pleasantly surprised to see two hen turkeys helping their 16 young poults safely cross the road to a meadow. The wild turkeys in this area are doing well this year.
- Ann Szigethy

/24 - Tivoli North Bay, HRM 100.5: Seining as part of our annual Hudson River National Estuarine Research Reserve fish monitoring program, we pulled up a single blue crab that measured 32 mm point-to-point across its shell. We do see blue crabs in the Tivoli area, although not every year. I don't recall seeing any last year. This incident seems early in the season for upriver blue crabs.
- Bob Schmidt, Nsikan Akpan, Jackie Anderson

6/24 - Eagle Nest, Dutchess County: It was a gorgeous morning. I could hear wood thrush singing and twice a female northern oriole flew across my path. Both eaglets were in the "sanctuary" pine, on the same branch, just 18" between them. Now a week past their fledge, they finally seem to be at ease with their new world. The young male, perched near the end of the branch, became very vocal, jumping up and down while looking toward the river. Somewhere out there one of the adults had just made a successful hunt. - Tom Lake

6/24 - Fishkill, HRM 62: Our daily butterflies: a great spangled fritillary feeding at the zinnia flowers, a banded hairstreak perched on a table in the yard (this small cocoa brown butterfly with a touch of blue and orange on its hind wings keeps its wings together as it rests; a favored host plant of this species is black walnut of which there are many in the area) and, later, a silver-spotted skipper perched on the shepherd's hook in a sunny spot.
- Ed Spaeth

6/24 - Kowawese, HRM 59: On a warm day, the water felt terrific, about 73°F in the shallows. We fished our 80-foot seine, catching the usual horde of white perch, but also some juvenile striped bass, quite a few small blue crabs, spottail shiners, and one 23 mm long tessellated darter. I've never seen one that small. It was a young-of-the-year, probably a June hatch. The highlight was a gorgeous male mummichog in breeding colors of iridescent purple and blue bars. The beach above the tideline was littered with empty zebra mussel shells. The salinity was less than 1.0 ppt.
- A. Danforth, Robert Jados, Frankie Humbert, Tom Lake

6/24 - Eagle Nest, Dutchess County: In early evening we quietly snuck into the woods and looked up. The young male eagle peered down at us from his perch 99 feet overhead. Nearby the young female, sitting on the edge of the nest, did likewise, checking us out. We had not come bearing fish, so they were not too interested. We retreated and soon they took off and flew circles over our head, each pursued by a single crow. They made pirouettes in the air facing a warm southerly breeze, looking as though they thoroughly enjoyed this new thing called flying.
- Davis Natzle, Fran Dunwell, Tom Lake

6/25 - Brandow Point, HRM 118: I glanced out the window this evening and spotted three woodchucks sitting on the wheelchair ramp leading into the old farmhouse where my office is located. The mother woodchuck and her young looked out at the river - what a peaceful domestic scene. Peaceful, that is, until one of the young - nearly half the size of the mother - attempted to nurse. The mother attacked, pushing the weanling with her front feet and biting at it with her sharp teeth. The second weanling promptly hid beneath the wheelchair ramp. The mother ambled off to the lawn for a snack, with the hungry weanling trailing behind her, undeterred by her rebuff.
- Liz LoGiudice

6/25 - Eagle Nest, Dutchess County: At midday, both eaglets were in the nest, the female perched on a horizontal limb just above and the male, ever the adventurous one, was climbing out onto an adjacent limb, calling incessantly. Papa was perched 100 feet to the west in the sanctuary pine, with an eye on the river. The young male was hungry, and where was lunch? He took off and flew to Papa's pine purposely landing on the exact spot where Papa sat. With an agile hop he shifted five feet along the branch and cleared a landing spot just in time. It was the impatience and inexperience of youth.
- Phyllis Lake, Tom Lake

6/28 - Stockport Creek/Stockport Flats, HRM 122: While enjoying an early summer paddle, our group of five canoes saw a multitude of birds. On Stockport Creek we spotted four great blue herons, a broad-winged hawk, a northern oriole, a belted kingfisher, red-winged blackbirds, and barn swallows. While exploring a small channel near the mouth of the creek our paddle was abruptly halted as we reached a newly constructed beaver dam just east of a large beaver lodge. The pickerelweed has just begun to flower. Among the other plants we admired were water chestnut, spatterdock, arrowhead, arrow arum, jewelweed, cattail, and purple loosestrife. While paddling on the river we saw an immature bald eagle, many bank swallows on the south side of Stockport Middle Ground Island, three mute swans and two more great blue herons.
- Molly Shubert

6/28 - Ulster Park, HRM 85: Our private stock of black raspberries is ripe along the river, a week early. The quality and price are outstanding, the taste is great, but they are a bit seedy!
- Bill Drakert, Fran Drakert

6/28 - West Point, HRM 52: I was on my way to work at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point when I got to watch Uther, a red-tailed hawk, feed on a gray squirrel by the Judo Center near Shea Stadium. I first spotted him sitting in the grass, and he stayed there as I made my way past him. I talked to him, reassuringly, explaining that I was no threat. Uther was about three feet away from me and did look up a few times but was not bothered and continued to eat.
- Kaylee M. Seagraves

6/28 - Croton River, HRM 34: There has been a flurry of bluefish action in Croton Bay and at the mouth of the Croton River. Stories of fish caught and fish lost. The largest I've seen taken was 11 pounds, caught with cut bunker. One 7 pound blue came complete with hook, line, steel leader, and sinker - a "big one" that had gotten away.
- Christopher Letts

6/28 - Tappan Zee, HRM 27: We're still catching about ten bushels of blue crabs a week. We are using plenty of menhaden for bait, "bunker" that we catch in our bait nets.
- Bob Gabrielson

[Bunker is a colloquial name for the Atlantic menhaden, a marine member of the herring family. Menhaden spawn in saltwater but spend their first summer, as juveniles, in brackish inland waters. In Long Island sound they are called mossbunker and in New England they are referred to as pogies. Bunker are a favorite prey of bluefish and striped bass.]

6/29 - Croton River, HRM 34: The lower Croton River was alive with small striped bass up to a foot long - lots of fun on light line, but they all have to go back.
- Scott Craven

6/30 - Manhattan, HRM 7: On my early morning dog walk in Riverside Park, I noticed many jellyfish in the river. They were about 3"-4" in diameter, deep purple in the center, becoming white to translucent at the outer edges. Some were at the surface, some a foot or two below. Near the shore they were abundant with perhaps one every square meter or so. Later, at midday, I was in the parking area south of Fairway Market about 1.5 miles upriver, where many Manhattanites congregate to fish. I saw a few of the jellyfish there as well, but not nearly the density that I had seen earlier.
- Kaare Christian

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