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Hudson River Almanac June 13 - June 18, 2005

OVERVIEW

Last week we mentioned turtles making their way to and from nesting areas, crossing roads and needing rescue. Kim Hatzmann-Biros reminds us to never to pick up a turtle by its tail, as the spine is fused to the shell. The turtle's own weight could cause severe spinal damage. This makes it trickier to assist a snapping turtle. Erik Kiviat adds that a snapping turtle, especially a large one, can be injured if picked up by the tail. He tries to pick them up by one or both hind legs or the rear edge of the shell. Erik warns us to be careful of the claws, which can lacerate.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

6/16 - Moordener Kill, HRM 138.5: We went on an expedition to check some old records of a minnow, the central stoneroller, in Hudson River tributaries. One of the tributaries we sampled was the Moordener Kill just north of Castleton-on-Hudson. Although we did not catch stonerollers, we did succeed in catching several longnose suckers. This species closely resembles the very common white sucker in size and color, but the longnose - not surprisingly - has a longer nose that hangs over the mouth, much smaller scales, and a very faint reddish line on its side. We also caught white sucker in the same spots. In C. Lavett Smith's The Inland Fishes of New York State, longnose sucker records on the east side of the tidal Hudson come only from the Stockport Creek drainage. Our discovery of this species in the Moordener Kill is a new drainage record.
- Bob Schmidt, Perry Vasta, Mer Mietzelfeld, Bob Daniels, Brian Weatherwax, Rick Morse, Todd Hunsinger

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

6/13 - Warren County: The Bolton area received nearly 6" of rain over a three hour period. An area of the Northway (I-87) just south of exit 24 was closed for three days, a total washout from what is normally a quiet little stream passing through a 6-foot diameter culvert. Torrents of water came ripping down its ravine and washed out north and southbound lanes for a distance of 100-150'. The Schroon River passing through Warrensburg was well over flood stage and became quite the force, fast and brown with sediment - lots of real estate flowing through to be dumped into the Hudson. The Hudson near The Glen was the highest I've ever seen it for this time of year. It is very swift, and has expanded laterally to cover some of the herbaceous vegetation that lies on both sides of the river.
- Mike Corey

6/14 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Wild roses and yarrow were blooming as were assorted clovers. Birdsfoot trefoil has been in bloom for about a week.
- Ellen Rathbone

6/14 - Beacon Landing, HRM 61: Two dozen of Linda Houlihan's South Avenue Elementary fifth graders walked over a mile to the river to see who was home. It was evident early on that this would be a three-ring circus, our attention being pulled in many directions. On our hike to the beach we saw male and female Baltimore orioles flitting from tree to tree, from nest to forage and back. Overhead we were shadowed by several black vultures and turkey vultures. On old dock pilings out in the bay, cormorants perched and spread their wings to dry. Great blue herons stalked the shallows and Canada geese and mallards herded their broods between patches of water chestnut. In the water chestnut, keg-sized carp were leaping and cavorting. A fresh westerly breeze kept us cool despite the 90°F air temperature. Using beach seines we captured and released American eels, killifish, white perch, redbreast and pumpkinseed sunfish, and yearling striped bass. The kids' favorites were the quarter-sized blue crabs.
- Rebecca Johnson, Tom Lake

6/15 - Indian Kill, HRM 85: On evening walks at Norrie Point, we have enjoyed watching two Baltimore oriole nests and an eastern kingbird nest all in the same sycamore tree near the mouth of the Indian Kill. One night we watched two beavers passing each other in the creek, with much tail slapping.
- Pat Joel, Bill Joel

6/15 - Eagle Nest, Dutchess County: Day 70. The eaglet was still in the nest. Mama and Papa were feeding her regularly, two to three times a day, and so far her manners have been much better than those of previous nestlings.
- Tom Lake

6/16 - Eagle Nest, Dutchess County: Day 71. Our eaglet miss has fledged. She was there last night and she was there at 8:30 this morning. But she was not there at 9:45 when relief observer Mary Borrelli arrived. Neither of us saw her leave. I'm guessing that she left from the north side of the nest, as both fledglings did last year.

At 3:00 PM the nest was empty as a vicious thunderstorm rolled across the river from the west. The sky was black as midnight, the air became an eerie yellow; the wind roared, trees bent and toppled. The rain was torrential. Every driveway was a muddy river. A sycamore was struck by lightning within 100 yards of the nest tree. The flashes were blinding. Power dropped (as many as 12,000 people lost power). I could hear sirens, probably responding to lightning strikes and downed trees. From 3:15 to 5:15 PM, my rain gauge captured 4.51". Across the river at Danskammer Point, they recorded 4.5".

By 5:45 PM, the storm was edging away. From our open window I could hear crows mobbing something nearby. We went out in the rain to investigate, expecting to find them raiding songbird nests. There, perched in a basswood on the south edge of our front yard, was the female eaglet. The crows and blue jays were merciless. (My wife thinks I left a fresh fish up in the tree to lure her here.)
- Tom Lake

6/17 - Eagle Nest, Dutchess County: The newly fledged eaglet was still in our basswood at first light this morning (sunrise at 5:24). The neighborhood was asleep. We live a half mile from the nest tree, so the realization that the eaglet had chosen our tree from countless others still amazed me. By 5:15 the crows were at it again. At 5:30 the eaglet left the basswood and flew low across the road to my neighbor's yard where she attempted to land in a 35' black cherry. The smallish tree had no adequate perches so she tumbled down the branches, finally grabbing onto a limb with one leg (blue band, P63, clearly visible). She struggled to get free and I noticed she had a vine (maybe bittersweet) wrapped around her foot. However, this was one resilient bird. Within minutes she broke loose, fell out of the tree, and took off to another neighbor's yard, landing on their lawn. After a short break, she took off, flying strongly toward the river. During this 14 hour drama, Mama was nowhere in sight, and I heard no vocalizing at all.
- Tom Lake

At 3:00 PM, Kristin LaMastro and Ryan Lawlor, from Rondout Valley High School, were viewing the nest from our blind as part of a multi-year bald eagle project co-sponsored by Dynegy Corp. Mama and the female fledgling were not around, but Papa was. He alternately sat in the nest, perched in the white pine 100 feet to the west, and flew around the around the area calling. He reminded me of a nervous dad waiting for his daughter to come home from the prom. He may have been functioning as a beacon to help the eaglet find her way back, assuming she was somewhere in the area with Mama.
- Tom Lake, Elissa Jury, Mark McLean

Bald Eagle Nest NY62 Fledge Dates: The drama that has played out here in southern Dutchess County is only one of more than a dozen bald eagle nests along Hudson tidewater where similar scenes are unfolding.

Bald Eagle Nest NY62 Data
Year Band Sex Fledge Date
2001 no none no eggs laid
2002 V10 Male July 16, 85 days
2003 V72 Male June 16, 77 days
2004 Y56 Male June 16, 73 days
2004 Y57 Female June 17, 74 days
2005 P63 Female June 16, 71 days

6/17 - West Point, HRM 52: It seems Lady Guinevere, the female red-tailed hawk from this year's Pendragon clutch, has begun testing her wings and has left the nest. I suspected this would happen when on 6/14 I noticed Guinevere sitting on the light tower bars three feet above the nest. This morning, Uther and Igraine, the proud parents, were both seated on the steeple of the Catholic Chapel enjoying the gorgeous weather. Looking at the nest with my binoculars, I could see Lancelot hopping about the platform where the nest is located on the light tower, but saw no sign of Guinevere. However, I could occasionally hear her in the trees behind me, so knew she wasn't far away. Both Uther and Igraine will continue to keep close watch and teach their offspring to hunt and feed themselves. This year's chicks are behaving similarly to last years'. The females leave the nest first and the males wait a few more days, afraid to let go of Mom's apron strings. In fact, last week Lancelot did just that, tugging at Igraine's wing and tail feathers as she stood on the nest. Lancelot still needs to grow in his head plumage (still mostly down feathers) before he fledges, but it won't be long. At last year's nest site, two light poles north, it looks like one of last year's female offspring, either Anna or Elaine, was practicing nest building skills. Some fresh, green vegetation (a branch with leaves) had been added to the old nest. This is similar to what Morganna, the 2003 offspring, did in 2004.
- Jim Beemer

6/17 - Croton River, HRM 34: Rebecca Johnson, Melissa Henneman and I seined in Croton Bay and just inside the railroad trestle at the mouth of the Croton River, collecting fish for exhibit aquaria at Clearwater's Great Hudson River Revival festival. While netting, we watched an osprey make three or four unsuccessful dives into the Croton River inside the tracks. Much of our catch was juvenile fish spawned earlier this spring, mostly menhaden and tessellated darters not much more than an inch long. I suggested that we quickly release these - such small fish aren't especially good subjects for interpretation in the hustle and bustle of a festival - but Rebecca couldn't resist tossing a few into our buckets. Among larger individuals, white perch and hogchokers dominated the bay catch. By the trestle, we netted lots of mummichogs and banded killifish, along with a few small red-breasted sunfish. Blue crabs up to 3" carapace width were also common at both sites; several were freshly molted and soft shelled. A nice surprise at the latter site was a juvenile Atlantic needlefish about 2" long. Another surprise came when we transferred our catch into the aquaria. One of the little fish Rebecca had put in the buckets was a juvenile mullet about 35 mm long. Lacking a specialized fish key, we couldn't pin down which species, striped or white. Ours didn't have stripes, but that didn't mean much; we later learned that striped mullet do not get their stripes until they reach 35-45 mm.
- Steve Stanne

[In 11 years, the Hudson River Almanac has six recorded occurrences of mullet in the estuary, three striped mullet and three white mullet. The three white mullet and two of the three striped mullet were taken 17-22 miles south of Croton Point. The only local record was a 40 mm striped mullet caught by Karin Limburg, July 10, 1995, at Croton Point. Tom Lake]

6/18 - Eagle Nest, Dutchess County: The nest was empty. No adults were seen or heard. I began a daily routine that took me from south of Chelsea four miles north to New Hamburg, Bowdoin Park, and the Town of Poughkeepsie looking and listening. Raucous jays or crows might indicate the presence of the female eaglet. Last year's female eaglet (Y57), after leaving the nest, spent two days in a white pine unable to make that second flight until hunger became persuasive.
- Tom Lake

6/18 - Fishkill, HRM 62: For about a week we have noticed a mass of tiny glass-like beads attached to the window glass of our kitchen door. Wishing to see what would evolve from this insect egg mass, we had not disturbed them. Today, with magnifier in hand, we noticed that very tiny ladybird beetles were attracted to this mass or were emanating from the egg mass. A similar conglomeration of beads and ladybird beetles were attached to the leaf of a nearby black-eyed susan.
- Ed Spaeth

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