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Hudson River Almanac June 13 - June 18, 2006

OVERVIEW

Summer - like every season on the Hudson - has its delights. On clear nights in the High Peaks, the constellations seem three-dimensional; on the estuary, small, tropical-looking saltwater fish appear in the lower river as salinity increases.

HIGHLIGHT OF A PREVIOUS WEEK

6/6 - Albany, HRM 145: A relatively large common map turtle (carapace length ~9") was basking on a floating log in a tidal pond at the Corning Riverfront Preserve. Based on size alone, it could be presumed to be an adult female. This record complements the New York State Herpetology Atlas data base by adding Troy South Quad to the distribution map, which was formerly a conspicuous hole along Albany County's riverfront.
- Mark Fitzsimmons

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

6/13 - Stockport, HRM 121-123: Seems like all God's creatures wanted to enjoy one of our first days of real, honest-to-goodness sunshine today, and I was one of them. While most creatures were drying off or basking in the sun like cormorants with their wings spread, or painted turtles resting on old pilings, I was eager to get wet - my kayak at least - again. Paddling north from the mouth of Stockport Creek and continuing on the east side of the island, no matter where I turned, there seemed to be wildlife all around. A great blue heron rolled on a log just like an Adirondack lumberjack to keep its balance as it patiently waited for an unsuspecting fish. A small inlet was a busy intersection for ducks, muskrats, and damselflies. When I heard a deer give numerous "blows" as my kayak approached shore, I knew it must be doe with fawn. Sure enough, I backed away and saw the spotted youngster run up the hill behind its Mom. Watching me watch the scene was an adult bald eagle staying cool in the leaf shade of a cottonwood. As my kayak came back into Stockport Creek with the high tide, I watched two young boys - Jesse and Shawn - excitedly toss back a rather large catfish. Their excitement wasn't about the catfish, but what they had found attached to its body. Shawn thought it was a leech and all Jesse knew was that it "creeped" him out. But they both knew it was something different than their usual river catches, and someone should investigate. It turned out to be a sea lamprey, probably a female based on some morphological characteristics, 16 cm long (6.3"), that Jesse willingly relinquished to me for further study. This was my first lamprey from the Hudson, and I agree with Jesse - they're kind of creepy.
- Fran Martino

[Sea lampreys are anadromous - they spend their adult life at sea but return to freshwater to spawn. Sea lampreys have been documented spawning in Catskill Creek, Stockport Creek, Roeliff Jansen's Kill, and Black Creek. It is probable that other tributaries are also used. Spawning probably occurs in late May through June. The early larvae (called ammocoetes) drift downstream and settle into sandy or silty areas in the stream. These are filter feeders and remain buried in the sediment, filtering small organic particles out of the water. They may remain in the ammocoete stage for 5-7 years. After attaining a certain size or age, they transform into the juvenile lamprey - developing eyes and large numerous teeth in the mouth - and migrate to sea to take up a parasitic existence, attaching themselves to other fishes. They stay at sea for several years and return to the Hudson to spawn when sexually mature. Robert Schmidt.]

6/13 - Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge, HRM 95: As we passed under the bridge en route to the Saugerties Lighthouse, we noticed 2 peregrine falcons pursuing a pigeon. The pigeon made a valiant effort to escape the falcons for more than a minute, flying around the piers and beneath the spans of the bridge with sudden twists and turns. We momentarily lost sight of the falcons and pigeon until we saw a falcon swoop repeatedly over the water in what we assumed was an attempt to retrieve a wounded or dead pigeon.
- Patrick Landewe, Dick Duncan, and Dock Schuter

6/13 - Esopus Meadows, HRM 87: Chris Bowser and I were loading my truck with displays and supplies from the Esopus Meadows Environmental Center for the Great Hudson River Revival. But we had to stop and watch as hundreds of acres of Esopus Meadows shallows were erupting with spawning carp. There seemed to be two males to each female and some of them looked like small submarines cruising along.
- John Mylod

6/13 - Hudson Valley: For most Hudson Valley bald eagle nests, this was Day 72, the average date when nestlings become fledglings. While some nests have already fledged their young, many have not. In the larger picture, you can almost sense a sudden flutter of new wings from at least a dozen nests along the river, a new generation that, as recently as 1997, did not exist.
- Tom Lake

6/13 - Town of Wappinger: Just when I thought I would never again see either of the immature bald eagles that had fledged from nest NY62 four days ago, I spotted one near the tidal Wappinger Creek. It was perched in a big white oak, only to be flushed by some persistent crows. It took off and disappeared into the treeline.
- Tom Lake

6/14 - Newcomb, HRM 302: I have 3 baby chickadees in my bluebird nest box at home. On the other side of the same nest box, the bluebirds have 4 eggs. Another nest box on the golf course has 5 eggs.
- Ellen Rathbone

6/14 - Hannacrois, HRM 132.5: This morning I noticed a medium-sized snapping turtle sitting in the middle of the quiet country road outside my house. I talked to her for a bit, warning her to get out of the road. She didn't seem to be listening, so I went to get my trusty snow shovel to encourage her. When I returned to the road with my shovel, she had decided to move and was walking in her slow, lumbering manner across the road. Satisfied that she had reached safety, I went back inside. When I came out a few minutes later, the turtle was in my front yard. I watched her for a bit and snapped her picture, then went back inside to get ready for work. When I came outdoors again, the turtle was climbing up my front steps! She sat on my porch for several minutes, digging around a bit as if looking for a spot to lay eggs. When I finally left, she had made her way to the tilled garden and was digging in the carrot patch. When I returned home in the evening, I could see several spots where she had dug, but could find no signs of eggs.
- Liz LoGiudice

6/14 - Denning's Point, HRM 60: I took a walk around Denning's Point this morning at low tide to reconnoiter for a field archaeology and river ecology course beginning next week. What a treat. Wood thrush and veery sang, Japanese honeysuckle filled the air with fragrance, and the orchid-like flowers of the northern catalpa covered much of the trail. Kingfishers clattered as I stepped onto the beach to watch 9 great blue heron. They were still as mimes with nerves of steel, as hundreds of spawning carp the size of toaster ovens exploded all around them in the bay. It sounded like a war zone. An adult bald eagle took off from the base of the point, carrying a fish. It flew down the bay side, around the point, and disappeared. Later, when I made it out to the end, I found the nearly consumed remains of a foot-long striped bass under a big cottonwood. Nearby were a half-dozen feathers. That bird had been in this tree before. There were clouds of young-of-the-year banded killifish in the shallows among the wild celery and water chestnut. Near the tip of the point I looked for a feature I had seen 4 years ago: a small lens of oyster shells underlaying a lens of freshwater mussels on the side of a bank. It had eroded away. At the bottom of the bank were half a dozen old freshwater mussel valves and an oyster shell from the original strata. These refuse middens tell a story of a transition from brackish to freshwater 5,000-3,000 years ago. (Six miles upriver at New Hamburg is Diamond Reef, a mid-river projection of bedrock that may have been the tenuous upriver extent of oysters in the distant past.)
- Tom Lake

6/15 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Morning dawned cool and clear, a blue sky with a gentle breeze blowing. Rynda McCray came in this morning to the Adirondack Parks Visitors Interpretive Center and announced she had a monarch butterfly at her house. I may have also seen one a couple of weeks ago. Monarchs aren't usually here until late July, early August. Our toads were trilling away last night, and I heard a woodcock twittering in the dark. No fireflies yet.
- Ellen Rathbone

6/15 - Saugerties, HRM 102: We took a stroll near a stream on our property while reminiscing on all the wonderful nature happenings we've seen over the years. I recalled that we hadn't seen "One-claw" in a long time. One-claw, as we call her, is an adult female wood turtle we first saw in the mid 1980s and again in 1988 and 1991. She's easy to identify because her right rear foot has only one claw, and her left rear foot is missing one claw. Although I check every wood turtle I spot on the outside chance we might see One-claw again, she's been missing for 15 years. While we're talking, my wife looks down and, quite coincidently, sees a wood turtle. It was One-claw! She was still in the vicinity of the forest stream where we'd seen her in years past, but now 450' upstream in the adjoining forest. Apparently wood turtles live long and range over large areas. I can't tell you how enchanting it was to see a wild creature from 15-20 years ago and know that she's still here. It was a very special encounter for us both. She may even outlive us!
- Dan Marazita, Jan Marazita

6/15 - Hathaway's Glen Brook, HRM 63: This small Orange County stream spills down the fall line into a short run to the river. Even with spring tides, the tidal reach is only a couple of hundred feet. A third of an inch of rain fell overnight as tropical storm Alberto passed us at sea, and this morning the brook was running swiftly. The brook temperature was 61°F; a few hundred feet away, out on the river, the water was 72°F. We pulled a seine into the face of a strong northeast wind, a remnant of Alberto, and caught scores of adult banded killifish, both males and females. From the sandy shallows we also caught a dozen tessellated darters, a few white perch and a couple of small blue crabs.
- Tom Lake, A. Danforth

6/15 - Eagle Nest NY62, Dutchess County: The nest was still empty but the adults were back. Leaving her perch in a tall white pine, Mama flew low enough overhead that I could see her blue leg band. Papa flew past on a line heading up the hill into the trees, out of sight. The two fledglings were around but well hidden. Perhaps not by choice but by their unwillingness to fly with novice wings on a such blustery day.
- Tom Lake

6/15 - Mount Taurus, HRM 55: My brother and I hiked up the back of Mount Taurus in the Hudson Highlands across from Storm King. The wind on the summit was blowing strong from the north. As we sat on the rocks we had an unusually close, albeit brief, views of birds that are usually just specks in the sky. Birds were skimming over the summit right above us. I've experienced this on Anthony's Nose, 9 miles downriver. There it was raptors, including a close up peregrine. Today it was turkey vultures and barn swallows.
- Scott Craven

6/16 - Croton Point, HRM 34: The salt front has slowly been creeping northward through Haverstraw Bay over the last few days, and with it are coming juveniles of marine species that spend their early months of life in estuaries. This evening we seined on the south shore of the point to catch fish for the aquaria at Clearwater's Great Hudson River Revival. In our catch of many white perch and hogchokers was a juvenile Atlantic croaker (3½").
- Steve Stanne

[Croakers are a member of the drum family of fishes. Saltwater drum such as northern kingfish, silver perch, weakfish and spot are often quite common in the lower estuary as juveniles. Most of them have a highly specialized swim bladders that serve as sound-producing organs. This has led to the colloquial name of "drum" and, in this case, "croaker." C. Lavett Smith.]

6/17 - Newcomb, HRM 302: I saw a monarch flying about the yard today. It is just so early for them. We don't have any milkweed family plants of any size yet in my gardens. But then it was only one butterfly, so maybe it isn't looking for a place to lay yet. The roadsides are full of wildflowers in glorious profusion: bright white daisies, golden buttercups, birdsfoot trefoil, wild roses in a spectrum of pinks, rich purple vetch, deep orange and bright yellow hawkweed, assorted clovers. And this evening I saw a brown-eyed susan starting to unfold a petal or two.
- Ellen Rathbone

6/17 - Hathaway's Glen Brook, HRM 63: Among the first young-of-the-year (yoy) river herring showed up in the net today, small 2" alewives, barely two months old. Over the next 4 months, now until the end of October, millions of young herring will exit the estuary for the sea where most will spend the next four years maturing to adulthood, becoming the next spawning stock.
- Tom Lake

[Young-of-the-year aptly describes the multitude of recently hatched aquatic fauna found in the Hudson River each spring, summer and fall. The progeny of river herring, shad, striped bass, blue crabs, shrimp, jellyfish and many others are present by the tens of millions. So many references are made to their presence that scientists have taken to abbreviating young-of-the-year to yoy. Tom Lake.]

6/18 - Newcomb, HRM 302: We hit 89°F in the shade today. My chickadees have fledged; they were gone by last evening. I checked yesterday morning when I set out a few mealworms for them. They grow up so fast. There are also 4 baby bluebirds in one of the nest boxes on the golf course. They must have just hatched. I peeked in last evening. Two were very tiny with hardly any fuzz at all (99.9% bald), and two were a bit larger, with a bit more fuzz (maybe only 95% bald). I feel like a proud parent.
- Ellen Rathbone

6/18 - Croton Point, HRM 35: This morning we caught another drum, an inch-and-half long spot, mixed in with Atlantic tomcod, white suckers, yellow perch, tessellated darters, pumpkinseed sunfish, banded killifish, fourspine sticklebacks, and more white perch and hogchokers. Later we spotted a common loon headed north over the festival grounds.
- Steve Stanne

[Spot, a small saltwater fish related to the croaker, have the colloquial name of lafayette, a name by which they are known to older generations on the Hudson. Spot get their name from a conspicuous black spot just behind their gill opening above the pectoral fin. The name lafayette has been passed down in river lore since 1824, when a visit of that Revolutionary War general to Manhattan coincided with a great run of these fish in the lower river. Tom Lake.]

6/18 - Tivoli South Bay, HRM 98.5: Using a backpack shocker to capture killifish we managed to catch a small northern watersnake (by hand, got bitten) and a 14" (36 cm) brown trout from the middle of the water chestnut bed - not where I expect to see trout. The trout had a big conical divot taken out of its nape. Eagles? Osprey? Am I the only one who sees these wounds? We also caught two blue crabs and found two moults. In our travels we spotted 3 bald eagles, two adults sitting on the marsh surface and a glimpse of an immature flying over the woods.
- Bob Schmidt, Alec Schmidt

6/18 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 68.5: The days around the summer solstice can be among the warmest of the year and today was about as sultry as it gets. I spotted an immature bald eagle flying slowly, almost wearily, just inland from the river - perhaps one of the fledglings from NY62. The air was still and oppressive, too much for the crows to bother chasing the eagle.
- Tom Lake

6/18 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 68: The air temperature reached 92°F today, tying the record for the date.
- National Weather Service

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