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Hudson River Almanac June 16 - June 22, 2006

OVERVIEW

The summer solstice brings us the warmest days of the year. Along tidewater, the green carpet of water chestnut encroaches on the shallows a bit more every day. Fireflies have finally reached the highest points in the watershed, and our first monarchs have arrived.

HIGHLIGHT OF A PREVIOUS WEEK

6/13 Stuyvesant, HRM 127: There are few freshwater tidal swamps in New York State, and I'm lucky enough to live in a county that contains one, the Lewis A. Swyer Preserve managed by The Nature Conservancy. I've walked the boardwalk many times, but never kayaked from the river into Mill Creek until today. It's the kind of place where you'll see just about every plant listed in the Hudson River Field Guide to Plants of Freshwater Tidal Wetlands. Arrow arum hides its flowers as the pickerelweed gets ready for its violet-blue show. A musical rattling sound heard coming from the cattails could only have been a marsh wren.
- Fran Martino

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

6/16 Ulster County, HRM 100: While at Conservation Day at Wilson State Park in Woodstock, I heard a warbling vireo, calling incessantly, a song quite similar to scarlet tanager but without those "chip-burrrrs" mixed in.
-Larry Biegel

6/19 Crugers, HRM 38.5: We noticed a male house finch on the phone wires outside our front windows this morning. We enjoyed watching him and listening to his melodic song. Soon he was joined by a female, who kept leaving and returning with different objects in her mouth: twine, a large wad of what looked like cotton, and twigs. She flew down, with the various objects, out of our view. Another male tried to push the first one off the wire but was unsuccessful. Later we noticed a finch flying out of one of our hanging silk geranium baskets, no doubt holding the nest that mama was building.
- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson

6/19 Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: When the rain started today, a fine light drizzle, a hummingbird sat on the deer fence that encloses our flower garden. The little bird stretched its neck, turned its head right and left, up and down, flushed its body feathers out, spread its tail, all but soaped its armpits as it took a shower. Finally finished, it shook itself back to the size of a pea pod, and flew off. Quite a show.
- Robin Fox

6/20 Newcomb, HRM 302: I rescued a cedar waxwing this evening. On my way to a meeting, I spotted it sitting strangely on the road. I collected the bird and drove out to Goodnow Flow to our local wildlife rehabilitator. She determined that it was probably fine but, being cautious, she opted to keep it overnight for observation. Meanwhile, it was feeding time for the 3 baby raccoons she has, so I got to do the feeding. What a racket they make when they want to be fed - loud doesn't begin to describe it! But cute as buttons and eager to eat.
- Ellen Rathbone

6/20 La Grange, HRM 76: Chris Mierisch was reviewing an archaeological site map, pacing off a transect line in the woods, when a black bear popped up from behind the stone foundation of a 19th century house. Chris left the woods to the bear.
- Tom Lake

6/20 Yonkers, HRM 18: This morning at the Beczak Center we had an adult art program that required some beach combing to collect objects to sketch. We headed to the river at low tide and, to our surprise, saw a sturgeon carcass washed up in the marsh. Cynthia Fowx and I measured it at about 39". We were unable to determine if it was a shortnose or Atlantic sturgeon because it had already begun to decompose.
- Vicky Garufi

[At 39", this sturgeon was at or near the maximum length for a shortnose sturgeon, but well within the range of the larger Atlantic sturgeon we have in the river. To make a definitive identification would have required a look at the head and mouth, both of which were "beyond viewing." Tom Lake.]

Summer Solstice

6/21 Newcomb, HRM 302: The air temperature fell into the glorious upper-40s overnight and even now in mid-morning is still only in the low 50s. Wonderful. A light fog hovered over the town this morning - an Adirondack summer morning as I remember them. The young crows must be fledged as I can hear them calling piteously all around Newcomb.
- Ellen Rathbone

6/21 Ulster Landing, HRM 97: What a spectacular first day of summer with bright blue skies, 85°F, and little humidity. I went out on my deck last night, after the longest day of the year, with the stars in the sky, the murmur of crickets in the background, lightning bugs lit up the shrubs, the sound of fish flopping in the Hudson, and the faint background of traffic going over the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge. It makes you happy to be alive and enjoying the wonders of the world around us. What a wonderful, beautiful night!
- Peg Duke

6/21 Town of La Grange, HRM 76: The Summer Solstice arrived early this morning just about the time we had swatted our hundredth mosquito. We were retracing Chris Mierisch's steps, tentatively, to see if the black bear had moved on so we could continue to work. Several kinds of berries were coming ripe so the lure to stay might have been strong. However, we guessed it was in the next township by now looking for honeycombs. We found plenty of coyote scat but no bear. The woods were full of eastern wood pewees with their plaintive, questioning call: Pee-wee? Pee-wee! As archaeologists, we found it ironic and a little embarrassing to be sneaking around in the woods. There was ample evidence that Indians had been there for thousands of years. To them, having a black bear as a neighbor would have seemed as natural as a sunrise.
- Tom Lake

This reminded us of a sighting in the Town of Wappinger from June 2004: What began as a possible "cub," perhaps a young bear, even an average adult, soon grew as the story moved along. Over several days, a young, male black bear provided a series of sightings along a three-mile stretch of southern Dutchess County near the Hudson River. The bear made its final appearance ambling up a driveway near Wappinger Creek. The owner confided that "It reared up in front of me and it was ten feet tall!" The animal had finally morphed into a Kodiak brown bear.
- Tom Lake

If you feel uncomfortable sharing the woods with black bears, there are many precautions you can take to avoid meeting one face-to-face. Here are just a few:
- Do not wear fragrances; use unscented insect repellent.
- Never, ever, leave food lying around, especially when you are camping. Avoid strong smelling foods while hiking, camping, or working in bear country.
- If you visit a "berry patch," make noise as you approach or sing a song especially if your voice is off-key.
- You can wear "bear bells,"designed for places like Yellowstone National Park and grizzly bears, though that will stifle birdsong and lessen your deep woods experience.
- If you do encounter a bear, enjoy the sight but back away slowly and give the bear plenty of space.

6/21 Town of Wappinger: Early this morning an immature bald eagle flew over our house. I heard its continuous screeching. I heard a second bird squawking loudly and spotted an adult sitting atop a tamarack. The young bird flew around the adult until both took off. Later they both returned to perch in a hemlock.
- Rosalie Pung, Bruce Pung

[These two bald eagles, the adult and the newly-fledged immature, may have been from nest NY62 in southern Dutchess County. Tom Lake.]

6/22 Hyde Park, HRM 82: As we were putting the nest protector cage in place over a box turtle nest by lantern light tonight, we were treated to the appearance of a juvenile praying mantis. It was only about an inch long, and was catching the tiny bugs attracted by the light. It stayed on the lantern while we worked, climbing up the glass and snatching bugs voraciously.
- Jude Holdsworth, Matt Harris, John Balint

6/22 Denning's Point, HRM 60: Milkweed was in full bloom so it was not surprising when I saw my first two monarchs of the season. A morning high tide had all herons but one resting elsewhere waiting for the afternoon low tide. A black-crowned night heron was perched on a deadfall, a few feet off the water, watching fish that were probably too deep to catch. By late afternoon, the bay had emptied most of its water and nine great blue herons stalked the flats. The river was 77°F and the salinity was undetectable.
- Tom Lake

6/22 Cornwall, HRM 57: During a mid-morning walk along Hudson, we spotted two small downy woodpeckers chattering excitedly in a magnificent old white pine. It didn't take long to discover the cause of the commotion: a very busy mom downy showed up and provided each with a tasty snack before all three flew off to continue the endless search for good grub!
- Ann Murray

6/22 Yorktown, HRM 44: While parked in front of a local store, we noticed what appeared to be a cliff swallow atop a sign in the parking lot. There also seemed to be a lot of bird activity under the eaves of the building. Having only seen photos of cliff swallows, we wondered if this indeed was one and if it was usual for them to hang around buildings in such populated areas.
- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson

[Before European settlement, cliff swallow breeding colonies were found in canyons, escarpments, and other habitats that had cliffs with overhangs for nest attachment. Today they frequently build their gourd-like mud nests under eaves and overhangs on bridges and buildings in many settings, towns and shopping malls included. Steve Stanne.]

6/22 Verplanck, HRM 40.5: The number of mute swans is growing in Lake Meahagh. The present count is well over 40 as the very shallow lake continues to fill with vegetation blooms.
- Pat Korn

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