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Hudson River Almanac June 3 - June 10, 2007

OVERVIEW

There is no substitute for scientists and rivermen poking their nose in the river with research equipment and fishing gear to discover what is truly happening. Last week we found that the Chinese mitten crab, at least one male, was in the river. This week there was another occurrence in Greene County of a very uncommon sucker (fish) with the confusing name of shorthead redhorse. The true highlight might be yet another sucker, a first for New York State, the bigmouth buffalo. This is a stray from the Mississippi River system that can grow to 60 lb. Collected at river mile 87 in Ulster County, its identification awaits verification by the state ichthyologist.

RECENT HIGHLIGHT

6/9 - North Creek, HRM 257: Almanac tales of bald eagles got me to got to thinking about something that occurred about a month ago. I was heading into North Creek on Route 28N when I saw a group of 4-5 large brown birds hanging out on the bank of a pond. I thought they might be vultures, but when I turned around to check them out it was clear that they were not. Once they flew I was on my way to the conclusion that they were likely immature bald eagles.

- Sue Montgomery Corey

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

6/3 - Mohonk, Ulster County, HRM 73: We were hiking on one of the many trails at Mohonk when we came upon three pink lady's slipper orchids growing right along the side of the path. I have looked and looked for over 40 years of hiking and walking in the Hudson Valley and had never seen one, let alone three! I literally dropped to my knees and could not believe our good fortune at seeing such rare beauty.

- Andra Sramek, Jim Brown

[Like all the native wild orchids, pink lady's slipper is on the New York State Protected Plants List. The U.S. Department of Agriculture lists the pink lady's slipper (Cypripedium acaule) as threatened ("Exploitably Vulnerable") in New York State. Erik Kiviat.]

6/4 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Birdsfoot trefoil and purple vetch were blooming. They seemed to be about on schedule.

- Ellen Rathbone

6/4 - Wappinger Creek, HRM 67.5: The navigation channel in the lower, tidal end of Wappinger Creek seems to be much wider this year. Perhaps a benefit of the April flood (see 4/15-4/16) was to push the water chestnut seeds out of the main current, even deepen the channel a bit, thus leaving a little more open water. It may only be temporary.

- Steve Seymour

6/4 - Little Stony Point, HRM 55: Tropical storm Barry moved slowly past, dropping 1.65" rain in its wake. We were nearing a third quarter moon, the tides were neap, so it was difficult to tell if there was any appreciable storm surge. However, the mid-afternoon high tide seemed a bit eager to reach the floodplain, gently lipping over the top of the beach at Little Stony Point.

- Tom Lake

6/4 - Constitution Marsh Sanctuary, HRM 51.3: On the morning Metro North commute to Manhattan, we spotted a single bald eagle in a tree at the south end of Constitution Marsh. Because of the gray skies and thick foliage we could not tell if it was an adult or immature. One thing is for sure, however, there is a year around eagle presence in the marsh.

- Mike Boyajian, Jeri Wagner

6/5 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Hawkweed, buttercups and daisies were now blooming. I found another nest box with eggs on the golf course with two eggs where there were none last week. We have at least 2 pairs of bluebirds using the boxes this year.

- Ellen Rathbone

6/5 - Athens, HRM 118: The NYSDEC Region 3 Fisheries Unit caught two shorthead redhorses in their haul seine during the adult striped bass and American shad spawning stock survey along the marsh on the west shore just south of Athens. Both were about 18" long.

- Kris McShane

[The shorthead redhorse is a member of the sucker family of fishes. The species was well known from the Mohawk River and its tributaries, but not the mainstem Hudson, until it was collected from the Poesten Kill (HRM 151.5) in 2001 (see Volume VIII:26). This redhorse has expanded its range downstream from the Mohawk into the Hudson in the last decade. Tom Lake.]

6/5 - Town of Wappinger: I went back to check on the home that had been hosting-at-a-distance a red fox family (see Town of Wappinger, 4/30 and 5/4). Coexisting might be a more accurate term. The foxes were still living at the edge of the woods and now, a month since I first saw them, the 4 kits were nearly the size of mom. Dad was becoming a very ephemeral character. The best news, from what I observed and heard from the landowner, was that the kits were learning, day by day, to be more wary of humans. That will bode well for them.

- Tom Lake

6/6 - Newcomb, HRM 302: It was down in the 30s last night and frost is expected tonight. Still, I saw some wild roses blooming this morning. I will have to work at getting all my plants covered outside when I get home tonight.

- Ellen Rathbone

6/6 - Esopus Meadows, HRM 87: The NYSDEC Region 3 Fisheries Unit caught what they identified as a bigmouth buffalo in their haul seine during the adult striped bass and American shad spawning stock survey on Esopus Flats. It was 26" long and was mixed in with numerous common carp of the same size.

- Kris McShane

[Like the shorthead redhorse, the bigmouth buffalo is a member of the sucker family of fishes. They are native to the Mississippi River drainage where they are known to reach 60 lb. While found in Lake Erie, the population seems confined to the shallow western basin (Carl Hubbs, Fishes of the Great Lakes Region). Even though eastern Lake Erie borders New York State, they were not recorded for New York in C. Lavett Smith's 1985 Inland Fishes of New York. Tom Lake.]

6/6 - Tivoli North Bay, HRM 100.5: We made our first seining trip to Tivoli North Bay. On the way to our first station, we saw an osprey fly from a high perch with its dinner, an unidentified fish, in its claws.

- Bob Schmidt, Jennifer Goodwillie, Burton Gaiseb

6/6 - Tappan Zee, HRM 34: In their monitoring study of Hudson River sturgeon, the NYSDEC Hudson River Fisheries Unit captured a 7-foot, 7-inch Atlantic sturgeon today.

- Amanda Higgs

6/6 - Edgewater, NJ, HRM 8.5: The fiddler crabs seem to be rebounding after what appeared to be severe loss of habitat last fall. There are many holes as well as live crabs visible now in the remaining suitable areas of the catch basin. It is interesting that the recent heavy rains seem to have scoured out the bottom of the catch basin so that some areas that used to emerge at low tide are now still submerged at that point in the cycle. The fiddlers will not live where the bottom remains submerged. As a result, there are only a few sections that are occupied with burrows where a year ago the entire bottom was crowded with them.

- Terry Milligan

6/7 - Newcomb, HRM 302: I woke to find ice in the birdbath. Fortunately, I had covered the pumpkins, gourds, tomatoes, and peppers, so they all came through fine. Yarrow was just starting to open this morning. Last night I came across a balsam fir down near the Hudson that had a perfectly round hole about 6' up in the trunk. I was hearing an odd sound, a cross between a chirring and the kind of squeaking groan of a tree rocking. I knocked on the trunk and that made the noise louder. I suspected it was a squirrel den, but even though I hung around a while to see, nothing put in an appearance. No wood turtles yet. I think it has been too cold. They should be out and about soon, though.

- Ellen Rathbone

6/7 - Hudson Highlands, HRM 61-51: The King's Point Merchant Marine Academy Alumni Association were on a 65-foot excursion vessel out of West Point for their 6th annual cruise. In three hours, across ten miles, we saw an osprey on Constitution Island, a few ravens on Storm King Mountain, and a peregrine falcon off Breakneck Ridge. On both Storm King and Breakneck we saw several eyries, probably ravens, possibly peregrines. Two bald eagles soared over Constitution Marsh amidst a half-dozen turkey vultures (turkey vultures were also over Storm King and Breakneck in numbers). A few on board were fortunate enough to see a 5-foot sturgeon breach from deep water near Crow's Nest. Maybe the best sighting was on our way back down as we passed through World's End, the river's deepest point, when an immature common loon drifted past close to the boat.

- Tom Lake

[Summering loons are not common along the Hudson and they all tend to be immatures. The majority of them stay down along the coast, but a few do linger around here. They usually move into quieter waters such as the larger lakes and reservoirs. There are some old records of them breeding this far south, and more recent ones of suspected nests, like at Ashokan Reservoir. But these are the exception. The immature birds seen in our summers are simply not hormone driven to move northward to their breeding grounds. They'll just have to wait until next year. Rich Guthrie.]

6/8 - Northern Dutchess County, HRM 90: The NYSDEC Fisheries Unit was tracking tagged sturgeon in the 24 mile reach from North Germantown downriver to Norrie Point. As we stopped the boat along the shore to have lunch, an adult bald eagle flew out of a tree right over our heads.

- Julia Preston-Fulton

[This adult bald eagle was likely part of a mated pair from one of the three nests within a few minutes flight of this spot. This was a moment that would not have occurred ten years ago. In the last decade, thanks to conservation measures aimed at preserving eagle habitat, we have gone from one to at least 18 active nests along the Hudson estuary. Tom Lake.]

6/8 - Rhinecliff, HRM 96: I arrived at Wilderstein Mansion this morning and was greeted by a tom turkey fanning for 3 hens. As I got out of the truck, the local pileated swooped down to the old logs alongside the driveway and started chipping away searching for breakfast. With its beak it removed a sizeable chunk of bark it had jack-hammered loose. The bird worked his way along the logs until it was no more than 15' away, comfortable with my presence. After ascending a 30' scaffold, I noticed a flash of brilliant blue below and spotted a family of bluebirds, 2 adults and 3 fledglings. The babies were high up in the spruces; one could only hop branch to branch, but the other 2 could fly unsteadily. The male landed below me to snag a goodie, then paused on the reserved parking sign before flying up to feed his raucous chick. Our state bird is spectacular when seen from above. A great start to the day.

- Darrell Chlystun

6/9 - Minerva, HRM 284: Our new puppy, Mr. Peabody, and I have been out for our 6:00 AM walks by our swamp. We usually hear the American bittern (sounds like bad plumbing) and sometimes see great blue and green herons. Though the early spring frogs were a little light, the bullfrogs appear to be making up for it and are very, very loud these mornings. The swamp also has acquired a pair of guard Canada geese who charge across the water at us most mornings. Peabody has been very confused by them (his tail bends in the shape of an s curve when he's confused). He has also been confused of late by a few things that have shown up in the road around the swamp. One afternoon, we saw 3 baby raccoons who clearly didn't know what to make of us. There was no sign of their mama.

- Sue Montgomery Corey

6/9 - Town of Wappinger: Even though their nest (NY62) failed this spring (one egg that did not hatch) the bald eagle mated pair were still being seen together nearly every day and usually not far from the nest. Just after first light today, I spotted them out in a grassy field attending to a white-tail deer carcass. The deer may have been a hit-and-run casualty on the nearby road and died a couple hundred feet out in the field. It was good to see them, shoulder to shoulder, hunched over, taking care of business.

- Tom Lake

6/10 - Staatsburg, HRM 85: I pulled into my driveway this morning and as I started to get out of the car, a gray fox walked past and into my backyard. It was a beautiful medium gray with just a hint of red behind its ears and a fringe of red along its belly. It looked sleek, well-fed, and healthy. It paused for a second, then continued under our back fence and off towards the southeast. We see red foxes fairly regularly in Mills-Norrie State Park and have occasionally seen them in Staatsburg, but in 18 years this is the first gray fox I've seen here.

- David Lund

6/10 - Beacon, HRM 61-60: We walked the mile from Long Dock to Denning's Point on the River Walk trail. From Long Dock we could hear music from the Beacon Sloop's Strawberry Festival where quite a crowd was gathered to celebrate the Hudson River and Pete Seeger's famous strawberry shortcake. Later, we were dismayed to see the annual late-spring sea of water chestnuts; the floating rosettes created a green blanket from the shoreline far out to deeper water We enjoyed the 2 cedar waxwings, 2 great blue herons (one landed in the midst of the green blanket), and a double-crested cormorant. A lovely northern catalpa tree on Denning's Point was in full bloom, as well as flowers such as daisies, sweet peas, and maiden pinks.

- Carolyn Plage, Ed Connelly

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