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Hudson River Almanac June 11 - June 17, 2007

OVERVIEW

One of the features of spring turning to summer is the amazing mix of observations: flowers to fish to eagles to black bears. While the diversity of Hudson River Valley natural history is always there in front of us, it seems to demand our notice as the seasons turn.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

6/11 - Norrie Point, HRM 87: I have been hoping to see a river otter on the Hudson for 23 years. Today, Emilie Hauser and I watched one take an early morning swim along the shore. It was liquid grace as it alternated dives and surface paddles, steadily working its way north along the rocky shore.

- Betsy Blair

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

6/11 - Newcomb, HRM 302: I saw my first luna moth of the season this morning. It was resting on a plant along the side of the road, just nose-high to my dog. Tons of stuff blooming along the Sucker Brook and Sage trails at the Adirondack Park Visitors Interpretive Center: pink lady's slipper, water avens, wood sorrel, Canada mayflower, foamflower, yellow clintonia, bunchberry, bluets, low bush blueberries, painted trillium, jack-in-the-pulpit, false Solomon's seal, star flower, blue violets, and cinquefoil, along with a muskrat and two toads. I came across some strange scale insects on steeplebush. Each had a mound of fuzzy white exudate under them, making them look like upside-down pussy willows. I've sent a sample off to Cornell Cooperative Extension for identification.

- Ellen Rathbone

6/11 - Albany, HRM 145: Returning from a conference in Arizona, our plane came in through the clouds, dipped low over the end of the Helderberg escarpment, and I could finally see the Hudson. You do not realize how beautiful New York is until you are away for a while. It was wonderful to see the green river valley, all those trees and all that water. A beautiful welcome home.

- Dee Strnisa

6/11 - New Paltz, HRM 78: I assisted a female box turtle across the road today.

- Vivian Yess Wadlin

6/12 - Newcomb, HRM 302: We had a great group from Wells, NY, at the ADK VIC for an aquatic insect program. We tested three habitats and found that all had pretty good water quality based on the fauna we found. There were lots of dragonfly emergences - a very large bright green dragonfly emerged in front of our eyes at the outlet of Rich Lake. We found quite a few crayfish; they are always an exciting find. Several of the students "accidentally" fell in the water and got soaked. The adults were into the program as much, if not more, than the students, and that can make all the difference.

- Ellen Rathbone

6/12 - Tivoli North Bay, HRM 100.5: We spent three lovely hours canoeing and birding in this extensive marsh, but the best sighting happened within five minutes of setting out, when a least bittern flushed from a small stand of spatterdock and arced away low over the cattails. Among the other 40 or so species recorded in and around the marsh were red-shouldered hawk, yellow-billed cuckoo, raven, marsh wren, and Louisiana waterthrush.

- Kim Borgmann, Maggie Carson, Laurie Fila, Jean Valla McAvoy, Beth Roessler, Steve Stanne, Emily Swanzey, Laura Weyeneth

6/13 - Minerva, HRM 284: Peabody [pooch] was stopped dead in his tracks this morning by a snapping turtle laying eggs in the middle of the road. I had been seeing signs of some ground disturbance over the last few days, but didn't know what it was. The beavers are making a reappearance. They were trapped out last year but the other morning I heard the whap of a beaver tail on the water as we walked.

- Sue Montgomery Corey

6/13 - New Paltz, HRM 78: Today, within 20' of where I helped a female wood turtle cross two days ago (see 6/11), I assisted a male. The male box turtle was missing his left hind leg, but seemed quite capable of navigating through the grasses of the large field where I had seen the female.

- Vivian Yess Wadlin

6/13 - Beacon, HRM 61: We were feeling a little blue on the way to the Beacon train station at 7:00 AM when an eastern bluebird flew across the road and landed on a telephone wire, filling us with happiness. Later, on our commute to Manhattan, we again saw a lone bald eagle sitting in a tree at the south end of Constitution Marsh. Since it is there so regularly, we consider the bird to be the gatekeeper to our day at work.

- Mike Boyajian, Jeri Wagner

6/14 - Albany, HRM 145: New York State ichthyologist Bob Daniels confirms that the 26" sucker caught June 6 at Esopus Meadows is a new fish for the Hudson: a buffalo, species number 213. The question is still open as to which species, or even if it may be a hybrid of two different buffalo species. As in a good mystery, the investigation continues.

- Tom Lake

6/14 - Town of Fishkill, HRM 63.5: Hiking through the Verplanck Ridge meadow along the forest's edge at the Stony Kill Farm Environmental Education Center, I spotted a small brown animal moving off the mowed path into the tall grass. As I approached, I could see multiple (4-5) young fuzzy birds scurrying into the forest and deeper into the field. I could not identify them until mama wild turkey burst into the air just beside me!

- Jason Novak

6/15 - Town of Athens, HRM 116: Along with the usual suspects - pumpkinseed sunfish, banded killifish, tessellated darters, and white perch - we caught a hogchoker (between silver dollar and palm size) in our seine this morning at the Cohotate Preserve.

- Liz LoGuidice

[Hogchokers are delightful little soles, ranging in size from a penny to the palm of your hand. They can be found anywhere in the estuary from freshwater to salt. Closely resembling a flounder, hogchoker have an intricate pattern of black squiggles on a brown background that gives each one a unique look. It has been observed that like snowflakes and fingerprints, no two hogchokers are ever the same. Tom Lake.]

6/15 - Saugerties, HRM 102: In the evening, on an ebbing mid-tide, the fish were jumping where the cove meets the Hudson at Emmerick Point Park. An adult bald eagle, about 50' off the water, cruised downriver, diverting briefly to eyeball the fish activity but apparently deciding to keep moving south. It landed in a tree just north of the Malden boat launch. I was so hoping to see it go for a fish!

- Dan Marazita, Hank Becker

6/15 - Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge, HRM 96: Heading home, just after crossing the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge, I got a call from Erik Kiviat about a report of an injured peregrine falcon walking along the side of the bridge. I turned around but by then the bird had been hit by a car and was dead. It was still warm and, even all beat up, still beautiful. Chris Nadareski later identified it from its leg tags as a female fledgling, aged about 5 weeks, one of 3 fledglings he had banded on June 1 in the nest box under the bridge. She was possibly on her maiden flight. As far as is known, 2 nestlings remain of that nest's 4 eggs and 3 hatchlings. As Pete Nye commented, life on a bridge or a building is never easy for these birds.

- Betsy Blair

6/15 - West Park, HRM 82: For the past three days, we have been watching the amazing progress of a nest being created between our porch light and the side of the house. It is made entirely of mud and moss. Although a bit messy from the mud spatters, we have enjoyed observing the construction by the female eastern phoebe. She seems to be gathering small pieces of grass for the center lining of the nest, an egg cup. This morning, I heard several urgent calls from the porch area and peeked outside to watch the phoebe as she defended her nest from a male and female brown-headed cowbird. I hope she was successful!

- Ann Murray, Mike Murray

6/15 - Beacon, HRM 61: I caught only 2 small channel catfish today from Long Dock, but I had a lot of bites and lost a few other fish. The carp spawning activity has quieted. I saw many of them doing their usual solo jumping out in the main channel and mid-bay area all day long, but none of the inshore group activity associated with spawning.

- Bill Greene

6/15 - Denning's Point,, HRM 60: This evening at 7:00 PM, Jim Brown and I took a low tide walk out on Denning's Point. We counted 14 great blue herons standing in the cove on the east side of the point. I had never seen more than 1-2 at a time, so this was pretty special.

- Andra Sramek

6/15 - West Point Military Reservation, HRM 50: A loon in June? Yes, the silhouette, low on the water, was distinct. Frank Snyder and I were canoeing on Stillwell Lake and saw it off in the distance. Paddling quietly towards it, we closed ranks while it was diving. It then obligingly emerged 10 yards from us and began preening. We were looking at an adult common loon in full breeding plumage, but well short of its summer range. After returning to the vehicle we took photos as the bird moved off. Occasionally it rose up, fanned its wings and then gave us its ringing tune for a grand finale.

- Bob Kakerbeck

6/16 - Hannacrois, HRM 132.5: We have a pair of cedar waxings that are nesting somewhere near our garden. Last week, we saw the pair gathering vines from last year's morning glory plants for their nest. Today, while I was spraying a seed bed with the hose, one of the cedar waxwings came right up and took a bath under the spray. It was quite a sight to watch it bathing amongst my seedling radishes only a few feet away!

- Liz LoGuidice

6/16 - Denning's Point, HRM 60: There was an early morning low tide in the bay where Fishkill Creek meets the Hudson. Scores of spawning carp were cavorting in the shallows, muddying the water, sending silty sprays into the air as they leapfrogged one another. It was easy to see how they earned writer Edward Abbey's colloquial name "mud salmon."

- Tom Lake

6/17 - Newcomb, HRM 302: The baby bluebirds in the box at my house are making a lot of noise. All the typical summer flowers, except black-eyed Susans, are blooming: hawkweed, yarrow, ox-eye daisy, birdsfoot trefoil, and cinquefoil. The wild strawberries are fruiting.

- Ellen Rathbone

6/17 - Saugerties, HRM 102: A gorgeous black bear wandered across our house clearing this evening, inspecting and turning-over most anything that might provide a snack beneath. After turning over numerous stones and half-climbing a tree to inspect a blue-bird house, it headed straight for our living-room window. We were able to look right at this beautiful, medium-sized [adolescent male?] bear, so clean and shiny-black with a tawny muzzle, as it approached within a few feet of us. The bear sniffed around the perimeter of the house before resuming its stone turning investigations.

- Dan Marazita, Jan Marazita

[Young black bears wandering through yards, across roads, investigating backyard barbeques and bird feeders, are annual spring occurrences along the Hudson River. These yearling bears, mostly males, move north from northern New Jersey and east from the Catskills looking to establish their own territory. Tom Lake.]

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