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Hudson River Almanac June 18 - June 25, 2007

OVERVIEW

The signs of summer have been here for a while. Now, with the summer solstice passing, we can delight in the fireflies, baby bluebirds, and giant bluefish as we derogate the haze, heat and humidity of summer in the Hudson River Valley.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

6/23 - Tappan Zee, HRM 34-25: The local anglers are giddy with bluefish fever. For the last couple of weeks, catches and fish sizes have risen steadily with fish to 15 lb. now being caught. This is unheard of so early in the season. If the trend continues we will see bluefish over 20 lb. by Labor Day weekend.

- Christopher Letts

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

6/17 - Town of Southeast, HRM 52: I saw a great blue heron enjoying the sunshine on a large rock island not too far from shore on the East Branch of the Croton Reservoir. The heron would have been as tall as the height of my shoulder if I had stood next to it - a magnificent bird.

- Betty Brosius

6/18 - Newcomb, HRM 302: It was about 10:00 PM and we went out to stretch our legs. Despite the street lights that surround our property, we were dazzled by the flashes of hundreds of fireflies. It looked like video footage I've seen of flash cameras going off in sports stadiums at night. It was beautiful.

- Ellen Rathbone, Toby Rathbone

6/18 - Tivoli South Bay, HRM 98.5: We were canoeing on Tivoli South Bay toward our distant seining station. As we watched an immature eagle fly overhead, someone began singing (opera) from the Bard College shoreline - not the context that Mozart had in mind and a different experience for us. On the way back, the background music was jet skis on the main river. In the mouth of the Saw Kill we spotted a large light-colored fish. We set our seine and chased it into the net. It was a walleye, certainly over 20 inches long. The fish was emaciated and lethargic (probably why we were able to catch him) and had the right side of its lower jaw missing, probably due to a hook. This is the first walleye we've ever seen in Tivoli South Bay.

- Bob Schmidt, Burton Gaiseb, Jennifer Goodwillie

6/18 - Croton Point, HRM 34: For the past two weeks, the air of every breath has been sublimely scented by honeysuckle. An alien species, yes, but it at least has this redeeming quality.

- Christopher Letts

6/19 - Newcomb, HRM 302: As I sat on the back step this morning, I was treated to the sight of a cedar waxwing landing on my clothes line. The bird hopped over to the sad remains of a net bag filled with cotton that I have hanging there. It was something I bought years ago to put out for birds to use for nest material. It has followed me from job to job, home to home and never once been utilized, until today. The waxwing landed on it and plucked a mouthful of fluff from the rotting net bag and flew off into the honeysuckle. As I watched, the bird came back twice for refills. So, not only have I seen this in use, but now I know that waxwings nest later in the season than the bluebirds, swallows and chickadees, and that I have a nest to look for in the honeysuckle!

- Ellen Rathbone

6/19 - Saugerties, HRM 102: Over the past week and a half there has been a profusion of dragonflies visiting our house: white-tails, widows, green darners, twelve-spots, blue-dashers and even a spiketail arrowhead, a very uncommon species in this region (two years ago I sent DEC's Paul Novak a picture of one). One of the joys of living in a forest clearing is working around the house while dragonflies use me as "bait" so they can pick off the myriad gnats and mosquitos swarming around my sweaty head and then munch them while clinging to my shirt! Amazing little critters!

- Dan Marazita

6/19 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67.5: From a distance of a hundred feet, looking across the asphalt with the heat distortion (mirage effect), it looked to me like a Komodo dragon was crossing the road. But as I got closer the focus improved and I saw that it was a hen wood duck and her six ducklings following in a line, far from water, briskly scooting across the road.

- Tom Lake

6/20 - Saugerties, HRM 102: For five years we've had sharp-shinned hawks nesting on our property, usually not more than 200' from the house, and have been lucky enough to see their young grow and fledge. Last year we were unable to locate the nest although we heard their high, thin call almost daily. My neighbor came by today to tell us there's a hawk nesting right off the road 500' from our house. Sure enough, there was Mama sharpie and 2 nestlings. If we got closer than 100' from the nest tree, she would leave and either perch nearby or circle, occasionally using the road's "tree-tunnel" as a flight path to check us out. So we do not get too close and do not watch for too long. In years past we've witnessed their amazing acrobatics as they snatch songbirds from the air in mid-flight, striking so violently that they'd knock feathers loose from the unfortunate prey.

- Dan Marazita, Mark Angevine

6/20 - Mid-Hudson Valley: A fast moving west-to-east cold front brought with it violent storms and heavy rain. Six inches and more fell in the Catskills while considerably less fell along the river (0.37").

- National Weather Service

6/20 - Fishkill, HRM 61: From my front yard I spotted a male common white-tail dragonfly flit about and then land several times on our walk with its black patched wings extended.

- Ed Spaeth

6/21 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Sheep laurel was blooming in the wetlands; yellow wood sorrel, purple vetch, assorted clovers, yarrow, birdsfoot trefoil, and others are all abloom in waste areas and along roadsides, as are the rose mallows and wild roses. Curly dock is all covered with its weird winged seeds. Summer is here.

- Ellen Rathbone

6/21 - Tivoli North Bay, HRM 100.5: We spent a really nice day seining in Tivoli North Bay on the summer solstice. We caught, among other fishes, a very small hogchoker. We don't see them too frequently this far up the Hudson. When we pulled into one of our stations, a beaver came out of the vegetation and slid down the bank in front of us. We had seen beaver slides before, but this was the first time we had seen a beaver make one. He slapped his tail on the water and dove out of sight.

- Bob Schmidt, Jennifer Goodwillie, Burton Gaiseb. Chuck Neider

6/21 - Tivoli South Bay, HRM 98.5: When we checked the eel ladder today on the Saw Kill dam we saw a very small wiggling animal. It turned out to be a redback salamander. This is the third species found using the eel ladder: American eel (to aid its upstream migration), a northern water snake (underappreciated by the person checking the ladder that day), and this redback salamander. We have no idea of how or why the salamander used the ladder.

- Bob Schmidt, Burton Gaiseb, Jennifer Goodwillie

6/21 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 73: I had hoped to be somewhere special at 2:06 PM today when the solstice arrived. For me there is always an expectation on the equinoxes and solstices, totally without merit, of seeing a change in the sun or moon, a fragrance in the air or on a breeze, a howl from the woods, or in an eagle's cry, when the moment occurs. On this occasion, however, I was sitting next to John Mylod on his porch, looking out to a field where coyotes stalk, white-tailed deer browse and wild turkeys forage. John and I were discussing how the river has changed in the 400 years since Henry Hudson intruded, and it occurred to me that I was, indeed, somewhere special.

- Tom Lake

6/22 - Croton River, HRM 34: With blue crab moults on the tideline, gangly goslings on family outings, daisies in bloom, it must be summer.

- Christopher Letts

6/22 - Albany, HRM 145: On June 3, Mike Frank caught a male Chinese mitten crab in the Tappan Zee, (See Nyack, June 3). While this was only a single crab, it could be, much like the zebra mussel invasion of 1990s, the start of a serious ecological problem. For more information on the Chinese mitten crab please go to: http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/35888.html.

- Leslie Surprenant, NYSDEC Invasive Species Management Coordinator

6/22 - Hyde Park, HRM 82: At the feeder on my deck all this week I've been sporadically seeing a male cardinal tending to a juvenile, but un-cardinal-like, gray bird. It took a few minutes the first time I saw it to understand what was going on. Then it dawned on me: one of my local cardinal couples had raised a cowbird, something I had heard about but never witnessed.

- Peter Fanelli

6/22 - Highland, HRM 77: At the Franny Reese Preserve this morning, our footsteps stirred up a flurry of small, brownish creatures that hurried off the mowed path into the woods. It required a double take and a startling appearance by their mother to realize they were very young wild turkeys. On our hike we also noted that purple flowering raspberry and foxglove beard-tongue were both in bloom and a prairie warbler and an eastern wood-pewee were singing. There were several butterflies that were too quick to identify. All this plus a wonderful view of the Mid-Hudson Bridge and sunshine reflecting on the river below.

- Laura Heady, Sarah Charlop-Powers

6/22 - Beacon, HRM 61: Channel catfish were active at Long Dock today. I caught and released 4 of them, all about 18" long, 2-2.5 lb. each. Carp were jumping all day, but none took my bait.

- Bill Greene

6/22 - Putnam Valley, HRM 55.5: It seemed odd that I heard a mockingbird singing from the wood's margin at 11:30 PM. Was it the half-moon? The unseasonably cool temperatures? It was not mimicking a whippoorwill. [Mockingbirds are one of those songbirds that will sing into the night on occasion.]

- Nancy P. Durr

6/23 - Newcomb, HTM 302: Our temperature gauge at the Visitors Interpretive Center overnight recorded a low of 39 degrees F, but its location is rather sheltered. Elsewhere in Newcomb it was probably close to freezing. Fragrant white water lilies were blooming, as were all the assorted clovers and rose mallow. The baby swallows have hatched: there were 3-4 in the nest when I peeked in last week. I have not looked in on any of the bluebirds lately because I do not want to disturb them.

- Ellen Rathbone

6/23 - Milan HRM 90: While checking the deer mesh I have put around my flowering trees I found a northern black racer hopelessly entangled. At first I thought it was dead but when I began to remove it, it showed some life. After some careful cutting I was able to free the snake. It showed some coiling response but not much more. I took it to the edge of my pond and placed it in the mud hoping it could re-hydrate before the racoons found it. As soon as possible, I will reinstall the mesh netting leaving a foot of ground clearance. (As a postscript to this story, I went back to the pond a short time later and the black snake was gone. A happy ending.)

- Marty Otter

6/23 - Putnam Valley, HRM 55.5: It looks like a first brood of bluebirds in my small orchard (5 pears, 3 peaches) has launched from the nest box. The parents are renovating the nest with grasses and other delicate stems, flexible enough to get through the hole, in anticipation of another brood.

- Nancy P. Durr

6/23 - Town of Southeast, HRM 52: On my weekly walk by the East Branch of the Croton Reservoir, I was startled by a sudden movement in the woods, but then delighted to see a great horned owl landing on a branch. His head rotated almost full circle as he finally looked my way. We exchanged stares for about a minute. Then he took off, perhaps to find a more secluded spot to search for his dinner.

- Betty Brosius

6/24 - Esopus Meadows, HRM 87: The regular volunteers for the Esopus Meadows Lighthouse, Ed Weber and John Ralston, were joined by a large work crew, including Joe Fayo, Joel Goldman, Rich Haas, Sam Pierce, and I, who spent most of the day working on openings for the new front door and the new kitchen door. Other jobs included scraping and painting woodwork and wainscoting, scraping floors, and repairing windows. Earlier this year, a work-release crew from the Ulster County jail primed and painted all of the interior walls and ceilings. Little by little, the lighthouse is coming back to life. On our way to the lighthouse, from the marina at Norrie Point, we saw a bald eagle fly from east to west over the river and a great blue heron heading north up the river. At mid-morning, 18 kayakers in training assembled around the lighthouse, and in the early afternoon we could see a regatta near Sleightsburg. When we headed back to Norrie Point at 4:00 PM, three double-crested cormorants, including one juvenile with a pale breast, had taken over the top of a pole that was once used for a clothesline pulley.

- Phyllis Marsteller

6/24 - West Park, HRM 82: The eastern phoebe completed her nest on our porch between the lamp and wall. Now it is time to wait. She began patiently sitting on the 4 creamy white eggs this week. It appears to be her chance to rest for two weeks before the flurry of activity that will ensue with 4 tiny mouths to feed (see June 15).

- Ann Murray, Mike Murray

6/25 - Hathaway's Glen Brook, HRM 63: A strongly dropping tide was being buffeted by a determined south breeze. Wind against tide usually presents a challenge in hauling a seine and then getting it onto the beach without spilling the contents into the chop. The warm shallows just outside the brook were 76 degrees F, several degrees warmer than this time last year. Just inside the brook, in the shade of cottonwoods and box elders, the water was ten degrees cooler at 66 degrees F (over the years, this has been a pretty standard summer differential of 10-13 degrees F between the river and the brook). The first of the young-of-the-year fishes, the spring crop, were in the warmer shallows: alewives (37-42 mm), striped bass (25-41 mm), white perch (25-42 mm), spottail shiners (28-31 mm), and a delightful little white sucker (48 mm). We counted a dozen empty blue crab moults in the tideline so it was not surprising to find a 2" male softshell blue crab in the net as well.

- Tom Lake, A. Danforth

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