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Hudson River Almanac July 2 - July 9, 2007

OVERVIEW

In the seasonal ebb and flow of natural events there are times when everything seems to slow down and take a break. If the river valley went at the breakneck pace of spring and fall twelve months a year we might grow tired. This was a week when mudpuppies, madtoms, and mockingbirds got their say and, oddly enough, we added a buffalo to our list of fauna.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

7/7 - Nutten Hook, HRM 124: We spotted a brilliantly red flowering shrub, 7-10' tall, along the river that had us mystified. Its red clusters seem to be seed pods and they rattle upon shaking.
- Pat Van Alstyne

[Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius). The digital photo I looked at shows this shrub at the perfect pink-immature-fruited season for identification. It is a tall shrub that hovers around the shoreline and railroad, occasionally inland on calcareous soils. Erik Kiviat.]

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

7/2 - Wappinger Creek, HRM 67.5: We ended up one shy of a heron "grand slam" today. A mid-morning low tide gave us a green heron the mouth of the tidal creek, 100 feet from the Hudson. Moving inland and upstream less than 2 miles, we saw 9 great blues, a great egret, and a black-crowned night heron perched in a tree (almost missed it), but fell one shy without a snowy egret. You could argue that a true sweep of the herons would have to include other Hudson River species, such as the bitterns, cattle egret, little blue, and even the infrequently seen yellow-crowned night heron. I guess I should call this a near common heron grand slam.
- Tom Lake

7/2 - Croton Point, HRM 34.5: I spotted an indigo bunting in Croton Point Park.
- Jane Shumsky

7/3 - Tivoli North Bay, HRM 100.5: It was about the most perfect day to be in the bay; the tides were very low and the water coming from Stony Creek was a chilly 61 degrees F. We caught 3 fishes in our seine that were unusual. First there were 3 young-of-the-year redfin pickerel. We do not see this species often in tidal water and these were the first recorded for the North Bay. Next we caught 4 emerald shiners. We know these are in the Hudson River, but we rarely see them and these were are also a first for the North Bay. In our last seine haul, near the mouth of the bay, we caught a small (60 mm) Atlantic needlefish. We do not recall ever seeing a needlefish this far up the river. This specimen was still in the "halfbeak" stage of development. In needlefish, the lower jaw develops first and the upper jaw eventually catches up as it grows (see Norrie Point, 6/30).
- Bob Schmidt, Jennifer Goodwillie, Burton Gaiseb

7/3 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: For the last month it has been a question of how many brightly colored potted summer annuals we would have to surround the hummingbird feeders with before the locals noticed. Critical mass. As we added numbers eight and nine today, a female ruby-throated came by, checked us out, and zipped away. Soon however, a male and at least one other female hummingbird were visiting. I guess the word spreads quickly.
- Tom Lake

7/4 - South Mount Beacon, HRM 60: On one of the rocky observation points on top of South Mount Beacon, we had a clear view of the abandoned fire tower to the southeast. There were 4 black vultures perched there with another 7 soaring around the tower and the mountain. Some of the black-headed birds may have been immature turkey vultures. To top it off, we were able to pick some just-ripened huckleberries.
- Anne Lynch, Roy Schiller

7/4 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: Although I have had many white-breasted nuthatches at my feeder, today I had my first red-breasted.
- Jane Shumsky

7/5 - Roeliff Jansen's Kill, HRM 111: We visited the mouth of this tidal tributary to the Hudson to see if we could catch some mudpuppies. An island west of Route 9G was covered with blooming daylilies. They were very dense and quite spectacular. We caught no mudpuppies but instead we turned up a margined madtom. This small catfish is known from streams on the west side of the Hudson River, but we think this is the first record of one from an east side tributary.
- Bob Schmidt, Burton Gaiseb, Jennifer Goodwillie

[The mudpuppy is an amphibian and, while related to toads and frogs, they are truly unique. Roger Tory Peterson calls them "...big bizarre salamanders that look more like bad dreams than live animals." Besides being large (they average 8-13" in length), they have prominent gills that look like feathery plumes. In the South they are called waterdogs, and smaller ones are used for live bait. Mudpuppies will eat almost any aquatic animals they can swallow and are more than willing to take an angler's worm. Tom Lake.]

7/5 - Hathaway's Glen Brook, HRM 63: Over 2" of rain fell in less than two days. This small creek was roaring down off the fall line and making its short run to the Hudson. Small, clear tide pools that had held schools of killifish were now swirling, turbid runs. But these tributaries are resilient. By tomorrow, or the next day, stasis will return: the pools will settle out and the clouds of killifish will return. But with the shifting of the sand and gravel bottom, and a few deadfalls, it will have a new look.
- Tom Lake

7/5 - Staten Island, New York Harbor: Driving south on Father Cappodano Boulevard, I have become used to seeing wild turkeys feeding near Seaview Avenue. But I was not prepared to see an adult hen with 8 poults feeding directly off the curb. Some of the young were on the ground feeding while 2-3 others were flapping, perched precariously on a nearby sumac. The poults were about the size of bobwhite quail, and being guarded very officiously by the female. Nearby, several adults fed lazily in an open field.
- Dave Taft

7/6 - West Park, HRM 82: This morning, a quick peek into the phoebe nest revealed a soft, blackish fluffy mass with four pale yellow beaks sticking straight up! Exactly 16 days after she began to incubate, all 4 eggs hatched. The nest seems full with the new hatchlings. It is sure to get crowded as they start to grow (see West Park, 6/24).
- Ann Murray, Mike Murray

7/7 - Stuyvesant, HRM 127: We walked around the point on the sandbar at low tide. En route we spotted 2 adult and 4 immature bald eagles. On the sand we saw numerous blue crab moults, lots of mussels, and several decomposing catfish. Lots of fish were jumping out in the river.
- Pat Van Alstyne

7/7 - Hathaway's Glen Brook, HRM 63: A soft south breeze did little more than smooth out the water from the dropping tide. I've always likened these brief seining encounters to taking the pulse of the river, just to see who's home and what they are up to. Our 88' net came ashore pulsing with small fish, many of which were young-of-the-year [yoy] alewives. While the summer is young, we've already seen almost as many yoy herring as during all of last summer. There were also many tessellated darters (small freshwater perch), and the usual baby striped bass, white perch, an 8" eel, and several 2" male blue crabs. The water exiting Hathaway's Glen Brook was 66.6 degrees F; a short distance outside the brook in the Hudson, it was 25.4 degrees C. Later, when I converted this to Fahrenheit, it occurred to me that the river was 77.7 degrees on 7-7-7.
- Tom Lake, Phyllis Lake

[Seines are commonly mentioned in Almanac observations. A seine is a net with a float seamline on top, a lead seamline on the bottom, and tight meshes in between. The word seine is French, from the Latin sagëna, which means a fishing net designed to hang vertically, the ends of which are drawn together to enclose the fish. Those referenced in the Almanac are 15'-500' long, 4'-8' in depth, and have mesh sizes from .25"-2.5" depending upon application. They are an excellent tool for collecting aquatic animals with minimal injury to the catch. The largest of these nets are haul seines that require a boat to set and many strong arms for hauling. Once commonly used in Hudson River commercial fishing, they are still used by DEC's Hudson River Fisheries Unit. Tom Lake.]

7/7 - Beacon, HRM 61: It was a day of extremes: I caught and released an 11 lb. 6 oz. carp and a small golden shiner. Both took the same corn kernel and bread combination bait, same size portion, and same size #4 hook, but the carp was probably 30 times heavier than the shiner.
- Bill Greene

7/8 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Fireweed is now blooming. That's almost a week earlier than last year.
- Ellen Rathbone

7/8 - Putnam Valley, HRM 55: The 4 babies in the barn swallow nest under the west eve seem almost ready to launch, 2 more ready than the others. Nest quarters are really cramped. There is much shifting of positions, wing-extending, stretching, and vigorous wing-fluttering practice while clinging to the rim of the nest. The babies groom themselves where they can reach; siblings occasionally seem to groom another's unreachable parts, especially the face. Parents frequently deliver the tiniest bits of food or sometimes nothing, just clinging to the nest for a second or two with no beak to beak contact, possibly to motivate growing self-reliance. These parents don't hang out with their babies at night, although they perch on an adjacent empty bird-feeder during the day; perhaps they roost around the corner in the basement stairwell where there are 5 other nests of babies and their over-watching parents.
- Nancy P. Durr

7/9 - Albany, HRM 145: In early June, DEC's Kris McShane reported the capture of a new fish species from the Hudson River (see June 6, Esopus Meadows). It was initially identified as a bigmouth buffalo (Ictiobus cyprinellus), a large species of sucker native to the Midwest. However, in the Great Lakes - the most logical source of this fish - all of the buffalo are thought to be hybrids between smallmouth (Ictiobus bubalus) and black buffalo (Ictiobus niger). This particular specimen does not clearly fit either smallmouth or black very well and therefore maybe a hybrid. While the fish might have made its way here through the New York State canal system, the lack of intermediary occurrences leads us to believe it was an inadvertent bait-bucket introduction.
- Tom Lake, Robert A. Daniels - NYS Ichthyologist

[The Hudson watershed list of 213 fish species represents those for which we have either a vouchered museum specimen or irrefutable documented evidence of presence in the watershed at least once. The list is a mix of native freshwater, saltwater, estuarine, and introduced species. Every time we haul a net or land a fish on rod and reel we are looking for a new addition, something no one has ever seen before in the Hudson. This buffalo resides between northern hogsucker and the shorthead redhorse in the taxonomic list of Hudson River fishes. Tom Lake.]

7/9 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 73: The air temperature reached 93 degrees F today. Coupled with the humidity (heat index), the conditions actually felt pretty close to the record for the date of 100 degrees F.
- National Weather Service

7/9 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: With several nests within listening distance, a large number of fledgling mockingbirds were competing for air time. As they mature, their songs will take on melodious tones, but for now it was pretty much a lot of nosie. Like a second brood of songbirds, the magnolias had nearly as many blossoms on them today as they did in April.
- Tom Lake

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