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Hudson River Almanac August 20 - August 28, 2007

OVERVIEW

If we entered every prolonged and intense daily rush of monarchs into the weekly Almanac, it would contain little else. So we temper our enthusiasm and note that they are streaming down the Hudson Valley as befits the season - the time of the year when conversations out-of-doors will often include the subtle interruption of, "... there goes another monarch..."

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

8/27 - Oscawana Island, HRM 38.5: While paddling my kayak homeward this evening, somewhere between Croton Point and George's Island, I spotted monarchs crossing the river. I noticed one butterfly was floating. I lifted it up on my paddle and shortly it took flight, gone on its way as if it had never crashed.
- Stephen Butterfuss


[Birds and butterflies calculate their river crossings with some precision. Exhaustion, especially among butterflies, can be a problem. Most will choose "flight days," queuing up for hours or days on the tip of Croton Point, waiting for a front to pass and bring with it favorable following winds. Tom Lake.]

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

8/20 - Catskill, HRM 113: This marks the fourth year of the Hudson River Workshop at the Historic Catskill Point, a week of scientific investigation and artistic interpretation of the natural and cultural history of the river. We collect data and make observations of the river each day of the week-long workshop. At 9:30 AM on Day One, it was mostly cloudy and breezy, with an air temperature of 71 degrees F. The river was 77.5 degrees F, with a dissolved oxygen reading of 7.0 milligrams per liter (mg/l). Conditions must have been favorable as we spotted fish jumping.
- Elizabeth LoGiudice, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Greene County


8/20 - Rhinecliff, HRM 92: An early morning plant identification walk on the Wilderstein grounds near Rhinecliff revealed an unexpected surprise: Screeching, clanking noises, and voices to the north spooked 2 white-tailed deer out of the nearby woods. As I squinted and strained my ears to find the source of the sounds, a spooked bald eagle flew out of the wetland beneath me. Shortly thereafter, a railroad crew in a pick-up truck traveled down the tracks.
- Kristen Wilson


[White-tailed deer and bald eagles are comfortable with freight trains, Amtrak, even cars and trucks. These are predictable intrusions and usually non-threatening. When humans enter the equation, however, that all changes. We are totally unpredictable. Even in our efforts to seem "friendly," we are usually interpreted as threatening. Tom Lake.]


8/21 - Newcomb, HRM 302: As it turns out, we had frost yesterday. Today my cucumber plants were all black and shriveled. Some of the squash leaves had also taken a hit and the beans were looking rather sad as well.
- Ellen Rathbone


8/21 - Catskill, HRM 113: At 9:38 AM on Day 2, it was mostly cloudy, foggy, and cool, with an air temperature of 63.5 degrees F. The river had cooled to 75.9 degrees F with a dissolved oxygen reading of 7.0 mg/l. We spotted a catfish along the shore, saw several fish jumping, and watched a gull carry a small fish. There were also cormorants and several green herons. The tide was nearly high, and the current was still moving upriver.
- Elizabeth LoGiudice


8/22 - Town of Cairo, Greene County, HRM 125: I spotted a huge bluish-black bird flying toward me through the "tunnel" over the road created by the tree canopy. It was a raven and, rather than veering off, it landed in a roadside tree. I pulled into a driveway and saw it had joined a second bird no more than 30' from my car. This was notable since they usually are extremely wary. As their numbers increase it seems their wariness is decreasing.
- Larry Biegel


8/22 - Flint Mine Hill, Greene County, HRM 124: A PBS camera crew filmed a segment on the significance of this stone (chert) quarry, a protected area of private land, to Hudson Valley residents at least as long ago as 10,000 years. Piles of chert, many millions of flakes, pebbles and cobbles, were scattered over the hillside, remnants of tool-making workshops from which all manner of implements emerged. These tools - knives, scrapers, awls, points, and others - allowed native people to hunt, harvest, and process the flora and fauna of the Hudson Valley, sustaining them across ten millennia.
- Tom Lake


8/22 - Fourmile Point, Greene County, HRM 121: For the director of the PBS film crew, this was to be a seining scene providing background to a discussion on Native American reverence for the Hudson River (to the Mohicans, this was Grandmother River). But the shallows off the beach were strewn with cobbles, making seining difficult. We were sure that Mohicans would have had a good laugh as we hauled the seine and were continually hung down. After a long haul made much shorter by fits and starts, we netted two fish, a small tessellated darter and a large male banded killifish. The killifish (colloquially called "blue-banded mudminnow") was gorgeous, with iridescent blue and lavender colors interspersed between dark bands, but it would have made for a meager meal. An osprey passed overhead moving south and an immature bald eagle buzzed us several times in hopes we would donate some fish. Later, the eagle perched in a deadfall across the river and called in a near continuous stream of whines and plaintive chortles for five minutes. While audio of loon calls are often added to video to authenticate wilderness, the call of the eagle worked for us.
- Tom Lake, Barry Keegan


8/22 - Catskill, HRM 113: On Day 3 at 9:15 AM, it was mostly cloudy with an air temperature of 67.2 degrees F. The river was 75.7 degrees F with a dissolved oxygen reading of 6.0 mg/l. We saw fish jumping, spotted a robin carrying a worm, and noted great blue herons, osprey, a bald eagle, and several double-crested cormorants. The river's current was moving north.
- Elizabeth LoGiudice

8/22 - Furnace Woods, HRM 38.5: A lovely, slow soaking rain left just over an inch in 12 hours, a gardeners's dream. The barn swallows have moved out (see you next year) but rough-winged and tree swallows took advantage of every lull in the rain to skim the surface of Pine Lake. With a high temperature of 53 degrees F, and rain most of the day, I suppose their appetites were sharp.
- Christopher Letts


8/23 - Catskill, HRM 113: On Day 4 at 9:05 AM it was mostly cloudy and cool, with an air temperature of 69.8 degrees F. The river temperature was 75.2 degrees F and the dissolved oxygen was 7.0 mg/l. We spotted a gull with a fish, 4 bald eagles, caught 3 white perch, a yellow perch, a sunfish, 2 caddisfly larvae, and several giant water bugs. As the daily tide progresses later each day, on average by about 50 minutes, the current was, again, moving north.
- Elizabeth LoGiudice


8/23 - West Park, HRM 82: The 30' standing trunk of a large white pine tree that lost its top 3 years ago was the home of a very active honey bee nest that suddenly disappeared last summer. During evening walks, we often paused out of habit and glanced at the holes, hoping to see some activity. Finally, last night we were happy to see hundreds of honey bee bodies surrounding the holes. With all the concerns about honey bee populations nationwide, we are fortunate to have these important pollinators back.
- Ann Murray, Mike Murray


8/23 - Croton River, HRM 34: The red-throated loon in residence for many weeks apparently considers the lower, tidal Croton River a perfect summering spot. It is easy to see as it seems to spend most of its time drifting in the current and preening in the quarter-mile between the Route 9 bridge and the railroad bridge. During the August doldrums, it is fine to have such an elegant bird among us.
- Christopher Letts


8/24 - Catskill, HRM 113: On Day 5 at 9:17 AM, it was sunny, windy, warm, with an air temperature of 79.1 degrees F. The river was holding at 75.7 degrees F. Perhaps as a result of windier conditions, dissolved oxygen had risen to 8.0 mg/l. A barge was on the river and Amtrak raced past. The river current was moving north.
- Elizabeth LoGiudice


8/24 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: Between red foxes and deer, my yard has recently become a wildlife corridor. I stood absolutely still under my Norway maple as 3 whitetails, 2 does and a small spotted fawn not much bigger than my golden retriever passed not 30' away. The does looked right at me but I was downwind and maybe the lack of movement helped me blend into the tree trunk. They no sooner passed into the woods then something fell out of the tree onto my head. I was reluctant to check, but it turned out to be a tiny light green, recently-metamorphosed northern gray treefrog, my "chorus frog" of late spring and early summer.
- Tom Lake


8/24 - Sandy Hook, NJ: Driving home off Sandy Hook, I started to hear what sounded like grains of sand hitting the windshield. Then I noticed laughing gulls in their bug-hawking flight patterns. That usually means flying ants, but I figured they would be too soft to click on the glass. I stopped, jumped out, grabbed a crab dip net out of the truck bed, lined it with my t-shirt, and started running up and down the road to catch a sample. I was completely unsuccessful; their identity remained another of nature's mysteries. But at least I don't think anyone saw me. Laughing gull bug-hawking seems to be a sure sign that the sun is moving south.
- Dery Bennett


8/25 - Town of Wallkill, Orange County, HRM 57: Back on the hilltop over the Wallkill River that, at this point, was less of a river and more of a slow, turbid stream. Like any job that requires working under the sun, archaeology loses its luster when conditions become extreme. The air temperature reached 89 degrees F, a record for the date (elsewhere in the Mid-Hudson Valley it topped 90 degrees). The heat index, that mixture of heat and humidity, made it feel over 100 degrees. We could not seem to drink enough water. I wondered if this would have been a working day for the Indians whose artifacts we unearthed? Or, like archaeologists, when the heat and humidity came, they put down their tools and found the shade. Maybe they were made of sterner stuff?
- Tom Lake


8/25 - Navesink River, Raritan Bay, NJ: How do you make a 10-year-old boy happy? Take him snapper fishing. We used a snapper (bluefish) rig, a popper ahead of a 3' leader, and small hook baited with frozen silversides. Then we cast and retrieved. Fifteen (released) snappers later we ducked out of the 92 degrees F air temperature, 90% humidity, windless, high-noon sun. Even the snowy egrets were perched in the shade. We fed a few leftover silversides to a big black lab that came down to check us out.
- Dery Bennett


8/26 - Town of Wallkill, Orange County, HRM 57: To be an archaeologist, you have to have a good imagination and be intrigued by mysteries. In our case on the hilltop overlooking the Wallkill River, we have to be able to strip away the modern landscape and see the site in our mind as it was thousands of years ago. Digging in the earth, we lower ourselves inch-by-inch into the Hudson Valley past, standing on progressively older living floors as though we were in a time machine: down 8" and we are looking at Indian stone tools that have not seen the light of day in 4,000 years, standing on ground that held a hearth, a workshop, tree pollen from a 4,000 year-old forest, and grass pollen from a 4,000 year-old field.
- Tom Lake


8/27 - Manitou Marsh, HRM 46.5: In 1998 we collected some hybrid mudminnows in a supratidal pool in Manitou Marsh on the east side of the estuary. These were hybrids between eastern mudminnows and central mudminnows. Yet, I have never seen an eastern mudminnow on the east side of the Hudson and have never seen one in tidewater. They are found in the Popolopen (Montgomery) Creek drainage, directly across the river from Manitou, yet we have never seen an eastern mudminnow in Manitou, just the hybrids. Central mudminnows are mostly on the eastern side of the Hudson but have been taken in tidal water. Recently, some of my summer students and I sampled Manitou again, 9 years later, and found the hybrids still there. That covers 2-3 generations and this surprised us since it appears they are reproducing. If so, we wonder how?
- Bob Schmidt


8/28 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Monarchs seem to be on their way. The ones I've seen lately are flying about with purpose, not just drifting from flower to flower. The other day I saw them flocking all over my garden; it must have been a fueling stop. Apples are dropping from trees and the bears are having a field day with them. I'm seeing lots of apple skins in the bear scat I find. Leaf colors are well on their way and so far looking pretty good, with sugar and red maples and white ash all contributing.
- Ellen Rathbone


8/28 - Denning's Point, HRM 60: Fishing from the top of Denning's Point, I caught 4 channel catfish in the 1-3 lb. range and lost at least that many more. The small hooks I use for carp tend to catch smaller catfish. Over a 6 hour period I saw no carp activity.
- Bill Greene


8/28 - Town of Wallkill, Orange County, HRM 57: The work day was finished, a scorcher, but it was well worth the wait after dark for the full moon rise. The air was still despite being up on a hilltop. The sky was full of stars, not black, but a velvety midnight blue in anticipation of moon rise. When the soft orange disk peeked up over the eastern horizon it appeared larger than life, an optical illusion. This was the Green Corn Moon. During the last millennium before the Dutch arrived, this was the time when Hudson Valley native people gave thanks for another successful growing season. The Mohicans, Lenape, Munsee, and others, who had committed themselves to a horticultural economy, held Green Corn ceremonies that would lead to the Harvest Moon of September.
- Tom Lake

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