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Hudson River Almanac June 10- June 16, 2008

OVERVIEW

Strong storms hit the Hudson Valley this week in the wake of some record-setting heat. What a resilient world: the storms pass, the sun comes out, and except for branches in the roads, life resumes its natural course.

HIGHLIGHT OF A PREVIOUS WEEK

6/7 - Norrie Point, HRM 85: Wads of newly sprouted water chestnut were drifting in the river and getting deposited along the shore by the tide. An evening paddle from Norrie Point boat basin across the river to Black Creek produced sightings of three different deer grazing on the washed up greenery in three different spots. In the past, I've watched beaver eating water chestnut, but this is the first time I've seen deer taking advantage of it. Some of the chestnut looks like last year's stems with mature nuts attached, sprouting out new green leaves. This makes me wonder about the sources that call the plant an annual.
- Alan Mapes

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

6/10 - Esopus, HRM 87: While walking less than a quarter-mile from our house to the railroad tracks and a pond, I spotted three (one dead) black snakes, a couple of hundred yards apart, each 4-5 feet long. While standing on the bridge near the tracks facing the pond, a fawn, without making a sound and no more than four feet away, leaped over the guardrail into the water and gracefully swam her way to the other side. She climbed out and wandered down the tracks. Something must have frightened her. I didn't see any parent or sibling in sight.
- William Paskey

6/10 - Town of Wappinger: It was mid-afternoon and 96 degrees F in the shade. The humidity was oppressive. There was a tornado watch, bordering on a warning, for most of the area. From a distance, I could see one of the local adult bald eagles perched on a horizontal limb of a big red oak, panting like a puppy. I could have snuck closer to see if it was Mom or Dad, but the last thing that bird needed was me intruding and making it fly away.
- Tom Lake

6/10 - Farmer's Landing, HRM 67.5: I was sitting by the river, full darkness had just arrived, when an incredible line of thunderstorms swept over. In the face of all that energy, a half-dozen searing white bolts of lighting erupted at once. Straight line winds rolled down Sheafe Road a short distance upriver, ripping limbs off ash and oak, locust and mulberry, finally exploding an old sugar maple.
- Tom Lake

6/10 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: I looked out at the "lawn" where waist-high grasses gracefully waved their pollen-filled, and probably tick-harboring, heads in the hot breeze. It was time to mow indeed! Then I looked closer to see healthy clumps of pink clover feeding bees and butterflies, and most lovely, a flood of blue-eyed grasses that seem to have just about taken over although I'd put them at the edges of the lawn. Maybe next week I'll mow ...
- Robin Fox

6/11 - Newcomb, HRM 302: It was a glorious morning! Cool, dry air, pleasant breeze, blue sky and sunshine. A second string of thunderstorms went over us last night with plenty of lightning, thunder, some rain, and lots of wind.
- Ellen Rathbone

6/11 - Staatsburg, HRM 85: We've now confirmed two nestlings in our red-shouldered hawk nest. Their wings and tails are pretty much entirely covered by short dark feathers while the rest of their bodies are still downy white with only a hint here and there of dark feathers emerging. They were moving around in the nest this evening, vigorously exercising their wings.
- Linda Lund, David Lund

6/11 - Hunter's Brook, HRM 67.5: The brook looked empty without the glass eel gear that had worked here for over two months. The water temperature had risen to 75 degrees F and with the very low tide, Hunter's Brook had taken on a summer look. It is possible that the juvenile eel migration ends in June, as an adaptation, because summer conditions in this brook could be very stressful. As we left, we had an opportunity to assist our first turtle of the season, an adult red-eared slider, cross from Wappinger Creek to a boggy upland swale.
- Tom Lake, Eileen McAdam

6/11 - Newburgh, HRM 61: While standing outside the Newburgh Library I enjoyed the aerobatics of a pair of chimney swifts as they wheeled and turned with such ease over the parking lot and the adjacent buildings. Their maneuvers were dizzying to watch.
- Ed Spaeth

6/12 - Newcomb, HRM 302: I saw my first (and, so far, only) wood turtle of the season laying her eggs. Two snapping turtles were also digging away. There were about 13 nest holes around them, several of which I suspect were not true nests, but test plots.
- Ellen Rathbone

WAVES
Erosion agents,
make the rocks weak and fragile,
'til they become sand.
- Yiji Suh, 6th Grade, Vails Gate School

6/12 - Fishkill, HRM 61: We were underneath one of our white pines when we noticed bird nesting material on the walkway. We have a very persistent robin who has been determined to build a nest on a pine bough over the last several days. Every time the wind blows more than a gentle breeze, the nest has come down. I have cleaned up at least eight nests, some very well constructed, that have fallen to the ground, but none so far with any eggs.
- Merrill Spaeth, Ed Spaeth, Andrea Adams

6/12 - Scarborough, HRM 32: I sailed back around Scarborough Light this evening to check on the pile of sticks that may or may not have been an osprey nest. Once again, there were osprey there - this time a pair. Both flew off even though I was not close, one swooping down to pick a fish out of the green current. This wasn't a splashing capture but a quick pick, like choosing a cigar from a humidor. The ease of the catch made it seem there must be hundreds of fish right there for the choosing. Both birds circled and then returned to just below the big #14 on the navigational tower.
- Dan Wolff

6/13 - Saw Kill, HRM 98.5: We were out scouring the Saw Kill for mitten crabs. I was snorkeling in the deeper areas and came across a moderately large (12-inch-plus) northern hogsucker. I only see 1-2 of these neat fish per year in the Hudson River. We did not see any live mitten crabs, but did turn up three shed exoskeletons. Not only do they like the Saw Kill, but they are growing.
- Bob Schmidt, Erin Swift, Ira Shadis

DISGUISES
Rocks underwater
help the crabs on their mission
not to be eaten.
- Yiji Suh, 6th Grade, Vails Gate School

6/13 - Sandy Hook, NJ: This was the first big seining day of the season in Horseshoe Cove for 200 sixth-graders in waves of 25. About a dozen pulls in 75 degrees F water yielded green crabs, blue crabs, hermit crabs, Asian shore crabs, sand shrimp, mud snails, and oyster drills. Among the fishes were Atlantic silverside, bay anchovies, a few half-inch winter flounder, young-of-the-year bluefish one inch long, and a horseshoe crab that survived multiple handlings. A couple of least terns fed in the shallows and a crow flew by, harassed by a red-winged blackbird.
- Dery Bennett

6/14 - Minerva, HRM 284: This seemed to be Saturnid moth weekend. I found a stunning cecropia moth (in full sunlight) huddling in a corner of a garage door as well as an equally amazing luna moth. The luna must have thought it had done a great job blending in with the white bark of a paper birch in my front yard. But the moth was green, the birch was white, and I wasn't fooled.
- Mike Corey

6/14 - Pleasant Valley, HRM 84: I went fishing with a friend in Wappinger Creek and saw many of the usual birds, such as a male red-winged blackbird, sporting nice red and yellow epaulets, and a catbird, both making their way to the water for a drink. The usual song sparrows were singing in the trees. I noticed a small flock of 10-12 birds arrive, flying in and around the trees above our heads, dipping and darting in different directions, then perching and repeating the process. They were catching insects that were flying above the creek. They had a distinctive coloration that I had never seen before: tufted heads, medium size, brownish, with a striking yellow band on the end of their tails. As soon as we got home we rushed to our bird books: cedar waxwings! A first for me and it made my day!
- Kathy Kraft

6/14 - Fishkill, HRM 61: A gray squirrel that had been passing too closely to our bluebird nest box met with the fury of the guardian male bluebird. Relentlessly, the bluebird attacked the squirrel as it fled across the yard, until the squirrel was able to find refuge in a conifer. I no longer have any doubts about the occupancy of our bluebird house.
- Ed Spaeth

6/14 - Putnam Valley, HRM 55.5: At the Putnam Highlands Audubon Society Board Meeting I asked if anyone had a sense, as I had, of many fewer barn swallows this year. Three others said they, too, had noticed conspicuously fewer; one said their garage-barn was unoccupied this year, whereas in previous years the population was abundant. I can report only my data: in at least the last eight years, 4-5 nests in sheltered basement stairwells, and 1-2 nests under the eaves, were typically occupied. This year there were only two active nests (now with breathing babies) in the stairwell and zero nests under eaves.
There seems to be an especially abundant crop of juvenile starlings this year. A flock of about 60 have been hanging around, two-thirds of which are juveniles. Many of them come in threes and fours to my feeders, scrapping with each other over the food. Neither barn swallows nor starlings ever make melodious sounds, but I prefer the agitated chatter of barn swallows over the mini-crow-like noise of starlings.
- Nancy P. Durr

6/14 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: In between the buckets of rain that fell [at least one-inch], lightning flashed and thunder rumbled over the Croton Reservoir. As I watched the woods being lit by the flashes, I saw my first lightning bug (firefly) of the season. It was hanging on the window screen, answering the flashing sky with its own bright light.
- Robin Fox

6/14 - Brooklyn, New York City: A collaboration between the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy, the Hudson River Estuary Program, and The Coastal Marine Resource Center attracted 90 people to gather at Brooklyn Bridge Park on the East River for a public program. We seined under the Manhattan Bridge between 10 AM and noon. The catch included 2 striped bass, several Atlantic tomcod, one young winter flounder, 2 bay anchovies, shrimp (Palaemontes sp., Crangon septemspinosa), numerous comb jellies, lion's mane jellyfish, one amphipod, and green crabs. We also found evidence of blue crab, oysters, blue mussel, clams and snails, but no live specimens. Much of our attention was occupied trying to avoid underwater debris with our net. We spotted a cormorant fishing just outside our small cove.
- Kara Gilmour, Cortney Worrall, Joana Chan, Steve Stanne, Cynthia Fowx

6/15 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Many tiger swallowtail butterflies were around now, along with ox-eye daisies, birdsfoot trefoil, purple vetch, chickweed, and yarrow. I checked my bluebird nest boxes: 4-5 babies, newly hatched, in one, one bluebird egg in another, and 6 chickadee eggs in a third. Finally, there were 3 bluebird eggs in the nest box under my apple trees!
- Ellen Rathbone

6/15 - Minerva, HRM 284: It was a beautiful evening, warm with clear skies. I just had to hike to the swamp with the "bowser." There was lots of activity, nothing spectacular, but it was nice. It was a good amphibian evening: I heard bullfrogs, green frogs, gray treefrogs, and spring peepers. A swamp sparrow was in full voice, our American bittern was calling, as well as a mystery marsh bird that I could not place. No sign of bats. I'm getting worried. We've had a few in the attic this spring, but it's pretty quiet. I saw no bats cruising the open swamp, picking off flying insects. Water-shield is beginning to cover much of the water surface.
We've got daisies blooming! Yellow bullfrog lilies were up, with signs of white water lily flower buds. I found some wildflowers I hadn't seen in years at the edge of the woods near the water's edge: one-flowered cancer-root, an odd, pale, parasitic plant with a sticky flower stem, growing in little clumps. A very neat little plant.
- Mike Corey

6/15 - Beacon, HRM 61: On a day when I had to settle for fishing the low tide only, I was still happy to catch and release a 5 lb. carp and 3 channel catfish at Long Dock. One of the channel cats was a nice heavy 20-incher. These were the first channel catfish I've caught since mid-March. A couple of group-spawning carp were visible along the shoreline from where I was fishing. Even more noticeable were the number of carp back to doing their all-season solo jumps in mid-bay and out in the main channel.
- Bill Greene

6/16 - Newcomb, HRM 302: I saw my first firefly of the season tonight.
- Ellen Rathbone

6/16 - West Park, HRM 82: Our evening barbecue was interrupted by a sudden storm. It passed quickly, but left behind many large hailstones (inch-and-a-half in diameter, even larger) covering the lawn. They melted rapidly, but reminders remained in the form of tiny dents in the hood of the car and lots of broken pumpkin and squash leaves in the garden.
- Mike Murray, Ann Murray

6/16 - Town of Wappinger: I had no expectations of seeing an eagle this morning. I had not seen the nesting pair (NY62) in a week, and, with no fledglings to nurture this spring, I was sure they had left. At 4:30 it was barely light enough to see the night roost tree, a 90-foot-tall white pine. A big white head glowed in the barest of light and I could see that it was the male, or "Papa" as we call him. He was up and preening and I stood in my usual spot, watching. He seemed in no hurry but after a while he looked at me, lifted off, and flew west toward the river. I wondered if that was his "good-bye" for the year.
- Tom Lake

6/16 - Farmer's Landing, HRM 67: It was not yet 5:00 AM but the air was lightening in pre-dawn. A few fireflies were winking off and the birdsong was in full chorus. It sounded like an orchestra tuning up before a performance, a wide range of melodic sounds, each with its own purpose.
- Tom Lake

6/16 - Farmer's Landing, HRM 67: Two hours until sunset, but it was nearly as dark as night. A huge black cloud, dropping lightning bolts three at a time, slowly moved east across the river leaving tornados warnings in its wake. A dozen Canada geese, including some young ones, were riding the ever-increasing chop on the river, showing off their buoyancy. Pushed by a strong northeast wind, a curtain of marble-sized hail swept over, bouncing off my head, under the hood of my rain jacket. As the black cloud and driving rain reached Farmer's Landing visibility dropped to zero. Trees bent double. Limbs snapped. For five minutes the world was teetering. Then the lights came back on, the wind dropped, visibility returned, and the storm continued eastward.
- Tom Lake

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