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Hudson River Almanac June 17 - June 24, 2008

OVERVIEW

While this continues to be a month of severe storms, the summer solstice arrived quietly and made official what has been in the air for weeks in the form of heat and humidity.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

6/20 - Brooklyn, New York City: Staring at Battery Park and lower Manhattan from the Brooklyn Promenade, I realized I haven't been at the edge of all this, physically, for years. I'd heard and even assisted bureaucratically with proposed waterfront parks, multi-use paths, plant discussions. But here in the flesh, the tide churning up the upper harbor, tree swallows patrolling the promenade and dipping below to the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, and a pink sun rolling down in a last flare before sunset, I realized that all the days of work could never replace just "being here" at this moment, on the summer solstice. I'd truly begun to forget that old tired saw about ultimately preserving only those things we understand. Quite honestly, I don't think I'll ever completely understand the appeal of simply watching a river, but - looking at all this pink sunset coloring all these admiring faces of every age and background, the light lapping at every dog, barn swallow, chimney swift, the river, trees and buildings - I've got to believe that even I've caught a glimmer of some simple understanding. Like everyone else and everything else on this river's edge, I took a bath in this sunset and came away refreshed.
- Dave Taft

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

6/17 - Poestenkill, HRM 152:. The tide was very low and there was little flow in the stream, so we saw parts of the creek never before visible. There were two small groups of shorthead redhorse, one in the pool upstream of the 1st Street bridge in Troy, and one in a deep area under the Amtrak bridge. These suckers, commonly found in the Mohawk system, have been reported elsewhere in the Hudson estuary, but this is the only place we see them with some consistency. You can spot them by their bright red fins.
- Bob Schmidt, Ira Shadis, Erin Swift

6/17 - Chelsea, HRM 65.2: I was crouched in the driftline along the shore trying to identify a poorly preserved fish carcass the tide had brought in when I saw some movement off to the side. A spotted fawn had stepped out of the treeline, 30 feet away. It was the smallest fawn I have ever seen, maybe 15" at the shoulder. My first association was "key deer," a much smaller variety of white-tail from Florida. As soon as I made eye contact, the tiny fawn turned and bounded off. A doe, maybe Mom, followed behind. The dead fish was a largemouth bass.
- Tom Lake

[This sounds like a new-born. Peak fawning-births for white-tails are May, June and July. Pete Nye, NYSDEC.
Fawns are about 38.0 cm (15") tall at birth. Charlotte Demers, wildlife biologist, SUNY ESF's Adirondack Ecological Center in Newcomb.
While the first day of their lives is a wobbly time for them, it is not at all unlikely that by the second day they can leap around with the best of them. Ellen Rathbone.]

6/18 - North Sea: I would like to assure Dery Bennett (see Sandy Hook, 5/29) that the brant made it to the Arctic this year to breed. I was aboard a Russian ice-breaker above the Arctic Circle, visiting the Shetland and Faroe Islands, Jan Mayen, Bear Island, and Svalbard (Spitzbergen-north of Norway) in the North, Norwegian, and Barents seas. I returned with "visions of sea birds, whales, polar bears, and walrus in my head..." I can personally attest to seeing brant on Bear Island Nature Reserve and Svalbard. Some brant were also in evidence at Hornsund, Svalbard. Life appeared normal at 78º north latitude.
- Susan Droege

6/18 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Students from Ticonderoga came to the Adirondack Park Visitors Interpretive Center today for aquatic studies. We caught some truly giant dragonfly nymphs, very few damselfly nymphs, but no mayfly nymphs, although I did see one very pale mayfly at the frog pond. At the Rich Lake Outlet we saw lots of stonefly nymph cases, caught a few stonefly nymphs, and one adult stonefly. Pickings overall seemed pretty slim this year, but all indicators suggested fairly good water quality. The high point for several students was the water scorpion, although they did give a valiant try at catching a crayfish, which reportedly was very large. The wild strawberries were starting to fruit now - birds and bears should be happy.
- Ellen Rathbone

6/18 - Red Hook 98: I had my first-of-the-season indigo bunting today at Poet's Walk.
- Mimi Brauch

6/19 - Town of Fishkill, HRM 61: One of my favorite moments in the field is watching a Cooper's hawk, a woodland raptor, fly through a forest, flap-flap-glide, steering with wings and tail through the trees. I was barely into hiking an upland trail when one silently glided past. Deer tracks soon crossed mine and continued on ahead. They were very fresh; pressed in the muddy path, some of them only half-filled with water. I felt like James Fenimore Cooper's Hawkeye tracking a white-tail. Then I spotted her, 100 feet away, halfway into a break watching me. I thought how her caramel-colored coat did not offer much camouflage against the bright green foliage. But then she stepped all the way into the shadows and dissolved from sight.
- Tom Lake

6/20 - Saw Kill, HRM 98.5: We spent a few minutes today searching the Saw Kill below the waterfall for mitten crabs. We found 6 shed exoskeletons - they seem to be getting bigger. We also found a very small snapping turtle sitting on the bank. Some turtles overwinter in the nests and emerge in early summer, possibly the case with this little one.
- Bob Schmidt, Ira Shadis, Erin Swift

6/20 - Hathaway's Glen, HRM 63: I love this little beach, mostly because no one is ever there. The entry to the creek and the beach were lined with honeysuckle, making the hundred-foot walk not hard to take. The cold brook water tumbling down the fall line to the river was 63 degree F. There it bisected the beach and met the 72 degree F Hudson, changing from clear and cold to warm and turbid. We made several unremarkable sweeps with our 85-foot seine, catching white perch, spottail shiners, and tessellated darters. But at exactly 8:00 PM, as the summer solstice was sweeping over, we made our final haul and caught at least a hundred banded killifish, most of them breeding males. I'm pretty sure the difference came from hauling with the current rather than against it. I'd argue that there is not a prettier fish in the river than a courting male killifish, with iridescent purple, blue, and lavender highlights in their bands. Our favorite name for the male killie is "blue-banded mudminnow," a colloquialism coined by riverman Everett Nack. As the sun settled in the trees behind me, I watched the river change from blue to pink.
- Tom Lake, A. Danforth

6/20 - Nyack, HRM 28: My friend and I moor our sailboat at the Nyack Boat Club. When we prepared to go out for a sail today we noticed a single grayish-white chicken-sized egg on the cockpit floor. We moved the egg to a safe place in the cabin during our excursion, then returned it to the cockpit floor when we left the boat at the mooring. We guessed it was a double-crested cormorant egg.
- Pat Grove

RIVER POEM
I smell fresh air
In the cool wind,
Waves in the river
Big and bold.
- Jeanmarie Smith, 6th Grade, Vails Gate School

6/21 - Chelsea, HRM 65.2: I was checking a small beach to see what the tide had brought in when a large shadow crossed the ground at my feet. I looked up in time to see an adult bald eagle disappearing into the tree tops. The bird was well within the range of the local nest, so I guessed it was the female. For some reason, Papa seems to make himself scarce this time of the year.
- Tom Lake

HUDSON HIGHLANDS
Granite escarpments surround the blue line
Of the arterial pathway the water did find.
For millions of years, the ramparts had stood,
Steep and diverse, much historical worth.
A great chain had shaped a new Nation's fate.
These small, rugged highlands do straddle four states.
A great sheet of ice had scoured them clean.
But resistant is Life and She re-covered them green.
Beauty apparent as I stand on these peaks.
Look to the south at Manhattan's skyline.
Diverse are the animals and plants that reside
Here in the Highlands at the Hudson River's south end.
The animals cope and the plants do adapt.
Only time will tell us if people can, too.
- Jim Beemer

6/22 - Norrie Point, HRM 85: Although I had the deck at the Norrie Point Environmental Center all to myself at 6:45 AM as I enjoyed a breakfast sandwich and coffee, I sensed there was company nearby. Closing my eyes, it sounded like I was sitting by the sea, with rhythmic waves lapping on the beach. It was not waves. The river was still, but the carp were in action. The half-mile long patch of water chestnut covering the bay south of the center was alive with big, spawning, splashing carp. My estimate was that 30-40 of them were periodically coming to the surface among the plants and throwing water in the air. Adding to the scene, a great blue heron glided in over the trees. As I followed it with the binoculars, I spotted an adult bald eagle in the binocular field, perched in a big sycamore.
- Alan Mapes

6/23 - Wappinger Creek, HRM 67.5: In a month of storms, today was a classic. One thunderstorm after another rolled in from the west with short, promising breaks in between. Several of the storms dropped heavy rain for a short time. Nearly two inches fell. I watched a black-crowned night heron perched on a deadfall along the tidewater creek; its beak looked like a water spout as the torrential rain ran off its head.
- Tom Lake

6/24 - Newcomb, HRM 302: We spotted another wood turtle tonight (see 6/12, Newcomb), maybe 8" along the length of her carapace, laying her eggs down at the Hudson River Pump House. She had a few eggs in the nest hole already, so we wished her well and moved along.
- Ellen Rathbone, Toby Rathbone

6/24 - Green Island, HRM 152: The sun had just gone down and light was fading. The tide was nearing full and the amount of shoreline available for wandering was limited. I saw a three-foot log drifting close to shore that quickly became a fish. Just as quickly the fish became a sturgeon, probably a shortnose. But was it alive? I tossed a small chert pebble that landed in the water a few feet way. With no great hurry, and with barely a turn of its tail, the big fish simply sank out of sight.
- Tom Lake

6/24 - Roeliff Jansenkill, HRM 111: We stopped in the mouth of the Roeliff Jansen Kill today to see what we could find. The only thing we saw of note was a moderately large dead sea lamprey. We have seen sea lamprey in this creek before, and it's nice to know they are still there.
- Bob Schmidt, Ira Shadis, Erin Swift

6/24 - Saw Kill, HRM 98.5: We looked along the Saw Kill on our twice weekly visit today and found two more mitten crab shed exoskeletons.
- Bob Schmidt, Ira Shadis, Erin Swift

6/24 - Hyde Park, HRM 82: The NYSDEC Hudson River Region 3 Fisheries Unit crew and I had a fabulous day on the river. We netted six adult Atlantic sturgeon ranging from 5.5 to 8 feet long. These prehistoric fish are truly beautiful creatures!
- Rebecca Houser

6/24 - Dobbs Ferry, HRM 23: In order to learn of their movements within the Hudson River estuary and along the Atlantic coast, the NYSDEC Hudson River Fisheries Unit applies satellite tags to some of the Atlantic sturgeon we capture and release. Recently, one of our satellite tags popped off an adult Atlantic sturgeon near Dobbs Ferry in the Tappan Zee. We do not have an exact location - it could be on either side of the river - but we are thinking more likely on the Dobbs Ferry side. If anyone is out canoeing, kayaking, or boating in the area, please keep an eye out for it. It would be very much appreciated. The tag floats, is cylindrical, black, and 6.5 inches long, not counting the antenna
- Amanda Higgs

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