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Hudson River Almanac June 24 - June 30, 2008

OVERVIEW

The first week of summer was a warm and hazy introduction to the next three months. The river is warming, the weather is more predictable, and for those of us who love summer, our season is here.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

6/30 - Winnisook, Ulster County, HRM 92: I've watched a mallard family, a mother and eight young, eating big black snails in Winnisook Lake. They absolutely gobble them down in a feeding frenzy, each eating at least 4-5 full-sized snails at a feeding, though it takes some swallowing work now and again when they take a really big one. At those times, they seem to toss them around in their beaks, perhaps smashing the shells a bit before they swallow. You can see the snails bulging in their throats when they have trouble getting them down. The ducks are growing unusually quick. I wonder if they are growing faster than normal because of all the protein in the snails?
- Vivian Yess Wadlin

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

6/24 - Brockway, HRM 63: Just north of the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge, aboard the 6:47 AM Metro North commuter train to Manhattan, I spotted two adult bald eagles perched in a hardwood tree 30 feet apart.
- Malcolm A. Castro

6/24 - Constitution Marsh Sanctuary, HRM 53.4: On the return Metro North train from Grand Central, I was treated to another adult eagle at Constitution Marsh. The train was crawling and the eagle was close enough to see the detail of the feathers. This was likely one of the adults from the breeding pair that built a nest nearby this year, but did not produce any nestlings.
- Malcolm A. Castro

6/25 - Staatsburg, HRM 85: Sometime in the last few days the Old Post Road kestrels fledged. This evening there were two juveniles sitting with their parents on a telephone pole in the middle of "their" field. Judging by the size, there was a male juvenile sitting on top of the pole with his father, and a female perched with her mother on some wires about halfway down the pole.
- David Lund, Linda Lund

6/26 - North Germantown, HRM 109: I found a dead sea lamprey washed up on the beach at the North Germantown boat launch. I would rather see live ones, they are really amazing creatures. I suspect that this one, and the one seen early this week at the Roeliff Jansenkill, died from spawning exertions.
- Bob Schmidt

6/26 - Saw Kill, HRM 98.5: I stopped by the Saw Kill this morning and picked up three more mitten crab shed exoskeletons. It looks like I can do this on any given day.
- Bob Schmidt

6/26 - Constitution Marsh, HRM 51.5: Passing Constitution Marsh on our Metro North commuter train to Manhattan this morning, we spotted a lone adult bald eagle perched in a tree, wrapped in the solitude of the foliage on this gray, overcast day.
- Mike Boyajian, Jeri Wagner

This adult is likely one of the adult pair that began a nest nearby this spring. Although they did not produce a nestling, they have stayed close by, showed attention to the nest, and we have high hopes for next spring.
- Tom Lake

6/27 - Hudson South Bay (HRM 99) and Denning's Point (HRM 60): Hudsonia is conducting a biological survey of the Hudson South Bay area for Scenic Hudson, and another survey of Denning's Point, for the Beacon Institute. We would love to have your observations of anything that seems rare, noteworthy, or out of the ordinary at these two sites. Please contact Erik Kiviat (kiviat@bard.edu).
- Erik Kiviat

6/27 - Norrie Point to Haverstraw Bay, HRM 85-35: We finished our 2008 sampling for adult Atlantic sturgeon. We began on June 10, capturing 3 adult fish in Haverstraw Bay before moving north to Norrie Point where we finished on June 27. During that time we caught 103 sturgeon. Eight were recaptures: 4 from 2006 caught and tagged during this project; one was tagged as a juvenile in 1996 and had returned as an adult; another was tagged in the Delaware River. The biggest fish was a female, 8-foot 3-inches-long that weighed 240 lb. We also caught a fish that was missing a pelvic fin. In 1994 we stocked a number of small juvenile sturgeon that had a pelvic fin clip. This may have been one of those. This was our largest catch ever, more than we caught in 2006 and 2007 combined.
- Amanda Higgs

6/28 - Staatsburg, HRM 85: Yesterday it was kestrels and today the raptor fledging continued. When I checked our local red-shouldered hawk nest this morning, the last juvenile was out of the nest and sitting on a branch higher up in the same tree.
- David Lund

6/28- Kerhonkson, HRM 82: At 2:20 PM on a hot (88 degrees F), hazy and humid afternoon, Rebekah and I had our second rattlesnake sighting of the season. A three-foot dark brown specimen with a darker black tail section and about 7-8 rattle segments was apparently hunting birds on the side of Berme Road about a hundred yards south of our house. When we stopped and backed the car up to observe it, it retreated up onto the grassy undergrowth of the bank. A small bird, a warbler perhaps, was hopping around it curiously oblivious to the danger it was in from several quarters.
- Sarah Underhill

6/28 - South Mount Beacon, HRM 60: The sun was struggling through the summer haze to the northeast. To be here by dawn, I had to begin my hike before first light. At 1635 feet, this is the highest point in the valley between the Catskills and the sea. Twenty pairs of vulture eyes watched me from the iron work of the old fire tower. It was still too early to lift off. Three ravens were silhouetted in the sky to the east.

A cool southwest breeze dried my shirt after the long hike. On the way up I was disappointed to find that many of the hiking trails of my youth had grown over, vanished. Few people walk here anymore; many are on ATVs. The woods were alive with the flute-like song of the wood thrush and the plaintive call of the eastern wood pewee: "Pewee? Pewee!" The approach to the summit was bracketed by mountain laurel in full bloom and it had attracted at least one male ruby-throated hummingbird and two monarchs.

This is a special place where striped maple dominates the understory and American chestnut trees still grow, although never very tall. The largest I found had a circumference of eight-inches. It was here, a decade ago, that I came upon the largest bobcat tracks I have ever seen. They were bobcat-bordering-on-puma size, set in the muddy ground. She was not far off, either, as water droplets from her stride had not yet evaporated off the rocks. Today, a doe and her two tiny fawns galloped over the rocks and disappeared into the bright green forest.
- Tom Lake

It has been estimated that at the time of European contact, as many as half of the hardwood trees east of the Mississippi River were American chestnut. Long known as a major producer of mast food for wildlife, the chestnut's demise began in 1904 with the arrival, possibly from Asia, of an alien parasitic bark fungus, a chestnut blight. The fungus girdles mature trees near their base, killing them.
- Tom Lake

WALKING ON THE BEACH
Walking,
Walking,
Walking, up the beach and down,
being startled once or twice
by the slush in the water
silencing us with its constant
Shhh,
Shhh,
Shhh ... but we keep talking
and overflowing with happiness
while walking the beach.
- Patrick Wing, 6th Grade, Vails Gate School

6/29 - Milan, HRM 90: Finally, after years of coaxing, nest box building, and food presentation the bluebirds have arrived, in numbers! After cutting the grass which was followed by a downpour they were there. On the clothes line, on the pool fence, in the horsechestnut, flying to the ground to grab an unseen morsel and then back to their perch. Wow. What a great sight.
- Marty Otter

6/29 - North Mount Beacon, HRM 61: Although I never caught a glimpse, I'm pretty sure there was a black bear on the trail only minutes ahead of me this morning. As I left the dirt road that winds up the mountain and headed onto a steep woodland track, I could hear an incredible racket not far up the trail, moving away. Evidence mounted as I hiked on, with shattered saplings and a trampled understory. It was a familiar sight-I have seen it before. It would have been nice to have made its acquaintance. This is the season for black bears on the move, finding new territories or just seeking forage.
- Tom Lake

6/30 - Fishkill, HRM 61: A week ago, as our neighbor sat quietly reading her newspaper inside her screen house she noticed an odd motion in her Christmas cactus on the table next to her chair. There, cheerily chirping on the edge of the pot looking back at her, was a small wren. Earlier, she had noticed grass and other natural litter on the screen house floor but had dismissed it for clean-up at another time. Now she knew who had dropped it there, because as she watched the bird flew out of the enclosure by going under the sides of the screen house. Later, she saw it returning with a mouth full of moss to line its nest. That evening, she excitedly told us the story. The next we visited and saw for ourselves the woven domed nest nestled in the Christmas cactus. Today we visited and saw that there were three white eggs with brown speckles inside the nest. The bird was outside happily singing. No partridge in a pear tree, just a winter wren in a Christmas cactus.
- Andrea Adams, Ron Adams, Ed Spaeth, Merrill Spaeth

6/30 - Beacon, HRM 61: I only caught the ebb tide today but still wound up with a couple of nice channel catfish in the 2 lb. range. There was also a hook-strike-lost on a larger fish that was most likely a carp. The spawning carp were erupting most of the morning in the great mat of water chestnut. Others were jumping regularly in the main channel and clear areas of the bay.
- Bill Greene

(From last week's Almanac - this tag has not been found.)
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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