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Hudson River Almanac July 8 -July 15, 2008

OVERVIEW

This week saw a colorful mix of experiences spanning the length of the river, nearly 330 miles, from the High Peaks of the Adirondack, to the head of tidewater, to the edge of the Lower Bay of New York Harbor at Sandy Hook.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

7/11 - Waterford, HRM 158: We were just beyond the Waterford Flight, a series of five Barge Canal locks that constitute the largest lift in the shortest distance on any system in the world. The Waterford Flight raises water level 169 feet from the Hudson to the Mohawk River bypassing Cohoes Falls. It was one of those days when the world seemed in harmony: the air and the river were exactly 79 degrees F, children were playing in the water, boaters were coming and going at the launch, and to the west, near the falls at Cohoes, two large kettles of turkey vultures were loving the warm thermals. We were there to collect and measure young-of-the-year blueback herring. Their presence in the Mohawk is the product of an epic journey their parents take each spring, migrating up the Hudson from the sea to the federal dam at Troy, then through the Waterford Flight of locks, before finally heading west out the Mohawk River to spawn, sometimes as far as Oneida Lake. Each haul of our seine netted dozens of small month-old herring (114-120 mm), some of them slipping through the mesh onto the wet sand. As autumn approaches huge schools, millions of these juvenile bluebacks, will migrate down river, back through the locks to the sea where they will grow and mature before returning as spawning adults in about four years.
- Tom Lake, M. Mantzouris

Blueback herring have been getting into Oneida Lake since 1982, and further on to Lake Ontario via canals, since 1995. However, it's not clear if these are fish are anadromous (from the sea). It is more likely that they are first generation, landlocked young, spawned in the Mohawk.
-- Bob Schmidt

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

7/08 - Sandy Hook, NJ: We had seven adults and five toddlers helping to pull our seine in Horseshoe Cove this evening. The results were not unusual: many two-inch, young-of-the-year Atlantic silversides, a smattering of killifish, crabs, pipefish, shrimp, young-of-the-year winter flounder, and one small lion's mane jellyfish, about two-inches across the mantle. They are a northern species that can reach a diameter of ten-feet with 200-foot tentacles. The "catch of the day" was a least tern, tangled in monofilament around its neck and wing with a fish hook at one loose end that had snagged in the net, probably when the tern dipped too close to nab a silverside. We freed it with a combination of a pen knife, punched fingers, much flapping and screaming, and released it unharmed. As I held the tern in my hands I tried to guess its weight. It felt about zero.
- Dery Bennett

7/9 - Milan HRM 90 In my woodland, brushy field and meadow property, I have noticed far fewer white-tailed deer and wild turkey offspring this year than in past years. I suspect that this may be due to the combination of June's weather and predation (A large bobcat has been sighted in the fields.) The bluebirds in my nest boxes are rearing second clutches. Other nest boxes have house wrens and tree swallows.
- Frank Margiotta

7/10 - North Germantown, HRM 109: A delightfully cool north wind had the turkey vultures up and teetering in the sky. I counted at least 35 from horizon-to-horizon in groups of a half-dozen or more. In an hour of watching, their formations were upset twice, as first an adult, then an immature bald eagle came barreling through. They ended up soaring as well, but first, apparently, needed to have their fun.
- Tom Lake

7/10 - Cheviot, HRM 106: A cold front had come through and the extreme humidity of the last few days was gone. Overhead was a sterling blue sky. In mid-morning, a rising tide in the face of a north wind had the river capped over in frothy white. For some reason, that always excites the gulls, but I spotted a half dozen close to shore that seemed to be more focused on their dipping and diving. Through binoculars I could see a large swath of dimples on the surface along the earthen pier. This was probably a school of young-of-the-year blueback herring queued up in the lee of the pier conserving energy but facing an assault from the air.
- Tom Lake

7/10 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 74: We were treated to the awesome sight, this evening, of three pileated woodpeckers in our backyard. Two appeared to be fairly young and rather new to feeding themselves, pecking on the ground, on the roof of a neighbor's shed, etc. An adult and her young? The three stuck close together, were very animated, and not at all disturbed by our presence. They are very "striking" birds!
- Bill Lenhart, Donna Lenhart

7/10 - Fishkill, HRM 61: While reading our morning newspaper and eating our breakfast, we had the pleasure of watching two spotted fawns frolicking in our backyard. These frisky little ones were a joy to watch as they attempted to reach the lowest hanging branches of our black walnut tree with little success. They would stand on their hind legs, but would overreach and fall backward. They also would kick up their heels and race around the yard. Meanwhile, mother white-tail was placidly foraging on the lawn. Joy in the morning.
- Ed Spaeth, Merrill Spaeth

7/10 - Beacon, HRM 61: Today's catch and release at Long Dock was seven channel catfish, three of them solid two-pounders, and four other smaller fish. No carp, and though I was there before noon, I did not see a carp jump until 5:15 PM. Some of the turkey vultures have become regular visitors at the northeast corner of the bay, circling so low I can actually see their red heads while they're on the wing. Then they land and walk the shoreline.
- Bill Greene

7/10 - Putnam Valley, HRM 55.5. I had an unexpected opportunity today to see a new-to-me varmint investigating the tops and crevices of the retaining wall of my garden. Some reference work established that it was a long-tailed weasel. It was sleek, with the prominently demarcated, off-white ventral surface, and elegant in motion (whether speedy or slowly curious) but much smaller than I'd conjured any weasel being. Coincidentally, I've noticed a reduced chipmunk population.
- Nancy P Durr

7/10 - Manhattan, HRM 3.5: Our first Day-in-the-Life-of-the-Hudson training of 2008 was off to a raucous start at Pier 84. Our presentations competed with a trapped house sparrow chirping furiously inside the education center, periodically punctuated by the rhythmic clanging of a clamshell dredge scooping and clearing sediment in preparation for this fall's return of the Intrepid. The catch of the day was a 30-inch American eel, deep green in color. With its green tone and pectoral fins extended it looked like a small dragon as it raced around the tub.
- Margie Turrin, Chris Boswer, Steve Stanne & Beth Roessler

7/10 - Navesink River, NJ: This is a tidal tributary of Raritan Bay behind Sandy Hook, convenient for two hours of fishing before work. The catch was a 13-inch fluke (summer flounder) that was tagged and released and two 12-inch bluefish that made it into the frying pan. The river was swarming with adult bunker (menhaden) swimming under the boat and flipping all around us. When we drifted through a school bouncing bait on the bottom, we could feel bunker bumping into the lines. Then, to top off the day, we came across some of the bottled-nosed dolphins that have set up shop in the Navesink and Shrewsburry rivers this summer. They were porpoising slowly up river and we could hear them puffing. Maybe they were swimming off breakfast.
- Dery Bennett

7/11 - Green Island, HRM 152: It was a few hours from high tide as we walked along what remained of the rocky beach. Pebbles and cobbles of black chert were strewn about having eroded long ago out of a shale outcropping. Under a shoreline cottonwood we found two dozen small eagle feathers, many of them lying just above the high tide mark. An adult bald eagle had been perched, loafing and preening in that cottonwood, a night roost, no more than a few hours before.
- Tom Lake, M. Mantzouris

7/12 - Newcomb, HRM 302: I saw a beautiful foot-long ring-neck snake tonight as I was leaving a concert at Adirondack Park Visitors Interpretive Center. It was about 9:15 PM, and the snake looked like a shoelace someone had lost on the walkway. When I got closer I could tell it was a snake, but it looked so flat that I was afraid someone had stomped it while coming in to the show. As I reached down to lift it up, it slithered slowly off the walkway and into the grasses. Ring-necks are such lovely little things.
- Ellen Rathbone

7/12 - Yonkers to Croton to Beacon, HRM 18-60: Led by John Waldman. intrepid Day-in-the-Life-of-the-Hudson fish enthusiasts seined the summer bounty of the estuary. Fifteen different fish species found their way into our nets between the three sites, seven each in the brackish reaches of the estuary, dropping to five in the freshwater site, with no single species netted in all 3 locations.

At Yonkers we collected white perch, mummichogs, northern pipefish, hogchokers, young-of-the-year winter flounder, northern kingfish, sea robin, along with a comb jellies, blue crabs and shrimp. Croton boasted a healthy number of pipefish, a school of young menhaden, plus herring, bluefish, striped bass, white perch, and a spottail shiner. While the river at the Beacon site was coated in water chestnut, with dissolved oxygen levels under the plants reading 3.3 mg/L with 40% saturation levels, outside of the bed we found banded killifish, tessellated darters, spottail shiners, striped bass and a small elver. An impressive representation of the diversity of the Hudson on any given day.
- Margie Turrin, Chris Boswer, Steve Stanne, Beth Roessler

7/12 - Plum Point to Cornwall Landing, HRM 59-57: Attempting to paddle my kayak back home in the ebb tide from Plum Point to Cornwall Landing at midday, I was faced with strong head winds from the south and swells that appeared to reach four feet. I could have followed the shoreline and made it a bit easier on myself, but I was feeling adventurous. I hadn't seen conditions like this in some time. A trip that would have normally taken 20 minutes was now taking close to an hour. My technique was good, my boat was handling beautifully, and my confidence paddling in rough water was never higher. As I approached the Cornwall boat launch I thought I had made it, but to my surprise the wind was stronger and the swells were bigger. The last stretch to the beach was intense. My boat was tossed around pretty good. I did everything not to loose my paddle and end up on the rocks. Remembering not to over-paddle I held my form and slowly but surely made my way to the beach. I was exhausted and glad to be heading in. I don't know if the winds were from tropical storm Bertha or not, but I do know this was some of the best kayaking I've ever done on the Hudson.
- James Duryea

7/13 - Navesink River, NJ: The first locusts of the summer could be heard today, high up high in the trees. Later in the day I spotted a black (melanistic) squirrel. In the woods? Nope, in a convenience store parking lot.
- Dery Bennett

WATER'S SONG
I hear water drips,
The water splashes a song.
The rhythm calm me.

The song surrounds me.
Water's music is enchanting.
That is ... water's song.
Gabby Texeira
6th Grade, Vails Gate School

7/14 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Our first butter-and-eggs, beautiful yellow wildflowers, were in bloom.
- Ellen Rathbone

7/15 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Toby and I found our first ripe blueberries two evenings ago, along with copious bear scats. We weren't the only ones interested in a harvest! I may pick some this weekend to make blueberry pancakes for my dad when he comes to visit. .
- Ellen Rathbone, Toby Rathbone

7/15 - Little Stony Point, HRM 55: In mid-afternoon, still two hours from low tide, the shallow bay on the north side of Little Stony Point had pretty much emptied out. That made it perfect for seining. I checked the river temperature at every stop around the peninsula and all readings were 84 degrees F, very warm for mid-July. A few sweeps of our net through the knee-deep water allowed us to catch hundreds of young-of-the-year tessellated darters (20-22 mm), white perch (22-23 mm), and striped bass (24-26). This small, warm bay was a nursery for these tiny fish
- Tom Lake, Cody Lake

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