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Hudson River Almanac July 22- July 31, 2008

OVERVIEW

Mid-summer arrived with nighthawks, katydids, and fireflies livening up the nights, twilight to dawn. With a crop of newly-fledged Hudson River bald eagles making an appearance, perhaps as many as 20 new birds, the upper estuary has become an eagle watcher's delight.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

7/22 - Hyde Park, HRM 82: Heading north from Poughkeepsie with college faculty members participating in the River Summer program, the RV Seawolf paused to trawl just south of Crum Elbow. The prize in the catch, quickly released, was an Atlantic sturgeon 14.5 cm ( just under 6") long - a baby beginning a life that, with luck, will span 60 years or more.
- Steve Stanne

[This Highlight of the Week brings into focus one of the realities of the twenty-first century: Atlantic sturgeon and their ancient kin are not designed to live in a world with modern human technology. They breed every other year, produce relatively few young, require many years to reach maturity, and have long periods of vulnerability at sea. Their slow decline began with the arrival of unbridled directed commercial fisheries more than a hundred years ago. Although shortnose and Atlantic sturgeon are now federally protected, the qualifying remark "with luck" carries a suggestion of the obstacles ahead. Tom Lake.]

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

7/22 - Coxsackie to Castleton, HRM 122-138: Heavy rains had kept most River Summer participants in the RV Seawolf's galley/dining area in the late afternoon, but clearing skies and a report from the captain that a bald eagle was perched at Nutten Hook brought us out on deck. This was the first of 15 eagles that we saw between Nutten Hook and the Moordener Kill. That averages to one per mile, although many were seen in groups of 2-3 birds.
- Steve Stanne

7/23 - Newcomb, HRM 302: On a Rich Lake paddle this morning, we saw swamp candles and pickerel weed in full bloom, all mixed up together, very lovely! The swamp milkweed and swamp roses were also flowering. Cardinal flowers would probably be open today if the sun were out, but since it wasn't, they were still in the bud stage. We saw one loon and a couple of belted kingfishers, but otherwise wildlife was pretty absent. Thanks to all the rain we were able to paddle right over the upstream beaver dam. No signs of the beaver other than their construction projects, though.
- Ellen Rathbone

7/23 - Troy, HRM 151.5: Swimming near the very urbanized mouth of the Poesten Kill this rainy morning was a bird I associate with winter on the Hudson and summer on Catskill and Adirondack Mountain rivers - a male common merganser in what looked like eclipse plumage.
- Steve Stanne

7/24 - Tivoli North Bay, HRM 100.5: We were seining for our fish monitoring project in the tidal mouth of Stony Creek. We caught three small (1.5 inch) shiny, laterally compressed fish that we immediately thought had to be blueback herring. Closer examination, however, showed that they were young gizzard shad. These are the first very small gizzard shad we have seen in the Tivoli Bays. They seem to be pretty scarce in this part of the river.
- Bob Schmidt, Ira Shadis, Erin Swift

7/24 - Ulster Park, HRM 87: We heard our first katydid-did-did of the season. They seem to come earlier every year.
- Bill Drakert

7/24 - Putnam Valley, HRM 55.5: I recently read that the common nighthawk is in decline. I'm pleased to report that I've been hearing its somewhat unappealing, monosyllabic call, as I did last summer. The call gets my attention just as the western sky is getting dark. From what I hear of its calling, the bird moves around quite a bit, perhaps within 5-6 acres, actively gathering insects. Its night noise is much less annoying than that of the whip-poor-will that seems to just do serious bird-blab from one perch. Does it expect to attract insects (as well as a mate) with such vocalization?
- Nancy P. Durr

[Regarding my July 10 entry, I have not seen the long-tailed weasel again and, upon further consideration, I don't think the chipmunk population is down. Nancy P. Durr.]

7/24 - Brooklyn, New York City: Another public seining program provided by the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy, the Hudson River Estuary Program, and The Coastal Marine Resource Center attracted 80 children and adults to gather under the Manhattan Bridge in Brooklyn Bridge Park on the East River. The catch included Atlantic tomcod, several young winter flounder, northern pipefish, bluefish, numerous Atlantic silversides, shrimp (Palaemontes species, Crangon septemspinosa) comb jellies, moon jellies, lion's mane jellyfish, blue crabs, and a lady crab. Nancy Webster mentioned that after the last Brooklyn seining program in June she had the opportunity to seine at Pawley's Island in South Carolina. Apparently the catch there was less diverse and a little disappointing in comparison to the diversity of the East River, a comparison that might surprise some people.
- Nancy Webster, Cortney Worrall, Joana Chan, Steve Stanne, Cynthia Fowx

7/25 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: The hummingbird festival in my garden was in full swing. The several feeders were sucked dry both morning and evening. Despite the yellow jackets that hang on the feeders, the hummingbirds rushed at the feeders, and each other, with ferocious urgency. Some of the behavior was courtship. The birds zoomed at each other, stopped in mid-air, assumed a vertical pose with their tails fanned out, heads pointed up, then both rose, twirling each other until I could not see them against the sky. Suddenly I saw them, sitting inches from each other on the wire fence right in front of me. Again, they rushed at each other, swooped in arcs over and through the flowers. Finally one bird stopped at a feeder. Soon they were at their encounters again. It was dizzying and amazing to watch.
- Robin Fox

RIVER POEM II
Vines as tall as a tree,
Like parasites and host,
they were meant to be.
Coyotes, foxes, and eagles,
predators of the wild.
- James Bittles, 6th Grade, Vails Gate School

7/27 -Sandy Hook, NJ: I heard my first katydid of the season this evening.
- Dery Bennett

7/28 - Fishkill, HRM 61: What's the buzz in our flower garden? It is comprised of monardia, coneflowers, cosmos, zinnias, and wild bergamot among other flowers. The buzzing comes from ruby throated hummingbirds, hummingbird moths, honeybees, bumble bees and several butterflies - monarch, tiger swallowtail, black swallowtail, great banded fritillary, silver-spot skipper and other skippers.
- Ed Spaeth

7/28 - Manhattan, HRM 4: Who says mid-Manhattan street scenes don't provide the locale for some of nature's amazing surprises? Not four feet off the ground in the crook of a tree at 67th Street and West End Avenue, four robin eggs shared a nest and delighted local inhabitants (including my suburban granddaughter for whom it was "very cool"). Mama and Papa robin made continuous forays for food for the squawking newcomers who grew larger and more colorful daily. I was away at the crucial time for fledging, but neighbors told me that they saw some take off and then the nest was empty. We're hoping that all of our chirping friends made it safely into the air somewhere over West 67th Street.
- Ann Kleiman

7/29 - Cheviot , HRM 106: I spotted an adult bald eagle on the south side of the pier today and an immature on the north side of the boat launch. There were a couple of great blue herons as well as a green heron on the wing.
- Mimi Brauch

7/29 - New Paltz, HRM 78: Trumpet vine flowers are gloriously orange, but those on the arbor over our deck have hosted an even brighter visitor in recent days, a male Baltimore oriole that pecks at the base of the tubular blossoms to open them and, we assume, get at the nectar within.
- Steve Stanne, Cara Lee

7/29 - Croton Point, HRM 35: For whatever reasons this appears to be the "summer of the rabbit" on this peninsula. Resident great horned owls, red-tailed hawks, and coyotes not withstanding, there is a bunny population explosion going on. They are everywhere there is mown grass, and especially around the campgrounds and swimming pool. They come in all sizes from big bucks and does down to tiny you-want-to-cuddle-them babies. I have a clear recollection of reporting a dozen sightings on a morning walk a decade ago. This morning I saw at least 35 in little more than an hour. With at least two more breeding cycles this year, that number should soar. I wonder if other areas are experiencing this phenomenon?
- Christopher Letts

7/29 - Sandy Hook, NJ: We pulled the seine in Horseshoe Cove with a dozen kids and adults, our regular Tuesday evening occupation in summer. Results: Hundreds of the usual silversides and a few each young-of-the-year northern kingfish, weakfish, sea robins, black drum, menhaden, and a smattering of striped killifish. Last week we netted hundreds of dime-sized calico crabs, this week none. Common terns joined in the fishing, and later a pair of black skimmers did a flyby. As we wrapped up, a great egret landed in the salt marsh and in the distance, an osprey flew into its nest. We walked back to the cars with our contingent of wet, sandy kids.
- Dery Bennett

7/30 - Lake Meahagh, HRM 40.5: The huge hibiscus-like flowers of the rose mallow were in glorious bloom around the lake, a reminder that we've reached the mid-summer season. Perched along the shoreline were yellow-crowned night herons, great blue herons, and green herons, a nice assemblage of waders easily seen from King's Ferry Road.
- Christopher Letts

7/30 - Fishkill, HRM 61: Off to the west, the sun had faded from my view. Shadows lengthened and our solar walk lights flickered to life, while overhead at least five little brown bats wheeled about in the cool evening air in pursuit of the evening's crop of flying insects. Other than the occasional moth, a late flying dragonfly, or the intermittent glow of a firefly, most of the flying insects were invisible to my eye, but the aerial activity of bats and insects was fun to watch.
- Ed Spaeth

7/31 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Our final rain report for July was 8.07 inches, most of it coming in the last ten days. This gives us a new high for Newcomb in the five years that I have been doing the National Weather Service station. The previous high was 5.75 inches.
- Ellen Rathbone

7/31 - Cheviot, HRM 106: A small flock of Canada geese appeared at Cheviot at low tide this morning to snack on the aquatic vegetation. Among them was one odd-looking goose that seemed to be part of a family group with two adult Canadas and two immatures. One of the juveniles had the markings of a Canada goose but the coloring of a snow goose, including a yellow beak and white neck patch but tan rather than black neck. The other juvenile had coloring similar to a snow goose, but also showed the white neck patch. As the geese came in closer, however, I could see that none of them were snow geese. Maybe a domestic goose hybrid?
- Jude Holdsworth

7/31 - Nyack, HRM 28: Captain Bob Gabrielson reported that blue crab potting was flat. "We are averaging little more than one crab per pot, on a 2-3 day soak time. These are beautiful crabs, but there aren't many and there are no little ones." He also reported frequent catches of sea robins and juvenile summer flounder showing up in the pots as well as "more jelly fish than we've ever seen." No jellyfish burns have been reported, so the surmise is that these are the harmless moon jellyfish, not the lion's mane jellies reported in large numbers from below the George Washington Bridge.
- Christopher Letts


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