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Hudson River Almanac August 1 - August 8, 2008

OVERVIEW

Another report of a Chinese mitten crab, this time from Constitution Marsh in Garrison (Putnam County). In the last year this invasive crustacean has been collected from the Tappan Zee north to Tivoli Bays - nearly 75 miles of tidewater.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

8/4 - Manhattan, HRM 12: I live 15 stories above the Harlem River just before it flows into the Hudson River at Spuyten Duyvil. The usual view is boat traffic, gulls and Canada geese. Today I saw four harbor seals swimming by. What a surprise! I had to go and get my neighbor to verify that I wasn't seeing things.
- Ettie Shapiro, Riverdale

[We made a thorough investigation of this sighting and determined that these were not harbor porpoises, dolphins, sea turtles, manatees, sharks, or plesiosaurs. The diagnostic field marks all pointed to these four animals being seals. Tom Lake.]


NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

8/1 - Croton River, HRM 34: While out on a solo evening paddle from the Croton River canoe launch, I counted at least nine great blue herons. More perched up in the trees. Paddling on toward Croton Point, I spotted a river otter in the distance. A couple of weeks ago I saw one up close; this one was not as playful as last time. The otter definitely kept its distance. As the sun went down and the tide rose, I paddled back to the launch with just enough room to duck under the railroad bridge. Along the way I saw a kingfisher and an osprey trying to get dinner.
- Joe Henry

8/2 - Staatsburg, HRM 85: A pair of cedar waxwings were busy working on a nest in a sugar maple in our front yard. In early August, this must be a second brood for the pair, but we've never noticed them before. Perhaps they're seeking a new nest site after the disruption of their original one. Cedar waxwings are not uncommon here, but usually we see larger flocks during spring and fall migration.
- Linda Lund, David Lund

[Cedar waxwings breed relatively late, probably because their diet includes large amounts of fruit, which tends to ripen later in summer. First nestings begin in June; second broods or renesting can occur even in late August, and there is an old (1933) record of a bird incubating on 9/27 in New York. Steve Stanne.]

8/2 - Tappan Zee, HRM 34-25: Sport anglers have reported numerous catches of sea robins over the past month, including many adults. If memory serves, there is an irruption of these marine fish about once a decade, or is something new occurring?
- Christopher Letts

[Both striped and northern sea robins are considered temperate marine strays in the estuary. The name is derived from their large pectoral fins that resemble the wings of a bird, particularly when they swim. Their color, often a pale, ruddy red, suggests a robin. Adults and juveniles are abundant in the coastal marine waters. In the warm and brackish summer months, they move into the tidewater Hudson and have been collected at least as far upriver as Cornwall Bay (River Mile 58). Tom Lake.]

8/3 - Tillson, HRM 83: A dash of red flashed in front of us heading west as we traveled south on Route 32 just south of the Wallkill River. As we neared the animal's crossing point, we spotted a red fox making its way through the tall grasses in an abandoned brushy farm field. This ever-so-brief view of a fox on its nightly rounds, gave rise to the old folk song:
- Ed Spaeth

The fox went out on a chilly night,
He prayed for the moon to give him light,
For he had many a mile to go that night,
Before he reached the town-o, town-o, town-o,
He had many a mile to go that night,
Before he reached the town-o.

8/4 - Stuyvesant to Stockport, HRM 127-121: I found the largest wild celery bed I've seen in my five volunteer years with the Hudson River Submerged Aquatic Vegetation program. It was three-quarters of a mile long with only four or five clusters of water chestnut. I watched gulls, herons, and bald eagles all fishing for fry in the pulsing, insect-scratching, jungle of the Hudson.
- Doug Reed

[Wild celery (Vallisneria americana) is a native aquatic plant in the tidewater Hudson. It is a prime source of forage for migrating waterfowl but has been under varying stages of siege in the last few decades by the expanse of the invasive Eurasian water chestnut (Trapa natans). Wild celery beds provide a safe haven for young-of-the year fish of several species, and in the brackish reach of the estuary, small barnacles and mussels find a suitable substrate to grow on the long, narrow leaves. Tom Lake.]

8/4 - Tivoli South Bay, HRM 98.5: We were canoeing and seining when we caught a glimpse of the first blue crab we have seen in this part of the river this year as it swam away from us. Cardinal flower was in bloom. We usually see a few around the bay, but this year there was a very thick patch of it, dozens of stalks. There is nothing more striking than cardinal flower unless it is a lot of them.
- Bob Schmidt, Kathy Schmidt, Alec Schmidt

8/5 - Columbia County, HRM 112: I was wandering around my backyard in Columbia County when I spotted what looked like bird droppings on a leaf. But something cause me to look more closely. It was a moth, a "beautiful wood-nymph" (Eudryas grata). The central part of the forewings were pure white bordered by mahogany. The underwings were pale yellow with a marginal mahogany streak. You never know what will turn up in your yard. This is the first I have ever seen.
- Bob Schmidt

8/5 - Cheviot, HRM 106: This morning there were three juvenile bald eagles, probably young-of-the-year, on the island off the end of the causeway. One young one comes every day to take a bath in the shallows, and on one occasion was accompanied by an adult.
- Jude Holdsworth

8/5 - Sandy Hook, NJ: Once again we were at a Sandy Hook bay beach to pull a seine. The usual array of animals were in the net, silversides, winter flounder, sea robins, small swimming crabs (both blue and calico), plus a new one for this season, a 1.5 cm-long northern puffer (blowfish). These were once a common species but are now a rare catch.
- Dery Bennett

8/6 - Tivoli North Bay, HRM 100.5: As we did our last official seining trip today, a beautiful sunny day, we spooked a little green heron, a bird we don't see too often on this bay. We found a predated turtle nest on the bank (probably a snapping turtle) - the broken shells were a give-away. It must require tremendous good luck for a given female turtle to ever succeed in having hatchlings.
- Bob Schmidt, Alec Schmidt

8/6 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: Despite a night-long thunderstorm that dropped three-quarters of an inch of rain, at first light, mama eagle (NY62) looked bright, fresh, and alert. The even light of dawn made her head glow. Her yellow eyes locked on mine and we both froze. We had not seen each other in a while and it seemed as though some recollection was taking place.
- Tom Lake

AQUA FRILLS
The wind tickles the
water, forming ruffles in
the river's blue dress.
- Chaeyoung Seo, 6th Grade, Vails Gate School

8/7 - Beacon, HRM 61: A 17" carp was captured and released at Long Dock today. I lost a much larger one due to the hook pulling out. There was certainly nothing special about today's results, except these were the first carp I've hooked following three days of no luck. There were very few carp-jumps today; likewise on the previous three trips. My catches of channel catfish and carp, and carp jumping activity noted, were far more numerous and larger in the same period last summer. Maybe there'll be a pick-up as we head into autumn.
- Bill Greene

8/7 - Cornwall-on-Hudson, HRM 56: We went seining today and caught a great variety of fish. Among them were young-of-the-year striped bass, river herring, bluegills, and pumpkinseed. Juvenile and adult fish included an American eel (12" long), redfin pickerel, yellow perch (beautiful fish!), gizzard shad, largemouth bass, spottail shiner, and tessellated darter.
- Rebecca Houser

8/7 - Constitution Marsh Sanctuary, HRM 62: I found a mitten crab moult this morning at the mouth of Philipse Brook, just where the stream enters the tidewater Hudson. It was pretty beat up, just claws and some walking legs (no carapace), but it was unmistakable.
- Eric Lind

8/7 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: I looked up from lunch to see, with great surprise, a red fox trotting purposefully across the lawn. It was about eight feet away from where I sat and I watched as it made its way past. It moved at a good pace and seemed steady on its feet, but it's body looked a bit naked, not furry. In fact it looked a bit mangy. Most striking, its tail wasn't a lovely bushy red fox tail. Was this a juvenile? Was it shedding? Or was it a sick animal? It did not seem to be acting odd even though it was so close.
- Robin Fox

8/8 - Highland, HRM 75.5: While enjoying a picnic supper at the site of the future Highland Landing park, friends and I spotted a black-crowned night heron sitting and watching the river. The bird remained on its perch even as we left. I would have loved to see him fly.
- Stephanie King

8/8 - Fishkill, HRM 61: Our neighbors have been seeing two black bear cubs in their yard in recent days. On occasion, they also see what they believe is the mother.
- Lee Banner

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