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Hudson River Almanac August 9- August 16, 2008

OVERVIEW

In a quiet week of coyotes, black bears, and blue crabs, the full moon rising into a perfectly clear evening sky was, by far, the highlight.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

8/16 - Green Island, HRM 152: We were at the head of tide watching the ebb slip slowly off the shore, exposing evidence of an ancient Indian presence: fire-cracked rock from hearths, hammerstones from quarrying chert beds along the shore, and discarded stone tools. In the cottonwoods across the water on Green Island we counted three dozen cormorants in a night roost. But we were not at this spot along the Hudson just to note the wildlife. We sat on rip-rap near the river's edge and waited for the real show, the full moon rise. The eastern horizon was clear except for a single, small narrow cloud. As we watched, the bottom glowed as though a light was coming on - a reflection from below the curve of the earth. And then it was there, slowly emerging, a pale orange crescent, a "harvest" moon. As it rose fully above the tree line, the full moon painted a silver path across the river connecting us from the land to the river to the sky.
- Tom Lake, M. Mantzouris

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

8/9 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: I did not need an alarm clock after all. The clock said 3:30 AM when a mournful chorus of coyotes not a hundred feet from my window woke me up. I had a plane to catch but I lay there awhile and listened to their song. I could discern three or four different voices. To some, these are the call of the wild; to others an omen of trouble ahead. To some Native Americans, the coyote is a wise and clever but not-to-be-trusted neighbor. To others, the spirits of ancestors. Everyone has a opinion of who and what they are, but when you watch them walking in the fields or see the young at play, you realize that they are just another important member of the landscape we share.
- Tom Lake

8/9 - Beacon, HRM 61: The catch for the day at Long Dock was two channel catfish, admired and released. One was 17", the other 20". The latter was a male, dark blue-black, larger head and mouth, more strongly developed jaw with a definite over-bite. Carp were finally jumping regularly in the channel and bay area, an activity missing over the last month. The one remaining blue heron abandoned its usual post among the water chestnuts. Instead it perched delicately on one of the pilings and fished the channel. It caught a fish too large to swallow and, after various trials, flew with the fish to the shoreline to complete the operation.
- Bill Greene

8/10 - Town of Fishkill, HRM 64: Sitting in a backyard this afternoon I looked up to see a raptor soaring high in the sky. The distinctive feature was the black edges on the wings. Another large bird then ascended towards the same section of sky as the first but not as high. It too had the black underside wing markings. Probably redtails? Maybe harriers?
- Kathie Kourie

8/11 - Newcomb, HRM 302: As I stopped to empty out one of the plant saucers I have sitting near various gardens to provide water for insects and birds, I glimpsed a coiled body sitting in the same spot (under the saucer). At first I thought it was a large worm, but it turned out to be a small snake, one of my all-time favorites: the red-bellied snake (Storeria occipitomaculata). Like the ring-necked snake I found earlier this summer [see 7/12], this is a small snake, averaging 8-10" in length. It has a brilliantly red belly (hence the name) and three light-colored spots just behind its head (whereas the ring-neck has a ring around its neck). An important feature of this snake's habitat is rocks and other such solid objects under which it can hide - thus its presence under the plant dish. I couldn't resist picking it up. It was a little chilled, but it wasn't long before the heat from my hands gave it enough energy to move, head thrusting forward and body following behind as it tried to zip out of my hands. After 3-4 "slinky" moves with my hands, trying to keep the snake from falling, I decided to return it to the garden where it could resume its job of catching worms, slugs and snails.
- Ellen Rathbone

8/11 - Yonkers, HRM 18: A Snapshot Day Training at Beczak Environmental Center offered little opportunity for seining with fierce thunder rolls and lightning cracks lighting the sky. A brief break in the storm allowed two quick passes through the water with little to show for our efforts. The catch did include a young blue crab no larger than a nickel, a perfect miniature with paddles so small it seemed they could not possible offer any assistance against the movement of the current. Nature in miniature.
- Margie Turrin, Chris Bowser, Beth Roessler, Rebecca Houser

8/12 - Pine Bush, HRM 65: A misguided luna moth found herself on my parent's cellar door. What a beautiful mint green lady! After a day of watching her closely, she moved of her own volition to the screen door, where she laid many small, brown eggs. Later that afternoon, she fluttered to the ground where she expired. I was shocked to learn after much research that her life span was a mere week, and that luna moths don't have mouths to eat. I'm hopeful that as her eggs hatch, I can move them to the walnut tree nearby for the possibility of cocooning. What a rare sight to see!
- Bethany Ganley

8/13 - Saratoga County, HRM 210: We were treated by the presence and interaction of a pair of common loons on Lake Luzerne for the better part of the afternoon today. They were here for a while yesterday as well. Although they moved away from the occasional fisherman, they did not seem too alarmed at the small amount of human activity on the lake.
- Catherine De Nicola, Bud De Nicola

8/13 - Schodack Island, HRM 133: Our second Snapshot Day training at Schodack Island offered a freshwater look at the estuary and a few surprises. Anticipating little turbidity in the upper reaches of the estuary, it was a shock to find visibility limited to just over a quarter of a meter as a result of all the rain earlier in the week. Our other surprise came in the shape of a mummichog [killifish] in this freshwater stretch of the river.
- Margie Turrin, Chris Bowser, Beth Roessler, Steve Stanne

8/13 - Cheviot, HRM 106: The adult bald eagle is still around [see 8/5]. It was on a snag on the north side of the pier yesterday and at its usual perch on the south side of the Cheviot boat launch this morning. A great blue heron was hanging out in its customary spot on the little island, but I didn't see any others even though it was low tide. The first ducks I've seen since last winter were here, 19 black ducks yesterday and 30 this morning. Does that mean fall is upon us? No, no, not yet.
- Mimi Brauch

8/14 Milan, HRM 90: I spotted my first woolly bear caterpillar of the season. This one was entirely brown. What does that portend for the coming winter?
- Marty Otter

8/15 - Manhattan, HRM 5: Meteorologists reported plenty of damaging winds, but no tornados in a storm that spawned a rare tornado warning in New York City. There was evidence that the evening's thunderstorms packed the strong downdrafts known as microbursts, but not a tornado's spinning winds.
- National Weather Service

8/16 - Saugerties, HRM 102: I went out to check a bird box at the edge of the woods. As I was about to open the box, I heard a snort and turned to see a large, adult black bear staring at me. I had a camera, but by the time I turned it on he had begun to head into the woods. The bear had a large orange tag on its left ear so I suspect its sluggishness to run when he first saw me was due to familiarity with humans.
- Dan Marazita

8/16 Pleasant Valley, HRM 78: With all the wet, rainy, humid weather we have had in the past few weeks, the population of leopard frogs has exploded here. While mowing the grass today, I had to stop at least seven times to escort the little fellows out of the grass and into the woods. They are quite attractive creatures.
- Kathy Kraft

8/16 - Croton Point, HRM 35: For years I've relied on the low tides of the August full moon for a supply of blue crab moults. They are carefully bagged and frozen and presented to school groups for classroom study. Today, though conditions were perfect, there was just a single moult to be found, a far cry from the dozen or more I usually collect.
- Christopher Letts

[Blue crab moults appear in the tideline from May through November with higher concentrations around the new and full moon when shedding activity increases. It may be a result of the higher than normal tides that allow them access to sheltered, yet submerged, shoreline areas where they can find safety until their new shell hardens. Blue crabs, as crustacea, have an exoskeleton and must shed their shell from time to time to accommodate a growing body. The new shell takes 1-2 days to harden depending upon water temperature - the warmer the water, the quicker it will harden. While they are in soft shell they are extremely vulnerable to predation, unable to use their crushing claws. Tom Lake.]

8/16 - Tappan Zee, HRM 34-27: Captain Bob Gabrielson of Nyack says "Blue crabs are few and scattered and there are no little ones!" That is never a good thing to hear in mid-August. On the launch ramp at the Croton River, there is plenty of parking space for fishers and crabbers. It has been weeks since anyone has caught bluefish or striped bass or blue crabs in any quantity. "That river's empty this year," says Midge Taube, a seasoned riverman. Last August, jumbo blues and stripers seemed to be everywhere, and crabbing was very productive. In a summer with normal rainfall, there is little salt in the river north of the Tappan Zee. That may account for some of it.
- Christopher Letts

8/16 - Sandy Hook, NJ: With a clear east and west horizon, the simultaneous sunset and full moon rise were a show, as advertised.
- Dery Bennett

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