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Hudson River Almanac May 25 - June 1, 2009

OVERVIEW

For ecologists and educators, one of the magical lures of the Hudson River Estuary is the near limitless possibilities owing to its connection to the sea. This has become manifest in dolphins, manatees, seals, and tropical fishes. A far more modest and possible "first," as far as we can tell, occurred this week: a long-finned squid was collected in the Hudson River north of the New York Harbor. On land, black bears continue to visit neighborhoods, making new friends.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

5/28 - Guttenberg, NJ, HRM 5.5: The Hudson River sloop Clearwater sailed from the 79th Street Boat Basin in Manhattan on a flooding tide. Trawling off the New Jersey side, we caught a two inch-long squid in our otter trawl net. I cannot remember ever catching one with this way before. After shooting a little ink into our fish tank, the squid was released back into the river.
- Brian A. Mohan

[This was a long-finned squid (Loligo pealei), an inshore cephalopod that is common during warm water months from southern New England south to the Carolinas. Squid are eaten by many predators including bluefish, a marine species that is not uncommon in the lower estuary in late May. The squid's life expectancy is not more than a year due either to bluefish or biology.
- Tom Lake.]

[In the 1980s we would occasionally catch squid during Clearwater's trawls over the Bay Ridge Flats, a shallow bank south of Governor's Island in the Upper Bay of New York Harbor. However, we never caught such a small one, and I don't remember catching any in the Hudson River north of the Battery. Steve Stanne.]

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

5/26 - Manhattan, HRM 2: This morning in Hudson River Park at Greenwich Village, I spotted my first question mark butterfly (Polygonia interrogationis) of the season by Pier 52.
- Walter Laufer

5/26 - Manhattan, HRM 1: We caught two gravid (female with eggs) Chinese mitten crabs at The River Project today at Pier 26 on the lower west side of Manhattan.
- Nina Zain

5/27 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: The barred owl pair was back. In the black of midnight replete with a curtain of fireflies, I sat under a large Norway maple for a half-hour listening to the two of them call back and forth with chortles, hoooos, and a strident "hoo-WAAAHHH." It seemed like I was sitting at the bottom of an inverted pyramid, with the owls at the two points no more than twenty feet overhead. I knew they had left when they stopped calling, though with their silent flight I never heard them leave.
- Tom Lake

- The Hiding Moon
Not until the mist
Moves, can you see different
Faces of the moon.
- Kevin Shelyani, 6th Grade, Vails Gate Tech Magnet School

5/27 - Otisville, Orange County, HRM 58: At 9:30 PM, a dairy farmer friend and I stood in a parking lot discussing the terribly low price of milk, when flock after of flock of migrating birds flew overhead in the darkness. We didn't recognize the sound of the birds and it was too dark to see them, but we knew they weren't Canada geese. After reading this week's Almanac, I'm guessing they must have been brant. In the twenty minutes we stood there, at least five different flocks flew over, leading each other through the Otisville Pass in the Shawangunk Ridge.
- Frank Ketcham

5/27 - Staten Island, New York City: Standing on the edge of a small pond in a city park, a large common egret flew off through the tree canopy - its cumbersome wings, long neck, and beak suddenly ungainly where only seconds ago they were features of great beauty, reflected in the pond's surface. As I marveled at this transformation, a Baltimore oriole flew out of a nearby oak and began to harass the egret. I have never seen this combination of birds in dispute, one that doesn't go together easily. I was left thinking of nothing so much as a "creamsicle" on the wing.
- Dave Taft

5/28 - South Glens Falls, Saratoga County, HRM 204: On our Mud Pond bike ride we spotted many wildflowers, among them star flowers, may apple, jack-in-the-pulpit, columbine, fringed polygala, blue lupine and pink lady slippers. As for wildlife, they included several painted turtles, a family of Canada geese (2 adults, 4 goslings), and a mother beaver looking for her baby swimming in Mud Pond. Then we heard a chirping. It was baby beaver calling for Mama. She appeared, took the little beaver in her mouth, swam over to the lodge and dove under and inside.
- Gary Hill

5/28 - North Greenbush, HRM 145: A young black bear was seen strolling along our quiet dead end road. The bear visited several backyards, sniffing around bird feeding areas and toppling over garbage cans. After the bear went back into the woods, the surrounding yards had a distinctive musky odor to them. The bear was later seen at a nearby church, about a mile closer to the Hudson River.
- Pat Van Alstyne

5/29 - Troy, HRM 153: While showing 132 school children the wonders of the Federal lock and dam, an adult bald eagle graced us with a nice aerial show, soaring and circling. It was the highlight of their field trip aboard the Dutch Apple.
- Pat Van Alstyne

5/29 - Town of Dover, Dutchess County, HRM 60: A notice on the bulletin board at Pawling Lake Estates read "Mountain lion spotted near the upper lake on May 16!" The spotter apparently also knew what a bobcat, a common sighting in this area, looks like. It seems that one never has a camera for these events.
- Jack Donohue

[This is a not uncommon claim in the Hudson Valley. But with it comes a need for forensic evidence that can provide DNA, such as fur, scat, roadkill, or as Jack Donahue suggests, a good photo. There has been no documented proof of a home-grown wild mountain lion in New York State for over 100 years. It is not impossible that one might someday show up wandering in from Canada or northern New England. But for now we need something tangible that will take it out of the realm of legend here. Tom Lake.]

5/29 - Crugers, HRM 34: The mingled scent of lilacs and peonies permeated our yard with both species in full bloom. We spotted our first eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly of the season gliding across our rock garden towards them. What seemed like an orchestra of bird song came from a northern mockingbird perched atop the highest evergreen on our hill. Best of all, we were treated to the sight of the resident great blue heron in the pond down the street. It stood like a statue among the many lily pads that dotted the bright green surface of the pond.
- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson

5/29 - Sandy Hook, NJ: Somehow, a female mallard managed to hatch, raise, and lead 14 ducklings to a nearby pond - this in an area populated by dogs on leashes, dogs running loose, kids on bike trails, joggers, and slow walkers.
- Dery Bennett

5/30 - Minerva, HRM 284: Bats, probably little brown myotis, have come to our house each spring since we moved in 16 years ago. Last year the number of bats in our attic decreased from the previous year. Normally they show up around the first of May, but I've been listening and looking hard for these little creatures and have come up empty this spring. The lack of activity is a real concern; there is no sign of them. We've been told that our bats are part of a group that winters in caves in the garnet mines in North River about 15 miles southwest. I'm worried that the white nose disease has nailed them, as it has with bats all around the Northeast. Very sad - I will miss them, but our blackflies and mosquitoes will not.
- Mike Corey

5/30 - Dutchess County, HRM 96: While driving on Route 9G just north of the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge, a car ahead slowed to a stop. The driver got out to help a snapping turtle cross the road but the turtle wasn't very gracious. The man was used his boot to nudge him, but after the first couple of nudges, the snapper started lashing out. This was taking some time, traffic piled up in both directions, but not one car honked. Everyone was very considerate. The man went to his car and returned with a snow scraper. With more prodding the turtle latched on with its powerful jaws and was airlifted over the pavement to the safety of the grass, in the direction in which it was headed. It was a wonderful moment.
- Pat Joel

[June 6 is the Annual Snapping Turtle event at Boscobel in Cold Spring, Putnam County, HRM 53. Female snappers climb up from Constitution Marsh to Boscobel to lay their eggs. Boscobel and National Audubon Society staff members from Constitution Marsh Conservatory offer an informative program and Turtle Walk. Pat Joel]

5/30 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: I was standing in the treeline at the edge of a grown-over farmer's field watching the last of a flock of wild turkeys disappear into the woods on the other end. I was very still and apparently downwind of a grizzled but healthy-looking coyote that slowly, warily, walked across the field in short, mincing steps. I was less than 100 feet from him, and he did look my way, but did not seem alarmed. For ten minutes I was in freeze-frame. Later I counted more than fifteen black fly bites, the price of a special wildlife moment.
- Tom Lake

5/30 - Town of Fishkill, HRM 63.5: A live luna moth was lying on the front steps of the Manor House this morning at the Stony Kill Farm Environmental Education Center. It was apparently a male given its feathery antennae (the better to detect the sex pheromone chemical signal from a female). I put it into a butterfly cage and placed it in the shade outside on a picnic table for visitors to view throughout the day. One person marveled that he had lived in this area his whole life and had never seen one before. In the late evening the luna was released to fly off into the night. I hope it finds a mate.
- Reba Wynn Laks

5/30 - Manhattan, HRM 2: This morning, in Hudson River Park at Greenwich Village, I spotted my second black swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) butterfly of 2009. They are notable for their behavior in that the female searches for plants of the parsley family, looking for a suitable spot to lay its eggs. Four American painted lady butterflies, three of which were missing triangular shaped bits of wing, indications of unsuccessful bird attacks, were seen on salvia plants.
- Walter Laufer

5/31 - Newcomb, HRM 302: No fireflies here yet but we did have snow in late afternoon. It had been windy all day but became windier as the afternoon progressed. Then some suspicious "stuff" began to fall, sort of like teeny, tiny hail. I heard a crack and turned in time to watch a tall conifer crash across the street. Toby Rathbone and I dashed for the house where we watched the snow plummet to the ground in gigantic flakes and the wind made the mown grass look like troubled waters.
- Ellen Rathbone

5/31 - Milan, HRM 90: I am still seeing pine siskins, different birds, but one at a time at the thistle feeder. I will know for certain that they are nesting if young come to the feeder. I am reluctantly keeping the feeder out during the day in spite of my daytime observation of a black bear near my driveway a few days ago.
- Frank Margiotta

[Frank, don't worry; black bears don't ordinarily bother with thistle feeders! Tom Lake]

[Tom, you can add thistle feeders to your bear list. I did not take the feeder in last evening and I found it destroyed this morning along with the support pole. Could be that the feeder contained a sunflower chips-thistle mix? Frank Margiotta.]

5/31 - Shawangunk Ridge, Ulster County, HRM 78: A year ago in late May we hiked in the Shawangunks and were amazed to see two pink lady slippers growing along a trail. Today we scrambled back up the same woodland trail and there they were like woodland fairies dancing about under the ready-to-bloom mountain laurel. On a day as spectacular as today, the twenty four lady slippers we counted were simply magical, one after another after another.
- Andra Sramek, Jim Brown

[Note: Due to the often unbridled zeal of orchid collectors, in the interest of preservation, we do not give exact locations where they are located. Tom Lake.]

5/31 - Rhinebeck, HRM 88: We saw a small black bear, probably a cub, in our yard this evening.
- The Heller Family

5/31 - Farmer's Landing, HRM 67: Although it seemed late in the season, there they were at sunrise, a huge unbalanced V high over the river, a hundred Canada geese, moving southeast to northwest. Within an hour, two more similar-sized flocks passed over heading north.
- Tom Lake

6/1 - Newcomb, HRM 302: We woke this morning to a white world. We had a very hard frost. Good thing all my tomatoes were covered.
- Ellen Rathbone

6/1 - Town of Poughkeepsie: We were quiet, walked slowly, stayed at a distance, and kept eye contact to a minimum, yet the adult bald eagle took flight as we approached. Sometimes even the proper steps fail to work. The eagle had taken an unhurried flight from near the crown of a 125-foot high tuliptree next to a new and well-camouflaged nest. From what we could tell, the nest is only a couple of months old. The timing of this new nest and the failure of nest NY62 not far away in the Town of Wappinger, has us considering the possibly that this is the same pair looking for a change of scenery.
- Sarah Johnson, Lisa Kogut, Garrick Bryant, Tom Lake

6/1 - Crugers, HRM 34: We hadn't filled the bird feeders in a few days and when we did, we were amazed at the numbers and kinds of birds that arrived en masse in our back yard. A cardinal pair returned along with a tufted titmouse, a white-breasted nuthatch, red-winged blackbirds, brown-headed cowbirds, grackles, blue jays, mourning doves, tree and house sparrows and, best of all, the beautiful red-bellied woodpecker. It was so interesting to watch it diligently peck at the peanut feeder, then eventually fly away with a peanut it had managed to extricate from its shell. High in the sky overhead we spotted first one and then another large V-formation of Canada geese noisily parading by, heading north.
- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson

6/1 - Sandy Hook, NJ: Right on schedule, the brant have shoved off for the Canadian Arctic where they will breed, fledge young, and return around Columbus Day. It's interesting to see the local Canada geese already parading their young while the brant, looking and behaving like a small goose, are still hundreds of miles from their nesting sites. Now we await the next big bird event here, the fledging of ospreys about 6-8 weeks from now.
- Dery Bennett

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