Hudson River Almanac June 2 - June 8, 2009
This was a week of turtles and black bears. Both are common natural history themes of late spring in the Hudson Valley. This is turtle nesting season and they always make an impression, especially 20-30 pound snapping turtles with jaws like steel traps. We've been asked if there are more black bears around this spring compared to previous years. There may be more of them moving through but it also could be that more sightings are being reported.
HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK
6/5 - Storm King Mountain, HRM 57: I went out fishing this afternoon, hoping to run into some schools of striped bass. I didn't find any fish so I decided to check out the peregrine falcon nest on Storm King. Before I could turn the engine off, I could hear screeching that was louder than my outboard. I couldn't believe the racket raining down from the cliffs: I had arrived at feeding time. I put the binoculars on the nest to see the adults feeding at least two chicks. Later, there were two young sitting on the edge of the rock decidedly contemplating when their next meal would arrive when a third baby squeezed onto the rock, then a fourth. They were lined up like swallows on a wire, one next to the other. They were all about the same size, almost adult size and a combination of feather and fuzz. One by one they gave up waiting for seconds and dropped out of sight back into the nest cavity.
- Owen J. Sullivan
NATURAL HISTORY NOTES
6/2 - Newcomb, HRM 302: There were six tiny black-capped chickadee chicks in one of our nest boxes on the golf course this morning. The bluebirds in my yard have finally built a nest in one of my boxes, but no eggs yet.
- Ellen Rathbone
6/2 - Manhattan, HRM 1: One week ago, two gravid (female with eggs) Chinese mitten crabs were captured by naturalist-educator Nina Zain of the River Project on Pier 40. They use four crab pots (rectangular wire cages) numbered C1 - C4. One crab was found in C3 and the other in C4 during a late afternoon ebb tide. Both crabs measured just over 2.5 inches carapace width. Nothing else was taken in either pot. The river salinity was a brackish 15 parts per thousand, about 45 percent of seawater.
- Tom Lake
[The Chinese mitten crab (Eriocheir sinensis) is native to the estuaries of China. They are catadromous, meaning that they spend much of their life in freshwater, then return to higher salinities in the lower estuary (15-20 parts per thousand salt) to reproduce. While mitten crabs have been found from Chesapeake Bay to New York, the Hudson River is the only location where both adults and juveniles have been found, likely evidence of successful reproduction. If you encounter a mitten crab in New York State, please notify Leslie Surprenant, NYSDEC Invasive Species Management Coordinator (518)402-8980, firstname.lastname@example.org . Do not release them live! If you take photos, make certain that you take both dorsal (top) and ventral (bottom) views so we can determine its sex. Carin D. Ferrante, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center.]
6/3 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Toby Rathbone and I saw our first wood turtle of the year out along the roadside last night. She was smallish, maybe 8" long, and we did not see any evidence of nest digging, so she may have just come out and was still checking out potential sites.
- Ellen Rathbone
6/3 - Milan, HRM 90: While I have seen the marauding thistle-feeder-destroying black bear during all hours of the day, I heard him at 5:00 AM this morning as he removed the last hummingbird feeder from the deck. The bear has also raided four bluebird nest boxes that had tree swallow, house wren, or bluebird eggs in them. The roofs were pulled off and the poles were bent over. Some neighbors think there was another bear around because it was much larger than the one they had been seeing.
- Frank Margiotta
[Raccoons are probably more common raiders of next boxes, but they mostly just reach in and grab eggs and nestlings. I can't imagine a raccoon being strong enough to destroy a box, especially if it is well made. Bears, on the other hand, will destroy the box to get the goodies inside (their paws are too big to fit through the hole). Ellen Rathbone].
6/3 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 68.5: A stiff southwest breeze brought warmth to the air but the "snowstorm" of cottonwood seeds made it look like a midwinter blizzard. Two large Vs of Canada geese were passing over at a height halfway to being high-flyers, heading north. In the line of trees and shrubs along the river I could hear orioles, hidden by the foliage, but still enjoyable to hear.
- Tom Lake
6/3 - New Paltz, HRM 75: We have noticed a decline in the bat population around our home. However, tonight I heard a strange "ch-ch-ch" noise coming from our kitchen. I made three trips to turn on the light but could see nothing. On my fourth trip I spotted a large bat with a twelve-inch wingspan swooping from room to room. Not wanting it to get injured, I opened a side door and waited outside. After a few minutes, the bat nearly hit me in the head on its way out. I'm still not certain how it gained entrance but I suspect a small opening under the kitchen overhead light abutting the attic. I had bat dreams all night.
- William Murray
[Without the bat in hand we cannot be certain, but this sounds like a big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus). They are relatively common throughout their range from southern Canada south throughout the United States, Mexico, and Central America. They often reside in attics, walls, and basements of buildings. Tom Lake].
6/4 - Kowawese, HRM 59:
- River Symphony
In all directions.
Everything moves peacefully.
Hear the water sing,
Makes me feel reborn.
- Chanelle Banks, 6th Grade, Vails Gate Tech Magnet School
6/4 - Bear Mountain to Peekskill, HRM 46-43: Several of us launched our kayaks from Annsville Creek and paddled north to the Bear Mountain Bridge. Along the way we spotted at least 50 dead white perch.
- George Boos
[This is an annual but not common occurrence in the Hudson River. The variety of stressors on white perch - such as a rapid springtime rise in water temperature - can suppress their immune system, allowing for bacteria or parasites to get a foothold. With the addition of spawning stress, it can push a fish over the edge. If you encounter large numbers of stressed live fish (swimming weakly) or dead fish in the Hudson, please contact DEC: Kris McShane (845)256-3009, or Kathy Hattala (845)256-3071. Note the exact location. Live but stressed fish are needed to determine the cause. Kathy Hatalla].
6/4 - Croton Point, HRM 35-34: Elky and I walked the entire perimeter of Croton Point today. Among the many highlights on the trail was a box turtle. We moved it to a safer spot off the path facing the same way. We also saw a spicebush butterfly, a kingbird, and a lone cedar waxwing, which was unusual since they ordinarily are seen in flocks. We heard lots of yellow warblers singing their song, "sweet, sweet, sweet, I'm so very sweet!"
- Jane Shumsky, Elky Shumsky
6/4 - Glenwood, HRM 21: From our Metro North commuter train we saw an immature bald eagle with its white, mottled marks clearly visible flying onto a tree along the river just north of the Glenwood station and within sight of the George Washington Bridge.
- Mike Boyajian, Jeri Wagner
6/5 - Saw Kill, HRM 98.5: While searching for mitten crab exoskeletons in the Saw Kill, we found a very small snapping turtle, no larger than the newly-hatched ones we see in the fall.
- Bob Schmidt
6/5 - Rhinebeck, HTR 88: We used an electro-shocker in the Landsman Kill and caught about 180 cutlips minnows, a fish that is common in Hudson River tributaries though few people notice. We also caught a 76.0 cm American eel, 8.0 cm short of the largest we have ever seen in the Hudson watershed. We also turned up a single warmouth, a mid-western sunfish that has been introduced into the Hudson. We knew of two populations in the watershed, but did not know they were in the Landsman Kill. We also turned up two northern water snakes, a small one and a rather large one, neither of which were very happy with us.
- Bob Schmidt, Nik Kotovich, Leah Pitman
[Cutlips minnows are cyprinids, a member of the carp and minnow family of fishes. Their name is descriptive of their lower jaw, which is divided into three lobes. They have been known to use the sharp scalpel-like edge on the middle lobe to core out the eyes of other fish, most notably yellow perch and other minnows. C. Lavett Smith.]
6/5 - Marlboro, HRM 69: In mid-afternoon, my mom (Denise) and I spotted a hen wild turkey and her two chicks [poults] who, unknown to us until today, had nested in our backyard under forsythia bushes that run next to our fence. We've seen wild turkeys, both male and female in the woods across the street and they sometimes they wander into our yard. Today one chick stayed close to the mom while the other ventured farther getting through the fence. We could hear the mother "clicking" at the chick who "peeped" back and eventually returned to our yard. The three of them then went deep into the forsythia. We have a pregnant woodchuck as well as a cottontail rabbit with her one baby in our yard, too!
- Jonathan Garofalo
6/5 - Blooming Grove, HRM 55: My neighbor called to exclaim that a black bear had just walked up his driveway between our properties, and I missed it! I think it kept going because there hasn't been any problem with the bird feeders.
- Betsy Hawes
6/6 Pleasant Valley, HRM 75: I looked out the window this evening and was surprised to see a beautiful male rose-breasted grosbeak at the feeder. He was the only one I saw. I watched for a less dramatically colored female but never saw one. He took off into the trees with his black and white plumage very visible, but I never saw him come back. This is the first one I have seen in 5 years at this location. There has been a wide variety of birds at the feeder lately: chickadees, goldfinches, blue jays, house sparrows, cardinals, titmice, brown-headed cowbirds, mourning doves, grackles, purple finches, red-winged blackbirds, and white-breasted nuthatches. Luckily, the black bear that has demolished my feeder the last couple of springs has not made an appearance this year.
- Kathy Kraft
6/6 - Beacon, HRM 61: It was another banner day for carp fishing around Long Dock. I finished up with five, the largest weighing 18 lb 2 oz. Another shore fisherman bested my big one with his own 19 lb carp. I'm seeing more fishermen specifically targeting carp rather than getting a carp here and there as by-catch. The striped bass seem to have thinned out.
- Bill Greene
6/6 - Blooming Grove, HRM 55: A female wild turkey and her babies flew in and flew out of our fenced garden. A pair of Carolina wrens decided to nest in the top of the upside-down tomato planter, but luckily hadn't gotten too far when their stash of materials was removed. And the rose-breasted grosbeaks are coming to the feeders.
- Betsy Hawes
6/6 - Manhattan, HRM 2: For ten minutes this afternoon in Hudson River Park, Greenwich Village, my wife and I watched a Nessus sphinx (Amphion floridensis) moth, with a red-brown abdomen, two yellow stripes, vibrating wings reminiscent of a hummingbird, and showing just a hint of red-brown, worked through the salvia, hovering as it inserted its proboscis in flower after flower.
- Walter Laufer
6/7 - Columbia County, HRM 121: We went on a hike to No Bottom Pond in the Beebe State Forest. It was somewhat disappointing - the pond was about two feet deep as far as I could see. Along the path we found blooming cancer root, a parasitic plants that we had never seen before. There were a bunch of scorpion flies (Mecoptera), mostly on the blackberry bushes lining the path, a group of insects that most people don't notice. They're called scorpion flies because the end of the male abdomen turns up like a scorpion's tail. Animal behaviorists think they are neat because the males give gifts of dead insects to prospective mates and the males can either catch the insects themselves or steal them from other males. As we walked up the path, a ruffed grouse stumbled across in front of us. This was a "broken wing display." We heard her calling and her "grouselets" calling back. Later, as we were walking along the base of a limestone cliff two birds flew out of the cliff face and brushed my face. When my heart rate settled down, I saw that they were eastern phoebes and they had a nest glued to the cliff. On the way home, we spotted a scarlet tanager that posed for us.
- Bob Schmidt, Kathy Schmidt
6/7 - Town of LaGrange: We sat in a field at 2:00 AM, the Strawberry full moon giving us light, watching a Blanding's turtle dig her nest. The air was cold and as she slowly dug, faint steam was rising from the hole into the night. As she began to lay her eggs, 12 in all, a coyote cry went up close by, echoed from the hills by a chorus of yelps and cries. We were cold, hungry and wet from the dew, but we agreed it was a privilege to see this.
- Jude Holdsworth, Craig Hoover
[Like orchids and eagle nests, exact locations of threatened species like the Blanding's turtle must be protected. Tom Lake.]
6/7 - Town of Southeast, HRM 52: On my weekend walks along the edge of the East Branch of the Croton Reservoir, I pass low swampy woods populated with frogs and painted turtles where today a barred owl took a short flight from one tree to another in full view from the road. I was alone, and we stared at each other for a few minutes until he took off deeper into the swamp. Around the corner, near the open water of the reservoir, a great blue heron was preening in the shade off in the distance, and I was glad I had my binoculars. The water was still low while New York City is repairing the dam; the land that is usually at the bottom of the lake is rich and green with grasses, and the fishing in the shallow waters is easy.
- Betty Brosius
6/7 - Manhattan, HRM 2: After several rainy days, a bright sun warmed the early air, and the first monarch (Danaus plexippus) butterflies of the year appeared, while the first two globe skimmer (Pantala flavescens) dragonflies circled above.
- Walter Laufer
6/8 - Saugerties, HRM 102: The osprey pair has given up the nest in the treetop near the mouth of Esopus Creek. After sitting on the nest for 2-3 weeks in late April and early May, they started a second round of courtship and made a half-hearted attempt at a nest on channel marker #93. The previous nest has since fallen out of the tree.
- Patrick Landewe
6/8 - Tivoli South Bay, HRM 98.5: We ventured out onto Tivoli South Bay to begin our fish monitoring for the season. The tide was low and large numbers of big carp were spawning. We pulled up some water chestnut and each plant had carp eggs attached. We saw an immature bald eagle in the mouth of the Saw Kill and a second one out on the marsh where an adult was also perched. There were four moderately large snapping turtles sitting in the marsh (20-30 lb. class). We caught a second tiny map turtle in the Saw Kill mouth (found one weeks ago). This one's carapace measured exactly one inch.
- Bob Schmidt, Leah Pitman, Nik Kotovich
6/8 - Milan HRM 90: Upon return from a weekend away I found my two squirrel-proof feeders knocked over, pole and all. The metal cans that I keep bird seed in were thrown down a bank behind my house. Tooth marks in some of the cans were pretty good evidence of a bear. Thirty years of bird feeding here, first time bear! This could account for my missing cat.
- Marty Otter
6/8 - Dutchess County, HRM 87: From the Linwood property overlooking the Esopus Meadows Lighthouse, we watched two snapping turtles climb up the steep banks of the east shore this morning to dig their nests and leave eggs. We saw one turtle digging where tall grass met mowed grass just in front of the Linwood Pavilion. The other turtle made it farther into the property and on another incline, adjacent to our labyrinth, dug the nest and deposited her eggs. Both nest sites have been marked to keep the human predators away, especially the lawn mowers. We will watch and see what develops in a few weeks.
- Kathy Donnelly
6/8 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67.5: Six wild turkeys were poking around out in the middle of a large, well manicured lawn of several acres. Standing on the periphery a hundred feet away was a single coyote, straight posture, ears erect, cautiously alert. At times like these you can understand why some of our founding fathers saw the wild turkey as a deserving candidate to be the symbol of America. They showed not a care in the world. The coyote, his best weapon, stealth, negated, had a better chance of winning the lottery than catching one of those wild turkeys.
- Tom Lake