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Hudson River Almanac June 8 - June 15, 2009

OVERVIEW

This was a week of interesting and odd occurrences. It rained all week, including a wide swath of intense hailstorms that swept across the watershed from the Mid-Hudson Valley to the High Peaks of the Adirondacks. On the same day, a yearling moose visited the thoroughbred racetrack at Saratoga. Native black bears continued to remind us that there still is an element of wildness in the Hudson Valley.

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK

6/15 - Newcomb, HRM 302: I was headed home from work in late afternoon and was stunned to see piles of "snow" along the roadside. I pulled over, got out, and investigated. It was piles of hail stones! They were about the size of peppercorns and deep enough to actually scoop a handful. Three hours earlier there had been a hailstorm. If they were still that big three hours later, it makes you wonder how big they were when they hit.
- Ellen Rathbone

6/15 - Albany County, HRM 145: A heavy hailstorm took place this evening, hitting a wide area of the Albany Pine Bush barrens. We will need to check for damage to the lupines and the fragile population of the Karner blue butterfly. After the storm, the ground looked like it had a covering of snow.
- Ward Stone

6/15 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 69: Looking out from the North Bowdoin Park rockshelter, several hundred feet above the river on a dolomite ridge, I could see the storm coming. A mile or more to the west, a line of dark gray clouds dropped a heavy curtain of rain as it crossed the river. I took shelter behind the "dripline," or overhang of a prehistoric Indian rockshelter where human occupation dates back at least 7,000 years. I wondered how often others had taken similar refuge here. The storm struck with intense thunder and lightning; hail the size of moth balls pelted the understory. As violent as hailstorms can be, I still believe that they are one of the more spectacular sights in nature. Then it ended and the sun came out. In a half-hour we had yet another inch of rain - six inches in six days.
- Tom Lake

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

6/8 - Hyde Park, HRM 82: As soon as I got out of my car this morning at the Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site, I heard a call that really caught my attention. It sounded like a periodical cicada, a whirring pulse, preceded by a series of clicks. In a moment it came again, a solitary call from high in a sugar maple; it was definitely one of the three Magicicada species that emerge in huge swarms on a 17-year clock. While the next brood is still 4 years away, for some reason cicadas who miscount tend to miss by either one year either side of the 17-year target, or a confounding four years early. Other stragglers have already been reported this spring from Staten Island.
- Karl Beard

[The last big cicada brood in our area occurred in 1996. They sounded like a flying saucer winding up to full power in your backyard. Before that it was 1979, and I remember them that way as a child in 1962. Karl Beard.]

[For a flashback to the cicadas of 1996, see Hudson River Almanac (3):20,23-30,32. Here are two short 1996 entries:
June 5 - Wappinger Creek, HRM 68: As I walked among the tidal Wappinger, I heard a sound that reminded me of H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds. It had that same unfamiliar "alien-like" ring to it. This sound, however, was being produced by native fauna, the seventeen-year cicada. From every quarter I could hear dogs barking and someone yelled from their window, "Shut up!" The appeal was to the cicadas, not the dogs. Tom Lake.
June 12 - Roeliff Jansen Kill - Clermont, HRM 111-103.5: Along this reach of the river, tremendous numbers of cicadas were emerging. The sound was deafening. Robert Schmidt.]

6/8 - Fishkill, HRM 61: We have had an orchard oriole in our neighborhood for over a week; the male has been checking out a few elm trees presumably for a nest site.
- Stephen M. Seymour

6/8 - Cornwall-on-Hudson, HRM 56: I tried out the new Esty and Hellie Stowell trailhead entrance onto the north face of Storm King Mountain from Route 218). This trailhead now provides some much needed additional parking spaces for accessing the eastern ends of the Stillman-Highland trails that ascend this flank. It makes for a longer, steeper and more challenging climb to the top of Storm King than is currently provided by using the old Mountain Road trailhead, but the latter trailhead only allows for the parking of a few cars and is therefore often fully occupied. The entrance to the new trailhead is well marked on Route 218 by a prominent sign with the benefactors' names. The trailhead parking area is accessed by driving though a swing gate in a post-and-rail fence at the end of the driveway loop, a further 0.10 mile past a private residence. I didn't see the peregrines on my climb but I did see, at last, a native honeysuckle. There was a flowering northern bush-honeysuckle (Diervilla lonicera) on the cliff face which, for me, was the first time in the Hudson Valley that I've been able to identify any other than the several invasive and pervasive species of Asiatic honeysuckle.
- Bruce Friedman

6/9 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67.5: As I approached the edge of a hay field, two small whitetail bucks in "velvet" froze in place. I did the same. We stood there, 60 feet apart, for what seemed like a while but only a few seconds. I could feel a cool southeast breeze on my back and immediately they knew who I was and dashed away. Rain came down in torrents as night fell eventually leaving an inch and a half.
- Tom Lake

[A male or buck whitetail deer's first set of antlers begins to grow when they are about ten months old. "Velvet" is a fuzzy covering on their antlers and is a natural protection for new growth. The velvet is shed or rubbed off as the deer scrape their antlers against saplings and small trees. "Rub marks" on hardwood trees are common in areas that have whitetail deer. Tom Lake.]

6/9 - Beacon, HRM 61: I added another fish species to my catch list for the Fishkill Creek estuary at Madame Brett Park: a healthy-looking 13" rainbow trout. Since rainbow trout are not a native species in the watershed, it was no doubt a wash-over from an upstream stocking.
- Stephen M. Seymour

6/9 - Brooklyn, New York City: The thunderstorms and rain broke long enough for the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy and Coastal Marine Resource Center to kick off the public seining season at Brooklyn Bridge Park. We seined under the Manhattan Bridge with an audience of about a dozen students from Science Skills High School (Brooklyn) and about 15 children and adults from the general public. We caught bay anchovy, a naked goby, winter flounder, a windowpane flounder, northern pipefish, sand shrimp (Crangon septemspinosa), and a hermit crab. Fragments of "dead man's fingers" [blue crab gills] and a sponge (probably red beard sponge) were also picked out of the net. Remnants of the invasive Asian shore crab (Hemigrapsus sanguineus and green crab (Carcinus maenas) were found on the beach.
- Cynthia Fowx

6/10 - Saugerties, HRM 102.5: In late afternoon, about a quarter mile north of Esopus Creek, I spotted three pairs of bluebirds on the lawn of Arrowfield. There were no bluebird nesting boxes on site.
- Stefan Yarabek

6/10 - Tivoli North Bay, HRM 101.5: As we were driving down to the canoe launch we spotted a snapping turtle laying eggs in the parking area. A second snapping turtle was looking for a spot on the road a little farther along, and a third was furiously digging in the unloading zone at the head of the path. They were all about 6-8 pounds.
- Bob Schmidt, Nik Kotovich, Leah Pitman

6/10 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 75: Going to Waryas Park this morning to kayak, I noticed a flock of geese occupying the boat ramp. I didn't think much about it and focused on getting my kayak ready for launch. As I shouldered the kayak and headed for the ramp I gave the birds a closer look and realized that it was a flock of about 20 brant geese. The birds took flight and settled about 100 feet out in the river allowing me to launch and enjoy a paddle.
- Dave Webber

6/10 - Kowawese, HRM 59:
- River
Prolonged water,
Fresh, drinking water.
River flows into ocean,
Becomes salty water.
Colossal, water,
Ocean.
- Da'mani Burns, 6th Grade, Vails Gate Tech Magnet School

6/11 - Sandy Hook, NJ: This was a half-hour snapshot of nature in a typical morning on my way to Sandy Hook: Out at 7:30 to get the newspaper and coffee; on the way to the truck, I see the first male zucchini flower of the season in the backyard vegetable garden; flushed a nesting robin out of the sidewalk firethorn bush; the local black squirrel was foraging outside the convenience store; laughing gulls hovered over the Acme dumpster; nesting yellow warblers were in the woods; three great egrets fished in the shallows of the Hook; then two osprey nests with adults feeding the kids.
- Dery Bennett

6/12 - Newcomb, HRM 302: I helped an enormous snapper cross the road this morning. I could see her lumbering across the road from a few hundred feet away - she was that big. As soon as I stopped the car, however, she stopped moving - not a good sign. Grabbing a long-handled window ice scraper, I tried to coax her to the roadside. She was having no part of it. She turned to face me and continually struck out. The speed at which these animals can strike is stunning! She refused to budge. I put a cardboard the box in front of her and tried to push her across the pavement. She opted to crawl into the box. With her head safely out of range, I grabbed the flap of the box and tugged her to the grassy verge. To get her out, I had to upend the box, and there she lay, the proverbial turtle on her back. I went back for the window scraper and flipped her back upright. Only two vehicles passed during this time. I was very lucky no log trucks came by considering I had several pass me earlier in the morning.
- Ellen Rathbone

6/12 - Town of Bethlehem, HRM 140: Torrential rain at Hendrick Hudson Park on the Hudson River brought thoughts that too much rain up river might make the dredging of PCB-laden sediments more difficult and environmentally dangerous. As premature darkness set in, I thought that if we are not careful with our monitoring and preventing dangerous chemicals from entering the river water, the PCBs could be replaced by a chemical "XYZ" that may even be worse.
- Ward B. Stone

6/12 - Hyde Park, HRM 82: In an update from five days ago, the poor lone cicada sang solo all week.
- Karl Beard

6/12 - Town of Crawford, Orange County, HRM 58: We explored two of the Dwaarkill's unnamed tributaries. The first, in Pine Bush, has a large weatherfish population in very anaerobic [lacking oxygen] mud. The second, off Route 52, has the mother lode of weatherfish - extremely dense - one of which was an albino. These fish ranged from 4-8 inches long, with females being the largest.
- Bob Schmidt, Alec Schmidt, Leah Pitman, Nik Kotovich

6/12 - Brooklyn, New York City: I stared at the end of the Hudson River, the Battery, from the Brooklyn Promenade. The scene was nothing Henry Hudson could have comprehended: the Staten Island Ferry began its lumbering route across the Statue of Liberty's green silhouette, the glass of the city's skyline reflected both cars and boats. Then, up above the horizon was a scene that would have brought joy to both the explorer and his Half Moon crew: an apricot sunset streaming through the parted remnants of the afternoon's thundershowers. How could Henry have ever guessed at this 400 years ago?
- Dave Taft

6/13 - Milan, HRM 90: I spotted the bear this morning trying to open one of the two bird houses it pulled down. The bear finally gave up after it could not open the box and decided to see what was for breakfast at the house. I was able to discourage that plan and it moved off toward my neighbor's house. My neighbors are reporting a second, reportedly larger, black bear also in the area.
- Frank Margiotta

6/13 - Beacon, HRM 61: I caught four carp today off Long Dock, the biggest of which was 19 lb, 3 oz. The others were all in the 10 lb. range, one of which I weighed at 10 lb. 9 oz. A big fish hit on my second rod while I was still reeling in one of the ten pounders. I handed the rod to another fisherman and grabbed the second, a conventional [reel] and rod that requires some drag adjustment before reeling in the fish. This turned out to be the nineteen pounder. The carp spawning out in the water chestnut near shore was a sight to behold: constant geysers from the beginning of the walkway a mile south to Denning's Point. I also caught my first channel catfish of the year, each about a pound-and-half.
- Bill Greene

6/13 - West Point, HRM 52: Although the day was cloudy and gloomy, we ventured out on a U.S. Army boat cruise on the Hudson. For most of the day, the river matched the color of the sky: a passing shower, followed by patches of blue sky. The dark green foliage on the mountains was accentuated by the dullness of the sky behind them. We didn't see as many birds as we expected. Near Constitution Island, we spotted a double-crested cormorant perched on a channel marker and saw two gulls and two turkey vultures flying overhead. Thirteen cormorants were spread out across the rocks at the base of a channel marker near Bannerman's Island. Despite the very few birds, we agreed that observing the Hudson River from this different perspective was a most enjoyable experience.
- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson

6/13 - Sleepy Hollow, HRM 28: While I was crossing the dam bridge over the Pocantico River Mill Pond at Philipsburg Manor today, a beaver suddenly come up from under the water and climbed up to embankment on the Visitors Center side. It started to eat a few small branches, then gathered a few more in its mouth and made a quick descent back into the water. The beaver came up again in the middle of the pond and swam towards the "Headless Horseman" bridge on Route 9. In my nearly 30 years of spending much time in the woods and along rivers, this was my first sighting of a beaver in the wild. I have always seen their dams and habitats, but have never seen one until now. It was a truly memorable day for me.
- Wade Schultz

6/14 - Saugerties, HRM 102.5: In mid-afternoon, about a quarter mile north of Esopus Creek, four red fox kits romped with their mother at edge of meadow just above shoreline at Arrowfield.
- Stefan Yarabek

6/14 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 68.5: An overnight downpour made it four inches of rain in four days. I have seen and heard common crows harassing red-tailed hawks; it is a common occurrence throughout the year. Today, however, I heard a strange medley of bird noise and across an opening in the forest canopy came three fish crows hot on the tail of a red-tail. I have always thought that fish crows were far too dignified to stoop to such antics.
- Tom Lake

6/14 - Brooklyn, New York City: I don't exactly know what I saw while negotiating the exit ramp from the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge to the Belt Parkway at Bay Ridge, but there was a pair of peregrine falcons flying about. One seemed to be chasing the other, but without the aggression of a territorial dispute. Perhaps one was a parent, the other a young hawk on an early flight from the nest. One way or the other it was surely more amusing, and far faster moving, than anything on the exit ramp.
- Dave Taft

6/15 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67.5: A long and continuous line of severe thunder and lightning storms swept across the river overnight, leaving another inch of rain - five inches in five days. For a change, the amorous barred owls were quiet; the two of them were probably looking for an ark.
- Tom Lake

6/15 - Saratoga Springs, HRM 177: A yearling cow moose was spotted wandering Broadway, a main thoroughfare in Saratoga Springs, in the early-morning hours. By 6:00 AM, she had wandered onto the grounds of Saratoga Race Course. Track security opened an entrance to the grounds in order to keep the moose out of harm's way. Staff from the NYSDEC arrived and tranquilized the moose, estimated to be a little more than a year old and weighing 500-600 pounds. The moose was removed, taken 20 miles north of Saratoga, and released into an area where there is a known moose population.
- Tom Lake

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