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Hudson River Almanac June 23 - June 30, 2009

OVERVIEW

In a year when we are commemorating the events of the last 400 years (post Henry Hudson), we should note one of the most significant accomplishments - the recovery of the bald eagle, the symbol of our nation, along the tidewater Hudson. Thirteen years ago this week we fledged our first bald eagle in 100 years, the result of decades of increased human tolerance, preservation of habitat, a lessening of toxins in the environment, and the resiliency of these amazing birds.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

6/27 - Greene County: The pair of bald eagles in nest NY28 near Inbocht Bay has fledged 25 young in the last twelve years and is productive again this year.
- Pete Nye

[Here is Peter Nye's Hudson River Almanac entry for June 27, 1997:
Greene County: On this day, F20, in all his awkward young grandeur, was flying along the shoreline with his parents. He had successfully fledged but little did he know what this represented. After an absence of more than 100 years (bald eagles were last known to nest near West Point in 1890), bald eagles had once again nested successfully along the Hudson River. Now it seems we have finally "breached the barrier" of eagles on the Hudson and, I am confident, great things lie ahead for us along the river. More nests will be found and many more young will be fledged.
- Pete Nye
How prophetic was Pete Nye? Today we have at least two dozen active nests. In an era of mixed ecological reviews on the tidewater Hudson, the recovery of the bald eagle stands out as a shining success. Tom Lake]

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

6/23 - Columbia County, HRM 114: While driving over Punch Brook, a feeder stream to the Roeliff Jansen Kill, we spotted cliff swallows coming and going from a colony on the underside of the bridge.
- Ed Spaeth

6/23 - Crawbuckie, HRM 33.5: A hurried count from my Metro North commuter car window found 60 mute swans out on Croton Bay. This scene was bracketed by a great egret perched in a small cottonwood along Croton Point and, closer to Ossining, an immature bald eagle that kept pace with the train heading south while being harassed by a grackle.
- Tom Lake

6/23 - Ossining, HRM 33: In early afternoon, I became fascinated with the multi-colored clouds in the sky over Rockland County - white, blue, gray, purple - all in different and very interesting formations. The river was silvery and, from my high vantage above it, I spotted a few gulls down below. As I watched a few mockingbirds and robins, I almost missed the beautiful red-tailed hawk that landed in a large tree overlooking the river. A few moments later it flew out, circled the tree, and then disappeared into its foliage.
- Dorothy Ferguson

6/23 - Hastings-on-Hudson, HRM 21.5: As our Metro North car sped past, I spotted two immature bald eagles, possibly siblings, on the waterfront. One was perched on a piling and the other was lifting off the water with a silvery menhaden
- Tom Lake

6/24 - Athens, HRM116: The leaves of the spatterdock plants at Four Mile Point were as big as the blades of my kayak paddle.
- Fran Martino

6/24 - Saugerties, HRM 102: Beginning at the Esopus Bend Nature Preserve, Tim Kenna and I headed out to do some field investigations for our upcoming River Summer program. The bullfrog serenade was a constant pulsing in the background as we sloshed through what would normally have been considered part of the high marsh. We moved on to the Saugerties Lighthouse where the swollen river had washed wheelbarrows full of water chestnut seed pods over the wooden bridges. The water volume was amazing; the system seemed fully saturated.
- Margie Turrin

[As an aside, Tim Kenna's pre-school son, Jack, calls woodchucks "grass beavers!" Margie Turrin.]

6/24 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: A long walk through damp woods produced nary a crunch underfoot. After another 0.4" of rain, we were now at 10.05" since June 9, and the forest floor was like a sponge. The dominant sound, a short but lovely flute-like song, came from a beautiful little thrush called the veery.
- Tom Lake

6/24 - Putnam Valley, HRM 55: I found an eastern worm snake under a rock today.
- Eric Lind

6/24 - Foundry Cove, Putnam County, HRM 53: We headed out to the marsh just before 8:00 PM while surveying for a field visit. We were amazed to see the wide muddy bottom completely emptied of water at this low tide. [Low tide was about 7:45.] Small stands of plants in the marsh had been fenced and marked with colored flagging to deter uninvited guests, which we assumed were geese. As we watched, 5-6 deer moved lightly through the mud, sinking half way up their forelegs as they stepped through the muck. We would not have guessed that these would be the food thieves!
- Margie Turrin, Tim Kenna

6/25 - Albany County, HRM 145: It seems that many animals are risk-takers, or just foolish, because they seem to run into the road just a few seconds before I can see them and force me to brake quickly. Tonight after dark an opossum did just that. It was about as long as a medium-sized cat with its tail held horizontally. As it gingerly pranced by, I was surprised by its mostly white coloring. Ghostly.
- Chris Dooley

6/25 - Tivoli North Bay, HRM 100.5: Most, if not all, of the snapping turtle nests we saw being constructed two weeks ago had been dug up and the eggs consumed. This is the fate of most nests in most years; it's a good thing snapping turtles are long-lived and persistent. We saw carp spawning in the mouth of Stony Creek in beds of Eurasian water milfoil. While watching the carp we picked up an oyster shell that had washed out of the bank. This is a long way from the ocean so we suspect it was either a remnant of a Native American's meal from before Henry Hudson or someone's meal from last night in Tivoli.
- Bob Schmidt, Leah Pitman, Alec Schmidt

[Oyster and clam shells are a common find in Colonial period and later archaeological excavations in the Hudson Valley. Farmers acquired them from down river and used them to balance the pH in their fields. There have been occasions in the Mid-Hudson Valley where bivalve shells have been found in prehistoric contexts that probably represent trade with Indians closer to brackish and salt water. Tom Lake.]

6/25 - Fishkill, HRM 61: In late afternoon, while an adult tufted timouse was busy feeding one of its youngsters with its mouth agape in a fir tree, a male cardinal and an indigo bunting were placidly feeding at our bird feeders.
- Ed Spaeth

6/25 - Dutchess County, HRM 61: Driving westbound on Interstate 84, a speck on the roadway near the intersection with Route 9 soon materialized into an eastern box turtle. She stepped slowly across the warm pavement, her high dome decorated with beautiful starbursts. I looked in my rear-view mirror and confirmed what I already knew, that those dignified steps were going to be her last. A phalanx of speeding trucks closed in, and it would be too dangerous to save her. I felt helpless and sad.
- Eric Lind

6/25 - Manhattan, HRM 2: Mid-morning in Hudson River Park I noted a flash of gold among the now bare but still green stalks that once bore blue irises. Moving closer, I spotted a dragonfly perched vertically on a stem. As I watched, it darted from its perch seeking aerial prey and then returned to the same or to a nearby stalk to await the next flying morsel. The dragonfly was a golden-winged skimmer (Libellula auripennis), a first for me. Later, I saw this year's first red admiral butterfly on a newly blooming butterfly bush.
- Walter Laufer

6/26 - Hudson, HRM 119: Our seine captured banded killifish, spottail shiners, and a few 4-5 inch young-of-the-year striped bass at the southern tip of the island known as Middle Ground Flats. Our net also captured the heart of an enthusiastic senior citizen who donned a pair of chest waders to participate in what she called "a once-in-a-lifetime experience."
- Fran Martino

6/26 - Hyde Park, HRM 82: It was 4:45 AM and eight bats swirled over my yard in the pre-dawn light. It was heartening to see them back and comforting to know something would be on the prowl for the mosquitoes that are bound to explode after the rain.
- Susan Maresca

6/26 - Dutchess County, HRM 69: I was treated to two bald eagles this morning on the 6:47 Metro North commuter train from Poughkeepsie. The first was an adult standing on a sandbar at the mouth of the Casper Kill at Clinton Point. The second was an immature flying over the river just above Garrison, eighteen miles downriver, carrying a fish in its talons.
- Malcolm Castro

6/26 - Farmers Landing, HRM 67: In late afternoon a series of strong thunderstorms swept across the river. The scene was hypnotic as the huge black clouds rolled along looking not unlike dark, stormy surf. They passed close overhead - some of the lightning was so near that the thunder came simultaneously. In less than an hour, we had another 1.10" of rain (11.15" since June 9).
- Tom Lake

6/26 - Fishkill, HRM 61: At 5:00 PM, a severe thunderstorm passed through just north of us. We had high winds and heavy rain. A huge deciduous tree, over 100 feet tall, was uprooted in a neighbor's yard. Most of the other trees in the area had only minor damage. After the storm passed there was a dramatic drop in air temperature from 81 to 64 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Ed Spaeth

6/26 - Verplanck, HRM 40.5: In the wake of a hail storm, the scene at Verplanck was gorgeous. The sky looked like someone had painted it with pastel chalk, soft pinks, lavenders, and blues. The surface of the river was pink from the reflection of the sun that had all but disappeared behind the mountains on the west side the river. We spotted an osprey perched on a channel marker; soon another osprey flew in and perched on the opposite side.
- Dorothy Ferguson

6/27 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67.5: More overnight rain (0.12") had the gauge reading 11.27" since June 9.
- Tom Lake

6/28 - Beacon, HRM 61: Two carp, lightly hooked, were lost when the hooks pulled free. I did get two channel catfish, and they were the sum of the day's fishing at Long Dock. The larger channel cat, at 21 inches, had a well filled-out body and was one of the larger males I've seen this year. Spawning carp were jumping in the current during the last of the ebb tide, but when the tide turned, they stopped.
- Bill Greene

6/29 - Maritje Kill, HRM 79: We were looking for mitten crabs (found none) but we did catch a single white river crayfish (Procambarus acutus). We are used to seeing this exotic species in Westchester County tributaries like the Sawmill River, or the Swamp River in Putnam County, but not in Dutchess County along the Hudson. This may be the farthest north we have seen this species.
- Bob Schmidt, Leah Pitman, Nik Kotovich

6/29 - Rhinebeck, HRM 90: They're not eagles! They reside at the other end of the scale, but no less conscientious about raising their young. A pair of house wrens had occupied a tiny wooden box I can see from my deck. They had raised one brood and were busy renovating their nest. Starting at 5:15 AM, while the male sang and scolded almost nonstop, the female carried on like a manic housekeeper. Soon more than half of their little box was filled with grass and mini twigs. There might be room enough for eggs, but it was hard to believe that there would be space enough for chicks.
- Phyllis Marsteller

6/29 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: Filling the hummingbird feeders this morning, I was suddenly confronted by an airborne, buzzing ice-pick pointed at my face, not a hand's width away! The tiny hummer and I froze, looking at each other. I "blinked" first and ducked out of its way.
- Robin Fox

6/29 - Manhattan, HRM 2: In the Greenwich Village segment of Hudson River Park, I spotted the year's first blue dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis) dragonflies, all males, appearing in both the meadow-like southern part and the woodsy northern part. I also saw the year's first clouded sulphur butterfly in the northern section and first summer azure butterfly in the southern section.
- Walter Laufer

6/30 - Vloman Kill, HRM 138: We visited the Vloman Kill in southern Albany County, pursuing an old brassy minnow record. The stream was not very inviting - very muddy and full of clay. We did not catch any brassy minnows but did capture an array of fishes that are unusual in Hudson River tributaries: shorthead redhorse (large big-scaled suckers with red fins in breeding season), trout-perch (picture a small, skinny white perch but without the spines and with an adipose fin), brook stickleback, and a central mudminnow. We also caught an array of "normal" stream fishes. You can't tell a stream by its color.
- Bob Schmidt, Bryan Weatherwax, Nik Kotovich

6/30 - Manhattan, HRM 2: I spotted the year's first twelve-spotted skimmer (Libellula pulchella) dragonflies, both female and male in the southern part of the Greenwich Village segment of Hudson River Park and, circling overhead, the first black saddlebags (Tramea lacerata) dragonflies of the year.
- Walter Laufer

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