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Hudson River Almanac July 1 - July 7, 2009

OVERVIEW

The deluge abated and we were able to string two days together without significant rainfall. Many of our entries this week stem from the embarrassment of green riches that has resulted from having 2-3 times as much rain as normal in June.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

7/5 - Staten Island, New York City: Paddling a kayak through The Narrows, it was not difficult to feel the enormity of the Hudson River, its grand scale, briny vitality, and its economic importance. Despite the Verrazano Bridge, Battery Weed, tankers, tugs, and the developments on the Brooklyn side, here was the Hudson, with its shifting tides and salty scent - composed, at least in my mind, of water which might have been shed in some Adirondack thunderstorm or dripped from some seep deep in the Catskills. Without half trying, Tina Johnstone, Barry Masterson (Kayak Staten Island group) and I counted six species of birds still using the area as if nothing had changed since the Munsee Indians patrolled this area. A common egret flew past, along with three semiplamated sandpipers; laughing gulls sat on the water's surface lounging, and common terns worked hard diving after fish. Our best two birds by far were a pair of loons. The first was an adult common loon - a rare sighting for us in its summer plumage. The other, a juvenile red-throated loon, was not yet in color, but unmistakable with its slender upturned bill. We paddled so close that when the bird finally dove, we could see its strong flippered feet still kicking yards underwater.
- Dave Taft

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

7/1 - Defreetsville, Rensselaer County, HRM 149: There were an alarming number of little bats found on the barn floor and outside the stoop of my friend's home, the David DeFreest House. The bats were small, thin looking, and dead. I took a few to the Five Rivers Environmental Center. The technician, Joe Okoniewki, immediately identified them as baby big brown bats. They looked healthy but he informed me that they had probably fallen out of the roost. He said that once they fall like that the mothers cannot pick them up when they return from night hunting.
- Roberta S. Jeracka

[I think this rainy weather may be upsetting bat flights. With the night rains, many insects have had their flights curtailed so there may be some nutritional stress. Ward Stone, DEC Wildlife Pathologist.]

[See June 3, New Paltz, Ulster County, for another big brown bat sighting by William Murray. Big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus) are relatively common throughout their range from southern Canada south throughout the United States, Mexico, and Meso-America. They often reside in attics, walls, and basements of buildings. Tom Lake.]

7/1 - Pleasant Valley, HRM 75: Just as I was heading out the door this morning, I turned my head and glanced at the feeder. There was a male indigo bunting munching away with his iridescent blue feathers. He was just beautiful!. I usually only see them for a few days each summer, and I was so glad to catch this sight!
- Kathy Kraft

7/2 - Ulster County, HRM 75: After looking for caterpillars for the past month, with a little effort today I found three inch-long monarch larvae on milkweed at the lower end of the Shawangunk Ridge. It is always reassuring when I can see that eons-long cycle begin again.
- Betty Boomer

7/2 - Ossining, HRM 33: This morning, after the heavy showers had passed, I scanned the clearing in front of Mariandale where I had seen some wild turkeys last week, never expecting to see them again. What I first spotted was a beautiful fawn, standing erect and looking in my direction. Then, to my surprise, I noticed the turkey family (parents and poult) standing right with it. They picked at the ground, took a few steps around the area, and seemed totally oblivious to the deer. Two gray squirrels joined the group to complete the enjoyable picture. My timing was good because the deer disappeared and the turkey family strutted across the field, out of sight, leaving only the squirrels behind.
- Dorothy Ferguson

7/2 - Manhattan, HRM 2: In the Greenwich Village segment of Hudson River Park, I encountered my first Ailanthus webworm moth (Atteva punctella) in daylight, looking more like a beetle than moth.
- Walter Laufer

7/3 - Catskill Mountains, Ulster County: There is rare, and then there is rarer still. I was thinking that somewhere near this pad-leaved orchid was a tiny rill that must somewhere join the mighty Hudson. Where, I cannot exactly say, and through which drainage I'm not actually sure, or how far downstream, as the upper ridges of the ridge I had been following fracture repeatedly and facets face east, west, north and south. Actually, I cannot even say with certainty which pad-leaved orchid I was looking at, as none of the six plants located were in bloom, just twelve enormous leaves, sitting in the deepest shade, marking six healthy plants.
- Dave Taft

7/3 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67.5: Since June 9 (25 days) the Mid-Hudson region had received 13.54 inches of rain, including today's 2.27 inches. Early this morning my yard looked like a scene from "Bambi," with three young white-tailed deer, three cottontail rabbits (Thumper), and four young woodchucks munching the greenery. Our barred owls were still here, though gone silent by dawn, and the local skunks had already crawled back into the underbrush. The gray tree frogs were in chorus and a lone bullfrog had appeared in the last day or so, adding its bass to the theme music from Bambi - "Life may be swift and fleeting, hope may die, yet love's beautiful music comes each day like the dawn."
- Tom Lake

7/3 - Alpine, HRM 19: While kayaking with a friend across from our boathouse just north of Alpine, we saw several osprey fishing and some turkey vultures hanging out looking full. The various falls off the Palisades were in full throat after our many rainy days. A few miles upriver across from Hastings we saw a very large brown bird perched high on a tree branch. It had a white head, an eagle beak, and a bit of a white chest. After disdainfully glaring, it lifted its leg and scratched its head. This was a new adult bald eagle, with a white head but still a largely brown body, a four year-old, waiting for fireworks.
- Bob Morrow

7/4 - New Hamburg, HRM 67.5: While navigating the streets of the little hamlet of New Hamburg, Dutchess County, in mid-afternoon, we watched a crow flying westward and coursing at eye level along Bridge Street carrying a blue egg in its beak that it probably had purloined from a nearby robin's nest.
- Merrill Spaeth, Ed Spaeth

7/4 - Manhattan - On a magnolia leaf, in the Greenwich Village segment of Hudson River Park, I saw this year's first tiger swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus) caterpillar, the instar stage that resembles a bird dropping.
- Walter Laufer

7/5 - Ulster County, HRM 101: As I paddled through this calm section of Esopus Creek near Boiceville, I accidentally disturbed about 25 blue herons, causing them to fly downstream in unison, flapping slowly into the air and squawking in unison.
- Brian Mohan

7/5 - Crugers, HRM 39: While enjoying our backyard barbecue, our attention was drawn to a huge object passing overhead. Against the clear blue sky, a great blue heron glided by, wings spread wide, conjuring up an image of pterodactyls from the Cretaceous Age of dinosaurs.
- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson

7/5 - Manhattan, HRM 2: In the Greenwich Village segment of Hudson River Park, on a green clump of Montauk daisies, I spotted a lighter green dragonfly, a female eastern pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis).
- Walter Laufer

7/6 - Milan, HRM 90 In an attempt to catch and relocate one of the woodchucks that are using my garden as their salad bar, I instead caught an opossum! Upon release it took cover in the nearby woodchuck hole. The growling from underground was immediate and the opossum beat a quick retreat out of the hole.
- Marty Otter

7/6 - Accord to Kerhonkson, Ulster County, HRM 8: While on an early morning bike ride on the Rail Trail connecting Accord to Kerhonkson, we spotted a solitary black bear, roughly 175 lb. that crossed the trail in front of us. It was beautifully framed within the trail canopy about 150 feet away. The bear stopped and looked us over for a few seconds, then sauntered off towards the Rondout Creek.
- Peter Nelson, Sally Roy

7/6 - Bronx, New York City: In an out-of-the-way cove off the Long Island Sound, I found myself on all fours in a small dry field where I'd seen the "Little Pearl Twist," or Little Ladies Tresses (Spiranthes tuberosa) blooming before. At this time of the year, with its leaves dying back, I knew that finding one of these tiny orchids would be a challenge. But a little persistence paid, and after twenty minutes a set of leaves that could hide under a quarter comfortably came into view.
- Dave Taft

7/6 - Sandy Hook, NJ: The hackberry tree in the backyard has shed more than half of its leaves in the past few weeks, so I called the county extension agent for advice. He asked me to mail him a few leaves and I got a call back today. He said they are getting lots of hackberry leaf drop calls this year. They blame an extra heavy leafing out this year due to the heavy rainfall of spring (three times normal) and said the tree would probably grow a second set of leaves this summer and survive okay.
- Dery Bennett

7/7 - Highland Mills, HRM 50: For the last two nights, we have had a pair of beautiful skunks "playing" on our lawn. They were both very white, and fairly unafraid. We did take care not to get too close, as they ran in and out of a drain pipe. The night before, they had been in the flower garden and apparently dug up a freshly planted begonia, looking for grubs or worms. A young buck and doe white-tail are new residents in the neighborhood. The buck is in velvet and both are quite bold while munching on our hostas and lilies!
- Alan Groth, Janice Groth

7/7- George's Island, HRM 39: When the afternoon storms had subsided, we found that the heavy rains had created a "mini-lake" on the grass near the river. A mallard pair had claimed the "lake" and was gliding around, the female ducking down periodically into the water with the male swimming by her side.
- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson

7/7 - Yonkers, HRM 18: Around midnight a violent thunderstorm hit southern Westchester County with golf ball-size hail stones that, when accumulating on the ground, resembled snowfall. Snow plows were needed to clear roadways. Large, old trees were toppled, some of which crashed into homes. At least 17,000 people lost power and major roadways were closed. The wind gusts were so powerful that a tornado was suspected. However, the National Weather Service confirmed that it had been a "supercell" thunderstorm. The storm also wreaked havoc in Mt. Vernon and New Rochelle.
- Dorothy Ferguson

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