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Hudson River Almanac August 6 - August 12, 2009

OVERVIEW

Signs of seasonal change are apparent as birds begin to flock. Another common sign of late summer is the arrival of tropical exotics, most often fish, but sometimes marine mammals like the Florida manatee of 2006. This week it was a flamingo, most likely an escape from a local aviary, but it would surprise very few of us if it had made the trip north.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

8/12 - Croton Point, HRM 35: A naturalist at Croton Point Park showed me a photo he took with his cell phone today. It was a no-doubt pale pink flamingo foraging in a vernal pond among some Canada Geese. Their bright pink color fades as their diet changes from strictly crustaceans. The bird had a band on its leg though it could not be read. It was there one day and then gone the next. An escape? Probably. Although we did have a Florida manatee here in 2006.
- Christopher Letts

[A flamingo was recently reported from the coast of Rhode Island, there is some thought that it may be the same bird. Rich Guthrie.]

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

8/5 - Hannacrois, HRM 132.5: I killed all my tomato plants today. I had started each one from seed and nurtured them to maturity, only to pull them up by the roots before tasting a single fruit. Like so many gardeners in the northeast, I have been plagued by the late blight. This fungus reduces vigorous plants to a tangle of blasted stems and leaves in just a few days. I thought of all the culinary delights that we would have feasted on this year as I destroyed the tomatoes. I eyed the potatoes, another plant of the nightshade family that is susceptible to the blight. They still appear unscathed and I hope for a harvestable crop. The entire garden is waterlogged and even the hearty zucchini plants have been affected, with some fruits rotting on the vine. This will be a hungry winter for those of us who strive to live off the land.
- Liz LoGiudice, Ross Burnell

8/6 - Catskill, HRM 113: The splash and ripple in the water of Catskill Creek was not the steady, purposeful travel trail of a muskrat or beaver. It could only be the joy of the playful river otter leaving such a happy impression in the water. And there were two!
- Fran Martino

8/6 - Croton Bay, HRM 34: Due to the freshwater flow, there is almost no salt in the Tappan Zee. Therefore there are no bluefish or striped bass to speak of. The rains of July have greatly diminished the sportfishing in the lower river. Gino Garner and The Boyz at the Bridge have been reduced to fishing for white perch and sunfish, when they will admit to it.
- Christopher Letts

8/7 - Hannacrois, HRM 132.5: The waning gibbous moon appeared orange in the eastern sky as we crawled toward home, the truck precariously overloaded with bales of hay. Like most other Hudson Valley livestock farmers, we feel hay is more precious than gold this year. The relentless rains of July have set haymaking dangerously off course and we just now were baling the first cutting that would normally be harvested in June or early July. We are lucky to be bringing this truckload to the barn, for even with the fair weather of the last few days, some fields are so laden with water that equipment cannot be driven on them to harvest the crop. We desperately need a warm, hot and rainless August if the animals are to eat well this winter.
- Liz LoGiudice, Ross Burnell

8/7 - Stockport, HRM 121.5: On a rare beautiful afternoon this summer, we paddled north from the launch site at Stockport. While having a picnic lunch on a nearby island, we spotted two bald eagles, one adult and one immature, flying around a mile north of the launch site. Later in the day, we had two pileated woodpeckers fly over, one after the other, toward the east side of the river. A red-tailed hawk, a belted kingfisher, great blue herons and great egrets were around as well. We also saw a number of cedar waxwings, some landing on the mats of water chestnut. It was a great day to be out on the river!
- Scott J. Stoner, Denise Hackert-Stoner

8/7 - Tivoli North Bay, HRM 100.5: On our last seining trip to Tivoli North Bay the sound of the marsh had changed drastically. The marsh wrens had decided to stop yelling at each other and they were replaced with the considerably less melodious whine of the cicadas.
- Bob Schmidt, Nik Kotovich, Leah Pitman

8/7 - Brooklyn, New York City: The Bay Ridge Flats were abundant with life for the Hudson River sloop Clearwater this week. These ten-foot-deep shallows just south of Governor's Island create an upwelling of planktonic life, and many species come here to feed on the bounty. We trawled up bay anchovies, gravid blue crabs, lined seahorses, sea stars, flounder, shrimp, jellyfish, innumerable macro-invertebrates and a sea squirt about four inches across. We were very pleased with the diversity this spot brings to our fish tank, providing us with ten different species for one glorious afternoon sail. Sailing from the revitalized Red Hook section of Brooklyn has its advantages!
- Brian Mohan

8/8 - Hudson-Athens Lighthouse, HRM 118: While I was standing along the railing at the top of the Hudson-Athens Lighthouse, along came a dragonfly chomping on a tender bluet damselfly held in its mouth. Had I not been mesmerized watching the body of the bluet disappear as the dragonfly chewed, I would have paid more attention to identifying its taxonomy.
- Fran Martino

8/8 - Norrie Point, HRM 85: I spotted a single common tern among the ring-billed gulls on the rocks extending north from Esopus Island in midday (a favorite haul-out spot for harbor seals in winter). It may have been the same tern Alan Mapes saw from his kayak two weeks ago.
- Tom Lake

8/8 - Fishkill, HRM 61: Although I can not claim a "visual" observation, yipping coyotes has to count for something. The cool night allowed me to sleep with the windows open, but the coyotes had a different plan. Their yipping and carrying on kept me awake while I enjoyed every minute of their symphony.
- Eric Shaw

8/9 - Wappinger Creek, HRM 67.5: As soon as I spotted the snowy egret wading in the shallows at the mouth of this tidewater creek I had hopes of a "heron grand-slam." This achievement is one where each of the five most common herons found along the lower Hudson River are sighted in one area. Just inside the railroad trestle I found a black-crowned night heron perched stoically on a snag. A quarter-mile upstream, two green herons, several hundred feet apart, were walking on the blankets of water chestnut. Another quarter-mile upstream a great egret was stabbing killifish at the base of the canoe launch. I was getting so close. I retraced my path along the mile of tidewater but, ironically, I could not find the most common heron of all, the great blue.
- Tom Lake

8/9 - Cold Spring, HRM 54: Just on a whim, I fished this spot at the north end of the Cold Spring shoreline where there are many old pilings and a small bay. The bay area must be relatively deep since there was no water chestnut. I caught, weighed (10 lb. 5 oz.), and released a nice carp, as well as a 15" channel catfish. I caught the channel cat right away, at 11:00 AM, but then had no more hits for the next four hours. I stuck it out, though, and the carp hit at 3:00 PM. It is kind of a mystery spot: there were no fish jumping or other indications of fish presence.
- Bill Greene

8/9 - Sandy Hook, NJ: They were late, but this evening I heard my first katydid song of the season.
-Dery Bennett

8/10 - Athens, HRM 118: The double-crested cormorant and I were both traveling against the tide from Four Mile Point back to the Athens boat launch. Not having my watch with me, I decided to measure how long it remained submerged by counting my paddle strokes. I watched about ten diving adventures, and discovered the cormorant stayed underwater for ten strokes of my paddle blades. It tricked me only one time when it popped back up in the water after twelve strokes; something too good to let get away must have gotten its attention.
- Fran Martino

8/10 - Maritje Kill, HRM 81: I was out looking for signs of the invasive Chinese mitten crabs. The Saw Kill had little to offer except for a single claw of a spinycheek crayfish. After driving seventeen miles south, I walked down the Maritje Kill, found no mitten crabs, but came face-to-face with a juvenile great egret at the mouth of the creek. He was very unafraid and I slowly walked downstream to within twenty feet of him before he got nervous and slowly walked away. Perhaps the schools of killifish I chased ahead of me made him think I was more of a provider than a predator.
- Bob Schmidt

8/10 - Fallkill, HRM 75.5: Later, in the Fall Kill, I found two blue crab exoskeleton sheds (both males, 2-2.5 inches carapace width). Then I found two mitten crab sheds. Although the day started off slow, I ended up with a trifecta of freshwater decapod exoskeletons - the first time that ever happened. Now if I only could find all three in the same tributary.
- Bob Schmidt

8/10 - Croton Bay, HRM 34: I counted no fewer than nine great egrets foraging at low tide in the bay.
- Christopher Letts

8/11 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Ruby-throated hummers have been out in great profusion in my bee balm. I must have easily had a dozen; it is like watching a ballet, from sunrise until sunset!
- Ellen Rathbone

8/11 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 76: As daylight slowly wanes in August, those of us who revere the summer months begin lament the obvious signs of change. At dusk, two flocks of Canada geese, each with 15-20 birds, passed overhead from the river towards inland night roosts. While these are not the high-flyer flocks of autumn, they still make me miss the nesting pairs of June.
- Tom Lake

8/12 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: The birds of autumn are on the move but are not always heading the same way. In less than a minute of synchronized bird flight along the river, I watched a huge flock of cedar waxwings heading southeast intersect with a similarly large flock of mixed black birds heading northeast. It was amazing to watch them pass through each others flock without a single dip or dart.
- Tom Lake

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