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Hudson River Almanac August 26 - August 31, 2009

OVERVIEW

It appears to be the peak of the late summer shorebird migration, mostly sandpipers and waders. A few hummingbird entries, however, keep thoughts of summer alive. Beginning this coming week, we will chronicle the movements, as closely as historical records allows, of Henry Hudson and the Half Moon 400 years ago. This remembrance will begin with his arrival at Sandy Hook. NJ, on September 3, and continue until October 4, when the Half Moon passed through the Narrows and departed the river back in 1609.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

8/31 - Vanderburgh Cove, HRM 88: It's been shorebird time along the Hudson. As I paddled north to Vanderburgh Cove, a whimbrel flew in low over a spread of water chestnut. It gave me a start when the big guy came circling in, calling as he came, landing right on the mat though I suspect it was standing on a small piece of driftwood (great blue herons stand on driftwood caught in the chestnut when fishing along the mat edge). I got a good look at the stripes on the whimbrel's head and its decurved beak before the bird flew off to the north. I also saw what looked like a sanderling as I paddled in the cove. Out on the main river, I spooked up three small "peep" sandpipers from another area of chestnut, but did not get a close enough look for identification. Too bad you can't use a scope from the seat of a sea kayak!
- Alan Mapes

[The whimbrel is one of four species of curlews found in North America (assuming the Eskimo curlew is not extinct). It is among the largest of all wading birds, recognized primarily by a combination of size, a striped crown (head), and a decurved bill. It is an Arctic breeder and migrates long distances to winter as far away as coastal South America. The whimbrel is a lover of small aquatic invertebrates; perhaps this one picked off a few mitten crabs on its way down river. Tom Lake.]

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

8/26 - Fishkill, HRM 61: In late morning, while weeding a flowerbed, a small hummingbird came hovering right above my head and then proceeded to feed at the monardia [wild bergamot], unperturbed by my presence. I stood mesmerized by the little dynamo as it rested on a leaf stem and looked all about at the buzzing bees, butterflies, and this human form talking softly to it a mere two feet away.
- Ed Spaeth

8/26 - Verplanck, HRM 40: I woke up on the deck of the Hudson River sloop Clearwater in the early dawn with a sturgeon cloud high above my head. This cloud seemed perfectly sculpted into the shape of a sturgeon, complete with snout-like nose, scutes, and even wisps of cloud vapor as trailing barbels.
- Fran Martino

8/26 - Sandy Hook, NJ - During a noontime walk, I came across a 500-bird flock of tree swallows, some perched on a wire fence, other swirling around and diving into a nearby hackberry tree. I got up under the tree and watched them plucking and eating unripe hackberry berries. A little reading indicated that berries (especially bayberry) are a prime food source if insects are scarce, and they were today with a 25 mph wind out of the northwest.
- Dery Bennett

[The tree swallow's ability to survive for extended periods on berries, especially the waxy fruits of bayberries, accounts for their presence in winter as far north as Long Island. Steve Stanne.]

8/27 - Albany County, HRM 153: While sitting in my truck in a mall parking lot I watched ten sparrows darting into and out of the air intake grills of several vehicles. Close observation indicated that they were picking dead insects off the front of the radiators of the vehicles. How long did it take for these common birds to learn that there was something to eat inside the grill area of a car?
- Bob Price

8/27 - Albany to Moordener Kill, HRM 145-138: For the past several days I have seen small herring, three inches long, leaping out of the river - multitudes of them. These silvery and quick little fish put on quite a show as they get themselves airborne. One leapt out of the water, hit my thigh, and fell into the bottom of my kayak. Carp were spawning as well, churning the shallows. These were large creatures with visible dorsal fins the length of my open hand, 6-7 inches. In my journeys I also spotted two immature bald eagles, many kingfishers, and several great blue herons.
- Patricia Van Alstyne

[This is the time of the year when many thousands of young-of-the-year blueback herring exit the Mohawk River through the Waterford Flight locks and the federal dam at Troy, and head south through tidewater to the sea. These herring were spawned throughout the Mohawk River by ocean run parents that ascended the Hudson in May and June, taking the same pathway inland and upland. Those that reach the sea will return in four years as adults to make the same arduous journey to the farthest reaches of the Mohawk to spawn. Tom Lake.]

8/27 - Ulster Park, HRM 87 - We have had many more ruby-throated hummingbirds than usual this year.
- Bill Drakert

8/27 - Verplanck, HRM 40: Steamboat Dock Park is a lovely spot in the Village of Verplanck with a spectacular view of the Hudson River. I shared the cove with 43 Canada geese and 14 ducks that bobbed in the water with me as I took a quick dip on this hot and sultry summer day.
- Fran Martino

8/28 - Germantown, HRM 108: My buddleia [butterfly bush] that I planted last year bloomed. The result of that was a nice mix of butterflies. Monarchs are coming along, but not in great numbers yet. I've also had cabbage whites, admirals, and sulfurs but none of those tiny blue guys. The fussy hummingbirds are still around. They simply disappeared until I washed and refilled the feeders. Then they were back within a half hour.
- Mimi Brauch

[Hummingbird literature claims that they will starve to death before they drink old, soured, or otherwise unappealing nectar. Tom Lake.]

8/28 - Germantown to Cheviot, HRM 108-106: I've had eagles, both adult and immature, at both Germantown and Cheviot landings. I was talking with someone at Cheviot today, not paying attention to the birds, when an immature eagle swooped out of a tree thirty feet behind me and leisurely flapped its way across to the west side. No scope was needed. Great blue herons have been everywhere, up to twenty at a time. There were also some least sandpipers at low tide hoping around with the gulls.
- Mimi Brauch

8/28 - Cheviot, HRM 106: A few ducks have finally appeared at Cheviot, mostly black ducks as far as I can tell. The Canada geese seem to have conspicuously thinned out. They're not in the usual places.
- Mimi Brauch

8/28 - Cold Spring, HRM 54: This was another attempt to catch carp at Cold Spring, with no success. However, I did manage to catch and release two channel catfish, both about 16", before the rain started in earnest.
- Bill Greene

8/28 - Sandy Hook, NJ: On my daily commute, I am lucky enough to pass close by three of the eleven active osprey nests active on Sandy Hook this summer. Each of these three nests fledged two young. Today, two nests had one full-grown osprey in each; the remaining nest had two full-grown birds. I pulled over to see what those two were doing. Through binoculars I discovered that they were standing on the nest edge yelling out an odd, high-pitched squeal-whistle. As usual in situations like this, I wondered what was going on: Hungry? Bored? Abandoned? Mad at the weather (a chilly east wind)? As usual, the answer was not forthcoming.
- Dery Bennett

8/29 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: Hurricane Danny weakened into Tropical Storm Danny which meant the winds in the woods were less severe and heavy branches stayed put. But the rain pelted down, an inch in a little more than an hour in midday, rendering a rain jacket as nothing more than a water chute soaking everything below.
- Tom Lake

8/29 - Croton Point, HRM 34: Raptors were on the move with kestrels, harriers, and sharp-shinned hawks showing in numbers daily.
- Christopher Letts.

8/29 - Tappan Zee, HRM 26: I saw my first osprey today while riding on Metro North. It was perched on small dead tree along the river south of the Tappan Zee. I did not know they were so common until reading about them in the Almanac.
- John Minsjsul

8/30 - Croton Point, HRM 34: Shorebirds were all over the place! Among them were least sandpipers, western sandpipers, semipalmated sandpipers, killdeer, and lesser yellowlegs.
- Christopher Letts.

8/30 - Rockland County, HRM 20: I thought someone's goat had gotten loose along the Palisades Parkway just north of the Lake Welch exit. It was a near-white, partial albino, white-tailed deer. It looked like this year's fawn and was with a couple of normal-colored deer. I wish it well avoiding the coyotes. I suppose it will have an advantage when there is snow on the ground.
- Stephen Seymour

8/31 - Croton Point, HRM 35-34: The monarch migration is very slow with only an average of 1-3 sightings an hour. It generally peaks in early to mid-September, so there is time.
- Christopher Letts

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