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Hudson River Almanac September 7 - September 14, 2009

OVERVIEW

The presence of black bears in the lower Hudson Valley continued. There seem to be more reports this summer but that could be a function of reporting rather than more bears. Bird feeders and bee hives are attracting them - nothing new - as well as unsecured trash containers. The unsaid message in these reports is: If bears are in the area, considering bringing in your bird feeders at night and securing your trash containers with more than just a sturdy lid. When bears get in trouble for what they perceive as normal behavior and have to be dealt with by wildlife managers, we all stand to lose one of the most impressively primordial creatures of the forest.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

9/10 - Mohonk Preserve, HRM 78: Although it was somewhat early in the migratory season, our raptor count was fairly good. Included in a total of 179 were osprey (3), sharp-shinned hawk (3), Cooper's hawk (2), broad-winged hawk (170), and one American kestrel. The noon to 1:00 PM hour was the most productive with 150 broad-winged hawks migrating through in kettles ranging 3-50 birds. There were numerous observations of common raven and mixed kettles of both black and turkey vultures. Typically, I am at the watch, weather permitting, 10:00 AM - 2:00 PM. Anyone wishing to join me is more than welcome (contact Mohonk Preserve). We also had a five-lined skink scurry across the site and quickly disappear out of sight.
- Tom Sarro

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

9/7 - Croton River, HRM 34: The Boyz at the Bridge were enjoying fine blue-crabbing. In a half-day today, 2 crabbers with 12 drop-traps landed 150 crabs. Yesterday, 2 different crabbers with 10 drop-traps caught 200 crabs. The catch has been 80% males. Not all crabs were kept but almost all have been keeper-size (four-and-a-half-inches carapace width).
- Christopher Letts

[The Boyz at the Bridge are an eclectic mix of both men and women whose common bond is social interaction. While they number 25-30 individuals, rarely more than 5-6 are present at any one time. Some of them are retired, but others arrive from their night jobs, extended coffee breaks, or long lunch hours to spend five minutes or an hour, touching base, learning the latest. The Bridge is the Croton-on-Hudson railroad trestle over the mouth of the Croton River, where it meets Croton Bay. The setting is a bench at the village boat launch where canoes, kayaks and car-toppers are set into the Croton River. The dirt, sand, and gravel launch is a conduit for stories from crabbers, fishermen, paddlers, birdwatchers, and river lovers. Seasonally the air is filled with ospreys and eagles, shorebirds and wading birds, sunrises, sunsets, and storms. These, in and of themselves, provide context for the stories told and retold. Christopher Letts.]

9/8 - Greenville, Orange County, HRM 55: While commuting on Interstate 84 this morning I spotted two beautiful great egrets and a great blue heron is a nice swampy pond in the median of the highway. I had spotted the heron a few times before but this was a bonus day.
- Ann Reichal

9/8 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 70: I saw a giant swallowtail butterfly on the Impatiens in my yard. It was beautiful with brown and yellow markings.
- Doreen Tignanelli

9/8 - Warwick, Orange County, HRM 41: On a morning walk I spotted a cedar waxwing in a bushy area along the roadside. Since they travel in flocks, I'm sure there were more in the bushes.
- Pat Foxx

9/8 - Red Oaks Mill, Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 74: What a good day it would be for birds to migrate, I thought: blue, cloud-dotted sky, nice light wind. It occurred to me to look up and there, way up high, was a kettle of twelve hawks. They were too high to identify without binoculars, but I would guess that they were broad-winged hawks; it is their time of the year to begin their way south. Shortly after those passed, another kettle appeared of nine appeared followed by a solitary bird. Finally, a large kettle of twenty-six birds, followed again by another individual - forty-nine raptors in fifteen minutes, not a bad tally. The kettles all headed west, the solitaries to the south. Interestingly, all stopped to circle in the same area of the sky before speeding off.
- Donna Lenhart

[A kettle is a group of migrating hawks within a thermal - a rising column of warm air. As they soar in tight circles, gaining altitude within the thermal, the visual effect of the swirling birds - often dozens of them - is reminiscent of bubbles rising in a kettle of boiling water. When the hawks reach the top of the thermal, they set their wings and glide off to the south - one after another - on a line to the next thermal, where another kettle forms. This behavior minimizes the amount of energy-sapping wing-flapping needed in their migration. Broad-winged hawks are the most abundant species in these kettles. Steve Stanne.]

9/9 - Milan HRM 90: It was apparent that the bear was back as I returned home from a weekend away: the trash container was open and trash was everywhere. The bird feeder hug on the clothes line was destroyed along with the clothes line. Tooth marks on the bird feeder indicate a big one.
- Mart Otter

9/9 - Greene County, HRM 125: Over the last four days, the ponds behind the Coxsackie Flats Grasslands Preserve have been active with an interesting mix of shorebirds. The most numerous, not surprisingly, were killdeers, about 30, very actively moving around and difficult to count. Others present included 8 greater yellowlegs, 6 lesser yellowlegs, 8 least sandpipers, 4 pectoral sandpipers, 3 solitary sandpipers, 2 spotted sandpipers, 4 Wilson's snipe, and one semipalmated sandpiper. The first northern harrier appeared yesterday while 2 American kestrels and 3 red-tailed hawks patrolled for the abundant meadow voles.
- Rich Guthrie

9/9 - Croton Point, HRM 35-34: A five-minute screech owl serenade was a nice way to begin my walk. This bird was possessed of an extensive repertoire. I didn't manage to see it; the oak grove is full of places to hide. The ditches and thickets were loaded with palm warblers and kestrels were active on the landfill. Autumn was in the air, but where were the monarchs?
- Christopher Letts.

9/9 - Sandy Hook, NJ - For the second time in three years, beach plum production was a bust here. The same thing happened in 2007, but 2008 was a bonanza. Our theory is that it was cold and wet in May when the bushes were in bloom and pollination was a failure. Along with wild asparagus, beach plums are one of the few plants the National Park Service allows visitors to harvest. Beach plums make super jam; we'll suffer without till 2010
- Dery Bennett

9/10 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: I went out bare-footed this morning to catch the last bit of fragrance of the moon flowers that had bloomed during the night. I was looking up at the lovely white discs when I stepped on a Limax maximus, a great slug! It was at least six inches long, gray, black-spotted, and having a disgusting texture! I dispatched it having read that it is a major "garden pest," and then took deep sniffs of the moon flowers already fading in the morning sun.
- Robin Fox

9/11 - Ulster Park, HRM 87: Spotted a single hummer today, maybe our last of the season.
- Bill Drakert

9/11 - Hastings-on-Hudson, HRM 21.5: This rainy summer has spread not only the tomato blight but other spore-borne ills causing many trees to lose their leaves prematurely. Now some are trying for another go at it. This week, a magnificent old horse chestnut tree on the Old Croton Aqueduct near Zinsser Park was simultaneously dropping its shiny (but much smaller than normal) nuts from denuded branches and dried-out hulls, while sprouting bountiful clusters of white blossoms and delicate spring-green leaves on still other limbs. (This huge old tree is attacked by rust every year but has never re-blossomed like this.) A crab apple tree with shriveled leaves on the Mount Hope Boulevard median is also attempting a full-out, if belated, re-bloom. In our yard, an apple and cherry tree each have random out-of-season blossoms, while our mature catalpa dropped all its leaves suddenly in late July, but has recently sprouted a luxuriant new crown. May in September?
- M. Madigan

9/11 - Manhattan, HRM 0: It was 400 years ago today that Henry Hudson's Half Moon dropped anchor for in the Upper Bay off Manhattan Island. Ship's officer Robert Juet made his own "Almanac" observation in his journal for September 11, 1609.
- Tom Lake

"The eleventh was faire, and very hot weather. At one of the clocke in the after-noone, wee weighed and went into the River, the wind at the South, South-west, little winde. Our soundings were seven sixe, five, seven, eight, nine, ten, twelve, thirteen, and fourteene fathomes. Then it shoaled againe, and came to five fathomes. Then wee Anchored, and saw that it was a very good Harbour for all windes, and rode all night. The People of the Countrey came aboord us, making shew of love, and gave us Tobacco and Indian Wheat, and departed for that night; but we durst not trust them."

9/12 - New Paltz, HRM 78: Sometime last night we had our first visit to our yard by a black bear. Apparently he was attracted by my lone beehive, which was doing very well until then. He carried the hive a few feet and then dropped it, gouging out the first deep. He was apparently was too full to go after the top deep. He had his way, however, with the bottom deep, all the brood, and possibly the queen. A friend of mine came over and we salvaged what we could and put it back together. I'll be checking in the next few days to see if the queen survived. I live close to Mohonk and although there are bears in the area, I was totally surprised by the visit. It will be back at some point.
- Al Alexsa

[ Al's beehive: The first section on the bottom of the hive is called the "first deep," or bottom deep. The next section would be the "second deep," or top deep.]

9/12 - Town of Fishkill, HRM 63.5: On a Hudson Valley Ramble hike at the Stony Kill Farm Environmental Education Center, we counted a total of 47 red efts - the juvenile form of the red-spotted newt, a type of salamander - on the loop section of the Freedom Trail. Number 50 eluded us but I am sure that there were more there that escaped notice. The cool damp weather seemed to bring them out. They varied in size and coloration, small orange ones that might have been born earlier this summer to larger dusky ones that might have been nearing their adult stage. The tail of one large specimen even seemed to be beginning to flatten out (their tails are "rudder-like" in the aquatic adults).
- Reba Wynn Laks

9/13 - Town of Fishkill, HRM 63.5: For turtles on the move, there is such a slim margin for error. I managed to pull my truck over to the side in time to rescue an adult eastern box turtle heading across Route 9D in the shadow of the Stony Kill Farm Environmental Education Center. Once across, it plodded methodically away into the grass of a sanctuary.
- Tom Lake

9/13 - Fishkill, HRM 61: Sunrise had not officially occurred, but some mourning doves and other birds were already feeding. However, what caught my eye in the early morning light was what appeared to be an Indiana bat flying across the yard and into the woods. Most likely it was heading for its daytime roost.
- Ed Spaeth

9/13 - Kowawese, Orange County, HRM 59: We gathered at midday for our tenth annual Hudson River Valley Ramble beach seining program. On this date in 1609, Henry Hudson and the Half Moon were on the river some forty miles to the south. We used this four-hundredth anniversary as a context for our activities with a special look at native flora, fauna, and people.
The high tides from yesterday's coastal storm had left the beach with heavy tide-rows of uprooted native wild celery. In the wake of the storm there were gentle north-westerlies making it a flight day for birds and butterflies. We counted several osprey moving past but in two hours on the beach we counted only one butterfly, a great spangled fritillary. There were no monarchs at all, a growing concern in this early autumn.
When the Half Moon reached this point 400 years ago, there may have been Algonquian Indians on this beach, much as we were, fishing with nets made of native cordage, buoyed by gourds, held fast by sandstone net-sinkers, and catching native fishes. When Henry Hudson arrived, he met native people who could trace their ancestry back 425 generations in the Hudson River Valley (we have had 14 generations since 1609).
We hauled an 85-foot net and analyzed our catch to see how many of the species Henry Hudson and his crew might have seen. Nearly all the fish and shellfish we caught were native, including young-of-the-year blue crabs (penny-size), striped bass, white perch, American shad, blueback herring, banded killifish, tessellated darter, and hogchokers. The shad averaged 98 mm in length, the blueback herring 72 mm, and the inshore shallows were 73 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Tom Lake, Dick Manley, the Luraschi Family, Ronald Halbreich, Roxy the golden retriever

9/13 - Little Stony Point, HRM 55: While kayaking from Cold Spring to Little Stony Point, less than a mile upriver, to monitor the submerged aquatic vegetation beds of Vallisneria (wild celery), I noticed many lacy rafts of duckweed traveling down river on the ebbing tide. I had not seen duckweed out in the main Hudson before, being more familiar with it in ponds.
- Margie Turrin

[I think duckweed grows in the water chestnut (Trapa natans) beds and then is released when the water chestnut breaks up. It cannot handle the currents in the main river but is released from fringing areas, such as tributaries and wetlands. Stuart Findlay.]

9/13 - Nyack to Sleepy Hollow, HRM 28: It was a rare yet annual sighting of approximately 280 people in the Hudson River near the Tappan Zee Bridge this morning making their way across the river, west to east, from Nyack to Sleepy Hollow. The group challenged the currents with aplomb and once again safely made their way across the river at one of its widest points [approximately three miles]. The participants finished with smiles on their faces and a sense of pride in their cumulative accomplishments. This was the eighteenth annual Hudson River Swim for Life for both the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and the Friends of Claire (ALS). Fans of the Hudson River who have been striving to ensure the continued viability of this beautiful body of water should be glad to know that such an event exists and that the river is safe for swimming.
- Neil Boyle

9/14 - Rhinebeck, HRM 90: A large praying mantis (4-5 inches-long) lingered on the sidewalk in Rhinebeck this morning. It was mainly green with yellow tints on the forelegs and a brown leaf-like pattern on the back of the abdomen.
- Krista Munger

9/14 - Pleasant Valley, HRM 84: In the wee hours of the morning I was awakened by a very loud chorus of howling coyotes! I had never heard them this close and so loud; they sounded as if they were right in the back yard. They kept on for 20 minutes before moving on, as I heard them fading off in the distance. It was sort of eerie, but also very exciting. I wish I could have seen them.
- Kathy Kraft

9/14 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67.5: Not all of nature's special moments occur in the wilderness. As I waited at a stop light on Route 9D, a lone monarch butterfly fluttered quickly past (with the green) heading south aided by a nice tailwind. This was only the third monarch I've seen this summer and the first that appeared to be in good condition (fully intact wings).
- Tom Lake

9/14 - Tappan Zee to Newburgh Bay: While Juet's journal and 17th century navigation methods do not allow us to pinpoint the Half Moon's position on every day of its journey, the ship's progress on this date is clear. After a lengthy passage north through the Tappan Zee and Haverstraw Bay, Juet precisely describes the compass bearing, distance, and depths of each leg of the Half Moon's sail from Stony Point through the Highlands to Newburgh Bay. It must have been a magnificent sail.
- Steve Stanne

"The fourteenth, in the morning being very faire weather, the wind South-east, we sayled up the river twelve leagues, and had five fathoms and five fathoms and a quarter lesse and came to a Streight between two Points, and had eight, nine and ten fathoms: and it trended North-east by North one league: and we had twelve, thirteene and fourtene fathomes [Stony Point and Verplanck Point to Peekskill]. The River is a mile broad: there is very high Land on both sides. Then wee went up North-west, a league and an halfe deepe water [Peekskill to Anthony's Nose]. Then North-east by North five miles [Anthony's Nose to Constitution Island]; then North-west by North two leagues and anchored [Constitution Island to Newburgh Bay]. The Land grew very high and mountainous. The River is full of fish."

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