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Hudson River Almanac June 1 - June 8, 2010

OVERVIEW

This was a week of interesting yet disconnected moments along the river. They were disconnected in that most featured different forms of life - fish, birds, trees, black bears, mitten crabs - but bound together nevertheless by the watershed they share.


HIGHLIGHT OF A PREVIOUS WEEK

5/29 - Rockland County, HRM 41: While hiking the yellow trail in Harriman Park just past the Reeves Brook Visitors Center we came across a large adult black bear. The bear looked in our direction and then slowly walked away. We made sure to remind all the Memorial Day visitors who were enjoying their lunches by the river farther down the trail not to leave anything behind.
- Mike Altmann


NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

6/1 - Newcomb, HRM 302: One of the four shadbushes (serviceberry) I planted last year was now blooming. The "bush" is not much more than a twig, way behind the others, but there it was with two bunches of white flowers!
- Ellen Rathbone

6/1 - Town of Wappinger, Dutchess County: Here came the first rain in more than two weeks. For a while it was just thunder, lightning, wind, and a few drops as the sky over the river grew black. The female eagle was in her nest tree (NY62), a fully-leafed tulip tree, as the wind picked up; a couple of hundred feet below, the river was capping over. The wind's intensity increased and a curtain of cottonwood seeds blew past superimposing a "snowstorm" on the tree, the nest, and the eagle. Then came the torrential rain - half-an-inch in 20 minutes - all eagerly absorbed by the earth.
- Tom Lake

6/1 - Croton River, HRM 34: We returned to Black Rock Park to watch the cormorants. One was perched in the same spot where we saw it last time, on a rock or piece of wood in the middle of the water. Swimming around it were three more double-crested cormorants, one adult and two immature, as we could tell from their light-colored breasts. They continued to swim around the perched bird, but eventually ventured away, still remaining together. Across the water, twenty Canada geese were gathered near a very large rock.
- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson

6/2 - Newcomb, HRM 302: A thunderstorm last evening dropped a third of an inch but the ground was so parched that even that little bit was helpful. It has rained all day today, so far. I spotted several wood turtles and even saw a porcupine trundling down the road eighteen miles south just outside Minerva.
- Ellen Rathbone

6/2 - Castleton on Hudson, HRM 137.5: Catalpa is in bloom everywhere. I would suffer the thousands of pods all over the ground later just to have this tree, at this time of year, in my yard. It has heart-shaped leaves and beautiful, bell-shaped flowers with two thick orange streaks, several thin purple stripes and numerous purple spots inside of them. Each year I watch and wait for catalpa's broad panicle of flowers, so orchid-like although no relation.
- Wilma Ann Johnson

[These large trees, native to the Midwest, occur in the Hudson Valley as ornamentals present and past. They have beautiful clusters of delicate, orchid-like white flowers with several short burgundy stripes, a dash of orange, and a subtle, sweet fragrance. Tom Lake.]

6/2 - Denning's Point, HRM 59: I was checking the low tide beach looking for water-worn pebbles shaped like "animals" for tomorrow's class of third-graders. A few carp were leaping near shore on the otherwise flat water. Many molted shells of blue crabs, most of them an inch-and-a-half wide (point-to-point on their carapace), were strewn on the beach. The forest canopy hid the songbirds from view but with a little concentration I was able to identify a black-and-white warbler, wood thrush, veery, and the ubiquitous wood pewee. An ovenbird, a common yellowthroat, and at least one Carolina wren were in the understory. The scent of Japanese honeysuckle filled the air and the flowers of the catawba, or northern catalpa were in bloom.
- Tom Lake

[To foster a commitment to nature in their children, some Native American groups encourage them to walk along beaches and stream beds looking for small stones shaped like animals. This is much like seeing images in the clouds - one person's eagle is another's opossum. When they find one, they save that small stone and the symbolic "animal" becomes their life-long guardian spirit, a totem, a tangible connection to nature. There is a theory that you will not destroy that which you love. In just half an hour I found two bears, two eagles, three mountain lions, and six turtles. Tom Lake.]

6/3 - Hudson, HRM 118: Arriving at work this morning I noticed six turkey vultures soaring motionless overhead. It reminded me of another humid summer day in 1971 when I counted 12 turkey vultures circling in the thermals above Bald Mountain (elev. 1,266 feet) in Dutchess County with my Field Biology class. If you want the bird's eye view of what is going on, all you have to do is look at a print of Andrew Wyeth's "Soaring."
- Wilma Ann Johnson

[Soaring, a painting by Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009), depicts three turkey vultures soaring high over a isolated farmhouse from a point of view above the birds. The mood of the image is somewhat ominous given the drab colors, the vultures, and the quiet farmhouse far below. Tom Lake.]

6/3 - Verplanck, HRM 40.5: As I walked the dog along the river at Verplanck this morning I watched an adult bald eagle glide over us about 40 feet. It flew past heading downriver and was so close I could see it was clutching a willow branch, presumably to do some nest maintenance. Hopefully this bird's brood is faring well.
- Ed McKay

6/4 - Saratoga County, HRM 170: My annual visit to the heron rookery is always filled with excitement and anticipation of seeing the statuesque birds atop their nests feeding their young. I couldn't mask my disappointment when I arrived at the backwater of Round Lake. Only five nests this year and only one nest occupied. (Last year there were nine.) Winter winds, ice, predators? Guess I'll never really know what caused the once thriving rookery to diminish to a solitary nest.
- Fran Martino

6/4 - Putnam County, HRM 46.5: Before heading to work this morning, I heard a loud bleating sound from the open woods behind my home at South Mountain Pass. As I looked towards the source of the sound, a doe came racing into view to defend her young fawn from an opportunistic red fox fixing on an easy meal. The doe chased the fox in circles around the fawn and then finally drove it away for good.
- Ann Gergely

6/5 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 75.5: During the annual "River Day" sail on the sloop Clearwater, we dropped an otter trawl over the side into about 60 feet of river for a mid-water trawl just north of Blue Point. After fifteen minutes we hauled it back aboard and found it empty. For the passengers, disappointment; for the scientists a recognition that no catch was still data. As we collected the trawl on deck a perfect V formation of Canada geese (quick count: 45) flew upriver 50 feet off the water, no more than 50 feet off the bow sprit. They flew under the bridges and continued on north. While many of the local Canadas already have fuzzy little goslings, and there are small groups of geese all along the river now, this flock heading north seemed to be on a mission.
- Tom Lake

6/5 - Saugerties, HRM 102: The evening light was fading at the Saugerties lighthouse as a flock of large dark birds flew past, a nice V formation low to the water. I saw them as cormorants; another naturalist standing next to me agreed, but then changed his mind and thought they were Canada geese. (I still think they were cormorants.)
- Eric Lind

6/6 - Pleasant Valley, HRM 75: I have been noticing a lot of "off color" gray squirrels lately. This morning a solid black gray squirrel [melanistic] was below my feeder. I have also seen a bicolored squirrel in the past week, front half gray, the back half red with a red tail. I assume he was color a variation of the gray squirrel. This morning I had a black squirrel, 3 gray squirrels, a red squirrel, and a chipmunk feeding all at the same time. One gray squirrel kept chasing off the black squirrel as though he didn't belong!
- Kathy Kraft

6/6 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: Just as a thunderstorm was approaching, we spotted a kettle of turkey vultures - 26 birds to be exact - circling low in the sky over Croton-on-Hudson. This was a record sighting for us.
- Dianne Picciano, Phil Picciano

6/7 - Tivoli North Bay, HRM 100.5: Our single canoe, scouting for the rapidly approaching public canoe season, flushed a least bittern from the cattails. It was a buff-colored female and she became the first of her species for both of our life lists!
- Nicole Vente, Laurie Fila

6/7 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 75.5: We walked up the Fall Kill looking for mitten crabs. We first found a shed exoskeleton of a small male blue crab. Then, in small pools next to the first waterfall, we recovered five legs, a claw, and a plastron of a mitten crab, probably a shed. This was the first we have seen in Hudson tributaries this year.
- Bob Schmidt, Nico Hernandez, Ian Hetterich

6/7 - Beacon, HRM 61: The highlight of the fishing day on Long Dock was the catch and release of a large, bright red goldfish, easily a foot long and weighing about a pound. The goldfish bit on the usual corn kernel-and-bread bait I use for carp. I also caught and released 6 channel catfish in the 1-2 lb. range. Carp were jumping periodically throughout the day, but didn't bite. I saw no carp spawning activity.
- Bill Greene

[The goldfish is one of 33 members of the carp and minnow family of fishes in the Hudson River watershed. C. Lavett Smith in The Inland Fishes of New York State notes that goldfish are native to eastern Asia and were introduced into North America in the early nineteenth century. In the mid-twentieth century there was a small commercial fishery for goldfish for use as ornamentals in ponds. Goldfish can hybridize with carp and their offspring are easy to identify: carp have two pairs of barbels on their upper jaw; goldfish have none. Hybrid "gold-carp" will usually have between 1-3 barbels on their upper jaws. Tom Lake.]

6/8 - Lake Luzerne, HRM 205: We have been living on the Hudson River just south of Lake Luzerne for about 3 years now and this was the first time we had seen a snapping turtle in the river. We have been having a regular "swim by" of a muskrat each evening just before sunset.
- Mike Meyer

6/8 - Rip Van Winkle Bridge, HRM 114: Today on one of our regular walks from Greene County over to Columbia County and back, we noticed something rather large swimming across one of the narrower "riverlets." It was a white-tailed doe swimming from one island to the next. She quickly disappeared amongst the reed foliage. Overhead the resident peregrine falcon was soaring, probably due to the bridge construction workers making unusual noises too near the nest. The real treat of the morning was getting to see a beaver family out for their mid-morning swim. At first there were only two but then as we kept watching two smaller ones appeared. They were all turning and splashing and venturing out into the main part of the river.
- Eden Hart, Merimon Hart

6/8 - Norrie Point, HRM 85: We watched an adult great blue heron out in the bay, perched on a log mired in the water chestnut, still as a lawn ornament in the dropping tide. Something must have stirred in the rosettes necessitating a dive into the water - odd behavior for a heron. Seconds later it hopped back onto its perch with what looked like a small amphibian in its bill. Earlier, a barn swallow came charging out from under the eaves of the education center and chased a crow halfway to Esopus Island (quarter-mile away). The crow must have been harassing its nest.
- Tom Lake, Jean McAvoy

6/8 - Highland Mills, HRM 50: Our hummingbirds have finally returned and are at the feeders every day now. We also had a strange sight: a male hairy woodpecker sitting on the hummer feeder, drinking his fill of sugar water! Lightning bugs have been plentiful this year, unlike last year when they were few and far between. We have been seeing them at dusk for a couple of weeks now.
- Alan Groth, Janice Groth


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