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Hudson River Almanac June 9 - June 16, 2010

OVERVIEW

June 5, on board the Hudson River sloop Clearwater at Poughkeepsie, we commented on a flock of nearly 50 Canada geese that flew past our bowsprit, heading upriver in very determined fashion. John Kent, meteorologist at NYSDEC, suggested that this was an example of molt migration, when "Many of the non-breeders and failed breeders head north at the end of May or in early June before molting, presumably to take advantage of the younger vegetation up north."

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

6/10 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 76: We did not find any mitten crabs in the Fall Kill this trip but we did see two young-of-the-year redfin pickerel sitting in small backwaters in the rapids. You could tell they were redfins by their stubby snout.
- Bob Schmidt, Nico Hernandez, Ian Hetterich

[Redfin pickerel, a member of the pike family (Esocidae) along with chain pickerel, northern pike and muskellunge, is a native species. "Native" is a concept relative to a point in time. For the flora and fauna of the Hudson Valley we ask the question, was it here in 1609 when Hudson arrived? Tom Lake.]

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

While this first observation comes a bit late - 110 years and one week - it is well worth noting:

6/4 - Rhinebeck, HRM 88: From the Red Hook Journal, Friday, June 4, 1909 - "The shad fishing season in the Hudson is open and the fishermen have spread their nets, but it is said that they are not catching many fish. According to the oldest shad fisher-men they have had a very poor season this year. At present the supply of fish is unusually small and hardly worth while stretching the nets for."
- Maynard Ham

6/9 - Cornwall, HRM 57: We were at the Storm King Art Center with third-graders from South Avenue Elementary in Beacon, demonstrating the connections between art and the environment. One of the best moments was when they recognized a red-winged blackbird from one they had spotted on their trip to Long Dock in Beacon a few weeks before.
- Susan Hereth

6/10 - Lake Hill, HRM 100: Hiding under the big, rolling garbage pail in my basement was a large, totally dark salamander. Given the lack of markings and the size (about 5 inches long), I wondered if it was a Jefferson's. Wetting my hands, I picked it up and moved it next to the wetlands at the side of my house.
- Reba Wynn Laks

6/10 - Hudson River Estuary: The season of the "Rock Stars" has ended. We were unable to detect any of the 44 American shad that were caught and tagged in mid-April with sonic tags along the 85-mile reach from the George Washington Bridge to the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge. With the spawning season nearly over, many if not most have left the estuary for the north Atlantic where they will head up the coast for the summer. Some of them will return next spring.
- Amanda Higgs, NYSDEC Hudson River Fisheries Unit

6/11 - Ulster Landing, HRM 97.2: While kayaking, I spotted the dead Atlantic sturgeon that the DEC fisheries staff was looking for this past week after they received reports of a 7 foot-long dead sturgeon a few miles upriver at Tivoli. It had drifted downriver to the west side and washed up on shore. It was too heavy to move so I notified DEC who will retrieve the tag it carried. The body was about 6 feet long, but the tail was missing and it had a gash, possibly from a boat prop.
- Peg Duke

6/11 - Esopus Meadows, HRM 87: As the school field trip season winds down, the Clearwater educators have been marveling at the amount of blue crabs we have caught in this freshwater portion of our estuary. Over the last three weeks we have caught seventeen, all 1-3 inches carapace width, none bigger than 5, four of which were soft-shelled. One of the soft-shells in the very act of molting, by the time the program was over, he was out. We kept him for two days and then sent him along. This is very unusual for us. Over the last five years, we have caught a handful of crabs, but always in the fall, never in the spring.
- Eli Schloss

[The life history of blue crabs in the estuary is still fairly mysterious. The Hudson River is near the northern extremity of their range and they are vulnerable to hard winters. These blue crabs were likely yearlings, or one year-olds, crabs that survived the winter in the lower estuary. Icy, cold winters can be a killer of immature blue crabs. Tom Lake.]

6/12 - Albany County, HRM 140: While kayaking this morning, my wife and I spotted a seal in the river a half-mile north of Henry Hudson Park.
- George Bailie

[This may be the same harbor seal, that was first spotted at Stockport Middle Ground (river mile 124) on May 1, and then around Castleton-on-Hudson since May 11. We have had at least two harbor seals in the river this spring - the other was spotted 70 miles downriver on April 25 and May 1 at New Hamburg. Tom Lake.]

6/12 - Denning's Point, HRM 60: I was prospecting for raspberries but between the wineberry, bittersweet, and swallowwort, the patch had all but disappeared. In my beachcombing I found what is supposed to be a treasure to beach glass collectors: a piece of well-worn red glass. I saw two large map turtles basking on one of the logs in the cove and a couple of baby woodchucks right out near the point.
- Stephen M. Seymour

[Red sea glass, or beach glass, is rare primarily because it is not commonly used. At one time, gold was used in the making of red glass to create various shades of red. Collectors of "beach glass" have calculated that red occurs, on average, only once in every 5,000 pieces. Tom Lake.]

6/12 - Westchester County, HRM 18: The Saw Mill River, as it flows along the Saw Mill River Parkway, is a more appropriately described as a narrow, slow-moving creek. Its semi-urban setting does provide some natural settings. Today we spotted a half-dozen wild turkeys forming a protective perimeter around twice as many young fuzzy poults bobbing along in the grass. A mile down the road we spotted six Canada geese with 9-10 fuzzy goslings all tangled up in a ball. They were sleeping or playing - it was difficult to tell.
- Tom Lake, Barbara Rounds, Carolyn Rounds

6/12 - Brooklyn, New York City: The Coastal Marine Resource Center and Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy seined under the Manhattan Bridge in Brooklyn Bridge Park. We caught sand shrimp (Crangon septemspinosa), shore shrimp (Palaemonetes spp.), one young-of-the-year bluefish, blue crabs, numerous lion's mane jellyfish, comb jellies, Atlantic tomcod, Atlantic silverside, a winter flounder, and a male pipefish with a rosy-red pouch with visible eggs inside.
- Cynthia Fowx

[Male pipefish and sea horses have a "brood pouch" in which they carry fertilized eggs deposited by females. In one of the rare instances in the animal kingdom, it is the males that give live birth. Tom Lake.]

6/13 - Highland, HRM 76: I spotted my first fireflies of the season. They were flickering in the darkness under trees in my backyard.
- Jeffrey Anzevino

6/13 - Washington County, HRM 185: Just off Route 29, west of the Washington County Fair Grounds, there was a field full of wild mustard. Fifty miles south, where I live in lower Rensselaer County, these yellow crucifers are no longer the dominant plant in the fields. There they have been replaced by daisies and the first of the black-eyed susans.
- Wilma Ann Johnson

6/14 - Castleton-on-Hudson, HRM 137.5: Many wildflowers were in bloom at Schodack Island State Park. Between the parking lot and the boat dock were white clover, yellow clover, daisies, moth mullen, fleabane, cinqfoil, bladder campion, birds-foot trefoil and purple vetch. I saw the carrot-like leaves from which will spring Queen Anne's Lace and scattered about were the skeletons with buds that will become knapweed. Driving out of the park I could see the pink of milkweed, crown vetch, and Venus' looking glass in bloom. The latter is a wand-like plant. The small, rounded, scalloped leaves clasp the stem and enfold a violet-blue five petaled flower.
- Wilma Ann Johnson

6/14 - Lake Hill, HRM 100. A medium-to-small sized black bear crossed the road in front of my daughter as she was driving on Route 212 this evening. It headed up a neighbor's driveway.
- Reba Wynn Laks, Bayla Laks

6/14 - Saw Kill, HRM 98.5: We checked the eel ladder and found a single small (4 inch-long) elver in the holding bucket. We were quite mystified to find a young-of-the-year tessellated darter in the bucket as well. It was about an inch long and we find it hard to believe that it climbed up the ramp from the Saw Kill.
- Bob Schmidt, Ian Hetterich, Nico Hernandez

[An eel ladder is a man-made passive device, much like an inclined chute, that allows fish, primarily glass eels (American eels newly arrived from the sea), to ascend over dams and reach inland waters to grow and mature. Tom Lake.]

6/14 - Ulster County, HRM 78: The peregrine falcon breeding season had its ups and downs this year (see 4/16, 5/20) but I am happy to report that for the first time in who knows how many years we had eleven falcons on the Shawangunk cliffs at one time.
The eyrie on Millbrook Mountain produced three chicks. An interesting feature of this eyrie was that it appeared all three chicks were of different ages. The youngest chick appeared about a week behind the older ones and at one point was located on a ledge 30' below the scrape. I was fortunate enough to see the older two as fledglings, perched on top of the cliff while still being fed by mom and dad. The younger chick was still too young to fly and the timing of my sightings was such that I did not see it fledge; I presumed it did since the adults were continuing to feed it.
The Trapps eyrie was another story. This eyrie produced four chicks and all was progressing nicely. The week prior to Memorial Day I spotted all four on the eyrie ledge and they appeared healthy and active. On the Saturday morning of Memorial Day weekend I received a call that one of the chicks was found on the carriage road alive but unable to stand up. This bird was taken to a rehabilitation center but unfortunately did not survive. On the same day at the base of the cliff a pile of immature falcon feathers was found, apparently the work of a predator. The following week, however, I did see two immature falcons perched on a snag at the top of the cliff. In summary we had at least four chicks fledge and very possibly a fifth.
- Tom Sarro

[Mohonk Preserve peregrine falcon observations will begin again next January/February. If anyone is interested in participating, please contact me: Thomas J. Sarro, PhD, Professor of Biology, Mount Saint Mary College, 845-569-3132, sarro@msmc.edu ]

6/14 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 76: Walking up the Fall Kill, we found two blue crab shed exoskeletons (a male and a female) in the rapids. While picking up the second one, Ian spotted something that zipped under a rock right next to the shed. We picked up the rock and found a newly shed blue crab - presumably the one that belonged to the shed exoskeleton.
- Bob Schmidt, Ian Hetterich, Nico Hernandez

6/14 - Manhattan, HRM 5: Rockefeller University's small urban campus is a garden-studded oasis in an otherwise congested and chaotic city. Those of us who go there in spring to enjoy the extravagant profusion of azaleas and rhododendrons have been treated to yet another delight, for in the fountain-fed pools beneath the protective canopy of the campus's tall trees, mallard ducks have found the perfect refuge to nest and raise their young. Last spring a mated pair produced a brood of eleven ducklings. This spring three pairs arrived and we counted a total of 19 hatchlings, including one that was totally yellow.
- David Finkelstein

6/15 - Ice Meadows, HRM 245: Walking the Ice Meadows today I added a new plant to my life list: sticky tofieldia (Triantha glutinosa), an endangered species in New York. Other flora found along the Hudson and adjacent woodlands included whorled loosestrife, red-osier dogwood, blue flag irises, harebell, butterfly weed, viper's bugloss, wide-leaved ladies tresses in bloom, rose pogonias, and small sundrops, a member of the evening primrose family. While my mission was to find a specific new plant, the highlight came when I heard a peep, peep, peeping in the grasses. Looking around, I spotted a baby spotted sandpiper dashing away as fast as its legs would carry it. Back in the woods on the way out I came across a carpet of partridge berry in bloom.
- Ellen Rathbone

6/15 - Nutten Hook, HRM124: The lesson on the river today was about tolerance and respect: tolerance shown by an immature bald eagle allowing two crows to get precariously close as the eagle ate a fish; respect from the two crows by knowing when to quit while they were ahead. It was pleasing to see my secretive golden club still thriving in its hiding place. The tide made my kayak sit low in the water, and I could see the reflection of the river underneath the spatterdock leaves. The shimmering light seemed to resemble a white blaze of fire as it danced up the flower stalk and onto the underside of the leaves.
- Fran Martino

[Golden club is an aquatic plant of tidal shallows and marshes. It is uncommon to rare in Hudson River tidewater and is a protected species in New York State. Golden club is named for the shape of their flower clusters, which include many tiny golden-yellow flowers growing at the end of a spadix or fleshy tip. A decade ago as I helped riverman Everett Nack haul a seine teeming with American shad ashore in Columbia County, I glanced behind me in the ankle-deep shallows and saw a scattering of incredibly beautiful gold-yellow flowers, my introduction to the golden club. Tom Lake.]

6/15 - Tivoli North Bay, HRM 100.5: Today we made our first seining trip to Tivoli North Bay. The marsh wrens were calling and we got a good look at one, a male who perched on a cattail stem very close to the edge and performed for us. We found one small blue crab shed exoskeleton in the mouth of Stony Creek and later caught a very small live blue crab in a seine. This is very early in the year to be finding blue crabs this far upriver. This may be a good blue crab year. The neatest thing we caught was a small (less than two inches long) hogchoker, a small flatfish. We see them on and off in Tivoli North Bay, but it's always a pleasure.
- Bob Schmidt

6/15 - New Windsor, HRM 59: We have had orioles passing through every spring for the past several years, but this year at least one decided to stay for the summer. I've been treated to flashes of orange and his passionate singing in my backyard just about every day. He also takes turns with the other virtuosos on the coveted top branch of my weeping cherry tree. The competition is fierce for this sturdy, curved perch - or stage, as it were - and each day there's a continuous festival program featuring robins, finches, mockingbirds, sparrows, doves, and others.
- Joanne Zipay

6/15 - Beacon, HRM 61: In the last of the ebb tide, several immature double-crested cormorants were perched spread-eagled on pilings drying their wings. Carp fishing appeared to be slow. Two anglers were reclined in their chairs with hats drawn down over their eyes. Their fishing rods leaned against the dock railing with a small bell on each tip, certain to ring when carp came calling. A gorgeous burnt-orange orchard oriole glided between stands of trees, one of the very few I've seen this spring.
- Tom Lake, Susan Hereth

6/15 - Denning's Point, HRM 59: Fourth graders from Beacon's Sargent elementary had a crystal-clear day to hike this peninsula. In the eyes of the ten-year-olds even the typical midday fauna and the sounds of the forest were special. They included the songs of wood pewees, Carolina wrens, and mockingbirds, a rose-breasted grosbeak, a great blue heron, mallards and Canada geese, a Cooper's hawk that flew across our path and a 10 lb. carp that had washed up on the beach. At several places along our trail we stopped to enjoy the ripe mulberries.
- Tom Lake, Susan Hereth

[Red mulberries are native; white mulberries, an introduced species native to China, are remnants of a failed nineteenth-century attempt to create a silkworm industry in the Hudson Valley. Tom Lake.]

6/16 - Verplanck, HRM 40.5: Three beautiful panels have been placed at the overlook at the foot of Broadway, entitled "The Story of A River." They begin with the formation of the Palisades and the glacial era; describe the Native American tribes who lived here, and the battles fought during the Revolutionary War. They go on to mention Robert Fulton's steamboat and the brick making that was done in this area. There are also maps and information about the many species of fish in the river. What a wonderful way to educate us about the great Hudson River!
- Dianne Picciano

6/16 - Tivoli South Bay, HRM 98.5: We did our biweekly seining trip on Tivoli South Bay. The fish we caught were not unusual, but we did see two immature and one adult bald eagle sitting on snags out in the marsh. On the way back, right in the mouth of the Saw Kill, we watched an irate and chattering belted kingfisher harass a red-tailed hawk. The kingfisher was flying around the hawk and diving at it. We have never seen a kingfisher do this before and wondered what the point was. Certainly there was no kingfisher nest nearby (not the right sandy bank habitat) and we can't imagine that the redtail competes for the killifish that the kingfisher eats. We did notice the lack of something. Ordinarily, Tivoli South Bay is wall-to-wall splashing carp. Today we did see a very few splashes and scared up some carp, but it was nothing like the spawning frenzies we have seen in previous years. Other Almanac entries this year seem similar.
- Bob Schmidt, Nico Hernandez, Ian Hetterich

6/16 - Norrie Point, HRM 85: Four hairy woodpeckers were foraging together in a single mulberry tree along the cove at Norrie Point Environmental Center. Seeing so many birds together suggests they were a new family taking advantage of the abundant berry crop in bloom.
- Nicole Vente

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