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Hudson River Almanac June 17 - June 24, 2010

OVERVIEW

Summer arrived this week with little more than a quiet appreciation of the river's diversity of life. After a busy spring spawning season, seines hauled along the Hudson's beaches will hold multitudes of young-of-the-year fish produced by anadromous parents during their visits from the sea. In these millions of baby fish lives a reaffirmation of the health of the Hudson.

HIGHLIGHT FROM THE WEEK PAST

6/13 - Indian Point, HRM 42: The Hudson River Environmental Conditions Observing System (HRECOS) station installed on the Hudson River sloop Clearwater passed the Indian Point Power Plant. This plant draws 2.5 billion gallons of cooling water per day from the Hudson River and discharges the heated water back to the river. Raised temperatures were observed upriver from the plant, in the direction of the tidal current. These observations were slightly different than the New York Harbor Observing and Prediction System (NYHOPS) models predicted. Using multiple observations such as this, the model can be refined to improve the predicted impact of this site. For the full story, visit www.hrecos.org
- Alene Onion

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

6/17 - Columbia County, HRM 118: As I left my home in Hillsdale this morning, there was a really unusual creature on my flagstones. It was a small, thin, whitish worm-like creature known as (take your pick) a horsehair worm, gordian worm, or a Nematomorpha. The latter is the "scientific" name for the creature. The first name comes from some of the species which are black and have been seen in watering troughs - looking much like an animated horsehair [Greek: nema -tos, meaning thread]. The second is derived from one of the tasks of Hercules, untying the Gordian knot. These worms often curl up in a complex knot. The one I found was hair thin and about 7 inches long, a male. The females that I have seen are the size and thickness of a No. 2 pencil. These odd creatures are parasites of katydids and grasshoppers in the juvenile stage and aquatic as adults. So, I have some questions: Why was one on my flagstones (it had rained the night before and they were damp)? How do they ever get back into a grasshopper?
- Bob Schmidt

6/17 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 75.5: We entered the Fall Kill in early afternoon looking for (and not finding) mitten crabs. Instead there was an abundance of small blue crabs in the rapids, including areas above tidal influence. We picked up 17 shed exoskeletons, 7 females (mean 51.6 mm carapace width, 29-64 mm range) and 10 males (50.2 mm, 35-70 mm range).We caught 8 live blue crabs, 5 softshell, 1 paper shell, and 2 hardshell (we have the dents in our fingers to demonstrate the latter). Some of the live crabs we saw had burrowed under rocks in the stream bed, leaving telltale fresh gravel behind: Pick up the rock and there was a blue crab! It appears that these small crabs are migrating up the rocky tributaries to shed. We have seen blue crabs in Hudson tributaries before, but never in such a high density. Does this mean that there are a lot of small blue crabs in the Hudson this year?
- Bob Schmidt, Ian Hetterich, Nico Hernandez

6/17 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: Two tiny fawns, each half the size of a German shepherd, bounded back and forth inside the edge of the woods. Their tawny, spotted bodies blended in perfectly with the late-day shadows. Each spring I am amazed at these miniature white-tails and wonder how they manage to survive when coyote comes calling. Moments later the largest doe I have ever seen stepped from behind a tree and came into view. If size carried any weight in defense, the two fawns would probably be just fine.
- Tom Lake

6/17 - Beacon, HRM 61: It was a quiet day of fishing on Long Dock that included only one small carp and a channel catfish. However, a group of three others who were also fishing did well. I watched them catch four carp weighing about 7-12 lb.
- Bill Greene

6/17 - Verplanck, HRM 40.5: Forty mile-per-hour winds beckoned us today to sit at Steamboat Dock for a while to enjoy nature's air conditioning. The air was delicious, the sky a mixture of blue with intermittent puffs of clouds. Whitecaps dotted the river; it was so rough that we spotted only two small boats pushing against the current. A lone gull circled over the water. And we were not alone: a young man had 20 good-sized blue crabs in his bucket.
- Dianne Picciano, Kay Martens

6/18 - Catskill, HRM 113: The "Hudson Valley" of the deep, deep past: We collected 13 species of fossilized land snails from a limestone outcrop near Catskill. There may be more when we use the microscope. Some of this limestone contained fossils typical of the Hamilton Group of Devonian age [416-360 million years ago]. We did find a small rock that had Tentaculites on it. We don't see these too often. Tentaculites are one of the enigmatic groups of fossils in the sense that no one really knows what they were, partially because there are no living representatives. In among the recent snails and Devonian invertebrates, we uncovered two northern slimy salamanders (Plethodon glutinosus). The New York State Amphibian and Reptile Atlas suggests that this is close to the northern limit of the species on the west side of the Hudson Valley.- Bob Schmidt, Kathy Schmidt

6/18 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: Thoughts of pint-sized fawns came to mind as I was awakened at 4:45 AM. A chorus of coyotes echoed from one quarter while a pair of barred owls, one with a clearly loud female "haw, haw, haw," called from another. There is a stark contrast in the soundtrack of the Hudson Valley: loud leaf-blowers and lawnmowers by day; enchanting wildlife by night.
- Tom Lake

6/18 - Croton on Hudson, HRM 34: With the tide ebbing out of the Croton River under a quarter moon, we hauled our 30-foot beach seine up onto the boat ramp near the railroad trestle. Scores of fish flipped in the net, splattering us with muddy water as we sorted them, saving some for aquaria displays at Clearwater's Revival festival and releasing the rest. There were plenty of mummichogs, banded killies, and redbreast sunfish, as expected. In an odd juxtaposition - but one illustrative of the diversity of the estuary's fish life - we found a young-of-the-year bluefish fresh in from the Atlantic Ocean and two rock bass, a sunfish typical of large, clear freshwater lakes and rivers.
- Sarah Mount, Steve Stanne, Nicole Vente

6/19 - Castleton-on-Hudson, HRM 137.5: Milkweed was in bloom. To call them "common" or "weeds" does them a complete disservice. Their round cluster, with individual shooting star flowers, is exquisite (I actually counted 77 on one cluster). Each flower has 5 turn-backed petals that support the up-front, three-dimensional star. To describe the latter accurately would take another paragraph of botanical language, and it would still be insufficient. Each of the stars has a monochromatic range of color from pale pink to purplish pink. The best thing is to find your own stand of milkweed and examine the stars yourself with the naked eye or a hand lens.
- Wilma Ann Johnson

6/19 - Port Ewen, HRM 91: I saw an eagle being chased by crows high above Port Ewen. It was far away, but the white head and huge wings made it unmistakably a bald eagle.
- Dan Shapley

6/19 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67.5: Another early awakening, but this time it was not coyotes or owls. The alarm clock was comprised of several Carolina wrens singing incessantly from tree limbs and a fence railing outside my window. Carolina wrens have always been one of my favorite songbirds; if I traveled to Virginia or Maryland, I was sure to see and hear them. In the last decade or so, however, in extending their range northward, they have become more common locally. This spring they have out-sung even the cardinals and mockingbirds.
- Tom Lake

6/20 - Chelsea, HRM 65.2: I caught an 8 lb. carp today that gave a mighty battle on light tackle. This was my first carp in two years as the channel cats seemed to have taken over, beating the carp to my Uncle Josh's carp bait. The name withstanding, I've caught only catfish until this beauty, which I released, took my bait.
- Glen Heinsohn

6/20 - Crugers, HRM 39: We used to enjoy passing Ogilvie's Pond each day to see the resident great blue heron wading slowly along the shoreline in search of fish. Lately, however, we've wondered if the bird had taken up residence elsewhere. Today we passed the pond, now overgrown with vegetation, and barely noticed the long neck sticking up from among the green. The heron was back. Its legs were submerged to the point where only the tops of its knees were visible. We watched it for a half hour, during which time it didn't move its legs at all and just barely turned its head as we enjoyed the lovely blue and white coloring and its long, pointed beak. Not once did it attempt to grab anything from the water - guess it must have already eaten.
- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson

6/20 - Croton Point, HRM 35: When I arrived at Croton Point this morning for the Clearwater's Great Hudson River Revival, a magnificent moth was attached to flap of the Walkabout Clearwater tent. Our visitor was a polyphemus moth (Antheraea polyphemus), a North American silk moth. Although the mythological Polyphemus had only one eye, our moth, (and the rest of his kin) have those four very distinctive "eye" markings.
- Robin Fox

[The Underhill clan, whose dynasty held sway over this peninsula for roughly the entire nineteenth century, dabbled in many endeavors. At one point they experimented with raising silkworms [silk moths] for the silk trade, planting orchards of mulberry trees to feed the caterpillars. It makes a nice story, and it is fun to imagine that some of the hundreds of mature mulberry trees on the point are descended from those orchards. Christopher Letts.]

6/21 - Hudson, HRM 118: What a surprise early this morning to see two "ringed plovers,' with brown upper parts, white under parts, and orange rumps. They were running across the lawn and the parking lot in spurts, no doubt, foraging for insects. As more cars arrived, these two killdeer disappeared.
- Wilma Ann Johnson

6/21 - Maritje Kill, HRM 79: The incidence of small blue crabs in fresh water continued. We visited the mouth of the Maritje Kill on the summer solstice, and found 9 shed blue crab exoskeletons (one female, eight males) from 46-57 mm carapace width. We saw ten live blue crabs and several disarticulated sheds. We found a swallow nest cemented to the wall of the Amtrak overpass, not quite three feet above tide (probably barn swallows). The adults were perched on the wires along the railroad, mouths stuffed with insects waiting for us to leave.
- Bob Schmidt, Nico Hernandez, Ian Hetterich

6/21 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 75.5: The Fall Kill produced another nine blue crab sheds, two females and seven males (35-67 mm) as well as three live blue crabs. There were many disarticulated pieces of shed exoskeletons in the riffles of the stream.
- Bob Schmidt, Nico Hernandez, Ian Hetterich

6/21 - Wappinger Creek, HRM 67.5: The tide was nearly high (7:28 AM) as the summer solstice arrived. At the appointed moment, a male belted kingfisher chattered as he flew across the carpet of green. Water chestnut seemed particularly aggressive this year; in most places, fully ninety percent of the tidewater was covered. Either the creek is getting shallower, or the plant is adapting to deeper water.
- Tom Lake

6/22 - Kerhonkson, HRM 87: The first rattlesnake of the season, a 3.5 foot specimen with primarily black coloring, was buzzing at the cat in tall grass in our neighbor's yard. After it excited the interest of the dogs as well, all pets were removed from the area and the snake proceeded on its way.
- Sarah Underhill

[The timber rattlesnake, the largest venomous snake in New York, is a threatened species. They frequently measure 3-5 feet long and can grow to over 6 feet. Their scientific name, Crotalus horridus, translates to "dreadful rattle" (Crotalum, Gr. rattle; horridus (horrendus), Gr. dreadful. For more information, visit the Timber Rattlesnake Fact Sheet . Tom Lake.]

6/23 - Rondout Reservoir, HRM 87: On the way to conduct a training class at DEC Camp DeBruce in Sullivan County, we saw an eclipsing immature-adult bald eagle (with a white tail but no stark white head), flying low over the Rondout Reservoir. [This may have been a "white extreme."]
- Reba Wynn Laks and Matt Merchant

[White extreme is a color phase described for some three year-old bald eagles. As immature eagles approach adulthood, their plumage eclipses from mostly brown, to mottled brown-and-white, to a showy-white display with some brown (white extreme), to the final white head and tail of the adult. Peter Dunne.]

6/23 - Orange County to Saratoga County, HRM 59-159: We conducted a water chemistry sampling "blitz," leaving Syracuse at 7:00 AM and returning at 10:00 PM. We began sampling at Kowawese Unique Area at 11:00 AM, and over the course of the day hit 9 sites along a 100 mile reach of the river, both main stem and tributary, up through the upper Hudson at Waterford. The water felt surprisingly warm and phytoplankton was thick on our filters. We also brought along a small seine and tried collecting river herring at several sites. At Kowawese we caught a small banded killifish. At Peebles Island (river mile 158), we caught small banded killifish, tessellated darters, and white suckers. No herring. Finally, at 7:00 PM, we tried the boat launch at Lock 6 on the Mohawk and there we struck gold. We collected 20 tiny young-of-the-year blueback herring (maximum total length 37 mm), several inland silversides, small white perch, and a 3-inch yellow perch. Our project, funded by Hudson River Foundation, is to match up the chemistry of river herring otoliths ("earstones") with the chemistry of the waters in which they are reared.
- Karin Limburg, Sara Turner, Molly Payne, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry

6/23 - Fishkill, HRM 61: While walking outside my home, I noticed a pair of very tiny spiders seemingly playing leapfrog on the wall of my house. They were too small to identify any particular attributes; however it is my belief that these were possibly male and female jumping spiders of the order Salticidae. One or the other would jump several inches and the other would run after it.
- Ed Spaeth

6/24 - Town of Schodack, HRM 133: Driving north on a two lane Schodack farm road, there was a turkey vulture standing over a dead rodent in the other lane. It just froze. I stopped the car and could have touched it if my window had been opened more. Finally, it flapped its wings and moved over into the grass. It seemed surreal, but I had never seen one of these birds up close and on the ground before.
- Wilma Ann Johnson

6/24 - Lake Hill, HRM 100: An early evening walk along an old woods road turned up 15 red efts of various sizes and intensities of orange.
- Reba Wynn Laks and Bayla Laks

6/24 - Farmer's Landing, HRM 67: In early afternoon a storm rolled over the river from the west. These spectacular shows occur several times a year. In varying degrees of intensity, they appear like special effects from an apocalyptic movie. Huge black clouds rolled over Cedarcliff, a limestone escarpment across the river, followed by a curtain of rain and winds that the National Weather Service clocked at 70 mph. Power was lost in many areas of Dutchess County. To the south and east, a tornado touched down in Fairfield County, Connecticut.
- Tom Lake

6/24 - Edgewater, NJ, HRM 8.5: A few times during the summer I lower myself down to lift some rocks under my dock. This year I was disappointed: no fiddler crabs. I did see two lion's mane jellyfish floating by in the early morning tide. I love the month of June; it's the only time I sit on my deck at 10:00 PM and hear birdsong (mockingbird?). I have raccoons, woodchucks, skunks, and opossum roaming around my deck and yard. As the crow flies, or the swimmer swims, I'm less than one mile from Manhattan.
- Katherine Mikel

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