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Hudson River Almanac June 25 - July 2, 2010


This spring's crop of young-of-the-year [YOY] fish were beginning to show up, including river herring (alewives and blueback herring), American shad and striped bass. Estuaries have been likened to a farmer's field where the seeds are planted in spring with spawning and the crop - millions of young fish - come in during summer and fall.


7/2 - Brooklyn, New York City: We were conducting fish surveys for the Environmental Protection Agency on the Red Hook and Gowanus flats of New York Harbor's Upper Bay with 30 foot-long otter trawls. We caught many tautog (blackfish) in the 4-8 lb. range. These fish were feeding on the blue mussels that are found on the shoals. We also caught many blue crabs; all were females. Male blue crabs were caught in the inner pier areas and up the Gowanus Canal.
- Bill Saksen


6/25 - Minerva, HRM 284: I was out near the swamp with the dogs in late afternoon when I inadvertently flushed our resident American bittern from some shallow water. The bird took off noisily but cruised silently across the water to a lighting spot a couple of hundred yards away. About the same time, another resident, a male common yellowthroat, scolded the dogs and me from the shrubs because we were close to its nest; the female yellowthroat was no doubt sitting on (she usually comes out to complain but was quiet this time). The mink frogs had stopped calling after being pretty noisy a week or two ago. A swamp sparrow sang along with several red-winged blackbirds out in the swamp. Flowers along the way included tall meadow-rue, white water lily, swamp smartweed, and a couple of my favorites: swamp candles and round-leaved sundew. The dogs were mostly oblivious, which is not necessarily a bad thing.
- Mike Corey

6/25 - Maritje Kill, HRM 79: We did our normal rounds of looking in tributaries for crabs. We finally found a very small female mitten crab shed (15 mm carapace width) in the Maritje Kill. Despite looking for them for a year in this tributary, this is the first one we have found. This would be a yearling just making its way upriver from points south. The shedding aggregation of small blue crabs that we have been seeing seems to be winding down.
- Bob Schmidt, Nico Hernandez, Ian Hetterich

6/25 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 75.5: We picked up four blue crabs sheds in the Fall Kill (three males, one female) and saw four live crabs zipping around in the rapids.
- Bob Schmidt, Nico Hernandez, Ian Hetterich

6/25 - Jersey City, NJ: A peregrine falcon eyas [young, nestling raptors] became injured as she left her scrape a little early on top of 101 Hudson Street in Jersey City, on June 9. She was rescued two days later and taken to the Raptor Trust where they determined she had fractured her clavicle. It healed completely. She was placed in a flight cage for a week and then cleared to return to her three sisters who had already fledged a week and a half before. Today I had the unique and extreme pleasure of assisting in its release. She flew fast and strong out of the box on the roof of 101 Hudson Street, banked west, and proceeded to fly around and up to the top of the building. She was immediately joined by the adult female and male. We have our fingers crossed that there are four, beautiful fledglings flying around Jersey City. It has been impossible to see and identify all four because they are using the tops of very tall buildings for flying practice and meals.
- Bonnie Talluto

6/26 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Our crows have fledged and have been begging for a couple of weeks now.
- Ellen Rathbone

6/26 - Town of Wappinger: I went looking for the female from eagle nest NY62 today. I have not seen the male in two months. With the fully-leafed out trees, and their tendency to roam after breeding season, it can be challenge. I found her in the top of a black locust a half-mile south of the nest tree, watching the river. Her lack of success at fledging young the last several years is a mystery. The more we try to attribute human emotions and sensibilities to eagles, the more we realize it is better believing they do not lament such disappointments.
- Tom Lake

6/27 - Columbia County, HRM 134: The Come Back On a hot summer day nothing seen through binoculars save a cormorant on a rock with three turtles sunning themselves. And then from the opening between the tall trees, on the other side of the river, as if through the opened curtain of a stage, an immature (no white head yet) appears, flies directly towards us on Schodack Island, flaps then glides on level wings, over our heads. A reintroduction, via Alaska, lights on the limb of some ancient tree. This bald eagle sits confidently and lordly as if its kind had never left. He keeps his own counsel indifferent to noisy motorboats, passive fishermen and eclectic birders, serious and focused, Mr. Peepers-like, in khaki pants and flabby hats.
- Wilma Ann Johnson

6/28 - North Germantown, HRM 109: It was a sultry summer day, near ninety with oppressive humidity - a very good day to get wet. The ebb tide was halfway out leaving us with perfect seining conditions. An adult and an immature bald eagle were perched side-by-side in a cottonwood directly across the river at the edge of Inbocht Bay: mama and her fledgling.
Each haul of our seine collected dozens of YOY river herring and striped bass. A sample of 35 alewives ranged 31-54 mm total length (TL). A smaller sample of blueback herring ranged 30-37 mm. Since most of the bluebacks slipped though the mesh, the latter statistics were less useful. A sample of striped bass ranged 34-57 mm. Also in the net, though in far fewer numbers, were postage stamp-sized hogchokers as well as inch-and-a-half-long YOY smallmouth bass with their bronze bodies and bright orange at the base of their caudal fins. The river was 25 degrees C (77 degrees Fahrenheit).
An interesting phenomenon occurred again today: while river herring were found in small numbers off the open beach, the greatest concentration by far was found right in the boat slip, the narrow ramp where boats are launched. There must be a common cause involved since we have experienced this in several places along the Hudson and Mohawk rivers in recent years.
On our last haul we drew the 85-foot net through a dense stand of three-square (sedge). The seine filled with killifish, dozens to scores, almost all of which were banded killies in breeding colors with just a few large mummichogs. As we slid the net up on the sand the final time, a ginger-colored coyote trotted across the parking lot forty feet away, gave us one quick glance and then continued on.
- Tom Lake, A. Danforth

[There may not be a prettier fish in the river than a courting male banded killifish with iridescent blue, lavender and silver highlights in their bands. A favorite name for the male is "blue-banded mudminnow," a colloquialism coined by riverman Everett Nack. The females, a drab brownish-green, are a good example of sexual dimorphism. Killifishes in general feed on insect larvae, mosquito larvae in particular. In some areas they have been used as a natural control on mosquitoes and the spread of West Nile virus. Tom Lake.]

6/29 - Tivoli South Bay, HRM 98.5: South Bay was very quiet but with the usual array of great blue herons standing in the water chestnut. There was also a great egret among the herons and it was interesting to see the different hunting pose that this large white bird took compared to the herons. On the periphery, an immature bald eagle was perched on a snag.
- Bob Schmidt, Nico Hernandez, Ian Hetterich

6/29 - Scarborough, HRM 31: The pair of osprey was still in residence atop marker #14 in the Tappan Zee. The female sat in the messy nest peeping at boats that go by; the male was up on the pole that holds weather equipment.
- Dan Wolff

[Note to scientists: If the data on wind speed from this observation point seems a bit off, the osprey that landed on the pole carefully grabbed the buzzing, black plastic "whirlygig" in one claw. Wind direction, on the other hand, was clear: both faced directly into it. Dan Wolff.]

6/30 - Newcomb, HRM 302: The first monarchs appeared today, but they will not sit still long enough to be photographed.
- Ellen Rathbone

6/30 - Tivoli North Bay, HRM 100.5: In North Bay we encountered a really large beaver who looked us over and then calmly swam away. We caught one two-inch alewife in our seine - the only herring we have seen thus far this year. These days you need to be out in the main river to find little herring. What a change from ten years ago!
- Bob Schmidt, Nico Hernandez, Ian Hetterich

6/30 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: The grating, clicking sound of the first summer cicadas fills your ears with no warning. One minute there is birdsong and leaf-blowers. But then, like a switch is thrown, the instantly recognizable and familiar sounds of a hot and dry summer fill the air.
- Tom Lake

7/1 - Rhinebeck, HRM 88: A male rose-breasted grosbeak landed on the railing of my deck in midday, but stayed only for a few seconds. He was possibly attracted by the red dome of the hummingbird feeder, or perhaps its reflection in one of the windows.
- Phyllis Marsteller

7/1 - Hathaway's Glen Brook, HRM 63: An early morning check of this small brook and low tide beach produced no live mitten crabs or sheds (exoskeletons). This small Orange County brook spills down the fall line into a short run to the river. Even with higher moon tides, the reach of tide is only a couple of hundred feet in length. The river shallows just outside the brook were 78.6 degrees F. Less than 200 feet upstream, a small pool in the shade of cottonwoods and box elders, the water was 16 degrees F. cooler, at 62 degrees. We hauled our 85-foot seine and caught several dozen banded killifish, the males looking "electric" in their breeding colors. Mixed in were a dozen YOY smallmouth bass (46-48 mm TL), scores of YOY striped bass (33-44 mm TL), and many small blue crabs. There were no YOY river herring or shad.
- Tom Lake, A. Danforth

[A seine is a net with a float seamline on top, a lead seamline on the bottom, and tight meshes in between. The word seine is French, from the Latin sagëna, which means a fishing net designed to hang vertically in the water, the ends of which are drawn together to enclose the fish. Those referenced in the Almanac range in length from 15 foot long minnow seines to 500 foot haul seines, 4 to 8 feet in depth, with mesh size anywhere from one-quarter inch to two-and-a-half-inches. They are an excellent tool for collecting aquatic animals, generally without injuring the catch. Haul seines, long nets that required a boat to set and many strong arms help haul, were used in Hudson River commercial fishing from colonial times until the last decade of the twentieth century. They have since been outlawed; in the hands of competent fishers, they are simply too efficient. Tom Lake.]

7/1 - Beacon, HRM 61: I only caught a single channel catfish, 16 inches long. A group of carp fishermen on Long Dock had much better luck. They already had four carp on a stringer when I arrived in mid-morning, and caught another one in mid-afternoon.
- Bill Greene

7/1 - Crugers, HRM 39: It was a gorgeous day so all the windows had been thrown open. I could hear screeching sounds and went out the door to take a look. I thought it might be an eagle, but instead spotted three red-tailed hawks calling as they effortlessly rode the thermals. This went on until they were so high that they were nearly out of sight.
- Dianne Picciano

7/2 - Lattintown Creek, HRM 68.5: We were sampling Lattintown Creek, well above the fall line and the massive falls west of Route 9W. The fish were not exciting but the stream was carpeted with rusty crayfish. I don't think I have ever seen them this close to the Hudson.
- Bob Schmidt, Nico Hernandez, Ian Hetterich

7/2 - Croton Point, HRM 34.5: We were taking a walk up the landfill at Croton Point Park when we saw a beautiful black bird with white and pale yellow markings on its back and head. We watched the bobolink as it perched and sang.
- Susan Butterfass, Steven Butterfass

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