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Hudson River Almanac July 10 - July 17, 2010

OVERVIEW

It was another week of heat and humidity, hallmarks of summer in the Hudson Valley. Bad news of a fish kill in the lower estuary was offset by the presence of a harbor seal upriver as well as reports of multitudes of young-of-the-year [YOY] river herring and striped bass.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

7/11 - Ulster County, HRM 85: Five of us were in a pontoon boat off the mouth of Black Creek when Captain Bob Blass spotted a seal in the river. The dark color suggested that it was a harbor seal. It dove under no more than sixty feet from us.
- Robert Sage

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

7/10 - Town of Bethlehem, HRM 140: We were returning from picking 14 pounds of blueberries when we paused on our way through South Bethlehem to let a white-tail buck cross Route 396. He was sporting antlers covered in velvet. While it was too early to say for sure, it looked like he might be a 4 or 6 pointer come the fall.
- Larry Roth


7/10 - Ulster County, HRM 78: A Shawangunk Mountains peregrine falcon update (see 4/16, 5/20, 6/14): Reconnaissance climbs to the Millbrook and Trapps eyries were performed following the fledging of young. At the Millbrook eyrie an egg with a portion of its shell removed revealed a developing embryo. Had this chick developed fully we would have had four young as we did at the Trapps eyrie. Also recovered from the site was a small sample of prey remains. The Trapps eyrie had no egg or shell remains but a fair number of feathers were recovered - blue jay, flicker, American redstart, tufted titmouse, and brown and grayish feathers that may have been mourning dove or rock dove.
- Tom Sarro


7/10 - Newburgh to Walden, HRM 61: While driving in Orange County we spotted, on two different occasions, river otters waiting or about to make a mad dash across the road.
- Ed Spaeth

7/10 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: At dusk I began to smell the heady, exotic perfume announcing that my night-blooming cereus, also called "Queen of the Night" (Epiphyllum oxypetalum) was opening a flower. This extraordinary plant is more than 30 years old and has bloomed every year, sometimes a dozen or more blossoms at a time. I had been watching it, day by day, as the first bud formed, wondering which night it would open. It's almost like time-lapse photography. When the buds are plump and rosy-colored, they begin to point upwards; then the final display - the glorious, many-fingered open bowl with a throat of delicate stamens and pistil glows in the dark. When I went out to look and smell, a firefly was perched at the tip of one of the many petals.
- Robin Fox


7/10- Brooklyn, New York City: A group of 40 children and adults participated in a waterfront education program with the Coastal Marine Resource Center and Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy. Our East River beach seining catch was comprised of winter flounder, blue crab, sand shrimp (Crangon septemspinosa), striped bass, Atlantic silversides, bluefish, comb jellies, northern pipefish, and one amphipod.
- Cynthia Fowx

7/11 - Moordenerkill to Schodack Island, HRM 149-135: Along this fourteen-mile reach of the river, I spotted six bald eagles from the Dutch Apple excursion vessel. Two were immature birds on the sandy western shore, sharing a fish. The other four were adults.
- Pat Van Alstyne

7/11 - Fishkill, HRM 61: Despite the 90 degree heat I took a hike on the east side of Fishkill Mountain. At one site in the leaf litter under hardwood trees I found many tiny tree frogs. Further up the hillside trail I came upon an eastern box turtle among rocks in the shade.
- Brian Herbst


7/11 - Croton Point, HRM 35-34: It has been so dry for so long that some trees are dropping leaves and there is a fresh-out-of-the-oven scent to the meadows, now a uniform yellow-brown in color. The mulberry and wineberry crops have failed, dried and died. I expect to hear reports of marauding bears any day now.
- Christopher Letts


7/11 - Battery, HRM 0: The Upper Bay of New York Harbor and the Statue of Liberty are all fine sights, but watching the cormorants was even better. The fishing must have been good since they stayed and dove long after they should have been "drying out." Most of them only had their necks and heads out of the water. A passerby commented, "They look like little Loch Ness Monsters!"
- Tom Lake, Phyllis Lake

[Cormorants look and act like ducks but are really a different type of sea bird. At a distance, they are sometimes mistaken for loons. Being strong swimmers, they may be more adept in the water than in the air, but if they remain too long, they tend to lose buoyancy. It is common to see a cormorant swimming with just their neck and head above the waves. It may be that, unlike the waterproof feathers of ducks and geese, theirs are water permeable. As a result, they are frequently seen perched along the river in their "Dracula poses," black wings outstretched, drying off. Tom Lake.]


7/12 - Coeymans, HRM 133: The new Willis Avenue Bridge, constructed in Coeymans, was loaded onto a barge and floated down the Hudson to New York City. There it will be lifted by the tide into place on the Harlem River, connecting Manhattan and the Bronx - a very carefully planned event. A similar maneuver was carried out a few years ago with the Third Avenue Bridge.
- Rich Guthrie


7/12 - Germantown, HRM 105: As I was thinning out the "fried" plants from my Germantown garden, I noticed a good variety of bees among the roses and monarda. Then I watched close up as a hummingbird moth came into the monarda and stayed there while I clipped around it.
- Mimi Brauch


7/12 - Rhinebeck, HRM 88: They weren't birds, they weren't planes, and they weren't supermen that I spotted flying near a pond this morning at 5:00 AM. I don't know what kind of bats they were, but they were bats.
- Phyllis Marsteller


7/13 - Lake Hill, HRM 100: Driving home this evening I noticed the yearling bear again in the nearby neighbor's driveway. A while later, while sitting in my screened-in porch, I saw the bear walk out from the brush and into my yard. I grabbed the air horn and blasted it, causing the bear to run away. I then noticed all the upturned stones in my rock garden. The bear must have also been there earlier in the day.
- Reba Wynn Laks


7/13 - Staatsburg, HRM 85: Late in the day, I spotted a flock of five large birds flying north along the east side of the river over Mills-Norrie State Park. My immediate impression of five large birds flying in formation was Canada geese, but not this time. These were great blue herons.
- Jesse Jaycox


7/13 - Little Stony Point, HRM 55: This is one of the most picturesque beaches on the river, lying in the shadow of Mount Taurus looking out at Storm King. The shadow helped our early-morning seining since it was again in the 90s and extremely humid. Although we caught no river herring (our target) we did fill up with YOY striped bass (avg. 52 mm), tessellated darters, many small blue crabs (thumbnail to palm-size), and a net full of mummichogs.
- Tom Lake, Chris Lake

[Mummichog is a derivation of an Algonquian, river Indian, word that means "fishes that go in crowds," an observation of their tendency to form large schools. Tom Lake.]

7/13 - Garrison, HRM 51: During a downpour along a ridge top near here, I came across an adult male box turtle, its eyes bright red and its dark shell and head brilliantly marked in yellow and orange. Several patches of prickly pear cactus were also present a short distance away, growing among the exposed bedrock. The box turtle and cactus are always great to see in the Highlands; the only region of New York where I can expect to encounter both. Unfortunately, invasive black swallow-wort was abundant as well, almost reaching the area where the cactus grew.
- Jesse Jaycox

[The eastern prickly pear, the only native cactus in northeast North America, is present in the Hudson Valley in a few locations best kept secret (from collectors). Prickly pear are always found in full sun and almost always open to a south-southwest exposure. While tolerant of marginal soils, they are sensitive to human disturbance and are protected by law in New York State. Just north of Croton-on-Hudson in Westchester County there is a hill called Prickly Pear. Habitat loss due to development over the last few decades destroyed the considerable number of cacti that once grew there. Tom Lake.]

7/13 - Croton River, HRM 34: Midgie Taube was throwing his cast net at some tiny bait fish and came up with a four-inch-long striped mullet. With the salt line way upriver, the reports of summer flounder, red hake, and sea robins being caught in Croton Bay are not surprising.
- Christopher Letts

[Mullet are a family of saltwater fish found on the Atlantic Coast from New England south to the Caribbean. In the southern end of their range they spawn in the ocean and spend their lives in estuaries, inland waterways and canals. It is a common sight to see scores of mullet leaping out of the water to escape tarpon and snook. In our area two species - striped mullet and white mullet - stray into brackish water in summer and fall. Tom Lake.]

[On this date the U.S. Geological Survey placed the salt front near HRM 73, a few miles south of the Mid-Hudson Bridge. Visit http://ny.water.usgs.gov/projects/dialer_plots/saltfront.html for more information. Steve Stanne.]


7/14 - Northumberland, HRM 161: Out in our yard this evening I spotted a big, strange flying insect making its way to our flower bed. My first thought was a hummingbird because of its size and the way it was sucking nectar from our flowers. However, the markings were that of a moth. He even paused long enough for me to fetch my camera and pose for a picture. After some research from our neighbor, it was determined to be a hummingbird moth.
- Stacey Lamodi


7/14 - Chelsea, HRM 65.5: With the apparent scarcity of spawning frenzy by carp this spring, the few incidents of activity seems more pronounced. For several minutes at low tide, the near shore shallows erupted with leaping and cavorting carp. It was difficult to tell how many were involved, but they certainly made a ruckus.
- Tom Lake


7/14 - Constitution Island, HRM 52.5: Looking through the fog and gloom of an intense rain squall, we could see an osprey, one of two we saw between World's End (West Point) and Croton, perched on a bare limb in the top of a hardwood tree on the south side of the island.
- Tom Lake, Chris Lake

[World's End is the deepest point in the Hudson River at about 175 feet. This slot of river between West Point on the west and Constitution Island on the east is known for its treacherous tidal currents. It name is derived from its legendary (notorious) effects on sailing ships, where boats and hands have met their "world's end." Tom Lake.]

7/14 - Inbuckie, HRM 33.5: It was low tide at last light and the marsh at Inbuckie had drained to mud. An osprey was perched on a stickup and four species of heron were sprinkled on the flats: a great egret and a snowy egret were stalking stranded fish in the remnant puddles, two black crowned night herons were perched on deadfalls (one may have been a yellow-crowned, but it was getting too dark to tell), and several great blue herons. We were just one green heron short of a "heron grand-slam."
- Tom Lake, Chris Lake

7/15 - Lake Hill, HRM 100: Driving home this evening I saw a fox in a neighbor's front yard. I thought the fox looked a bit on the skinny side though it seemed to be alert and acting normally. Perhaps, like my cat, it has simply shed a lot of its fur during these hot days that we have been having.
- Reba Wynn Laks

7/15 - Hyde Park, HRM 82: (In response to David Lund's entry of 7/4.) While looking at the indigo buntings (see 7/8) at the Vanderbilt estate, I heard a young hawk making quite a commotion, a squealing, "red-tail-like" noise. I saw an adult hawk (similar to a red tail but leaf cover was in the way) in the area. I had the impression it had just dropped off a meal and the young one was indignant that it flew off again. Could this be a red-shoulder's nest?
- Pat Joel

7/15 - Hunter's Brook, HRM 67.5: We were a mile upstream from tidewater not far from a huge swamp that serves as its headwaters. Right at dusk, two white-tailed deer, both six-point bucks, walked single file down along the stream looking for new growth from the recent rains.
- Tom Lake


7/15 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: I heard my first katydid of the season calling, more than two weeks earlier than last year.
- Stephen M. Seymour


7/15 - Ossining to Manhattan, HRM 33-11: An initial call of a fish kill on the river near Dobb's Ferry was received two days ago. Early details on the exact number and location were uncertain. With assistance from Captain John Lipscomb and the Riverkeeper patrol boat, we narrowed down the location and extent of the kill. Several calls to Riverkeeper and DEC Region 2 indicated the dead fish were being carried south toward New York City by the wind and tides over the course of two days. The true extent of the kill is unknown, but estimated to be several hundred fish, most of them Atlantic menhaden. Six large striped bass were also found dead. The fish were spotted in the area from the Tappan Zee Bridge (river mile 27) down to northern Manhattan from mid-river to the east shore. Early reports indicated the kill also occurred farther north at Ossining. Samples of fresh fish were transported to the Cornell fish pathology lab for analysis but results from those tests will most likely not be available for a week or so.
- Kathy Hattala, DEC Hudson River Fisheries Unit


7/16 - Tivoli North Bay, HRM 100.5: We ventured out onto Tivoli North Bay on our biweekly seining trip. In one haul of our 20-foot seine in the mouth of Stony Creek, we caught a small school of this year's river herring. Years ago this would have been a common occurrence; in recent years it happens infrequently. Years ago they would have been blueback herring; this year they were alewives. One exception was the single young gizzard shad mixed in with alewives. There was a substantial number of blue crabs in the bay; we saw a dozen sheds on the banks in various places and caught three in our seine hauls. One of the ones we caught, near the mouth of the bay, was "keeper" size, unusual this far up the river. We picked up a floating acorn that had been blackened by sitting in anaerobic sediment. We noticed that about 20 very small zebra mussels had settled on it.
- Bob Schmidt, Nico Hernandez, Ian Hetterich

[The term river herring is applied primarily to blueback herring and alewives, and less so American shad. While these two herring look very similar, their life histories are quite different. Adult alewives enter the river from the sea in late March and spawn in tributaries in April and May. Adult blueback herring enter the river from the sea few weeks later, and while some spawn in tributaries of tidewater, many continue through the lock at Troy and the Barge Canal's Waterford Flight to enter the Mohawk River. Reasons for this long journey are poorly understood. In summer YOY of both species, as well as those of American shad, are found in huge schools perhaps numbering in the thousands as they slowly migrate to the sea to join their parent stock. Tom Lake.]


7/16 - Lake Hill, HRM 100: A black shape moving outside my basement door this evening caught my eye. The yearling bear was moving through my yard looking very much like an adolescent with its long, lanky legs. The bear bypassed my chicken wire compost heap and headed over to the rock garden to begin pawing at the rocks. Running upstairs, I grabbed the air horn and blasted it. The bear ran into the woods behind my house but stopped as soon as it was within the tree line. I yelled at it to "shoo!" and it took off again.
- Reba Wynn Laks


7/16 - Ulster Park, HRM 87: I heard a katydid, only one so far, but what happened to the August 1 arrival date?
- Bill Drakert


7/17 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 76: We finally saw our first live mitten crab of the season. We were searching in the Fall Kill by the Children's Museum, mostly picking up blue crab sheds, when we spotted a new excavation under a rock. When flipped, we could see the legs of a mitten crab down in the tunnel it excavated, but we could not catch it. Their tunnels can extend several feet down into the substrate.
- Bob Schmidt, Ian Hetterich, Nico Hernandez

7/17 - Beacon, HRM 60: I rescued a box turtle off of Route 9D on the south side of Beacon this morning. Once it had gone over the curb it had little chance of getting back out. It was an adult female with a "slug mustache" from an earlier meal. I turned her loose in an adjacent wooded lot, pointed away from the road.
- Stephen M. Seymour

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