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Hudson River Almanac August 2 - August 9, 2010

OVERVIEW

The warm and salty summer in the estuary may have triggered events as diverse as a fish kill in the Tappan Zee, the presence of a huge black drum at Piermont, a Caspian tern at Croton-on-Hudson, and a Kemp's ridley sea turtle at Verplanck. The 80+ degree Fahrenheit water temperatures in the lower Hudson as well as the intrusion of the salt front upriver (to HRM 70) are ongoing. In times before significant upland development in the watershed, salty summers like these may have been commonplace.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

8/9 - Verplanck, HRM 40.5: The Riverhead Foundation received a report of a dead Kemp's ridley sea turtle [Lepidochelys kempii] on the beach at Verplanck. The carapace was marked by the strike of a propeller that went through the full thickness of the carapace and was most likely the cause of death. Our staff is presently in the Gulf of Mexico working with NOAA on sea turtle captures in response to the BP oil spill. A necropsy will be beneficial to determine body condition and what the turtle was foraging on.
- Kim Durham

[Kimberly Durham is the Rescue Program Director and Biologist for the The Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation. If you do spot a marine mammal or sea turtle that is genuinely in need of assistance, call The Riverhead Foundation's 24-Hour Stranding Hotline: 631-369-9829.]

[This is our second reported Kemp's ridley sea turtle in 15 years. The first was recovered near Yonkers (HRM 18), August 25, 1995 (see Hudson River Almanac, Vol. II). That sea turtle had a propeller wound and a broken carapace, and it died shortly before I was able to retrieve it. Tom Lake.]

[While two and three year old sub-adult Kemp's ridley turtles have been documented using Long Island Sound as an intermediate habitat, until now there was no indication that they, or any other sea turtles, ventured into the lower Hudson estuary. Sam Sadove.]

[In "The Windward Road" Archie Carr speaks of the Kemp's Ridley sea turtle: "Where the Florida Current picks up its supply of [Kemp's] ridleys is not known, for reasons that I shall reveal presently; but there can be little doubt that it is the northward sweep of this current just off the eastern shore that accounts for the occurrence in North Carolina and New York Harbor and Martha's Vineyard. Little as we know about ridleys, we can be sure that they are not born in those places. They are carried there."]

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

8/2 - Albany, HRM 145: I was happy to see a monarch flying low to the ground as I stood in the shallow end of a pool. I have seen so few of them this summer. I watched it alight not more than three feet away on the concrete at the edge of the steps leading into the pool. The area had been "splashed" by the water. The monarch stayed there, opening and closing its wings and probing at the minute concaves in the cement. I got as close as I dare, on a level with the butterfly, and watched it for several minutes. People walked noisily by but the insect stayed put. Its colors were so vivid, especially the white dots in the wings' black trim.
- Christine Dooley

8/2 - Hudson River: We have added the black drum to the Hudson River watershed list of fishes (see 8/1 for the recent occurrence). The black drum becomes number 180 on our list of 217 species, right behind the Atlantic croaker, and the seventh member of the drum family. An investigation found reports of anecdotal catches of a few small black drum in the lower river 30 years ago that were not documented, therefore left no record. C. Lavett Smith's "Inland Fishes of New York State" (1985), a volume that was exhaustively researched, did not include the black drum.
- Tom Lake

[A Microsoft Word checklist of the 217 fish species documented for the Hudson River watershed is available upon request to trlake7@aol.com]

8/3 - Hudson River: On July 15 a fish kill was reported in the lower estuary. Samples of the dead fish were sent to the Aquatic Animal Health Program, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University in an effort to determine the cause. To date, we have not seen anything that would implicate an infectious agent. Given what we have seen (or not seen), the most likely cause of the event may be something environmental, such as the high water temperature, potential low dissolved oxygen, or some other factor(s).
- Paul R. Bowser

8/3 - Verplanck, HRM 40.5: We've been checking Ogilivie's Pond for a while now in search of the resident great blue heron, but haven't had any success. This hot, humid afternoon, the pond was barely moving, with a tiger swallowtail and a white sulphur butterfly dancing among the dragonflies that hovered over the water. We were elated to spot the heron amidst the spatterdock that has taken a stranglehold over the pond. Since its legs were submerged, it seemed to be sitting on the 'lily pads,' staring into the distance. As we watched, it stuck its long neck out, coiled it back, and stared intently at something in the vegetation. It stayed that way for a while before quickly striking at what appeared to be a small fish. Then we watched as it popped its meal down its long throat.
- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson

8/4 - Stony Creek, HRM 100.5: Our backpack shocker turned up many eels (135) in Stony Creek today, as part of our fish population monitoring of the Tivoli Bays. We also stirred up 12-15 large-to-very large blue crabs. They were hiding under rocks in the pools, some recently shed and others quite hard. We classify blue crabs as "very large" when you think twice about how hard they will pinch if you are not careful.
- Bob Schmidt, Ian Hetterich, Alec Schmidt

8/4 - Saw Kill, HRM 98.5: In the Saw Kill, besides 124 eels, we caught a logperch, the first we have ever seen in the mouth of the Saw Kill. The logperch is a medium-sized darter with a long nose.
- Bob Schmidt, Ian Hetterich, Alec Schmidt

[Logperch are not native to the Hudson watershed (they were not here in 1609), having migrated eastward, probably via the New York State canal system, from the Mississippi-Great Lakes area. Logperch are common in the Mohawk and may have migrated from there to the mainstem Hudson. Tom Lake]

8/4 - West Hurley, HRM 95: Driving on Route 28 in the early evening, my daughter and I spotted a huge bird flying overhead. What we both immediately noticed was how flat the wings were held as compared to the usual "V" shape set of the turkey vultures. Sure enough, we then spotted the white tail and head - an adult bald eagle! I'm sure the close proximity of the Ashokan Reservoir had something to do with the eagle's presence - they nest there. It was very fulfilling for me to not only see the eagle, but to also to observe my daughter's excitement at spotting this magnificent bird!
- Reba Laks, Bayla Laks

8/5 - Tivoli North Bay, HRM 100.5: Two great blue herons and a green heron kept cool in the water on this humid day. Following a downpour, the humidity broke. A double-crested cormorant was perched on a dead snag and appeared headless with its head and neck stuffed deeply down into its breast feathers to escape the pelting rain. We sat next to the "headless" bird for a few minutes until it realized we were there as its head emerged like a jack-in-the-box.
- Nicole Vente, Kris McShane

8/5 - Arden Point, HRM 50.5: We saw at least three adult bald eagles on Arden Point across from West Point near the end of the tenth annual Great Hudson River Paddle. We also saw them as far south as the Bear Mountain Bridge. Overall, we saw fewer eagles in the northern part of the estuary during this year's paddle, only one in the 15 miles between Albany and New Baltimore. We saw more farther south in areas we had seen them in the past, such as Saugerties and Kingston. We had not seen many eagles in the Highlands in the past, but in the last two days, from the Bannerman's Island area south (HRM 58), they were consistently around.
- Scott Keller

8/5 - Croton River, HRM 34: By 10:00 AM, the heat and humidity were stifling. The usual activities of crabbing, fishing, and checking minnow traps were ignored and The Boyz at the Bridge were sitting in the shade of a mulberry tree. There were a few minutes of heightened interest for me: A common loon surfaced close to the boat launch and half a dozen great egrets roamed the shallows. A harsh call sounded and I looked up to see a Caspian tern flying over with a fish in its beak. Flocks of "peep" sandpipers were arriving and I was trying to identify them when the gulls started screeching; a peregrine flew into the area, briefly chased a ring-billed gull, and then spent several minutes trying to catch a sandpiper before disappearing towards Croton Point.
- Christopher Letts

8/6 - Putnam Valley, HRM 55.5: At first I thought that the barn swallows that breed at my residence had departed, but that was premature. They have five nests in the basement stairwell and one under an eave. The flock has about 40 members; they're hard to count as they change course so adeptly, but when most came to take a short rest break on the roof, I could make a count. I believe they had two broods this year. I will, as usual, miss them when they leave, and look will forward to their return in the spring when somehow they immediately dive into the stairwell - truly amazing homing!
- Nancy P. Durr

8/7 - Staatsburg, HRM 85: We were awakened before 6:00 this morning by a racket outside. Several red-shouldered hawks were calling, and a half-dozen or more blue jays were squawking. We got up to see what was going on. The adult red-shoulders were perched atop the steeple of Saint Paul's church, calmly preening, while the juvenile red-shoulder moved from perch to perch in the Norway and blue spruces to the side of the church, all the while pursued by the jays. After a half hour of this, the hawks departed and everything quieted down.
- Linda Lund, David Lund

8/7 - Hopewell Junction, HRM 68: While sitting on my deck this evening I saw a ruby-throated hummingbird, either a female or immature since there was no red showing, enjoy one of my petunia plants. The hummingbird then proceeded to find other tube plants to enjoy the nectar before flitting off to another neighbor's yard.
- Jen Kovach

8/8 - Beacon, HRM 61: I cannot recall ever seeing more or larger blue crabs come over the railing than during the flood tide today. Crabbers were stuffing 25 steamer-pot size jimmies in their buckets in not much more than an hour. Anglers had hopes of something more impressive but were settling for white perch and channel catfish. The mystery of the missing white catfish persists. Their continued absence from areas where they were once common is a concern.
- Tom Lake

[Scenic Hudson will be closing off the Long Dock site with fences and gates this week (8/13) to begin remediation of the "brown field" portion of the site and construction of the park. The boardwalk will be repaired and we will reopen next spring. Margery Groten.]

[The term "brownfield site" in this instance means property for which expansion, redevelopment, or reuse may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant. United State Environmental Protection Agency.]

8/9 - Little Stony Point, HRM 55: On the woodland trail to the beach we spotted a chipmunk dashing across the dirt road and into a semi-hollow log. Not far behind it was an immature Cooper's hawk, bouncing along the road in slow pursuit, almost "stalking." The raptor saw us and took off, low and away, down the road, an opportunity missed.
- Tom Lake, A. Danforth

[Expert birders Rich Guthrie and Larry Federman concurred that Cooper's hawks will take and eat small rodents such as chipmunks.]

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