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Hudson River Almanac June 1 - June 7, 2011

OVERVIEW

An injured adult bald eagle recovered from the river this week near eagle nest NY62C caused much drama and heartache as we sought details as to its identity. For more than two dozen such nests along the estuary, fledge day for nestlings was now within one to two weeks.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

6/4 - Norrie Point, HRM 85: On a five-hour sail from Poughkeepsie to Kingston, the Hudson River sloop Clearwater's crew and guests saw an Atlantic sturgeon leap out of the water. While the consensus was that the fish was four feet long, some crew members believed that the fish was at least ten feet long!

- Tom O'Dowd

[Atlantic sturgeon are the stuff of myth and legends. They are the largest fish to regularly inhabit the Hudson River, reaching 10-12' in length and weighing in excess of 350 lb. They are a primitive-looking and wonderfully adapted estuarine creature belonging to an order of fishes whose evolutionary origins reaches back at least 100 million years. Sturgeon grow very slowly, taking as long or longer than humans to reach maturity, and rivaling us in longevity, surviving 50 years or more in the wild. The river channel around Esopus Island, up to 60 feet deep, is a known congregation area for adult Atlantic sturgeon. Tom Lake.]

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

6/1 - Hudson, HRM 118: Tornado warnings were up. The wind off the river was like a warm, heavy, wet blanket. After several days of tropical warmth, a cold front was approaching from the west. Black cloud banks with embedded thunderstorms preceding it bore an ill wind. Two turkey vultures were teetering over the waterfront negotiating the wind until a feathered streak came at them. It was a merlin - a medium-sized falcon - with no designs on the vultures other than to just harass them. In labored flight, the vultures teetered away and the merlin disappeared.

- Tom Lake

[At least two tornados with 135 mph winds touched down later in the day in western and central Massachusetts, causing extensive damage across a forty mile stretch in nineteen communities. National Weather Service.]

6/1 - Charles Ryder Park, Town of Ulster, HRM 96: It was a week ago today that we witnessed, as did many others, the robust northward migration of brant along the Hudson. The last flock we watched pass had a lone snow goose attached to the back of the last line.

- Laura Van Vlack

6/1 - Rhinebeck, HRM 90: This morning I spotted two green herons at the edge of a pond, probably the same two I've seen there in the past. Perhaps they're nesting nearby. I also have a small clump of bluets under a maple near the edge of the pond, a spectacular find for me but nothing like the "bluets carpeting the ground" reported by Charlotte Demers in Newcomb on May 21.

- Phyllis Marsteller

6/1 - Town of Poughkeepsie: The two youngsters [eaglets] were jumping around in the nest [NY62C] this morning before settling down.

- Peter Relson

6/1 - Croton on Hudson, HRM 35: For the first time since moving here in 2000 we had been hearing the distinctive "gobble, gobble, gobble" call of a wild turkey on Hessian Hill. However, we had yet to see him; we figured he must just be a "stealth turkey." I asked my neighbor if he had seen the turkey and he told me that it is a crow imitating a wild turkey! I thought he must be mistaken. Later, I watched a crow land in a tree near my yard and heard it begin its typical "caw, caw, caw." Then, to my surprise, it began to exactly imitate a wild turkey: "gobble, gobble, gobble!"

- Scott P. Horecky

6/1 - Alpine, NJ, HRM 18: While bringing some representatives of the New Jersey State Federation of Women's Clubs to view the 1929 Women's Federation Monument on top of the Palisades that honors the role that their organization played in preserving the tall cliffs, we got to watch a black vulture riding the updrafts in the silent air just a few yards beneath us, and hundreds of feet above the river.

- Eric Nelsen

6/2 - Hopewell Junction, Dutchess County, HRM 68: A sharp-shinned hawk flew on top of the bird feeder today, but there was no lunch to be had. The little songbirds were just a bit quicker. There is always next time, though.

- Elizabeth Athanasiou

6/2 - Town of Poughkeepsie: There was a strong breeze off the river as the two nestlings perched quietly on the rim. Not much wing flapping today. When they finally leave in a couple of weeks, they may well step off into that same westerly breeze to get lift. For much of the two hours I watched the nest, the adults soared overhead.

- Terry Hardy

[It is enlightening to watch 10-week-old eaglets discover their world one piece at a time. It has to be purely instinctive as they flex and flap their wings while having little idea of what they are and what they are for. Tom Lake.]

6/2 - New Hamburg, HRM 67.5: A very large woodpecker flew across my field of vision. He landed at the base of a small tree and aggressively pecked away at a hole in the base. It was a pileated woodpecker, not a bird I've often seen. He flew off to a nearby tree where he was joined by a female pileated. They "danced" around the tree together then flew off. I had never seen courting pileated woodpeckers. It made me wonder what it must have been like to see the even larger ivory-billed woodpeckers.

- David Cullen

6/3 - Roeliff-Jansen's Kill, HRM 109:5: We visited the mouth of this tidal tributary in northern Dutchess County to collect some tiny American eels for a feeding study. In addition to the eels we also caught one small (2.5 inches long) sea lamprey ammocoete, the larval stage of lampreys. They bury themselves in the sediment and filter small organic particles out of the water.

- Bob Schmidt, Haley Oller, Leah Pitman

[Sea lampreys are anadromous, much like shad and herring, but they are also parasitic. On an evolutionary scale, lampreys are very old, older than sharks, skates and rays, survivors from a time when fish had no skeletal bones. As they travel inland from the sea, they attach themselves to the sides of soft-scaled fishes like American shad. With their suction cup-like mouth they hitch a ride and, at the same time, use their toothed tongue to rasp away at the fish, opening a wound and ingesting some of the host's body fluids. Sea lampreys have been documented spawning in late May through June in tributaries along a 70 mile reach including Stockport Creek, Catskill Creek, Kaaterskill, Roeliff-Jansen's Kill, Rondout Creek, Black Creek, and Indian Brook. It is likely that other Hudson River tributaries are also used. They attach their sucker-like mouth to rocks and move them to form mounded, circular nests. Their Latin name, Petromyzxon marinus, means "rock sucker from the sea." Like Pacific salmon, sea lamprey spawn once and then die. Tom Lake.]

6/3 - Saw Kill, HRM 98.5: We stopped by the Saw Kill at Bard College to look for Chinese mitten crabs, but found none. However, we did turn up a tiny map turtle (last year's young) and, a little further upstream, a somewhat larger snapping turtle (again, last year's young).

- Bob Schmidt, Haley Oller, Leah Pitman

6/3 - Milan, HRM 90: While driving along I noticed a wood turtle walking along the edge of the road. While it did not appear that the turtle intended to cross the road, I decided to place it on the vegetated shoulder in the same direction it was traveling. A couple of hours later I drove past the same area and noticed that the turtle was back on the road moving again in the same direction. Once again I moved it a couple of feet onto the shoulder. I think it safely made it to its destination because I have not seen any evidence of road kill.

- Frank Margiotta

6/3 - Crugers, HRM 39: Ogilvie's Pond is choked with spatterdock. Every time we pass we are disappointed that the pond's great blue heron hasn't shown up here since early May. Today, to our surprise, we spotted it hidden among the vegetation with its legs totally submerged. It did not move around much and seemed content to rest in the pond. Eventually, the heron spread its huge wings, skimmed over the water, and took off toward the river.

- Dorothy and Bob Ferguson

6/4 - Castleton-on-Hudson, HRM 137.5: I saw my first hummingbird of the spring early this morning, sitting on my clothesline. I had noticed the fluid in the feeder going down, but I thought it might have been evaporating since I hadn't seen one. I think they arrive at specific times to feed and if you are not looking out your window you just don't see them.

- Wilma Johnson

6/4 - Milan, HRM 90: Every so often I mow a path through my meadow so that I can reach bluebird nest boxes for monitoring. As I was finishing the path I saw a fawn in the tall grass. We were both surprised as we made eye contact for a few seconds. It got up and scampered into the woods; mama doe will have to find it in another location.

- Frank Margiotta

[Female white-tailed deer will frequently "deposit" their fawns in what they consider a comfortable and safe location such as high grass or shrubs while they go off for a short period of time to browse. Tom Lake.]

6/4 - Town of Poughkeepsie: It was Day 65 for the two eaglets in NY62C. With a warm breeze off the river, one eaglet was perched on the rim of the nest while the other was hunkered down, only its head visible, eyes closed, napping.

- Phyllis Lake, Tom Lake

6/4 - New Hamburg, HRM 67.5: The Dutchess County Sheriff's Marine Patrol recovered an injured but still alive adult bald eagle from the Hudson River. The location was not far from the Town of Poughkeepsie NY62C eagle nest. The bird was turned over to DEC Environmental Conservation Officer Bob Hoder and then transferred to Dr. Alan Tousignant at the Trevor Zoo in Millbrook. Was this one of the mated pair at NY62C? As the nestlings were within two weeks of fledgling, the question entailed serious consequences.

- Tom Lake

6/4 - Piermont, HRM 25: The Sparkill Watershed Alliance, Keep Rockland Beautiful, and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory joined forces to celebrate Hudson River Day along the Village waterfront with seining, fish-printing and community building. Using a seine and a cast net we caught young-of-the-year bluefish, menhaden, silversides, white perch, banded killifish, mummichogs, bay anchovies, shore shrimp, a small blue crab, a couple of young-of-the-year striped mullet, and a golden shiner. The salinity was low, hovering between one and two parts per thousand.

- Margie Turrin, Laurie Seeman, Greg Mercurio, Andy Stewart, Team Members

6/4 - Alpine Boat Basin, HRM 18: Down from their nest in a nearby London plane tree, our resident pair of orioles flitted between boat slips, the yellow flashing on their sides brighter than anything else in the marina.

- Eric Nelsen

6/5 - Lake Hill, HRM 100: Two wild turkey hens have carved out two "dust baths" in my backyard. They come so frequently that I have begun to call them my "pet" turkeys. As long as I don't get too close, they will even stay while I am out working in the yard.

- Reba Wynn Laks

6/5 - Shawangunk Grasslands, Ulster County, HRM 78: I came upon a sandhill crane this morning at the Hoagerburgh entrance to the grasslands. The bird was feeding and flew away after a few minutes heading north. I could still see it a half-mile away flying over the town park, still vocalizing.

- Peter Schoenberger

6/5 - Hudson River Estuary: The DEC Region 3 Hudson River Fisheries Unit just completed its fourth river herring monitoring season. Over the last two months, thanks to all of the dedicated volunteers, we have recorded more than 486 observations at more than 12 tributaries. Volunteers for 2012 should visit the Herring Monitoring website

- Rachel Lowenthal, Robert Adams, Kris McShane

6/6 - Hudson, HRM 118: Driving around downtown today, it seemed that the catalpa trees were blooming everywhere. They have such exquisite flowers and most people call them "weed trees." Along the river road, small, white, five-petaled multiflora roses, arranged in clusters, were climbing and draping themselves over everything, and, oh, the scent that fills the humid air.

- Wilma Ann Johnson

[The catawba or northern catalpa has gorgeous, orchid-like flowers, delicate both in appearance and fragrance. They are native to the Mississippi River valley and most in our area originated as ornamentals. Tom Lake.]

6/6 - Cornwall-on-Hudson, HRM 57: I watched as a raven plucked a white perch off the river just below the Cornwall Yacht Club. The fish was a "floater" (already dead) which made the job for the raven much easier.

- Michael Pogue

[Common ravens are known to nest at the northern gateway to the Hudson Highlands, both directly overhead at Storm King Mountain and across the river at Breakneck Ridge. Tom Lake.]

6/6 - Beacon Landing, HRM 61: Today's catch included two carp, estimated at 8 and 10 lb. each, as well as four channel catfish. The largest catfish was about 2 lb. while the other three were small, maybe nine inches long. That would seem to suggest that there's a fresh crop of the channel catfish coming along.

- Bill Greene

6/6 - Blooming Grove, HRM 55: In the wee hours of morning, 2:00-3:00 AM, I was treated to a chorus from a pack of coyotes. What a weird and haunting sound!

- Betsy Hawes

6/6 - West Point, HRM 52: Mountain laurel was at peak bloom throughout the Military Reservation forest. A welcome show! They bloomed later than last year's advanced peak of May 28, though still a bit earlier than usual compared to my recollections of decades past.

- Bob Kakerbeck

6/7 - Castleton-on-Hudson, HRM 137.5: How fast it happens: The yellow clover and the field daisies have replaced the purplish-pink phlox and the buttercups along the roadsides of lower Rensselaer County. In addition to the fields of yellow wild mustard, I see white crucifers around the edges or at different locations by themselves. I wonder why the white plants are always so outnumbered by the yellow ones.

- Wilma Ann Johnson

6/7 - Town of Poughkeepsie: It was getting very warm by midday and although the nest (NY62C) was in the shade, both of the nestlings seemed sluggish. They were squeezed on the rim, wedged in a "V" between two branches facing the river. We could hear soft "cheeps" that grew a bit louder. The adults were out fishing and the nestlings were hungry.

- Terry Hardy, Tom Lake

6/7 - Croton Point, HRM 34.5: I had spent several minutes chatting with another hiker on the landfill service road. We started to walk on when about 15' away, a woodcock flushed from heavy cover. The bird flew 20' and landed in the middle of the road and started to perform a "broken wing act." The show continued for a dozen more short flights and many minutes as we moved farther from what we assumed was a nest site. I see snipe and woodcock, mostly in vernal pools during spring migrations. This was the first suggestion that they might nest here. In the oak grove on the east side of the point there is once again a nesting pair of bluebirds. I did not see a nest, but the male is in the same general area most mornings.

- Christopher Letts

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