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Hudson River Almanac June 8 - June 15, 2011

OVERVIEW

"Fledge day" for Hudson Valley bald eagle nestlings was approaching. The nest watch for NY62C is, in microcosm, a look into more than two dozen bald eagle nests along Hudson tidewater. Most or all are similarly engaged in eaglet rearing and nearing a fledge day.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

6/8 - Millbrook, HRM 82: After four days of agonizing uncertainty and nervous anxiety, we were finally able to contact Dr. Alan Tousignant at the Trevor Zoo at Millbrook School. The bald eagle recovered from the Hudson River on June 4 was not the female (N42) from nest NY62C - it had no leg bands. The bird was an older eagle, "just exhausted" in the words of Dr. Tousignant, and suffering from parasitic worms. In just the few days that the bird had been at Trevor Zoo, the parasite condition had improved and the bird's health was returning. Dr. Tousignant had hopes that the eagle might soon be returned to the wild.

- Tom Lake, T.R. Jackson

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

6/8 - Tivoli South Bay, HRM 98.5: After an evening thunderstorm, we walked down to the edge of the bay, taking along our head-lamps to look for shoreline activity. Two red-tailed hawks swooped and turned and were chased by upset flycatchers. Shining the lights into the shallows, we counted at least a dozen small eels as well as numerous banded killifish in spawning regalia. Of the eels, the smallest was about 45 millimeters [mm] and just getting its pigmentation. The largest was around 180 mm and was likely two or three years old. It was clearly much larger than the other eels we found.

- Karin Limburg, Jill Mandel, Einat Sandbank

6/8 - Rhinebeck, HRM 90: We visited two wetlands to observe heron rookeries in late afternoon of a very hot day. A bank in Rhinebeck displayed a temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheit in mid-afternoon - sizzle! The first site had 35 nests. It was a prehistoric scene. Most of the "chicks" were nearly fully-fledged and almost as large as their parents. Many stood up and panted, and were seen to hold out their wings to cool off. When a parent arrived with a meal, the waiting juveniles made excited noises and beat on the parent's bill, prompting a regurgitation response. Then it was a free-for-all to get the fish that had traveled in this way. A few nests were seen to have very small chicks; these were probably second nests, and we assume that the first clutches failed.

- Karin Limburg

6/8 - Ulster Park, HRM 85: As the weather heats up, thoughts turn to love (or at least procreation) even for snapping turtles. In our pond, two large snapping turtles were doing a rather inelegant dance. I don't envy turtles trying to mate while swimming, as these were doing. They were still at it when we left a half an hour later.

- Peter Relson, Carol Anderson

6/8 - Norrie Point, HRM 85: While this was a formal program, we were seining in a cauldron and the audience was having none of it. A dozen onlookers found shade overhead on the Norrie Environmental Education Center boardwalk. At low tide the inshore shallows had risen to 81 degrees F and the air temperature on the beach was 105. We hauled the net not expecting much but managed a dozen gorgeous male banded killifish. New-growth water chestnut was fast encroaching in the bay and out among the rosettes there were several huge explosions of spawning carp.

- 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. Tom Lake.]

6/8 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 75: The air temperature reached 95 degrees F today, tying the record high for the date.

- National Weather Service

6/8 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 69: I came upon a snapping turtle laying eggs early this morning on a steep bank behind my house. She covered them, turned to go back down and fell. Over and over she flipped landing on her back at the bottom. I watched her use her strong head and neck to right herself. It took a while, so she rested. Then, making her way slowly, she headed off for the Casperkill from whence she had come.

- Margie Robinson

6/9 - Selkirk, HRM 135: On my way to work early this morning I came upon two porcupines chewing away happily on the side of the road. They were only twenty feet apart and not fazed at all by my car. A ways down the road I saw the back ends of two coyotes jumping in the bushes. These are two species that I rarely see during the day. It was a day for "twos."

- Roberta S. Jeracka

6/9 - Castleton-on-Hudson, HRM 137.5: Between the high winds and pouring rain last night and the thunderstorm this afternoon, piles of white blossoms were already forming at the base of the catalpa trees, an earlier demise this year.

- Wilma Ann Johnson

6/9 - Norrie Point, HRM 85: We watched a large high school group in a series of activities at the Norrie Point Environmental Education Center. As smaller groups rotated through the beach seining activity, we monitored the catch for pumpkinseed sunfish, the species we wanted to obtain for a lab study. The tide was high and just beginning to recede, and the solar heat machine was driving the air temperature up once again. The catches were slim, but included spottail shiners, brown bullheads, American eels, bluegills, and a few pumpkinseed. We noted that one of the bluegills was heavily marked with red skin ulcerations. We also found a hybrid cross between a pumpkinseed and a redbreast sunfish - not uncommon, but interesting nevertheless.

- Karin Limburg

6/9 - New Paltz, HRM 78: We came upon two painted turtles in the act of laying their eggs this morning on a hillside above the Mill Brook. These are just dusty places in a sandy area of our yard; you wouldn't know anything had happened there unless you were watching. But the skunks will know; we're hoping to try to temporarily fence the nests in. Every year we see the damage after the skunks have found the nests and eaten the eggs.

- Shirley Warren

6/9 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 75: The air temperature reached 95 degrees F today, tying the record high for the date.

- National Weather Service

6/10 - Mohawk River, HRM 157: It was late afternoon and we were seining at the Lock 6 boat launch. We pulled our largest seine through a sparse bed of water chestnut, curly pond-weed, and wild celery, and finally struck gold: 17 pumpkinseed sunfish, most of them small. Additionally, we caught three yellow perch, a dozen common shiners, half as many spottail shiners, and a half dozen male creek chubs with handsome (to a female creek chub, at least) spawning tubercles decorating their heads. We also caught an inland silverside, a fish I used to see quite commonly at this site, but hadn't seen in the last couple of years. We noted numerous dead and dying blueback herring in the canal locks. We drove to an access point on one of the lock entrances, and managed to dip out five that I transported back to SUNY/ESF Syracuse to measure and age. These seemed small to me, and this was confirmed by a gentleman who was jigging the herring for bait. But what they lacked in size they made up for in numbers, he said. According to him, this was the best run he'd seen in ten years. The average size of these five fish was not quite 237 mm, which placed them in the bottom 9% of the size ranges I'd observed back in the late 1990s - early 2000s. And I would say that what I measured today was representative of the fish floating in the canal locks.

- Karin Limburg, Einat Sandbank

6/10 - Lake Hill, HRM 100: In a small pond alongside Cooper Lake Road, two beavers were busy building a dam and munching on the leafy tips of twigs. They weren't very large, but one of them looked like it might be nursing kits. They were working very close to the road and seemed unperturbed by the people walking by or the passing bikes and cars. I was standing on the edge of the road only 15-20 feet away from where they were working. It was a wonderful opportunity to observe these animals close up.

- Reba Wynn Laks

6/10 - Town of Poughkeepsie: In late afternoon, one of the adults in eagle nest NY62C swooped in and dropped a fish into the nest for the squealing eaglets.

- Bob Leak

[This was Day 72 for the nestlings at NY62C. On average, nestlings fledge, or leave the nest, flying for the first time, between Day 72-90. Tom Lake.]

6/10 - Cornwall-on-Hudson, HRM 57: For the past month we have been hearing reports of a beaver in the wetlands at the Hudson Highlands Nature Museum and wondered if it wasn't just a large muskrat that people were seeing. This morning our Director of Education, Judy Onufer, was getting ready for a program and spotted the "beaver." It was a lively river otter that ran along the bank of Goose Pond, dove into the water and then popped up onto a small island in the middle of the pond. We wonder if he is just visiting or has plans to stay.

-Pam Golben

6/11 - Kowawese, HRM 59: Seining Hudson tidewater always becomes more interesting as summer arrives and the multitude of young-of-the-year fishes show up, such as shad, herring, white perch, and striped bass. While it was still too early for those species, we still netted a few surprises, including a 12-inch white sucker, a 14-inch channel catfish, and a hogchoker the size of a nickel. The river temperature was 72 degrees F.

- Chris Lake, Jeanette Duran, Tom Lake

6/11 - Millford, CT: A 140-pound mountain lion was struck and killed by an automobile today less than 60 miles east of the Hudson River. With no native mountain lion population in Connecticut or New York, it is likely that the puma was an escape. The cat was transferred to wildlife personnel at a Connecticut environmental facility where DNA analysis may reveal its point of origin.

- Tom Lake

6/11 - Palisades, Rockland County, HRM 23: The shadbush berries started ripening this past week on the trees outside my office window. Robins have been the first birds to notice. This surprised me as I always think of robins as insectivores.

- Linda Pistolesi

6/12 - Town of Poughkeepsie: The adult male brought a small mammal to the nest (NY62C) today as a change-of-pace for the nestlings who have been feeding exclusively on fish.

- Tom Lake

[Prey items found in Hudson Valley bald eagles nests have included blueback herring, gizzard shad, American shad, alewives, eels, brown bullheads, chain pickerel, common carp, striped bass, Atlantic sturgeon, freshwater drum, white suckers, goldfish, snapping turtles, blue-winged teal, pied-billed grebe, muskrat, squirrels, and beaver. Tom Lake.]

6/12 - Town of Poughkeepsie: After a week without seeing N42 ("Mom") for certain, I finally had a visual as she brought in food. She did not stay long; one of the kids practically knocked her out of the nest. Later, both youngsters were sitting on their favorite perch above the nest. They run up the tree limb to get there and then jump back down to the nest. "Dad" was around earlier in the day, clucking.

- Terry Hardy

6/13 - Ulster County, HRM 76: Our group of eight was making the required evening Breeding Bird Census visit to a study site near the High Peterskill Trail at Minnewaska State Park Preserve. As it darkened, we filed cautiously down the High Peterskill Trail, stopping occasionally to stand silently listening for birds. We experienced the most thorough silence I can remember in a woodland setting. The air was still; not one leaf rustled. One lonely spring peeper somewhere "cheeped" on and on, and then stopped. At a great distance, something made a few low "chuffs"- no idea what that was. Adding to the eeriness of the silence was the dim whiteness everywhere of the mountain laurel in full bloom. Surrounded by darkness, the pale flower clusters seemed like clumps of foam on black motionless waves. Because of the moon behind the clouds, the sky never became fully dark, and even with flashlights turned off, the mountain laurel could be perceived. We filed quietly back and still no chirp, peep, rustle, snap, wingbeat, not even a cricket, only the whine of mosquitoes and the sound of hands brushing them off.

- Lynn Bowdery

6/13 - Hopewell Junction, HRM 68: We were treated to a visit by a beautiful male scarlet tanager at our feeders. We know this is within their range, but don't remember seeing them here before.
- Jackie Carey, Jerry Carey

6/13 - Fishkill, HRM 61: Looking out the window, I noticed a large bird with wings extended coursing through the trees. As it reached the open area in my yard, it quickly veered and propelled itself upward. It was then that I spotted its red tail, but tailing right behind the red-tailed hawk was a much smaller Cooper's hawk in hot pursuit. They were quickly out of my line of sight so I don't know the outcome.

- Ed Spaeth

6/13 - Beacon, HRM 61: It was another good day of fishing: I caught and released nine channel catfish and one carp. The channel catfish were all adults in the 14-20 inch range. The carp measured 25 inches and probably weighed 7 lb. It was a lean fish, either a post-spawn female or a male. The channel catfish were active throughout the entire ebb tide.

- Bill Greene

6/14 - Town of Poughkeepsie: Today was Day 75 for eagle nest NY62C. Both nestlings were getting very active, venturing out of the nest much of the time, climbing up stout limbs toward the 100-foot-high crown, at all times facing the river. It is amazing to see them scamper limb to limb, and then back, with much wing-flapping.

- Chris Lake, Tom Lake

6/14 - Town of Poughkeepsie: The nestlings were complaining in mid-afternoon. Mom had flown over a few hours earlier but had no food and did not go to the nest. The two youngsters began squabbling - all I could see was them charging each other and flapping their wings. I do not know it if was frustration or play, but it only lasted a few seconds before one of them went back up to a limb.

- Terry Hardy

6/14 - Town of Warwick, Orange County, HRM 41: We went looking for the sandhill cranes and black-bellied whistling ducks in Liberty Marsh (see May 25) but found neither. In a driving rain they might have been close by and gone unnoticed. It was surprising to watch large spawning carp leap and cavort in the shallow marsh. Liberty Marsh seems to freeze up in winter and we wondered how fish can survive. We did spot both Baltimore and orchard orioles and within the wooded tree line we heard both hermit and wood thrushes with their flute-like crystalline songs.

- Chris Lake, Jeanette Duran, Tom Lake

6/15 - Lake Hill, HRM 100: I captured a beetle that I initially thought might be an Asian long-horned beetle. It looked like there might be some alternating dark and light shading on the antennae, but it wasn't a clear black-and-white pattern. Further research on the Internet indicated that this beetle might be a native white-spotted pine sawyer beetle: "The white spot behind the head eliminates Asian long-horned beetle on both males and females." Since my beetle had a clear white spot on the back of the head that perfectly matched the picture on the website, I let it go free.

- Reba Wynn Laks

[The Asian long-horned beetle (Anoplophora glabripennis) is an invasive species, native to eastern China, Japan, and Korea. The beetle is believed to have arrived in New York City in the 1980s in wood packing material and was first noted in 1996 in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn. They feed on leaves and twigs of birch, chestnut, ash, maple, and a variety of other trees, killing severely infested trees. Tom Lake.]

6/15 - Lake Hill, HRM100: I was amazed to see a groundhog munching on milkweed leaves. Not only was the groundhog not put off by the inherent poison and milky sap, it seemed to eat the leaves with relish, returning even after I made several attempts to scare it off by yelling at it and making noise. With all the lush vegetation abounding, one would think that there were better-tasting plants around. I am not happy that the groundhog is eating potential monarch caterpillar food and might eventually even end up consuming monarch eggs in the process.

- Reba Wynn Laks

6/15 - Town of Poughkeepsie: Day 76. Both eaglets were up on a northwest-facing limb wing-flapping. One seemed much more assertive than the other. If I had to guess, I would say that the assertive nestling is a male and the more passive one is a female. At this stage in their life, males seem more self-assured, a role that will change over the next couple of years as the females catch up and go on by. In late morning the more assertive nestling lifted off the limb, hovering over open air, and then drifted back down (10-12') to the nest. We thought for sure he was leaving. Not today, it seems.

- Phyllis Lake, Tom Lake

6/15 - Town of Poughkeepsie: Dad brought a good-sized fish to the nest in mid-afternoon, but the nestlings still chattered loudly. When the male took off, he took the fish with him! These are part of the games eagles play to get nestlings to become fledglings.

- Tom Ferber

[It should be noted that over the last eleven years, this male has had a habit of odd behavior. It has not been uncommon for him to bring a fish to a perch near the nest, eat all the "good parts," and then bring what he does not seem to want to the nestlings. Tom Lake.]

6/15 - Beacon, HRM 61: Caught and released two nice carp today, 7.5 and 8 lb., as well as three channel catfish. The larger carp was a "mirror" carp - a common carp with a predominantly bare body. Except for a few odd-sized large scales scattered about, like large potato chips, a mirror carp hasn't any scales.

- Bill Greene

[Mirror carp are a variety, or genetic variation of the common carp (Cyprinus carpio). The difference is in the number of scales. Mirror carp, also called "half-scaled" carp, have many fewer scales, often in asymmetrical patches. Tom Lake.]

6/15 - Ossining, HRM 33: The wide meadow between Route 9 and the buildings along the river is usually teeming with Canada geese and black and gray squirrels. Late in the afternoon, we noticed four large birds, wild turkeys, foraging in the grass near the tree line. Someone else spotted their poults earlier in the day, but we weren't that lucky.

- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson

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