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Hudson River Almanac July 1 - July 7, 2011

OVERVIEW

With the frenetic rush of spring migration having passed, the Almanac broadens its array of observations to black bears, butterflies, and blue crabs. The first sights and sounds of warm summer days arrive with fireflies and cicadas.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

7/7 - Lake Hill, HRM 100: I was walking along the back edge of my property when I noticed a large black shape walking among the trees 100 yards away. I froze as I realized it was a large black bear. There were no cubs present, so I wondered if it was a male. The bear suddenly stopped and turned its head to look squarely at me. I got a good look at its massive head at which point I slowly backed away. Reaching my tree house, I decided to go up. By the time I got to the top and looked down again, the bear was gone. It was amazing how an animal of that size could so quickly and easily blend into the forest.
- Reba Wynn Laks

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

7/1 - Defreestville, Rensselaer County, HRM 142: I was walking through the yard at the historic VanAlen house and noticed that the staghorn sumac berries had ripened and that the St. John's wort was also in full bloom. It's only the first of July and it seems like everything is a month ahead of schedule.
- Roberta Jeracka

7/1 - Pleasant Valley, RM 76: I spotted my first monarch butterfly today doing exactly what she should be doing: flitting about the small milkweed stand by the edge of the woods and happily feeding. It is always good to see them return.
- Don Pizzuto

[Monarch butterflies bred in the Hudson River watershed migrate south as much as 2,700 miles to a wintering location in a mountain forest near Mexico City. They arrive in large numbers at the same roosts, often in the exact same trees. The length of the journey far exceeds the lifetime of a single monarch, which is less than two months for butterflies born in early summer. The last generation of the summer lives up to seven months, during which time it migrates to the wintering location. This generation does not reproduce until it leaves the following spring. How monarchs manage to return to the same wintering locale over a span of several generations is a mystery. It is their children's grandchildren that return south the following fall. Tom Lake.]

7/1 - Town of Poughkeepsie: The two fledgling eaglets from NY62C are using the surrounding several hundred acres as a classroom, exploring different kinds of perches, widening their world. Most, if not all, of their food is still being brought to the nest by the adults, and the eaglets are growing protective of their meals, cupping their wings over their food as they feed.
- Terry Hardy

7/2 - Town of Poughkeepsie: Early this morning, both of the eaglets from NY62C appeared to be waiting for food to be brought to them several hundred feet from the nest. Slowly, over the next month, the nest will lose its role as the epicenter of their new world. Mockingbirds began harassing them today, flying around, actually ramming into them knocking feathers from their backsides. The eaglets seem startled and responded by snapping at the birds as they flew around.
- Terry Hardy

7/2 - Putnam County, HRM 52: A young (probably a yearling) black bear was ambling around Brewster this evening. It crossed Route 22 and then waded across the East Branch of the Croton River. It was last seen at the Metro-North station, heading toward the woods.
- Hugh McLean

7/3 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 77: I stood along the Fall Kill today mourning the loss of a dear friend, Joe Devine, a friend of the Almanac and Historian for Town of Montgomery. Joe devoted the final chapter of his life to becoming an expert on Hudson Valley life at the end of the last Ice Age, the genesis of the river valley we know today. This was an appropriate spot, along Creek Road near Dutchess Community College, where evidence of Hudson Valley life before our species arrived - skeletons of extinct "elephants" - have been recovered several times over the last 150 years. The first few were recorded in 1854, others in 1902, and one more in 2000. Joe taught many of us to see the modern landscape through ancient eyes.
- Tom Lake

7/3 - Kowawese, HRM 59: This is a sample of poetry from sixth graders at Vail's Gate Tech Magnet School, inspired by a field trip taken in February 2011. The poems were entered in a River of Words competition and just now have become available. The ice is gone, the students have moved on, but the spirit of their words lingers.

_Dark & Cold_
The sky is dark, the night is cold,
As the dogs come out to play,
The tracks are a mystery as they fade away.
The sky is dark the night is cold,
As the eagle flies away,
I had fun even if I wasn't under the sun
And if the sky is gray.
The sky is dark, the night is cold,
As I fade away.
- Legacy Ford

7/4 - Hillsdale, Columbia County, HRM 119: As we were pulling some weeds in our flower bed we uncovered a large sphinx moth that had clearly just emerged from the pupa stage. It had unusual coloring - khaki green with a pink line on each wing. We had never seen this species before. With some research, we discovered it was Eumorpha pandoras, the Pandora sphinx moth. Larvae feed on Virginia creeper and grapes, both of which are in our yard.
- Bob Schmidt, Kathy Schmidt

7/4 - Wappinger Falls, HRM 68: We have a cardinal's nest in the yard and after they'd built their nest - but before the eggs had been laid - I witnessed both the male and female cardinal feeding a fledgling starling that seemed to have become separated from its family. It was quite surreal as the starling was wandering around the yard gaping at many of the other birds, including both adult and fledgling sparrows. It then approached the cardinals who were feeding themselves and after some initial reluctance both of them fed the starling. This happened three or four times in the course of five minutes before the cardinals left. It occurred again later in the day but this time the cardinals seemed even more reluctant and only fed it once before hopping away. The starling followed them gaping and squeaking at which point they flew way rather than feed it again. I've since seen the starling a couple of times in the yard and thankfully it is feeding itself.
- Jamie Collins

7/4 - Fishkill, HRM 61: Two ruby-throated hummingbirds were spotted this evening at our bright red monardia flowers. The male was doing his loop-de-loop dance for a short while before they both flew away.
- Ed Spaeth

7/4 - Tarrytown, HRM 27: A juvenile black-crowned night heron showed up at the Washington Irving Boat Club today and remained perched on one of the boat railings for several minutes, enabling me to get a good look at it with binoculars. Meanwhile, when launching the waverunner the same day, we chatted with a regular at the boat club and confirmed that our mystery Muscovy duck pretty much lives there, but they don't know where it came from. Boat club members feed it daily and have named it "Aflac."
- Chris Dunn

7/5 - Town of Poughkeepsie: It has been both fun and educational to watch the daily performances of the two eaglets from NY62C. The more assertive bird took a five-minute flight out over the Hudson River this morning. He was hurried on his way by a few territorial red-winged blackbirds.
- Tom Ferber, Peter Relson, Tom Lake

[One of them still seems to be more assertive than the other. Collectively we have been able to distinguish them by voice - the passive bird has a softer "cheep" - as well as plumage (the more assertive bird has considerable white chest feathers while the other bird has a full brown-feathered chest. Tom Lake.]

7/5 - Saugerties, HRM 102: It was wonderful to see the fireflies in the bushes and trees tonight; after an absence last year, it was almost like a midsummer's night dream!
- Peg Duke

7/5 - Fishkill, HRM 61: As part of the New York State Department of Health study on prevention of Lyme and other tick-borne diseases, two investigators came to our property to collect ticks by passing a white cloth sheet around the perimeter of our partially wooded property. Although we have been infested in the past with ticks in this area, and I posed no limits on the number of ticks that they could take, they only were able to collect one tick. Our property had been either sprayed with insecticide or a placebo of water earlier in June. We await the results of the overall study later this year.
- Ed Spaeth

7/5 - Croton Point, HRM 35-34: This has been a very quiet beginning to summer. Blue crabs are being caught in the Tappan Zee, but no one is dancing and shouting yet. Great egrets and great blue herons have taken over the marshes. On my daily walks, the "birds of the day" have been osprey and a spotted sandpiper.
- Christopher Letts

7/6 - Lake Hill, HRM 100: I had left my house and was walking to my car when I realized that a doe was standing on the lawn looking at me only 25 feet away. "Oh," I exclaimed, but kept right on walking as I was in a hurry. Putting my bag in the car, I returned to the house to get one more item. The doe stayed in the same spot and resumed eating. All I could think about as I drove away was that the doe was going to have a rude awakening come hunting season.
- Reba Wynn Laks

7/6 - Hyde Park, HRM 82: For the second day in a row, my husband and I watched a pair of adult bald eagles perched in a pine tree while we kayaked in the early morning past Bard Rock.
- Karen Becker

7/6 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 73: I heard my first cicadas of the summer chorusing.
- John Mylod

7/6 - Town of Poughkeepsie: I spotted the two juveniles perched together high in their tulip tree, loudly vocalizing to each other and to no one in particular. A Mylar balloon that had escaped a party headed in their direction. As it neared, the two juveniles stared at it wide-eyed. In the forest nearby, I heard and then spotted a pair of great crested flycatchers flying to and from a dead tree. There may have been a nest in the cavity they kept visiting.
- Jamie Collins

7/6 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67.5: Every summer I try but fail to get the first record of the summer cicadas with their dry-sounding rattle that fills the forest. I was close this year but lost once again to John Mylod (see above) by five minutes.
- Tom Lake

[These are periodical cicadas, sometimes referred to as "17-year locusts." The name, cicada, is a Latin word meaning "tree cricket." Cicadas are not locusts. Locusts are actually winged grasshoppers, the swarming phase of short-horned grasshoppers of the family Acrididae. Tom Lake.]

7/6 - Upper Nyack, HRM 31: I came home this evening to see a black bear lumber under my neighbor's arbor. He cut across the lawn, climbed down the hill past a garage, and made it through a deer fence. It was last seen heading for the river.
- Dan Wolff

7/7 - Kingston, HRM 92: As dusk was beginning to fall, and we were having dinner on the terrace of the Steel House restaurant, a large bird slowly flapped towards us over Rondout Creek. It wasn't clear at first if it was an eagle or a vulture, but as it flew almost directly overhead, the white wing tips and stubby body identified it as a black vulture.
- Reba Wynn Laks, Kathy Ambrosini

7/7 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 75.5: I stood along the river looking up at the Walkway Over the Hudson, a span that used to be known as the Poughkeepsie Railroad Bridge, completed in 1888 as the first bridge across the Hudson below Albany. If you have the patience to watch and wait, one of the peregrine falcons that nest on the nearby Mid-Hudson Bridge may come barreling past - their in-flight cruising speed is impressive. As I waited (it took a full 30 minutes today) I recalled a story told to me eleven years ago by Cal Rankin, a member of the climbing team that attended navigation lights on the Poughkeepsie Railroad Bridge. He told me of an October visit he made several years before to replace a burned out light. On that occasion he did not see the falcons but he knew they had been there by the collection of pink pigeon feet that were piled on the top of a bridge support. He concluded that peregrines loved pigeons, but took a pass on their feet.
- Tom Lake

7/7 - Town of Poughkeepsie: Today I watched as red-winged blackbirds took their turn harassing the two NY62C eaglets. Both of them were growing more confident, perched out in the open on light towers near a sports field. The adults are still trying to wean them off the nest at mealtime but when that fails, they relent and bring food to the nest.
- Terry Hardy

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