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Hudson River Almanac July 8 - July 15, 2011

OVERVIEW

This week saw an interesting mix of birds, fish and baby beavers. With river temperatures in the high 70s, canoes and kayaks were the best way to experience the estuary and its tributaries.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

7/14 - Norrie Point, HRM 85: During our evening stroll, walking parallel to the marsh between the railroad tracks and the boat marina, we noticed large ripples in the low tide water and an adult beaver swimming along. It did not mind our presence as it circled around, climbed into the mud flats opposite us, and began munching on spatterdock. A patch of plants wavered amidst motionless ones as the beaver nibbled the stems. Then it carried several long stems trailing from its mouth and swam toward its den, easily visible from the stone bridge - at low tide a good portion of the dome was above water level. The beaver dove, entered the den, and something wonderful happened: We could hear the mewling grunts and sounds of the kits for which the plants were intended. We also heard a splash. They made quite a racket, which would have been inaudible at high tide. An amazing coincidence of time and tide allowed us to hear them.
- Pat and Bill Joel

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

7/8 - Cornwall Bay, HRM 58: The best view of the bay at the mouth of Moodna Creek comes from along the railroad tracks. I set up my spotting scope amidst a half-dozen tiger swallowtails as my first monarch of the season fluttered by. It looked brand new - very clean and bright. Several hundred Canada geese were foraging among the extensive low tide sandbars and an immature bald eagle was eating a fish (ignoring the geese). In the background, up on the slope of Sloop Hill, perched an adult eagle, watching her new fledgling.
- Tom Lake

7/8 - Cornwall-on-Hudson, HRM 57: More than seventy summer campers, ages 5-15, were on the beach eager to see if the fish we promised would appear in our beach seine. It was still early in the summer so we did not expect many young-of-the-year (YOY) fishes. As it turned out we caught only two: one spottail shiner and one striped bass. Both were about a month old and only a half-inch in length. Yet while the former might reach 5" as an adult, the latter could grow to 50 lb. The largest fish was a 14" white sucker; the most interesting were a hogchoker the size of a quarter and a bright redbreast sunfish. The river temperature was 77 degrees F.
- Tom Lake, Dan DeGroat

[Young-of-the-year describes the multitude of recently hatched fauna found in the Hudson River each summer and fall. The progeny of shad, river herring, striped bass, white perch, blue crabs and many others are present by the millions. So many references are made of their presence that scientists use the abbreviation YOY as shorthand. Tom Lake.]

7/9 - Norrie Point, HRM 85: Sixty-five eager anglers, both adults and children, lined the patio and boardwalk at the Norrie Point Environmental Education Center for a day of fishing. Despite our modest bait (night crawlers) we caught 40 fish of seven species on rod and reel: white perch, golden shiners, American eels, pumpkinseed sunfish, bluegill, rudd, and brown bullhead. The catch diversity had changed with the spring to summer spawning seasons: yellow perch were common then, now it was pumpkinseed. The several small rudd (5-6") caught indicated local reproduction of this introduced species. Tiger swallowtails were common along with a single black swallowtail.
- Jim Herrington, Indie Bach, Ryan Coulter, Tom Lake

[Rudd are large minnows, native to Europe, introduced in Columbia County in the late 1920s. They are known primarily from the Roeliff Jansenkill watershed (HRM 111), although they have also been found in Catskill Creek. While closely resembling a golden shiner, they grow much larger. Their most distinguishing characteristic is their blood-red fins. Brassy to silvery sides has earned them the colloquial name of "pearl roach." John R. Greeley collected four specimens in the Roeliff Jansenkill in his 1936 faunal survey of the Lower Hudson Watershed. Tom Lake.]

7/9 - Marlboro, HRM 68.5: From our perch in a restaurant high above Lattintown Creek and its many waterfalls, we were enjoying a splendid view as that stream cascaded through the lush green woods below us to the placid Hudson River beyond. Still farther in the distance were wooded hills on the eastern shore in varying shades of green, and even through the sultry haze of this summer day we could see the distant Taconic Hills. Then, suddenly, the stillness of this panoramic landscape was made even more vivid as a hawk, its red tail aglow in the midday sun, streaked across the scene above the treetops with a much smaller common grackle in hot pursuit. Mother Nature paints the best pictures.
- Merrill Spaeth, Ed Spaeth

7/9 - Beacon, HRM 61: Scenic Hudson's Long Dock Park opened today following a year of extensive renovation. The 15 acre waterfront park provides excellent river access for anglers, blue crabbers, birders, educators, and daydreamers. Moving through the trees on the periphery of hundreds of visitors were a Baltimore oriole, an orchard oriole, a rose-breasted grosbeak, and two scarlet tanagers.
- Tom Lake

7/9 - Hudson River Estuary: So far in 2011, there has been only one confirmed mitten crab report for the Mid-Atlantic (May, Delaware Bay). The last record from New York was September 2010. There may have been other sightings that have not been reported. Visit our new Mitten Crab Watch website - http://mittencrab.nisbase.org/ - and update any recent records you may know from this year.
- Darrick Sparks, Mid-Atlantic Mitten Crab Coordinator, Marine Invasion Research,
Laboratory, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center

[The Chinese mitten crab (Eriocheir sinensis) is native to the estuaries of China where it is highly regarded in the market. Mitten crabs are catadromous, meaning that they spend much of their life in freshwater, then return to higher salinities in the lower estuary (15-20 parts per thousand salt) to reproduce. The salinity gradients of east coast estuaries like Chesapeake Bay, Delaware Bay, and the Hudson River are nearly ideal for them. Adult mitten crabs have a carapace width of about 3", but six of its eight legs are almost twice as long, giving them a "spider crab" look. Unlike the native blue crab, a swimming crab, mitten crabs are burrowing crabs, similar to our mud crabs only many times larger. They have a generalist diet, varied in prey, and their potential ecological impact on east coast estuaries is still unknown. The Marine Invasions Lab at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Edgewater, Maryland, is working with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, NOAA, and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources in monitoring their presence. Tom Lake]

7/10 - Tivoli North Bay, HRM 100: I led a group of 14 paddlers (13 kayaks, one canoe) on an exploration of the marsh at Tivoli North Bay. We heard several marsh wrens calling and even had two pop up. We paddled offshore to Magdalen Island to view the Catskill Mountain peaks. At the cliff edge on the southwestern side of the island we came across a 12-14" long (carapace) turtle, probably a common map turtle. The turtle was about 12' above the river. We left it alone, not sure if it was coming or going. After a hike along the island's western edge we returned to the spot and the turtle was gone. On the paddle back into the marsh, we had a good look at an osprey perched in a dead tree along the railroad tracks.
- Bob Rancan, George Cartemeil, Herta Dousebout, and friends

7/10 - Milan HRM 90: Today was a gift: blue sky, warm temperatures, light airs, and many birds. There were hummingbirds by the score, all females, "fighting" over the feeders. Later in the day a few males visited as well. Blackbirds and crows were trying to get away from their fledged young; redwings, goldfinches, mourning doves, cardinals, rose-breasted grosbeaks, red-bellied woodpeckers, wild turkeys, and the icing on the cake, a scarlet tanager, came in to feed on the berries of the honeysuckle. It was the first one we had seen here.
- Marty Otter

7/11 - Crugers, HRM 39: Sitting on the patio this evening, watching the crows fly to their roost and the bats commence their flights, it occurred to me that we have not had our house wren nesting this year. For the past three years (at least) we have had a house wren simultaneously raising three broods in the nesting cavities on the property. That bird, or any of its offspring, had not returned this year.
- Jim Grefig

7/12 - Stockport Creek, HRM 121.5: Canoeing with the Hudson River Research Reserve was quite exciting today. Despite the 95 degree weather [it was 99 in Wappinger Falls] I was able to watch a mink swim across the creek, a large water snake glide through the water, and an osprey chase an adult bald eagle.
- Rebecca Houser

7/12 - Saugerties, HRM 102: I had a lovely kayak paddle in the early evening with a very low tide and a near-full moon. The wild celery was finally showing although the water chestnut has already made its appearance. I spotted several muskrats swimming in Goldrick's Landing cove; they then scurried on land under a large tree root system. Spawning carp were jumping. It was a very calm night with a slight breeze helping to dissipate the 94 degrees of earlier today.
- Peg Duke

7/12 - Rhinebeck, HRM 90: As I was driving a back road with my son early this morning, a bird of prey descended in front of us and landed on the ground twenty yards off the edge of the road in the woods. Coming to a stop, we were able to see it was a barred owl. In a moment it took off and circled behind us and landed in a tree on the edge of the road where a juvenile was waiting. The adult then gave the young bird whatever it was it had caught, which was quickly consumed, and flew off. Backing up we were able to observe the young owl ten feet above us, calling out in a soft thin voice for more.
- Daniel Seymour

7/12 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 75.5: Our River Summer group hosted the Cary Institute Research Experience for Undergraduates students (sponsored by the National Science Foundation) and the Marist College summer students in the Exploring College Program for a trawl on the RV Sea Wolf followed by beach seining on the river's edge. The otter trawl yielded two large carp, several shortnose sturgeon, and a juvenile Atlantic sturgeon, as well as many hogchokers, white perch, American eels, tomcod, and three species of catfish (white, channel, and brown bullhead). Our beach seiners identified a young Atlantic needlefish, white perch, spottail shiners, hogchokers, tessellated darters, and pumpkinseed sunfish.
- Margie Turrin, Tim Kenna, River Summer team Module 2

[The tomcod at Poughkeepsie were all YOY about 3 inches long. We netted tomcod in several of our trawls this summer, finding them at Piermont and Haverstraw as well. Our sturgeon catches included six Atlantics - 21, 55, 76, 86, and 105 centimeters (cm) - and one little one ~ 6 cm as well as two shortnose 72 and 82 cm. Margie Turin.]

7/13 - New Windsor, HRM 60: For the past week, a little bird has been chit-chit-chitting all day in my yard. This little bird never took a break. I suspected there was a nest somewhere because I periodically hear the typical sounds of "feeding time." It was hard to spot the little noisemaker, but finally I saw it yesterday, with a flash of red and yellow on its head, a male golden-crowned kinglet. This morning he was back, just as noisy, and bolder. He sat in full view on a branch and I was able to walk up closer and get a good look. I expect to hear him all day again today!
-Joanne Zipay

[In the lower Hudson Valley we most often think of the golden-crowned kinglet as a migrant and winter visitor. It typically nests in boreal forest; New York State breeding records are concentrated in the Adirondacks. However, the NYS Breeding Bird Atlas shows confirmed nesting reports scattered across southeastern New York, including Orange County, as the kinglet does find habitat to its liking in spruce and other conifer plantations. Joanne thinks the nest may be located in her arbor vitae hedge. Tom Lake, Steve Stanne.]

7/13 - Nyack Beach State Park, HRM 31. We spent the afternoon at the beach with our small Waterway Expedition camp. We marked the water line with a stick and watched the tide roll out over three hours. We went barefoot, slipping and sliding on the clay bottom, letting it squish between our toes. We seined and caught three small fish we had never seen here before: a small catfish, a flounder, and an American eel. Following popsicles, we listened to passages from this week's Hudson River Almanac while hand-working and making plied rope bracelets of hemp, string and glass beads. A tiny, cold fresh mountain water rivulet from Hook Mountain ran across the beach to the warm salty river. We stood with a foot in each and it told the whole river story to our feet.
- Laurie Seeman

7/14 - Roeliff-Jansenkill, HRM 111: We were catching small eels in the mouth of the creek at low tide. We caught a couple of crayfish and were pleased to see that they were our native spinycheek. All too often we catch exotic, introduced species. We also caught a male blue crab (most of the upriver crabs are jimmies) about 4 inches carapace width. We have often seen blue crabs scuttling around in the rapids in Hudson River tributaries, although this is a first for the Roeliff-Jansenkill.
- Bob Schmidt, Haley Oller

7/14 - Saw Kill, HRM 98.5: We visited the eel ladder on the Saw Kill at Bard College, installed late this year due to logistical issues. Today there were eight eels in the bucket, 10-15 cm long, typical for this ladder. We measured them and let them go above the dam.
- Bob Schmidt, Haley Oller

7/14 - Rondout Creek, HRM 92: We were electro-fishing for predator fish as part of the DEC Shad Recovery Project when we spotted a female mallard with six little ones (maybe 4-5 days old). There was also a juvenile black-crowned night heron nearby, 30' from the ducks and looking at them. It ran about halfway to the ducks and stopped, but still stared. After 30 seconds it ran at them again and grabbed one of the little ones. The little ducks went everywhere and the hen (mom) mallard attacked. Another adult mallard appeared from nowhere and as the heron was about to take off with the little one, it dropped it. All the kids were safe! Phew!
- Wes Eakin, Jonah LaGrutta, Kris McShane

7/14 - Rondout Creek, HRM 92: Just before dusk, as the RV Sea Wolf transited out of the creek into the mainstem Hudson, we spotted a bald eagle perched on a stump in the expansively vegetated shallow beds. We watched as it remained rigid and apparently uninterested in what was going on in the water beneath the plants. We transited for close to two hours and when we returned the eagle was still sitting motionless on its perch.
- Margie Turrin, Tim Kenna, River Summer team Module 2

7/14 - Staatsburg, HRM 86: When I went out to my car this morning, I found something that made me very happy. Stuck to the roof was bat guano. Staatsburg used to have a large bat population. One evening in 1989 I tried to count the individual bats exiting from their roosts near my house and gave up at 50. I probably only counted half of them. But last year I saw no bats and no signs of bats all summer. Seeing an indication that there's at least one bat in Staatsburg this summer made my day.
- David Lund

7/14 - Town of Warwick, HRM 41: At midday from the parking lot at Liberty Marsh I spotted a juvenile white ibis in a fly-by. It may have landed in the far southern portion of the marsh. There was also a sedge wren to the west of the parking lot and a sandhill crane on the north side of Oil City Road.
-Rob Stone

[The white ibis, a southern species, is a rarity in New York State, especially away from the coast. This individual attracted many birders after Rob found it. The files of the Avian Records Committee of the New York State Ornithological Association include a record of another immature in the Hudson Valley at Piermont in 2008, and states that "This species remains rare in NYS, with the majority of records involving immatures. Prior to the Piermont bird, the most recent record is from 1990 (NYSARC 1990-28-A), although in the interim one or two additional sightings have been published but not submitted for NYSARC review." Steve Stanne.]

7/15 - Tivoli Bay North, HRM 100: We visited Tivoli Bay North for a canoe trip; the river was a warm 79 degrees F. We were thrilled to see a least bittern checking through the soil at the base of the reeds. As we slid by on the water it fluttered airborne, a result no doubt of our disturbance.
- Margie Turrin, Tim Kenna, River Summer team from Module 2

7/15 - Sleightsburgh Spit, HRM 91.5: Steve Stanne led our intrepid River Summer group on a bird walk. Among the many birds we sighted was an eastern kingbird with what appeared to be a large cicada in its mouth. Steve encouraged us to watch the bird to see what happened next. We had to wait a while - the bird was nervous in front of an audience - but eventually we watched it drop down to a nest with four young birds, incontrovertible evidence of a breeding kingbird in the area.
- Margie Turrin, Tim Kenna, River Summer team from Module 2


7/15 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: I was in my yard this morning when five adult bald eagles flew over my house. If I had not seen their white heads I would have never believed it. They looked great with that graceful look of an eagle in flight as they soared in a clear blue morning sky.
- Bobbi Buske

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