Hudson River Almanac June 1 - June 7, 2012
The week's highlights were shared among birds and fish. A pair of Mississippi kites (rare in New York) is apparently nesting in Orange County. Another kite may have been sighted in Greene County. Many Hudson Valley eagle nests are within days, weeks at the most, of fledging their young.
HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK
6/7 - Rockland County, HRM 23: Cottage Lane fifth-grade students held their annual day at Tallman Mountain State Park. I was situated overlooking Piermont Marsh, the topic of my presentation to the students. Each time I look down over the marsh I am reminded that this is a tide marsh in transition. I had planned to collect samples and talk about Spartina, chairmaker's rush (Scirpus), cattails, and Phragmites, explaining the role of each in the marsh's history. However, I can no longer find Scirpus to show them so I resorted to a photo from a few years ago. Yesterday I went to collect samples of cattails but in each place I remembered seeing them they were gone, replaced by Phragmites, so I resorted to another photo. There was a small postage stamp stand of Spartina just visible to the students in the center of the towering Phragmites, so we viewed that from a distance and wondered how long it would remain.
- Margie Turrin
NATURAL HISTORY NOTES
6/1- Newcomb, HRM 302: Many beautiful wildflowers were in full bloom. Pink lady's slipper (Cypripedium acaule) and twin-flower (Linnaea borealis) were both flowering in the deep, moist woods. In the open fields and roadsides, there were lots of meadow hawkweed (Hieracium caespitosum) and orange hawkweed (H. aurantiacum). I have often heard, in the northeast, hawkweed erroneously referred to as "Indian paintbrush" (most species of Indian paintbrush occur in the West and Southwest). Black raspberry looks like it is going to have a great year. Those I have seen are covered in blossoms and if the weather cooperates, there will be lots of berries this summer. Wild strawberries are ripening as well. I had a great opportunity to watch a northern goshawk while walking in the woods yesterday morning. I was apparently too close to the nest, which the bird brought to my attention by repeatedly diving and swooping at my head. I could feel the air from the bird's wings on the back of my neck as it aggressively escorted me out of the area.
- Charlotte Demers
6/1 - Coxsackie, HRM 124: I have been trying to work out the identity of a bird I saw flying over a farm a mile or so west of the Coxsackie waterfront. At first I thought it was a nighthawk or whip-poor-will from the pointed wings and momentarily erratic flight, but I've seen many of those on the wing; this bird was too large. It was falcon-shaped too, so I reviewed our falcons in my mind: kestrels, merlins, peregrines. It had the gray of a merlin, but I still wasn't convinced. Then last week's Almanac reports of Mississippi kites in the valley had me on an entirely different tack, and I'm more convinced now that it was a kite.
- Dennis Mildner
6/1 - Fishkill, HRM 61: I woke up at 3:30 this morning to my dogs growling. Floating in through my open bedroom window were the sounds of a coyote duet with some accompanying yips.
- Lee Banner
6/1 - Orange County, HRM 35: The pair of Mississippi kites seen near the Sterling Forest State Park Visitors Center for at least the last week is apparently nesting. They have been seen copulating and carrying nesting material. I saw the male today with a stick in his talons; the female may have been on the nest.
- Jesse Jaycox
[If successful, the Sterling Forest Mississippi kites will be the second confirmed pair to nest in New York State. The first confirmed breeding by this species in New York was in the Town of Root, Montgomery County, in 2010. That pair was first reported in Montgomery County in 2009, but nesting wasn't confirmed. In 2010, the Montgomery County pair nested successfully producing a single fledgling that I saw later in the season. I found the nest but kept the location secret, as I promised the landowner, except for reporting it to New York State Avian Records Committee. The pair was seen in the same area in 2011, as well. Jesse Jaycox.]
[Note: The Sterling Forest State Park Visitors Center is in Orange County, not Rockland County as reported last week. Tom Lake.]
6/1 - Croton Point, HRM 34: I walked onto the south-facing beach that I like to walk when the tide is low. But the tide was high and coming in fast and strong so I paused to sit on one of the driftwood logs. Ten feet from me, a snapping turtle was lying in a hole it had dug out of the sand and gravel. She made small movements and I deduced that she was probably in the process of laying her eggs, so I gave her a wide berth and moved on.
- Stephen Butterfass
6/1 - Croton Bay, HRM 34: Stan Drisek and I put a couple of crab pots in overnight and today we shared and enjoyed 17 market-size (#1 Jimmies, carapace width 6-7 inches) blue crabs for dinner.
- Christopher Letts
6/2 - Newcomb, HRM 302: The first white-tailed deer fawns of the season have been spotted (no pun intended). The first two weeks of June are usually the peak fawning time in the central Adirondacks. Female snapping turtles have joined the wood turtles in digging nests and laying eggs. I've seen many snappers crossing the roads looking for a place to excavate a nest to deposit their ping-pong-ball-looking eggs. Unfortunately, though the edges of roads provide good substrate for digging the nest, they are a poor choice of location as some females and hatchlings get hit by automobiles.
- Charlotte Demers
6/2 - Ulster County, HRM 78: We led the annual Rockland Audubon trip to the Shawangunk Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge this morning and it turned out to be a productive day. Highlights included five upland sandpipers in view at one time. Overall, 64 species were seen, including eastern meadowlark, bobolink, American kestrel, northern harrier, greater yellowlegs, brown thrasher, and a colony of bank swallows.
- Alan Wells, Della Wells
6/2 - Putnam Valley, HRM 55.5: I haven't seen (or heard) a mourning dove this year in contrast to the usual number around my immediate environs. A friend in Ossining reported to me than she has seen fewer, but not alarmingly so.
- Nancy P Durr
6/2 - Croton River Marsh, HRM 34: The tide was nearing low in early afternoon and several small tide pools were forming in the marsh, apparently stranding small fish. After a few aborted dives, an osprey came off the water with a white perch in its talons. Within seconds, a kingbird was all over the raptor. The osprey used its incredible aerial maneuverability but still could not shake the kingbird. The much smaller aggressor did not relent until the osprey had disappeared over the railroad yard and on toward Croton Point.
- Tom Lake
6/2 - Ossining, HRM 33: This was the culmination of the day-long Riverkeeper Sweep, a day of helping restore the estuarine shoreline by removing trash and planting trees. Not neglecting the river life, we hauled our 85-foot-long seine through the shallows and caught seven kinds of fish, including Atlantic silverside, banded killifish, spottail shiners, American eel, white perch, a yearling striped bass 115 millimeters [mm] long, and several yearling American shad (105 mm). Ten blue crabs were captured and released, all females but one. The river was 74 degrees Fahrenheit and the salinity 5.0 parts per thousand.
- Ava Bynum, Philip Musegaas, Tom Lake
[The American shad were kept (frozen) for laboratory analysis. There was some question as to whether these were precocious young-of-the-year fish or wayward yearlings in from the sea. Karin Limburg at SUNY's College of Environmental Science and Forestry will perform some magic on them - analyze tissues for stable isotopes, age them from their otoliths (ear bones), analyze the otoliths for longer-term chemistry, look at their stomach contents - and then let us know where they have been. Tom Lake.]
6/3 - Town of Poughkeepsie: One of the nestlings, now nearly the size of the adult male who was perched nearby, sat on the rim with a small fish protruding from his beak. We watched him for long minutes as he perched, daydreaming, slowly munching on the fish like it was beef jerky. The adult took off and rose in the sky over the nest, caught a brisk west wind and in seconds was "kiting" overhead.
- Tom Lake, T.R. Jackson
["Kiting" is a term used to describe a bird in flight, usually a raptor, which has caught a breeze and - without beating its wings - hangs in one spot in the sky, in aerodynamic equilibrium, like a kite on a string. Tom Lake.]
6/3 - Town of Fishkill, HRM 63.5: A string of six Baltimore orioles, lit by the early morning sun, flew right in front of me at the north entrance to Stony Kill Farm. Later, I spotted four cedar waxwings sitting in the willow tree by the cow pasture. What a nice way to start the day.
- Andra Sramek
6/3 - Orange County, HRM 35: A few days ago at the Mississippi kite location in Sterling Forest, I identified a dragonfly as an Illinois river cruiser (Macromia illinoiensis illinoiensis). This made sense as that is the only river cruiser dragonfly with records from New York State. It is considered the northern subspecies of what is now called swift river cruiser. I noticed something was amiss when I edited a picture for posting on a dragonfly e-mail list. Then I got feedback from the leading expert in the state on dragonfly identification, and he is of the opinion that this is either the southern subspecies Georgia river cruiser (M. i. georgina) that ranges from central New Jersey southward, or a hybrid.
- Steve Walter
6/4 - Town of Knox, Albany County, HRM 142: We had several families of Canada geese using our small wetland and pond this year. As usual, in due course a pair showed up on the pond with three goslings. They were around for a few days and then the goslings disappeared. A week later another pair showed up with two babies. These too were seen with their parents for about a week and then vanished. Several days after the last goslings were seen, we saw a snapping turtle making its way along the side of the ditch that drains the wetland into the pond.
- Pat and Bob Price
6/4 - Newburgh, HRM 61: I watched a red fox crossing heavily traveled Route 17K. Despite the extensive development in the area, this is evidently an ancient wildlife corridor. A few years ago, my vehicle collided with a young deer at this same locale. The young deer survived but my vehicle had much damage. Our road planners need to address the need for wildlife passageways across or under some of our busy roadways.
- Ed Spaeth
6/5 - Newcomb, HRM 302: I saw two different white-tailed deer fawns today. I almost stepped on the first one while I hiking in the woods. I'm sure it was startled as well but I believe my heart skipped a beat when it popped up off the ground from two feet away. It ran a short distance and dropped back down to the ground. I gave it a wide berth when I left the area so as not to disturb it again. I saw a second fawn with its mother a bit latter in the day. They were both in some very tall grassy vegetation at the edge of a marsh. The little fawn looked more like a rabbit as it tried to jump through the tall vegetation, just its big ears showing as it trailed behind the doe.
- Charlotte Demers
6/5 - Constitution Island, HRM 52.5: Two ravens were engaged in apparent aerial courtship - wing touches, body bumps, and shadowing - over the north end of the island. Ravens nest just a couple of miles north on both Storm King Mountain and Breakneck Ridge.
- Tom Lake
6/5 - Yonkers, HRM 18: We came upon a dead Atlantic sturgeon of indeterminate length caught in the rip-rap just north of the J.F. Kennedy Marina. I used my sixteen-foot-long kayak for scale. The head appeared to have a cut across the top and the end of its nose was mangled. It may have been hit by a propeller.
- Bob Morrow
[If you find a dead sturgeon floating in the Hudson or washed up on shore, please notify the DEC by calling 845-256-3071 (Kathy Hattala) and 845-256-3073 (Amanda Higgs). We will need the following information:
- Specific location;
- Condition (really rotted or freshly killed);
- Any signs of trauma, and if present, where on the fish;
- Estimate (or measure) total length from nose to tip of upper tail fin (caudal fin) or whatever is left of the carcass;
- Look for any external tags - usually a yellow streamer at or near the base of the dorsal fin; on some fish, the left pelvic fin may be cut off (pelvic fins are the pair of fins on the belly);
- A picture of the entire fish and any visible injury; also a picture of the head and mouth (from below) to verify identification (Atlantic or shortnose).
Leave the fish where you found it - possession is not allowed.
Please email information and pictures to the Hudson River Fisheries Unit at HudsonRiverFish@dec.ny.gov
6/5 - Manhattan, HRM 0: I took the noon Staten Island ferry Andrew J. Barberi from the Battery over and back. It was cool and breezy and the sky was dark and stormy. The Staten Island ferry, a twenty minute boat ride each way across the Upper Bay of New York Harbor, is free. It is one of the bargains of the Hudson River Valley and a wonderful opportunity to be on the water, smell the salt (the salinity of the Upper Bay can be up to 80% of open ocean salinity), hear the gulls, and see some birds. Today's count included some least terns, common terns (one was carrying a small fish), double-crested cormorants, ring-billed gulls, herring gulls, and lots of laughing gulls.
- Tom Lake
6/6 - Town of Gardiner, HRM 73: As I was traveling east toward New Paltz this morning, I came upon a young porcupine standing in the road. I stopped; the porky looked at me, and then began walking slowly. I flashed my lights at a car coming toward me and it stopped. After several starts and stops, the porky got to the other side and we all went our own way. None of the drivers honked in frustration; everyone was willing to wait. I haven't seen a porcupine in years so it was a special treat.
- Roland Ellis
6/6 - Orange County, HRM 35: I watched both Mississippi kites near the Sterling Forest State Park Visitors Center over the last two days, marveling at their acrobatics as they picked off dragonflies. Some of them were caught as the kites dove to just a foot or two above ground.
- Robert Adamo
6/6 - Irvington-on-Hudson, HRM 24.5: Our two resident wild tom turkeys have been actively courting the females at Washington Irving's home at Sunnyside. Only recently have the males stopped displaying their tail feathers in beautiful fans. Two large snapping turtles came out of the pond on the property and have been laying eggs all around the grounds. So far we do not think that the nests have been disturbed by predators. The bullfrogs have begun their daily chorus.
- Dina Rose Friedman
6/7 - Town of Poughkeepsie: This was Day 72 for the two eagle nestlings in NY62. Both were out of the nest, having climbed separately up one of the stout limbs supporting the nest. They were preening as well as spreading their wings and flapping as they hopped along their limb. Neither adult was around. At this point, other than to deliver food and spend the night nearby, the adults are usually off hunting for themselves or resting in a riverside canopy.
- Tom Lake
[Bald eagle nestlings take their first fight, or fledge, on average between Days 72-90. Over the last eleven years, on average, the NY62 nestlings have left the nest by Day 78. Tom Lake.]
6/7 - Manhattan, HRM 3.5: A male Wilson's warbler was feeding on the insects in the flower shrubs in the border garden south of the Great Lawn at Bryant Park. The bird was identifiable without binoculars. A male American kestrel flew to a perch in a tree above the Bryant Park Cafe and was seen flying and perching in the London planes along the north edge of the park. The young peregrine falcon was visible in the nest box on the south side of the Met Life Building near Grand Central Terminal. It was flexing and flapping its wings while standing in place.
- Ben Cacace
6/7 - Manhattan, HRM 1: In mid-afternoon, one of the adult red-tailed hawks that have a nest atop the New York University library at Washington Square Park was perched on a lamppost near the south end of the park (actually on a cast-iron bird that decorates the lamp). It was the female, Rosie, and she looked truly majestic, every bit a hawk! She gave many people a great photo opportunity. I watched for fifteen minutes and took some photos, before walking on.
- Thomas Shoesmith