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Hudson River Almanac June 15 - June 20, 2012

OVERVIEW

There was a wide range of impressive events this week. Among them was the fledging of the NY62 eagle nestlings, a bottlenose dolphin in the Hudson River off Manhattan's west side, and a summer solstice that arrived with record-setting air temperatures.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

6/15 - Town of Hyde Park, HRM 82: It was nearly dusk when I spotted a skunk running along a brush line. I thought maybe the skunk had been hit or mauled because it looked as though it was running sideways and it had a "rolling" motion that seemed almost wave-like. Luckily, it was a mother skunk with six to eight babies running alongside, jumping on top of and in front of her and causing the different movements and motions. I watched them go about fifty feet then disappear into the woods.

- Michael Paul

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

6/15 - Town of Poughkeepsie: Day 80. The nestlings in NY62 were stubbornly holding their perches. When life gets too easy for them, that is to say ample food and adequate shelter, they are reluctant to leave. The adults were not around today while I was there but no doubt slip in and out a couple of times early and late with food.

- Tom McDowell, Tom Lake

6/15 - Fort Montgomery, HRM 46.5: The youngsters from the local mockingbird nest have fledged; they're buzzing around with stubby little tails and they only seem to be able to go in a straight line. I hope the local peregrines don't get them.

- Scott Craven

6/16 - Town of Poughkeepsie: Day 81. The nestlings were still clinging to the nest tree. They have also become increasingly vocal as they grow impatient with the sporadic food deliveries. Both of them were looking out to the river and calling every 30-40 seconds. Ultimately, hunger is the strategy the adults use to inspire the nestlings to become fledglings.

- Tom Lake

6/16 - Lake Hill, HRM 100: The wild turkeys have scooped out a sandy depression in our backyard where they like to take dust baths, presumably to help get rid of mites and other parasites. Today, my daughter and I watched as a cottontail rabbit hopped over to the depression and also started taking a dust bath. I had never before seen a rabbit do that. It was funny to watch the bunny lying with its white belly up in the air and its feet kicking up plumes of dust. I wondered if they it do it for the same reason as the turkeys.

- Reba Wynn Laks, Bayla Laks

6/16 - Crugers, HRM 39: We visited Ogilvie's Pond at dusk in hopes of seeing the great blue heron. Sure enough, we spotted it among the spatterdock on the far side of the pond. As we watched it through binoculars we were amazed to see four little masked faces right behind it. As the heron stood, frozen in its spot, two of the raccoons joined the others that were romping around in the brush behind. The raccoons and heron seemed comfortable with their arrangement.

- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson

6/16 - Yonkers, HRM 18: We spotted a foot-long Atlantic needlefish swimming close to the surface at the confluence of the Sawmill River and the Hudson. The carp have been taking advantage of the fish ladder incorporated into the lower waterfall of our daylighting project on the Sawmill River. Eight carp in the 16-20-inch range were seen this week in the upper pool. The only way they could have gotten there was by using the fish ladder.
- Bob Walters, Dave Cassidy, the Science Barge crew

6/17 - Connelly, Ulster County, HRM 91.5: I heard louder than usual pecking noises at the cat food bowl and looked out to see two black vultures on my front porch eating dry cat food (blue jays, starlings and "ladderbacks" - red-bellied woodpeckers - all seem to be fond of it as well). They polished off the cat food and then hung around until I made too much noise at which point they flew off to land on my neighbor's roof. It was a surprise and up close encounter (four feet away), with my cats watching them nearby on the lawn.

- Lauren Swartzmiller

6/17 - Town of Poughkeepsie: In mid-morning the NY62 eagle nestlings, 82 days after hatching, became fledglings. At 11:15 AM, I followed the "passive" bird as it made its maiden flight - a short circle over the edge of a field - before clumsily crashing, unharmed, into the canopy of a tall white pine 200 feet north of the nest. I missed the "assertive" bird's first flight, but it was longer - across a wide field at least 600 feet to some riverside hardwoods where I lost it in the greenery. I could hear the adult(s) in the distance. It was a successful launch; I'm sure the adults have enough experience to handle things now.

- Tom Lake

Eagle fledgling

[This mated pair (NY62) has been together for thirteen years and has now fledged eleven nestlings over twelve nesting seasons. The average time to fledge has been 77 days. The longest was 85 days in both 2002 and 2011 and the earliest was 69 (2006).Given our collective observations over the last 82 days, we suspect that the "assertive" nestling that fledged first is a male and the "passive" nestling that followed is a female (these are roles that will change dramatically over the next few years). While she seems less assured now, her sense of caution will serve her well throughout her life. Tom Lake. Photo by Tom McDowell.]

6/17 - Croton Point, HRM 34-35: We conducted three days of beach seining both for education and for stocking the Clearwater display aquaria at the Great Hudson River Revival. The most unusual catch was young-of-the-year spot (Leiostomus xanthurus), a saltwater panfish, not unusual in itself, but in the fact that we caught dozens of them, 60-80 millimeters [mm] long, all on the south shore of the point. The catch on the north shore was less impressive, with the star being a beautiful adult menhaden (bunker), 14 inches long. Salinity was about 6.0 parts per thousand on the south side of the Point.

- Eli Schloss, Chris Bowser, Beth Roessler, Dave Bragaitis, Danielle Laberge, Steve Stanne.

[Spot are a sporadic visitor to the Hudson estuary. Their colloquial name, Lafayette, honors the Marquis de Lafayette; his 1824 visit to New York City to be honored for his role on behalf of the colonies during the American Revolution coincided with unusually large numbers of these small drum in New York Harbor and the lower Hudson estuary. The drum family also includes freshwater drum, black drum, northern kingfish, croakers, weakfish, and silver perch. Most of them have highly specialized swim bladders that serve as sound-producing organs, hence the family name. Tom Lake, C. Lavett Smith.]

6/17 - Manhattan, HRM 8.0-2.0: At 2:00 PM, a dolphin was spotted swimming in the Hudson River off Harlem. Two hours later, it was seen again south near Chelsea. After looking at photos, our best guess is that it was the offshore variety (morphotype) of bottlenose dolphin.

- Kim Durham, Riverhead Foundation

[The bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus), often caricatured (see the Miami Dolphins NFL football team), is a marine mammal commonly seen "porpoising" along ocean beaches of the mid-Atlantic from late spring through early fall. Dolphins are rare in the estuary, however, and animals that do appear here may be disoriented. The Almanac has recorded a few bottlenose dolphin occurrences:

- In February 1996, Tim Long took photos from the Tappan Zee Bridge of an adult and a juvenile bottlenose dolphin swimming upriver.

- On May 25, 1997, at Turkey Point (river mile 98), a 340 lb, eight-foot-long female bottlenose dolphin was rescued by NYSDEC and taken to the Aquarium for Wildlife Conservation in Brooklyn.

- On November 3, 2008, an offshore bottlenose dolphin was spotted in Peekskill Bay (river mile 43) and followed, through observations, upriver to Kingston (river mile 91) a week later. On November 26, the eight-foot-long dolphin was found dead hear Rhinecliff (river mile 88) confirming our suspicions that it had been ill.

To report a sighting of a healthy, sick, alive or dead marine mammal or sea turtle, contact The Riverhead Foundation at their emergency 24-hour Stranding Hotline phone number: (631) 369-9829. For more information on The Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation, go to: http://www.riverheadfoundation.org/. Tom Lake.]

6/18 - Bearsville, Ulster County, HRM 101: It was mid-morning and I was entertaining two boys with cell phone photos of a local mama bear and her cub, when the five-year-old boy pointed out a huge black bear at the edge of his yard!

- Krista Munger

6/18 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: I looked out the window today to see three woodchucks ravaging my sugar snap peas! I tore out of the house hollering "Shoo, Shoo you horrid rodents!" It was probably not a permanent deterrent, but I sure scared them away. The nasty creatures tore down the pea vines, ate most of the peas and, while they were at it, the lettuce, parsley, cilantro, and arugula. Grrr and boo hoo.

- Robin Fox

6/19 - Town of Poughkeepsie: The entire NY62 family was there midday: the two adults and two fledglings. The female spent all afternoon in the nest tree while the male, after delivering a fish, came and went. The two fledglings were showing much ease with their new talents, flying from tree to tree and then returning to the nest for meals.

- Terry Hardy

6/19 - New Hamburg, HRM 67.5: I spotted the same large turtle on our driveway again today (see 6/13); she was sitting right in the center of the drive. Upon closer inspection I could see that she was a map turtle. Her carapace was 9-10 inches in length. Her plastron confirmed that she was a female map turtle. I moved her to the side of the drive and shortly thereafter she was lost in the underbrush.

- David Cullen

6/19 - Jersey City, NJ: It is my pleasure to go to the street when the "eyases" fledge [nestling peregrine falcons]. The three falcon nestlings were out on the ledges of the building on June 10. Six days later, they had almost all fledged, but not without tragedy. One fledgling was found dead on June 15 at 10 Exchange Place. This was most likely a collision with a window in the building. We verified two young birds on June 16, but only one a day later. We were treated to a 200 mph stoop by the adult female peregrine from the top of 101 Hudson. She caught a pigeon 30 feet overhead and circled low as the bird was big and heavy. She prepped it and delivered it to an already stuffed fledgling on 101 Hudson Street.

- Bonnie Talluto

6/20 - Lake Hill, HRM 100: In early evening, my friend Dan Goldman came upon a group of bears outside of his home. They were on the ground when first sighted - the cubs walking about on their hind legs and mama seated on her haunches. As mama rose up, the cubs went up a tall pine in the yard. She was patrolling the periphery of the lawn when I, unwittingly, approached the house and she saw me. As I was a long way from any shelter but the house, I made for the door in a wide sweep around her and she allowed me to pass. Shortly thereafter she was heard tipping the "bear-proof" garbage cans out on the road while the cubs remained in the tree. She returned an hour later to the bottom of the tree and the cubs came down. Then they all bounded away down the bank into the Beaverkill and disappeared. In the morning I saw tipped cans for more than a mile down Route 212.

- Krista Munger

6/20 - Town of Hyde Park, HRM 82: Bobcat sightings were a regular occurrence for about a decade; every year or so we even saw a mother and her kittens. But over the last couple of years, they've disappeared. Tonight, at dusk, I saw one running with a turkey poult in its mouth. I saw a wild turkey hen ten days ago with a good flock of at least ten poults. She now has just one left.

- Michael Paul

6/20 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 75: The air temperature reached 96 degrees Fahrenheit today, a record high for the date. Combined with high humidity, it felt even hotter - the "heat index" was 106 degrees.

- National Weather Service

6/20 - Kowawese, HRM 59: The interval between first light and dawn can be such a beautifully serene time along the river. The Hudson Highlands were cloaked in haze, promising a sultry summer day. This was the summer solstice and the air temperature would later climb to 96 degrees. The river felt cool (76 degrees) as we hauled our seine and, as we beached the net, the meshes danced in the wet sand. We had caught a dozen hand-sized sunfish, half pumpkinseed and half redbreast. All were males in breeding colors and they took our breath away - the colors were exquisite. All had turquoise piping on their gill covers and, on the pumpkinseed, they extended over much of their head. The redbreast sunfish were flouting their fiery red-orange undersides and narrowly won the beauty contest.

- Tom Lake, A. Danforth

6/20 - New York City: On the first day of summer, the air temperature reached 98 degrees Fahrenheit, a record high for the date. The old record was 96.

- National Weather Service

6/20 - Newark, NJ: The air temperature reached 98 degrees Fahrenheit today, a record high for the date. The old record was 97.

- National Weather Service

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