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Hudson River Almanac June 21 - June 28, 2012

OVERVIEW

The impartial highs and lows of natural history were evident this week. We gained a new fish species but we lost a marine mammal. The results from three weeks of Atlantic sturgeon sampling by DEC provided more insight into the life history of this newly-designated federally endangered species.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

6/23 - Upper Bay, New York Harbor: Steve Cherry was fishing for fluke [summer flounder] in the Upper Bay about a mile north of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge when he caught a bluntnose stingray (Dasyatis say). Steve's fish was an adult female 30 inches long (minus its long tail), weighing about 10 pounds. The stingray took a standard fluke fishing rig of a spearing [silverside] and a strip of squid. Fishing for summer flounder has been excellent in recent weeks in the Upper Bay with 8-9 pound fish being caught.

- Tom Lake

[The bluntnose stingray is a new fish species (number 219) for the Hudson River watershed (email trlake7@aol.com to request an MS Word version of the new Hudson River Fish Fauna Checklist). That is not to say the ray has never been here before; this was simply the first time that we are aware of that someone has caught and reported one. The bluntnose stingray is found in marine waters from Cape Cod south through the Caribbean and is considered a temperate marine stray in the Hudson. Stingrays are non-bony, cartilaginous fishes related to sharks. Their common name comes from a knife-like venomous, barbed spine at the base of their tail. Careless handling by anglers can result in serious injury. Tom Lake.]

[If angling for fluke, be aware that there is a daily limit of four fish, minimum size 19.5 inches, in New York State. The season runs May 1-September 30.]

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

6/21 - Clermont, HRM 105: In early afternoon, I spotted a bobcat - black ear tips and longer hind legs - crossing Woods Road between Clermont State Park and Germantown. The cat crossed 30 feet in front of our car at an accelerating lope, turning its head to examine us before moving into the brush. The cat had interesting coloration: medium reddish-brown fur, a shade or two deeper than a white-tailed deer's, almost fox-like, without spots. It appeared to be 16-18 inches high at the shoulder, 24-28 inches long. This may not have been noteworthy, except for the time of day (they are more frequently nocturnal) and the coloring.

- Greg Esch

6/21 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 75: The air temperature reached 96 degrees Fahrenheit today, tying the record high for the date.

- National Weather Service

6/21 - Town of Poughkeepsie: The NY62 eagle nest fledglings were back in their pre-fledge perches. If we had missed the last several days, we might still be wondering if they had taken their first flight. From all indications, they are adjusting well to their new world. Life is good!

- Tom Lake, T.R. Jackson

6/21- Town of Newburgh, HRM 61: I noted nesting activity on May 2 at three great blue heron nests in the Town of Newburgh. Today, I spotted some of the youngsters standing at these nests, waiting expectantly for adults to return to feed them. Most of them looked as if they were nearly fully-developed and ready to fledge. Some may have already fledged, as one nest had four and the other two nests had two herons each.

- Ed Spaeth

6/21 - Crugers, HRM 39: We stopped by Ogilvie's Pond at dusk to see if our resident great blue heron was around. The spatterdock was brown and had crowded most of the pond except for a small area of open water. Instead we were thrilled to see a black-crowned night heron standing stock still in the water, its black crown and beak clearly visible. It didn't move for quite a while, but eventually walked behind the Phragmites at the edge of the pond.

- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson

6/21 - Inwood Hill Park, HRM 12.5: The path up through The Clove was brightened by yellow jewelweed blossoms ( Impatiens pallida). Atop the ridge it seemed that every patch of sunlight through the trees was ablaze with orange tiger lilies. Among several sumac trees, I saw just one with bright red cones of fruit. The temperature was 92 degrees F, but it felt cooler in the park. With trees and bushes in full leaf, this seemed like deep woods. This time of year it's particularly hard to believe that this forest is on Manhattan Island.

- Thomas Shoesmith

6/21 - Manhattan, HRM 2.5: Our Riverhead Foundation team was dispatched today to recover a deceased dolphin at Chelsea Pier 59. We do not know yet if this is the same dolphin spotted several days ago [see 6//17] swimming in the Hudson River along the west side of Manhattan.

- Kim Durham

6/22 - Croton River, HRM 34: An adult osprey was perched on a snag inside the railroad bridge; an immature was similarly perched one hundred yards away outside the bridge in Croton Bay. Periodically, the adult would take off, cross the tracks, and stoop [dive] on the immature. This continued for ninety minutes.

- Christopher Letts

6/22 - Bronx, New York City, HRM 13: I watched a flock of nine mute swans paddling north up the Hudson this morning. They first appeared at Inwood Park and then came steadily northward past the train trestle at Spuyten Duyvil where the Harlem River meets the Hudson. A few minutes later they took to the air and made a quick pass back past my windows before making a graceful arc westward across the river. It was a very beautiful sight and, in my experience, very unusual. I have lived right on the Hudson for nearly eleven years and have occasionally seen a swan, maybe once a year, but cannot ever remember seeing as many as nine at a time.

- Jennifer Scarlott

6/23 - Town of Poughkeepsie: The new fledglings were eating well. They were perched nearly side-by-side in a red oak not far from the NY62 nest tree today when Mama brought a medium-sized carp (three pounds?) up from Wappinger Creek. The immatures displayed amazing self control as they maneuvered on the limb so that both could feed.

- Tom Lake

6/24 - Mohawk River, HRM 157: We were electro-shocking below Canal Locks 7, 9, 11, and 15 to look at blueback herring use of the Mohawk River for spawning as part of a project funded by the Water Resources Institute at Cornell University. It was clearly the tail end of their spawning run; we only collected nine fish, all at Locks 11 and 15. We also collected numerous shorthead redhorse suckers at Lock 7, along with white sucker, smallmouth bass, and carp. At the last station we also got into some walleye; perhaps they were still on their spawning run. The river was warm - 74 degrees F.

- Karin Limburg, Christopher Legard, Scott Wells

6/24 - Norrie Point, HRM 85: A steady stream of fish was caught during the NYSDEC-sponsored Public Fishing Day. Included were pumpkinseed and bluegill sunfish, white perch, and channel catfish. Elizabeth Athanasiou was "high hook" with two large channel catfish as well as several gorgeous pumpkinseed sunfish.

- Tom McDowell

6/25 - Town of Fishkill, HRM 63.5: 8:45 pm. While on an evening walk, I could see five waddling, black-and-white bodies moving across my lawn. It was a family of five skunks, two adults and three babies whose coats were mostly white rather than the usual black. As they all waddled along in a straight line, it reminded me of the elaborately costumed marchers in the Mummer's Day parade!

- Andra Sramek

6/25 - Crugers, HRM 39: As we approached Ogilvie's Pond this evening a pair of pretty wood ducks was perched on a branch on the far side of the pond. The black-crowned night heron that we first saw four days ago flew in and landed right beside the wood ducks. Its thick, black bill and black cap contrasted with its white body and gray wings and its long, thin, white plume was clearly visible. We watched as the heron slowly made its way into the water and then snatched an insect as its fat neck extended under the brush at the side of the pond.

- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson

6/26 - Hyde Park, HRM 82: Two very large snapping turtles reside in a pond at Eleanor Roosevelt's Val-Kill. I first noticed a large ring in the water, then bubbles breaking the surface, and then the tip of the dome-shaped shell. At that point it looked like a rock in the water but then the head appeared, and you got a sense of how large they are. I call the pair the Monitor and the Merrimac after the two Civil War ironclad warships. At the same location I also spotted a very large orange carp [koi, or Sanke, domesticated carp]. A swallow dipped to the surface of the water for a meal and nearly became one itself as the carp leaped out of the water in the same split second. The life and death drama of the natural world continues even in the tranquil setting of Val-Kill.

- Pat Joel

6/26 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 75: In the backyard of my shop on Route 55 there is a small red squirrel that has been around since the spring. I haven't seen one in this area since I was young. What a joy to watch.

- Richard Coutant

6/27 - Town of Poughkeepsie: The adult female from eagle nest NY62 came in from the river and landed next to one of the fledglings not far from the nest tree. The two immatures have been calling far less frequently this week, probably a sign that they are being well fed and cared for by the adults. The other fledgling made a flyover and displayed its ability to soar and "kite."

- Tom McDowell

6/27 - Hudson River Estuary, HRM 85-82: We just finished three weeks of Atlantic sturgeon sampling during which we caught the most fish (123; all adult male) in any three-week period since we began annual sampling in 2006. We had two record-catching days when we caught 31 fish, 20 of which were recaptures. One had been tagged by Mark Bain (Cornell University) on June 28, 1998 near Con Hook (river mile 48) when it was three feet long. When we recaptured the fish near Crum Elbow Creek 14 years later, it had doubled its length to six feet.

- Amanda Higgs, NYSDEC Region 3 Fisheries Unit

6/27 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: I counted five monarch butterflies heading north along the river, perhaps aided by a tailwind. While they were probably migrating north, other creatures may already be thinking about heading south. Wildlife recognizes the small things, like a minute or two less of light each day as we pass the summer solstice. For many species of birds, the spring breeding season has ended and they sense the gradual change in seasons.

- Tom Lake

6/27 - Middletown, HRM 60: My dog was barking like crazy at 6:00 AM. I looked out the window and there was a young red fox on the deck looking back at me. We made eye contact. He did not seem bothered by the dog and did not appear to be in much of a hurry to leave. Once his curiosity was satisfied, he sauntered through the yard and disappeared in the trees.

- Ann Reichal

6/28 - New Baltimore, HRM 131.5: Were these early-summer southbound "migrants?" This evening, I spotted five ring-billed gulls flying in a loose line as they worked their way south. These were likely unpaired, not nesting, or failed nesting birds getting an early start on their annual journey. There were also three bald eagles, two immatures and one adult, squabbling over something on the riverbank, probably a dead fish that had washed up.

- Rich Guthrie

6/28 - Town of Poughkeepsie: The two immatures from eagle nest NY62 did some pair-flying today. One of them stopped, went upright in mid flight, and then went into dive. I could not tell if this was a practice dive or if it had already learned the rudiments of hunting. They are slowly migrating towards the river to perch.

- Terry Hardy

6/28 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: For the past two mornings, a large wild turkey has settled in the tall, sunny grasses at the edge of my woods. It sat there for most of the mornings with its tail spread out behind like the train of a ball gown. I tried to see if there were poults nearby. Even with binoculars, I couldn't see anything moving. The bird just sat there, like a magnificent, ornamental soup tureen, before finally rising to strut off into the shade of the woods.

- Robin Fox

6/28 - Manhattan, HRM 2.5: The dead dolphin recovered from the area of the Chelsea Piers on Manhattan's west side at Pier 59, was a short-beaked common dolphin. The cause of death has not yet been determined. It is likely that this was the same dolphin first sighted in that area on June 17, and very tentatively identified, incorrectly, by digital photos as a bottlenose dolphin.

- Kim Durham

[The short-beaked common dolphin (Delphinus delphis) travels in pods, aggregations that can number in the hundreds, even thousands, so the June 17 report of one by itself was not auspicious. They can reach over eight feet in length and weigh more than 300 pounds. Found in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, on our coast they range from the Canadian Maritimes to Florida. Tom Lake.]

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