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Hudson River Almanac July 26 - August 1, 2012

OVERVIEW

The mid-summer river remained very warm. This week found a mixed bag of fish, birds, and bears, with a moose nearby as well.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

7/28 - Staatsburg, HRM 86: I had been wondering if the "stereo" red-shouldered hawk calls that we have been hearing every day were from a parent answering a juvenile's calls or if there were two juveniles this year. Today I found out that there are indeed two red-shouldered juveniles, as they were both together in back of the library. Our other "baby big bird," a young black vulture, is also much in evidence in the hamlet. I see it almost every day, perched on a house top or on the ground drinking from puddles. Its remnant fuzz is completely gone from one wing and much less in evidence on the other. Having the opportunity to watch it close up and in proximity to one or more adults, I can see that its head is a solid dark gray in contrast to the fine light and dark gray lines on an adult's head, and its legs are a pure ivory color, while the adults' legs have darker lines on an ivory background. It's interesting seeing black vultures on the ground walking around. When they walk slowly, they move with much the same gait as a crow. But when they want to walk quickly, they tend to skip, with one regular step followed by a longer hop. At first I thought this gait was just the juvenile having fun but I see the adults doing the same.

- David Lund

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

7/26 - Coeymans Landing, HRM 133.5: Kayaking the reach from Coeymans to Henry Hudson Park always allows for great conversation. However this time it led to great bouts of hilarity as we tried to catch an eagle feather before it hit the river. We had just inadvertently startled an immature bald eagle when we saw the feather begin to descend. The two of us scrambled to catch it - not easy in kayaks. But the wind blew it away. It was only a small feather but a great memory.

- Kelly Halloran

[Note that the Bald Eagle and Golden Eagle Protection Act (1940) prohibits the possession of eagle feathers. American Indians, under certain circumstances, are permitted to possess eagle feathers for cultural ceremonial purposes. Tom Lake.]

7/26 - Little Stony Point, HRM 55: Salinity in the river had dropped to just under 3.0 parts per thousand [ppt] following more than three inches of rain over the last several days. The water was still a very tepid 81 degrees Fahrenheit. The catch today was similar to five days ago with one noticeable addition: young-of-the-year Atlantic menhaden, also called "peanut bunker." Every so often we heard the croak of ravens in the distance but were never able to spot one. Ravens nest nearby on Breakneck Ridge as well as across the river on Storm King Mountain.

- Tom Lake, A. Danforth

[While salinity is measured more accurately by various instruments and titration kits, the threshold of taste for most people is about 3.0 ppt. Tom Lake.]

7/27 - Kingston, HRM 92: While we did not have much diversity during the Great Hudson River Fish Count on 7/21 (71 yellow perch), our Forsyth Nature Center Junior Naturalists hauled in a small Atlantic needlefish at Kingston Point Beach today. This was the first time we have ever caught one of these here. The children were very excited and so were we. [See Hudson River Almanac 5/16/12 - 5/23/12.]

- Steve Noble

7/27 - Black Creek, HRM 85: As we were sampling for American eels, collecting under the bridge on Floyd Ackert Road, we happened to look up. The metal supports were covered with about 100 white ovals - egg masses - of dobsonflies. This identification was confirmed when we found a female, upside down, laying eggs. Dobsonflies are the adults of hellgrammites. We also saw several patches of blooming cardinal flower.

- Bob Schmidt, Sean Swift, Eleanore O'Neil, Sarah Mount

7/27 - Rhinebeck, HRM 90: I was at the Winnakee Land Trust's Burger Hill Park to do my weekly bluebird boxes monitoring. Mowing of the fields had begun at Burger Hill and it is always interesting to see flocks of swallows following the tractors that were stirring up insects. The flocks consisted mostly of barn swallows with a lesser number of tree swallows and northern rough-winged swallows. A red-tailed hawk was also taking advantage of the mowing. The hawk circled very low over the fields as it hunted for voles, mice, and perhaps rabbits that were being flushed by the mowing.

- Frank Margiotta

7/27 - Manhattan, HRM 2.0: The River Project has begun an underwater survey of animals, especially oysters, in the Pier 42 piling field of the Hudson River at Morton Street. Last week Lead Diver Chris Anderson went down to make repairs to the Fish Attracting Device (FAD) that is mounted on a piling near the bulkhead. For fun, Chris happened to grab the video camera hoping there was time to have a look around. All of us at The River Project were amazed at the footage Chris showed us after the dive. Not only are there oysters there, but the number and size range was more than we ever expected! "Next time I'll take a measuring stick, but I'm estimating that in this video footage we see 10 oysters on the bottom within approximately 25 square feet," said Chris. "I knew there were a few live oysters there, but these are almost numerous enough to begin forming a reef. The largest ones were about 75 millimeters across."

- The River Project

7/28 - Manhattan, HRM 1.0: The River Project caught two northern puffers (Sphoeroides maculatus) in killifish traps at Pier 25. The fish were caught by interns and students on field trips to the steamship Lilac. Previous to these two, we had caught only three northern puffers since 1988 in our species-monitoring study, two in 1995 and one in 2005. Northern puffers are temperate marine strays and ours have all been caught in July and August.

- Kathryn Eddins

7/29 - Otis, MA: On my way home today, traveling up Route 8 heading north less than a mile from Otis, a cow (female) moose ran across the road in front of me. This was the first moose I had ever seen in this area. I was happy that I was going slower due to the rainy weather and slick conditions.

- Roberta S. Jeracka

[While this site is in the Connecticut River's watershed, not the Hudson's, it is quite close - due east of Hudson at river mile 118 - and moose will travel. Tom Lake.]

7/29 - Beacon, HRM 61: At Madam Brett Park today, as we were looking out over the marsh, we saw six or seven great egrets coming into land on the water chestnut.

- Jamie Collins

7/29 - Putnam Valley, HRM 55.5 I counted 36 barn swallows lined up (three to five inches apart) on the ridge line of my roof and another dozen were still flying. After taking a last fly-around, each flew into my basement stairwell roost. Some of them were born there; others were born under the eaves. The fall-blooming anemones were well budded which seems very early. A common nighthawk has been "peenting" on recent eves from somewhere nearby.

- Nancy P Durr

7/29 - Brooklyn, New York City: Seining in the East River, the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy caught five bay anchovies, 60 Atlantic silversides, two blue crabs (mature adults mating), 60 ctenophores, 13 European green crabs, one striped bass, one Asian shore crab, one black sea bass (six inches long), three hydromedusae, and three juvenile fish, species still to be determined. The water temperature was 72 degrees F.

- Giulia Morrone

[In a seine net, ctenophores - also called comb jellies - and hydromedusae both resemble small blobs of clear jelly; they are commonly found in the Hudson estuary and New York Harbor at this time of year. Hydromedusae are related to the more familiar, bigger jellyfish. Like their larger kin, they possess stinging cells (though those of hydromedusae found here don't pack enough punch to bother people) and move through the water with pulses of their bodies. The photo on the right by Russ Hopcroft (rom the Arctic Ocean Diversity website) shows Sarsia tubulosa, a hydromedusa found in the Hudson. Ctenophores are quite different; they lack stinging cells and have rows of hair-like cilia that beat rapidly to move these animals through the water. The photo on the left by Karl Van Ginderdeuren shows the ctenophore Mnemiopsis leidyi, also found in the Hudson. Both photos appear on the World Register of Marine Species website. Steve Stanne.]

A comb jellyfish, also known as a ctenophore, found in the Hudson River a hydromedusae, related to a jellyfish, was found in the Hudson River Estuary

7/30 - Ulster County, HRM 95: I came upon a lovely bat roosting on our porch at Lake Winnisook, the first I've seen this year. I also watched a small black bear cross County Route 47 at nearby Big Indian.

- Vivian Yess Wadlin

[Winnisook Lake is the source of Esopus Creek and the highest lake in the Catskill Mountains at 2,660 feet above sea level. Tom Lake.]

7/30 - Beacon, HRM 61: I took a walk this morning around Madam Brett Park to look for the egrets. However, all was quiet out on the marsh. In the afternoon I traveled across the bay to Denning's Point to view the Fishkill Creek marsh from another perspective. As I looked out over the delta of Fishkill Creek, I spotted seven great egrets foraging together.

- Jamie Collins

7/30 - New Windsor, HRM 60: As I went out to my front yard early this evening, the sky was filled with chimney swifts and dragonflies. What a fantastic show they put on for several hours, swooping around, high and low - with the swifts chirping, and even occasionally resting on my neighbor's roof. There must have been quite a swarm of insects up there to make such a meal for so many.

- Joanne Zipay

7/30 - Tappan Zee, HRM 32: Henry Atterbury and I were bringing his 39-foot-long sailboat under power up the Hudson River from New York City to Ossining. As we passed an osprey nest on a navigation aid in the Tappan Zee, the two adults and two juveniles were sitting in the nest. A mile later we noticed that one of the juveniles was seemingly trying to catch up to us. When he finally did, he attempted to land on the top of the 53-foot-high mast while we were underway. Unfortunately for him he landed on one of the wind indicators. It bent and he slipped down onto the backstay where he proceeded to slide down even more until he finally took off and flew away. There must be a steep learning curve for ospreys.

- Scott Craven

7/31 - Milan, HRM 90: It has been an unusual year for wild turkeys here. I normally see several hens with many poults but not this year. Today I saw three hens pass through with only one poult. There may be some new predators in the vicinity.

- Frank Margiotta

7/31 - Denning's Point, HRM 60: I took a walk around Denning's Point late this afternoon and saw a grand mix of wildlife out on the water. From a spot looking out over the inlet wetland, I watched as seven great egrets made their way from one spot to another looking for fish. They were joined by four great blue herons, three green herons and a family of four black-crowned night herons - all vying for the perfect spot to fish. Further along the inlet three double-crested cormorants looked out into the river and took turns diving for fish. On the west side of Denning's Point, two juvenile spotted sandpipers darted along the shoreline dipping in and out of the water, while a hen mallard led her six ducklings around stopping every now and then to feed.

- Jamie Collins

[Jamie was just a snowy egret short of a "Heron Grand Slam" of our five most common herons. Tom Lake.]

8/1 - North Germantown to Roeliff-Jansen's Kill, HRM 109-111: Three of us river-rats took a trip upriver to look for submerged aquatic vegetation with observations made in 6 to 36 inches of water. The result: the flats were barren, no SAV, sandy bottom. We did notice a few drifting torn or uprooted leaves of wild celery floating on the surface, but no growing plants on the river bottom.

- Patrick Landewe

8/1 - Accord, HRM 82: I saw a young black bear scampering across a meadow clearly visible from Boodle Hole Road. It did not appear to be chasing anything; maybe it was just running for the joy of it. It then disappeared into a patch of woods.

- Rebecca Horwitz

8/1 - Bergen County, NJ, HRM 10.5: In mid-morning we spotted two hen wild turkeys. They walked away from us quite calmly. There is a tom turkey around as well, even in this crowded urban area.

- Bob Honsinger

8/1 - Manhattan, HRM 4.0: As a friend and I walked down Second Avenue in mid-afternoon at the southeast corner of 42nd Street, we saw what we assumed was our neighborhood red-tailed hawk but later discovered was a young peregrine falcon. It sat motionless in the street, dazed and clearly injured as it could fly only in short spurts, almost haltingly. We and others stopped traffic and by moving slowly toward it, got the bird onto the sidewalk. We tried to stop pedestrians from walking past too closely because clearly that was unnecessarily frightening the bird. A bystander called the Wild Bird Fund and, after a while, two police officers arrived. We finally left, but not until there were enough caring people indicating a willingness to stay until help arrived.

- David Finkelstein, Evelyn Letfuss

[This young peregrine, one of three from this year's nest on the Met Life Building,had been on the wing for almost a month and a half before ending up on 42nd Street. After being picked up by the New York Police Department that afternoon, she was taken to The Wild Bird Fund, a new Manhattan rehabilitation facility. On 8/3 she was transported to The Raptor Trust in Millington, NJ, for further examination and treatment. I'm pleased to report she is currently on the mend. The Raptor Trust's vet reports that she has a fracture on the left wing (which he says should heal fine), as well as a slipped tendon in her left ankle (which will be fixed surgically). Her prognosis is good for a full recovery and release at some point in the future. Barbara Saunders, NYSDEC Region 2/Fish, Wildlife, and Marine Resources.]

[Peregrines pursue avian prey in flight, tricky business at best and even more so in the tight quarters of Manhattan's "canyons." In addition to learning to master their hunting skills, young falcons need some sheer good luck to survive - hopefully this bird will prosper thanks to many helping hands. Steve Stanne.]

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