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Hudson River Almanac August 16 - August 22, 2012

OVERVIEW

There is no better time to appreciate the diversity and abundance of life in and along the Hudson River estuary than late summer/early fall. The year's crop of young fish, birds, reptiles and other creatures is on display, augmented by migrants from other places. All are busily bulking up, responding instinctually to the shorter days and longer nights that foretell the harsher season drawing nearer.


HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK


8/16 - New Windsor, HRM 60: I came upon a very small (and shy) black snake just inside my garage door. It had a yellow band around its neck, was about seven inches long, and very thin. This was my first sighting in my yard of a northern ringneck snake (I see the occasional garter snake). I encouraged the snake to move out of the garage, which it did, hiding behind a flower pot for awhile; later, it was gone, hopefully off to eat the pests in my garden.
- Joanne Zipay

[The northern ringneck snake (Diadophis punctatus edwardsii) is fairly common but largely nocturnal and not often seen, which makes this sighting rather unusual. They can reach 15 inches in length and prey on insects, salamanders (such as the red backed salamander), earthworms, and small frogs. Tom Lake.]


NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

8/16 - Beacon, HRM 61: While on a walk this afternoon in Madame Brett Park by the falls of the lower Fishkill Creek, we enjoyed the aerobatics of a flock of 30 cedar waxwings as they pursued flying insects over the rushing waters.
- Genevieve Magliari, Ed Spaeth

8/17 - Knox, Albany County, HRM 143: I heard an olive-sided flycatcher calling for an hour or so early this morning. I do not recall hearing one before (we've lived here since 1988). Could this be a bird in migration yet still in full territorial voice? We have a large beaver pond and lots of wet areas so it's still pretty good habitat for this little guy.
- David H. Nelson

[One of the tools used to identify birds is their vocalization. Birders translate chirps and warbles into words. Owls offer common examples, such as the "Who cooks for you?" of the barred owl, or the "Who's awake? Me too." of the great horned owl. Others include the cardinal's "Birdy, birdy, birdy" and my favorite - the Carolina wren's "teakettle, tea kettle, tea kettle, tea." The words assigned to the olive-sided flycatcher's song are "Quick, three beers!" Tom Lake.]

8/17 - Ulster Park, HRM 85: A Carolina wren landed on the deck rail today and chatted with me while I was reading. They are always delightful companions.
- William Drakert

8/17 - Norrie Point, HRM 85: We hosted 25 Student Conservation Association members for a Day in the Life of the Hudson River training today. We began with four quick hauls of our seines and netted an astounding 15 different species of fish including American eel, hogchoker, striped bass, white perch, tessellated darter, spottail shiner, bluegill, and pumpkinseed sunfish. Dissolved oxygen was 7.0 parts per million [ppm] in the open water; an early morning sample from the water chestnut beds registered a much lower reading of 2.0 ppm.
- Margie Turrin, Steve Stanne, Chris Bowser, Jim Herrington, Zoraida Maloney

[The tenth annual Day in the Life of the Hudson River will be held on October 4. Sponsored by DEC's Hudson River Estuary Program, this event brings thousands of students to 60+ sites along the estuary to sample the river's life, test its waters, and track its tides and currents. For more information, visit http://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/47285.html . Steve Stanne.]

8/18 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 74: At Vassar Farm today I spotted three green herons, two great blue herons, and two belted kingfishers.
- Terry Hardy

8/18 - West Point, HRM 51: I went sailing on the river off West Point today. The boat's depth gauge at times indicated 200 feet of water under the centerboard at World's End.
- Doug Gallagher

A photo of the Hudson River and the surrounding land near West Point

[World's End is the deepest point in the Hudson River. This slot of river between West Point on the west and Constitution Island on the east is known for its treacherous tidal currents. Its name is derived from its legendary (notorious) effects on sailing ships, where boats and hands met their "world's end." Tom Lake. Photo by Steve Stanne.]

8/19 - Clinton Point, HRM 69: While boating in late morning, my husband, myself and another couple, spotted an adult bald eagle flying along the eastern shore just south of Trap Rock.
- Denise Smith

[This eagle was almost certainly one of the two adults from the nearby NY62 nest. The fledglings were still hanging around but showing much independence. The adults were no doubt feeling much relief that another nesting season had ended well. Tom Lake.]

8/20 - Hyde Park, HRM 82: It has been a year since a gray seal (Halichoerus grypus) visited the estuary. The seal arrived at Hyde Park in 2011 on July 20 and left on September 17, a total of 60 days. As far as we know, it was the first record of a gray seal venturing up the Hudson. The seal was a yearling, at least five feet long and 75 pounds, and was likely "pupped" in the winter of 2011 in the far North Atlantic. The best guess is that the gray seal fell in with some much more common harbor seals that frequently enter the river; the harbor seals left and the gray seal stayed.
- Tom Lake

8/20 - Beacon, HRM 61: While sitting down at Long Dock Park I counted four great egrets and two great blue herons in the north-side cove at Denning's Point. It was the first time I'd seen egrets, let alone four, and one flying to a more secluded spot.
- Jen Kovich

8/20 - Oscawana, HRM 38.5: I was paddling my kayak in the late afternoon near Oscawana Island when an immature bald eagle plunged into the river and emerged with a silvery fish that it carried off into the trees. I wondered whether it was the same bird that I watched yesterday. That time the eagle emerged with a much larger fish, and struggled to gain altitude with it in its grasp. The bird finally lost the fish because it was too heavy. I have seen a number of bald eagles here lately and have also noticed that some ospreys have been harassing them.
- Stephen Butterfass

[Best candidate for the silvery fish is Atlantic menhaden; best candidate for a "much larger fish" - "too heavy" to carry - would be striped bass. It is usually eagles that pirate fish from osprey. Tom Lake]

8/20 - Crugers, HRM 39: We counted four painted turtles sunning themselves on a log in Ogilvie's Pond today. One was quite large, two were medium-sized, and one was quite small. All of them had their heads stretched out and the bright stripes on their necks were clearly visible. The two medium-sized turtles had their heads together as they basked in the late morning sunlight.
- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson

8/21 - New Paltz, HRM 78: As I stopped at Weston Road in New Paltz to look for the red-headed woodpeckers in the wetland, I was fortunate to see two river otters going for frogs. I took some photos of one of them eating a frog until it discovered me watching.
- Maha Katnani

8/21 - West Point, HRM 51: I had another chance today to watch fish in a tidal drainage ditch at the South Dock at West Point. The tide was just coming in at noon and the killifish swam in with the tide. At first, the water was no more than a couple of inches deep. They grouped together in a school, turned, faced the inflow, and began to feed on whatever was being washed in. This may have been a mix of killifish (banded killies and mummichogs).
- Doug Gallagher

8/22 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 75: We have two ponds that are home to many snapping turtles and their offspring are now hatching daily. Many of them find their way to our community swimming pool where we rescue them and send them onward in their journey. Other wildlife includes a red fox, 22 wild turkeys, coyotes, visiting waterfowl and resident mallards, as well as great blue herons and black-crowned night herons. Turkey vultures and hawks now circle with great regularity as the traveling smorgasbord entices them. The cycle of life continues as we enjoy the waning days of summer.
- Diana Salsberg

8/22 - George's Island, HRM 39: As I paddled out onto a windy river this afternoon, an osprey with a small fish in its grasp flew past me so close that I was able to see it clearly. It turned and flew higher only to turn back toward me. Two eagles had suddenly appeared and chased the osprey out of sight, so I was unable to see who ended up with the fish.
- Stephen Butterfass

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