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Hudson River Almanac May 24- May 31, 2013

OVERVIEW

This was one of the most extraordinary weeks we've had in the 20 years of the Hudson River Almanac. An off-shore, deep-water dolphin made a trip of more than 50 miles upriver from the sea; a bald eagle nestling fledged several-to-many weeks early and is doing well; there was a Memorial Day rescue of two eagle nestlings in peril; an alien/introduced fish species finally made it to tidewater; and we had a first-time visit of a southern raptor in Orange County. Lastly, as a not-too-subtle backdrop, we had the incessant trill of the periodical cicadas.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

5/27 - Town of Clinton, HRM 88: On March 31, two nestlings were born to a pair of first-time parent bald eagles in a nest designated as NY261. In the wake of yesterday's violent thunderstorms and high winds, I received a phone message that the nest had fallen out of the tree. One adult and one nestling were perched on a limb; the other nestling was on the ground. By mid-morning, both nestlings were on the ground under the tree.
Through Ellen Kalish of the Ravensbeard Wildlife Center, we contacted Missy Runyan of the Friends of the Feathered and Furry Wildlife Center as well as Doug Traudt, a colleague of Pete Nye. All agreed that the best place for the eaglets was back up in the tree. Doug and his crew (Biological Survey Inc.) constructed a platform "nest." Missy Runyan then "netted" the two nestlings, checked for injuries, and gently placed them in wicker baskets. One at time, Doug Traudt tied a basket to a rope and had them lifted up to the new nest. Both eaglets were safely back up in their new nest by mid-afternoon. It was an amazing Memorial Day rescue.
- Dave Lindemann

[That evening, one eaglet stood and looked around, while the second lay hiding. It wasn't until the following morning that we could see both of them standing and preening. On day two we saw the first food delivery. Both nestlings fed eagerly. Our thanks go to the rescue team: Ellen Kalish, Missy Runyan, and Doug Traudt. Dave Lindemann.]

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

5/24 - Highland, HRM 75.5: Yesterday, in the early drizzling morning, I watched a snapping turtle bury its eggs on a hill just above a wetland area on the edge of our property. Walking around I saw hundreds of cicadas on the trees. Since then, regardless of the rain and cooler temperatures, thousands of cicadas have gone through their metamorphosis. I woke this morning to find even more digging themselves out of the ground for transformation.
- Linda Moriarty

5/24 - Cornwall-on-Hudson, HRM 57: Owen Sullivan had a day (actually less than four hours) on the river that most of us can only dream of. Trolling artificial lures with down-riggers off Cornwall Bay he hooked and landed 24 striped bass. Of these, two were 42 and 35 pound females with eggs. Twelve others, also females, ranged from 20-28 pounds. He also caught ten male bass weighing from 10-18 pounds. All of the striped bass were released alive and in good condition.
- Tom Lake

[Down-riggers allow one to troll a lure at a fixed depth with the aid of a weight attached to the line by a clip that releases when a fish strikes. Tom Lake.]

5/24 - West Point, HRM 51: In thinking about the "fewer small mammals this spring" comments in the Almanac, I've seen only three woodchucks since snowmelt. I walk to and from work and they are ordinarily a common sight. All three I saw were adults, but I've wondered why I have not seen more. I've seen no chipmunks at all but plenty of gray squirrels.
- Doug Gallagher

5/25 - Kingston, HRM 92: I have a lot of self-seeded dill in my garden so I dug and potted many of the small plants to take to a plant swap in Kingston. While driving there, I happened to glance at the dill resting in a bucket and saw a thin three-eighths-inch line of black-white-black clinging to a stem. Ah, ha! My first swallowtail caterpillar of the season. I was eager to get back home to check for more before the birds helped themselves to the tasty bits. I am honored they can be found happily eating in my garden.
- Betty Boomer

5/25 - Rhinebeck, HRM 90: Waves of swallows were flying back and forth over the pond beyond my deck this morning. Most were barn swallows, but there were also northern rough-winged swallows that looked big and brown compared to the daintier barn swallows.
- Phyllis Marsteller

5/25 - Hyde Park, HRM 82: I just saw my first white-tailed deer fawn of the spring. I surprised the doe and new-born on a dirt access road. The mother ran straight down an embankment; the fawn instinctively dropped straight down in knee high grass not even a foot off the road. I took a look as I slowly drove by - the fawn was not more than a couple of hours old. For ten minutes I watched from 100 feet away as the doe called but the fawn stayed down. The doe slowly came back closer, and closer, until the fawn popped up and away they went.
- Michael Paul

5/25 - Town of Poughkeepsie: Two inches of rain, driven by strong winds gusting to more than 30 mph, had the top of the tuliptree and the eagle nest (NY62) swaying. The nestling perched precariously on the rim of the nest looking toward the river, anticipating his next delivery.
- Tom Lake

5/26 - Kerhonkson, HRM 77: A black bear walked off with my bird feeder last night. Usually I find it somewhere nearby but not this time. Oh well, it was time to take it down anyway.
- Betty Boomer

5/26 - Town of Poughkeepsie: We had an extraordinary eagle fledge at NY62 this morning. Tom McDowell was monitoring early but was unable to see the eaglet in the nest. I took over at 11:00 AM and was relieved, given the stormy weather of yesterday, to see the eaglet perched on the rim of the nest. Within seconds, the adult female cruised low over my head, winged cupped, looking very much like a huge pterodactyl. Out of the nest, with no hesitation whatsoever, came the nestling and joined the female as they careened around the field below the nest. This was not the nestling-turned-fledgling's first flight. Given the timing of sightings, we speculated that the bird make its first flight earlier today. I watched the pair fly around the area for an hour with the wind helping the fledgling glide along. The female shadowed him, never letting him out of her sight. After a while he landed back in the nest.
- Tom Lake

[The fledgling looked two-thirds the size of the adult female, so we presumed it was a male (males tend to fledge earlier than females). Since the hatch date (March 28), the nestling had progressed in size commensurate with its age. Today was Day 60 (fledge date averages 72-90), and the fledgling looked like it was only 60 days old. The very strong winds the last two days may have assisted the eaglet in stepping out of the nest way early. Tom Lake.]

5/27 - Pine Plains, HRM 96: While visiting the Buttercup Audubon Sanctuary this afternoon, I startled a yellow-billed cuckoo from the brush and had it in full view as it landed on an upper branch. A first for me, and just wonderful!
- Mary Noll

5/27 - Clinton Corners, HRM 82: We have a pair of nesting pileated woodpeckers near our house. Although we haven't found the nest, we see either the male or female feeding at our suet feeders multiple times a day, usually in the morning and evening. They are very accommodating as each time either comes to feed they announce themselves with a cry that alerts me to get my camera. Besides the pileated, downy and red-bellied woodpeckers as well as others enjoy the suet.
- Robert Tucker

5/27 - Town of Poughkeepsie: The fledgling eagle flew a loop around the area with the adult female (N42) in pursuit, after which they both returned to the nest (NY62). The emerging cicadas were attracting large numbers of cedar waxwings.
- Tom McDowell

5/27 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: For the first time this spring, the trill of cicadas could be heard, somewhat distant, but from all quarters. Squadrons of crows patrolled the roads, scooping up thumb-sized cicadas from the pavement.
- Tom Lake

5/27 - Storm King Mountain, HRM 56: I spotted a peregrine falcon pair resting by the nesting ledge on the face of Storm King Mountain today. I saw no sign of any offspring yet, but I imagine fledging time is fast approaching. I've lost count of how many years I've seen nesting pairs using that ledge. The extensive streaks of "white-wash" on the cliff face below the nest ledge are ample evidence that correct sanitary procedures are being followed.
- Owen Sullivan

5/27 - Town of Warwick, HRM 41: Tom Millard spotted a swallow-tailed kite at the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge on Oil City Road.
- Ken McDermott

[The swallow-tailed kite is a raptor most often found in the Southeast and along the Gulf Coast. This occurrence was a first for Orange County. They resemble falcons but are in their own family with pointed wings and a long, deeply forked tail. The swallow-tailed kite looks like a black-and-white barn swallow with a 4.5 foot wingspan. The bird is all field marks! Curt McDermott.]

5/27 - Stony Point, HRM 40: A dolphin was reported swimming in the near-shore shallows at River View Park today. At times it appeared to be in distress, swimming on its side, while at other times it seemed to be moving naturally. Video footage sent to the Riverhead Foundation resulted in its identification as a Risso's dolphin (Grampus griseus). It was surprising to see this species upriver in the estuary; Risso's dolphins are most often found well offshore in the Atlantic. Unlike seals, finding a dolphin in the river usually, but not always, means a sick or disoriented animal. Spotters lost sight of the dolphin as darkness fell
- Tom Lake

[To report a sighting of a healthy, sick, alive or dead marine mammal or sea turtle, contact the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation at their emergency 24-hour Stranding Hotline phone number: (631) 369-9829. Kim Durham, Riverhead Foundation.]

5/28 - Town of Poughkeepsie: This morning we arrived to check on the eagle nest (NY62) and found the nestling sleeping. Within moments he was awakened by the adult male making a screeching flyover. The cedar waxwings were still feasting on cicadas, mostly taken on the wing.
- Tom McDowell, Terry Hardy

5/28 - Denning's Point, HRM 60: There is a cottonwood tree at the base of the point that eagles and osprey tend to favor as a feeding perch. The early morning low tide had drained the bay, reducing it to a series of shallow tide pools. An adult bald eagle was perched in the tree, one foot clamped down on what appeared to be a catfish. We passed by three hours later; by then the current was rushing in and the tide was rising quickly. Now the cottonwood had two eagles, a pair, the female perched one limb above the male. It was time to rest and wait on the tide.
dame's rocket - Tom Lake, T.R. Jackson

5/28 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 68: Despite the heat, it was a treat to drive along with the windows down and the A/C off. The roadside was lined with multi-colored wildflowers, mostly dame's rocket, and their fragrance was intoxicating.
- Tom Lake

[One of the signs of the waning spring season is the appearance of dame's rocket along the river and its tributaries. This non-native wildflower comes in white, pink, violet, and purple. Carried by spring breezes, its wonderfully sweet fragrance fills the air in mid-to-late May. Tom Lake. Dame's rocket photo by Steve Stanne.]

5/28 - Bear Mountain State Park, HRM 45: A Bedford Audubon Society field trip to Doodletown this morning produced most of the usual breeders one would expect on territory plus two obvious migrants: a Wilson's warbler singing an odd-sounding, abbreviated song, and a single blackpoll warbler. Other birds in the area included two singing worm-eating warblers, five singing cerulean warblers, and at least six hooded warblers.
- Tait Johansson

5/29 - Ulster Park, HRM 87: We surveyed the fish of the humble Klyne Esopus Kill in Ulster Park, looking for potential American eel research sites. At the stream's tidal mouth we shocked up something strange, elongated, and finny, but not an eel. It was an eight-inch-long oriental weatherfish (Misgurnus anguillicaudatus). We caught three more in the tidal mouth, and 50 or more well upstream near the blown-out access road. Most of them were three to four inches long, but several of the larger ones were females with evidence of recent spawning behavior based on physical evidence. Bob Schmidt has caught weatherfish in other parts of the Hudson watershed, but this is the first time that they have been recorded in the tidal portion of the river.
- Bob Schmidt, Sarah Mount, Zoraida Maloney, Giancarlo Coppola, Chris Bowser

5/29 - Town of Clinton, HRM 88: Both nestlings were visible this morning, up and alert in their new (NY261) eagle nest. One adult was in his customary guardian tree across the water on the island. All looked back to normal.
- Dottie Nacirema

5/29 - New Paltz, HRM 78: There were 24 cedar waxwings flitting about in three small trees with red berries at the Woodland Pond Residence. What a beautiful bird. We had not seen them for two years. (The next day they had moved on and the trees were missing all of their berries.)
- Roland Ellis, Alice Ellis

5/29 - Beacon Long Dock, HRM 61: I caught and released two carp, three and six pounds each, today at Long Dock Park. I lost two others due to hook pulls. There were lots of bites and stolen baits, so I imagine there were also brown bullheads, small channel catfish, and maybe some golden shiners in the area.
- Bill Greene

5/29 - Rockland County: The Risso's dolphin spotted in the Hudson River off Stony Point has apparently returned to the sea. As the Rockland County Sheriff's Department's River Patrol, along with members of the Riverhead Foundation, were preparing to help the dolphin, it suddenly started swimming better. The U.S. Coast Guard followed the dolphin as it headed out to sea this afternoon.

[The Riverhead Foundation's executive director and marine biologist, Rob DiGiovanni, said the presence of this species in the estuary was very unusual. DiGiovanni offered multiple reasons why it could have gone upriver, such as illness, age, or following food, but there was no way of knowing. Tom Lake.]

5/29 - Croton River, HRM 34: In the misty, drippy morning light, three snowy egrets looked like ballet dancers, pirouetting and skip-stepping through the low tide shallows. On Croton Point, bladder campion had bloomed, the red-tailed hawks had hatched, and I picked a big batch of pokeweed sprouts that would be the salad portion of dinner tonight.
- Christopher Letts

5/30 - Columbia County, HRM 122: As I walked the beach today I considered that a decade ago this would have been "season's end." The colors of early spring that ushered in our Hudson River shad season - shadbush and forsythia - have been well documented. However, not so much has been said about the colors and fragrances that we remember with the end of fishing. There was a time when we'd sit here along the river in late May, shad boats beached, only "backrunners" in the nets, and lament the end of another season. This drama often played out with yellow violets in bloom and the smell of honeysuckle in the air. It grows along the river in many places, and it always bloomed in time to sweeten our disappointment.
- Tom Lake.

[Backrunner is the colloquial name that commercial fishers gave to female American shad that had already spawned and were now slack-bellied and heading back to sea. They had no commercial value except in their potential for another spawning season the next year. Tom Lake.]

5/30 - Town of Clinton, HRM 88: The successful recovery of eagle nest NY261 continued. Both eaglets made it through the night's storm. In early morning, one of the adults responded to the nestlings' plea for breakfast - they were flapping and calling. A very quick fly-by meal delivery brightened their day. I could not see what was it was but both the nestlings got busy feeding.
- Dottie Nacirema

5/30 - Norrie Point, HRM 85: Ninth-graders from Poughkeepsie High School suited up in their chest waders and helped us seine the low tide bay. Along the smoldering shoreline the air temperature reached 93 degrees Fahrenheit. Our catch was modest at best: spottail shiners, tessellated darters, American eels, pumpkinseed sunfish, and golden shiners. The first "explosions" of the spring erupted in the bay as we seined - the carp were spawning. The river was 63 degrees F.
- Chris Bowser, Tom Lake

5/30 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 75: The air temperature reached 90 degrees F today, tying the record high for the date.
- National Weather Service

5/30 - Town of Poughkeepsie: Since the 5/26 "fright flight" the eaglet has been staying in the nest. No wandering around the tree ("branching") yet.
- Terry Hardy

[This is a very odd year for this eaglet. It knows how to fly but it is just too young to invoke the instinct or grasp the idea of hunting for food. Today was only Day 64, so it has some maturing to do. The first flight on Day 60 will do it good in the end. But right now it is back being a dependent nestling looking to the adults for food. Tom Lake.]

5/30 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: The woods music has been cicadas all day and tree frogs all night. When they combined symphonies at first light today it sounded like the Amazon rainforest. Crows have begun taking cicadas on the wing.
- Tom Lake

5/30 - Croton Point, HRM 35-34: Even before sunrise we could feel the heat. By the time I had finished an hour-long walk, my T-shirt was stained dark and I was looking forward to introducing myself to the pitcher of iced tea. Yellow warblers and orchard and Baltimore orioles flashed their colors across the sky. A great egret floated over the marsh, stately and unhurried, the first I had seen this season. A raven appeared, flapping and gliding its way over the marsh, with an accompaniment of crows. The crows dove on the big bird, but pulled up short, showing a lot of respect for that powerful beak.
- Christopher Letts

5/30 - Palisades, HRM 23: A 14-inch-long carapace length snapping turtle ambled across four lanes of traffic this morning, causing cars to swerve and drivers to hop out of their cars for a closer look. There is something rather prehistoric about the way they look as they slowly and deliberately move their limbs. Amazingly, the turtle reached the other side without incident.
- Margie Turrin

5/31 - Saugerties, HRM 102: A sandhill crane (Grus canadensis) was spotted on a lawn at Churchland Lane.
- Alan Beebe, Doreen Beebe, Debra Ferguson, Steve Chorvas

5/31 - Norrie Point, HRM 85: It was another scorcher (air temperature reached into the low 90s) as a class of Red Hook High School seniors, most opting for cutoffs and sneakers rather than chest waders, helped us seine. While the catch was a bit disappointing - white perch, American eel, spottail shiners, and a gorgeous redbreast sunfish - we all enjoyed getting as wet as possible.
- Tom Lake, T.R. Jackson

5/31 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 75: The air temperature reached 92 degrees F today, exceeding the previous record high for the date of 91.
- National Weather Service

5/31 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: The cicada crescendo had grown louder and closer, completely filling the hot and humid air. The songbirds could not compete. The only accompanying sounds were the "caws" of crows as they flew sorties through the lawns, driveways, and roadways. The air temperature peaked at 95 in mid-afternoon.
- Tom Lake, T.R. Jackson

5/31 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: The mock orange and wild rose bushes outside my window were not yet in bloom, but there was a cloud of circling bees and dragonflies in the air above them. They were all flying around, neither settling in the bushes, nor pausing. The bees looked larger than honey bees, but not as big as bumble bees. Their distinct hum said "Keep away!" to me, but it doesn't seem to bother the dragonflies. I wonder what has brought them both here on this too hot day?
- Robin Fox

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