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Hudson River Almanac June 1 - June 7, 2013

OVERVIEW

There was a sad but predictable conclusion to the Risso's dolphin visit this week. It was also a week of record warmth, breeding songbirds, and - depending on where you live - the buzzing of cicadas.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

6/6 - Croton River, HRM 34: A strange picture, perhaps a melding of the old and the new. Two osprey perched atop a new cell phone tower, tenderly, gently, picking apart a fish and feeding morsels to an unseen baby in the bottom of their nest.
- Christopher Letts

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

6/1 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Fruiting trees were making up for last year. Apple, crab apple, choke cherry, black cherry and even the invasive honeysuckle (Lonicera spp.) had a wealth of flowers. I have never seen more blossoms on my apple trees - there are more blossoms than leaves. I'm also thrilled to see full blossoms on my lilacs. Late frosts make Newcomb is a tough place to get lilacs to bloom; I am always envious when I drive "south" to Minerva and North Creek (18-45 miles) and see beautiful and fragrant bushes. But the planets and weather events have aligned and I finally have some lovely flowering bushes whose aroma wafts in the open windows. Also producing a large crop of seeds is red maple. I thought that there was possible frost damage on the trees, judging by the brownish hue of their crowns. On closer inspection, I saw that the tops were filled with maple samaras and they are now just starting to cast. The same can be seen on mountain and striped maples as well as mountain ash. It will be interesting to see if the beech trees mast this year as well. We checked a dozen or so bluebird boxes. The bluebirds are just starting to investigate the housing market - we saw two different pairs inspecting some boxes but no sign of nesting. We found two tree swallow and one black-capped chickadee nest, the adults already incubating their eggs. In one box, packed full of grasses, we discovered a red squirrel nest. We could see three baby red squirrels, about two inches long with their eyes still closed. Not wanting to disturb them, we didn't investigate how many more were in the nest.
- Charlotte Demers

6/1 - Norrie Point, HRM 85: While seining with Boy Scout Troop 41 this morning, we caught eight bay anchovies along with the other usual species: white perch, banded killifish, spottail shiner, blue crab, pumpkinseed sunfish, redbreast sunfish, American eel, golden shiner, and yellow perch. The bay anchovies were a surprise catch.
- James Herrington

[The bay anchovy (Anchoa mitchilli) is a common inshore species along the Atlantic Coast south into the Gulf of Mexico. These small and delicate fish rarely exceed 85 millimeters [mm] in length; they produce huge year classes to compensate for the fact that they are eaten by nearly every predator that swims in the estuary. While their center of abundance in the estuary ranges from Haverstraw Bay south to New York Harbor, they are not infrequently collected further north. DEC collected adults at the Federal Dam at Troy (river mile 153.4) in 1983. Tom Lake.]

6/1 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 75: The air temperature reached 91 degrees Fahrenheit today, tying the record high for the date.
- National Weather Service

6/1 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: The head-numbing buzz began at 4:45 AM, just as the eastern horizon was brightening. Several hours later it had reached a pitch that drowned out all other sounds. Crows were taking two cicadas on each swoop across the edge of the woods. It was aerial pandemonium.
- Tom Lake

6/1 - Bear Mountain State Park, HRM 45: A group of Long Island birders enjoyed good luck exploring the area for breeding birds. Among those we saw were yellow-eyed, red-eyed, and warbling vireos, yellow-billed cuckoo, scarlet tanager, and indigo bunting. Warblers were our prime target; we found Louisiana waterthrush, hooded, yellow, golden-winged, and blue-winged warblers, and American redstart. We also saw two black snakes, one garter snake, and a timber rattlesnake nearly five feet long (eleven rattles).
- Sy Schiff

[Timber rattlesnakes are protected by law. Although they are not rare in some areas, they have been extirpated in many places due to unregulated collection and indiscriminate killing. Therefore, exact locations are not publicized. Tom Lake.]

6/1 - Haverstraw Bay, HRM 36: A boater found a ten-foot-long, 600 pound, female dolphin dead in the Hudson River today. It was the Risso's dolphin that had been reported five days ago at Stony Point, four miles upriver (see 5/27). The dolphin likely starved to death. A Riverhead Foundation forensic examination (necropsy) found extensive blockage - four plastic bags - in her stomach, leaving the dolphin unable to eat its normal diet of squid. Although dolphins expel squid beaks (non-digestible) through their mouths, this dolphin was found with more than one hundred in her stomach due to the blockage.
- Tom Lake

6/1 - Edgewater, NJ, HRM 8.5: I witnessed some unusual bird behavior today. Two barn swallows were showing their usual darting, zigzagging flight pattern when I noticed that one had a small feather, probably from a pigeon, in its beak. The swallow let it go and it drifted toward the water. Still flying erratically, the bird circled back and grabbed the feather. The swallow flew on for five seconds and let the feather go again - then once more circled back and grabbed it. This repeated itself at least four times. The other swallow stayed with the "player" the whole time but never tried to grab the feather. Is this an example of a bird playing a game?
- Terry Milligan

6/2 - Ulster Landing, HRM 97.2: We hauled our 30-foot-long seine at Ulster Landing Park today and caught three juvenile striped bass three to five inches long, three white perch, fifteen spottail shiners, and one adult blueback herring (nine inches). We also caught a few periodical cicadas that had fallen in the river.
- Stephen Hart

6/2 - Milan HRM 90: It was a weekend for turtles. We saw several snapping turtles crossing roads and laying eggs on the shoulder. We found one in our backyard trying to dig under a lilac bush. At the end of the day we found a wood turtle (about seven-inch carapace length) crossing the road.
- Marty Otter

6/2 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 75: The air temperature reached 87 degrees F today, tying the record high for the date.
- National Weather Service

6/2 - Town of Poughkeepsie: Day 67. The eagle nest (NY62) has seen strange behavior this spring. We presumed that the nestling fledged on May 26 (Day 60), made the rounds in the area with the adult female for the better part of two days, and then was back in the nest and content to be there. On both days when the fledgling was flying around, we could not locate an eaglet in the nest. At least once we saw the fledgling take off from the rim of the nest. Given the eaglet's behavior in the week since, however, we may have to make a significant reassessment of what occurred on May 26. He is now showing no inclination to leave the nest, and is acting much like a 67-day-old nestling that has never flown.
- Tom Lake

6/2 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: It was getting increasingly difficult to sit outside, and not only for rising timbre of the cicada's trill. The air was filled with criss-crossing cicadas; the crows were outgunned and could not keep up. Being poor fliers, cicadas landed all around us on their way to the maple, dogwood, basswood, and locust trees. One landed (fell) on my grilled-cheese sandwich. For the fourth day in a row, the air temperature here reached 90 degrees F.
- Tom Lake, Phyllis Lake

6/2 - Putnam County; HRM 55: On the second day of the Putnam County month-long breeding bird survey, we spent the early morning at Fahnestock State Park. Highlights were warblers: a singing cerulean, four worm-eating, five black-throated blue, two prairie warblers, and at least ten ovenbirds. We also identified an alder flycatcher, two great crested flycatchers, red-breasted grosbeak, pileated woodpecker, and two ruffed grouse. Scarlet tanager, veery, and wood thrush were also quite numerous. Later, Charlie Roberto came upon a Mississippi kite.
- Charlie Roberto, Larry Trachtenberg

[Like the swallow-tail kite (see 5/27) the Mississippi kite is a rare stray to our area. They are most often found in the Southeast and along the Gulf Coast. However, a pair did set up housekeeping at Sterling Forest last spring. Tom Lake.]

6/3 - Norrie Point, HRM 86: There were thousands of periodical cicadas calling from the Hopeland area at the north end of Mills-Norrie State Park. I've heard them in several locations between Kingston and Bear Mountain, but they seem to be the loudest here. Numerous cicadas were flying from tree to tree and were visible on low shrubs along the road and parking area. At one point, a bird flew in to land on a tree limb and a burst of cicadas exited the foliage.
- Jesse Jaycox

6/3 - Hyde Park, HRM 82: The pink ladyslipper orchids (Cypripedium acaule) in our area have been multiplying over the years and this year they are spectacular.
- Pam Maurer

[Due to the often unbridled zeal of orchid collectors, in the interest of preservation we do not give exact locations where they are found. Tom Lake.]

6/3 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: Overnight storms dropped an inch of rain and knocked out power. Heavy rain added to the gloom of a gray dawn. By first light the steady hum of the cicadas was being punctuated by small pockets of much louder trills and chatter. The rain did not affect the "fliers"; after waiting seventeen years, a downpour did not seem to be a hindrance.
- Tom Lake

6/3 - Bear Mountain State Park, HRM 45-44: We were helping out with a team conducting the annual Silloway Wildlife Count for Bear Mountain/Harriman State Park today and came across several interesting observations along river. Among these was a pair of common mergansers flying overhead followed shortly after by a pair of great blue herons. We also spotted an osprey on the navigation marker near Peekskill Bay. The sighting of the day, however, came in late afternoon when we found a common loon in full breeding plumage just south of the Bear Mountain Dayliner Dock. We could not recall ever seeing a common loon in breeding plumage on the Hudson River, so this certainly was special.
- Sharon Baker, David Baker

6/3 - Crugers, HRM 39: This afternoon, as we watched the Ogilvie's Pond great blue heron standing in the water near some phragmites, a male red-winged blackbird actually attacked the heron. It flew into the backside of the bigger bird, its yellow and red colors flashing, and kept "butting" it. The heron seemed to ignore the attack at first, but then moved away at each strike of the blackbird. Eventually we saw a female red-wing fly into the phragmites where she and the male have a nest. The male continued to strike the heron, sometimes clinging to its back, until it moved a good distance away from the nest area.
- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson

6/3 - Croton River, HRM 34: A red-throated loon was fishing just outside the railroad bridge and keeping bad company: A dozen double-crested cormorants were working the same area.
- Christopher Letts

6/4 - Milan HRM 90: We have a very protective bluebird. He sits on the glass roof of our sunroom and defends his territory by pecking at his reflected "challenger." We hope he doesn't expend too much energy.
- Marty Otter

6/4 - Town of Poughkeepsie: The nestling in eagle nest NY62 was active this afternoon, wings spread and moving, hopping from one side of the nest to the other, feet off the nest and airborne.
- Eileen Stickle

6/4 - Little Stony Point, HRM 55: The tide was high and our expectations were low, given the seining predilections of this beach. Before we even began to net, we took time to watch black vultures, traveling solely on the north wind, passing overhead, tacking west, and circling back toward Breakneck Ridge. The long streaks of whitewash on Breakneck below the raven eyries were visible from a mile away. Our catch was both modest and odd, consisting of yearling blueback herring (110 mm). Not too long ago we assumed that young-of-the year river herring left the river and did not return until they were adults to spawn. We now know that some, even many, linger here, or come back to their natal river far sooner. We found several dead adult male blueback herring (241-248 mm) scattered along the tideline. The stress of spawning takes its toll. The river was 67 degrees F.
- Tom Lake, T.R. Jackson

[This beach, part of the Hudson Highlands State Park, may be the most picturesque place on the estuary. Across the river to the southwest are West Point and Crow's Nest. To the north is the northern gateway to the Hudson Highlands - Storm King directly across the river to the west and Mount Taurus and Breakneck Ridge to the east. Tom Lake.]

6/5 - Staatsburg, HRM 87: Two robust and active eaglets pranced on eagle nest NY143B last week, but only one remained today, indicating that one had likely fledged. This was a bit early, being approximately Day 63. Across the river, at eagle nest NY142B, the single nestling (Day 54) actively relished all food deliveries.
- Dave Lindemann

6/5 - Hyde Park, HRM 82: This evening I spotted a male belted kingfisher diving in our pond for small fish. I think he may be nesting in the bank. After his first fish, he disappeared toward the far end of the pond. I went out to look for him, but could not find him or any sign of a nest. As I turned to leave, I heard him again as he flew out and onto a high branch overhanging the pond. His noisy call was very distinct.
- Kathleen Davis

6/5 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: Every leaf of every hardwood along the edge of the woods had at least one cicada. Nymph cases filled uncovered places. If having one land on you would make you skittish, this evening was not a time to be out taking a walk.
- Tom Lake

6/5 - Putnam County, HRM 56: Driving south along the river on Route 9D, just past the trailhead for Breakneck Ridge, a black vulture flew right in front of me and landed in the woods. I pulled over to be sure; I had never seen one before and I didn't know they came this far north. I thought at first it was an immature turkey vulture, but it had a pale head and the white patches in its wings and long pale/white legs made it unmistakable.
- Christian Jensen

6/6 - Hyde Park, HRM 82: Our first-of-the-year white-tailed deer fawn and turkey poults pranced, explored, and fed under their moms' supervision today in our woodlands.
- Dave Lindemann

6/6 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: The day began with the cicada hum soft and distant, but by midday the decibels were as high as ever. Fish crows were noticeably pursuing the fliers.
- Tom Lake

6/6 - Staten Island, New York City: An adult Mississippi kite was spotted at the Cemetery of the Resurrection, near the town of Pleasant Plains on the south shore of Staten Island (Richmond County).
- Isaac Grant

6/7 - Town of Poughkeepsie: Day 72. The not-ready-to-fledge behavior of the eaglet in nest NY62 continued to puzzle us. It was exploring areas near the nest as though for the first time. The question remains: What to make of the immature eagle that left the nest for two days on May 26?
- Tom Lake

6/7 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 70: We spotted a gorgeous green luna moth attached to one of the columns in a shopping plaza, staying out of the rain.
- Jim O'Brien, Karen O'Brien

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