Hudson River Almanac August 19 - August 26, 2013
Tagging wildlife can bring rewards as scientists track the travels of everything from moose to monarch butterflies to Atlantic sturgeon. This week - not for the first time - a bald eagle tagged along the Delaware River seven years ago was spotted locally, providing us with a little more understanding of their travels.
HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK
8/26 - Town of Washington, HRM 83: I stopped by the lowland bridge over the East Branch of Wappinger Creek at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies to check for birds and was surprised to see an adult bald eagle sitting on a snag, watching the water. The bird carried a blue New York State DEC band on its right leg - number R21.
- Deb Kral
[R21 was a male nestling from along the Delaware River, Sullivan County, Town of Tusten. I banded this bird at its nest on June 27, 2006, just over seven years ago, and fitted the bird with a very small satellite transmitter. These transmitters have an estimated life span of five to ten years, and the one on this eagle may have fallen off by now. Pete Nye]
NATURAL HISTORY NOTES
8/19 - Manhattan, HRM 4: You can talk all you like about the effects of the tides on the Hudson, but the river is always the best teacher. During the morning session of our teacher workshop for the "Day in the Life of the Hudson River" program (coming up October 10), we discussed how the tide brings salt into the Hudson from the ocean. In the afternoon, we found the tide ebbing, but what about the salt? At Pier 84 in the Hudson River Park, the salinity was 21.5 ppt [parts per thousand] at 1:00 p.m. Forty-five minutes later we found it had dropped to 20.5 ppt. The salinity was dropping as slightly fresher water was being drawn back down the river on the ebb tide.
- Margie Turrin, Steve Stanne, Chris Bowser
8/20 - Cheviot, HRM 106: I spotted an osprey this afternoon, as well as the continuing array of great blues, at least a dozen (though I counted fifteen one day last week), and two unidentified shorebird "peeps."
- Mimi Brauch
8/20 - Germantown, HRM 105: From the backyard this evening, we had a rainbow that lasted for fifteen minutes followed by five bats (the first I've seen this season). Many butterflies, mostly tiger swallowtails, were all over the butterfly bush. There were others as well. One was very dark with an iridescent patch on each wing. One or two monarchs have been through but didn't light.
- Mimi Brauch
8/20 - Hyde Park, HRM 82: It has been quite a summer with a milk snake on the deck, a black snake in the garage, and a gray tree frog that took over our patio umbrella as his own personal "tree." When we raised the patio umbrella around mid-day, not only was the tree frog there clinging, but up in the canopy were two roosting little brown bats. The motion of the rising umbrella caused one to lose its grip and both took off. They returned shortly thereafter. However, their arrival coincided with that of our resident male hummingbird, who has an attitude. He chased the bats until they were out of sight.
- Barbara Wells
8/20 - Bedford, HRM 35: Only two broad-winged hawks were noted today at the Chestnut Ridge hawkwatch. The first was today's only migrant, the other took to significant height and then proceeded northbound out of sight.
- Arthur W. Green
8/21 - Tivoli Bays, HRM 100: I spotted two little blue herons picking through the mud in the spatterdock between Cruger Island and South Cruger Island. They were not at all shy as I floated nearby in my kayak for half an hour.
- Susan Rogers
[Little blue herons belong to the herons and bitterns family, and are related to the great blue heron, great egret and others. Their nearest breeding area is Long Island. Before migrating south, they wander in all directions, up to several hundred miles north. Every few years, one shows up in Dutchess County in late July and August. Most leave after a day, but this year the juvenile in Wappinger Falls stayed for a while. The striking white plumage of the immature seen now will begin changing to the dark blue adult plumage next April. Barbara Butler.]
8/21 - Hyde Park, HRM 82: Thirteen years ago today, after twelve months of searching with ground penetrating radar, a backhoe, and much human effort, a team of paleontologists from Cornell University at last found the "bone pit" of a mastodont buried in the matrix adjacent to the Fall Kill. Radiocarbon analysis of the tusks of this now-extinct form of elephant returned a date of 11,500 years ago (13,000 calendar years), the dawn of human presence in the Hudson Valley.
- Tom Lake
8/21 - Wappinger Falls, HRM 67.5: The immature little blue heron was still at Wappinger Lake. Several green herons were there as well, but I could not find the immature black-crowned night heron.
- Terry Hardy
[The Almanac has fifteen individual records of little blue herons in our previous nineteen years, most of them (12) from Westchester County with one each from Putnam, Orange, and Dutchess counties. The banner year was 2004. Amy Silberkleit was first to report a little blue heron in July at Croton Point. Then, from August through early December, Christopher Letts had no fewer than seven little blue heron sightings, from three birds, to two birds, and finally just one, between Croton Point, the Croton River, and Croton Bay. By December 5, he noted concern over the welfare of the remaining little blue with the approaching winter. Tom Lake.]
8/21 - Fishkill, HRM 61: While her youngsters foraged and frolicked nearby this morning, a mother wild turkey enjoyed a relaxing and invigorating "spa moment" for herself beneath a large black walnut tree in my yard. She settled down and then rolled about in the loose soil that may have released many ants or other insects as she also continued to peck the soil. After 20 minutes of this attendant action, she calmly strutted off with her brood of six poults, totally refreshed and with feathers gleaming in the soft dappled light of the morning woods.
- Ed Spaeth
8/21 - Kowawese, HRM 59: There is a fear inherent in anyone who has ever hauled a seine on a Hudson River beach before an expectant audience: The empty net. As our number of hauls progressed this morning before a summer camp for seven to twelve year-olds from the Hudson Highlands Nature Museum, the fear of catching no fish was becoming a reality. Seven long hauls and not a living creature stirred in the mesh. The program had begun with an overview of what we expected to catch, and why we thought the fish would be there. On our eighth haul, with no expectations of catching anything, we finally found a net full. Most of them were young-of-the-year [YOY] striped bass 37-120 millimeters [mm] long. In the rush of excitement, I am sure the students did not hear our collective sigh of relief. The river was 77 degrees Fahrenheit and, for the first time this summer, there was measurable salinity, albeit just under 2.0 ppt.
- Tom Lake, Adam Harlec, Phyllis Lake, T.R. Jackson
[The wide size range of the YOY striped bass we caught is a good measure of their protracted spawning season, often beginning in late April and continuing well into June. Tom Lake.]
8/21 - Haverstraw Bay, HRM 36: We went out crabbing this morning and stayed out three hours. I came home with eighteen blue crabs of varying sizes and degrees of fullness. Another crabber fishing just south of us told us got 44. He was using sunfish as bait; we were using white perch. We had a nice meal and I picked out a pint to freeze for the dark months.
- Christopher Letts, Gino Garner
[As a crustacean, blue crabs have an exoskeleton (their skeleton is on the outside) and must moult periodically as they grow to accommodate their increasing internal body size. For reasons of stronger and higher tides with greater access to shoreline niches, blue crabs tend to moult more frequently around the full and new moons when the reach of tide is the greatest. At those times, it is not uncommon to catch blue crabs that have recently shed, resulting in what seems to be an "empty" shell - that is, a crab that has a shell larger than its body can presently fill. Tom Lake. Photo of blue crab moulting by Steve Stanne.]
8/21 - Bedford, HRM 35: The trickle of adult broad-wings and osprey continued at the Chestnut Ridge hawkwatch. Apart from another still-resident juvenile broad-wing and the return of our black vulture after a two-day absence, there was nothing else out of the ordinary.
- Arthur W. Green
8/22 - Indian Kill, HRM 85: We were sampling American eels in the Indian Kill, a small Hudson River tributary, using a backpack electro-shocker and catching the eels in dip nets. Sarah Mount dipped a small eel-like fish, an Oriental weatherfish, the first one we had seen on the eastern side of the Hudson estuary. The Oriental weatherfish belongs to the loach family; the species is native to China, Korea, and Japan. From this observation, it seems to us that this alien species is moving around in the tidal Hudson River. Look for them in silty habitat.
- Bob Schmidt, Sarah Mount, Karin Limburg, Jonas Hamberg
8/22 - Clintondale. HRM 67: We have at least two flying squirrels in our tree. We heard a noise on our bird feeder tonight, got a flashlight and got a good photo of the little fellow on the tree. We have seen him several times since. We thought ourselves fortunate to get such a good glimpse of it.
- Gail Appel
8/22 - Haverstraw Bay, HRM 36: We crabbed for three hours again today with middling success. Crab catches had been excellent for the past month but something changed - perhaps it was the moon tides. We caught enough for a meal, and just being on the water was good. Black-backed gulls were our constant companions, though they got nothing from their attendance but our company. Several ospreys weren't doing any better. We saw perhaps a dozen plunges, but no fish were caught - they were hunting hard.
- Christopher Letts, Gino Garner
8/22 - Bedford, HRM 35: The only raptor of the day was an osprey headed due west in mid-afternoon that we counted as a migrant. Also noted and counted as migrants were eighteen cedar waxwings in three flocks.
- Tait Johansson
8/23 - Newcomb, HRM 302: I paddled on the river early this evening. It was a beautiful night, amazingly quiet, with a hint of fall in the air. Most birds were silent now and some were already moving south. The exceptions were the cedar waxwings, with at least one adult bohemian waxwing mixed in. Twenty to thirty of them were all staged in a dead cedar on the river's edge, from which they launched to pick off a hatch of small, light-colored flies that were emerging from the water. The dragonflies were making quick work of the flies from the surface to about two feet above the river. Once the flies reached that elevation, the waxwings took over. I could not figure out how any of the flies could escape the feeding frenzy. Not counting the waxwings, beavers (seven) outnumbered the birds that I saw on my two-mile paddle. One cruised by the kayak so closely that its sudden tail slap soaked me. The riverbanks had a few lovely flowers still in bloom, including cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis), fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium), and tall meadow rue (Thalictrum polygamun). Fall was definitely in the air.
- Charlotte Demers
[The bohemian waxwing is uncommon to rare winter visitor; this is a very early sighting. As suggested by their common name, these waxwings are very nomadic, and they may appear in numbers ranging from a single bird to huge flocks. According to the Birds of North America Online, research done in the late 1990s suggested that this species was becoming a more regular winter visitor in the eastern part of its range, having been reported annually in northern New York State since late 1970s. Steve Stanne.]
8/23 - Green Island, HRM 153: At the head of tide a twenty-foot-high white ash grows where you might least expect: in the flood plain. At some high tides, particularly moon tides, the base is covered. The literature states "upland species; prefers well-drained soil." Not here. The evening high tide was lapping at its roots. A single bald eagle feather was stuck to the bark at the base, conjuring memories of seasons past when we'd sometimes find small collections of eagle feathers, particularly in spring. Directly behind and overarching, is a much taller cottonwood more appropriate to the locale. This is the feeding, loafing, and preening perch of eagles.
- Tom Lake
[Floodplain soil can be well drained - i.e., when the flood tide recedes, the soil can drain freely without water-logging. I am sure I've seen white ash at or just above the mean high tide line at Tivoli Bays where it is irregularly flooded but not for long periods. Erik Kiviat, Hudsonia.]
[Note: 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 ceremonial activities. Tom Lake.]
8/23 - Albany, HRM 145: A small flock of a dozen mallards were flying straight down the river. This was the first time I had seen waterfowl in formation since spring.
- Tom Lake
8/23 - Castleton-on-Hudson, HRM 137.5: Each spring for the past twelve to fifteen years I have had five or more pairs of rose-breasted grosbeaks at my feeders. By the time they had produced their broods, I'd lost count of the numbers, making them among the most abundant birds at my feeders. I have noted that they are the earliest birds to depart south, led by the males. This month, as in the past, all had left by August 19-20. It is only in the past twelve to fifteen seasons that they have become so abundant here. Prior to that, I seldom saw them. [Photo of adult male rose-breasted grosbeak by Mike Pogue.]
- Tom Warner
8/23 - Catskill, HRM 113: I knew that I had missed the first act of the drama that was unfolding along the Kaaterskill. An adult bald eagle was driving a raven down into the tree line, likely in retaliation of an earlier encounter. Ravens - smaller, more agile, and prone to being agitators - are well known as harassers of eagles. On occasion, however, given the opportunity, eagles will turn the tables and the pursuers find themselves being chased.
- Tom Lake
8/23 - Rhinebeck, HRM 96: In the flower garden today I saw my first monarch butterfly of the year.
- Chris Quimby
8/23 - Wappinger Creek, HRM 67.5: There was a juvenile little blue heron on the lower (tidal) Wappinger Creek today. I assume it is the same one that was on Wappinger Lake last week. We watched for forty minutes as it zigzagged from the water chestnut to the far bank of the creek, catching what appeared to be eels as it went. It didn't seem to be too bothered by people as two kayakers paddled close by and the bird didn't flinch at all.
- Jamie Collins
8/23 - Bedford, HRM 35: No matter the conditions, it seemed a trickle of osprey and broad-winged hawks were almost guaranteed. But today was hardly the coup we were hoping for. The wind's indecisive vector and the cloud cover seemed to pretty much ensure that today never really got off the ground. Other species noted included two common ravens and 21 cedar waxwings (eight flocks).
- Arthur W. Green
8/23 - Croton River, HRM 34: There was a good "minus tide" [lower than the expected water level] due to the full moon and a stiff north breeze. The mud bar outside the railroad bridge was exposed and well populated with three species of gulls (greater black-backed; herring; and ring-billed), great blue herons; and a great egret. A peregrine falcon swept in from the north and landed amidst the other birds. The falcon took a few steps toward a black-backed gull and the gull took off. The falcon pursued it as all the other birds took off. The peregrine made a swift feint at the gull, spiraled up to spoil the morning for several ospreys, then returned to the woods on Croton Point.
- Christopher Letts
8/24 - Essex County, HRM 300: Newly acquired public lands on the upper Hudson River include a stretch below Newcomb that has canoe access at Blackwell Stillwater - just downstream from the Goodnow River. I took a lightweight canoe and fishing gear, gave it a try, and caught smallmouth bass; northern pike (a surprise); redbreast sunfish; and a fallfish. There was a nice great blue heron at the mouth of the Goodnow River, standing sentinel just below a three-foot-high beaver dam.
- Lance Biesele
8/24 - Montrose, HRM 40: As we sat by the river, we saw a solitary monarch butterfly heading south. It was the first and only one we had seen so far this year.
- Dianne Picciano, Kay Martens
8/24 - Bedford, HRM 35: Despite brisk thermals and lackluster wind conditions at the Chestnut Ridge hawkwatch, the birds didn't seem to take to significant heights as I would have expected. Similarly, the resident turkey vultures and red-tailed hawk were almost always within view. An adult osprey seen in the afternoon continued to soar ever higher despite carrying half a healthy-sized fish. A juvenile Cooper's hawk skimmed the treetops trying to catch songbirds by surprise. The count: twenty broad-winged hawks, twenty ospreys, three bald eagles, an American kestrel, and the Cooper's hawk. Also seen were two common ravens.
- Arthur W. Green
8/24 - Croton Point, HRM 34: Before I ever got out of the truck this morning, I saw kestrels chasing kestrels; kestrels chasing sharp-shinned hawks; crows chasing a sharp-shinned hawk; and a kettle of turkey vultures. Later, on an hour-long walk around and over the landfill, I counted a dozen ospreys and two monarchs.
- Christopher Letts
8/24 - Inwood Hill Park, HRM 12.5: We had been observing a steady movement of ospreys over the Hudson River from the overlook in Inwood Hill Park. In a little under an hour, we counted no fewer than 25 birds, and they kept coming. Other species migrating over the river included bald eagles, sharp-shinned hawks, great blue herons, cedar waxwings, red-winged blackbirds, and what were probably tree swallows, although these were some distance away. There has also been a nice influx of southbound passerines into the park including a first-of-season Nashville warbler.
- Nadir Souirgi, James Knox
8/25 - Milan HRM 90: For the last two days we watched as a male cardinal fed two fledglings, flying from the feeder to one, and then back to the feeder and on to the other. This evening as we were watching the sun make its trip to the horizon against a backdrop of green, we saw what we thought was pollen or bits of leaves falling through the sun's rays. When they started reversing their fall we realized they were insects! Countless numbers in a quiet ballet.
- Marty Otter
8/25 - Ulster County, HRM 73: Finding an opening between many Canada geese, a flock of twenty small brown birds came down along a small farm pond. These were all female and immature brown-headed cowbirds migrating through. A complex and rather confusing bird call made us look up, and we saw an adult orchard oriole perched in a black locust.
- Tom Lake, T.R. Jackson
8/25 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 68: I spotted a prothonotary warbler today, an uncommon migrant, along Bowdoin Park's Kelly Lane Loop Trail.
- Ken Harris
8/25 - Crugers, HRM 39: After watching the great blue heron preening its feathers atop a low bush at Ogilvie's Pond, we moved to the opposite side to see if any turtles were on their usual log. There we saw a large painted turtle basking in the sun, and it wasn't alone. A green heron, somewhat camouflaged by the vegetation behind it, stood on the same log. They remained this way for a while until the turtle decided it was time to slide into the pond.
- Dorothy and Bob Ferguson
8/25 - Bedford, HRM 35: I'm usually satisfied if I record even one migrant for the day at the Chestnut Ridge hawkwatch, but today was a winner! Intense thermals with weak, indecisive winds are rarely a good sign. However, the count included 23 broad-winged hawks, 22 ospreys, four bald eagles, an American kestrel, a red-tailed hawk and a Cooper's hawk.
- Arthur W. Green
8/26 - Millbrook, HRM 82: Birding on Oak Summit Road, I came upon the largest flock of American goldfinches I had ever seen (30-50 birds).
- Deb Kral
8/26 - Newburgh, HRM 61: A yellow-crowned night heron, along with some black-crowned night herons, was still on Washington Lake.
- Ken McDermott
8/26 - Bedford, HRM 35: Apart from the resident turkey vultures and red-tailed hawks, the only raptors seen today at the Chestnut Ridge hawkwatch were two juvenile ospreys that made a few rounds and showed no signs of leaving. The brief period of sunshine kept a lid on thermal generation, with the few raptors seen flying at very casual heights above the tree canopy.
- Arthur W. Green