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Hudson River Almanac June 12 - June 18, 2014

OVERVIEW

Most or all of the Hudson Valley bald eagle nestlings were on the verge of becoming fledglings - just days away. The vagaries of springtime were evident as early hummingbird sightings had dwindled and almost no one had seen a monarch butterfly.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

6/15 - Warren County, HRM 220: Just after dark this evening, I heard the call of a loon, a tremolo from out on Great Sacandaga Lake. It gave me goose bumps. I was in awe, and felt so fortunate to live where I can hear them.
- Marilyn Arpin

[Loons are one of a handful of iconic species in our watershed whose presence authenticates remnants of wildness. Along with eagles, coyotes, ravens, bobcats, and black bears, the common loon rekindles remembrances of different times, long ago. Tom Lake.]

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

brown pelican sitting on a piling on a lake

6/12 - Saratoga Lake, HRM 182: Myron Chamberlin and the Saratoga Lake Association sent a digital image of the brown pelican sighted on the north end of Saratoga Lake (see May 29) putting to rest any questions as to this extraordinary sighting.
- Tom Lake

6/12 - Town of Poughkeepsie: Day 74. The eaglets in NY62 were getting their daily workout, climbing (branching) up on limbs over the nest and then jumping (mini-flights) back down.
- Tom McDowell, Sheila Bogart

6/12 - Mystery Point, HRM 47: Riding Metro North today I saw a strange sight just north of the Manitou station. At least five black vultures were crammed onto a tiny tree. I thought it was kind of funny-looking because there was plenty of room nearby but they all seemed to want to be close to each other.
- Glen Heinson

6/13 - Norrie Point, HRM 85: Students from Mercy College, Dobbs Ferry, joined us in enduring the rain, from showers to downpours, as we sampled the south cove. The extremely high tide and rain (1.25 inches) conspired to limit our catch to banded killifish. However, with the recent discussion on the etymology of their name, we had plenty to talk about. The river was 69 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Tom Lake, Brianna Rosamilia, T.R. Jackson

channel catfish being held with a good angle to see its barbles

[The students were fascinated by the behavior of a small brown bullhead previously taken in the cove. The catfish searched along the bottom of a small tank with its "whiskers," probing for familiarity. More correctly called barbels, these are small, fleshy organs around the jaws of fish such as sturgeon; carp; and catfish. Sensors for touch and taste are located on barbels, an adaptation allowing fish that frequent habitats with limited or no light to navigate and find food. Tom Lake. Photo of barbels on a channel catfish by Steve Stanne.]

6/13 - Hyde Park, HRM 82: Three of us who live in Hyde Park have been enjoying the hummingbirds at our feeders since the lilacs bloomed [see May 11- Hyde Park]. However, within the past week or two, they seemed to have vanished. We've never experienced this before.
- Barbara Wells

[We had three last month, but now have not seen one in weeks. Often the first spring hummingbirds to arrive are headed north to breeding territories. Summer residents should be here, if not now, then soon. Tom Lake.]

6/13 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: This is a spring of mock orange (Philadelpus species.). The several varieties around my house were threatening to engulf it. The bushes were so heavily laden with fragrant white blossoms that the birds, accustomed to gathering in their thickets, were lost from sight. I knew the birds were there because the bushes were "singing" from before dawn until after dark.
- Robin Fox

[I would add that mock orange is the most fragrant of spring flowers, but I have also said that about others, so it would be like crying wolf. Tom Lake.]

6/14 - Dunderberg Mountain, HRM 43.5: A recent Almanac noted that "goldfish can grow to 14 inches and weigh a couple of pounds." Here is another tale to add to the story. While trawling in the shadow of Dunderberg Mountain as a fisheries consultant in the summer of 1970, my crew hauled up a very large and very bright-orange goldfish. We were amazed and, with its great girth, we thought at first that it was a carp. However, it lacked barbels - convincing us that it was not a carp, but a goldfish. I do not recall the fish's length but remember that it weighed 20 lb.
- Don Pizzuto

[Carp and goldfish coloration can range from olive-brown to bright-orange, with several shades of burnished-gold in between. Since they hybridize, a close look is required for identification. Carp have two pairs of barbels (4) on their upper jaw, goldfish have none; hybrids have a subset of barbells - that is, 1-3. On some fish they are difficult to locate, leaving us to wonder if Don's fish might have been a hybrid. More than a decade ago, C. Lavett Smith and I caught a foot-long brassy-gold carp-goldfish hybrid in the cove above Danskammer Point (HRM 67) that had two barbels on one side and none on the other. Tom Lake.]

6/14 - Norrie Point, HRM 85: The adjacent water chestnut-covered south cove was volcanic with spawning carp! They were splashing explosively everywhere, from the Environmental Center all the way down river to the Poughkeepsie Yacht Club, more than a mile away. The dozens of Canada geese, several cormorants, and herons perched on floating logs were unfazed by the commotion.
- Dave Lindemann

6/14 - Town of Poughkeepsie: Day 76. The size difference between the two eagle nestlings was obvious as they perched together on limbs around nest NY62.
- Tom McDowell

[Pete Nye offers that size differences among nestlings can occur for a variety of reasons. While a nestling hatched a day or two later may be smaller than an older nest mate, size usually is an indication of gender - female raptors tend to be larger. Tom Lake.]

6/14 - Beacon, HRM 61: Good fishing at Long Dock today - I caught and released two carp. One weighed 10 lb. 13 oz., and the other was about the same size. Carp were spawning heavily in the water chestnut growth that had made its annual appearance in the south-side bay.
- Bill Greene

6/15 - Milan HRM 90: A female cardinal did her rendition of the "broken wing" decoy act today. She was standing in the middle of the road causing me to stop. Then she flew up and landed a little farther down the road. She repeated this several times as I moved slowly forward, until finally she moved to the side so that I could pass. All the time she was sounding her distress call.
- Marty Otter

6/15 - Norrie Point, HRM 85: Here is another perspective with regard to the ongoing discussion of the Dutch word "kill" (see May 30, June 5), and its relationship with Hudson River tributaries. I once had the opportunity to speak with Dutch professor Nico Habermann about the Colonial Dutch in the Hudson Valley. He was very interested and mentioned the frequent appearance of the word and how it is translated in American dictionaries as meaning "creek." Professor Habermann said the word meant much more than creek in The Netherlands. Specifically, it referred to a rapidly flowing stream with sufficient volume and enough "head" or pressure from the stream's vertical drop to make it a source of water power, via a waterwheel or turbine.
- Al Gerney

6/16 - Minerva, HRM 284: It was verdant out there! Very green. The nearly four inches of rain we had last week was amazing. Pink ladies-slipper and Indian cucumber-root were in bloom. Our American bittern was back! I heard him out in the marsh a few days ago and tonight I heard that "bad plumbing" sound again. Along with this wonderful call were scattered peepers, a crowd of bullfrogs, and several green frogs. The light was limited at dusk, and as I sought out a large rock I like to sit on, I nearly landed on a DeKay's brown snake, coiled up and enjoying the remaining warmth of the rock.
- Mike Corey

6/16 - Ulster County, HRM 92: Driving on Girard Street in Connolly today, I came upon a black bear. It looked like it was a young adult and reared slightly on its back legs. I think it was a startle response to the braking of my oncoming pickup truck. The bear then decided that getting off the road was a better choice and ran into the brush toward the woods. I've seen lots of different wildlife in my fifty-plus years here, but this is the first black bear sighting I've had this close to my home. Surprised, yes. Concerned, no.
- Lauren Swartzmiller

6/16 - Norrie Point, HRM 85: The water was quiet at low tide, as Norrie Point educators and students seined in the south cove and then by the north dock. The incredible carp spawning activity I'd witnessed two days ago was totally absent.
- Dave Lindemann

[When common carp are in full vigor, their spawning activity is explosive. It often seems like cement blocks are dropping out of the sky. In the early 1980s, video footage purported to be that of "Champ," Lake Champlain's version of the Loch Ness Monster, was given to C.L. Smith, curator of fishes at the American Museum of Natural History, for his evaluation. Champ was described as a large reptilian animal that some believed to be a descendant of the now-extinct ichthyosaur. After a painstakingly careful, frame-by-frame analysis, Dr. Smith concluded that the footage showed scores of common carp, spawning. The fish created such a commotion, swimming and leaping over each other across the water, that the result looked like the undulating neck of a 50-foot-long long sea creature. Tom Lake.]

fluted white spear point, about 2 centimeters wide

6/16 - Wallkill River, HRM 77: It was fifteen years ago today, as I walked along the edge of a fallow cornfield listening to the "witchity-witchity-witchity" of the common yellowthroat, that I spotted a piece of gray stone (chert) protruding slightly from a crack in the dry earth. It was the thin edge of a small projectile point staring up at me. I had found a very old spear point, later dated to about 12,500 years ago.
- Tom Lake

[This stone artifact was a Barnes-type fluted spear point, a style that originated in southwestern Ontario about 12,500 calendar years ago. They are a diagnostic tool of what archaeologists believe were the first people, called Paleoindians, to enter the Hudson Valley. The Wallkill River Valley was a seasonal passageway for these hunter-gatherers from Ontario, through the Mohawk River Valley, then south through Greene, Ulster, and Orange Counties, stopping at stone quarries and following game herds. Tom Lake. Photo of Barnes fluted spear point by Tom Lake.]

6/16 - Town of Poughkeepsie: Day 78. The NY62 nestlings were eager and showing their impatience with very vocal calling for food! Mom made a food "drop" after which the eaglets busied themselves with eating.
- Terry Hardy, Bob Rightmyer

[The progression from hatch to fledge has been consistent with these adults over the last thirteen years. As the nestlings enter the 72-90 day range (expected fledging), their appetite becomes insatiable and their manners deteriorate. The adults eventually stop landing in the nest with food, and instead drop the items from a safe height. The kids are quite incorrigible. Tom Lake.]

6/16 - Bedford, HRM 35: There was not very much activity at the great blue heron rookery today. With the air temperature in the 80s, it may have been uncomfortable for the fledglings. The nests are in the top of dead trees and there is no shade from the hot sun. Their immature plumage was becoming darker than that of the adults - a dark charcoal gray. There was a continuous chattering but the only activity was the adults flying in to feed the nestlings.
- Jim Steck

6/17- Oscawana, HRM 38.5: We stopped at the mouth of Furnace Brook and spotted a great blue heron standing on a log in the middle of the outlet. It was motionless until a pair of mute swans swam close, at which point the heron held its wings out, cormorant-like. The swans then changed direction and proceeded away. Just before we left, the air became filled with swarms of barn swallows, flitting across the water and into the trees, their deeply forked tails, bright blue heads and backs, and reddish-orange breasts evident in the bright sunlight.
- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson

6/17 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: Has anyone noticed fewer hummingbirds this year? Perhaps I'm just impatient, but I seem to remember that by this time the hummingbird traffic in my yard was in high gear. I have just one male hanging around here so far.
- Robin Fox

6/18 - Lake Luzerne, HRM 224: A morning walk on the River Trail began perfectly peacefully. I had hopes of seeing a monarch butterfly, but none showed. Fish (brown trout?) were rising to a hatch along a flat reach of the river, dimpling the surface. The theme became "red" as I spotted two male scarlet tanagers and several red squirrels, cut my finger on prickly multiflora rose, and began scratching the many mosquito bites. When the black flies joined it, it was time to go.
- Tom Lake

6/18 - Corinth, HRM 220: As I was taking a bird walk near the river, a gray fox crossed the trail not 50 feet in front - being very quiet can make us nearly invisible. The fox was elegant in its graceful movements, very feline-like.
- Tom Lake

6/18 - Green Island, HRM 153: We hauled our seine in the dropping tide, looking for young-of-the-year river herring, and found none. In fact, twice we slipped off a slope and got a good dousing in the river (68 degrees F). Along the rocky shoreline strewn with gray, red, and green Normanskill shale, we collected small chert and quartzite pebbles.
- Tom Lake, A. Danforth

[We were collecting pebbles for a fourth-grade local history class. To foster a commitment to nature in their children, many Native American groups encourage them, at a young age, to walk along beaches and stream beds looking for small water-worn stones shaped like an animal. This is much like seeing images in the clouds - one person's eagle is another's opossum. This search may take a day, a year, a lifetime. When they finally find one, they save the small stone and the symbolic animal becomes their life-long guardian spirit, a totem, a tangible connection to Nature. There is a theory that you will not destroy that which you love. In just half an hour we found three bears, three eagles, four mountain lions, and five turtles. Tom Lake.]

6/18 - West Sand Lake, HRM 149: While weeding the flowers today, I saw a first for me: a lovely snowberry clearwing hummingbird moth. What a wild looking critter! Other highlights included several swallowtails and an incredible evening light show by fireflies in the meadow.
- Audrey Van Genechten

6/18 - Town of Poughkeepsie: Day 80. The wait for fledge day continued. Both NY62 eaglets remained in the nesting tree, fairly quiet for a change. They seemed content, which is not a good sign for an imminent fledge.
- Tom McDowell, Terry Hardy, Bob Rightmyer

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