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Hudson River Almanac August 11-August 22, 2004

OVERVIEW

The twin hurricanes, Bonnie and Charley, were scarcely even tropical storms when they reached our area, but they brought significant rainfall, swelling Hudson River tributaries until many spilled over into the flood plains. For a week the watershed ran high and turbid, pushing the salt front down the river. More stormy weather followed on the hurricanes' heels. When the sun came out and the sky turned blue on August 22, many of us knew how Noah must have felt when the rains ended. In the preceding several days, no fewer than 30,000 people had lost electrical power as strong storms swept across the Hudson Valley.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

8/15 - Jamaica Bay, New York Bight: Summer at Jamaica Bay is here, marked by shorebirds, shorebirders, and their mammoth spotting scopes and cameras. The fields along the ponds of the bay are in full summer bloom, the best I've seen in years due to all the rain. Not a speck of brown is evident between the gallardia flowers, blue vevain, and daisy fleabane. Even the ripening rose hips seem more abundant this year. While examining some, I was informed by a happy group of birder friends that I missed a white pelican. We seem to be seeing more of these each year, and this bird has been patrolling the refuge ponds off and on for the last month or so. Nonetheless, it seemed funny that I somehow "missed" a white bird with a five-foot wingspan.
- Dave Taft, National Park Service

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

8/11 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: A torrent of rain, 1.35" in two hours, hampered visibility on the river. I saw no trace of the local eagles; having more sense than I, they were somewhere out of the storm. I had ten seconds of deafness after lightning struck so close that I could smell the ozone.
- Tom Lake

8/11 - Yonkers, HRM 18: Six educators joined us at the Beczak Environmental Center for training in river sampling. The water temperature was a warm 78°F, and the dissolved oxygen reading was 10 ppm. With a 30' net we caught a female blue crab, two eels, striped bass, two winter flounder, a northern kingfish, two Atlantic tomcod, killifish, silversides, sand shrimp, and a bluefish. As we made our last haul, black clouds appeared over the Palisades and within minutes it was pouring. What a fantastic sight to see the Palisades lit up by lightning!
- Rebecca Johnson, Steve Stanne

8/11 - Manhattan, HRM 5.5: In the viewing tank onboard the sloop Clearwater, young butterfish were milling about the tentacles of a lion's mane jellyfish collected from the river. Unlike humans and many fishes, these butterfish are immune to the tentacles' stings. The butterfish get protection from predators and a food source: they actually feed on the jellyfish's tentacles.
- Daniel Kricheff

8/12 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: More pyrotechnics: lightning, thunder, and 0.19" of rain overnight followed by another 0.25" during the day.
- Tom Lake

8/12 - Croton River, HRM 34: We were enjoying the presence of hickory shad at the mouth of the Croton River until the recent rains. Being creatures that enjoy some salt in the water, they have moved out with the freshet. Bluefish up to 12 pounds are still being taken on cut menhaden, and a few summer flounder are beginning to show up offshore. One angler caught and released two today, each about a foot long.
- Christopher Letts

[Note: Legal size for summer flounder in New York State is 18" total length.]

8/13 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: The rain associated with Hurricane Bonnie (now a tropical storm) continued; over 2.0" fell in the last few days.
- Tom Lake

8/13 - Fishkill, HRM 62: As tropical storm Bonnie passed through the area, the sun - fading in the west - cast a pink aura on fast-moving, dark, and foreboding clouds. However, three little brown bats darted about, silhouetted against the sky, undaunted by the atmospheric conditions.
- Ed Spaeth

8/15 - Furnace Woods, HRM 38.5: Tropical storm Bonnie delivered 2.5" of rain, according to my garden rain gauge. Charley only left a half-inch.
- Christopher Letts

8/16 - Croton River, HRM 34: In all seasons of the year, heavy weather of any kind causes me to make a beeline for the Croton River and Croton Point. I hope to reap what I've come think of as the "storm dividend" because of the many oddities and rarities that turbulent weather often delivers to these spots. Not much was delivered by the twin hurricanes. An immature Bonaparte's gull and an immature little blue heron were side-by-side on a mud bar. Five greater yellowlegs were joined by a lesser yellowlegs - a nice opportunity to view the two species side-by-side. When they flushed after a few minutes, it was possible to distinguish between the two calls.
- Christopher Letts

8/17 - Albany County, HRM 145: While surveying the sky-blue waters of Alcove Reservoir, which impounds the upper reaches of Hannacrois Creek to supply water to the City of Albany, I saw two immature bald eagles effortlessly flying overhead while scanning the waters with far better vision than mine. Along the shore and in a marshy cove were several Canada geese, two American black ducks, a solitary sandpiper, and flycatching cedar waxwings.
- Ed Spaeth

8/17 - Fishkill, HRM 62: It's a twig! It's a hinge! No, it's a walking stick. This morning we noticed a walking stick trying to go unnoticed by the hinge of our front door. Its brownish color didn't quite match the white metal of the door, but provided an interesting discovery for us.
- Susan Martin, Merrill Spaeth, Ed Spaeth

8/18 - Croton Point, HRM 34: Deserving of its name, a lone solitary sandpiper dipped and bobbed around a puddle on the sports field. Fat white-tailed deer, bucks with plush-covered antlers, watched my passage without alarm. A dozen bobolinks flew over, "pink, pink, pink."
- Christopher Letts

8/18 - Brooklyn, New York Bight: It was another late night at the office at Floyd Bennett Field, and I was truly wondering if it had been worth it. Managing a budget is still managing a budget whether you work at a park or elsewhere. Leaving the building in this summer's seemingly endless warm rains, I stopped for a moment. Grey treefrogs were calling from all about the campgrounds. These were the offspring of a bucket or two of treefrog tadpoles we planted in a pond almost a mile away in the early 1990s as a part of a park-wide reintroduction program. Nice to know they'd come this far.
- Dave Taft, National Park Service

8/20 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 68.5: It was a hazy, hot, and humid morning on the river at Bowdoin Park. A half-dozen Beacon High School students were there to videotape interviews and stories of the role the Hudson River has played in supporting people through the millennia. There was no breeze to fight but several monarchs still struggled in the heavy air, moving south. We told tales of the river for an hour at the North Rockshelter, and as we were about to leave, an immature bald eagle glided across an opening in the canopy, peering down at us.
- Linda Houlihan, Kim Wood, Tom Lake

8/21 - Wappinger Creek, HRM 67.5: Never-ending overnight thunderstorms and a day-long deluge left 3.33 inches of rain. At midday, even though it was ebb tide, the creek level was not lowering. The flow riverward was impressive. We watched a great egret go for a ride down the Wappinger on a large loosened mat of water chestnut.
- Tom Lake, Phyllis Lake

8/21 - New York City: I am becoming a traffic menace on bridges throughout New York State. I am constantly looking for hawks. This morning on Bronx-Whitestone Bridge an adult peregrine falcon swept into view from the east, carrying what was probably a shorebird, and landed on a cable on the northbound side. It was an adult bird with the trademark black "mustache " Peregrines always seem so business-like when they hunt, and - at least to me - those marks would be better described as an executioner's hood. Fortunately for the other drivers on the bridge, there wasn't much time to ponder about the prey.
- Dave Taft, National Park Service

8/22 - Mohonk Preserve, HRM 78: We have been out a few times this week to hike around the Mohonk Preserve. The forest floor is lit up with all kinds of mushrooms. Bright reds, yellows, oranges, whites, and - my favorite - purple. Must be all the rain we have been receiving.
- Rebecca Johnson, Brian Houser

8/22 - Quassaic Creek, HRM 60: This normally quiet-flowing tributary was raging from all the rain and runoff. At first light the tide had begun to ebb but the creek was still well over its banks. Several great blue herons moved along the shore, wondering how they would ever find breakfast in this brown, swirling maelstrom.
- Tom Lake

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