Hudson River Almanac August 24 - August 31, 2005
The accumulating effects of a moderately dry summer are bringing elevated salinities into the lower estuary. As a result, hickory shad, bluefish, and menhaden are flourishing and anglers are pleased. Blue crabs are still a major catch. All week the salt front has been well upriver at Hudson River Mile 70, just north of the Village of Wappingers Falls. The remnants of hurricane Katrina deluged the Adirondacks on August 31; it will be interesting to see if the runoff pushes the salt front south a bit. The Hudson already has one foot in autumn, a welcome relief from summer heat and humidity.
HIGHLIGHT FROM LAST WEEK
8/22 - Croton Point, HRM 34: Small flocks of blue jays and cedar waxwings moving south along the peninsula had me thinking about fall. Cooler temperatures and the first katydid, the increasing size of the snapper bluefish in the Croton River, and the flocks of sandpipers on the parking lot at the Croton Railroad station at times of high tide, all said the same thing. Captain Bob Gabrielson of Nyack says when he hears the first katydid of the year, "It won't be long now!" He is talking about deer season followed by ice fishing or - simply put - summer's over.
- Christopher Letts
NATURAL HISTORY NOTES
8/24 - Brandow Point, HRM 117: While on a brief walk, I saw a spikehorn white-tail buck quietly watching me from the woods, a Baltimore oriole, several cedar waxwings, two great blue herons, and a bald eagle. At the river shoreline, I watched the rocks in the shallow water as the tide surged in, and there beheld the gems of the day: a number of American eel elvers foraging in the shallows.
- Liz LoGiudice
8/24 - Wappinger Creek, HRM 67.5: Traveling less than a mile along the tidal reach of Wappinger Creek this morning, I counted five great egrets among the water chestnut, either standing on the mats or perched on logs.
- Jim Pratt
8/24 - Beacon, HRM 61: A few days ago I spent a morning futilely fishing for carp at the Beacon waterfront. So I walked south a short way to Long Dock where a bulkhead was being refurbished. There I spotted a fellow catching crabs; he had 3-4 good sized ones, 6" or better. He told me this was a much better place for carp than the Beacon riverfront park. I went back today and fished with corn kernels and bread balls and caught a 5 lb. and 8 lb. carp, both released alive after weighing. Even though their spawning season is over, carp were periodically splashing and leaping out of the water. It was better than a fireworks display! Carp are a solid recreational resource; I'll fish here again.
- Bill Greene
8/24 - China Pier, HRM 43: The sky was clear blue and cloudless, and a stiff breeze was blowing out of the northeast this morning. There were two crabbers at the pier, hauling their catch from the river. At the end of the pier we were treated to a great black-backed gull perched on one of the pilings and a second one perched on another. The first one alternately laid down and stood up, facing into the breeze. A double-crested cormorant was sitting on another piling, also facing into the wind.
- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson
8/24 - Furnace Woods, HRM 38.5: Migrations have begun: My barn swallows are gone, flycatchers are leaving, shorebirds are on the move. Red-winged blackbirds have left, although many flocks will still pass through. I'm seeing flocks of cedar waxwings already.
- Christopher Letts
8/24 - Sandy Hook, NJ: This was the last of eight Wednesday evening beach seines on the Raritan Bay side of Sandy Hook, with - as usual - a mix of kids two years and up, some parents and two herring gulls waiting nearby for leftovers. It was, by far, the most diverse haul of the season: puffers, two northern kingfish, banded killifish, two mullet, a snapper bluefish, six juvenile (one-inch) tautog, pipefish, handfuls of all sizes of calico crabs, and the usual oversupply of silversides (we fried up a few; they were not bad). Two observations of special interest: it was the first time all summer that we ran into large numbers of half-inch calico crabs, and through all eight evening hauls in July and August, we did not see one grass shrimp or sand shrimp. We usually find plenty.
- Dery Bennett
8/25 - Gardiner, HRM 73: A large flock of red-winged blackbirds was on the move. We watched about 1,000 them swarm in and out of the yard and then move on south.
- Rebecca Johnson, Michele Delise
8/25 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: Blackbirds are massing, geese are flocking, and all butterflies are heading south - a vanguard of the not-too-distant autumn. A male ruby-throated hummingbird chose red geraniums today.
- Phyllis Lake
8/25 - Beacon, HRM 60: In what was a sign of the current drought, there were a couple of dozen juvenile blue crabs in the pool and rapids at the base of the falls below the Tioronda dam on Fishkill Creek. Based on the "yard sale" of crab parts on the shore and exposed rocks, the herons and raccoons had found them.
- Stephen M. Seymour
8/25 - Croton Point, HRM 34.5: As we were walking along the top of the landfill just before sunset, a female northern harrier suddenly flew up out of the grasses. Haven't seen this bird since late spring. Then, as we were driving out of the park, just past the office, a coyote was traveling south towards the landfill. Although we've seen plenty of scat and foot-prints, this was the first actual coyote that we've seen at the park. We stopped the car to observe him/her as the animal was not more than ten yards away. It also observed us for a moment and then ducked down and vanished. We waited for a few minutes, but the coyote was extremely stealthy and never revealed himself after that. A very attractive animal.
- Kathy Sutherland, Scott Horecky
8/26 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 66.5: Frequently this summer I have seen an adult bald eagle and an immature, probably this summer's fledge, fly past my house along the river.
- Jim Pratt
8/27 - Inbocht Bay, HRM 109.5: There were four bald eagles (one adult, three immatures) on the mud flats near the island today. There were also three great egrets, five great blue herons and a "fly-by" from an American kestrel.
- Larry Federman
8/27 - Croton Point, HRM 34.5: I was trudging up the east face of the dump when a chorus of yips, whines, and howls erupted behind me, down on what I think of as Railroad Flats. I listened for 10 seconds. Then, no more than 50 yards away to the south, came a full-throated and lengthy howl from what was surely a mature coyote. After that, silence. This took place at 10:00 AM. These little wolves do not need a moon to howl at.
- Christopher Letts
8/28 - Millbrook, HRM 78: A quiet, overcast and drizzly afternoon, yet the pond in the Fern Glen section at the Institute of Ecosystem Studies was a picturesque scene with a bronzy-brown northern water snake curled up on a birch log at the northern edge of the pond. A big bullfrog sat in the water at the base of some iris and cattails nearby, looking brown and leaf-like below the water line, with a blue dragonfly (long-winged skimmer?) weaving through the tall grasses.
- Lorraine Herschkorn
8/28 - Tenafly, HRM 17: We were on a Greenbrook Sanctuary walk at Picture Point along the Palisades, watching several osprey fishing in the Hudson. One of them seemed to be making a lot of noise a bit north of us and out of sight in the trees. Suddenly we saw an adult bald eagle come out from behind us, make a quick loop, and then head back into the trees. It was probably looking for an easy meal from one of the ospreys.
- Alec Malyon, Nancy Slowik
8/28 - Queens, New York Bight: Fall migration has begun at the Jamaica Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The first signs are always the shorebirds, and these have begun to move south in earnest. I'm seeing meager monarch numbers, and I don't expect that's going to get much better this year.
- Dave Taft
8/29 - Yonkers, HRM 18: Beach seining today, we caught a 23½" (60 cm) long American eel, along with numerous Atlantic silversides, striped bass, shore shrimp, blue crabs, a northern pipefish and two hogchokers. The salinity today was 10.5 ppt and the river temperature was 81°F.
- Cynthia Fowx
[Ocean salinity, at our latitude in the Western Atlantic, is 32-35 parts-per-thousand (ppt). Throughout the year, sea water entering the Hudson estuary is diluted by freshwater flow from the watershed, and to a lesser extent by the vagaries of wind, tide, and current. In the aftermath of a prolonged storm or Adirondack snowmelt, salinity may be very low all the way south to New York Harbor's Upper Bay. However, at times of drought, there is measurable ocean salt in the water seventy-five miles upriver. Salt water is denser than freshwater so the bottom of the river is generally saltier than the surface water. Tom Lake]
8/29 - Queens, New York Bight: I can't honestly say what was going on, but dozens of eastern kingbirds hunted from branches and fence posts all along the West Pond Trail at the Jamaica Bay National Wildlife Refuge. On a day as buggy and humid as this, I could only tiredly salute their efforts.
- Dave Taft
8/30 - Westchester County: Just about any place along this shoreline where one can cast out into the Hudson is a good fishing spot these days. The snapper blues have been growing like Topsy, running 10-12" and have doubled their weight in the past couple of weeks. Any small shiny lure or small popper draws a strike. (The daily limit on these tasty little fish is 15, no more than 10 of which shall be less than 12" long.) The boys at the Croton railroad bridge all agree: for best eating, bleed the fish and drop it immediately into a cooler with water and ice.
- Christopher Letts
[Snapper blues are young bluefish. Born at sea, they enter estuaries in their first summer to feast on other young-of-the year fish. They are only 2-3" long when they first appear in the Hudson. Steve Stanne]
8/30 - Sandy Hook, NJ: Jeanne McArthur, one of the resource management rangers at Gateway National Recreation Area led a tour of Student Conservation Association interns through the locally famous holly forest at Sandy Hook. In the thick, still air, mosquitoes whined and dined mercilessly. But sightings were good. Young osprey learned to fish. False Solomon seal was in fruit deep in the sandy woods, and sea-side goldenrod, prickly pear and Virginia glasswort spread out in the open sun. The tiny purple blooms of sea lavender sparkled along the edges of the saltmarsh.
- Dave Taft
8/31 - Queens, New York Bight: I was examining some ATV damage to a re-vegetated area of Big Egg Marsh at the Jamaica Bay National Wildlife Refuge, and was just annoyed enough to look up and roll my eyes. Good timing. Off in the distance, far from the tire ruts, an American bittern lifted off the salt marsh and disappeared among the spartina grasses just a few hundred feet away.
- Dave Taft
8/31 - Newcomb, HRM 302: The power flickered off and on a bit this morning as the remnants of hurricane Katrina swept past. We've had close to 4" of rain over the last few days, but none of our trails had to be closed and - as far as I know - no trees fell over. I doubt we had any winds gusts close to 50 mph. The good news is that the Hudson is up! Up and over, actually, having crested its banks. I expect it will continue to rise for a day or two and then it will recede. Everything is quite happy with all the wet, especially since the rain came down slow and gentle for the first few hours, allowing the ground to soften and soak it up before it started pouring.
- Ellen Rathbone
8/31 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: The expected deluge did not occur. The remnants of Katrina passed by us to the west. By midnight the breeze had moved to the northwest. The sky was clear, and full of stars, and the oppressive humidity was gone.
- Tom Lake