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Hudson River Almanac August 29 - September 4, 2006

OVERVIEW

There is a time from late summer to early fall when Haverstraw Bay, the Tappan Zee, and points south truly become an extension of the sea. Stories of huge bluefish, schools of hickory shad, striped bass, and dormat-size summer flounder are told wherever anglers gather. The fish seem to grow larger each day, and not always just in the minds of the fishermen. To stand on the beach at Croton Point, gulls screaming overhead, a tang of salt in the air, and watch a wolfpack of 10 lb. bluefish chase a school of menhaden up on the beach will have you wondering if this is not the south shore of Long Island. These 6-8" long herring instinctively choose to take their chances on the wet sand rather than be chopped in half by bluefish.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

8/31 - Croton Bay, HRM 34: The recent rains seem not to have hurt the fishing. The bluefish are still plentiful, running 10 lb. and up. Wild reports of blues herding schools of menhaden right up to the shore are rife.
- Christopher Letts

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

8/29 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Our monarchs have been hatching in batches. We had close to 20 in a cage inside the Adirondack Parks Visitors Interpretive Center, rescued from being meals to killer bugs out in the garden. I put two out yesterday in late afternoon, and when I came in this morning, the last one was still on the goldenrod where I had put it at 5:00 PM. It was too fresh to do much when I put it out, and then it got rained on last night. It finally took off this afternoon. We have a few chrysalises left, but most have emerged. What a crowd of monarchs we have had this year; it is indeed a monarch summer. I never see fewer than a half dozen bobbing about my gardens at home. The gardens at the Center are also packed with them. I still have caterpillars munching on butterfly weed, so more monarchs are on their way.
- Ellen Rathbone

8/29 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 75: While picking a line of crab traps today the rain rolled in. It streaked the river's flat, brown surface and the splatter of the heavy downpour changed the color to silver. The steady rain on the water and nearby forest had a constant hissing sound, like new snow falling on dry oak leaves.
- John Mylod

8/29 - Mid-Hudson Valley: We had another 1.18 inches of rain today, making 3.58 in the last 4 days.
- Tom Lake

8/30 - Furnace Woods, HTM 38.5: After a spate of five rainy days, almost 5" of rain was left in our rain gauge. With tropical storm Ernesto rumbling up the coast, we may well get that much more again over the Labor Day weekend.
- Christopher Letts

8/30 - Dobbs Ferry, HRM 23.0: We saw the "Fairmead" bald eagle this morning and again this afternoon. The neighborhood is called Fairmead, which I believe is the estate from which the neighborhood was subdivided many years ago. Neighbors, some of whom have lived in their homes more than 20 years, claim this adult bald eagle has made many appearances over the years, thus it has come to be called the "Fairmead Eagle." When we saw the bird today, it was perched along the river on a cliff 60' above the Metro North railroad tracks.
- Leslie Raicer, Rick Telberg, Gerhard Randers-Pehrson, Joan Halpin

8/31 - Bullville, Town of Crawford, Orange County, HRM 61.5: While a northwest wind this time of the year often means a "flight day" for migratory birds and butterflies, this morning's stiff northeast breeze served just as well. Flock after flock of blackbirds moved through the trees heading southwest along the creek. In just a few hours I counted no fewer than 9 monarchs as well.
- Tom Lake

8/31 - Mt. Kisco, HRM 36: While walking in Leonard Park I spotted an immature great blue heron fishing in the quiet wooded shadows of the small stream called the Kisco River that courses through the park. This stream is a feeder to the northward flowing Chappaqua Brook, both of which are part of the Croton River watershed that empties into the Hudson River at Croton-on-Hudson or into New York Harbor via New York City's water system.
- Ed Spaeth.

9/1 - Waterford, HRM 158.5: Just west of Lock 6 on the Erie Canal, near the end of the Mohawk River, there is a rocky beach and small boat launch. We were there to seine, looking for young-of-the-year herring, but finding none. However, each time we beached the net, it glistened in the sun - full of sleek and silvery brook silversides. As we hauled the net the final time, right at my feet I spotted a gorgeous stone knife, beautifully flaked of Normanskill chert. It was probably Mohican, or their ancestors, Indian fishermen from long ago. The Mohawk River was 74°F.
- Tom Lake, A. Danforth

9/1 - Green Island; HRM 152: A little more than 6 miles past Waterford, just below the federal dam in tidewater, the river was 71°F. A steady stream of monarchs fluttered past, heading south, in the lee of the shoreline. Out in mid-river I saw a bald eagle and an osprey flying, heading in opposite directions. Neither had a fish so they did not have much to say to one another.
- Tom Lake

9/1 - Jamaica Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Queens: As we passed Big John's Pond, we noticed a gull on the pond, acting strangely. At first it appeared to be pulling something huge that was underwater. But after closer observation, we saw it was in distress, repeatedly disappearing under the water and then reappearing. Its distress attracted a huge flock of gulls flapping above. We noticed the "something huge" surface. The gull was now fighting and we noticed that it was caught by his legs. The gull was finally dragged under. We were unable to identify what was below. Is this the "Loch Ness Monster" of Jamaica Bay?
- Arlene McGrotty, John McGrotty

[There are two snapping turtles of particular size in Big John's Pond: "Goliath" and "Godzilla." Both Goliath and Godzilla are misnomers, since they are almost undoubtedly females. Both have been tagged and re-released by the refuge staff over many past years as they came ashore to lay eggs in the spring. I've seen snapping turtles hunting for ducks and ducklings. Dave Taft, National Park Service.]

9/2 - Newcomb, HRM 302: I found 6 more monarch caterpillars on my butterflyweeds, from itty-bitty to almost ready to move onto the next stage of life. I'm surprised there are any leaves left at all on the plants.
- Ellen Rathbone

9/3 - Coxsackie, HRM 124: From the boat launch Sean Taylor caught an impressive 20" freshwater drum on a worm.
- Rich Guthrie

[Freshwater drum are not native in the Hudson. They probably arrived here in the last 25 years through the New York State canal system and Mohawk River, connecting the Hudson River with the Great Lakes. In Lake Erie they are known colloquially as "sheepshead" - they have that look. Freshwater drum are lovers of mollusks and in the Great Lakes are known to consume large quantities of zebra mussels. The New York State angling record is 24 lb. 7 oz., caught in the Ganargua Creek in 1995. Tom Lake.]

9/3 - New Hamburg, HRM 67.5: It was the day after the remnants of tropical storm Ernesto blew through the Mid-Hudson Valley. That had been less about rain (0.4") and more about wind (35-40 mph). At dawn, the river was as flat as glass and the color of weak tea. Warm, humid air gave it a feeling of summer.
- Tom Lake

9/3 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: Martin Geiser hauled his crab trap from the river and up came a nice male blue crab, a "jimmy." It was still picking at the half a bunker secured in the trap as bait. Bunker, or Atlantic menhaden, are a very oily type of herring that broadcast their presence down current luring the crabs. As the trap splashed back into the water a green heron took off and flew a short distance up river, finally landing on a mat of water chestnut. Until Ernesto arrived, Martin Geiser and his colleagues had been doing very well, trapping several dozen a day, all males. And while they wait for the crabs to show up, "We watch the wildlife. Several times does and fawns have come down for a drink and just yesterday an adult bald eagle flew over."
- Tom Lake

9/3 - Charles Point, HRM 43: The day was clear. Looking north past Jones Point on the west shore, you could clearly see vehicles streaming across the Bear Mountain Bridge and along the heights of Anthony's Nose. Here in the cove north of Charles Point, 35 cormorants and several gulls were serenely sunning themselves on a rotting jetty.
- Ed Spaeth

9/3 - Verplanck, HRM 40.5: In the quiet waters of Lake Meahagh, I counted 39 mute swans afloat, several Canada geese on the distant shore and a great blue heron fishing from a partially submerged log. This body of water is located near the original Kings Ferry landing for the ferry to Stony Point. In 1781, 225 years ago, American and French troops used this Kings Ferry crossing, then nearer Verplanck Point, to transport reinforcements across the Hudson River on their way to the Battle of Yorktown to defeat of the British. There is now a commemorative plaque at that site in Steamboat River Park.
- Ed Spaeth

9/4 - Gardiner, HRM 75: Migration is definitely happening all around us. We were hiking in the Mohonk Preserve and to our surprise we were surrounded by hundreds of goldfinches singing in the trees and flying in the fields around us.
- Rebecca Johnson, Brian Houser

9/4 - Cold Spring, HRM 55: Two days after Ernesto blew through the area, Stonecrop Gardens showed only minor affects - some leaf and twig litter but little more. Perhaps the gardeners had done some clean-up when they were closed the day before. We saw many green frogs and small carp in the ponds and one black snake slipped off the path and out of our way. A great spangled fritillary, a monarch, a rather tattered crescent, and a few white cabbage were the only butterflies out and about with a fairly strong breeze in the air. Several female hummingbirds zoomed about in the most profusely blooming flower beds. There were no males about and we agreed none of us had seen any in the area for at least a week. Have all the boys headed south already?
- Carolyn Plage, Ed Connelly, Elaine and Bill Case

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