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Hudson River Almanac October 29 - November 4, 2003

OVERVIEW

The week began with two days of heavy rain and mild air temperatures. Autumn hung on as record air temperatures were set in several locations by week's end. The river temperature fell, rose, and fell again, reminding us that life in the Hudson River must be resilient to cope with such changes. The highlight of the week, visible over much of the Hudson Valley, was the aurora borealis - the Northern Lights - associated with solar flare activity on the sun's surface.

HIGHLIGHT OF THIS WEEK

10/30 - Newcomb, HRM 302: The Northern Lights! They were amazing. I've never seen anything like it in my life. When I was a kid, my dad pointed out Northern Lights to me once; they looked like smoke, faint white puffs - not terribly impressive. But tonight, wow! My pup, Toby, and I were out for our evening trek when I noticed a white cloud-like streak across the sky. As its color changed to brownish red, other streaks, bands, and ribbons of pale greenish "clouds" appeared, and we ran down to the Scenic Overlook for a view beyond the street lights. There was a reddish smudge off to the east and a whitish band to the west. After ten minutes the whitish band had arced well over our heads toward the east. Near the northeast horizon, the smudge got redder with quite a bit of orange, reminding me of a forest fire reflected on clouds. It grew more brilliant, with smears of green, even a touch of purple, mixed with the red and orange. The color expanded to the white arc overhead, gradually turning it red-orange. The arc began to bleed downward, like a theater curtain dropping. Along the northern horizon, above the High Peaks, the sky grew bright with greenish white light. Overhead the reds came to a deep blood red point, almost black; all the streaks of light seemed to either come from this point or disappear into it. By now, over half the sky was covered with reds and oranges. Toby and I watched for about a half hour. What a show! Now every long white cloud at night looks suspicious.
- Ellen Rathbone

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

10/29 - Ramshorn Creek, Catskill, HRM 112.2: The RamsHorn was even higher than yesterday. From the tower, it looked like the water was about a foot below the handrail on the bridge over the creek. I also spotted three crows mobbing a raven.
- Larry Federman

10/29 - Hudson Highlands: We had heavy rain for the second time in three days. The 1.53" inches today made the three-day total 3.04". Other areas of the Hudson Valley had even more.
- Tom Lake

10/30 - The Battery, Manhattan, HRM 0: We fished the Upper Bay from the railing at Battery Park today during lunch. The river was very turbid and, with all the rain, had a "fresher" look. The Battery Park Conservancy told us that the salinity was 4.4 parts per thousand [ppt] - the lowest they had ever seen, and on the flood tide no less. That probably accounted for the large number of white perch we caught, which is not typical here. Marine species were also taken, including tautog, cunner, and toadfish.
- John Waldman, Dennis Suszkowski

10/30 - Ashokan, HRM 92: The recent rain had the reservoir on major overflow. On the water were common loon, horned grebe, common mergansers, and Canada geese. Bluebirds flitted along the dike.
- Fran Drakert, Bill Drakert

10/30 - Bear Mountain, HRM 46: A small flock of brant grazed in the center of the traffic circle on the west side of the Bear Mountain Bridge this morning.
- Steve Seymour

10/30 - Nutten Hook, Stuyvesant, HRM 124: I chatted today with a mom who was waiting for the school bus. The bus pulled up, the door opened, and out jumped a little girl who saw me and exclaimed, "You're the lady who showed me the eagles at the Hudson River!" and gave me a big hug. Her mom described how excited the youngster was after her class visit to Nutten Hook in October. She asked for directions to the site because her daughter couldn't stop talking about her experience, and Mom wanted to see an eagle and visit the river too. I guess it's true that we teach the kids who then go home to teach the parents.
- Fran Martino

10/30 - Hannacrois Creek, HRM 132.5: I was really hoping to see the aurora borealis. I stayed up until 1:00 AM, then set the alarm and got up at 4:00 AM, but no luck. I did hear owls in the distance, however - great horned owls, my sleepy mind thought, although it seems a bit early to hear them.
- Liz LoGuidice

10/31 - New Hamburg, HRM 67.5: At first light, a long Norwegian freighter sped up the Hudson as I hauled my eel pots onto a floating dock. Within seconds I was rock 'n rolling with my catch as huge rollers swept underneath us. Later on, thirty fourth graders would meet my dancing partners: yellow bullheads, channel catfish, pumpkinseed sunfish, and two dozen American eels.
- Tom Lake

10/31 - Coxsackie, HRM 124: The recent deluge of rain in the upper estuary produced some higher tides and the flushing of aquatic vegetation, including large, knotted, free-floating masses of water chestnut. One large raft floating south on the ebb tide had to measure at least an acre in size and appeared so thick that you could walk on it. I think it came from the huge beds that have been choking the Coxsackie and Rattlesnake Island backwater.
- Rene VanSchaack

10/31 - Croton Point, HRM 35: Pulling our net across an open sandy bottom, we expected and got only a meager catch, the bulk of it leaves - oak, maple, and cottonwood. The best way to find life in an autumn net is to wait patiently until something moves among the leaves. Within seconds we saw shore shrimp popping like fleas off a hound dog, along with a few young of the year fish on their way to sea: alewives (70 mm); blueback herring (73 mm), American shad (75-92 mm) and striped bass (50-100 mm). Mixed in were a few small blue crabs no more than a month old, the color of ivy and the size of pencil erasers (7.0 mm). A second haul - over a rocky bottom, through remnants of water milfoil and water celery, and past a deadfall - produced resident fish: several dozen banded killifish, fourspine sticklebacks, and spottail shiners. The water was 56°F, and the salinity less than 2.0 ppt. We had just finished seining for fourth graders from the Ridgeway School in White Pains when an adult goshawk swept across the bay, checking the shoreline trees for prey. Further out, no fewer than 100 Canada geese were enjoying life: calm seas, cool water, and a 65° air temperature. Several dove like mergansers, emerging ten seconds later thirty feet away. Submarine geese!
- Bonnie Ackerman, Christopher Letts, Tom Lake

10/31 - Town of Esopus, HRM 87: We could hear the faint scraping call of one last katydid.
- Fran Drakert, Bill Drakert

11/1 - New Hamburg to Cornwall, HRM 67.5-56.5: There's a high density of zebra mussels on hard substrates in the eleven mile reach from New Hamburg to the Highlands. Heavy freshwater flows in recent months seem to have extended their range south.
- Tom Lake

11/2 - Farmer's Landing, Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: The two-mile-high clouds were slowly moving northwest to southeast. Seven flights of high-flyer Canada geese - some like giant check-marks in the sky, others long undulating lines - passed overhead, all loudly conversing as they flew.
- Tom Lake

11/3 - Kowawese, Town of New Windsor, HRM 59: The shallows had been warming all morning; by early afternoon the river was 58°F, a full 5° above the reading a few days earlier. We hauled our 85-foot net to see who was home and were mildly surprised to find few fish. As aquatic vegetation thins out during fall, many fish seek refuge in deeper water. Our catch was mostly young-of-the-year striped bass (60-85 mm), with a few tessellated darters. During our final haul we saw what we thought was a colorful maple leaf fluttering down along the beach, twenty feet offshore. As it reached us we saw that it was a monarch butterfly with tattered wings, having a time of it confronting a westerly breeze. It finally canted its wings, tacked to shore, and set down to rest. With autumn flowers becoming scarce, this old and tired monarch would need more than our sympathy to outrun winter.
- Ray Maeang, Patty DiStefano, A. Danforth, Tom Lake

11/3 - Record air temperatures were noted at three sites on or near the estuary: 78°F in Westchester County (HRM 18), 79°F in Manhattan (HRM 5), and 81°F in Newark, NJ.
- National Weather Service

11/4 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 75: The river is down to 51°F, a significant drop in just a day or so.
- John Mylod

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