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Hudson River Almanac November 4 - 10, 2003

OVERVIEW

Our highlight was, once again, celestial. Though maybe not as spectacular as the aurora borealis of last week, the total lunar eclipse of November 8 was memorable, with the moon bathed in the orange glow of earthshine. To observers focused on more earthly delights, the appearance of Atlantic tomcod in the lower estuary gives new hope for winter fishing.

HIGHLIGHT OF THIS WEEK

11/8 - Piermont, HRM 25: What surprise this was! I was fishing with sandworms for striped bass but instead caught seven tommycod! We have not seen these in several years and wondered if they were gone for good. Later, some other fishermen told me that they had taken a few tomcod the day before at Alpine, seven miles downriver.
- Steve Merrit

[As their name suggests, Atlantic tomcod resemble miniature codfish. Like shad and striped bass, tomcod spawn in freshwater. Unlike shad and stripers, which ascend the river in spring, tomcod swim upriver from the lower Hudson and coastal bays in winter, and often spawn under ice. The Hudson is the southernmost spawning river for this coldwater fish, whose numbers have been declining here. Fisheries scientists speculate that the decline could be associated with a slight but measurable rise in river temperature over recent decades. Higher temperatures may stress young tomcod, many of which spend the summer in the lower estuary.]

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

11/4 - Haverstraw Bay, HRM 34-39: DEC closed the Hudson's Atlantic sturgeon fishery in 1996 after research revealed that there were very few young sturgeon in the river. As part of a monitoring program sponsored by DEC, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is sampling Haverstraw Bay for both species of Hudson River sturgeon - Atlantic and shortnose. In today's fishing, we caught eight Atlantics (up to 30" long), and one shortnose. What spectacular fish! And these were just youngsters, far from fully grown.
- Rebecca Johnson

11/7 - Ulster Landing, Town of Ulster, HRM 98: The river was flat and serene at twilight, an ebbing tide slowly drawing from shore to expose the tide flats. Nine turkey vultures were circling over the trees at the river's edge, laboring to stay aloft in the cooling evening air. Very soon they would be heading to a nearby night roost.
- Tom Lake

11/8 - New Baltimore, HRM 131.5: The earth shadow of the setting sun reached the treetops across the river by 4:15 PM. A group of snow geese flew in, sunlight gleaming on white bodies against the deepening blue sky. A few tried to lead the flock down to the river, but after some feints, they re-gathered in scattered loose V's and kept on going westward. The full moon rose, casting a brilliant reflection across the river. After dark a noisy flock of crows flew over. I couldn't see them, but estimate by their noise that there were 10-15 of them. They acted as if they might have been harassing some raptor, perhaps an owl. I don't recall ever hearing crows in flight after dark. Through the night, I could hear Canada geese on the shore across from me. This group of about 25 returns each year at about this time, remaining through the winter unless ice forces them out, whereupon they return in early spring. Then they come up onto the lawn and feed like a flock of sheep. I believe they are the same group since I've been able to read leg bands on two of them and have noted their respective returns.
- Rich Guthrie

11/8 - Hannacroix, HRM 132.5: By 8:30, high in the southeast, the same moon that had dominated the sky earlier was now distant and dimmed. It appeared orange, but not the rosy orange seen at its rising earlier in the evening. As earth's shadow obscured the moon's customary pearly glow, sunlight filtered and refracted by our atmosphere illuminated the moon in a dark, shadowy umber glow. The shadow moved slowly past the satellite until a thin slit of gleaming white direct sunshine appeared again. The moon, which often appears to be a two-dimensional circle, was revealed as the three-dimensional celestial body that it is. By 3:30 AM, the full moon's light once again illuminated the cold night sky.
- Liz LoGiudice

11/8 - Highland, HRM 75.5: My family and I had gathered to watch the event overhead. We ducked out of the house around 8:00, again at 8:20 (the beginning of the full eclipse), 9:00, and finally around 11:00 to see what was happening. The earth's shadow on the moon began as an orange fuzz, then became an even deeper orange as it covered the moon completely. As the shadow passed, it seemed to become darker and crisper, finally leaving the moon by itself in a perfectly clear sky. It was a beautiful thing.
- Mike Corey

11/8 - Mid-Hudson Valley: For once, such an event occurred on a clear night sky. The lunar eclipse reached full around 8:30, and the earthshine made it look like a dull orange tennis ball. Our golden retriever concurred but couldn't reach it.
- Phyllis Lake

11/8 - Cold Spring, HRM 54: I left Cold Spring by kayak with six others at about 6:00 PM on this clear night. It was chilly with a 10-15 mph wind. After a short paddle north into the brisk breeze and some choppy water, we turned back south. The full moon lit our way into East Foundry Cove to watch the eclipse, reflected on calm waters and accompanied by shooting stars - a peaceful and beautiful sight.
- Dan McLaughlin

11/9 - Town of Athens, HRM 116: While hunting for zebra mussels at Cohotate Preserve, I was struck by how low the tide was today. While this was a full "moon tide," and the northwest wind was helping, it still seemed remarkably low considering all the rain we have had recently. There were only about four inches of water off the old bulkhead at the icehouse site - far less than a usual low tide. The water temperature had dropped to 44°F.
- Liz LoGiudice

[Tide cycles and wind have a far greater effect on Hudson River water levels than rain, especially from Catskill (HRM 112) south.]

11/9 - Nyack, HRM 28: I felt like I had sold a winning lottery ticket! A fisherman who had purchased bait from me later went out on the Tappan Zee in his boat and caught a 45 inch, 35 pound striped bass.
- Robert Gabrielson Sr.

11/10 - Tappan Zee, HRM 27: The wintering striped bass have arrived in the lower river. At least some of them have. Using bunker chunks for bait, I caught two striped bass in the 18-20 pound range.
- Robert Gabrielson Jr.

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