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Hudson River Almanac November 11 - 18, 2003

OVERVIEW

Our event of note this week was a blowout tide on November 14. These infrequent events are usually caused by several days of strong and steady north-northwest winds. The winds extend the duration and increase the velocity of the southward flowing ebb current while hindering the upriver movement of the flood current and high tide. In this scenario the ebb seems to go seaward forever, draining tidal marshes and inshore shallows and providing glimpses of seldom seen river bottom. If this happens around a new or full moon (times of spring tides - higher highs and lower lows), the result can be even more spectacular.

HUDSON RIVER MILES

For research, navigation, and other purposes, the Hudson is measured in Hudson River Miles (HRM) north from the Battery - HRM 0 - at the southern tip of Manhattan. The George Washington Bridge is at HRM 12, the Tappan Zee Bridge at 28, West Point 53, Albany 145, and the Federal Dam at Troy, at the head of tidewater, is HRM 153.7. From its source in the High Peaks of the Adirondack Mountains, the Hudson flows approximately 315 miles to the Battery.

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

11/11 - Schodack Island, HRM 135: We had a nice kayak paddle from Henry Hudson Park south to the Schodack Island State Park boat launch. It was overcast, but winds were light and the rain held off until we started back after our leg-stretch at Schodack. Along the way we spotted a great blue heron, a northern harrier, and a bald eagle. The eagle, just north of the Berkshire Spur Bridge on the west side, was a 3-4 year-old hunched down in the rain, looking like a wild turkey at first, head mostly dirty-white and the tail appearing dark. Also in that area were two peregrine falcons, apparently a pair, one - a female - much larger than the other. We had a pretty good look at the female, which was a mature bird.
- Alan Mapes, John Ozard

11/11 - Croton Point, HRM34: The day had started well for the adult red-tailed hawk: a fat gray squirrel crossing the wine cellar road before dawn must have made an easy target. But, where to dine? Mobbed by crows, pushed by a pack of dog-walkers, the bird was forced again and again to haul breakfast another hundred yards toward the tip of the point. It would soon run out of cover and be forced northward along the west face of the peninsula.
- Christopher Letts

11/12 - Kingston, Cornwall Bay, HRM 93, 57: Staff from DEC's Hudson River Fisheries Unit pulled their traps today, ending field work on their blue crab study for this year. In 40 traps they found just three crabs, but lots of leaves. Carried down the hills and mountains by the Hudson's tributaries in recent weeks, this detritus will fuel the estuary's food chains in the months to come.
- Greg Kenney, Kris McShane, Jen Temple

11/12 - Croton River, HRM 34: Midgie Toube was the first to spot the mature bald eagle approaching from the south. Just across the Croton River from us, it suddenly stooped into a waterside oak and dislodged another adult eagle. Recent arrivals from Canada? The two remained perched perhaps twenty feet apart for the fifteen minutes we remained, during which a female Cooper's hawk flew past.
- Christopher Letts, Gino Garner

11/14 - Rensselaer to New York City, HRM 145-11: From the 6:55 AM train to Manhattan I noticed that the river was extremely low. Passing familiar paddling spots like Papscanee Creek and Stockport, the water looked lower than I'd ever seen it. With the moon in quarter phase, this seemed strange - tides should not have been extreme, and we were less than an hour from high tide! I estimated the water at Papscanee to be at least four feet lower than expected, perhaps as much as six feet.
- Alan Mapes

11/14 - Town of Athens, HRM 117: The wind shook the house at the Willows this morning, but a few crows circled and dove as if enjoying the gale. By day's end the wind had died down but left a reminder: a 50-foot spruce had been blown over. Its lower trunk was completely twisted and torn from the roots.
- Liz LoGuidice

11/14 - Catskill Creek, HRM 113: Arriving at the Point today I was greeted by an odd sight: a 25-foot sailboat that had been moored in Catskill Creek all summer was lying on its side, high and dry. I walked to the bank to see not the usual wide expanse of water but a mud flat with a twenty foot wide creek running through it. I've been around the river for 40 years; this was the lowest tide I'd ever seen.Walking back to our little museum, I had another first time sight. A flock of crows flying over the Point was hit in the tail feathers by a sudden hard gust of wind, tumbling two of them head-over-tail feathers in the air. They recovered and continued on their way looking more than a bit annoyed.
- Dick Brooks

11/14 - Tivoli South Bay, HRM 98.5: At 8:45 AM the water level in Tivoli South Bay was extremely low, yet it was still two hours from low tide. At 11:00 it hadn't changed, nor at 1:00 PM, or 3:00 PM. Donning boots, I walked out on the bay at 11:00 and took pictures, but they didn't do it justice. By following the channel where the footing was more solid, I think I could have walked all the way out to the railroad.
- Jean McAvoy

11/14 - Kingston Point to Esopus Meadows, HRM 92-85: Just after predicted low tide, the wind had pushed much of the water off the Esopus Meadows; mud was exposed all the way out to one of the duck blinds at the channel's edge. The scene at Kingston Point was similar; beds of plants usually submerged at low tide were well out of the water. Returning to the Meadows, I spotted an adult bald eagle feeding out on the flats and wondered if its lunch had been trapped as the water fell and served up by the blowout tide.
- Steve Stanne

11/14 - Norrie Point, HRM 85: Norrie Point Marina was really dry. The pilot boat and the dock were aground.
- Wayne Gilchrest

11/14 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 75.5: Blowout tide, indeed! At noon on the ebb I was standing 100 feet off shore on the outwash spit at the mouth of the Fallkill Creek. Remnants of bicycles, office chairs, assorted aluminum bits and rotted piling were strewn about the spit or poking up out of the mud.
- John Mylod

11/14 - Wappinger Creek, HRM 67.5: The morning ebb, pushed by 36 hours of strong north-northwest winds (sustained at 35-40 mph overnight), just kept on going, falling to a low rarely seen.
- Tom Lake

11/14 - Garrison, HRM 52: At low tide this morning, Constitution Marsh was as low as we've ever seen it. We spotted two bald eagles, one an immature, the other a four-year-old in eclipse plumage, perched on exposed timbers. The wind was ruffling their feathers but they just sat there, patiently looking around, waiting for the tide to bring them some fish. We watched a greater yellowlegs - we've been seeing quite a few of them lately - snag a mudcrab. Finally, we saw a drake northern pintail - what a gorgeous duck.
- Eric Lind, Connie Mayer, Rich Anderson

11/14 - Annsville Creek, HRM 43.5: What a blowout tide this morning! It seemed that there wasn't a drop of water inside the train bridge at Annsville. I noticed a set of pilings that I had never seen before. I don't think I'll see one like that again any time soon.
- Scott Craven

11/15 - Wappinger Creek, HRM 67.5: A second day of blow-out tides. The morning ebb tide once again slipped away from the shoreline and exposed tide flats studded with deadfalls. The lower mile of the creek was jammed with waterfowl and gulls, all enjoying uncommon access to fish and other aquatic foods. Three pairs of hooded mergansers and a half-dozen groups of common mergansers, all hens, barely had to dive for their fish in the shallows that were usually the channel.
- Tom Lake

11/16 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Toby and I encountered two flocks of evening grosbeaks today, certainly winter visitors. We also saw a black-backed woodpecker along Santanoni Drive. It must have been a female because there was no yellow patch on the head. We have an inch or two of snow but rain this week will take care of that.
- Ellen Rathbone

[The black-backed woodpecker, a boreal species, has a few small populations in the Adirondack coniferous forests. Eric Lind]

11/17 - Breakneck Ridge, HRM 56: Driving south along the river early today, I spotted an adult bald eagle perched just below Breakneck Ridge. There was no mistaking it - big white head, white tail. Wowee! What a treat so early in the morning.
- Andra Sramek

11/18 - Newcomb, HRM 302: We had two flocks of snow buntings today. Omens of a hard winter are adding up. I'll be highly suspicious if I start to see snowy and great grey owls.
- Ellen Rathbone

11/18 - Town of Fishkill, HRM 63.5: Snow geese, 14 adults and 2 juveniles or blue phase birds, took a break on their trip south today. They seemed to enjoy the company of cows, sheep and a few hundred Canada geese in our pasture at the NYSDEC's Stony Kill Farm Environmental Education Center. The cows and sheep paid them no mind but the Canada geese seemed to question their intrusion. None of the staff on hand had seen snow geese on the farm before. They were a delight for all the birders! Around 4:30 PM, Art McCormack saw the "white bumps" suddenly fly up, circle over the cows, and head west to the Hudson to continue their journey.
- Kerri Brady, Carolyn Plage

IN MEMORIAM

11/6 - Staatsburg, HRM 85: Life must be good along the Hudson. Plenty of water, trees, and food. Certainly lots of fish to choose from, especially at low tide. But cruising along the Dutchess County shore, this young bald eagle, only a year-and-a-half old, spots a tantalizing deer carcass. Wings set, it glides down and settles in to dine, undoubtedly feeling pleased at the good fortune. Crop nearly full, a quiet streak is detected in its peripheral vision, the last thing it sees. At least that's the way I envision that it happened, when high-speed trains that regularly course the river's eastern shore took out first the deer, then the eagle. And not just any eagle. "V10" hatched on or about April 22, 2002, the sole chick fledged by a pair of Hudson River bald eagles during their first successful nesting attempt, a bird I banded on May 30th that year in a nest 98 feet off the earth and about 20 miles south of where its life ended. DEC is tracking train-killed raptors along this corridor; we'd appreciate reports of any such finds.
- Pete Nye, NYSDEC Endangered Species Unit

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