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Hudson River Almanac October 9 - 18, 2003

OVERVIEW

Overnight on October 15, the High Peaks of the Adirondacks - headwaters of the Hudson - were transformed into a winterscape of white. The message was not lost on southbound migrants. This week saw an increase in the monarch migration and more raptors, particularly vultures. River temperatures dropped into the mid-50s, the point when exploring the Hudson in a bathing suit becomes problematic. Fall colors finally arrived over much of the Hudson Valley, from Newcomb to Nyack.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

10/18 - Englewood, NJ, HRM 13.5: As they began a day afield, Greenbrook Sanctuary members watched four ospreys circling low over the river, soon to return to feeding perches in niches along the Palisades, menhaden clutched in their talons. When a young bald eagle appeared, the ospreys shrank back into their crevices. Several people had recently seen the eagle dive-bomb ospreys, forcing the smaller raptor to drop its catch and then swooping down for the prize. In the midst of this show, we spotted a lone monarch butterfly struggling across the river. A hundred feet from shore it dropped onto the water, exhausted. We waded chest-high into the river to rescue the motionless insect. Nancy Slowik resuscitated the monarch overnight at the sanctuary's nature center. The next morning it was on its way south again.

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

10/10 - Harlem River, Manhattan: With New York Restoration Project staff at Swindler Cove we hauled a 30-foot seine through murky water two miles north of Yankee Stadium. No bright sandy beaches here - this tidal strait linking the Hudson and East Rivers is a gritty urban waterway. Even so, our net came up with Atlantic silversides by the hundreds, dozens of young-of-the-year striped bass and white perch, a few mummichogs, and a handful of blue crabs ranging from thumbnail size youngsters to a sook (a mature female) with blue claws tipped in red - "her fingernails painted red" as watermen say.
- Chris Bowser, Steve Stanne

10/13 - Kowawese, Town of New Windsor, HRM 59: A belted kingfisher scolded us and an immature bald eagle and a pair of great egrets watched from Cornwall Bay as we hauled our beach seine. This season seldom fails to remind us of the tremendous productivity of the Hudson estuary, and sure enough, scores of young-of-the-year blueback herring, American shad, and striped bass flopped in the wet folds of the net. The fish varied in size - some twice as large as others, born at different times over the spawning season. The river was a cool 61°F, with no trace of salinity.
- Mia & Ben Chrobot, Margaret Stanne, Davis & Lia Natzle, Ben Cuppett, Tom Lake

10/13 - Yonkers, HRM 18: Our Hudson Valley Audubon hawk watch results so far this year have been dismal. The numbers of all raptor species are down dramatically except for record sightings of bald eagles (31) and black vultures (13). Other hawk watch sites from the east coast to Minnesota are down as well.
- Joe O'Connell

10/14 - Ulster Landing, HRM 98: A late morning low tide brought me out of the forest and onto the tidal flats. Tracks in the wet sand told me that at least three coyotes had taken this route earlier, as had a raccoon and at least one otter. Several spotted sandpipers took flight as I approached. Walking south, I was loudly serenaded by no fewer than a thousand Canada geese rafted offshore - a flock of high-flyers that had set down for a rest and a meal in the shallows. Back in the woods I came across two recently killed wild turkeys, 200' apart - perhaps meals for the coyotes.
- Tom Lake

10/14 - Yonkers, HRM 18: I counted nearly 300 monarch butterflies in less than two hours at the Lenoir Preserve - the most I have seen in three years. Our blue jay migration seems to have rebounded as well. Close to 5,000 jays haved moved through Lenoir over the past three weeks. Since the West Nile virus struck several years ago, we have recorded only a few hundred in a season.
- Joe O'Connell

10/14 - Sandy Hook, NJ: Right on time, the vanguard of migrating brant (a small goose) arrived at Sandy Hook - seven birds bobbing on the bay side. Many will stay here through winter unless forced south by ice.
- Dery Bennett

10/15 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Heavy rain and high winds closed our hiking trails at the Adirondack Park Visitors Center today. But during a stretch of warm weather over the past week we were flooded with monarchs - more than we saw all summer by factors of ten. They are just one step ahead of the next killing frost. My monkshood bloomed late this year. so the butterflies have nourishment. We're still hearing woodcocks, both the "peents" and the wing whirrings.
- Ellen Rathbone

10/16 - Fort Montgomery, HRM 46.5: Crossing the Bear Mountain Bridge today, I looked north towards Con Hook and spotted a large kettle of vultures. [A kettle is a swirling group of hawks rising in a thermal - an updraft of warm air]. I pulled over on the far side to count them, but the birds were so densely packed that it was nearly impossible. At the top of the thermal birds began peeling off and gliding, one at a time, toward the southwest. I counted no fewer than 63. At the same time a little group of 12 started to spiral upward from Fort Montgomery.
- Scott Craven

10/17 - Town of Athens, HRM 116: I heard a loon calling early this morning from somewhere on the foggy river at Cohotate Preserve. Two harriers flew past and later multitudes of monarchs.
- Liz LoGuidice

10/17 - Englewood, NJ, HRM 13.5: The students from the Elisabeth Morrow School could hardly decide where to look first. From the cliffs came ospreys carrying fish in their talons. Ravens cruised past looking like giant Halloween birds, and an immature bald eagle soared overhead. Our seine net bulged with young-of-the-year striped bass and Atlantic menhaden, blue crabs, silversides, and white perch. Several dozen sand shrimp popped and jumped and eluded our attempts to scoop them back into the river. We tagged a yearling striped bass nearly a foot long, hoping to recover it years from now with a story to tell. The water temperature was 59°F; salinity was 7.2 parts per thousand (ppt). The next day the temperature was the same, but salinity had risen to 9.0 ppt. In addition to the species seen yesterday, we caught seven young-of-the-year winter flounder and a dozen blue crabs, a couple of which were softshells - crabs that had just molted.
- Leslie Day, Nancy Slowik, Terry Milligan, Christopher Letts, Tom Lake

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