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Hudson River Almanac October 26-November 1, 2004

OVERVIEW

A November snowstorm portends the coming season and the next major shift in the Hudson Valley landscape. As the upper reaches of the watershed and the north country beyond become frozen, we will see a rush of winter waterfowl and eventually bald eagles.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE NEXT WEEK

11/3 - Newcomb, HRM 302: BRRRRRR! It was a cold, windy and snowy morning here in the foothills of the Adirondack High Peaks. Our first snow of the season came really late this year. We had nearly white-out conditions at 7:00 AM, but patches of blue sky kept blowing by with bits of sunlight. Some areas of Newcomb had snow accumulate on roofs and lawns, but mostly it was just in the air.
- Ellen Rathbone

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

10/26 - Croton Point, HRM 34.5: I caught a lovely sunrise from the top of the landfill. Just as the sun rose over the Ossining hills, an immature bald eagle came down the Croton Gorge, soared in the light of the new day, and then followed the shoreline south.
- Christopher Letts

10/26 - Croton Bay, HRM 34: Stanley Drezak and Gino Garner were night fishing, chumming with penny bunker and using them for bait. Gino caught a 10 lb bluefish and a 5 lb striped bass. Stanley caught a smaller blue and lost several larger fish. Gino hooked a fish that behaved strangely, fought it for a long while, and finally landed a 4' Atlantic sturgeon, which he promptly released.
- Christopher Letts

10/27 - Town of Esopus, HRM 87: I could still hear the faint call of the katydids. We had cloud cover early in the lunar eclipse, but it cleared later as the eclipse became total.
- Bill Drakert, Fran Drakert

10/27 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: As the moon dissolved into the Earth's shadow, the katydids sang and I could hear several flocks of Canada geese high overhead, moving south. We lost the eclipse to clouds just 10 minutes from totality. The next total lunar eclipse will occur in March 2007.
- Tom Lake

10/27 - Croton Point, HRM 34.5: Deer on demand! I see from 1-3 dozen white-tailed deer every time I walk here. The best times are the first and last hours of daylight. Unlike the fleeting glimpses we catch along the highway, these are real encounters. It is not unusual to pass within a few feet of deer without disturbing them, and watching them reveals much about how they lead their lives. I rounded a corner today and found a dozen. The several "button bucks" and does were instantly aware of me, but two larger bucks were completely engrossed in their wrestling match. A little 6-pointer was tangling with a much larger 8-pointer, and the game seemed to be a reverse "King of the Hill." The big guy was down slope but was steadily and without much effort pushing the little one backwards toward the top of the landfill. This went on for several minutes until the smaller one broke away and bounced off to the far side of the herd.
- Christopher Letts

[Button buck is a term used to describe young male white-tails with newly emerging antlers. When they are only a couple of inches long, they look like buttons on either side of the head.]

10/27 - Sandy Hook, NJ, New York Bight: I sighted autumn's first big bunch of brant, about 200 birds, on the bay side of the Hook, freshly arrived from their Arctic breeding season. They were about on schedule; we've had them as early as mid-October and as late as the first week in November. Can the buffleheads be far behind?
- Dery Bennett

10/28 - Town of Saugerties, HRM 102: Returning home from a woods walk, we were greeted by a few juncos at the edge of our field and several more adorning our deck railing and roof edge (11 in all). This was the earliest I can remember juncos returning to this area, though likely these were passing through since they were nowhere to be seen in the woods later.
- Dan Marazita

10/28 - Gardiner, HRM 75: Our son, Jordan, was out in our yard near dusk looking for white-tailed deer when he noticed a strange-looking black stump at the edge of the woods. The stump began to move and before very long he realized that it was a black bear, no more than 80' away. He came running to tell my wife and I. We took some video and then made loud noises to deter the animal from approaching. It was an unexpected and fun sighting, a good learning experience for my children. To keep the bear from being a nuisance, we have taken DEC's advice and eliminated all food, garbage, and other bear attractants from our property.
- Steven R. Alexander

10/28 - Dutchess Junction, HRM 59: Cloudy skies prevented us from seeing the red moon of the lunar eclipse last night. However, this morning we were greeted by a bright white full moon low in a pink and blue sky over the western horizon. As our MetroNorth train moved south we saw Storm King Mountain covered in brightly illuminated, cheerful red foliage.
- Mike Boyajian, Jeri Wagner

10/28 - Croton Point, HRM 35: The 2 brant I spotted 5 days ago, a healthy adult and an immature feeding on the lush grass along the road, must have moved on. They were tame enough so that they showed no alarm at 100' and ignored vehicles passing within 10'. Large flocks of robins, cedar waxwings, red-winged blackbirds, grackles, and cowbirds were getting out of town today, passing high over the Point and taking advantage of the east wind for an easy river crossing.
- Christopher Letts

10/28 - Englewood, NJ, HRM 13.5: The phrase "moon tide" took on a whole new meaning today, as the astronomically high tide produced by the full moon and exacerbated by an east wind piled the water on the beach. There was no putting the seine in the water; these conditions were reminiscent of Hurricane Ivan a month ago. The shrimp trap at the end of the pier was very productive and about 75 large shore shrimp were lured by the tantalizing smell of cod-sole-tuna casserole, formulated for cats but useful in catching gobies and shrimp. The single fisherman on the pier had two small eels and a large oyster toadfish in a pail, all to be incorporated into a fish chowder, I was informed.
- Christopher Letts

10/29 - Rondout Creek, HRM 92: At the lower end of the Rondout Creek, just a few miles above the Hudson, I came upon some slender cliffbrake fern (Cryptogramma stelleri) rooted between the stones supporting a high, old train trestle.
- Dave Taft

10/29 - Furnace Woods, HRM 38.5: What's with the weather? A healthy hatch of blackflies and mosquitoes had me reaching for the insect repellent as I did fall yard work. I stopped in my tracks to pinpoint an elusive perfume and saw vigorous fresh blooms on the bush honeysuckle. By this time, I'm generally looking for the first blossoms on the witch hazel.
- Christopher Letts

10/29 - Croton Point, HRM 34.5: On the landfill, four crows had decided to chivvy an immature northern harrier that was going about its own business in a search for breakfast. The crows could have used more help. I enjoyed the superior flying of the harrier, making the crows look like buffoons as it continued hunting with brief pauses to soar and feint and stoop at the crows, always achieving the superior position with a fraction of the effort expended by the thugs. They finally left the harrier to its own devices, and I did the same, wandering down the west seawall in hopes of a loon or a flock of brant. What I got was a pied-billed grebe in the company of a cormorant. I wagged a finger at it, "You may be judged by the company you keep!"
- Christopher Letts

10/29 - New Hamburg, HRM 67.5: In early evening, under a gauze-white moon, we saw a coyote trotting along the road near the train station.
- Mike Boyajian, Jeri Wagner

10/30 - Kaaterskill Falls, HRM 113: The leaves were still ablaze in this windless cleft of the Catskill Mountains as Debra Morrison and I hiked to the base of the highest falls in the Catskills. Not more than one hundred yards up the trail we were greeted by a man in whose hands was a two-fisted clump of polypody fern (Polypodium virginianum), its rhizomes still clinging to leaves and soil. Deeply aggravated, I asked as calmly as I could if he was aware that digging plants was illegal in New York State forests. He walked past, ignoring my comments. Not satisfied, I backed up just enough to block the trail and added that the plant he had just dug was a state "listed" species. He replied that he was not digging plants and continued down the trail. Some yards later, examining a newly raw spot on the surface of a large boulder, I found myself wondering what the plant's chances were. This fern is largely lithophytic [lives on rocks] and ekes out a living in the shallow soils that accumulate on the surface of woodland stones. It must have taken this plant years to establish itself on that stone.
- Dave Taft

[New York State listed species may be imperiled or their habitat and range may be extremely limited. The list has three levels: endangered, threatened, and special concern. Visit the Natural Heritage Program website for information about listed plants and animals.]

10/31 - Beacon to Croton Harmon, HRM 55-34: A MetroNorth train ride at noon was totally breathtaking. There were no special sightings of birds or sturgeon, but the day was warm and clear and one could see the fall colors on both sides of the Hudson River in unusual clarity. I saw a kayaker, a few sailboats, motorboats, barges, several anglers, and beauty everywhere. We were treated - not tricked - this Halloween.
- Lyn Roessler

10/31 - Brooklyn, New York Bight: Driving to Floyd Bennett Field I saw a raptor, maybe a peregrine falcon, bounding down on a flock of pigeons near the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. Later, as we walked through the North 40 area, just a bit north of Rockaway Inlet, I was amazed to see so many dragonflies still about. Fall color was at its peak in New York City, and the Gateway National Recreation Area shows it well. Virginia creeper splashed red on yellow trees. Sadly, oriental bittersweet, though lovely, is wreaking havoc on biodiversity here. Sunlight on little blue stem grass is a sight to be seen in the fall. Then I finally saw my first brant of the season, at their usual place near the sea plane ramp at Floyd Bennett Field.
- Regina McCarthy

11/1 - New Hamburg, HRM 67.5: In preparation for an elementary school program, I had every pot and trap I owned set in the river looking for specimens. After several days of soaking, a dozen collection devices yielded only two fish, but they were good ones. The first was an American eel, 24" long, headed for the sea. Its eyes were greatly enlarged with a blue ring around each, ready for the journey out into the dark abyss of the North Atlantic to spawn (larger eyes collect more available light). The other was an 8" yellow bullhead. With few exceptions, this is the only place that I catch them in the entire watershed, and I catch them here each year. Since I return these fish to the river after the programs, I suppose it is possible that I'm catching the same ones each year.
- Tom Lake

11/1 - Englewood, HRM 13.5: The students from Bank Street School in Manhattan were enjoying this warm autumn day as much as we were. A strong northwest breeze shooting over the Palisades made it a good day for ravens as well. A half dozen were performing acrobatics overhead. We hauled our seine, but by this time of the year catches are generally meager. In the folds of the net, among rolls of yellow and orange leaves, were a few yoy striped bass (140 mm), alewives (65 mm), and American shad (85-92 mm). Most of the catch, at least a hundred fish, were three-inch Atlantic silversides. The water temperature was 57°F and the salinity was rebounding nicely at 12.2 ppt.
- Tom Lake, Christopher Letts

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