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Hudson River Almanac October 1 - October 9, 2005

OVERVIEW

Tropical Storm Tammy made a slow move up the coast at week's end, giving us record rainfall and blowing summer out of the river. The salt front, which had been hanging near Hudson River Mile 70 just north of Wappingers Falls since August, was pushed steadily downriver by runoff - to HRM 63 near the Newburgh Beacon Bridge on Sunday, 10/9; to HRM 54 at Cold Spring on Monday, 10/10; and to HRM 48 just above the Bear Mountain Bridge by Tuesday, 10/11. The runoff also lowered the water temperature. It dropped about 5 degrees F at Hastings on Hudson (HRM 22) and more to the north: about 8 degrees at Poughkeepsie (HRM 74) and 10 at Albany (HRM 145).

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

10/9 - New Paltz, HRM 78: The Wallkill River crested Sunday morning, covering the flats west of the village and closing Route 299. As usual, folks walked out on the highway to survey the scene, and all paused on the bridge to smile at the flotilla of pumpkins floated off flooded fields and now parading down the river in their bright orange raiment.
- Steve Stanne

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

10/1 - Croton Bay, HRM 34: The Boyz at the Bridge were in their glory. Limits of big blues and bass to 20 lb. were being taken on chunks of bunker, snapper, and hickory shad. I stopped by this morning to watch some of them tossing small lures into the Croton River and hooking hickory shad, one after another. Midgie Taub was getting 2 at a time. I was headed for the truck and home when Midgie hailed me, and hauled a 14 lb. blue out of his cooler. "For dinner," he said as he handed it to me. After I filleted and trimmed the fish of all dark red flesh, I cut the cheeks out - 2 soup-bowl shaped pieces of pale pink meat, the bluefish equivalent of tenderloin.
- Christopher Letts

10/2 - Yonkers, HRM 18: At today's Lenoir Preserve Hawk Watch, there were very few raptors but plenty of migrating blue jays and double-crested cormorants. In a span of only 3 hours, our group observed almost 2,000 blue jays and 1,100 cormorants.
- Joe O'Connell, Ellen O'Connell

10/3 - Ulster Park, HRM 87: We had been watching a monarch chrysalis, formed by, or from, a caterpillar that had been munching on our milkweed. After 2½ weeks, the adult monarch emerged, let its wings dry, and took flight, soon to begin its long journey south to Mexico.
- Peter Relson, Carol Anderson

10/3 - Beacon, HRM 61: I caught and released 4 carp from Long Dock. One of them, 29" long, was my biggest so far. I did not measure the girth or weigh the fish, but I estimated about 12 lb. Carp are strong fighters; I lost another large one when it ran me into the rocks before I could get control of it.
- Bill Greene

10/3 - Hastings-on-Hudson, HRM 21.5: There seem to be many fewer squirrels in my yard this year. I mentioned this to a friend who also lives in Hastings and she agreed that she too has noticed fewer squirrels. Does anyone have news on squirrels? My dogwood tree put out the largest crop of red berries I have ever seen. In previous years the tree has been full of squirrels (some hanging upside down) feeding on the berries, but no squirrels this year.
- Barbara Morrow

10/3 - Englewood, NJ, HRM 13.5: On light tackle, hickory shad are really something. They are fast, strong, and leap high out of the water repeatedly. While doing a little pre-program collecting I had time for a few casts this morning: 3 casts, 2 fish. Two hours later, I was exalting over the first hickory I'd ever taken in a seine, a nice 16" fish, so streamlined and bright. My class of Yonkers school children was appreciative, of the hickory, the snapper blues, the hogchokers, bay anchovies, silversides, and naked gobies. As the drought continues salt levels rise, now to about 15.0 ppt, close to half the salinity of ocean water.
- Christopher Letts

10/4 - Hathaway's Glen Brook, HRM 63: With the late summer drought extending into autumn, this small stream was barely spilling down the fall line into a short run to the river. The brook temperature was 60°F. Less than 150' away, the Hudson was 72°F (40 days ago on 8/23, the brook was 66°, the river 82°F). As they were in late August, the shallow tide pools at the mouth of the stream were filled with small killifish. A dead 30" American eel was lying in the sand where only high tide would reach. This fish was as big around as my wrist, black dorsally and white ventrally. The eyes were gone to a scavenger. This was a "silver eel" that had died on its way down from upland waters, headed to the sea to spawn. Out along the beach, a couple of short seine hauls produced many young-of-the-year American shad (80 mm; they were 75 mm in late August), as well as a 6" yearling smallmouth bass. A half-dozen monarchs fluttered past in the lee of the shore, trying to avoid a stiff southerly breeze.
- Tom Lake, Abbey Lake

10/5 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 68: The air temperature reached 81°F today, one degree shy of the record for the date set in 1959.
- National Weather Service

10/5 - Beacon, HRM 61-60: Fishkill Creek tidewater is a mini-estuary, from end to end, less than a mile, even at high tide with a full moon. It runs from just below the Tioranda Dam in Beacon out to its confluence with the Hudson River at Dennings Point. I was there at the start of the flood, at the head of tide, just above a set of rapids that create the fall line. The pools below Tioranda Dam were low and clear. A few sunfish and small brown trout made short dashes at my lure but were not having it. On the walk to the mouth of the creek along the Madam Brett Trail, I flushed at least a dozen common flickers from a small grove of trees. On the way back I counted at least that many more. It was a migration day for flickers. In the marsh near the mouth of the creek I watched three wood ducks (a drake and two hens) drift slowly along in a tight grouping. With no warning, a cormorant surfaced just a couple of feet away with a raucous splash that made my heart skip a beat and sent the three ducks into the air in frantic flight. A few days ago, in the teeth of 40 mph wind gusts, I had seen crows flying backwards. Today I watched as three ducks emulated the maneuver. An immature bald eagle was perched out in the bay on a deadfall. As the rising tide kept claiming more of the log, the bird shifted to stay dry, finally having to leave. At the train trestle where the creek meets the river, large schools of young-of-the-year menhaden, "penny bunker," were being chased. I presumed they were small bluefish until I broke up the party by hooking and landing a 20" striped bass.
- Tom Lake

10/6 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Mike Tracy came back from a run to the Post Office this morning to say he saw a moose. As he crossed the Route 28N bridge over the Hudson, he saw a dark shape upriver. He turned around, drove back, and saw a wake in the water. He continued to the Post Office where he saw a bull moose with smallish antlers trotting out from the Campsite Road, down 28N, and into the woods. (Still waiting for my first moose.) I'm still finding bunchberry in bloom, and the occasional bugloss and goldenrod, but for the most part, flowers are past. Color is starting to pick up: warm colors this year, heavy in the russets.
- Ellen Rathbone

10/6 - Highland, HRM 75.5: This afternoon I spotted a lone osprey, heading south along the river.
- Vivian Wadlin

10/6 - Yonkers, HRM 18: The staff at Beczak Environmental Education Center ventured out to the river for a final season seine with Eric Nelson from Palisades Interstate Park, Steve Stanne from DEC, and Steve Ruff of the Hudson River Museum. The salinity was 13.5 ppt, and the water temperature was 73°F. We had a great catch: 6 hogchokers, tons of shrimp and blue crabs, juvenile striped bass, Atlantic silversides, 2 naked gobies, a northern pipefish, 2 American eels, 2 anchovies, and 9 juvenile Atlantic croakers. After our seining we were treated to a beautiful sunset on the Hudson. What a lovely day to be on the river!
- Vicky Garufi, Cynthia Fowx, Jenn Mokos

10/7 - Englewood, NJ, HRM 13.5: Our catch of the day was a 6¼" (159 mm) white mullet, something you don't see every day in the Hudson estuary. In Rachel Carson's fine writings it was "Mugil the Leaper," and aptly named. This small specimen jumped from the five gallon bucket I placed it in, over and over, several times smacking me in the face. I finally covered the pail with a dip net to contain the fish. The water temperature was 71°F; the salinity was 15.0 ppt.
- Christopher Letts

[Mullet are a family of saltwater fish called Mugilidae (genera Mugil). In the southern end of their range, they spawn in the ocean and spend their lives, estuaries, inland waterways, and canals. In tropical waters it is a common sight to see scores of mullet leaping out of the water to escape tarpon, snook, and other predators. In 12 years of the Hudson River Almanac, this was the 8th recorded occurrences of mullet in the estuary: 3 striped mullet, 4 white mullet, one of indeterminate species. (See 6/17, Croton River, for a young-of-the-year mullet.) Tom Lake.]

10/7 - Croton Point, HRM 35: This was to be our annual Night Seining program at Croton Point. Just after sundown, we line the beach with lanterns and haul our 200' net (Henry Gourdine's seine) out into the dark of Croton Bay. But in a heavy, driving rain from Tropical Storm Tammy, it appeared we'd have no customers. We hauled anyhow, just to satisfy our curiosity. The catch was unspectacular: many, many young-of-the-year striped bass and some small blue crabs. The river was 73°; the salinity was 7.4 ppt.

"Henry's seine" was built to exacting specifications: his own. He considered this one that he made for us 15 years ago to be a "toy." Henry Gourdine of Ossining once built a 2600-foot commercial haul seine that used a quarter-mile of head rope. One day, fifty years ago at Crawbuckie, Henry and his crew caught 14,000 pounds of American shad and striped bass. He was not altogether happy about the haul; it took the crew so long to weigh, box, and ice the fish that they missed the opportunity to set on the next tide.

As we loaded our seine back into the fish tub we noticed an odd formation in the sky approaching from the south. It resembled a half dozen ducks flying in very tight formation, but was it a mile away or only a few hundred feet? The formation shifted and turned but never lost its tight pattern. As it passed overhead, pushed by a gusting south wind, we could see that it was 20 party balloons tethered tightly together. It brought to mind the sight of a ring-billed gull on a beach in Orange County last summer, the end of an red party balloon protruding from its mouth.
- A. Danforth, Tom Lake, Christopher Letts

10/8 - Newcomb, HRM 302: You know something is happening when you are lying half asleep in bed, with all the windows closed, and you still hear the continuous honking of geese. I'm guessing the cold front that moved through this weekend brought the geese to their senses and drove them all southward, because this morning there were flocks and flocks of low-flying geese (and ducks) passing over Newcomb. It was interesting to watch because usually one just sees the Vs all flying one way, occasionally shifting positions as they take turns leading and bringing up the rear, but this time there were lots of smaller Vs, and they were all flying at different altitudes, each squadron passing over or under others, all flying in different directions (generally southerly). It was like watching WWII airplane footage.
- Ellen Rathbone

10/8 - Ulster Landing, HRM 97.2: From a mile north of the Kingston-Rhinecliff bridge the flight of the monarchs was almost over as they fluttered by on their long journey south. A week ago, one came by every 10 seconds. I stopped counting at 20 in the early morning. Now, a week later, the north winds would really drive them south. The white caps were over 2' high and the few bass fisherman brave enough to venture out on the river were having a very hard time navigating the swells.
- Peg Duke

10/8 - Bronx River Parkway, New York Bight: The only thing advertising the river below the Bronx River Parkway, was a beautiful common egret standing boldly on the elevated concrete shoulder.
- Dave Taft

10/9 - West Shokan, HRM 92: Rain, starting at nightfall on 10/7, had swelled the Bushkill into its side channels. On 10/8, at 6:00 PM, a forty-foot sycamore crashed into the torrent; at that moment an old streambed west of our house reactivated, forcing 6" of water into the cellar. This morning, as we put the motor back on the furnace, an American toad hopped across the cellar floor toward the kitchen stairs. Off the back porch a half-dozen golden-crowned kinglets were fluttering in the mahaleb cherry, avidly feeding.
- John Bierhorst, Jane Byers Bierhorst

10/9 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67.5: The rain arrived two days ago in late afternoon. Once it began in earnest, it did not stop for 27 hours. With occasional torrential downpours and winds gusting to 35 mph, Tropical Storm Tammy brushed us as she headed up the coast. At dawn the sky was clearing and cool, and the rain gauge read 8.1 inches. This was a record rainfall that the National Weather Service labeled a "100 year storm." In Dutchess County it was the most rain (7.57") in a 24-hour period in the 57 years that such records have been kept. Some areas of Ulster and Columbia counties received over 11 inches of rain.
- Tom Lake

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