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Hudson River Almanac October 10 - October 16, 2005

OVERVIEW

Some meteorologists have called it a 100-year storm; it surely produced a 50-year flood. In the aftermath of Tropical Storm Tammy, a stationary front and area of low pressure loafed off the coast for days, pumping moist air over the Northeast and deluging the Hudson Valley. All told we had eight days of rain, with a variety of effects ranging from rapidly dropping water temperature and salinity pushed well downriver to inundated floodplains and pumpkins liberated from farm fields.

HIGHLIGHT OF A RECENT WEEK

10/6 - Haverstraw Bay, HRM 42: Today Clearwater sailed into Haverstraw Bay from Verplanck with fourth graders from Mount Kisco Elementary School on board. They were in for a treat: in our trawl we caught 2 shortnose sturgeon, 35" and 36"long. After much adoration and excitement the fish were released unharmed.
- Tracey Toufali

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

10/10 - Newcomb, HRM 302: A week ago all the trees outside my office window were green. Today, they are the color of butternut squash. How quickly they change. We are still seeing a few monarchs, but for the most part, the butterflies are gone. Even the goldfinches seem to have moved on; they are completely non-existent at the thistle (niger) feeder, whereas a week ago they were inhaling the stuff. I wonder if a natural food source suddenly became available to them, or if they have simply left the area.
- Ellen Rathbone

10/10 - Sandy Hook, NJ, New York Bight: Ten brant dropped in on the bays along the backside of Sandy Hook today, right on schedule. They will be in the bay until about Memorial Day weekend when they set their wings north to return to their Arctic breeding grounds. Here they will mostly feed on sea lettuce in shallow water and move upland onto the grass if we have an icy winter. If it gets really cold they might move down to Barnegat Bay and points south.
- Dery Bennett

[Brant are a small species of goose. At first glance they look like half-size Canada geese. Tom Lake]

10/11 - New Paltz, HRM 78: As I was driving into town this morning over the Wallkill River, I spotted two great egrets flying over the farm fields, getting ready to land.
- Rebecca Johnson

10/11 - Blue Point, HRM 74: In the tidal cove below Blue Point this morning, a covey of female red-wing blackbirds in a welter attacked a stand of wild rice, as I watched through a culvert under the railroad tracks. Overhead, a flock of brant was hurrying southward, seemingly as undisciplined.
- John Mylod

10/11 - Dennings Point, HRM 60: We were reconnoitering an observation point for wintering bald eagles. From the train trestle at the mouth of Fishkill Creek, there is a 360° view of "eagle trees" along the creek, the river, and across the bay at Dennings Point. From December through March, Fishkill Creek serves as a corridor for eagles as they move from night roosts to day perches. As if to make the point, an immature bald eagle took up a perch in a tall black locust on the tip of Denning's Point. Every few minutes it dropped down, glided over the water, made a couple of turns, and headed back to its perch. The bird was hunting, but as far as we could tell, without much luck.
- Pete Nye, Marty McGuire, Tom Lyons, Reagan Chichester, Ralph O'Dell, Tom Lake

["Eagle trees" are easy to spot, even when eagles are not in them. They are large, open canopy trees, like cottonwoods, oaks, tuliptrees, sycamores, and white pines, on or very near the river or tributary, with a view of the water. Some of these trees have large horizontal limbs that make perfect feeding perches. Many are in sheltered locations, out of the prevailing wind, with an sunny exposure. The formula for an eagle tree is easy in, easy out. White pines are favored as night roosts as they afford shelter from the wind. Tom Lake]

10/11 - Croton Point, HRM 35: The drought ended with the weekend deluge. My rain gauge overflowed for the first time since Hurricane Floyd hit us in '96. The effects on seining programs were immediately noticeable. Beds of wild celery had been swept away, along with any salt that had penetrated this far up the estuary. The first young-of-the-year shad appeared, along with a dozen sticklebacks and pipefish, now devoid of hidey-holes in the dense stands of water celery. Snapper bluefish and blue crabs - constants in the seine for the past two months - were absent, and in their place, a lovely yellow perch and a resplendent pumpkinseed sunfish.
- Christopher Letts

10/12 - Beacon, HRM 61: At the Long Dock station for the third annual Hudson River Snapshot Day, students from South Avenue Elementary were scheduled to collect data. However, the rain began at midnight and showed no sign of letting up all day. While the students canceled, the sampling went on. We patiently waited in the early afternoon for the tide to drop and expose the beach. At half-ebb the water was up in the trees. At predicted mid-afternoon time of low tide, barely enough of the beach reappeared to set the seine. From what we could see, the tide never went out. We hauled the seine ashore, carefully avoiding the big rocks that students ordinarily sit on, high and dry. The catch was meager with the highlight being a couple of dozen young-of-the-year [yoy] American shad (85-90 mm). As we stood there in the driving, cold rain, measuring and releasing the shad back into the river, I wondered how many of them will return in 4-5 years to spawn where they were spawned. The river was 64°F.
- Tom Lake, A. Danforth

[The Almanac occasionally describes blow-out tides, where several days of strong west-northwest winds will progressively lower successive ebb tides, draining bays and the mouths of tributaries. Something of the reverse also occurs several times a year. These are days when strong southerly winds, storm surge from the ocean, or flood water will fill the river and the drop of the ebb tide is barely noticeable. Tom Lake]

10/12 - Highland Falls, HRM 50: The heavy rains put a damper on the activities of a screech owl that had been visiting our wood lot, 15- 20 trees, for the past week. On consecutive evenings, just after sundown, the owl appeared in the lot and begin calling. He would stick around for 10-15 minutes and then disappear. One evening that the owl failed to show up, he awoke me at 4:00 AM calling from the tree outside my window. The owl hasn't been heard from since this weekend's storm and the ensuing rains.
- David Baker

10/12 - Manhattan, HRM 5: Manhattan received 4.26" of rain, a record rainfall amount for one day. - National Weather Service

10/13 - Constitution Island, HRM 53: The U.S. Geological Survey defines the salt front - the leading edge of diluted seawater entering the Hudson estuary - as the place where chloride reaches a concentration of 100 parts per million (background levels in freshwater parts of the Hudson are 20-30 parts per million). Runoff from Tammy had pushed the salt front down to HRM 48 on 10/11, but as rain eased off early in the week, it crept back upriver. Runoff from the rain pounding the watershed yesterday and today had yet to reach the mainstem.
- Steve Stanne

10/13 - Furnace Woods, HRM 38.5: Rainfall for the last 5 days has topped 14" with more to come. First we had the coldest, wettest May on record, then the warmest, driest September on record. Now comes October.
- Christopher Letts

10/13 - Croton Point, HRM 35: We spotted a small coyote crossing the entrance road into Croton Point Park. After crossing, it ran halfway up the hill, to the north, and stood there staring at us for a while before continuing its climb.
- Susan Dublin, Amie Worley

10/14 - Wappinger Creek, HRM 67.5: In late morning, the tidewater Wappinger was over its banks. Along a half-mile reach I found 10 herons that I had seen hunting in the creek a week ago: 2 great egrets, 7 great blue herons and one green heron. None of them were hunting today. All of them were up in trees or out on limbs just above the range of high tide. In mid-afternoon, exactly 7 days after the rain began, we had accumulated 13 inches.
- Tom Lake

10/14 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 68: We have had 36% of our year-to-date rain in the first two weeks of October.
- National Weather Service

10/14 - Annsville, HRM 44: The U.S. Geological Survey Hudson River salt front website reported that the salt front had now moved south to this location just above Peekskill.
- Steve Stanne

10/15 - Newcomb, HRM 302: We have had a lot of rain, wind, and cool temperatures. I saw a monarch today winging its way down the road, and found another floating in a bucket of rainwater. I rescued him (it was indeed a male), and placed him on the monkshood to dry out and recover. It was chilly and he was wet, so I don't know what his chances were for survival. All buckets are now emptied and upside down.
- Ellen Rathbone

10/15 - Catskill Point, HRM 112: When the sun broke through around noon, I was sitting on a bench looking at Catskill Creek and the Hudson when I heard something familiar, yet not too common: 4 swans heading south, low over the river. They were probably tundra swans, but I would be hard pressed to identify them for sure; they were already past when I saw them.
- Larry Federman

10/15 - Mid-Hudson Valley: ...and on the morning of the eighth day, the rain finally stopped. In eight days we had received 15½ inches (15.46") of rain. It was like the end of an old black and white movie. The sun came out and color returned.
- Tom Lake

10/15 - Haverstraw Bay, HRM 38.6: The rain may have stopped, but the runoff was still coursing down the mainstem, pushing the salt front down to Haverstraw today.
- U.S. Geological Survey

10/15 - Furnace Woods, HRM 38.5: Since the onset of the monsoon, I've dumped 15½" of precipitation out of my rain gauge. According to the National Weather Service, if we don't get another drop of rain in October, it is already the wettest one on record here.
- Christopher Letts

10/15 - Croton Point, HRM 34.5: National Guard troops were checking in droves of Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts for the annual camping weekend. An adult bald eagle soared over the landfill, then over the entrance booth and parking lot, apparently unseen by a single person. Three harriers were coursing the slopes of the landfill, and a dozen kestrels were stunting and hovering overhead, likewise unnoticed.
- Christopher Letts

10/15 - Croton Point, HRM 35: The storm was gone and a strong cold front swept over the valley driven by a rip-roaring north wind that sent rollers crashing onto the beach. We hauled our seine for two dozen Scouts and were rewarded with a net full of shrimp, baby crabs, killifish, striped bass and more pipefish than I've seen all fall. With the wild celery and pondweed gone, they must be homeless.
- Tom Lake, Bob Walters

10/15 - Croton River, HRM 34: As the rains fell all week, there was plenty of speculation by the Boyz at the Bridge about what the effect of all the water would be on fishing. This morning they were happily catching and releasing lovely hickory shad, fat white perch, and chunky striped bass to 12".
- Christopher Letts

10/16 - Newcomb, HRM 302: We're still seeing the occasional monarch, but things are pretty much hunkered down these last few days due to the wind, rain and chilly weather. The river is up; it almost looks like spring time with the water so high. The High Peaks were shrouded in clouds this morning so I could not tell if we got the predicted snowfall over night.
- Ellen Rathbone

10/16 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 75: The interconnectedness of the watershed was once again demonstrated today when I was headed for my crab pots and started seeing pumpkins and shards of pumpkins floating on the rising tide and being nibbled by the rocks along the shoreline. I can only imagine that these 8-10 pumpkins were liberated by flood waters from farm fields on the Wallkill River flats near New Paltz and carried northward to the Rondout Creek before tumbling over the falls at Eddyville, floating down the tidal Rondout, and reaching the mainstem Hudson.
- John Mylod

10/16 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 75: While watching an immature bald eagle in a tree near my crab pots on the east shore of the river just south of the Mid-Hudson Bridge, I spotted an adult bald eagle as it soared upward on the freshened NW wind. Higher and higher the bird slowly wheeled, its white head and tail sparkling in the brilliant, early morning sunshine. Then, it dropped like a shot toward the river before, just as quickly, pulling up steeply as a crop duster would do at the tree line on the edge of a farm field. Circling in wider circles now and drifting south with each widening circle, the eagle divided its path between the river and the land. Then it was off on folded wings, at speeds I could not calculate, before I lost sight of it in the sun. When I turned to look again at the younger eagle in the tree, it too had disappeared. The river is now down to 58°F, dropping almost as fast as that eagle.
- John Mylod

10/16 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: We sat on our deck at dawn having coffee, and overhead was a fairly continuous show of migrating waterfowl and raptors. The wind was WNW 25, gusts to 38, with some reportedly near 50 mph. The winds aloft had to be well over 100 mph. We watched high-flyers, so high my 10x50s made them out to be geese but not much more. The clouds were well above them and moving across the sky NW to SE at incredible speed. In little over an hour, we had nine flocks of geese (one was of snow geese), two flocks of brant, several of cormorants, scores of turkey vultures, Cooper's hawks, red-tailed hawks, a merlin, and a peregrine falcon that zoomed past flying sideways. It take quite a wind to make a peregrine lose its heading. One moment nothing was in sight, and the next we had a dozen teetering vultures low over the house drifting past. Forty blue jays zoomed by so fast that they were identifiable only by silhouette. It reminded me of a fireworks display, where you have an oooh and ahhh, then wait a minute, and have another oooh and ahhh. The grand finale came a short while later: a broad stream of blackbirds - red-wings, grackles, and cowbirds - came rushing down along the river, from tree to tree, at least a thousand and probably twice that number. For five minutes or more they passed. What a racket.
- Tom Lake, Phyllis Lake

10/16 - Scarborough, HRM 31.5: Relentless, the runoff continued. The salt front was between Croton Point and the Tappan Zee Bridge today, retreating further downriver.
- U.S. Geological Survey

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