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Hudson River Almanac October 24 - October 31, 2005

OVERVIEW

From the perspective of aquatic life, the Hudson is slowing down for the season. Water temperature fell 22°F during the month of October. For the next month, and beyond, the most obvious activity will be in the air, with migrating flocks of waterfowl, the arrival of winter finches and other cold weather birds, and the first appearances of wintering bald eagles from points north.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

10/31 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 68: Total rainfall for October was a record 17.43 inches, 40% of the year-to-date total (43.52 inches).
- National Weather Service

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

10/24 - Nyack, HRM 27: My observation is more of a question: Where are all the squirrels? We first noticed last spring that there seemed to be fewer squirrels than normal. We didn't see many during the summer and now, when they're usually all over the place burying nuts, there are hardly any at all. We saw only one all last week. Last year it was not uncommon to see 4-5 at a time around our bird feeder. We had a coyote close to our house last month. Could it be the culprit?
- Liz O'Brien

10/25 - Beacon, HRM 61.5: Ferry service between Beacon and Newburgh resumed after 42 years. The last previous run had been on November 3, 1963. I remember as a child riding the huge red ferry boats - one named Dutchess, the other Orange - crushing through shelf ice in winter and, on at least one occasion, getting stuck fast. We had to wait a half hour or longer for the current to lessen, the tide to slacken, and the ferry to come free. It was appropriate that I chose today to make a trip on the new ferry, West New York, in the grip of a nor'easter from Hurricane Wilma (1.84" of rain). The storm surge from Wilma and the wind-driven tide pushed the river over its banks and into the low-lying parking lots. We were in a third quarter moon; had it been full or new moon, the flooding would have been more significant. Across and back, the wind (30 mph, gusts near 50) had the boat rocking and rolling. Gulls were flying but never in a straight line. A placid, sun-splashed river was a favorite of Hudson River School painters; today's rollicking river had more of a Winslow Homer feel.
- Tom Lake

10/26 - Minerva, HRM 234: We had a very sloppy 4" of snow four days ago, and 2" more last night. Most of it is gone, but some snow is hanging on in the open areas. There is still a surprising leaves-on-trees situation in Minerva. Leaf-fall is about two weeks late.
- Mike Corey

10/26 - Hudson Highlands, HRM 43-47: I don't know if it was the high tide, the moon, the nor-easter off the coast, or a combination of all the above, but yesterday afternoon we had a lot of water in the river. Route 6, west of Camp Smith, was under water as well as a good portion of the Bear Mountain Dock three miles upriver. This morning the wrack line at the old Fort Montgomery Marina was heavy and significantly closer to the railroad tracks than usual.
- Scott Craven

10/27 - Gardiner, HRM 75: I hiked from Lake Minnewaska to Gertrude's Nose and was surprised to see snowflakes for a couple of hours. The weather was overcast and chilly but the fall foliage more than made up for that. I came across 2 ruffed grouse, 3 ravens, a sharp-shinned hawk, a turkey vulture, 3 red squirrels, and 5 groups of foraging golden-crowned kinglets. These consisted of 4-7 birds each and were very active. While hiking along the Millbrook Mountain carriageway heading towards Gertrude's Nose, I came across black bear tracks no more than a day old. The tracks emerged from the woods along the carriage way and followed it for 20 yards before going back into the woods.
- Chris Kuhlow

10/27 - Beacon, HRM 61: It was colder today at Long Dock. Channel catfish and brown bullheads were not around but carp were jumping and sloshing. I caught and released 2 small carp, 2 and 5 lb. I lost a much bigger one that ran my line into the rocks and broke off. Rocks, old pilings, proximity to the main channel, and a broad bay strewn with stones that likely harbor many smaller food organisms, combine to make Long Dock very attractive to fish. However, it will also occasionally mean lost fish.
- Bill Greene

10/27 - Croton Point, HRM 34.5: Bill Kress and I were walking on Croton Point when we spotted a flock of cedar waxwings. They all appeared to be juveniles, and that seemed odd.
- Scott Craven

10/27 - Crawbuckie, HRM 33.5: In the river just north of Ossining I could see hundreds, perhaps thousands of ducks out in Croton Bay. There were a dozen or more rafts of varying sizes, usually indicating different species. While many appeared to be ring-necked ducks, there were also many mallards and black ducks. Most of them were likely driven south by the nor'easter.
- Tom Lake

10/27 - Piermont Pier, HRM 25: With morning air temperatures in the high 40s and water temperatures a close match (48.2°F), 40 Tappan Zee AP Biology students and their teachers joined some Lamont-Doherty staff for a day of sampling and exploring at the pier. One group found a small northern diamondback terrapin, 1¾-2" carapace length. The markings were extraordinary on both the shell and the head and legs, beautiful, unique scrolling patterns on each section of the shell. It may have been knocked from a submerged location in the mud by the recent storms. It was doing very poorly and, despite attempts to revive it, the turtle died within hours of being found.
- Margie Turrin

10/27 - Yonkers, HRM 18: For the last two days we have seined the river with School 21 in Yonkers and Ossining High School. It seems that as soon as the water temperature started to drop, young-of-the-year river herring began dominating our catch, far outnumbering Atlantic silversides, blue crabs, mummichogs, striped bass and white perch. We caught a variety of herring, mostly young bluebacks, with a few shad, menhaden, and gizzard shad. We also caught our largest striped bass of the season. It was cold and windy so we let it go without an official measuring, but everyone agreed it was close to a foot long. This week the river wreaked havoc on the fencing that protects the tidal marsh from hungry Canada geese and for the first time we observed juvenile killifish in the freshwater area of our marsh. I imagine the fish were carried in when higher high tides and large quantities of freshwater runoff connected the tidal zone with the freshwater area of the wetland. The salinity has been hovering around 6.0 ppt for the past few days.
- Cynthia Fowx, Vicky Garufi, Jennifer Mokos

10/27 - Brooklyn, New York Bight: Walking along the edge of the old greenhouse property at Floyd Bennett Field, Ranger Pete McCarthy and I flushed a mourning cloak butterfly. Fresh and clean, it was newly emerged - the yellow edging on the wings absolutely glowed. It had only stopped raining this morning. Perhaps it took that opportunity to make the final change. In just weeks this adult will be finding some barky crevice or an old building to overwinter.
- Dave Taft

10/28 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: The sights and sounds along the river were definitely winter. Moving in the low woods and shrubbery were shadows and glimpses of juncos and sparrows heading south. Some of the flocks of juncos had dozens of birds. The chatter and birdsong of white-throated sparrows and white-breasted nuthatches rounded out the setting.
- Tom Lake

10/28 - Fishkill, HRM 61: Wildlife watching: In late afternoon, sitting in my car in my driveway, I spotted a gray squirrel scamper along the road carrying a large black walnut in its mouth. It fled into the nearby shrub across the road. Shortly thereafter, a gray fox ran from my neighbor's driveway and across the road, right alongside my parked vehicle, and then into the woods. Several golden-crowned kinglets were feasting on insects that they gleaned from my lawn.
- Ed Spaeth

10/29 - Rhinebeck, HRM 91: After a half-hour I lost count of how many large V's of waterfowl I saw, almost all of them ducks, crossing the river, heading southeast, pushed by the wind.
- Tom Lake

10/30 - Brooklyn, New York Bight: National Park Service Ranger Pete McCarthy was mocking Kathy Krause and I as we tried to make a cuckoo out of what was probably nothing more than a robin. As we examined our park's campgrounds at Floyd Bennett Field for likely tree replacement areas, Kathy thought she'd seen a fleeting long tailed silhouette in a nearby pine. We'd pretty much decided that Pete was right, the only cuckoos here were Kathy and I, when she pointed to the base of the tree. There at the bottom was a healthy adult opossum staring at us. It had the most beautiful white face and perfect ears, probably a young adult. As we stared, he turned to look back up at the tree where the "cuckoo" might have been as if wondering why the attention had suddenly shifted to him. Then shaking his head, he lumbered off, dismissively, as if to say, "I'll never figure out those darned humans."
- Dave Taft

10/31 - New Hamburg, HRM 67.5: I emptied all of my collection gear for the season, setting free any river life that had found my pots and traps a snug place to be. Eel pots designed to capture American eels had not been very effective this fall, as the diminished presence of these fish continues to be a concern. In one pot I had three species of catfish: 3 brown bullheads, 2 white catfish, and 4 channel catfish. They had been feasting on generous remnants of American shad that I had used for bait. The river was 49°F.
- Tom Lake

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