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Hudson River Almanac September 7 - September 12, 2005

OVERVIEW

The weeks around the equinoxes often provide the most noticeable diversity from one end of the watershed to the other, 320 miles apart and over a mile different in elevation. Newcomb, in the High Peaks of the Adirondacks, had its first frost, while in the Mid-Hudson Valley we were setting record daytime highs in the low 90s.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

9/7 - Bear Mountain, HRM 46: I was watching the vultures circling their way up this morning over Hessian Lake at Bear Mountain State Park. Last year when the kettle was starting off, there were usually one or two black vultures on the bottom, struggling to keep up. This morning they had their own little group, lower and slower, but they were working their way higher. Of the 32 vultures commuting to work this morning, 21 were turkey vultures and 11 were black vultures, a much higher percentage than last year.
- Scott Craven

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

9/7 - Newcomb, HRM 302: There have been a lot of monarchs traveling past in the last few days. And dragonflies! Squadrons of them patrolling the air space over lawns and roads. I don't know when I've ever seen so many before.
- Ellen Rathbone

9/7 - Hyde Park, HRM 82.5: While walking on the river trail just south of Bard Rock, I spotted two adult cardinals foraging for insects to feed a nearby fledgling. As I watched, one adult bird - unable to glean insects from a maple leaf while it remained secured to the tree limb - adeptly pulled the leaf from its mooring. When the leaf fell to the ground the bird easily gleaned the insects from the leaf to feed the fledgling. Another interesting critter was an unidentified caterpillar crawling along the path. It was densely hairy and simply golden to copper in color. It had no spots, stripes or speckles. I'm guessing that it was a yellow woolly bear larva of the Virginia tiger moth (Spilosoma virginica), since this species has a range of solid colors.
- Ed Spaeth

9/7 - Croton Point, HRM 35: We seined an early morning low tide on the north side of the point. In seasons past, half of this 150' long area was sandy bottom and the other half was beds of aquatic vegetation. This year it is entirely vegetated - twice the homes for the twice the fish (stark sandy bottom areas with no vegetation generally hold many fewer fish). Almost all of it is wild celery with small patches of milfoil and pondweed. In two hauls we caught 300 fish; 275 of them were Atlantic silversides. The others were young-of-the-year striped bass and a few white perch and redbreast sunfish. The water was 77°F; salinity was 6.9 ppt.
- Tom Lake, Maria Sandomenico

9/7 - Croton River, HRM 34: Gino Garner and Midgie Taube announced that hickory shad had arrived - good news for sport anglers. Out in Croton Bay fishermen had caught 16" weakfish, and bluefish to 6 lb. Blue crabs were all over. Two men in a row boat had almost a bushel in just over an hour of fishing seven or eight traps. Every lift had at least one crab. The water in the Croton River was 72°F; salinity was just under 3.0 ppt. The cold, fresh flow from the upstream reservoir has an effect.
- Tom Lake

9/8 - Nutten Hook, HRM 124: After a trip to paddle all of the Great Lakes, it was pleasant to come home to our great river. My sunset paddle at Nutten Hook included sighting the four resident bald eagles, two adults and two immatures. The two adults and one of the immatures perched in a tree positioned at 3 o'clock, 6 o'clock and 9 o'clock. I've seen them do this before, and the immature always takes the 3 o'clock position while the adult in the 6 o'clock position cranes its neck to keep an eye on the youngster. They are very vocal as I approach and depart, but don't talk much while I sit still to watch.
- Fran Martino

9/8 - Rondout Creek, HRM 92: At the historic waterfront, unusually large populations of mallard ducks, house sparrows, starlings, and even fish subsist on little else than bread thrown to them by visitors. Not a healthy diet, but they seem to enjoy it. Meanwhile, this week's evening sails on the Hudson River sloop Clearwater always featured several monarch butterflies flying towards the western bank of the Hudson. None paused to rest on the boat. Osprey and herons were plentiful. A trawl net brought up a catch of white perch. Pink and purple gulls, their wings colored by the setting sun, flew northwards. Returning to the creek in darkness, the gulls, cormorants, and fish crows were bedded down for the night, and mostly silent.
- Melissa Henneman

9/8 - Danskammer Point, HRM 66.5: I was reminded again today of the enormous, year-to-year productivity of the estuary. As I cast my small silver lure from the shore, every retrieve was followed by a swarm of 6" striped bass, the class of 2004. After a few catches I flattened the barbs on my hook and for a half hour watched as hundreds of yearling striped bass swirled in the current, interrupted only by the occasional white perch.
- Tom Lake

9/9 - Ulster Park, HRM 88: A green heron stalked carefully through the grasses along the edge of our pond. It caught and ate a good sized fish (maybe a bluegill), a smaller fish, and a few things that were gone from sight before I could even see. We have about ten monarch caterpillars on swamp milkweed in our garden, at various stages of development. There were over a dozen a few days ago. As birds typically know enough to leave them alone, perhaps the large ones were ready to pupate and wandered off to find a suitable place at which they could hang on and let their chrysalis form. An Argiope spider continues to frequent our backyard, with the zig-zags in its web standing out. The swans in the Hudson River at Esopus Meadows look like they're walking on something solid and green - the mass of water chestnuts that dominates the water view.
- Peter Relson, Carol Anderson

9/9 - Garrison, HRM 52: A group of educators from the Taconic Outdoor Education Center canoed Constitution Marsh Sanctuary with Eric Lind and John Stowell. We spotted two osprey, one sitting on a snag and another soaring overhead, as well as two great blue herons standing in a large mat of water chestnut. On our way to Foundry Cove, we came upon a large flock of red-winged blackbirds feeding on wild rice. As we paddled into Foundry Cove, there was a third osprey flying north over the river. We watched as it suddenly swooped down out of sight and reappeared with something clutched in its talons. To our delight, it flew straight toward us and landed in a tree. We tried to paddle closer, but it flew away (complaining loudly) to Constitution Island, still carrying the fish. What a wonderful introduction to the wildlife of the Hudson Valley!
- Susan Butterfass, Brandon Bernard, Ginneh Lewis, Ryan Burns, Sara Laffin, Allison Woods

9/9 - Manhattan, HRM 4: Hudson River Park reports that the fishing was great this year in its summer biology programs for several thousand students and adults at Tribeca, Greenwich Village, and Clinton Cove. Striped bass, snapper blue fish, blue crab, and eels were most common in the trap and release containers. In biology and water quality field trips this coming academic year, new microscope camera mounts will allow classes to photograph plankton, algae, and invertebrates.
- Kerry Dawson

9/10 - Edgewater, NJ, HRM 8.5: I'm seeing two or three monarchs a day passing. There was a bulge in their migration a week ago when I counted 19 in a walk of about a quarter-mile with a preponderance of butterfly bush. There was another small peak of nine yesterday. We are on a pier that sticks out into the Hudson River about 100 meters but I'm not sure whether this should intercept more or less of them.
- Terry Milligan

9/10 - Edgewater, NJ, HRM 8.5: The fiddler crabs seem to still be doing well here after a disastrous fall in 2004. The main catch basin has holes from end to end (several thousand individuals) and a second colony in another catch basin still holds onto a small corner of it. This colony seems to last a year or two and then disappear from time to time. Another small colony has reappeared in the river itself behind a sunken barge. This one gets wiped out each year but manages to maintain a toehold; sometimes the colony doesn't get re-established for two years.
- Terry Milligan

9/11 - Newcomb, HRM 302: We woke to our first frost of the season. I had covered the vital things the night before (tomatoes, roses). As I removed the sheet from the tomatoes I found that it was icy. The second "wow" of the day was a male black-throated blue warbler at our feeders at the Adirondack Visitor Interpretive Center. I don't think it was actually eating seed (since they are insectivorous), but he perched on the wire for a bit and then took off for the roof. A beautiful little bird.
- Ellen Rathbone

9/11 - Croton Point, HRM 35: Leaves are drooping; some are dropping early. Over the past parched weeks green has turned to brown on this peninsula. Today was a breath of fresh air with a nice breeze and low humidity. It was a day for singular sightings: a meadowlark gliding past, an osprey circling over the Tappan Zee, a harrier working the dump, the first kestrel of the season (a bright male), a monarch sailing south, an adult bald eagle soaring high.
- Christopher Letts

9/11 - Piermont, HRM 25: While testing a coring device for Estuary Snapshot Day (October 12) we were wedged between fishermen with a series of traps hung off the north side of the pier. The surface of the water suddenly came alive with Atlantic needlefish. Four of them (10-12") darted back and forth at the surface of the water, anxiously circling around and around; they continued this routine for half an hour.
- Margie Turrin

9/11 - Manhattan, HRM 0: Anglers were spaced every 20' along the promenade overlooking the Upper Bay at Robert F. Wagner Jr. Park. These were serious fishermen, using green crabs as bait, angling for dinner. Every few minutes someone would haul a 2-5 lb. tautog (blackfish) over the rail. Every third fish was an oyster toadfish; even a fish lover must admit that toadfish have the countenance of a Halloween mask. The walkers and joggers sneered at the warty toadfish with various ughs and yuks. But the connoisseurs among the anglers gave that knowing look; despite their appearance, oyster toads are a delicacy.
- Tom Lake

[Oyster toadfish have had their fans: calcined (burned) bones of oyster toadfish were found in a Late Woodland Indian hearth (700 years old) at Dogan Point in Westchester County, 39 miles upriver. Tom Lake]

9/11 - Governors Island, Upper Bay, New York Harbor: Standing at the north dock on Governors Island, I watched as a monarch fluttered in from the harbor and landed on the edge of a puddle left by the wake of a ferry. I imagined it was pretty exhausted making the flight south from the Battery. From here it would either fly across Buttermilk Channel to Brooklyn and then across the Verrazano Narrows, or strike out west across the Upper Bay to Bayonne. A perilous journey in either case.
- Tom Lake

9/11 - East River, New York Harbor: As our New York Water Taxi moved slowly south down the East River, Queens and Brooklyn on one side, Manhattan on the other, Wade McGillis from the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia Univeristy was checking the water: the river temperature was 74°F; the salinity was 24 ppt (70% of ocean salinity, which at this latitude in the Western Atlantic is 32-35 parts-per-thousand).
- Tom Lake

9/12 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 68: The air temperature reached 92°F today, breaking the record for the date of 90°F.
- National Weather Service

9/12 - Croton Point, HRM 34: More kestrels had arrived, and the first big push of songbirds was on. I was transfixed for half an hour as scores of warblers, vireos, and kinglets skirmished their way through the canopy high above. Half a dozen osprey were visible from the railroad bridge across the Croton River, and three adult bald eagles soared high over the point, and then away to the west bank.
- Christopher Letts

9/12 - Croton Point, HRM 35: Second-graders from Post Road Elementary in White Plains were amazed at the brilliant sparkle from nearly 300 silversides in our seine. Pausing briefly to show-and-tell, we released them back into the river. It was enough to demonstrate the abundant life in the river; to be able to add such a dazzling display of color was icing on the cake. The water was 79°F, salinity was 6.2 ppt.
- Christopher Letts, Tom Lake

9/12 - Piermont, HRM 25: It was a beautiful, hazy, still morning. The river appeared slack with several feathers lying on top with no apparent movement. As we were working off the edge of the pier (with trial number 3 of our coring device) I looked down into the eyes of an extremely large blue crab that was holding onto to one of the pilings. It stayed perfectly stationary just at the water level for several minutes and then turned, showed us its swimming legs, and was off.
- Margie Turrin

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