Hudson River Almanac November 7 - November 13, 2006
A wet summer has continued as a wet autumn, but the gray days of November are not without their appeal. While you can almost sense the landscape going to sleep, resting after a frenetic spring and summer, the arrival of winter birds, both on the river and in the uplands, reminds us of the role the Hudson Valley plays for migrating and wintering species.
HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK
11/9 - Sleepy Hollow, HRM 28: A raft of waterfowl was bobbing just off Kingsland Point Park as I paused for a moment to talk about the Canada geese, mallards, black ducks, and a pair of buffleheads. One of the children said, "... and what's THAT?" I turned to see a single male long-tailed duck (formerly called oldsquaw) flash past at a burning speed. I had not seen one of these sea ducks on the Hudson in many years.
- Christopher Letts
NATURAL HISTORY NOTES
11/7 - Croton Point, HRM 34.5: I flushed out a pair of lovely, big, golden [common, or yellow-shafted] flickers today during a walk on Croton Point. Their markings were clear as they rose out of the bushes.
- Robin Fox
11/8 - Stockport Creek, HRM 121.5: This evening, when I approached the beaver lodge in my kayak I could hear chewing noises, but it took me a while to locate the rascal rodent. My eyes finally adjusted to the dusk and there it was, the beaver, 25' away, gnawing. Using my binoculars at close range gave me quite a view. Now I could match its chew sounds with the motion of its mouth as it fed with great gusto. The beaver detected my presence, jumped into the water and patrolled back and forth in front of my kayak before it gave me a loud and splashy tail warning.
- Fran Martino
11/8 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 68.5: It was a day-long deluge as 2.7" of rain fell. At 9:00 PM there was a deafening crash at Bowdoin Park. The caretaker said it sounded as though the sky was falling in. A big red oak had crashed down in the forest. The oak had stood along the base of a southwest-facing overhang of dolomite about 650 feet east of, and 210 feet above, the Hudson River. It was a wonder that the tree had stood as long and tall as it had. With the shallow soil, the roots were not deep. The rainwater percolating through the limestone had been eroding the tree's tenuous anchor for decades. The huge tree was 94' long with a circumference, just above the base, of nearly 12 feet. For a red oak, that is about as big as they come. A similar red oak came down a while ago elsewhere in the park and a tree ring count confirmed that one was 150 years old. In the pit where the tree had stood were chunks of dolomite that had exfoliated off the overhang 150 or more years ago.
- Tom Lake
11/9 - Newcomb, HRM 302: We were back to a warm autumn. It was up to 50 F yesterday and already this morning it is 48 . Worms and slugs are out on the roadsides. The sky is trying to be blue, and the sun is trying to shine, but the clouds are insisting on rain, so it's like walking through a mist.
- Ellen Rathbone
11/9 - Beacon, HRM 61: A full day at Long Dock produced a couple of channel catfish and a small brown bullhead, but no carp, although there were a few carp splashes in midday. Yesterday's heavy rain may have the carp backing off until things settle down. I also suspect that their feeding periods may be getting shorter in colder weather.
- Bill Greene
11/9 - Fishkill, HRM 61: While walking in my yard at midday, I was puzzled to see what appeared to be a bat, light gray in color, fluttering by in slow motion and then into the nearby woods. I live in an area of extensive mixed-woods forest. The bat seemed somewhat larger than the little brown bats I normally see on summer evenings. Could this have been a silver-haired bat? Had it been dislodged from a tree that had fallen in my wood lot or was it perhaps migrating through the area on its way south?
- Ed Spaeth
11/9 - Furnace Woods, Westchester County, HRM 38.5: All the yews (Taxus sp.) I've looked at this fall have heavy crops of crimson fruit. For the past 6 weeks or so, I've watched as gray squirrels, chipmunks, and several species of birds have fed on the fruit. Today it was a yellow-bellied sapsucker, hovering like a hummingbird as it plucked the lush berries. I celebrated the balmy 70 F day by visiting my raspberry patch and plucking some berries myself, remarkable this late in the season.
- Christopher Letts
11/10 - Town of Rochester, Ulster County, HRM 91: I visited the bridge over the powerful and steep waterfall on Mettacahonts Creek. It was mesmerizing as I gazed downstream, watching the water gush over the falls into a deep pool. When I crossed the road and looked upstream, to watch the different textures of the water, I noticed something bobbing up and down about 100' upstream. As it approached I saw that it was a beaver's head and as it came closer I saw that it was perfectly calm. When the beaver entered the really fast and powerful current I jumped up on the bridge and ran to the other side. A moment later it emerged, hitting a rock wall as the current flung it over the falls. I watched the water surface and to my amazement the beaver popped up. It looked fine, its eyes wide open. It turned its body so that its head was going downstream and its tail facing me. Then it dove like a porpoise and disappeared. I waited and watched but it did not surface. My guess is that it survived and got ashore somewhere downstream where the current subsides. I have never seen anything like this and could only imagine that somewhere upstream it was working on its dam when the dam failed and it got swept into the rushing water.
- Norman Baron
11/10 - Croton River, HRM 34: There was a great sunrise over Ossining this morning, and in the light a cascade of blackbirds rose from their night roost in the phragmites. Perhaps 10,000 poured up into the dawn light. Identification was strictly by shape and flight pattern: grackles, red-winged blackbirds, brown-headed cowbirds, and starlings. They mostly headed inland just as 2 bald eagles were coming down the Croton River from their night roost. The eagles passed right through the flocks of smaller birds, which seemed to ignore them. Not so for the waterfowl. They fled every which-way away from the eagles and it took several minutes for things to quiet down after the big birds passed overhead, heading south toward Ossining.
- Christopher Letts
11/11 - Newcomb, HRM 302: We got over an inch of rain today. Things were pretty damp here.
- Ellen Rathbone
11/11 - Round Top, HRM 113: Bow hunting has been good. There are a few more deer around because areas have been logged off and now the browse is good. I'm seeing lots of red oak acorns, but almost none from the chestnut oaks and white oaks. I'm seeing no beech nuts. Our beeches are in bad shape due to the borer fungus. I've noticed quite a few golden-crowned kinglets from my tree stand, and one really cool black squirrel (melanistic) has been around every day.
- Jon Powell
11/11 - Putnam Valley, HRM 55.5: This best of fall days was bettered by seeing a flock of 30-40 cedar waxwings, unfortunately in the process of enjoying their feast at an entanglement of Oriental bittersweet. They are no doubt contributing to its further dispersal. I wonder how much of our local/regional bird species population is around in part (minimally/substantially/wholly) because of non-indigenous forage opportunities?
- Nancy P. Durr
11/11 - Jamaica Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Queens: There have been a lot of brant around, fewer snow geese, but they are evident as well. too. The last month has been graceful and slow, very warm. I always judge the season by the state of the local Impatiens - they seem particularly sensitive to the cold, and become a gelatinous mess once the slightest freeze occurs. At the moment, the ones in front of our building are happy and flowering.
- Dave Taft
11/12 - Newcomb, HRM 302: On my way to work this morning, I spotted a flock of snow buntings. I'm guessing there were about 25 birds. It seems strange seeing them when there's no snow on the ground, but I'm hearing reports of winter birds all around the park. Does this prognosticate dire weather for the upcoming winter?
- Ellen Rathbone
11/12 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: A gray sky was low and a strong northeast breeze promised rain. The sound of Canada geese seemed to be coming from every corner of the sky, flying above the gloom, hundreds of voices, several flocks or one of immense proportions.
- Tom Lake
11/12 - Rockland Lake, HRM 33: A quick count at Rockland Lake on this gray day found 21 ducks, 18 northern shovelers on the south end along with 3 ruddys. On the north end I counted 40-50 coot and some mute swans.
- Dan Wolff
11/13 - Denning's Point, HRM 60: The noon low tide brought with it more birds than you might expect at midday. I had 29 species of birds - a very good number for me, mediocre for serious birders. Everywhere the underbrush was filled to overflowing with juncos, white-throated sparrows, and tufted titmice. I counted 3 brown creepers edging up a deadfall and 2 white-breasted nuthatches edging down the same trunk. The hollow trees reverberated with the sounds of red-bellied and downy woodpeckers. Common flickers and at least one yellow-bellied sapsucker were much quieter. Blue jays were feasting on bittersweet berries.
I made several prolonged stops to watch the various shows: One of the more interesting was a tufted titmouse feasting on the seed heads of a tuliptree. Every once in a while, a seed would float free and flutter down. Each time the titmouse followed the seed down, hovering and maneuvering like a hummingbird to capture it.
My favorite, however, was a pileated woodpecker that announced its arrival with a loud, raucous call as it landed on a dead locust, a tree that had been strangled by poison ivy vines as thick as a bricklayer's biceps. This was a male pileated, 18" tall, with a flashy red head and a bill like an jackhammer. As a good carpenter, assessing his work, he would tilt his head sideways, gain leverage, and then chisel off a slab of bark. Then a pause, a look, and a gobble of carpenter ants. A mile down river, an adult bald eagle perched at Hammond's Point.
- Tom Lake