Hudson River Almanac December 11 - December 18, 2006
There is a feeling of "waiting" along the 325 miles of the Hudson, from the High Peaks to the Lower Bay of New York Harbor. It is a rare December when serious weather does not strike by Christmas. The eagles, ducks, and geese are getting lazy. There is overwhelming consensus among scientists that climate change is underway in the Northeast (see the proceedings of our December 4 conference on the DEC website at http://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/26399.html), and it's tempting to see the proof in every warm, sunny day. However, weather is variable over the short term. Experience tells us that a week or two from now, when we are mired in ice and snow, we will have forgotten all about the mild autumn.
HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK
12/14 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 74: Leaving for work at 5:30 AM, we opened the back door and were startled by what we thought was a group of people laughing and shouting down by Wappinger Creek. We quickly realized that it was the yips and barks of a pack of coyotes, and quite close by. It was given an eeriness by the thick and swirling fog that shrouded the yard. It was an awesome start to the day.
- Bill Lenhart, Donna Lenhart
NATURAL HISTORY NOTES
12/11 - Wappinger Lake, HRM 67.5: In the typical late fall advance and retreat of winter cold, the warm sun had melted the skim ice off the lake. A half dozen hooded mergansers loosely mingled along the shore while a little farther out a similar number of ring-necked ducks bobbed in the chop.
- Tom Lake
12/12 - Cornwall Bay, HRM 58: There has been a trickle of wintering eagles moving down the river valley this month. They are in no hurry since winter has not forced the issue. During a midday low tide, a single adult bald eagle was perched in a cottonwood on the side of Sloop Hill, watching over the shallows of Cornwall Bay.
- Tom Lake
12/13 - Croton Point, HRM 34: There was a snap to the air at dawn and not much life moving until the sun warmed the air a bit. Most of the activity was on the south-facing side of the Point. I heard or saw four different flocks of robins and hoped they would winter here. A female harrier was feeding on something on the sunny slope of the landfill; I could not determine what it was. Two red-tailed hawks were keeping company in a tall oak, and a common loon in winter drab was in the lee of the Point. I watched for awhile as it floated close to shore, seemingly more interested in filling up on sunlight than catching a fish.
- Christopher Letts
12/14 - Greene County, HRM 124-113: The Catskill-Coxsackie Christmas Bird Count was held in extraordinarily mild weather conditions. This has its drawbacks since the warm air over the cool river water produced a dense fog that limited visibility until about 10:00 AM. Our preliminary total was 80 species, with some notable misses, yet still above recent average totals. Foremost, by most standards, was the continued presence of a snowy owl, spotted on the roof of one of the buildings on the Greene IDA grasslands. Later in the day, the snowy owl, as well as a short-eared owl, were seen foraging in the grasslands. Additional highlights of the count were bald eagle (5 adults), wood duck (2), gadwall (11), long-tailed duck (2), red-breasted merganser (1), northern harrier (25), red-tailed hawk (25), American kestrel (5), peregrine falcon (2), Iceland gull (2), northern shrike (1), and eastern bluebird (152).
- Rich Guthrie
12/14 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 68: The air temperature reached 55°F today, breaking the old record of 52°F.
- National Weather Service
12/14 - Kowawese, HRM 60: There was a high tide at dawn; the river was smooth and gray. Just to the south, the northern gateway to the Hudson Highlands was obscured by clouds. The illusion was such that it did not appear the sky had fallen, but rather that Storm King and Breakneck Ridge had risen into the sky.
- Tom Lake
12/14 - Farmer's Landing, HRM 67: Although the days were still growing shorter, the corner had been turned in one regard and we were heading toward spring: in a gorgeous glow, the sun set one minute later today. How to spend that extra minute of daylight? I think I wasted it in contemplation.
- Tom Lake
12/14 - Fort Wadsworth, Staten Island: Dense fog enshrouded everything in lower New York Bay: a fog so dense I could barely make out the tip of my fly rod as I cast for the last stripers I hoped would be passing this entrance to the Hudson. I tagged and released two bass, both 17". As in a fog, I slowly became aware of a great horned owl hooting its ancient love song, just in time for its reversed breeding season. The fog made the call ooze from every tree and every grain of sand along that beach. Louder and louder was the call, an odd, and somewhat disconcerting accompaniment to the swish of the outgoing tide. Later, from a tree 60' behind my back cast, but still too near for comfort, a screaming creature (a raccoon?) cursed at me every time I moved a hair. Then it would stop as I stood still: cast, scream, cast, scream. It made a sound like a small child coughing up a toad. And each time I so much as moved my casting arm, it would curse at me loudly. With a recent case of rabies to consider on Long Island, I watched my back cast with particular interest. There has been a concern about rabies on Staten Island recently, and I could not keep that gremlin off my mind. I kept looking back to see if it was creeping up on me. With all the fog, the effort was pointless; it could have crawled up my back before I noticed anything.
- Dave Taft
12/15 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67.5: In a scene that has repeated itself several times over the last few years, a flock of wild turkeys, 31 birds, foraged in a field on the uphill side of Wappinger Creek. A tom turkey had perimeter duty. Circling around them in the knee high grass at a respectable distance were two local tomcats. What must those cats be thinking? So much bird, where to begin? As has been the case in the past, their presence was no surprise to the wild turkeys and you got the feeling the tom turkey was hoping the tomcats would make his day.
- Tom Lake
12/16 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Winter relented a bit today. I spotted dandelions blooming, worms were out on the roads, and a "kitten" was in full fuzz on my giant pussy willow shrub.
- Ellen Rathbone
12/16 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 75.5: Although the Christmas season is upon us, it seemed very much like a spring day by my favorite fishing spot. A slight breeze gave hint to the actual season but otherwise it remained warm in the sunlight. Actually it was more a case of casting my dough bait and waiting than any hint of "fishing." The day was "nibbleless." I tried adding a bit of clove to the dough mixture to add more flavor but the carp were not having it. I left before the crows started filling the skies, assembling for their night roost along the Poughkeepsie waterfront. No carp but lots of beauty!
- Glen Heinsohn
12/16 - Beaver Dam Brook, Town of Montgomery, HRM 59: The vivid colors of autumn had been reduced to the muted tans and browns of Phragmites and leafless trees and shrubs along the brook. That is one of the reasons I immediately spotted a pair of wood ducks, the male carrying his own kaleidoscope of color. They dabbled along, ignoring me until a small flock of noisy geese flew low overhead - at which point the ducks took off and disappeared downstream.
- Tom Lake
12/16 - Fort Wadsworth, Staten Island: Back with my fly rod minus the fog and the banshee from two nights ago. This time it was just bass, three of them, same size, 17", caught, tagged, and released.
- Dave Taft
12/17 - Newcomb, HRM 302: This morning I counted 9 fuzzed out catkins on my black pussy willow. No wonder I lose so many plants over winter - they think it is spring, start to bring themselves into spring mode, and then wham, get hit with winter and it kills them. Climate change is becoming an expensive thing.
- Ellen Rathbone
12/17 - Croton Point, HRM 34.5: We saw two coyotes on the Croton landfill this morning at dawn. As we were walking up the road, it became apparent that the hill was covered with deer. We didn't think deer would be so nonchalant if there were coyotes were in the area, but we were wrong. Apparently mature, healthy deer aren't particularly concerned about coyotes.
- Scott Craven
12/18 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 68.5: Low tide and sundown occurred almost simultaneously. At two days before the new moon, the marsh behind the railroad tracks at Bowdoin Park was mostly mudflats. A pair of hooded mergansers taking off into the breeze barely had enough runway to get airborne. The southwestern sky was flame red, an exquisite December sunset. As the light dimmed, six flocks of Canada geese lifted up off the river and flew over, heading inland to a cornfield, a golf course, or a lake for the night.
- Tom Lake, Phyllis Lake
12/18 - Fort Wadsworth, Staten Island: Out again fly-casting for striped bass (caught, tagged and released 4, dropped one). I could have stayed longer into the tide, but I was already on borrowed time from family obligations and, somehow, once I established that there were a few fish around, I felt satisfied. It is always great to be fishing at this point in the season. I felt lucky to simply be out without ice in the guides; knowing that there was the real possibility of catching a striper on a fly was just gravy.
- Dave Taft