Hudson River Almanac September 26 - October 2, 2007
This week ended with the Hudson River Estuary Program's 5th annual Day in the Life of the Hudson River - a.k.a. Snapshot Day - that brought at least 2,000 school students down to the water at 48 sites. A few observations from that day are included here, but the event produced far too much information to include in this weekly Almanac. The website at http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/edu/k12/snapshotday/index.html provides additional information and data from our one-day snapshot of nearly 300 miles of the river from Breezy Point in Queens to Minerva in the Adirondacks.
HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK
9/26 - Englewood, NJ, HRM 13.5: The hot, dry weather persisted, the salty waters remained, and the seine catches off this beach continued to delight children of all ages. We limit the haul of the net to one five-minute sweep of a small cove, a tiny arc of water, a droplet in an estuary that is over 150 miles long and up to several miles wide. I ask the students, "If we catch all this in a small space of time and area, what must be out there in the rest of that vast system?" Today the product of our effort was impressive: 2 gallons of moon jellyfish and comb jellies, and at least 1,000 small menhaden, anchovies, and silversides. Mixed in were a few summer flounder, hogchokers, sea robins, weakfish, croaker, and northern kingfish.
- Christopher Letts
NATURAL HISTORY NOTES
9/27 - Catskill, HRM 113: It got hot and steamy after a fast moving thunder-and-lightning storm passed by this morning. Eight students and 5 adults from Catskill Middle School's Greater Sense of Place program put kayaks in at Dutchman's Landing as we waited for the storm to move on. We watched an adult bald eagle and 2 immatures fly around the shoreline while an assortment of other birds looked for a low-tide meal. We ate lunch at the south end of Athens' Middle Ground, the kids went swimming, and then we paddled to the Athens Boat Launch where the school bus waited to take them back. It was a great day on the river!
- Lynn Urban, P.J. Urban, Brenda Gerry
9/28 - Catskill, HRM 113: The river was very different from yesterday, but the cloudy weather didn't stop the Greater Sense of Place program. Windy and cooler, 11 students and 4 adults set out from Dutchman's Landing in Catskill with spray skirts on their tandem kayaks. The adult bald eagle and the 2 immatures [probably Mama and this year's young] were sighted again. As we headed north, we saw gulls on the sandbar by the Rip Van Winkle Bridge, as well as herons, cormorants, and a kingfisher along the way. We ate lunch on Middle Ground again, but no one went swimming today. We pulled out at the Athens Boat Launch later than yesterday. What a workout, but still a great day on the river.
- Lynn Urban, P.J. Urban, Brenda Gerry
9/28 - Kowawese, HRM 59: It was a beautiful warm and sunny day as we welcomed 21 4th graders from Cornwall-on-Hudson's Willow Avenue Elementary school. We spotted an adult bald eagle flying around Cornwall Bay at the mouth of Moodna Creek. There were tremendous amounts of wild celery and water chestnut seeds in the shallows and on the beach where the tide had left them. We hauled our 30-foot seine and caught young-of-the year [YOY] striped bass and blueback herring, as well as some white perch and silversides.
The next school group was from Newburgh, Thevenet Montesouri School, with 24 first-through-third graders. Our catch was similar, with YOY striped bass and blueback herring, as well as some white perch and silversides. The river was 74 degrees F.
- Judy Onufer; Pam Golben
9/28 - Town of Wallkill, Orange County, HRM 57: The Hudson River Valley is well-known as a migration corridor for birds. Today we could see that the Wallkill River Valley was a similar but smaller version. As we walked along the edges of fields we rousted several dozen common flickers, all disappearing away from us with their white rumps flashing. Warblers and other small songbirds were hustling along as well, not pausing nearly long enough for us to identify them. There seemed to be a continuous k-I-r-r-r-r overhead as red-tail after red-tail spiraled by and at least 2 Cooper's hawks zoomed past at tree-top level. The wildflower edges of the fields of goldenrod ranged from the sublime to the spectacular, with the soft yellow-orange of butter and eggs to the showy purple of New England aster.
- Tom Lake, Phyllis Lake
9/29 - New Hamburg, HRM 67.5: I lifted an eel pot I had set in the river to retrieve specimens for a school group and found 2 large male blue crabs inside. Except one was not a live crab. Several days ago this jimmy crab somehow managed to squeeze into the pot looking for a safe place to moult. His old shell was still inside. But having shed and with the new shell hardened, he could not fit back through the opening. It would have been a one-way death trap. Collection gear used by commercial fishermen and researchers has this potential if not tended regularly. When such items are lost, we refer to them as "ghost traps." Something as small as a discarded soft drink or beer can may become a tomb for crabs and other crustacea. The moulted shell in the pot was 4.9" wide; the new shell on the live crab was 6", a 20% increase in size but considerably more in body mass. The old shell was missing one claw and two walking legs. The new crab had both claws, although the regenerated one was much smaller, as were the two new walking legs. Scientists call this process autotomy, where an appendage is lost and a new one regenerated over time.
- Tom Lake
9/29 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: I heard a faint but unmistakable cry and, looking up, there they were, etched against the deep blue sky - two Vs of high-flyer Canada geese, the first I'd seen this autumn.
- Tom Lake
[High-flyers is a colloquial name given mainly to migratory geese, Canadas and snows, from Canada and points north and east, headed for corn fields down the coast. We frequently hear them before we see them, often as a giant check mark in the sky, anywhere from a score to several hundred birds. With a backdrop of sky blue, a flock of snow geese almost disappear. During the height of the migration in October, you may see half a dozen flocks at one time, all a mile high or more. Over the course of a breezy day you may count 15-20 flocks as they pass over. Tom Lake.]
9/29 - Beacon, HRM 61: The tally was 3 carp in the 3- 4 lb. range, all released, during today's fishing at Long Dock. If I'd caught every fish that bit and stole bait, or broke my line in the rocks, I'd easily have had 20 fish. The carp seem to be activated to the point where they feed much of the day now, rather than in smaller time windows.
- Bill Greene
9/29 - Croton Point, HRM 35: This was our annual Night Seining program at Croton Point. After sundown we line the beach with lanterns and haul our 250' net, built by Henry Gourdine, out into the dark of Croton Bay. We run this event rain or shine. One year we hauled during a tropical storm when the waves were breaking over the heads of the seine haulers and yet ended up with one of our better catches. The onlookers agreed that it added character to the program. This was a mild, starry night, with Venus shining brightly in the west and the big dipper perched prominently overhead. Night fishing with long nets is a tradition that originated far back in the deep past of the Hudson Valley, thousands of years ago. More recently, commercial haul seiners fished Haverstraw Bay in the early to mid-20th century. On this night our catch was meager, mostly white perch and striped bass. The brackish water (10.4 ppt) did provide a few small winter flounder and several yearling (8") weakfish. The river was 71 degrees.
- Tom Lake, Christopher Letts, Robin Fox, Joel Espstein, Rex Epstein, Hugh McLean, Annie McLean
["Henry's net" was built to exacting specifications: his own. He considered the one he made for us 16 years ago to be a toy. Henry Gourdine of Ossining once built a 2600-foot commercial haul seine that used a quarter-mile of head rope. One day, fifty years ago at Crawbuckie, Henry and his crew caught 14,000 pounds of American shad and striped bass. He was not altogether happy about the haul; it took the crew so long to weigh, box, and ice the fish that they missed the opportunity to set on the next tide. Christopher Letts.]
9/30 - Hyde Park, HRM 82: Seven years ago today the Hyde Park mastodont site was closed after 392 days. Cumulatively, the analysis by Cornell University gave us new insight into the succession of hardwood trees into the Hudson Valley after the last ice age. While the recovery of an 11,500 year-old ice age mammal was exciting, most scientists agreed that it was the peripheral ecological data that has added to our understanding of the ancient Hudson Valley.
- Tom Lake
10/1 - Newcomb, HRM 302: I have spotted the bluebird family flying around, gracing my yard again, the last couple of evenings. I had not seen them since they left the nest box, so it was a pleasant surprise. It seems that spring and fall are their time, as they are scarce during the heat of summer. I have no idea if they are actually "my" bluebirds, but I like to think that they are. I watched my first flock of geese winging their way southward last evening as well. For me that is more of a sign of autumn than the changing colors or the cold nights. There's just something about the call of a flock of geese, thousands of feet overhead, that stirs a primordial feeling that the seasons are changing.
- Ellen Rathbone
10/2 - Beacon, HRM 61: What a beautiful day it was. We arrived early this morning at Long Dock to take samples and set up for the 5th annual Day in the Life of the Hudson. The river was so calm and relaxing. The students from Beacon's South Avenue school arrived at 9:30. We caught 10 different species of fish, the prettiest of which was a 7-8" yellow perch. I had never seen a yellow perch so bright before. Bill Greene (the Almanac's "carp man") was also there fishing. He caught 2 very large carp and one brown bullhead to show the kids. All they were interested in were the barbels (I talk so much about sturgeon barbels with our fiberglass model, that they were excited to actually see the real thing.) At 11:30 the wind began to pick up, our calm river was turning, and white caps were forming. We have been working with these students for 3 years, and they have really have come to enjoy and appreciate the river. I could tell by their comments and questions all the things they knew about the river. A few parents that have been chaperones previously joined us today. One mentioned that they take their kids often to the river. It's great to see the parents get involved - one kid at a time, one parent at a time.
- Rebecca Johnson
10/2 - Beacon, HRM 61: The day's fishing at Long Dock produced 4 carp in the 2-6 lb. range, a small channel catfish and a small bullhead, all released. Happily, I caught the channel catfish, bullhead and one of the carp during the time when a group of South Avenue School students were on the dock exploring and learning about various aspects of the river. They got a kick out of my fish.
- Bill Greene
10/2 - Kowawese, HRM 59: Educators Judy Onfer, Pam Golben, and Chris Lee of the Museum of the Hudson Highlands hosted the Day in the Life of the Hudson at Kowawese for 8th graders from Bishop Dunn school. Both the morning and afternoon seining efforts produced similar catches: many YOY striped bass and blueback herring; resident species like spottail shiners, white perch, tessellated darters, banded killifish, and blue crabs; and brackish water fish such as Atlantic silversides, bay anchovies, and Atlantic menhaden. The single surprise, an adult northern pipefish, was collected by Pam and Judy. In a dozen years of seining this beach, I cannot recall another pipefish coming up in the net. Pipefish, a relative to the sea horse, are most comfortable in salty to brackish water so in that regard, it was not a total shock (the salinity was 4.2 ppt). The river temperature was 73 degrees F.
- Tom Lake, Bernadette Kleister, Alexa James
10/2 - Little Stony Point, HRM 55: Rich Parisio of DEC's Stony Kill Farm Environmental Education Center took a snapshot of the Hudson at Little Stony Point with 8th graders from Wappinger Falls Junior High. We hauled our 85-foot net across what might be the single most impressive beach on the estuary and, in a recurring theme of this autumn, the seine was filed with YOY blueback herring heading seaward. As was found elsewhere locally during the Day in the Life event, there was a mix of YOY striped bass (it must have been a very successful spawning season for them), white perch, spottail shiners, silversides, killifish, darters, menhaden, gizzard shad, and blue crabs. Our special catch were 4 hogchokers, small flatfish of amazingly diverse coloration that stick themselves to the sides of glass viewing tanks. The students found several crab shells strewn along the tideline. Dead blue crabs? We investigated by peeling back the top shell, or carapace, and saw that no one was home. It was not a dead crab, but rather an empty suit of clothes. The newly moulted blue crab, perhaps half again as large, was probably out in the shallows watching us. The river was 71 degrees F and the salinity was 5.0 ppt, about the saltiest I've ever seen it here.
- Tom Lake, Alissa Perault, Alicia Eliason
10/2 - Croton River, HRM 34: Anglers tossing small, shiny lures are hooking up on nearly every cast at the mouth of the Croton River. Most of the catch is 14-15" hickory shad, foot-long bluefish, and the occasional small striped bass.
- Tom Lake