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Hudson River Almanac September 1 - September 7, 2008

OVERVIEW

While Hurricane Hanna cut a deadly swath through the islands of the Carribean, by the time it traveled north and brushed the estuary it had calmed down considerably. However, the anticipation of some "real" weather stirred the blood of many Hudson Valley outdoor adventurers. Our highlight of the week earns its designation. Along with standing at Breezy Point in Queens, watching the river stream seaward, I can think of few more impressive ways to feel the Hudson than to walk along the shore of Lake Tear in the shadow of Mount Marcy.


HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

9/1- Adirondack High Peaks, HRM 315: The Beczak Environmental Education Center of Yonkers held its staff retreat for five days in the Adirondack High Peaks of Essex County. For the five of us, it was an incredible experience. After an intense hike filled with wooden ladders and planks, big boulders and rocks, and narrow muddy trails going up and down, we were rewarded by absolutely breathtaking views of the mountains and babbling brooks. We camped for two nights at Lake Colden and as we looked in the shallow water beneath us, we saw crayfish lurking around. It was an amazing moment as the stars above glistened and reflected in the calm water surrounding us. We reached Lake Tear on August 30 after tramping through trees and rocky trails to the opening of the lake with the rising Mount Marcy in the distance. It was a great moment, a great feeling of accomplishment, and suddenly any pain and aches we were feeling just disappeared.
- Vicky Garufi

[Lake Tear of the Clouds is a glacial tarn, a mountain lake plucked out of bedrock by the Laurentide glacier of the last ice age about 22,000 years ago. At 4,346 feet above sea level, it is considered to be the highest body of water that feeds the Hudson River - the top of the watershed. Lake Tear drains into Feldspar Brook, which rushes down to the Opalescent River (a modest 25 feet across at most), which enters the Flowed Lands leading to Calamity Brook. The name Hudson River first appears on U.S. Geological Survey maps below where this brook meets the outlet from Henderson Lake at an elevation of 1,783 feet. Tom Lake.]


NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

9/1 - Hyde Park, HRM 82: While sprucing up the deck for a Labor Day get together, I spotted what looked like a mutant bumble bee on a hanging flower pot. My wife suggested it might be a hummingbird moth. It turned out to be exactly that, a snowberry clearwing. It agreeably hung around long enough for a picture.
- Peter Fanelli

9/1 - Kowawese, HRM 59: The tide was rising fast and had reached a point where seining was difficult. It meant getting very wet! The swells from passing vessels smacked me in the face as I hauled the outboard end. Late summer seine hauls traditionally mean young-of-the-year [YOY] blueback herring, born of sea-run parents far upriver or in the Mohawk, and now emigrating to the ocean. As we beached the net we could see the doubled-over mesh glistening with silver, a hundred or more young bluebacks (64-66 mm). Mixed in were half as many YOY striped bass (73-76 mm). Conspicuous by their absence in the net were blue crabs, of any size. The river was 78 degrees F.
- Tom Lake, A. Danforth

9/2 - Croton Point, HRM 34.5: The buck deer were in velvet, fat and getting fatter now the acorn drop has begun. The numbers of great blue herons and great egrets are increasing. Three times I got the barest glimpse of a brown raptor, just a flash of brown as it put another clump of trees between us. Finally it broke into the open and winged off over the dump: a young peregrine falcon.
- Christopher Letts

9/3 - Diamond Reef, HRM 67.5: In early afternoon the ebb tide was ripping across Diamond Reef, a mid-river rise of bedrock that has been a navigational nightmare for centuries. Overall it is about the size of a soccer field - arguably "diamond-shaped" perhaps - with a rocky prominence closest to the surface at the downriver end within ten feet of the surface on extreme low tides. The river bifurcates here into two channels east and west of the reef; most commercial vessels take the deeper channel to the west where the river is near 75 feet deep on high tide.
The current was pushing up whitecaps on the southern shoal end. The well-aerated water may have attracted schools of YOY herring that in turn drew the attention of small striped bass. I could see small silvery fish leaping in the combers. So did an osprey that wheeled overhead. I watched for 15 minutes as the fish hawk made a dozen serious stoops on the reef coming up empty each time - a very uncharacteristic performance for one of the best fish-catchers of the estuary. I was not watching alone. A few hundred feet away one of the local adult bald eagles was perched, facing the river, taking it all in. I could not help but wonder if she, a master fish-catcher, was thinking to herself, "Amateur!"
- Tom Lake

[Diamond Reef has a long and storied past. Here is a cryptic description from The Angler's Guide and Tourists Gazetteer of 1885, compiled and edited by William C. Harris: "New Hamburgh reef [Diamond Reef] is on the Hudson 1/8 mile [offshore]: white perch and striped bass, the first being most abundant; shrimp, worms, live bait used. July, August, and September best; hotels $1.50 per day; guides at moderate cost; boats $1 per day. The above reef is celebrated for its white perch fishing, and late August sport is had in catching snappers (young bluefish 1/4 lb.) on the surface with minnow bait." ]

9/4 - Round Top, HRM 113: I have noticed in my recent travels in the woods the impressive amount of apples on the old trees, trees that have not had any apples in recent years. Good news for the deer. The fall nut crop looks to be as well outstanding. More good news for the white-tails and the wild turkeys.
- Jon Powell

9/4 - Croton Point, HRM 34: As August and its full moon left, the summer doldrums give way to a faster pace of early September. Bluefish have begun to hit again after a month of "nothing today," migrating monarchs and shore birds have begun to appear, and autumn flowers to bloom. At the terminus of my morning walk I flushed a shorebird from a fast disappearing puddle. The puddle was perhaps fifty square feet, and the bird did not want to leave it. It landed and took off several times, never more than a few feet from me, putting on a fine display. It was a solitary sandpiper, and, of course, all alone. After several minutes I left it in sole possession of the minute, ephemeral wetland.
- Christopher Letts

9/5 - Green Island, HRM 153: First light came shortly after 6:00 AM and within 15 minutes the sky, as a backdrop over Troy, was crimson. The tide was halfway up on the shore, the river was calm, and the air was still. I counted 35 cormorants in the trees on Green Island - apparently a persistent night roost. A great egret flew lazily over, never stopping - disappearing in the trees northeast of the federal dam. I shared sunrise with a single songbird, a warbler. At first I thought it was a yellow warbler but after finding a decent vantage to view the bird, I discovered it was a chestnut-sided warbler, one of only a few I have ever seen in the Hudson Valley.
- Tom Lake

9/5 - Sandy Hook, NJ: It was a rainy, muggy, night. Hurricane on its way? We'll see.
- Dery Bennett

9/6 - Denning's Point, HRM 60: Facing southeast, we had hoped to be bracing ourselves against the full fury of Hurricane Hanna - that would come later in the day with brisk winds and two-and-a-quarter inches of rain. Instead, in advance of the storm, we watched as the midday low tide was held up by storm surge, stopping on the beach at least 10-12 horizontal feet short of its usual low mark.
- Tom Lake, Barbara Oliver

[Storm surge is a coastal phenomenon associated with strong storms moving up the Atlantic coast. In advance of the storm, like the bow wake from a large and fast vessel, a surge of tidewater pushes up the Hudson River, adding to the current of the flood and in some instances stopping the drop of the ebb tide. Tom Lake.]

9/6 - Manhattan, HRM 0: The birds were disappointing on this early morning bird walk in Teardrop Park of the Battery Park Conservancy. No wonder, with the threat of Hurricane Hanna coloring the Manhattan skyline a dark pewter gray. Young-of-the-year robins flew from tree to tree, a female cardinal peeked out from some dogwood branches, and a few mockingbirds joined the always present pigeons, starlings, and English house sparrows. The best sighting of the morning by far was a field mouse hopping along the hosta plantings, feeding on fallen berries. I don't associate field mice with Manhattan, but I've seen them often in Queens.
- Dave Taft

9/6 - Sandy Hook, NJ: What hurricane? On a muggy morning I picked six quarts of beach plums. We had some rain and a little wind in the afternoon and evening.
- Dery Bennett

9/7 - Rondout Creek, HRM 91: While kayaking on the Rondout we saw a very large bird in a tree opposite the Hudson River Maritime Museum. I guessed it to be a bald eagle as the bird took wing and circled the area before heading over Sleightsburg toward the Hudson. The white head, white tail, and huge size were unmistakable. It was a beautiful sight seen by few, save us, due to the fact that the waterfront was nearly deserted at the time. The eagle was not alone. We also saw six great blue herons, 8-10 great egrets, a half dozen cormorants siting on the breakwater jetty, and more gulls than we could count.
- John Miller, Patti Stalker

9/7 - Garrison, HRM 51: I often see bald eagles from my Metro North commuter train just north of Garrison. There is one bird that favors the same tree located in Constitution Marsh fifty yards off the track on the east side. I was surprised to see a second eagle on a lower branch the other day. This was the first time I've seen more then one eagle at a time. The birds are so big I wonder how I missed seeing them for as long as I did.
- Glen Heinsohn

9/7 - Sandy Hook, NJ: It was a beautiful and clear day in the wake of tropical storm Hanna. The surfers were out in force and the waves on the seaside of the Hook were pretty good.
- Dery Bennett

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