Hudson River Almanac September 1 - September 6, 2009
The Hudson and Half Moon odyssey of 1609 began 400 years ago this week. Our natural history entries are a mix of native (beaver, black bears, and bobcats), alien (carp and mitten crabs), and threatened species (shad, bats, and box turtle). Much has changed over the last 400 years.
HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK
9/2 - Hyde Park, HRM 82: In late afternoon, my head down in my laptop, a noise caused me to look up, and there he was. About thirty feet away, standing to tear down our bird feeder, was a black bear. He pulled down the suet feeder and then lay there enjoying both, mellow as a marshmallow and without a care. He occasionally sniffed the air and at one point meandered to within fifteen feet of us. He stayed in the yard for twenty minutes, and then wandered off to the back woods. The bear had a huge head and paws, beautiful glossy-clean fur, and we estimated that he was three to four times the size of our family dog, approximately 250-300 lb. This was his third visit here in seven weeks.
- Dave Lindemann, Mary Lou Lindemann
NATURAL HISTORY NOTES
9/1 - Newcomb, HRM 302: We have a site that used to be a beaver pond, abandoned for most of the last nine years. Occasionally a young beaver or two would take up temporary residence in the winter and then move on. Last year a couple of new, tiny dams were built and then abandoned. Lately, however, we have had Adirondack Parks Visitors Interpretive Center visitors commenting on the beaver activity. The beavers have built a three-foot-high dam just below the bridge over Little Sucker Brook that feeds into the outlet of Rich Lake, effectively creating Little Sucker Pond. They also repaired the old dam that blew out last winter. The old pond, which was essentially a meadow as of mid-July, is now partially flooded again.
- Ellen Rathbone
9/1 - Albany, HRM 154: With the American shad population in the Hudson River at historic lows, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation [DEC] announced a proposal to close recreational and commercial fishing for American shad in the Hudson and prohibit commercial landings in marine waters. For more information, read the press release including dates of upcoming public hearings.
9/1 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 75.5: I captured a live, newly-moulted mitten crab just above tidewater in the Fall Kill. In the sand right behind the crab was its old shell.
- Bob Schmidt
9/1 - Beacon, HRM 61: It was another carp-less day at Long Dock. I managed to catch and release three channel catfish, each about 16 inches long. Carp were just not biting; I saw only three surface-rolling all day. I was startled by a hummingbird that was staring at me from a few feet away while I was waiting for a bite. At first I thought it was a large cicada.
- Bill Greene
9/1 - Stony Point, HRM 40: We counted a dozen nighthawks, fairly close to the river, from our backyard at dusk.
- Doris Metraux, John Deans
9/2 - Newcomb, HRM 302: We had a hummingbird "trapped" on my porch today. She was quite beaten up; the silly things fly to the top of a window and repeatedly bash themselves against the top of the window, never trying to seek another exit. I took her outside to the gardens for release and for few moments I wasn't sure she was going to make it - her eyes were closing and she was rather listless. Then, suddenly, zzziiippp, and away she flew to the bee balm for some nourishment.
- Ellen Rathbone
9/2 - Rams Horn, Greene County, HRM 112: Paddling from the Hudson into the Rams Horn Sanctuary brought me to a small boat dock where I heard a loud, squawky voice, and saw a black-crowned night heron.
- Fran Martino
9/2 - Sandy Hook, NJ: September 2009 is the Quadricentennial (400 years) of Henry Hudson's voyage upriver aboard the Half Moon in exploration of an inland passage to the west. Hudson was an Englishman sailing for the Dutch East India Company. The Half Moon was a square-rigged sailing vessel with fore, main, and mizzen masts. Its main mast was 78 feet high. The Half Moon weighed 80 tons, had a length-on-deck of 85 feet, with an 18-foot beam and a 9-foot draft. It carried four cannons and eighteen sailors. Robert Juet, Henry Hudson's first mate, kept a journal of the voyage. According to Juet, the Half Moon arrived in the Lower Bay of New York Harbor, near Sandy Hook, on September 2, 1609.
- Tom Lake
9/2 - Jamaica Bay, New York Bight: We had a great day seining at Canarsie Pier where the water was 23 parts-per-thousand salinity [ocean water, at this latitude, is 32-33 ppt]. Our first seine haul near a rocky outcrop produced two tropical marine strays, a spotfin butterflyfish and a feather blenny. Over the course of seven hauls, our catch included: spotfin butterflyfish young-of-the-year [YOY]; feather blenny; northern puffer (YOY); jacks (Carangidae sp.; YOY); striped bass (YOY); Atlantic needlefish (foot-long with snapping jaws!); bay anchovies; menhaden (YOY); oyster toadfish (YOY); striped sea robins (YOY); tautog (3-4 inches long); winter flounder (YOY); bluefish (YOY); northern pipefish (some were males with egg-filled brood pouches); bright green cunners (YOY); northern kingfish (YOY); striped killifish and mummichogs (YOY); Atlantic silversides; hermit crabs, and shore and sand shrimp.
- Chris Bowser, Erik Decker, Chris Mitchell, Liz Wood, Roy Arezzo, Tizoc Gomez
9/3 - Newcomb, HRM 302: It was a "webby wonderland" outside this morning. We had a very short walk to the water tower where the spiders had been busy. There were solid webs on the grass, on the forest floor, and in the trees, including weaver webs. All were soaked with dew.
- Ellen Rathbone, Toby Rathbone
9/3 - Tivoli Bays, HRM 100: You have to be an angler to really appreciate the finesse with which a bald eagle captures and holds onto a fish. It perches patiently on a cottonwood limb watching for movement in the low tide. The challenge comes when it returns to its cottonwood perch to hold the fish with its talons while it tears through scales and bones with its beak. If only I could be so accurate with my filet knife.
- Fran Martino
9/3 - Rhinebeck, HRM 90: This afternoon I heard the tapping of a downy woodpecker. When I looked outside it was tapping just beyond the opening of a wren box. After it flew off, I checked the box. It had been attempting to enlarge the opening, although it had not made much progress. Was it remodeling the box for its own use, or as a winter roost?
- Phyllis Marsteller
9/3 - New Paltz, HRM 78: We have been seeing giant swallowtails in August, even two at one time, both this summer and last year in our yard. We live a mile from Steve Stanne's house [see 8/21/09] with large open fields and the Wallkill River between us. Prior to last summer, we had not seen them previously in the 23 years we have lived here with many of the same flowers available for them.
- Allan Bowdery
9/3 - Garrison, HRM 51: While doing some long overdue weeding of our flower garden, I discovered a tiny box turtle hiding beneath the dense canopy of vegetation. Annual growth rings on the shell revealed it to be just one year old, a seldom seen age class of the Hudson Valley's most terrestrial turtle.
- Ed McGowan
9/3 - Sandy Hook, NJ: Henry Hudson and his crew aboard the Half Moon may have met the native Munsee (Algonquian Indians) for the first time 400 years ago today.
- Tom Lake
9/4 - Minerva, HRM 284: The dogs and I were walking the dirt road this evening down near the swamp behind our house. The birds and the amphibians were quiet. But the bugs were out and and, despite this fact and the twilight aspect of the day, there were absolutely no bats feasting on the bugs. There were no bats in our attic this year and we spotted no bats at their prime feeding spot at the swamp this summer. It is very sad. I did see some bear scat. The beavers have been active all summer, and the water level in the swamp was up. Water shield and white water lily plants were covering the water surface, leaving very few open spots. Blue asters and tall white asters were in full bloom along the road. Although it was a peaceful evening, we miss the bats.
- Mike Corey
9/4 - Germantown, HRM 108: A neighbor called to alert me to a bobcat that he spotted in his yard. It stuck around long enough for a positive identification. Last year a neighbor stopped by to say she'd just seen two young bobcats dashing along the forsythia that lines my yard.
- Mimi Brauch
9/4 - Rondout Creek, HRM 91: I was on the Rondout this evening heading toward the Hudson when I spotted an adult bald eagle rising from the edge of the creek to a bare-branched tree 75 feet east of the Kingston suspension bridge. The eagle perched there for ten minutes as I watched from my boat. The eagle gazed into the Rondout looking totally unfazed by my presence.
- Bill Murray
9/4 - Croton River, HRM 34: The adult common loon and the dark-plumage red-throated loon, first reported a month ago, are still hanging out in the lower Croton River near Croton Bay on most days. Today there were also 6 osprey and 2 adult bald eagles. All of them had menhaden in their talons at one time or the other.
- Christopher Letts
9/4 - Verrazzano Narrows, New York Harbor: The full moon rise came in early evening. It was so impressive as it rose over The Narrows that we wondered what the native people of Staten Island, the Munsee, would have made of it in 1609. To them the full moon of September was the Harvest Moon, a time to process the crops for winter. But since this full moon occurred so close to August, it might also have been considered a Green Corn Moon, when Algonquian people gave thanks for the ripening bounty of their summer crops.
- Tom Lake, Phyllis Lake, Dave Taft
9/4 - Sandy Hook, NJ: Hudson's crew explored (presumably Sandy Hook) on September 3. The next day, the "people of the Countrey came aboard of us, seeming very glad of our comming."
- Tom Lake
9/5 - Stuyvesant, HRM 127: The great blue lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica) is the "blue counterpart" of the cardinal flower. And there it was, at the mouth of Mill Creek, its bright blue standing tall in front of the scarlet red of the last remaining cardinal flowers.
- Fran Martino
9/5 - Ulster Park, HRM 87: We had not seen a hummer for a few days but this morning three were back at the feeders. Last night we had bats for the first time in a bat-less summer.
- Bill Drakert
9/5 - Mohawk River to Kowawese, HRM 157-59: We went on a sampling blitz for our project relating water chemistry in various parts of the Hudson, Mohawk, and Long Island estuaries to otolith chemistry [environmental "fingerprinting" using inner ear bones of fish]. We collected water at a number of sites from Rome to Orange County. In tidewater, we ended up following a spring high tide all the way up to the dam at Troy.
- Kowawese, HRM 59: Water 78 degrees F; conductivity 195 microSiemens/cm (about 0.9 ppt salinity).
- Esopus Meadows, HRM 85: Water 76 degrees F; conductivity 190 microSiemens/cm.
- Catskill Creek, HRM 113: Just above head of tide; water 70 degrees F; conductivity 170 microS/cm.
- Catskill Landing, HRM 113: Water 74 degrees F; conductivity 200 microS/cm.
- Federal Dam at Troy, HRM 154: Water 72 degrees F; 160 microS/cm.
The high point of the day was our attempt to collect YOY blueback herring at the boat launch at Lock 6 on the Mohawk. We'd been unsuccessful a couple of weeks ago, but this time we netted 38 blueback herring in six net hauls. The size range was remarkable: 35-91 mm total length. At this time of year, I would expect the latter, not the former. We'll find out whether the runts were from a very late spawn, or simply didn't eat their Wheaties.
At Lock 6 we also caught and released spotfin shiners, logperch, inland silversides, banded killifish, a couple of creek chubs, sunfish, yellow perch, smallmouth bass, and three nice shorthead redhorse. Most of these were juveniles except maybe one of the redhorse and a few silversides. I saw the largest inland silverside I've ever encountered, perhaps 6 inches long.
- Karin Limburg, Sara Turner
[Over the last several years, we have found several Indian artifacts, probably Mohican, in the vicinity of the Lock 6 boat launch on the Mohawk River. Among them have been scrapers, knives, hammerstones, and palm-sized sandstone netsinkers. We were not the first people to seine there. Tom Lake.]
9/5 - Sandy Hook, NJ: According to Robert Juet, Hudson's crew went on land (Sandy Hook?) on September 5, and saw "many men, women and children, and again some of them came on board with gifts of food."
- Tom Lake
9/6 - Pleasant Valley, HRM 75: While walking in my back yard this morning, several sparrows and finches flew over my head, hastily leaving the bird feeder, followed by a sharp-shinned hawk in fast pursuit! The birds narrowly escaped, and the hawk flew into the woods empty-taloned. This was my first sighting of a sharp-shinned, a most magnificent bird!
- Kathy Kraft
9/6 - Verrazano Narrows: According to Robert Juet, ship's mate John Coleman and four men set out in a long boat for day of exploring in which they passed through the Narrows between the Upper and Lower bays New York of New York Harbor. However, they were attacked by two canoes full of natives (Lenape? Munsee?). In the aftermath, John Coleman was killed, it rained, and the four men in the long boat could not find their way back to the Half Moon until morning.
- Tom Lake