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Hudson River Almanac September 23 - September 30, 2009


Realizing that this river would not provide a passage to the Orient, 400 years ago this week Henry Hudson and the Half Moon began their down river trip back to the sea.


9/27 - North Germantown, HRM 109: While enjoying a late morning coffee, we saw a moose emerge from brush along the shore of the Hudson. Presumably the moose had been swimming, though we never saw it in the water. It trotted from one end of our property to the other, spending about two minutes in our sight. Finally it vanished into the narrow wooded break between our back yard and the railroad. By the time I scrambled to the railroad right of way it had found cover somewhere and we didn't see it again.
- Kaare Christian

[Kaare provided a very nice video of this moose encounter, showing that it was a young moose, no rack, and featuring that ungainly moose gait that is so characteristic. Tom Lake.]


9/23 - Green Island, HRM 153: The rising tide was pushing Dutch Nieckerz back up on beach. He was using fresh shrimp for bait and catching fish at a steady rate. Dutch talked of hooking, landing, and releasing smallmouth bass and channel catfish of Biblical proportions earlier in the day. I've learned to never discount even the most unlikely stores with regard to this river.
- Tom Lake

9/23 - Castleton-on-Hudson, HRM 137: Having come to realize that this river would not lead him to the Orient, Henry Hudson and the Half Moon began their return trip. First mate Robert Juet noted, "The three and twentieth, faire weather. At twelve of the clocke wee weighed, and went downe two leagues to a shoald that had two channels, one on the one side, and another on the other, and had little wind, whereby the tide layed us upon it. So, there wee sate on ground the space of an houre till the floud came. Then we had a little gale of wind at the West. So wee got our ship into deepe water, and rode all night very well." Those six-miles brought him to the area around Castleton-on-Hudson.
- Tom Lake

9/23 - Croton River, HRM 34: After hearing of 16 to 20-inch "croakers," a saltwater fish, being caught in the Tappan Zee, I discovered that the Boyz at the Bridge have actually been catching freshwater drum.
- Christopher Letts

9/23 - Englewood, NJ, HRM 13.5: We counted a dozen osprey in a single thermal being harried by a mob of ravens. At least from the top of the Palisades there is a lively migration. No monarchs have been seen here so far this month. Our beach seine yielded a handful of tiny young-of-the year [YOY] menhaden. In the parking lot next to the Englewood Boat Basin, fishermen were catching ling [red hake] in the one-pound range, though not very many of them.
- Christopher Letts

9/24 - Green Island, HRM 153: The tide was high in mid-morning and the river looked and smelled of summer. I thought of how this scene had changed from 400 years ago when Henry Hudson's crew gave up its quest to find a northwest passage. In recreating that moment I had to imagine away the federal dam and allow the white water rapids rising above the fall line to reappear. Part of that moment included the Mohican people who stood on this shoreline watching, as I was watching. Evidence of their presence was not hard to find. A few feet in one direction was a purple quartzite hammerstone probably used to fracture chert out of the shale bedrock; several feet in the other direction was a small stone scraper made of red Normanskill chert and likely used to clean fish or scrape hides. They were here then, and in spirit, they still are.
- Tom Lake

9/24 - Catskill, HRM 113: Working the tides Hudson moved more than 20 miles downriver to the vicinity of Catskill. It was another fair-weather day for Juet: "The foure and twentieth was faire weather: the winde at the North-west, wee weighed, and went downe the River seven or eight leagues; and at halfe ebbe wee came on ground on a banke of Oze in the middle of the river, and sate there till the floud. Then wee went on Land, and gathered good store of Chest-nuts. At ten of the clocke wee came off into deepe water, and anchored."
- Tom Lake

9/24 - Town of Milan, HRM 90: A black bear raided our dumpster during the night leaving quite a mess in its quest to fatten up before taking its long winter rest.
- John Sperr

9/24 - Sparkill Creek, HRM 25: There are days when things don't go according to plan. A fyke net had been set across Sparkill Creek to check for invasive mitten crabs migrating down stream for the winter. As we emptied the leaves from the net we found a large and active silver eel with eyes a startling color of white and blue and a painted turtle with its characteristic brightly-colored markings. There was a second turtle that was distinctive in its elongated pointed snout and the webbing on its feet, an eastern spiny soft shell. As we tried to capture photos of the eel and turtle from amidst the chaos of leaves, eel, and turtles, out popped a mitten crab that climbed over the edge of the net and disappeared into the rocky bottom of the stream. We'll be ready for the next one!
- Margie Turrin, Linda Pistolisi

["Silver eels" are American eels that have undergone physical changes preparatory to spawning. They have gone from the green and yellow coloration of their yellow eel phase, to dark black and stark white. Their eyes become enlarged and their alimentary canals atrophy. These changes are adaptations to traveling in the deep, dark waters of the North Atlantic to spawning locations that are still a mystery. Tom Lake.]

9/24 - Sandy Hook, NJ: A few of us around here enjoy eating big bluefish, so when a neighbor dropped off an 18 lb. Navesink River blue it was quickly filleted, dipped in bread crumbs, and fried in butter, providing two days of lunch for five people. The Navesink River is full of small "peanut" bunker, prime bluefish and striped bass forage.
- Dery Bennett

9/25 - Catskill, HRM 113: This area became at least a three-day stay at anchor as Hudson's crew loaded up on provision from the forest. Juet explains, "The five and twentieth was faire weather, and the wind at South a stiffe gale. We rode still, and went on Land to walke on the West side of the River, and found good ground for Corne and other Garden herbs, with great store of goodly Oakes and Walnut trees, and Chestnut trees, Ewe trees, and trees of sweet wood in great abundance, and great store of Slate for houses, and other good stones."
- Tom Lake

9/25 - Saugerties, HRM 102: For a relatively small parcel of land the northern spit of the Esopus mouth is very rich in flora and fauna. An immediate sign of fall along the trail was the bright redness of both Virginia creeper and red osier dogwood. Our abundant jewelweed and purple-stemmed asters did not know it was fall, with colorful flowers still in evidence. Most of the other plant-life here (aquatic and terrestrial) was also still very lush and green. I noted a few monarchs passing through on the first leg of what will be an epic journey for them. I've only seen one black swallowtail here recently. While we have many small bird visitors, it is the bigger birds that most demand our attention. Great blue herons were still an every day occurrence and always great to watch. They can teach us much about patience in a modern world of instant gratification. A heron can wait, and wait, and wait some more for just the right moment to strike, lightning-fast, and grab a silvery fish.
- Dave Holden

9/25 - Beacon, HRM 61: On Long Dock today, I caught and released an 18-inch-long channel catfish, a small brown bullhead, and a 9-inch golden shiner. I spotted only a couple of carp surfacing, but apparently not actively feeding.
- Bill Greene

9/25 - Denning's Point, HRM 60: Thirty outdoor educators on a three-mile hike held great promise of wildlife sightings. But nature cannot be scripted. In the first minute we spotted two monarch butterflies, but across the next two hours we failed to see another. Two flocks of high-flyer Canada geese flew over, an osprey whizzed past, and we nearly stepped on a tiny hatchling snapping turtle as it crossed our path.
- Tom Lake

9/26 - Catskill, HRM 113: Another day of provisioning and a visit from Mohican people whom they had met earlier on their trip upriver. In Juet's account, "The sixe and twentieth was faire weather, and the wind at South a stiffe gale, wee rode still. In the morning our Carpenter went on Land, with our Masters Mate, and foure more of our companie, to cut wood. This morning, two Canoes came up the River from the place where we first found loving people, and in one of them was the old man that had lyen aboord of us at the other place. He brought another old man with him, which brought more stropes of Beades, and gave them to our Master, and shewed him all the Countrey there about, as though it were at his command. Our Master gave one of the old men a Knife, and they gave him and us Tabacco. And at one of the clocke they departed downe the River, making signes that wee should come downe to them; for wee were within two leagues of the place where they dwelt."
- Tom Lake

9/26 - Saw Kill, HRM 98.5: I spotted a small snapping turtle in the Saw Kill today. I have reported small snappers in that tributary during the summer, but this one was really small, probably newly hatched. It was sitting in a small pool in a patch of sun.
- Bob Schmidt

- 9/26 - Tappan Zee, HRM 33: Two members of the Boyz at the Bridge were out in the river today and in less than four hours caught seven bluefish totaling 65 lb., all taken on artificial surface lures.
- Christopher Letts

9/27 - Ulster Landing, HRM 97: Using wind and tide maneuvering down river, Hudson still managed to run aground. After a long and busy day, Juet reports that they went fishing: "The seven and twentieth, in the morning was faire weather, but much wind at the north, we weighed and set our fore top-sayle, and our ship would not flat, but ran on the Ozie banke at halfe ebbe. Wee layed out anchor to heave her off, but could not. So wee sate from halfe ebbe to halfe floud: then wee set our fore-sayle and mayne top-sayl, and got down sixe leagues. The old man came aboord, and would have had us anchor, and goe on Land to eate with him: but the wind being faire, we would not yeeld to his request; So hee left us, being very sorrowfull for our departure. At five of the clocke in the after-noone, the wind came to the South South-west. So wee made a boord or two, and anchored in fourteene fathomes [84 feet] water. Then our Boat went on shoare to fish right against the ship. Our Masters Mate and Boat-swaine, and three more of the companie went on land to fish, but could not finde a good place. They tooke foure or five and twentie Mullets, Breames, Bases, and Barbils; and returned in an houre. We rode still all night."
- Tom Lake

["Mullets, Breames, Bases, and Barbils." Juet's accounts are rife with names and expressions that were familiar to him but described flora and fauna of the Old World. It is not easy to decipher these four species of fish, but we can try. "Mullets," given the body shape and mouth orientation, might have been white suckers; "Breames" might have been red-breasted sunfish, possibly pumpkinseed sunfish; "Bases" were probably yellow perch or white perch, but could have been striped bass; and "Barbils" were likely white catfish or brown bullheads. Tom Lake.]

9/27 - Highland, HRM 75.5: Something caught my attention at the base of an oak tree. Squirrel, I thought. But closer attention revealed a peregrine falcon, light steel gray back and dotted chest, standing very still in the grass. Suddenly it jumped into the air and came down on the driveway slamming the chipmunk in its talons hard on the ground. It did this move five more times, looking down at the prey after each slam but not releasing its grip. Suddenly the chipmunk was free and made a run for it, but the falcon grabbed it again and slammed it to the ground a few more times with its jumping motion. Then the bird just stood on its catch for perhaps half a minute. After slamming dinner to the ground one more time, it started to eat.
- Vivian Yess Wadlin

9/28 - Crum Elbow, HRM 82.5: Following Hudson and Juet down the river on his return trip has never been easy. Most scholars believe that Juet missed or added a league or two on this leg since his accounts, the river depth, and shoreline features never seem to match. It may have been strong tides, brisk headwinds, or even mistranslations that added to the puzzlement of Juet's log: "The eight and twentieth, being faire weather, as soone as the day was light, wee weighed at halfe ebbe, and turned downe two leagues belowe water; for, the streame doth runne the last quarter ebbe: then we anchored till high water. At three of the clocke in the after-noone we weighed, and turned downe three leagues, untill it was darke: then wee anchored."
- Tom Lake

9/28 - Mohonk Preserve, HRM 78: As has been our tradition since 2003, my father and I went to Mohonk Preserve to witness what we could of the fall migratory hawk season. There was a light southwesterly wind at about 5 mph. We counted 15 kettles of mixed vultures (3-8 birds each) with black vultures being more numerous early and turkey vultures more numerous between noon and early afternoon. Two resident black vultures stopped to preen each other. Included in the total of eleven migrating hawks were sharp-shinned hawk (4), Cooper's hawk (2), merlin (3), osprey (1) and unconfirmed buteo (1) possibly a rough-legged hawk. We also noted twelve common ravens (seven playfully migrating just above the ridge to the west), red-tailed hawk (1) and what we believe to be two peregrine falcons chasing other birds off the east slope before falling quickly out of sight.
- Jess Andersen, James Prockup

9/28 - Gardiner, HRM 73: Although the sun was shining this morning, the ground was soaked from yesterday's rain. As I stepped outside to begin the work week, I was surprised to find a northern red salamander on the stone walkway. It likely came across the yard from Bridge Creek, a stream that bisects the property and is also habitat for wood turtle.
- Laura Heady

9/28 - Croton Bay, HRM 34: A brisk southwest wind in the face of a strong ebb tide had the bay capped over in white. This would be no refuge today for waterfowl. The bay was empty except for the loon riding the swells and an osprey hanging in the breeze overhead.
- Tom Lake

9/28 - Bergen County, NJ, HRM 18: Despite the strong southerly winds, I decided to stop at the State Line Lookout for a lunch time hawk watch. Before I made it to the platform, an osprey's call made me look up. Following behind the osprey and flying just above the tree-tops was a golden eagle. At first I thought it was an immature bald eagle, but as it flew low I could see the distinctly golden nape. In addition to the eagle there were two osprey with fish and at least eight others flying high and southward.
- Linda Pistolesi

9/29 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Our fall foliage was suddenly near peak, with lots of reds and a good number of oranges this year.
- Ellen Rathbone

9/29 - Germantown, HRM 108: It was 5:30 AM when I took my whining dog outside, stood on the back porch, and heard barred owls calling back and forth. I looked up at a sky that looked like a planetarium display. Gorgeous beyond belief!
- Mimi Brauch

9/29 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 73: As the Half Moon slipped back down river you can sense from Juet's account that they were meeting Indians of different tribes. For the last two weeks they had been among the Mohican people; now the Native Americans he encountered seemed a bit more reluctant. Juet explains, "The nine and twentieth was drie close weather: the wind at South, and South and by West, we weighed early in the morning, and turned downe three leagues by a lowe water, and anchored at the lower end of the long Reach, for it is sixe leagues long. Then there came certaine Indians in a Canoe to us, but would not come aboord. After dinner there came the Canoe with other men, whereof three came aboord us. They brought indian Wheat, which wee bought for trifles. At three of the clocke in the afternoone wee weighed, as soone as the ebbe came, and turned downe to the edge of the Mountaines, or the Northermost of the Mountaines, and anchored: because the high Land hath many Points, and a narrow channell, and hath many eddie winds So we rode quietly all night in seven fathoms water."
- Tom Lake

[The Long Reach is known to have been a mariner's reference to the fifteen-mile run of the river from Crum Elbow south to New Hamburg. This reach is characterized by a straight run, a near line-of-sight distance, with no bends in the river. If a sailing vessel was fortunate, the unfettered fetch of the wind across this reach would aid sailors in making headway. Tom Lake.]

9/29 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 75: This was a windy fall day that we characterize as a "flight day," when migrating birds get a boost from a north-northwest wind. In an autumn of sporadic flights, I spotted a single black vulture alone in his mini-kettle, slowly drifting south. A short distance away an immature bald eagle was passing over with nary a wing flap in the strong breeze.
- Tom Lake

9/30 - Newburgh to the Hudson Highlands, HRM 61-57: Juet recalls a peaceful encounter on the second day among tribes that may have been Munsee, Lenape, specifically Wappinger: "The thirtieth was faire weather, and the wind at Southeast a stiffe gale betwene the mountaynes. We rode still the after-noone. The people of the Countrey came aboord us, and brought some small skinnes with them, which we bought for Knives and Trifles. This a very pleasant place to build a towne on. The Road is very neere, and very good for all winds, save an East north-east wind. The Mountaynes looke as if some Metall or Minerall were in them. For the Trees that grow on them were all blasted, and some of them barren with few or no Trees on them. The people brought a stone aboord like to Emery (a stone used by Glasiers to cut Glasse) it would cut Iron or Steels: yet being bruised small, and water put to it, it made a colour like blacke lead glistering: It is also good for Painters Colours. At three of the clocke they departed, and we rode still all night."
- Tom Lake

[Juet's "Mountaynes" with "Mineralls" may have been the Hudson Highlands, specifically Storm King Mountain; the "Trees that grow on them were all blasted, and some of them barren with few or no Trees on them" may have been remnants of a forest fire; the 'stone" brought "aboord like to Emery""could have been granite or schist; and the "very pleasant place to build a towne on" could have been Beacon, Newburgh, or Cornwall. Ultimately, the Dutch built on them all. Tom Lake.]

9/30 - Croton Point, HRM 35: The students from Post Road School were dancing with excitement as the seine was drawn ashore. There were more than 300 fish in the net including YOY American shad and blueback herring, white perch and striped bass, four-spine sticklebacks and northern pipefish, and many Atlantic silversides. After the school bus left, I used some of the silversides to catch "snapper" bluefish for my dinner.
- Christopher Letts

9/30 - Crawbuckie, HRM 33.5: Near high tide Croton Bay was empty except for a few geese and swans. I thought the loon had left, but there it was down along the shore at Crawbuckie diving in the still rising tide. This common loon has been a resident at the mouth of the Croton River and Croton Bay for nearly two months.
- Tom Lake

9/30 - Englewood, NJ, HRM 13.5: In the second day of strong northwest winds we had a blowout tide. At low tides, scores of golf ball-sized moon jellyfish were stranded in the mud flats. The Asian shore crabs so plentiful here two years ago seem to have either moved or died off. I have found only a single moult this month.
- Christopher Letts

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