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Hudson River Almanac October 1 - October 7, 2009

OVERVIEW

After a month of exploring the estuary, meeting the Native People from Munsee to Mohican, Henry Hudson and the Half Moon left the river, traveling through the Narrows before midday on October 4, 1609. This would lead to the beginning of a long-term European presence in the Hudson Valley while at the same time lead to the eventual demise of the Native population.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

10/1 - Newcomb, HRM 302: we awoke to snow on the ground this morning. Not much, but it was still coming down. Large leaves and flower heads had a dusting of white, as did the firewood logs out in the driveway. The High Peaks of the Adirondacks were quite pretty as they rose from the cauldron of fog that engulfed most of the wilderness area, and the morning sun glinting from their white shoulders.

- Ellen Rathbone

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

10/1 - Haverstraw Bay, HRM 35: When the wind and tide were favorable, the Half Moon continued to run down river toward the sea. You can sense from Juet's log that the crew was eager to make way:

"The first of October, faire weather, the wind variable betweene the West and the North. In the morning we weighed at seven of the clocke with the ebbe, and got downe below the Mountayne, which was seven leagues. Then it fell calme and the floud was come, and wee anchored at twelve of the clocke."

[The Half Moon probably emerged out of the deep water and looming rock faces of the Hudson Highlands at Dunderberg Mountain. Seven leagues (about 21 miles) would have had them sailing out of the Highlands and into the upper end of Haverstraw Bay.]

"The people of the Mountaynes came aboord us, wondering at our ship and weapons. We bought some small skinnes of them for Trifles. This after-noone, one Canoe kept hanging under our sterne with one man in it, which we could not keepe from thence, who got up by our Rudder to the Cabin window, and stole out my Pillow, and two Shirts, and two Bandeleeres. Our Masters Mate shot at him, and strooke him on the brest, and killed him. Whereupon all the rest fled away, some in their Canoes, and so leapt out of them into the water. We manned our Boat, and got our things againe. Then one of them that swamme got hold of our Boat, thinking to overthrow it. But our Cooke tooke a Sword and cut off one of his hands, and he was drowned. By this time the ebbe was come, and we weighed and got down two leagues, by that time it was darke. So we anchored in foure fathomes water, and rode well."

[According to Robert Juet, one of the Indians climbed on board, stole some personal property, and was shot and killed. In what sounds like escalating violence a second Indian had his hand cut off and likely drowned. Using the ebb tide to continue down river, Hudson anchored for the night in the vicinity of Croton Point. Tom Lake.]

10/2 - Red Oaks Mill, Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 74: We were surprised to see two lightning bugs outside this evening. One was flying about, the other hovering for awhile above the grass. I never knew them to be out so late in the year, but these two little stalwarts of summer were still hanging in there.

- Donna Lenhart, Bill Lenhart

10/2 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67.5: A small buck and a larger doe gracefully stepped their way through a hayfield. Downwind, less than a hundred feet away sitting in the knee-high grass was a coyote, ears erect, with the face of an angel, and visions of grandeur - a timeless scene.

- Tom Lake

10/2 - Bear Mountain, HRM 46: Shortly after rounding the Bear Mountain circle and heading south on the parkway, I saw a very healthy looking coyote feeding on a road kill. It didn't seem the least bit bothered by the traffic. I rarely see one that's not in high gear. What a beautiful animal.

- Marty Otter

10/2 - Verplanck, HRM 40.5: A short walk from where the sloop Clearwater docks is a large tidal pond. On a clear morning, five of the crew went there to do some seining. Our net is 25 feet long and 4 feet deep, and when we walked it up onto the shore we had three dozen pumpkinseed sunfish. We were also delighted to find some young-of-the-year American shad that had made a temporary stop on their way to the sea.

- Brian A. Mohan

10/2 - Englewood, NJ, HRM 13.5: The theatre was in the air: the skies were empty one minute; a dozen osprey were climbing the spiral staircase above the Palisades the next. For close to an hour I watched a peregrine falcon patrol a mile of the cliff tops, shooting high then diving at a dizzying speed into the canopy below. It was an equal opportunity harasser: it took on a red-tailed hawk, a raven, and an osprey. The falcon drove at flank speed to the middle of the river to intercept another peregrine, and an amazing air battle ensued. The second falcon retreated down river. It was a wonderful morning for my class.

- Christopher Letts

10/2 - Spuyten Duyvil, HRM 13.5: Playing the tides to their advantage, the Half Moon rode "seven leagues" down river (about 21 miles) to an area near the north end of Manhattan Island before the current turned to flood and made further progress difficult. Apparently word of the incident upriver had reached the tribes of the lower estuary. Juet's log was full of detail:

"The second, faire weather. At breake of day wee weighed, the wind being at North-west, and got downe seven leagues; then the floud was come strong, so we anchored. Then came one of the Savages that swamme away from us at our going up the River with many other, thinking to betray us. But wee perceived their intent, and suffered none of them to enter our ship. Whereupon two Canoes full of men, with their Bowes and Arrowes shot at us after our sterne: in recompence whereof we discharged sixe Muskets, and killed two or three of them. Then above an hundred of them came to a point of Land to shoot at us. There I shot a Falcon at them and killed two of them: whereupon the rest fled into the Woods. Yet they manned off another Canoe with nine or ten men, which came to meet us. So I shot at it also a Falcon, and shot it through, and killed one of them. Then our men with their Muskets killed three or foure more of them."

[According to Juet's log, Hudson and his crew killed between eight and ten Indians, likely Lenape or Munsee. The distinction is probably less important than the tragedy of the conflict. In retrospect, it is easy to see where this confrontation foreshadowed European-Native American relations for the next several hundred years.]

"So they went their way, within a while after, wee got downe two leagues beyond that place, and anchored in a Bay, cleere from all danger of them on the other side of the River, where we saw a very good piece of ground: and hard by it there was a Cliffe, that looked of the colour of a white greene, as though it were either Copper, or Silver myne: and I thinke it to be one of them, the Trees that grow upon it. For they be all burned, and the other places are greene as grasse, it is on that side of the River that is called Manna-hata. There we saw no people to trouble us: and rode quietly all night; but had much wind and raine."

[The Bay of safe anchorage was probably the Upper Bay of New York Harbor, within site of the Narrows and the open ocean about fifteen miles distant. The "Cliffe" they saw may have been the Palisades, thick diabase sills on the west side of the river from Fort Lee north to Hi Tor. Tom Lake.]

10/2: Sandy Hook, NJ: A flock of a couple of hundred tree swallows were chowing down on bayberries behind the sand dune line this afternoon, when a fast-moving sharp-shinned hawk came blasting through. The flock scattered and then returned to feeding a few minutes later.

- Dery Bennett

10/3 - Columbia County, HRM 118: One has to wonder if the moose tracks that were found at the Roeliff Jansen Park today belong to the same moose that was spotted in Germantown last week. Was the Germantown moose trying to make its way to the Berkshires by way of the Roeliff Jansenkill? The Roeliff-Jansen Kill is one of the largest freshwater tributaries emptying into the Hudson River estuary. Its headwaters begin in western Massachusetts and it spills into New York State near Hillsdale through Columbia County, then Dutchess County, and back again through Columbia County on its journey to the Hudson River in Germantown.

- Fran Martino

10/3 - Croton Point, HRM 35: The morning dawned damp and foggy. Skies over the beach at Croton Point were gray and dismal after a night of rainfall. The scene was quiet and peaceful, with four double-crested cormorants flapping their wings as they crossed the silvery surface of the river. Later we spotted a northern harrier hunting over the top of the landfill.

- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson

10/3 - Croton Bay, HRM 34: The Boyz at the Bridge were still catching bluefish to ten pounds, as well as catching and releasing striped bass in the five-to-eight pound range.

- Christopher Letts

10/3 - Upper Bay, New York Harbor: Bad weather delayed the Half Moon's departure. They struggled setting the anchor in the face of strong winds on the soft bottom finally holding fast on the west side of the Bay near Hoboken. Juet's comments were concise:

"The third, was very stormie; the wind at East North-east. In the morning, in a gust of wind and raine, our Anchor came home, and we drove on ground, but it was Ozie. Then as we were about to have out an Anchor, the wind came to the North North-west, and drove us off againe. Then we shot an Anchor, and let it fall in foure fathomes water, and weighed the other. Wee had much wind and raine, with thicke weather: so we roade still all night."

10/4 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 76: As soon as I got out on the Walkway Over the Hudson bridge I saw a monarch fluttering nearby above a railing. I had seen only two or three all summer. When I lost sight of it, I hoped it had gone down under the bridge, but it soon reappeared, moving higher as it crossed above the heads of the happy multitude of walkers and bike riders. With a touch of heartache, I watched until it was a black speck heading southeast, and wished it well. Then I resumed my glorious bike ride on a glorious day.

- Kathryn Paulsen

10/4 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: A full moon seems more interesting when it has dark, brooding clouds to drift behind and then emerge to light up the sky. This was a spectacular Harvest Moon and the patchwork of clouds gave it a Gothic touch. Near midnight the coyotes began, maybe a half-dozen, baying at the moon. Like London's "Call of the Wild," it gave me chills, until the neighborhood dogs broke the spell.

- Tom Lake

[The Harvest Moon is the full moon that occurs nearest the autumnal equinox (9/22). Usually the full moon of September (9/4) qualifies, but this year it was the full moon of October (10/4). Tom Lake.]

10/4 - Verplanck, HRM 40.5: On a beautiful warm and sunny autumn day, one of our two butterfly bushes had very garish and loud light purple blooms, while the other had a much more reserved dark purple. The loud one was a butterfly magnet hosting at least 8-12 monarchs every time I looked at it while the somber, dark-colored bush was virtually ignored.

- Pat Korn

10/4 - The Narrows to the Lower Bay, New York Harbor: From Juet's account, it appears that a nor'easter had passed, trailing a classic autumn cold front, and clearing winds turned to the north-northwest providing good sailing weather. Juet describes their tedious effort to avoid shoal waters:

"The fourth, was faire weather, and the wind at North Northwest, wee weighed and came out of the River, into which we had runne so farre. Within a while after, wee came out also of the great mouth of the great River, that runneth up to the North-west, borrowing upon the Norther side of the same, thinking to have deepe water: for wee had sounded a great way with our Boat at our first going in, and found seven, six and five fathomes. So we came out that way, but we were deceived, for we had but eight foot and an halfe water: and so to three, five, three, and two fathomes and a halfe. And then three, foure, five, sixe, seven, eight, nine and ten fathomes. And by twelve of the clocke we were cleere of all the Inlet. Then we tooke in our Boat, and set our mayne-sayle and sprit-sayle, and our top-sayles, and steered away East South-east, and South-east by East off into the mayne sea: and the Land on the Souther side of the Bay or Inlet, did beare at noone West and by South foure leagues from us.

[The Half Moon cleared the Narrows by midday and sailed out into the Lower Bay of New York Harbor. From Juet's log you can sense some relief at having made it safely into open water. At the same time, you can also sense their genuine respect for the river and a bit of melancholy at having to leave. Tom Lake]

10/5 - Town of Niskayuna, Schenectady County, HRM 157: I had a group of students from Hillside School in a park near the Mohawk River on a cold and windy day. A teacher noticed a walking clump of mud and when I looked, I saw the clump blink. It was a tiny snapping turtle still sporting an egg tooth and yolk sack. It seemed too small and late in the year to be leaving the nest, so I went looking. I found the nest dug up in the dog park. I hope the little guys make it.

- Dee Strnisa

10/5 - Beacon, HRM 61: On a usual autumn day, watching a lone monarch butterfly tack along a treeline of cottonwoods, catching a favorable breeze, wings teetering like a little vulture, would hardly qualify as a "defining" Almanac moment. Except this fall, with such a dearth of butterflies, even one forces us to take notice.

- Tom Lake

10/5 - Croton Point, HRM 35: Flocks of grackles and blue jays came through, as well as a wave of warblers. Yesterday's kestrels had moved on and the raptors of the day were sharp-shinned hawks, three in the first half hour of my walk.

- Christopher Letts

10/5 - New York Bight: As the Half Moon headed east-northeast, the continent of North American faded to the west. With the incredible diversity of life and culture they had found inland along the river now behind them, Juet's final entry in the ship's log was very much to the point:

"The fift, was faire weather, and the wind variable betweene the North and the East. Wee held on our course South-east by East. At noone I observed and found our height to bee 39 degrees, 30 minutes. Our Compasse varied sixe degrees to the West. We continued our course toward England, without seeing any Land by the way, all the rest of this moneth of October: And on the seventh day of November, stilo novo, being Saturday: by the Grace of God we safely arrived in the Range of Dartmouth in Dovenshire, in the yeere 1609."

[Addendum: In 1610, Henry Hudson returned to North America aboard the English ship Discovery still seeking a northwest passage to the Orient. By June he reached the Hudson Strait, a tidal reach that connects the Atlantic Ocean with Hudson Bay between Baffin Island and the northern coast of Quebec. Hudson encountered massive icebergs but continued on to James Bay where the Discovery became frozen in the winter ice. Conditions were difficult: it was extremely cold and the food was very limited. The crew requested that they return home but Hudson refused, deciding to continue his quest. This led the crew to mutiny and on June 11, 1611, Hudson was cast adrift in a small boat together with his son John and eight loyal crew members. They were never heard from again and their fate remains a mystery. The Discovery returned to London where the mutineers were never punished and no attempt was ever made to search for Henry Hudson. Tom Lake.]

10/6 - Croton Point, HRM 35: Well before sunrise on this calm, clear, and cool morning, I watched a flock of migrating Canada geese cross the face of the near-full moon. A rising spiral of raptors - three harriers and a Cooper's hawk - seemed to climb to the moon.

- Christopher Letts

10/6 - Ossining, HRM 33: I looked out my second story window to enjoy this gorgeous fall day. At that level I am near the top of a large mimosa tree right outside the window. How surprised I was to see a beautiful black-and-white warbler as it flitted along the trunk and among the branches of the tree, apparently in search of insects. Its stunning black and white stripes and white breast were clearly visible as it flew in and out of the tree, each time landing close to my window.

- Dorothy Ferguson

10/7 Milan, HRM 90: The day started with a black bear lying in my back yard snacking on the sunflower seeds from the bird feeder he was holding in his paws, not twenty feet from my back door. I went out and yelled at him but he wouldn't move.

- Marty Otter

10/7 Clinton Corners, HRM 75 : This evening on my way home on Salt Point Turnpike, just west of the Taconic Parkway, I sighted a bald eagle soaring off to the south. The white head and white tail caught the sun as he turned.

- Marty Otter

10/7 - Town off Wappinger, HRM 67: A serious cold front passed over dropping more than an inch of rain in less than an hour. Dry and windy air followed with gusts to 40 mph. By midday it sounded like hunting season, but instead of shotgun blasts I was hearing trees snapping in the wind.

- Tom Lake

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