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Hudson River Almanac November 8 - November 15, 2009

OVERVIEW

With moose, loons, and ravens appearing in the Almanac, the lower Hudson is sounding a bit like the High Peaks of the Adirondacks. This is a watershed in seasonal transition as the Hudson Valley flyway performs its migratory magic with ducks, geese, raptors, and songbirds.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

11/13 - Wicopee, Dutchess County, HRM 61: Residents of a sub-division near Sharpe Reservation were surprised to see a moose walking up the street this morning. Several photos revealed that it was either an immature or a female (no rack). It looked very similar to the moose Kaare Christian took a short video of on September 27 in North Germantown, 48 miles upriver.
- Robert Stanton

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

11/8 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Toby and I were taking our evening walk by the river at the pump house when we heard a coyote barking. Toby and the coyote had quite the conversation: one would bark, the other answer, back and forth for several minutes. I picked up the pace a bit heading back home. I know that the odds of a wild animal attacking are slim, but the fact that we were hearing just the one coyote and it was barking, not yipping and howling like they usually do in a group, made me a bit nervous.
- Ellen Rathbone

[A common thread for Almanac entries is a reference to Hudson River miles. These give context to each entry, that is to say where in the watershed, relative to the main stem of the Hudson River, the observation occurred. For research and navigation purposes, the Hudson River is measured north, upriver from the Battery (HRM 0) at the southern tip of Manhattan, in the Upper Bay of New York Harbor.The George Washington Bridge is at river mile 12, the Tappan Zee Bridge is 28, Albany 145, and the Federal Dam at Troy, at the head of tidewater, is river mile 153. While cities and bridges make convenient points of reference, river phenomena do not always occur at such neat and tidy intervals, so we see many references to places in between. Entries from points east and west in the watershed reference the corresponding river mile, due east or west, on the main stem. While these designations are not exact, they do allow us to create a mind's eye picture of points on the river and in the Hudson watershed. Tom Lake.]

11/8 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 76: What a glorious day to walk across the old Poughkeepsie-Highland Railroad Bridge (c.1888), now called the "Walkway Over The Hudson." The air was 68 degrees, not a cloud in the sky, and the river was as smooth as glass. There were thousands of people, strollers, little children on bikes, and every breed of dog imaginable. Everyone was smiling and enjoying the beautiful river and the scenery from the bridge. We wish we lived closer to this park and plan to return soon and walk some of the surrounding trails.
- Dianne Picciano, Phil Picciano

11/8 - Croton Point, HRM 35: The odd red-tailed hawk was back (see 11/1). A week ago I watched an adult red-tail apparently "hunting" in three inches of water in a large rain puddle. He was at it again. The puddle was now much smaller. I watched the bird land, wade into at least two inches of water, and stop. It briefly lowered its head almost to the surface, and then just stood there. Fifteen minutes later I resumed my walk. Nearly an hour later the bird was still there, belly feathers and part of its tail in the water. A conundrum.
- Christopher Letts

11/9 - Newcomb, HRM 302: This morning, as Toby and I were on the last leg of our walk, I was waving to one of the neighborhood children who were just leaving on the school bus when she pointed behind me. There, dashing across the road where Toby and I had been not 30 seconds before was a beautiful coyote, tail streaming out behind. I was very surprised to see the coyote out in broad daylight. I wondered if it was the same coyote we had encountered last evening.
- Ellen Rathbone

11/9 - Fishkill, HRM 63: I was honored by the presence of a beautiful pileated woodpecker just outside my kitchen window this morning. He was in a cherry tree right alongside of the road but certainly visible with that bright red crest. I know that these birds are fairly shy and I was so surprised to see him. He hammered away for quite awhile giving me a great start to my day. I hope he decides to stay around for awhile.
- Carol Coons

11/9 - Beacon, HRM 61: A few large carp were splashing at the surface of the river today, but I couldn't get one to bite. I did catch and release a huge channel catfish, large head, strong jaws, and a pronounced over-bite. I measured him at 24 inches long, and guessed that he weighed about 7 lb. These fish seem to appear in some numbers toward the end of October each year.
- Bill Greene

11/9 - Garrison, HRM 53: Two utterly beautiful sun dogs adorned the sky over Crow's Nest across the river from Constitution Marsh Sanctuary this afternoon.
- Eric Lind

[Sun dogs are an atmospheric phenomenon that creates bright spots of light in the sky on either side of the sun. They usually appear as a halo or a luminous ring as light refracts through ice crystals in the atmosphere. Tom Lake.]

11/10 - Pine Island, Orange County, HRM 45: New York State Museum paleontologist Bob Feranec announced that a mastodon tusk recovered from the Wallkill River might be the largest ever found in New York. The tusk, measuring more than 9 feet long, was one of two excavated this summer at the confluence of Tunkamoose Creek and the Wallkill River. (By comparison, the Hyde Park mastodon tusks were about 8 feet long.) The tusks are believed to be about 13,000 years old, coinciding with the first appearance of people in the Northeast. Adult mastodons were about 10 feet high at the shoulder and weighed approximately 10,000 lb. They, along with mammoths, are extinct forms of "elephant" that died out in this area about 12,000 years ago.
- Tom Lake

11/11 - Norrie Point, HRM 85: a fish trap set at the Norrie Point Environmental Center was hauled up with three mudpuppies (Necturus maculosus) aboard. They measured 36, 31, and 25 cm in length. I've read in various accounts that fall, and even early winter, are good times to observe mudpuppies on the move. They have beautiful external gills which spread like crimson flowers, and they happily "inhale" earthworms.
- Chris Bowser, Chris Mitchell

[The mudpuppy is an amphibian and, while related to toads and frogs, they are truly unique. Roger Tory Peterson calls them "...big bizarre salamanders that look more like bad dreams than live animals." Besides being large - they average 8-13" long - their most prominent feature is their gills that look like feathery plumes. In the South they are called "waterdogs," and smaller ones are used for live bait. Mudpuppies will eat almost any aquatic animals they can swallow and, as Chris Bowser says, are more than willing to take an angler's worm. Tom Lake.]

11/12 - Town of Wappinger: While I monitor the NY62 bald eagle nest from a distant blind, I am not foolish enough to think that they are not aware of my presence. The best I hope for is to establish a "trust at a distance," becoming a familiar and benign visitor. I watched today as Mama fed voraciously on a large channel catfish (we see so few white catfish any more that almost any large catfish defaults to channel catfish). She was perched only a few feet from her nest and it was nice to see her apparent comfort with the nest, the tree, and the surroundings.
- Tom Lake

11/12 - Croton River, HRM 34: Just a few feet out from the boat launch ramp was a fine sight: a drake long-tailed duck, repeatedly diving in three feet of water. I see this bird rarely in Croton Bay, always in autumn, but never so close for so long.
- Christopher Letts

[The long-tailed duck, formerly called the oldsquaw, is a northern Canada-Arctic breeder that is most commonly seen along the coast in migration, Yet, each fall we see a few on them on the river as they take the Hudson Valley flyway south to wintering locations along the Atlantic Coast. Tom Lake.]

11/12 - Bear Mountain, HRM 46: There are times when a visit to the Bear Mountain Bridge can become a show in the air. Today was one of those. I heard the ravens long before I saw them, their unmistakable throaty croak was an antidote to a gray day. Then I saw them, a pair of adults, twirling over the superstructure of the bridge before heading east across the narrow river passage to Anthony's Nose. While they were moving west to east, a peregrine falcon was zooming south to north in pursuit of a much smaller bird. In seconds they both disappeared from sight diving under the bridge. Just before leaving, I looked north with binoculars and spotted a bald eagle soaring over Con Hook, less than three miles upriver.
- Tom Lake

11/12 - Croton Point, HRM 34.5: We spotted a flock of about 30 cedar waxwings. With their handsome silhouette and facial markings, a touch of yellow on their outer tail feathers, I think they are one of the most beautifully designed birds. Some milkweed seeds were still barely holding on by their threads, almost ready to be set free from their pods. A red-tailed hawk perched for twenty minutes without moving, allowing two photographers to get many closeup shots. I enjoyed studying the markings on the bird's back, a view I rarely see.
- Jane Shumsky, Elky Shumsky

11/13 - Kowawese, HRM 59: The mid-morning high tide was up in the trees. There was no indication that the park's broad sandy beach even existed. This was the storm surge from Tropical Storm Ida. Without even reading the news reports, I knew this one was special; it takes a serious nor'easter to bring a tidal surge this far upriver. The storm missed us - we had three-quarters of an inch of rain but little else.
- Tom Lake

11/13 - Bear Mountain Bridge, HRM 46: Heading across the Bear Mountain Bridge this morning we paused to look out over the Hudson as it glistened in the early morning sunlight. We were amazed to see that the Bear Mountain Dayliner Dock looked like a small island with water lapping up and over the edges. The tide was incredibly high, completely covered the walkway and cutting the dock off from the shoreline.
- Margie Turrin, Tim Kenna

11/13 - Sandy Hook, NJ: National Weather Service meteorologists called it "the worst storm to besiege the New Jersey Shore in more than a decade." A powerful nor'easter, born from the remnants of Tropical Storm Ida, drenched the East Coast for three days causing widespread flooding and beach erosion.
- National Weather Service

11/14 - Kowawese, HRM 59: The tide was high again today. We were heading closer to the strong spring tides of the new moon (11/16) with daily high tide variances building from 5.5 to 5.7 feet. Ida was gone but its surge had reshaped the beach, creating sandy swales and pushing river flotsam up into the tree line. The sun peaked out from under a curtain of gray fog and out in Cornwall Bay an adult eagle, perched on a deadfall, glowed in the light.
- Tom Lake

11/14 - Croton River, HRM 34: I stopped by the mouth of the Croton River at Croton Bay in hopes of another viewing of the long-tailed duck that gave me so much pleasure two days ago. There, in the same shallow water just a few feet from the boat launch, was another duck. It dove repeatedly, spending more time under water than on the surface. It was an immature scoter, but whether a white-winged or black scoter I could not be sure. I watched for ten minutes, until the bird moved farther out into the stream. I wondered what tasty provender would pull these two big-water species inside the railroad trestle and so close to shore.
- Christopher Letts

11/15 - Stockport Creek to Mill Creek, HRM 121.5 to 129: Twenty of us paddled on an end-of-season trip upriver and back. Much of the time, we paddled in sight of eagles or their nests.
- Alan Mapes

11/15 - Wappinger Creek, HRM 67.5: It seemed late in the season to spot a black-crowned night heron perched on a leaning box elder that had eroded off the bank of the creek. Each day it seems that we have a different suite of visitors, travelers on their way to wintering locations. Today there were four ring-necked ducks resting in the shallows. As I stopped my truck to watch, a single common loon took off down the tidewater creek heading out to the main river, "big water" where we most commonly see them.
- Tom Lake

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