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Hudson River Almanac November 24 - November 30, 2009

OVERVIEW


As another sign of impending winter, our focus has slowly shifted to the doings of eagles. Still, late fall weather hangs on. It is not often that butterflies and common mergansers get mentioned in the same week.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

11/28 - Edgewater, NJ, HRM 8.5: A good sized great blue heron was roosting on a rock taller than most out on our mud flats today. He stood there with his neck retracted - not moving much for several hours as the tide crept in, slowly devouring the rock. Finally, as I watched, water lapping at his ankles, he uncoiled his neck and, in full glory, flew off in a huff.
- Terry Milligan

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES


11/24 - Croton Point, HRM 34.5: It felt like spring and we were delighted to see two orange sulphur butterflies still hanging out. It made me wonder what the extreme fall date for this species and other butterflies is. The only timetable for these butterflies that I could find went to the end of October.
- Jane Shumsky, Elky Shumsky

[Elky is a rescue dog and we will soon be celebrating our third anniversary. The shelter said she was mostly yellow lab, my favorite breed for many reasons, including that I wanted a swimming companion. As it turns out, she is afraid of the water and doesn't have a clue what "fetch" means, but she's the best and I thank her for getting me out every day and refocused on birding. Jane Shumsky.]

11/24 - Croton River, HRM 34: Common mergansers had returned, and several pair of hooded mergansers was also feeding near a mixed flock of ducks. The first ring-necked ducks of the season were present as well. Out on Croton Point, flocks of robins were everywhere, gorging on fruit and getting ready for the big over-water crossing to the Palisades side of the Hudson.
- Christopher Letts

11/25 - Beacon, HRM 61: Today's fishing off Long Dock produced three channel catfish and one small carp. The channel cats were nice; the largest was 4 lb. All were released. The carp was small, no more than 16 inches long. Much larger carp continued to roll and splash in the main river channel from time to time.
- Bill Greene

11/25 - Cornwall Bay, HRM 58: The resident mated pair of bald eagles that frequent Cornwall Bay were perched side-by-side in a sycamore on Sloop Hill. While it was too far away to be certain of what they had, each of them was tearing at a fish that they had plucked out of the bay on low tide.
- Tom Lake

11/26 - New Baltimore, HRM 131.5: In our part of the hamlet of New Baltimore, overlooking the Hudson River, we have not had any bluebird visitors, but we still set up another house last fall just in case. We had no bluebird tenants but I was surprised about a week ago when plastic was falling out of the hole. I thought it was probably a mouse making a winter home. Today a male house sparrow was singing his heart out until a she joined him, jumping around in our bushes and trees. A bit later, they were in the bird house making a nest, evidenced by grass hanging out of the hole, he hanging on the front of the box and she chirping inside. In addition they would soar and dive in what seemed like a mating flight. Guess this warm fall has made them think it is spring.
- Jean Bush

11/26 - Town of New Windsor, HRM 59: It was Thanksgiving Day, and as I sorted through more than 1400 small bones that we had excavated from a wooded, upland archaeological site a mile from the Hudson River, it was easy to think about Novembers past, long past. These bones had been meals, cooked in ceramic pots, and among them were many belonging to wild turkey. From the context in which they were recovered, they probably dated to as much as 1500 years ago. Later, as I had some domestic turkey, I wondered how sweet those wild birds must have tasted millennia ago.
- Tom Lake

11/27 - Lower Estuary, HRM 25-11: Shore anglers were having fine sport with red hake (ling) and large Atlantic tomcods, with a few winter flounder in the mix. At Piermont Pier (HRM 25) and Dobbs Ferry (HRM 23), the red hake were running up to 2 lb.; hake to 4 lb. were being taken near the George Washington Bridge. The anglers I talked to reported that the fish were taking clams, mussels, even garden worms, but when the fish were cleaned every one was stuffed with grass shrimp.
- Christopher Letts

[Grass shrimp is a collective colloquial name for three species of small shrimp found in the brackish waters of the lower Hudson River: sand shrimp (Crangon septemspinosa) and two species of shore shrimp (Palaemonetes pugio and P. vulgaris). Their preferred habitat, submerged aquatic vegetation in the salty Hudson River shallows, is referred to colloquially as "grass." Tom Lake.]

11/27 - Edgewater, NJ, HRM 8.5: I checked on the fiddler crabs in the Target catch basin today. It is interesting to note that, although I've documented a sharp decline in this colony over the past two years, there now seems to be resurgence in progress. There were only 50-100 fiddler crab holes visible in the northwestern corner of the basin last spring, but today, because of a lower than average tide, I could see that there are also holes toward the southern end, some rather large. Are they on the upswing of the classic sinusoidal curve on a graph of population size? They have just about shut down their activities for the winter so we will have to wait until spring.
- Terry Milligan

[Red-jointed fiddler crabs are "walking crabs," with eight walking legs (unlike blue crab, a swimming crab with six walking legs and two paddle-like legs). They are found along the eastern shore of North America, from Cape Cod south to Florida and the Gulf coast. They live in the intertidal areas of muddy or sandy beaches that are exposed at low tide. Each fiddler crab digs its own burrow and they can be as much as 2 feet deep. The male red-jointed fiddler crab has one large claw (it appears to some as a "fiddle") and one relatively small claw; they can be either left or right-clawed. The female fiddler crab has two normal sized claws. Terry Milligan has been keeping us apprised of the fiddler crab colonies at Edgewater, through the Almanac, for the last nine years. Tom Lake.]

11/28 - Wappinger Creek, HRM 67.5: Two days of strong north winds had blown the tidewater out of the creek (or conversely, the river had sucked the water out of the creek). All that remained was a shallow and narrow, mile-long channel surrounded by extensive mud flats. A pair of wood ducks was perched on a deadfall. Great blue herons were sitting on low branches of trees. Mallards, mergansers, and ring-necked ducks that otherwise would not be caught within 100 feet of each other were bobbing together in what remained of the waterway. The concentration of fish must have been alluring however as two pied-billed grebes were having a productive time.
- Tom Lake

11/28 - Croton Point, HRM 34: There was still half-a-gale blowing out of the northwest and we had a real blowout tide. This was the last weekend of the striped bass season, and the Boyz at the Bridge were disgusted: no one wants to fish in 30 knot winds (35 mph) and white-capped waves. Bird activity on the Point was about nonexistent. I counted 15 species on my walk this morning, and I scraped for that many.
- Christopher Letts

11/28 - Staatsburg, HRM 86: While walking the river path between Norrie Point and Mills Estate we wondered what was exciting the group that was stopped ahead of us. They had come upon a coiled but sluggish blacksnake alongside the trail. The coils made estimating iffy, but 3-4 feet long was probably close. Although it was sunny, the strong wind and late date made us surprised the snake would be out.
- Dan Zoller, Terri Zoller, Lacey Zoller, Dave Pope

11/29 - Town of Poughkeepsie: Last May, Garrick Bryant noticed a brand new bald eagle nest, with a pair of adults, in a tall tuliptree. The pair hung around through late spring, with the female appearing to be incubating eggs, but then left without producing any young. This is not uncommon behavior for a new pair, and this could have been their first year, unless they were relocating from elsewhere. Eagles will change nest location for reason that are poorly understood. For the past week I have been watching the nest, which appears to be in good condition, from a discreet distance. (In dealing with eagle eyes, a "discreet distance" is often one chosen by the birds.) But no has been home. Less than three miles south, the adult pair in NY62 is cuddling daily, leading me to wonder why this nest is empty. Perhaps they are migrants, wintering in Maryland, and will not arrive until late winter.
- Tom Lake

11/29 - Rockland County, HRM 28-31: I kayak from Nyack to Upper Nyack most mornings throughout the year. Today was the first time that I have seen a bald eagle on this trip. The adult eagle was perched in a tree that normally has an osprey in it. No sign of the osprey though, which is not surprising since most if not all of them have migrated south. The bald eagle flew out to my boat, checked me out, and then returned to its tree.
- Duncan Bell

11/30 - Town of Wappinger: In seemed odd to find both adults sitting together in the NY62 nest today for more than an hour. They were not feeding, nor did it appear that they were doing much of anything else. It is rare that more than one adult, and any nestlings, are in the nest at one time. It looked crowded. With a long and hard winter ahead, followed by four months of eggs and baby birds, perhaps this is their season to loaf.
- Tom Lake

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