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Hudson River Almanac September 9 - September 16, 2010

OVERVIEW

It the air, late summer migration was apparent from monarchs to hummingbirds, raptors to songbirds. In the water, young-of-the-year [YOY] herring and striped bass were moving seaward. The river was "dropping its leaves," as the summer crop of wild celery was being left on the shoreline by each rising tide.


HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

9/15 - Croton Point, HRM 35-34: This morning the avian world was on the move: The sky was filled with turkey vultures headed out to the Point in a long file. As they flew over the landfill, they found thermals and formed kettles, spirals of birds stacked at different levels from treetop to 1,000 feet. When they reached that height, they lined out for the southwest and a river crossing to the Palisades, the next leg of their journey south. Closer to earth, a long line of mulberry trees was the preferred travel route for mixed flocks of warblers and flycatchers. They were foraging busily, and always moving south and west to that jump-off point for crossing the Hudson. The lush mulberry crowns kept them safe from the numerous kestrels, Cooper's hawks, and sharp-shinned hawks that were similarly foraging while moving south and west.
- Christopher Letts


NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

9/9 - Saugerties, HRM 102: We caught a few channel catfish at the mouth of Esopus Creek this evening. Do you know when and where channel catfish were introduced into the Hudson? I am concerned for the native fish populations with these giant vacuum cleaners running amok.
- Rich Guthrie

[Channel catfish are considered to be native to the Midwest; J.R. Greeley did not find them during his 1936 Biological Survey of the Lower Hudson Watershed. The New York State canal system (e.g., the Erie Canal), along with miscellaneous stockings in the watershed, were the likely conduits for their entry. By most accounts, they have been around since the mid-to-late 1980s, in small numbers at first, then many more. By the middle-to-late 1990s, they were fairly well established as YOY began to appear. Today they seem to be replacing white catfish, although that is only speculation; no one has done any definitive research that I'm aware of. It is undeniable that they are a handsome fish and a good gamefish (they will hit lures where as white catfish generally do not). Tom Lake.]

9/9 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67.5: Were these the last hummingbirds of the season? One female and one immature spent long minutes drinking before moving on. We have not seen any male hummers in a week.
- Tom Lake, Phyllis Lake

9/10 - Ulster Park, HRM 87: We still have at least one, possibly two, hummingbirds. Although I had not seen any robins in a month, today they were back.
- Bill Drakert

9/10 - Stanfordville, HRM 85: We saw a bald eagle about a month ago, circling and swooping down to Hunn's Lake to grab a fish in its talons and then fly away. We spotted it again today, or another one. The eagle perched in a tree right off our porch for 90 minutes before flying off.
- Terrie Jackson

9/10 - Croton Point, HRM 34: It was a morning for raptor sightings: In the space of ten minutes I saw a flock of a dozen turkey vultures, two immature harriers, a red-tailed hawk, three osprey, and a merlin in hot pursuit of a Cooper's hawk. Palm warblers were in abundance and skeins of blue jays were wending their way southwest to the tip of the Point, their jumping off spot for the Rockland shore and points south.
- Christopher Letts

9/10 - State Line Lookout, HRM 18: Margie Turrin and I walked to the State Line Lookout today to see what we could see. Looking down over the river we watched an adult bald eagle heading north close to shore. Just as the eagle turned the point an osprey briefly took chase and another osprey passed nearby. Shortly thereafter we watched five broad-winged hawks come in from the river over the point and start to kettle upwards on a thermal. Minutes later, they were high overhead, just specks against the clouds, before peeling off southward.
- Linda Pistolesi

9/11 - Norrie Point, HRM 85: This was a late summer "flight day," those windy days when migrating birds get a boost from a north-northwest wind. We counted a dozen monarchs as well as several flocks of raucous blue jays passing by. Out on the cove we spotted two great egrets and three great blue herons, also on their way south, but at a much slower pace. The warm shallows (77 degrees F) were choked with wild celery, curly pondweed, duckweed, and water chestnut, making seining very difficult. For every banded killifish and pumpkinseed sunfish we caught, we hauled in 50 lb. of aquatic vegetation. The river was giving up its leaves.
- Tom Lake, Phyllis Lake

9/11 - Croton Point, HRM 35: It was 46 degrees F at 6:00 AM. Most welcome. It appeared that at last the heat had broken. But not the drought. As New Jersey goes on drought alert, New Yorkers don't seem to be aware of the dearth of rainfall. Hurricane Earl? Well, no one really wants a hurricane, but we were certainly hoping for a few inches of warm rain from the system that fizzled. This has been a long summer of dragging hoses and spot watering with dishwater poured from the compost pail.
- Christopher Letts

9/11 - Manhattan, HRM 13: Our "Day in the Life of the Hudson River" team hosted a teacher workshop at Swindler Cove along the Harlem River on this beautiful late summer day where the water measured a warm 72 degrees F. The incoming tide at the cove brought an amazing 500 Atlantic silversides into the seine, 20 YOY striped bass, 6 mummichogs, and 8 male blue crabs. The ebbing tide delivered only 50 silversides, 30 striped bass and another 8 blue crabs, although 2 were females. The salinity hovered at 15.0 parts-per-thousand, approaching half the strength of seawater. The currents pose a bit of confusion in this northern section of the Harlem River: it pushes south when the incoming tide on the Hudson River spills through Spuyten Duyvil and rushes north on an outgoing tide as the water is pulled back out through Spuyten Duyvil.
- Margie Turrin, Steve Stanne, Sarah Mount

9/11 - Manhattan, HRM 13: As we stopped to look at the river access for Sherman Cove Park, we peered over to see a school of small silversides traveling close to the surface of the Harlem River. As they hovered around the pier, we estimated the school to be about 10 fish deep and 20 fish long.
- Margie Turrin, Steve Stanne and Sarah Mount

9/11 - Manhattan, HRM 1.5: At high tide, from the seventh floor of 67 Vestry Street on the west side of Manhattan, we can see more "red stuff" (scientific term) in the Hudson River. This is the largest streak we have seen to date. It reached as far as we could see from Battery Park City north past Pier 40, at least two miles. As it hugged the east side of the river, it appeared to be a quarter-mile-wide. Later, nearly three hours past high tide, the "red streak" was still visible but had now split into two narrower ones.
- Roland Gebhardt

[Mike Levandowsky identified the main biological component of this "red tide" to be Myrionecta rubrum, a ciliate micro-zooplankter whose taxonomy was discussed earlier (see 9/8). The etymology or origin of its scientific name comes from Greek and Latin: Myrio, from the Greek word "myrios," means numberless; necto, from the Greek word "nektar" means swimmer; and rubrum from the Latin "rubidus" meaning reddish. Translation: "numberless red swimmers!" Tom Lake.]

9/12 - Esopus Meadows, HRM 87: There were seven mute swans close to the Esopus Meadows Lighthouse this morning when the work barge arrived. Along with them was an American coot! The swans took off awhile later looking like mini Concorde jets as they flew close to the water. The coot spent most of the day near the lighthouse, mainly in the water but also on the small island where the original lighthouse stood (1839-1871). In midday, a kingfisher tried repeatedly to catch a fish, hovering over the shallow water in the mud flats. After four or five tries, it flew around the lighthouse and headed away. We also had another osprey sighting.
- Phyllis Marsteller

9/13 - Essex County, HRM 257: As I was driving home to Newcomb, I came across what looked like snow drifts along the sides of the road between Weaverton and North Creek. I stopped to see. Hail stones. They were at least a quarter-inch across. While on one hand I was glad that I wasn't driving through when they fell, I kind of wish I had been. It must have been amazing to see!
- Ellen Rathbone

9/13 - Kingston, HRM 91: As museum volunteers for the Hudson River Maritime Museum, we got a free ride on the excursion vessel Rip Van Winkle. On the cruise we spotted many, many cormorants as well as one soaring bald eagle.
- Bill Drakert

9/13 - Ulster Park, HRM 87: Still another day with hummers - just one, no males.
- Bill Drakert

9/13 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67.5: Groups of blue jays (hard to tell if they were in flocks) moved through the woods, tree to tree, making a racket. The sky went black, the rains came, and the woods drew silent. Thirty minutes and three-quarters of an inch of rain later, the sun peeked out and the blue jays picked up where they had left off.
- Tom Lake

9/14 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Our leaves were really starting to change now. You could see an orange haze over the top of the forest and up in the High Peaks. If what we see now is any indication of what's in store, it looks like it might be a brilliant autumn.
- Ellen Rathbone

9/14 - Defreestville, Rensselaer County, HRM 142: We are now seeing quite a few robins. It interests me because of the recent comments regarding people not seeing robins for a while this summer. We are also beginning to notice rather large gatherings of birds.
- Roberta S. Jeracka

[This is the usual "gathering" or flocking of birds preparatory to migration. For us, it is still summer. But to the birds, which are much more attuned to natural cycles, the lessening daylight signals the coming of autumn and the time to move. Tom Lake.]

9/14 - Columbia County, HRM 118: We had a surprise visitor in our front yard this morning, a young gray treefrog. The bright green coloration of the young ones stands in contrast to the mottled grays of the adults.
- Bob Schmidt, Kathy Schmidt, Alec Schmidt

9/14 - Ulster Park, HRM 87: We still have a hummer! We spotted one at the feeder this morning during breakfast.
- Bill Drakert

[Bill Drakert is an original Hudson River Almanac contributor (17 years) as well as a long-time ruby-throated hummingbird reporter. Over the last 12 years that Bill has documented "last hummers" in the Almanac, the departure dates have ranged from September 3 (earliest) to September 17 (latest), with the average being September 10. Tom Lake.]

9/14 - Haverstraw Bay to the Tappan Zee, HRM 40-25: Local anglers were regularly taking striped mullet to eleven inches long in cast nets. Bluefish to 12 lb. and striped bass to 23 lb. have been a steady pick for this past fortnight; blue crabs were everywhere in good numbers and good size.
- Christopher Letts

9/14 - Manhattan, HRM 1.5: The water in the Hudson River was unusually clear; however, there was still a good size (three-quarter mile-long, one-eighth mile-wide) plume of "red tide" near the New Jersey side.
- Roland Gebhardt

9/15 - Rhinebeck, HRM 90: Over the past several weekends, I've seen good numbers of monarch butterflies migrating south. From Brooklin, Maine, interior New England, coastal Rhode Island, and right here in the Hudson Valley, they have been very much in evidence again. Hopefully the population will continue to rebound.
- John A Sperr

9/15 - Norrie Point, HRM 85: The shallow cove next to the Norrie Point Environmental Center had an unusual variety of wading birds today - great egret, great blue heron, and green heron - all busy feeding in the dense rafts of uprooted wild celery. Overhead, both osprey and bald eagle soared.
- Betsy Blair

9/15 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67.5: I often wonder if the "last hummer" we report is truly the last. Had we not been looking out the window at a white-tailed deer, we would have missed an immature ruby-throated's stop for a quick drink before moving on. In 2009, the "last hummer" was seen September 16.
- Tom Lake, Phyllis Lake

9/15 - Westchester County, HRM 43.5: While driving along Route 6/202 just west of the mouth of Annsville Creek, we noticed a bird of prey flying over the open water of the Hudson River carrying something in its talons. A little farther west along the road, we clearly saw an osprey clutching a large herring-like fish, most likely a menhaden, and carrying it head first into the wind.
- Jesse Jaycox, Ray Doherty

9/15 - Furnace Woods, Town of Cortlandt, HRM 38.5: We have raised tomatoes since 1986 and, as with all of our gardening efforts, we hew to the organic road. For the first time this year we have been beset with tomato hornworms. Not just one or two, but perhaps three dozen have ravaged our little fifteen-plant patch. First they defoliate, and then they pick the biggest, ripest, beefsteaks and chomp into them. I would say that we have lost a good bushel of heirloom tomatoes to these "thugs." But, I haven't squished a single one. Each caterpillar I have found has been covered with a blanket of tiny egg cases the size of a grain of rice, the eggs of a parasitic wasp I am told. After a couple of days, the skin of the larval moth hangs like a limp balloon, and a couple hundred more wasps are out on patrol. Still organic after all these years!
- Christopher Letts

9/15 - Croton Point, HRM 34.5: Listening to a screech owl before I get my hiking boots laced is always a great way to begin the day. Osprey, sharp-shinned hawks, kestrels, red-tailed hawks, and Cooper's hawks were a reminder that the sunny days of summer will be in short supply from now on. Joining them in their southward exodus was an increasing number of monarch butterflies. For the first time this season I am seeing them 2-3 at a time. Very exciting!
- Christopher Letts

9/16 - Kowawese, HRM 59: In midday, storm winds were blasting up the river and pushing four foot waves onto the beach. The rollers were so high and rough that I nearly lost sight of my golden retriever, Roxy. [A coastal storm was battering New York City.]
- Ron Halbreich

9/16 - Crugers, HRM 39: Several months ago we put out a hummingbird feeder in the hopes of attracting one to our yard, but to no avail. What a wonderful surprise, today, to discover a ruby-throated hummingbird hovering over a miniature red rose bush on our deck. As quickly as it appeared, it vanished from sight.
- Dorothy and Bob Ferguson

9/16 - New York City: The National Weather Service concluded that two tornados swept through Staten Island, Brooklyn and Queens destroying thousands of trees, some as many as 250 years old. Residents noted "hailstones the size of nickels" accompanied by 125 mph wind gusts. Others observed that the storm "looked like doomsday" and "sounded like a freight train coming."
- Tom Lake

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