Hudson River Almanac September 25 - September 30, 2010
We have learned to never presume to know the habits of hummingbirds! No sooner had it been suggested that their season had ended than fourteen entries arrived with "last hummingbirds!" Tropical Storm Nicole swept in at the end of the week, an event that would have a major impact in the days that followed.
HIGHLIGHT FROM A PREVIOUS WEEK
9/21 - Dutchess County, HRM 72: While working at a client's garden in Clove Valley (between Verbank and Poughquag) something bumped my upper arm. I turned to see a hummingbird hovering directly in front on my eyes. It bumped its beak into me once more before moving a short distance away. It balanced at eye level for a second, and then flew off. I wonder if it was thanking me for the honeysuckle, lobelia, and assorted annuals that kept it nearby all season.
- Naomi Brooks
NATURAL HISTORY NOTES
9/25 - North Germantown, HRM 109: My daughter and I were at the boat launch this morning hoping to kayak, but the river was too rough, so we walked the beach. We saw at 4-5 "dead" blue crabs, one tiny, the others 2-3 inches across. Most of them were simply moults.
- Joanne Engle
[From time to time, summer through fall, we get e-mails and phone calls reporting "dead blue crabs" washed up on beaches along the tidewater Hudson. These reports are rarely accurate - most of the time they are moults, shed exoskeletons of blue crabs. Many of them are perfect imitations of live crabs until you lift the carapace and discover that no one is home. Blue crab moults are common from May through November, with higher concentrations around the new and full moon when shedding activity increases. There was a full moon on September 23. Tom Lake.]
9/25 - Staatsburg, HRM 86: As we were returning from a walk around the block this morning, we saw Staatsburg's two resident adult red-shouldered hawks soaring around the east side of the hamlet, calling back and forth. Their "conversation" seemed to bring out a response from a pale female red-tailed hawk, one of the pair that hangs around the area. When we stopped to look, an adult male and a juvenile red-tailed soared into sight. As we watched the three of them circle together, a Cooper's hawk flew by much lower, apparently on its way to the woods to the west of Dinsmore Park. Once the red-tails had drifted away, we could hear the red-shoulders calling again.
- Linda Lund, David Lund
9/25 - Norrie Point, HRM 85: Hudson River Valley educators gathered at Norrie Point in a training session for our October 14 "A Day in the Life of the River." We sampled the river's life and chemistry in preparation for this year's event. The dissolved oxygen was in the healthy 7.0-9.0 ppm range. We seined the cove at Norrie Point and caught a redfin pickerel (5 inches long), black crappie, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, pumpkinseed sunfish, banded killifish, tessellated darters, and young-of-the-year [YOY] river herring.
-Sarah Mount, Chris Bowser, Margie Turrin, Dave Conover, Beth Roessler
9/25 - New Paltz, HRM 78: We live a half mile west of the Wallkill River and today we may have seen our "last" hummingbird, as usual a female. We only rarely see a male late in the summer, but have had as many as three females or immatures vying for space on our flowers or our feeder. In the last three years, we have had hummingbirds as late as October 2, mostly feeding on flowers even though the feeders were still available. Incidentally, for the last three summers, we have had downy, hairy, and red-bellied woodpeckers feeding at the hummingbird feeder. A couple of other species have landed on the feeder and tried to figure out how to get the nectar, but they didn't have the long tongue of the woodpeckers.
- Lynn Bowdery, Allan Bowdery
9/25 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 76. I walked up under the Poughkeepsie train station in the Fall Kill today, and as I approached the tunnel, there was an elongate backlit shape that hadn't been there before. The shape revealed itself as a great blue heron standing in the middle of the Fall Kill. On the east side of the tunnel, I caught a moderately large female mitten crab (66 mm carapace width). Perhaps the heron was there for the same reason?
- Bob Schmidt
9/25 - Pleasant Valley, HRM 75: I am still hearing eastern phoebes calling and song sparrows singing away in the mornings. It sure is nice to wake up hearing them. However, it is unusual to hear them this late in the year. I wonder if it has to do with the extremely hot and dry summer. My rose-of-sharon trees are still blooming as well; this summer doesn't want to seem to let go.
- Kathy Kraft
9/25 - Fishkill, HRM 61: While tossing some stray tree limbs on a brush pile in my hillside yard, I noted a strange white object hidden in the brush. It was a giant puffball mushroom about eight inches in height and ten inches in diameter. These generally appear in old farm fields or pastures, which this once was.
- Ed Spaeth
9/25 - Kowawese, HRM 59: Karin Limburg and her Fisheries, Sciences and Management class from the SUNY School of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse were on the beach. It was a superb morning. The air was already in the 70s, the river was 71 degrees Fahrenheit, the tide was low, salinity was about 2.0 ppt, and there was a very refreshing south wind. An osprey was diving out in the bay, an eagle was perched on a deadfall, and monarchs were fluttering past in the lee of the hillside. Out in the shallows we found barnacles and zebra mussel cohabitating on some of the low tide rocks. A student found a thumbnail-sized white-fingered mud crab, one of the few we have found there this year. In a dozen hauls of a 50-foot seine, we caught a dozen fish species including some large YOY American shad over 100 millimeters total length. We also caught several adult and juvenile redbreast sunfish, impressive-looking native sunfish.
- Karin Limburg, Chris Nack, Craig Tompkins, Tom Lake
[A good complement of American shad and river herring, dominated by blueback herring. Shad were the fewest of the three species and blueback the most abundant. We also picked up several redbreast sunfish, a first for me at this site. Young-of-year striped bass dominated the catch. We also had a high diversity of species -12 - reflecting the mix of fresh and brackish water taxa so common at this site. We found several blue crabs, and noted many shed exoskeletons along the beach in the windrow. Karin Limburg.]
9/25 - Putnam Valley, HRM 55.5: I heard thirty seconds of yapping and scrapping by what sounded like a large pack of coyotes off in the east swampy, woodsy area; perhaps they were establishing territory.
- Nancy P Durr
9/25 - Furnace Woods, HRM 38.5: Only one person of my acquaintance knocks on doors with a "shave and a haircut" rap, and that is riverman George Hatzmann. "Want a fish?" was his greeting, and my reply was an enthusiastic affirmative. Partly as a joke I pushed my wheelbarrow down the driveway to where he had parked his car and boat. That turned out to be a good idea; lying shimmering in the bottom of the boat were a 38" striped bass and a 12 lb. bluefish. Happy day! It took some time, but after an hour or so of knife work, I had a pile of skinned fillets from which all the dark flesh had been removed. George took a chunk of the bass the size of a family pot roast and left me with the rest. I carefully sliced out the cheeks on both fish, the very best part in my opinion. They were lovely scallops of meat the size of a pork chop and made a memorable meal. Some fish-loving neighbors received the bluefish fillets, and the striped bass was brined overnight and smoked over maple coals today. It turned a lovely golden tan, firm but still moist, loaded with inimitable maple flavor. Garden tomatoes will be with us for a few more weeks, and as long as the bass lasts I will enjoy a Hudson River twist on the BLT sandwich: bass, lettuce and tomato.
- Christopher Letts
9/25 - Englewood, NJ, HRM 13.5: Our Fisheries, Sciences and Management class arrived at Englewood Cliffs at mid-tide with plenty of opportunity to seine. We netted up numerous bay anchovies and silversides, finding more of the former in a quiet cove on the north side of a breakwater and more of the latter along the sandy/rocky shore just south of it. Young-of-the-year striped bass were present, as were white perch. We seined up a good-sized summer flounder (10 inches) on the sand flats, and watched it try to camouflage itself by changing its pigments. We also captured a decent sized weakfish (12 inches) and a couple of American eels. Blue crabs were far more abundant here than at Kowawese, and we found numerous sand and shore shrimp. Each haul of the seine brought in hundreds of small comb jellies (Mnemiopsis leidyi).
- Karin Limburg, Eric Bauer, Sam Brockdorff, Stacy Furgal, Dan Gurdak, Mike Hameline, Christina Killourhy, Kapil Mandrekar, Arlen Marmolejo, Chris Nack, Amanda Ranger, Cody Rickman, Einat Sandbank, Natalie Scheibel, Sara Turner
[Tides and seining: While there are hundreds of beaches along Hudson River tidewater where educators, biologists, and researchers haul nets, not all are best seined at the same time. Many are "low tide" beaches, where the best access comes when the water is shallow. Most of the others are best when the tide is half-in or half-out. These "half-tide" beaches are usually limited by shallow mud flats or rocky substrate that makes low tide netting difficult or unproductive. Tom Lake.]
9/26 - Knox, Albany County, HRM 153: While eating our Sunday breakfast we spotted a hummingbird trying to feed on the plants in one of our hanging baskets.
- Pat Price, Bob Price
9/26 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 76: While at Saint Francis Hospital's parking lot, I looked up to see an adult bald eagle floating on the thermals. Quite a sight.
- Glen Heinsohn
9/26 - Constitution Marsh Sanctuary, HRM 52: A SUNY New Paltz biology class paddled up to Foundry Cove this afternoon to learn more about the former industrial contamination and current restoration work taking place there. An osprey cruised overhead, looking for fish that were once utterly unfit for consumption. A June 13, 1971 headline in The New York Times once read "Three fish caught near Battery Factory on the Hudson Contained 1,000 times Normal Cadmium." Our hope is that now the fish here are mercifully free of heavy metals - their sake, for that of the osprey, and for our own.
- Carol Rietsma, Eric Lind
9/26 - Putnam Valley, HRM 55.5: The acorn crop is the most abundant I've seen more than twenty years. Might it be drought related? Friends in Ossining report the same phenomenon, saying that walking in their driveway is like walking on ball-bearings.
- Nancy P Durr
9/26 - Palisades, Rockland County, HRM 23: Early this morning I spotted two very large raptors in a tree overlooking the Hudson River. The minute I saw them I knew they were something that I had never seen before. They were eagles, but they were different.
- Daniel Lehrecke
[Daniel Lehrecke forwarded two digital photos. The field marks, in particular the "burnished gold" nape, confirmed that they were golden eagles. Tom Lake.]
9/27 - Melrose, Rensselaer County, HRM 159: We overlook the Campbell Islands just south of Champlain Canal Lock #1 and were surprised this morning to find two osprey perched in and occasionally fishing from a dead tree on one of the islands. It was a first time observation for us; we usually spend our mornings with eagles, herons, geese and ducks.
- Stan Cipkowski, Katherine Mittnight
9/27 - Columbia County, HRM 118: Two weeks ago I commented about a gray treefrog sitting on our bench in our front yard (see 9/14). The frog had been a permanent fixture on the bench for since then. He didn't do very much, presumably going off to eat at night. It was fun to see him every day because we were able to watch his color change from an olive drab to silvery-gray over the weeks. He has now decided to seek better hiding places.
- Bob Schmidt
9/27 - Ulster County, HRM 97: While talking on the phone today, I was looking at my butterfly bush, which is still flowering, and spotted a hummingbird coming by briefly to feed.
- Peg Duke
9/27 - Wappinger Creek, HRM 67.5: In late afternoon, the rains came. It seemed like the first heavy rain since Noah. Looking upstream through the gloom, I could see great blue herons perched like sentinels on deadfalls, every few hundred feet, amidst the remnant water chestnut, as far as I could see.
- Tom Lake
9/27 - Ossining to Cold Spring, HRM 34-54: A gray and drizzly day seemed like a sovereign time for a trip aboard the RV Riverkeeper. Captain John Lipscomb and I puttered along at 6-7 knots, enjoying the scenery, checking various places for anything untoward going on. A large sturgeon splashed in close to our bow, and the first color in the autumn leaves seemed to have appeared overnight. It was a great way to spend a soggy day, and to learn about the impressive work Riverkeeper has been up to in the past year. Thanks, Cap'n John!
- Christopher Letts
9/28 - Hyde Park, HRM 82: Last fall I fed hummingbirds through October 3, a first for us. This year the hummers were busy with the rose-of-sharon bushes and our feeder on September 13. But two days later they had disappeared. On September 21, I saw one female visit the rose-of-sharon. She rested on the fence before taking off, but never visited the feeder. I figured that she was a migrant passing through.
- Barbara Wells
9/28 - Pleasantville, Westchester County, HRM 32: Maybe I saw the "last hummer" today. She was working the Impatiens on my deck since I had removed the feeder more than a month ago. I had never seen one this late.
- Tony Usobiaga
9/29 - Town of Fishkill, HRM 63.5: I have a family of coyotes in my backyard and they don't seem to want to move. They are fat and sassy and noisy but I love watching them. My property borders Stony Kill Farm (DEC) and pickings must be pretty good food-wise for them. They romp and sun themselves and howl whenever they hear a siren. My "last hummer" left my feeders on September 24.
- Carol Coons
9/29 - Patterson, Putnam County, HRM 60: We have received the Almanac for years and thoroughly enjoy reading it but have never contributed. Today I feel compelled to contribute that a female/immature hummingbird was feeding on some flowers in the Great Swamp. I still have my feeders up and keep several flowering plants going in Pawling just in case a slow traveler needs a drink.
- Lauri Taylor, Judy Kelley-Moberg.
9/29 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: I was watching yellow leaves, brown leaves, a red leaf or two, flutter through the still green trees when suddenly - a hummingbird! It had been twelve days since I sadly noted that the hummingbird feeders hung still full and that the little marvels had flown away. This little bird went to all the fuschia pots where the last blossoms are still lovely, checked the asters and phlox, sampled one of the feeders which still had some nectar, then whoosh, off it went.
- Robin Fox
9/30 - Hyde Park, HRM 82: This was the tenth anniversary of the closing, after 392 days, of the Hyde Park mastodont site. The extinct "elephant" that emerged (excavated) from an old oxbow of the Fallkill Creek was estimated to have stood nearly ten feet high at the shoulder and weighed almost 10,000 lb. It was the most complete skeleton of a mastodont ever unearthed in the Northeast. Because the excavation took 13 months, hundreds of students, from elementary school to graduate school, had the opportunity to enter a "time machine" back to a Dutchess County of 11,500 years ago. The site changed our view of the valley after the last ice age: A temperate environment with deciduous trees was established earlier than previously thought. While no direct evidence at this site linked the mastodont to the first humans in the Hudson Valley, there is little doubt that they had crossed paths during the 34 years of the animal's life.
- Tom Lake
9/30 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67.5: The effects of Nicole were upon us as the tropical storm moved slowly up the coast. Monsoon rain (2.45") pelted the canopy and the forest was black as night. The backdrop of a lighter western sky made the silhouette resemble a Rorschach image. Between downpours the rain stopped and the still forest erupted in motion as easily 500 "blackbirds" took off in waves - redwings, grackles, and cowbirds.
- Tom Lake
9/30 - Chelsea, HRM 65.2: I caught a real nice carp today, about 6 pounds, on commercial biscuit mix.
- Glen Heinsohn
9/30 - Yorktown Heights, HRM 43: I spotted a female ruby-throated hummingbird happily feeding.
- Helle Raheemt