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Hudson River Almanac October 16 - October 23, 2011

OVERVIEW

This week's dates include our ninth annual Day in the Life of the Hudson River, October 18, when students sampled the river from its non-tidal reaches above Troy to the Lower Bay of New York Harbor. Over 3,000 participants visited 64 sites, learning about their piece of the estuary and - by sharing their data online - putting it in the context of the entire system. While two entries from the event appear here, most observations contributed by Day in the Life participants will be included in a special Almanac issue to appear early in November.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

10/22 - Esopus Meadows, HRM 87: Students from Maple Ridge School in Ulster Park and Mount Academy in Walden, as well as a number of others, all volunteered to help us plant native trees (20) and shrubs (141). Dreaming on a warm autumn day, we wondered how the forest along this tiny stretch of shoreline, where the Esopus-Klyne Kill meets the river, looked in pre-Columbian times with fully native flora and no invasives. We watched a double-crested cormorant just offshore dive and catch young-of-the-year [YOY] river herring. Every so often it would emerge with a three-inch-long fish still in its beak. As we finished our planting for the day, an adult bald eagle came in from the river, flew directly at us, and passed no more than a hundred feet overhead. It was a wonderful wrap-up to a good day's work on behalf of the watershed.
- Beth Roessler, Dan Sorenson, Laura Heil, Tom Lake

[Trees for Tribs is a project of NYSDEC's Hudson River Estuary Program designed to replenish the riparian (streamside) habitats of the Hudson River watershed with native species. "Native" equates to having been here when Europeans arrived in the seventeenth century. Among the trees and shrubs planted today were red and silver maple, gray and river birch, smooth alder, tamarack, sycamore, black willow, and red osier dogwood. Tom Lake.]

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

10/16 - Annandale, HRM 100: We went to see the river and view the Catskills on a beautiful autumn afternoon. Walking out onto the grassy field next to Blythewood at Bard College, we looked up to the awesome sight of two white-headed bald eagles floating above. They came closer and began chattering (chirping). My young friend was enthralled: "They're talking to me," she exclaimed.
- Joanne Engle

10/16 - Rhinebeck, HRM 90: Turning onto my favorite back road, admiring the reddish gold foliage, I almost missed a bushy-tailed red fox as he trotted alongside. He turned and ran off onto the field. Our nearest neighbor, a local farm, raises free-range chickens!
- Joanne Engle

10/16 - Croton Point, HRM 35: On a blue-sky autumn afternoon, a strong north-northwest breeze had southbound migrants busy. It was a "flight day" for high-flyer Canada geese, scores of turkey vultures, and several adult bald eagles. We noted at least a dozen monarchs setting off from the tip of the point hoping to make it across Haverstraw Bay to the safety of Rockland County and then points south.
- Tom Lake, Bobbi Buske, Barry Keegan

10/16 - Croton Bay, HRM 33.5: We counted fifty mute swans in the bay at Inbuckie not far from the mouth of the Croton River. Three red-tailed hawks swirled overhead on this beautiful day.
- Dianne Picciano, Phil Picciano

10/17 - Newcomb, HRM 302: There was snow on the High Peaks of Essex County today. I would estimate that three-quarters of the leaves are off the trees, with American beech being the exception. While walking in the woods for three hours I saw my first deer "scrape" of the season as well as five does. They seemed to be moving. Beaver are making food caches adjacent to their winter lodges.
- Charlotte Demers

[Deer "scrapes" and deer "rubs" are often found together and are a part a "marking" phase of the white-tailed deer breeding season. Scrapes are the result of an adult male white-tailed deer scraping at the ground with his front feet, creating an obvious disturbance in the soil, often while rubbing his antlers and head on a tree or tree limb. Most if not all of this activity is designed to leave the buck's scent to alert does to his presence and to warn off competing bucks. Tom Lake.]

10/17 - Albany, HRM 145: I was at work in the University Heights neighborhood this morning when I happened to look out of a fifth floor window and spotted a red-tailed hawk flying straight at me. It came closer, still staring straight ahead - I could look into its eyes. At the last second, only a few feet from the window, it swooped up to land on the roof. The entire encounter lasted only a few seconds, but I got a rare head-on view of a hawk in full flight. It gave me a real appreciation of just how big they are. This bird is a regular visitor - we have plenty of pigeons and squirrels in the area - and the buildings catch the wind in a way that creates useful updrafts for soaring hunters.
- Larry Roth

10/17 - Beacon, HRM 61: We had a pleasant surprise as we visited Madame Brett Park along tidewater Fishkill Creek: We spotted a banded adult bald eagle perched in a tree. Scanning our digital photos, we tried to make out the number on the band, with no success. We wondered if it was N42 from the Town of Poughkeepsie nest (NY62C).
- Terry Hardy, Tom Ferber

10/17 - Cold Spring, HRM 56: Just north of Cold Spring, a mid-morning low tide had nearly drained the tidal impoundment inside the railroad tracks. Two dozen Canada geese were practically sitting in the mud; another two dozen mallards and black ducks had their own area staked out. As we passed on Metro North, we could see mild pandemonium ensuring: an adult bald eagle was circling very low overhead. What to do? Where to go? Geese were turning into one another trying to move in the mud; mallards and black ducks were bumping heads trying to agree on an escape route. As they faded into the distance we could see the ducks and geese still trying to sort it all out as the eagle performed pirouettes above their heads.
- Tom Lake, TR Jackson

10/18 - Millbrook, HRM 82: Reading other Almanac entries about praying mantises reminded me that I have a two-inch-long praying mantis in my barn. It has been hanging out on a bee's nest eating the bees.
- Penny Hedges

10/18 - Cornwall-on-Hudson, HRM57: This was year nine for the Hudson River Estuary Program's Day in the Life of the Hudson River. It is an annual opportunity to involve thousands of volunteers in compiling scientific parameters at a variety of locations - essentially "checking the pulse" of the river. The fourth grades from Willow Avenue Elementary in Cornwall were on hand to assist. As our seine came ashore, we could see that it was burgeoning with small fish, mostly YOY blueback herring 55-62 millimeters [mm] long, with a mix of other species including striped bass (70 mm), white perch, spottail shiners, white sucker, tessellated darters, and bluegill sunfish. The water temperature was 62 degrees F and the salinity was not measurable. As a bonus, this was one of the few days this autumn where we make a monarch count; by day's end we had eleven but likely missed several more.
- Chris O'Sullivan, Libby Young, Tom Lake

10/18 - Bowline Point, HRM 37: The river was warmer (63 degrees F) than the air (53), so it felt good to slip into the water for our Day in the Life program. Students from Nanuet High School took notes as senior Anna Gremli hauled the deep end of our 85-foot seine out into Haverstraw Bay. With a salinity reading of less than 2.0 parts per thousand [ppt], our expectations of catching exotic marine species were limited. As our net unfolded we were delighted to find seaward-bound YOY blueback herring (60-65 mm), American shad (85-90 mm), and striped bass (70-75 mm). As a reminder of the lower-than-usual autumn salinity, we also caught YOY gizzard shad (80-85 mm) that are much more common in the upriver freshwater reaches.
- Chuck Barone, Tom Lake

[Near-shore ocean salinity at our latitude is, on average, 32-33 parts per thousand. Tom Lake.]

10/18 - Croton Point, HRM 35-34: The day had a lovely sunrise with reds and oranges before changing to misty and more subtle pastel tones. "Red in the morning, sailors take warning!" As I hiked the point I came upon many small flocks of robins and warblers. There was nary a raptor, however. At the mouth of the Croton River there was an interesting mixed flock of waterfowl: mallards, black ducks, a single gadwall and, trailing behind, a dozen American coot. Along the shoreline trail in late afternoon, monarchs were passing at the rate of ten per hour
- Christopher Letts

10/18 - Englewood, NJ, HRM 13.5: A dozen monarchs floated past as I worked with students from Yonkers. They were surprised by my guess as to salinity: about 5.0 ppt so close to the open sea. The beach seine caught many unspectacular fish, including YOY striped bass, white perch, Atlantic silversides, and gizzard shad. Our minnow trap caught naked gobies and a dozen shore shrimp, one almost four inches in length, about as big as I have seen them. The anglers on the pier were not happy, catching mostly white catfish and white perch. However, one group I spoke to said that red hake up to 2 lb. were being caught.
- Christopher Letts

[Red hake, known colloquially as ling, is one of eight members of the cod family (Gadidae) documented for the Hudson River estuary. Among the other seven are some familiar names such as the Atlantic cod, the Atlantic tomcod, and pollock, as well as silver hake ("whiting"), spotted hake, white hake, and the ephemeral fourbeard rockling. All are considered to be marine strays except for the tomcod, a migratory species that enters the estuary each fall to spawn under the winter ice. Tom Lake.]

10/19 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: A long, steady rain came close on the heels of Day in the Life. Despite the rain that fell heavily at times, monarchs still fluttered past. These are desperate times for migrating butterflies trying to stay one day ahead of the first killing frost. By day's end the rain gauge was filled to one inch.
- Tom Lake

10/19 - Ossining, HRM 33: It was a "chicken soaker" today for sure - heavy rain as predicted. Eels were still potting (eel pots as collection gear), enough for elementary school catch-and-release programs. I remember hauling crammed pots, difficult to lift, twenty years ago. Well, not any more. Two or three in a pot is a big catch. There was a fifteen-inch-long channel catfish in the pot today. How do they manage to squeeze in that narrow mouth?
- Christopher Letts

10/20 - Rhinebeck, HRM 90: This morning, while I was transplanting three of Daisy Suckley's peony plants at Wilderstein, where she lived from 1891 to 1991, I saw three monarch butterflies resting on catmint in the perennial bed. They seem to be getting a late start for their trip south.
- Phyllis Marsteller

10/20 - Croton Bay, HRM 33.5: The midday low tide had drawn many "dabbler" ducks to the shallows off Crawbuckie Beach. I counted at least 100 black ducks, twice as many mallards, and a sprinkling of what appeared to be wigeon, gadwall, and possibly green-winged teal. Other waterfowl taking advantage of the tide were Canada geese, mute swans, and American coot.
- Tom Lake

[Crawbuckie and Inbuckie (see 10/16) are names used to describe the mile of shoreline between Ossining and the mouth of the Croton River (river miles 33-34). Collectively they were part of Croton Bay and the Tappan Zee until cut off by the railroad in the 1840s. Inbuckie is a tidal bay inside the railroad tracks; Crawbuckie is the adjacent beach facing the river outside the tracks. The origin of the names is hazy but they have been commonly used by rivermen for well over a century. Crawbuckie was famous for striped bass fishing in the 1960s and 1970s when catching one of almost any size was big news. Tom Lake.]

10/21 - Town of Fishkill, HRM 63.5: As high pressure replaced the departing storm system, the sun shone bright, the air was crisp, and the wildflowers at Stony Kill Farm had once again drawn a myriad of butterflies, including monarchs. Several large flocks of mixed blackbirds continually rose and fell in the fields, synchronized as one. Small flocks of bluebirds moved from shrub to shrub, glowing in the sunlight, out-blueing the sky. Several skeins of Canadas passed over, end to end, comprised of several hundred birds.
- Tom Lake, TR Jackson

10/22 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 36: As I crossed the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge (river mile 96) today I noticed that the Hudson River was still a murky brown due to runoff from the twin tropical storms and rain events that followed. A few miles south, I crossed the Esopus Creek (river mile 92) that looked like flowing butterscotch. So, I was not surprised later when I went down to Senasqua Beach in Croton to see that the river was still a dark tea color. A clutch of wind-surfers flashed back and forth through the white-capped dark water as the wind tossed leaves and twigs about.
- Robin Fox

10/23 - Milton, HRM 72: The soft, warm westerly breeze was enough to encourage migrating raptors. Over a two-hour period, we spotted Cooper's and sharp-shinned hawks, two immature eagles, a merlin, and no fewer than six red-tailed hawks.
- Tom Lake, TR Jackson

10/23 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: One of the joys of autumn is the almost nightly calls of barred owls and, occasionally, great horned owls. With Halloween a week away, their nightly serenade will add spice to the revels. It would be an added bonus if the local coyotes added their voices as well.
- Tom Lake

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