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Hudson River Almanac October 23 - October 31, 2011


An untimely "winter storm" with record-breaking snowfall struck the Hudson Valley on October 29. As it occurred with leaves still on many hardwood trees, the resulting damage left many thousands of homes with no electrical power. October 26 and 27 saw "king tides" on the Hudson, the highest high and lowest low tides of the year generated by the celestial physics that govern tidal cycles.


10/24 - Greendale-on-Hudson, HRM 112.5: While fishing for smallmouth bass on the east side of the river across from Catskill, a friend and I witnessed a great fisherman - an immature bald eagle - perched in a large tree fifty yards from us. We were impressed that the bird had not left the area since we were relatively close. The eagle moved to another, closer perch along the shoreline we were fishing before swooping down and picking up an eel near shore. Since its dive was accurate the eagle spent the next several minutes enjoying its catch, all within close proximity to our boat.
- R.E. Booth


10/23 - Wappinger Falls, HRM 68: We had a changing of the guard today: The last of the monarchs floated by while the first of the season's dark-eyed juncos foraged for seeds.
- Stephen M. Seymour

10/23 - Croton Point, HRM 34.5: While walking the landfill on this blustery day, with treetops tossed by strong southerlies, a flock of about 150 cormorants passed overhead, not making very good progress. Then a flock of perhaps 50 brant swept in from the west, right over my head, over the marsh, and pitched into Croton Bay. A few minutes later, a second flock did the same. Blown off the river? Down near the railroad bridge at the mouth of the Croton River, the season's first flock of coot was trailing a mixed flock of mallards, black ducks, and one wigeon. The half dozen monarchs I saw were sticking close to the flowers and the ground.
- Christopher Letts

10/24 - Croton Point, HRM 34.5: Flocks of robins and red-winged blackbirds were passing overhead continually this morning. From the top of the landfill, I flushed a snipe from a tiny wet spot the size of a bathtub. A bit later, two greater yellowlegs were dipping and bobbing on the north-side beach.
- Christopher Letts

10/25 - New Paltz, HRM 78: I heard what was likely to be my last katydid of the season after dark on Huguenot Street.
- Steve Stanne

10/26 - Wappinger Falls, HRM 68: I heard this evening what will probably be my last katydids of the season. When they can only manage a two-note call, the party's just about over.
- Stephen M. Seymour

10/26 - Beacon, HRM 61: The midday high tide was a big one; the new moon, pushed by a strong south breeze, had produced a spring tide that swept over the beach at Long Dock Park and invaded the flood plain. I spotted three monarchs, all resting on tree limbs riding out the unfavorable travel conditions. A large flock of mixed blackbirds, mostly red-wings, were keeping a low profile while moving through.
- Tom Lake

[On most coastlines of the world there are two high and two low tides each day. The day referred to is not the solar day but the lunar day, a 24-hour-and-51-minute average interval between successive moon-rises. The tides are produced by gravitational and centrifugal forces generated primarily between the moon and the earth, with some refinements added by the sun. Tom Lake.]

10/27 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Higher ground, like 2,685-foot Goodnow Mountain, had a good covering of snow on the slopes down to about 2500 feet in the early morning. There was just a light dusting of snow covered the ground in Newcomb. A flock of more than 100 brant flew very low over Rich Lake about an hour after sunrise today. The poor lighting and the low clouds made them difficult to distinguish from the four or five flocks of Canada geese that were also moving that way, but their distinctive croak-like call identified them more easily. There was also a gray squirrel in the woods at Huntington Wildlife Forest. While that observation may sound mundane in more southern and suburban settings, gray squirrels are not a common sight in the central Adirondacks. We just don't have the oak trees and more importantly, the acorns, to sustain a population. This year's abundant beech nut crop might help the one I saw make it through to spring but I wouldn't have been surprised to see it carrying a lunch pail just in case.
- Charlotte Demers

10/27 - Millbrook, HRM 82: My neighbor (birding buddy) has had a dead white-tailed deer across the road from her house that an immature bald eagle and ravens have been working over. I get goldfinches and red-bellied woodpeckers in my yard, she gets eagles!
- Deb Kral

10/28 - Wappinger Creek, HRM 67.5: A cold, crisp morning revealed that many areas had snow overnight. A huge flock of Canada geese, more than 100 birds, had set down in the tidal Wappinger this morning at first light. They got the message.
- Tom Lake

10/28 - Putnam Valley, HRM 55.5: About an inch of snow was on the ground and garden this morning at 900-foot elevation. Six robins, ten resident bluebirds, and a few cedar waxwings came to enjoy the Callicarpa berries. The bluebirds are daily regulars at the berries while the others are more sporadic.
- Nancy P Durr

10/28 - Blooming Grove, HRM 55: This week we have been enjoying the songs of the newly-returned white-throated sparrows and quick flashes of the white tail-feathers of juncos. It is nice of these birds to show up when our summer visitors are gone.
- Betsy Hawes

10/28 - Croton Point, HRM 34.5: My approach to the landfill was from the northeast and, as always, I was paying attention to what my morning might bring. Four white-tailed does had their flags raised - four little snowdrifts on a field of brown. There was a handsome, tawny coyote jogging up the path toward them and I assumed that it was the reason for those half-mast flags. It wasn't. The coyote paused often to look back at me, and the deer moved steadily up slope, away from me. At one point the coyote passed within twenty feet as it trotted up the service road, with the deer barely on the other side of the gully. This was strange. Over the years I have become accustomed to walking within a few feet of unflappable deer. "Don't bother getting up for me," I often say to them. I have even had deer follow me, sometimes for quite a long distance. Is there a new predator on the block? The white-tail population is at a 20-year low. My guess is fewer than 15 at this point. I have not seen a spotted fawn for a dozen years - perhaps lay that to the coyotes - but something else is going on as well.
- Christopher Letts

10/29 - Selkirk, HRM 135: I was watching the nuthatches, a tufted titmouse and the downy woodpeckers at the suet feeder as the snow started to really come down. Suddenly a pileated woodpecker flew in and landed on the tree. I am always amazed at the size of this bird. It scurried up and down with no damage to the tree. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case for the trees after the heavy snowfall that evening.
- Roberta S. Jeracka

10/29 - Hudson Valley: A major nor'easter struck the Hudson Valley, dropping record snowfall for October. Some locations received 22-24 inches of snow. With many hardwoods still bearing their leaves, damage from trees falling on power lines was massive. Nearly two million homes in the Tri-State area (NJ-NY-CT) lost power.
- Tom Lake

10/29 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: From midday onward, a heavy snowfall fell onto the forests and fields. It did not take long for the "snaps" of brittle branches to become "cracks," and then more like cannon shots. Later, lives wires lit up the night and exploding transformers cast an eerie green light through the falling snow. Power was long gone and the cold crept inside.
- Tom Lake

10/30 - Germantown, HRM 108: On a beautiful but cold morning after the snowstorm, there must have been some very good thermals for raptor soaring. At various times, we were delighted to see both an adult and at least one immature bald eagle flying over the river and our house. It was, as always, thrilling to see them soaring. Watching a red-tailed hawk taking to the air currents only added to a great bird-watching morning.
- Cynthia Reichman

10/30 - Hopewell Junction, HRM 68: Over the last couple of days I have heard an amazing songbird and was wondering what would be around at this time of the year, making those beautiful sounds. After the storm today, as I watched out my window, I saw a very small bird flying around and into a Japanese maple. It was a male ruby-crowned kinglet. The bird was grayish, with marked white stripes on its wings, white rings around its eyes, 3-4 inches in length, and a red oblong dash of red on its crown. Apparently they are in migration.
- Elizabeth Athanasiou

10/30 - Furnace Woods, HRM 38.5: Most people were not venturing out today, though the roads here were clear. The bands of snow that turned us white yesterday were capricious, to say the least, with just a few inches here, while more than a foot a mile away. I judged the snow/water ratio to be about 3:1. Our home grove of hard maples had lost its leaves, so we had little damage. People with oaks had real issues.
- Christopher Letts

10/31 - Hyde Park, HRM 78: For many fans of the season, Halloween is a time to dress up scarily and go in search of tricks-or-treats. I have my own Hudson Valley Halloween tradition. I visit the grave of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a Jesuit theologian, paleontologist, and renowned naturalist who died in 1955 and who is buried on the grounds of the Culinary Institute. Mine were the first footprints in the new snow inside the gated cemetery. The Norway spruce had shed the heavy snow but several red oaks had lost some limbs. Newly-arrived dark-eyed juncos seemed to fill the shrubs and understory. Amidst a hundred or more identical gravestones, de Chardin's is easy to find. There is always a collection of items - fossils, shells, and other tokens of natural history - left by those paying homage. Two potted and blooming red roses stood out in contrast to the white snow and a bouquet of flowers was propped alongside. I left a small basalt pebble from a beach in the Galapagos Islands, made famous by Charles Darwin and his process of natural selection. Teilhard de Chardin agreed with Darwin and was able to reconcile his faith with modern science. That made him a truly unique individual in his time.
- Tom Lake

[This Halloween tradition is a low-profile, unofficial version of such better known examples as roses and cognac to Edgar Allan Poe's crypt in Baltimore, or flowers and poetry to Jim Morrison's grave in Paris. In the instance of de Chardin, it is very simply a means of remembering and appreciating a kindred soul. Tom Lake.]

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