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Hudson River Almanac November 24 - November 30, 2011

OVERVIEW

Indian Summer has become "Indian Autumn" as we experienced a week of warm air with daily air temperatures along the tidewater Hudson as much as ten degrees Fahrenheit above what is considered normal. Yet the Hudson Valley flyway continued to draw winter songbirds and waterfowl south, indicating that length of daylight, rather than air temperature, may be the prime motivator.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

11/30 - Gardiner, HRM 73: I was in deep twilight, deer rifle season, and just about to climb down from another pleasant, strangely warm sunset in my tree stand, when I heard a faint scrabbling in the tree next to me. Overhead I glimpsed a small shape leaping between branches - a strangely-shaped outline against the sky, but so tiny. Chipmunk, I figured, but must be a daring one to be so high up. Then the small shape, backlit by the last light in the sky, launched off a branch, spread out like a skydiver to the size of my hand, and zoomed overhead and downward into dark woods. A flying squirrel!

- Joe Hayes

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

11/24 - Town of Athens, HRM 116: There are plenty of YouTube videos to view the behavior of white-tailed deer, but there's nothing like seeing them up-close and personal. The doe at Cohotate Preserve stared at me and my dog, Loki, as she raised her left foreleg high to stomp the ground intently. The foot stomp is thought to be an alert to other deer of danger, or an attempt to startle a predator. Some believe an excess interdigital scent left on the ground tells other deer that there was danger in the area. My thought was that I had encountered the ungulate version of one of the high-stepping Radio City Music Hall Rockettes in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade.

- Fran Martino

11/24 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: It was a quiet, windless Thanksgiving night and sounds carried well. A chorus of coyotes emanating from the woods a quarter mile distant sounded clear enough to be practically underfoot. They had the local dogs in an uproar.

- Tom Lake, Phyllis Lake

11/24 - Denning's Point, HRM 60: Just off the point we spotted a red-throated loon and two long-tailed ducks on Thanksgiving Day.

- Clara Montenegro, Curt McDermott

11/25 - Esopus Meadows, HRM 87: Early this morning I spotted a river otter scampering across the tide flats at Esopus Meadows. I followed the otter up the tiny Klyne-Esopus Kill and watched it catch some small fish before it went scampering off into the morning mist. The "playful otter" behavior was on full display.

- David T. Conover

11/25 - New Hamburg, HRM 67.5: For some, the passage of time is measured by the loss of iconic figures, people who defined the time in which they lived. The legacy of the Hudson, since Colonial times, has been defined by people who felt, in their heart and soul, a loving and respectful connection to the river. The ranks of these "rivermen" have been decreasing in recent times, and today we lost another when Lawson Edgar died. Lawson was the consummate waterfowler, commercial fisherman, sport fisherman, and role model of love and respect for the Hudson River and its wildlife.

- Tom Lake

[For a while in the early 2000s, Lawson was my shad fishing partner. Below is a 2001 entry from April 23, 2001, Volume VIII of the Hudson River Almanac:

New Hamburg, HRM 67.5: We set our shad net in the last of the down tide at 1:40 PM. With the strong current of the new moon, we zipped right past Diamond Reef and down the river. The water was 49 F. Once the drift had run its course it seemed to take forever to pick the net in the 81 F heat. Our catch was a good one: 92 American shad, 60 of which were roe, the largest being 7 pounds and 27" long. The 57 gizzard shad and 35 striped bass went back in the river. One of the bass (23") carried a tag. As we were finishing up, DEC's Boston Whaler, Marine 3D, with Neil Watt and John Helmeyer aboard, came alongside to check our catch. By 6:00 PM we were headed home.

- Lawson Edgar, Tom Lake.

This striped bass had been tagged and released by the Hudson River Foundation, January 14, 1998, at HRM 3, Manhattan at West 33rd Street. It was 17.5" long when released and had grown 5.5" in 1195 days (three-and-a-quarter years). Tom Lake]

11/25 - Verplanck HRM 39.5: Four days in a row I have spotted two immature black scoters on Clay Pond. One day later I watched a pair of them diving in the river just north of the Viking Boatyard.

- Viki Goldberg

11/25 - New City, Rockland County, HRM 33: We took to the woods at Kennedy Dell Park the day after Thanksgiving, walking the dog as we walked off some turkey. As we passed through a section maintained as open field, an eastern bluebird landed on a tall weed jutting above the recently mowed field. The brilliant blue of the back feathers caught our eyes as he flew in; his rusty belly color evident after he landed. Grasping tightly as the weed swayed lightly in the breeze, the bluebird remained focused scanning the field for five minutes before taking off again. What a wonderful treat!

- Margie Turrin, Danielle Turrin, Jessica Turrin, Courtney Turrin, Schyler Turrin, Freddy Davis

11/26 - Rip Van Winkle Bridge, HRM 114: I was walking across the bridge in mid-morning when I looked down and saw a great blue heron on the mud flats near the eastern shore. Shouldn't the bird have flown south by now?

- Ripley Hathaway

[Great blue herons are very adaptable to the seasons. A few will hang around pretty much all winter as long as there is sufficient open water. When the "big freeze" comes in January, they will move south, but only as far as dependably open water where they can find fish. Tom Lake.]

11/26 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 75: The air temperature reached 63 degrees F today, tying the record high for the date.

- National Weather Service

11/27 - Cheviot, HRM 106: While walking on the roads around Cheviot these last few mild days, I have been seeing many huge black beetles on the road. They were walking, and they all seemed to be going the same general direction. Today I brought one home to identify and as far as I can tell, it is an oil beetle. They range from about an inch to an inch-and-a-half. From what I read, they seem to have some sort of relationship with bees. Very strange.

- Jude Holdsworth

[Charles Darwin and most of his colleagues were beetle collectors. All of us should be doing the same. The beetles in question are probably blister beetles, a relative of oil beetles. They tend to be slow moving and feel kind of soft rather than armored like most beetles. The family is Meloidae and the local species is Moloe angusticollis, the short-winged blister beetle. They are capable of releasing a chemical that can cause blistering of the skin. The oil beetles, a different genus, are more southern and are not in the Northeast. Oil beetles have a relationship with ground nesting solitary bees. The beetles lay their eggs at the base of flowers. The larval beetles migrate up onto the flower and then arrange themselves in a pattern that mimics the shape of a female solitary bee. They also release a chemical that is similar to a pheromone that female bees release. This attracts a male bee that lands on the flower and tries to mate with the group of beetle larvae. The larvae grab onto the male bee, which eventually gives up and flies away. When he finds a real female bee and mates with her, the beetle larvae jump off him and onto her. The female bee leaves and goes to dig a hole, stocks the hole with dead insects, and lays eggs. The beetle larvae drop off the female and live in the hole, consuming the insects and the bee eggs and larvae. Bob Schmidt.]

11/27 - Croton Point, HRM 34.5: Another day of shirt sleeves weather. It seemed appropriate to find a flock of bluebirds foraging on the landfill - very tame, very pretty.

- Christopher Letts

11/27 - Croton River, HRM 34: I watched a shoal of tiny, silvery baitfish spray out of the water as they were pursued by some sizeable - several pounds each - predator fish. A great blue heron perched on an abutment of the railroad bridge watching a flock of common mergansers swim past.

- Christopher Letts

11/28 - New Hamburg, HRM 67.5: I had an interesting nocturnal sighting of my friendly beaver. While crossing our bridge from island to mainland after dark, I noticed a familiar chevron pattern in the water, moving steadily under where I was standing. The light from the nearby marina outlined the top of its head - all that was showing above the surface - as it swam strongly in the current.

- David Cullen

11/28 - Cold Spring, HRM 54: Despite considerably cloudiness, a summer-like south breeze bathed the waterfront in warm air. A large, dark raptor caught our eye as it quartered the breeze, making its way across the river toward Crow's Nest. It was an immature bald eagle. We watched it land on the wooded hillside and with a widening view we could see three other immatures perched nearby. At that distance (a mile), even with 10x binoculars, there is a chance that one or more of the others could have been golden eagles - several goldens have wintered next door on Storm King mountain in recent years - but it is more likely that these were early-season migrants from points north and east.

- TR Jackson, Tom Lake

11/28 - Manhattan, HRM 5: The air temperature reached 70 degrees F today, a record high for the date. It was the warmest November 28 in 142 years, or as long as daily records have been kept.

- National Weather Service

11/29 - Columbia County, HRM 118: A walk at Olana State Historic Site always seems to offer subtle surprises. Today it was a great blue heron enjoying the warm breeze at the pond, bass rising to the surface to snack on flying insects, and Queen Anne's lace in full flower, tucked protected under a picnic table. Surprises found on a warm day at the end of November.

- Fran Martino

11/29 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 75: The air temperature reached 65 degrees F today, tying the record high for the date.

- National Weather Service

11/29 - Denning's Point, HRM 60: This morning I counted three common loons and a great cormorant in the bay at Denning's Point.

- Rob Stone

11/29 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: On this warm, moist day, the penultimate day of November, my roses opened another bunch of blossoms and a forsythia bush bloomed in my yard.

- Robin Fox

11/29 - Croton Point, HRM 35-34: It was almost balmy; mosquitoes were biting. The list of bird species was short, only ten in a brisk hour-long walk that covered most of the peninsula. I did have four sightings of an adult peregrine falcon, a wary bird that flushed at a distance of a hundred yards or more. Against the cloudy, misty sky it was a haunting sight.

- Christopher Letts

11/29 - Sleepy Hollow, HRM 28: There was very limited visibility on the river this morning. A prudent lighthouse keeper would have turned on the big bell. The Palisades across the river were veiled in blue haze, mysterious and seemingly far more distant than two miles. The RV Riverkeeper steamed past; it is nice to have that presence on the river.

- Christopher Letts

11/29 - Verrazano Narrows, New York City: A snowy owl was spotted by anglers at Hoffman Island in the Lower Bay of New York Harbor.

- Erica Hoffman

[Fall and winter incursions of snowy owls are more or less regular occurrences every few years or so, and are thought to be caused by low numbers of their prey to the north: hares and lemmings. Unfortunately, many of the snowy owls that show up in our area are badly malnourished. Eric Lind, National Audubon]

11/30 - New Hamburg, HRM 67.5: The resident great blue heron stood immobile on the docks at the local marina, awaiting a favorable tide to fish in its favorite spot just in front of our house.

- David Cullen

11/30 - Croton River, HRM 34: The morning executive committee meeting of the "Boyz at the Bridge" was briefly (ten minutes) interrupted by a hunting osprey working right over our heads. The main stem of the Hudson is still opaque with the silt load from the late summer storms, and churned by the wind, so the bird was hunting in the relatively calm and clear waters of the lower Croton. We didn't see it dive, and so we went without our last osprey thrill for the year. As it turned south and disappeared, Midge remarked "That's the second one this morning." A first-year bald eagle flew directly overhead and the conversation took a turn in that direction.

- Christopher Letts, Jack Hoye, Midge Taub

[The Boyz at the Bridge are an eclectic mix of both men and women whose common bond is social interaction. While they number 30-40 individuals, rarely more than 5-6 are present at any one time. Some of them are retired, but others arrive from their night jobs, extended coffee breaks, or long lunch hours to spend five minutes or an hour, touching base, learning the latest. The Bridge is the Croton-on-Hudson railroad trestle over the mouth of the Croton River, where it meets Croton Bay. The setting is a bench at the village boat launch where canoes, kayaks and car-toppers are set into the Croton River. The dirt, sand, and gravel launch is a conduit for stories from crabbers, fishermen, paddlers, birdwatchers, and river lovers. Seasonally the air is filled with ospreys and eagles, shorebirds and wading birds, sunrises, sunsets, and storms. These, in and of themselves, provide context for the stories told and retold. Christopher Letts.]

11/30 - Sleepy Hollow, HRM 28: A class from Yonkers, visiting the Tarrytown Lighthouse at Kingsland Point Park, was re-boarding their bus when a flock of snow buntings swirled right over their heads. Their eyes were elsewhere, so they missed the "flying snowflakes."

- Christopher Letts

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