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Hudson River Almanac August 23 - August 31, 2012

OVERVIEW

This week was the first anniversary of Hurricane-turned-Tropical Storm Irene, which - coupled with the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee - drenched our area with record rainfall. One impact of storms that occur during bird migration can be an incredible "fallout" of rarely seen species. Such was the case in the Hudson Valley one year ago.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

8/31 - Beacon, HRM 61: We could not resist the opportunity to haul our net under a gorgeous full moon - a blue moon - on a starry night at Long Dock. There is something very special about seining after dark: the already mysterious depths become even more ethereal, leaving expectation to run wild. Our first few hauls glistened in the net under the moonlight: young-of-the-year [YOY] white perch 65-66 millimeters [mm] long, striped bass (70-71 mm), and the ubiquitous spottail shiners. On our last haul we dug a little deeper and lifted the seine a little quicker and in the back of the net was a small school of YOY bay anchovies (60-65 mm). This was about as far upriver as we have ever seen these salt-to-brackish water fish. The river was 79 degrees Fahrenheit and the salinity was 3.0 parts per thousand [ppt].

- Tom Lake, A. Danforth

[The term blue moon refers to the second of two full moons occurring in one calendar month. Tom Lake.]

[The bay anchovy (Anchoa mitchilli), a small and delicate fish rarely exceeding 85 mm in length, is a common inshore species along the Atlantic Coast south to the Gulf of Mexico. They produce huge year classes to compensate for the fact that they are preyed upon by nearly every predator that swims in the river. While their center of abundance in the estuary ranges from Haverstraw Bay south to New York Harbor, DEC did collect some adults at the Federal Dam at Troy (river mile 153) in 1983. Tom Lake.]

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

[In last week's Almanac (see 8/17 - Knox), we commented on hearing late summer birdsong that sounded much like spring and early summer breeding season. Larry Federman responded with an explanation. Tom Lake.]

8/23 - Catskill, HRM 113: People have been asking us why they hear birds and frogs singing these days. The phenomena is called "autumnal recrudescence" and is triggered by temperatures and the length of days in the late summer/fall that are similar to those of the spring.

- Larry Federman

8/23 - Ulster Park, HRM 85: For the last two weeks we have had many ruby-throated hummingbirds at the feeders, but yesterday we had a male Baltimore oriole on the deck. I have not seen one that close in years. Our Carolina wren is also a regular, but not nearly as flashy.

- William Drakert

8/24 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 34: I had the good fortune to see a great blue heron fly to the train trestle pilings at the Echo Canoe Boat Launch with a huge catfish. The heron worked on that catfish for quite awhile, eventually trying to swallow it headfirst, before slamming the fish down on the concrete pad over and over to kill it. A lovely adult bald eagle flew in but did not challenge the heron for the fish. It watched patiently from a tall tree across the Croton River. An angler coming downstream to the boat launch spooked the heron and it took off with the fish, heading down into Inbuckie Cove. I wondered which bird ended up with the fish.

- Bonnie Talluto

[Inbuckie and Crawbuckie are colloquial names used to describe the mile of shoreline between the mouth of the Croton River and Ossining (river miles 34-33). The origin of the names is hazy but they have been commonly used by local commercial fishermen for well over a century. Crawbuckie is the low-tide beach facing Croton Bay made famous in the 1960s and 70s by striped bass anglers when catching one of any size was big news. Inbuckie is the adjacent tidal bay inside the railroad tracks. Prior to the early nineteenth century, they were one embayment. Tom Lake.]

8/25 - Hastings on Hudson, HRM 21.5: A morning stop to check out Kinnally Cove for seining found a low tide and a morass of mud that prevented us from netting the fish we knew were there. However, a look along the rocks found a live oyster that had managed to survive the surge of fresh water from the tropical storms of last summer.

- Margie Turrin, Steve Stanne, Zoraida Maloney

8/25 - Yonkers, HRM 18: A morning seine at a Day in the Life of the River teacher workshop turned up eleven species including a YOY winter flounder (50 mm), two northern pipefish, four American eels, two northern kingfish, a naked goby, and the rather common Atlantic silversides, striped bass, comb jellies, mummichogs, shore shrimp, and some young blue crabs. The water was a warm 82 degrees F and the salinity was a brackish 10.0 ppt.

- Margie Turrin, Steve Stanne, Zoraida Maloney

8/25 - Manhattan, HRM 2: It was a hot but breezy day on the river as staff and friends of the Hudson River Park Trust and the Student Conservation Association gathered on Pier 40 to recognize the work of the eight SCA members who served as environmental educators for Hudson River Park this summer. Through Big City Fishing, Hudson River Park Wild!, Science on the River, and many other programs, the SCA members introduced over 2,000 park visitors to the diverse wildlife found on and in our river. As we celebrated their service, we were watched from the water by a sleek double-crested cormorant, just one of the many species that call Hudson River Park home.

- Ann Pedtke


8/26 - Iona Island, HRM 45.5: While sampling for submerged aquatic plant beds of wild celery in the small inlet north of Iona Island, I noticed a double-crested cormorant emerge from the river wrestling with a nice sized fish in its bill. Immediately, a gull squawked into action, diving at the cormorant that was still sitting on the water. It wasn't long before the cormorant lost the fish in all the chaos. A few follow-up dives didn't result in re-filling the bill and both birds left without a meal. Along with the cormorant, we also spotted an osprey and an adult bald eagle hunting the river.

- Margie Turrin, Pat Grove

[The submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) monitoring program is run through Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, working with kayakers on the river as part of a citizen science project. Margie Turrin.]

8/26 - Denning's Point, HRM 60: I was interested in the notes on the "changing of the guard" between the channel catfish and white catfish [see 8/10 - Catskill]. I caught a five pound channel catfish off Denning's Point today. I'm surprised that more of a sport fishery for them hasn't developed.

- Stephen Seymour

8/27 - Selkirk, HRM 135: As I was driving home from work, what did I see ambling across Collaback Road like a drunken soldier but a porcupine. Porcupines do not move fast so it is no wonder you see them dead on roadsides. Porcupines are not afraid of anything - I cannot tell you how many quills I've pulled out of dog snouts - but they are no match for an automobile.

- Roberta S. Jeracka

8/27 - Ashokan Reservoir, HRM 91: I watched an adult bald eagle at the South Basin of the reservoir today. It was carrying a fish in its talons as it soared over us to the aerators.

- Carol Countryman

8/27 - Esopus Meadows, HRM 87: I stopped by Esopus Meadows Preserve this morning and looking out over the Hudson counted eleven great egrets and five great blue herons standing and flying over the water chestnut, searching for the perfect place to fish and forage. Closer to shore, two pied-billed grebes were taking turns diving below the water chestnut as four spotted sandpipers darted just above the surface. As I was about to leave, I watched an immature bald eagle flying downriver toward me. It flew right over my head. What a great sight.

- Jamie Collins

8/27 - Yorktown, HRM 44: As I was driving to work I got a close look (less than 15 feet away) at a lone black vulture. It was sidling in a tentative way toward a road-killed raccoon, pausing only briefly to look up at passing cars; it did not seem bothered by having to share the road. I didn't have much time to watch it as there were other cars behind mine, but the black-and-gray head and bare grayish legs were unmistakable.

- Susan Butterfass

8/28 - Hudson Valley: As Tropical Storm Irene struck the Hudson Valley one year ago today, area rainfall totals ranged from 11.5 inches in East Durham (Greene), to 11.48 in Tuxedo Park (Orange) to 8.15 in Yonkers (Westchester).

- National Weather Service

8/28 - Beacon, HRM 61: One year ago today, Irene's storm surge made its way upriver with the midday high tide, and it was impressive. The river had risen and overrun the flood plain; a strong west wind was pushing the water shoreward and Long Dock Park was totally under water ranging from two to four feet deep. As precipitation finally ended late in the day, the rainfall total had reached 8.03 inches.

- Tom Lake

8/28 - Beacon, HRM 61: Sometimes we have to go with the tide we're dealt and today's late morning high tide at Long Dock proved difficult. This is a mid-to-low tide beach; otherwise you are seining in the trees. We persevered and managed to get several hauls; each contained only YOY banded killifish (31-39 mm), a hundred or more per haul. The river was 80 degrees F; the salinity was 2.5 ppt.

- Tom Lake, T.R. Jackson

8/28 - Croton Bay, HRM 34: One year ago today, a sooty tern, a rare visitor blown here by the storm, was spotted fishing the bay.

- Christopher Letts

8/28 - Sleepy Hollow, HRM 28: One year ago today, a black-necked stilt was spotted at the former General Motors facility on the Hudson River. In addition, we identified three bridled terns and three Wilson's storm petrels all pushed on shore by the tropical storm.

- Evan Edelbaum, Ben Van Doren, Bob Lewis, Lewis Lolya, Michael Lolya

8/29 - Rensselear County, HRM 141: One year ago today, a white-tailed tropicbird was recovered as it sat on the side of the road in Stephentown. This was one of several white-tailed tropicbird reports from the Hudson Valley following the passing of Irene.

- Jesse Jaycox

8/29 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 68: We could not recall ever seeing vultures fly in such a determined fashion. We watched four black vultures in a broad formation overhead, headed south in migration. We are used to seeing them, even in migration, spending much time playing on warm wind-blown thermals in high-flying kettles.

- Tom Lake, T.R. Jackson

8/29 - Wappinger Falls, HRM 68: I saw my first southbound nighthawk of the season tonight night. It looks like most of our neighborhood chimney swifts have left already.

- Stephen Seymour

8/29 - Fishkill, HRM 61: The goldenrod growing in my yard has been attracting bees and other insects, including banded hairstreak butterflies. These butterflies are small - a little larger than one's thumbnail - and grayish brown with subtle markings of blue and orange.

- Ed Spaeth

8/29 - Brooklyn, New York City: Kaheem Evans was fishing in Jamaica Bay off the Gateway National Recreation Area's Canarsie Pier when he hooked and landed a loggerhead turtle. The immature sea turtle was about two feet long and had a silver tag on its front flipper indicating that it had been tagged and released by the National Park Service in Florida. Kaheem contacted the Riverhead Foundation, a marine mammal and sea turtle rescue organization; they came and rescued the sea turtle for rehabilitation and a return to the bay.

- Bill Hutchinson

[Loggerheads (Caretta caretta) are sea turtles found in temperate seas worldwide and are probably the most abundant species of sea turtle found in the coastal waters of North America. The northwest Atlantic population of loggerhead turtles has been designated as threatened by the National Marine Fisheries Service. The major threat to their population is incidental by-catch capture in commercial fishing gear. Growing to three feet long and 300 pounds, they feed on hard-shelled mollusks such as conch and whelk. We have knobbed as well as channeled whelk in our New York Bight coastal waters. Tom Lake.]

8/30 - Verbank, HRM 81: We have a doe and her triplets that were born in early summer; they still come to my yard every morning. I have nothing special planted that draws them other than a large green lawn. It seems that I always have many white-tailed deer in my yard but this is the first time I have seen triplets. They are growing big and look healthy.

- Audrey Walker

A female white-tailed deer is followed by her three young triplets

[In New York State, triplet fawns are not uncommon in areas where the deer population is healthy and below carrying capacity. Kevin Clarke, NYSDEC Wildlife Biologist. Photo by Audrey Walker.]

8/30 - Beacon, HRM 61-60: What a glorious summer day to walk along beside the Hudson on the Klara Sauer Trail from Long Dock to Denning's Point. We saw lots of wildlife on the river including cormorants, egrets, great blue herons, a green heron, Canada geese, a turtle, and numerous unidentified small fish leaping up out of the water every now and then. Along the trail we counted many monarch butterflies and saw one black rat snake seeking refuge under the old railroad tracks.

- David Burke and family, Carolyn Plage, Ed Connelly

(The small fish described here were likely YOY river herring, possibly alewives, blueback herring, or even American shad. They were either feeding or being fed upon! Tom Lake.]

8/30 - Kowawese, HRM 59: Through necessity, our investigation of the river's fishes caught another midday high tide. However, we managed to make it useful with three hauls before the water grew too deep. Each haul was unique: The first was entirely comprised of spottail shiners, four dozen adults and YOY; the second was entirely YOY striped bass (71-73 mm); and the third was completely Atlantic silversides, with each of the three dozen fish almost the exact same size (75 mm). The river was 79 degrees F and the salinity was 2.5 ppt.

- Tom Lake, Benji Depole, T.R. Jackson

8/30 - West Point, HRM 51: Over the last two days, I noticed that the tree swallows and cliff swallows that I have seen all summer at South Dock and along Thayer Road are gone. That seems early, but I guess they have already started to migrate.

- Doug Gallagher

8/30 - Lake Meahagh, HRM 40.5: One year ago today, the sight of a diving sandwich tern at the entrance to the Viking Boatyard in Verplanck had me out of the truck and across Kings Ferry Road, pronto. The bird plucked a small silver fish from the water and flew to within fifty yards of me, where it dipped again to present the fish to its chick. The chick got two more fish and then the adult circled the young one with a fourth fish. No free lunch this time - the adult flew over the boatyard, loudly crying, the chick followed.

- Christopher Letts

8/30 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: I was away from my garden for a week and returned to find the dogwood leaves tinged with their special fall russet coloring and their berries bright red. I'd left the hummingbird feeders over-flowing-full, hoping to keep the birds happy for a while. I refilled the feeders but now, days later, they are almost untouched. I wonder if the little birds thought I'd abandoned them and took a ride on the winds to start their migration. This morning I found the first signs of the fall crocus (Colchicum) poking up amidst the jumble of late summer's greenery. It seems to me that this is all happening much too fast. Or as Shakespeare put it, "Summer's lease hath all too short a date."

- Robin Fox

8/31 - Constitution Marsh, HRM 52: A friend and I were kayaking in Constitution Marsh Sanctuary at low tide near sunset. In a stretch of the marsh channel, the water was so shallow that we had to drag the kayaks through the mud to reach a deeper section. In these shallows, killifish began skipping across the water in every direction. Big and small, they were "dancing" along the surface on their tails, doing somersaults in the air and even leaping into my cupped hands. It was like a moment out of a Disney movie that left us laughing but also wondering about this odd behavior. Why were the killifish behaving like this?

- Maija Lisa Niemisto

[Assuming that the fish were not simply reacting in pandemonium to the waders, the scene described was typical killifish feeding behavior. A good percentage of their diet consists of insect larvae, especially mosquito. Like trout rising to a hatch, killifish take their catch on or near the surface of the water. Tom Lake.]

8/31 - Croton River, HRM 34: One year ago today, the gulls, terns, and wading birds were having a feast in the lower Croton River on the thousands of formerly landlocked "sawbellies" (alewives) that Irene's floodwaters had swept over the Croton Reservoir dam a few miles upstream.

- Christopher Letts

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