Hudson River Almanac September 9 - September 15, 2012
The fall migration of southward-bound birds and butterflies was fully underway. There are several hawk watches on promontories in the watershed where birders spend many hours counting the species diversity of the autumn migration. One such place is the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch in Westchester County, which we have featured this week.
HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK
9/15 - Monroe, Orange County, HRM 46: We were watching two mute swans grace Round Lake when there was a sudden commotion. Ten domestic ducks plus at least eight Canada geese that had been quietly feeding on the lawn facing Round Lake began quacking and honking loudly and then headed full-speed for the water. They all landed and formed a circle with the two swans joining them. As we stood there amazed, a large bird with a white head and tail flew over the assorted group. It did a few fly-bys with the noise as loud as ever and the group as tight as ever, before gracefully flying away. It was an adult bald eagle. With its departure, we all, waterfowl included, dispersed and calmly went back to what we were doing.
- Lyn Nelson, Debbie Korwan
NATURAL HISTORY NOTES
9/9 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 67.5: Foul weather brought in a cold front and, coincidently, it was also the last day we spotted any ruby-throated hummers at either of our hummingbird feeders despite freshly-made nectar. The yellow jackets had been feasting, however. There has been a rather handsome red fox hanging out in the yard creating alarm among the squirrels, chipmunks and birds. The small flock of wild turkeys that calls our property home normally swells this time of year. This year has been no different: three have grown to ten.
- Donna Lenhart, Bill Lenhart
9/10 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 69: Brisk northerlies along the beach at Clinton Point made this a "flight day" for airborne migrants. While counting monarchs (11 in 30 minutes) a pair of Cooper's hawks zoomed past over the edge of the woods. A dozen turkey vultures were doing pirouettes in the sky, eventually making their way downriver.
- Tom Lake
[While flight days occur during both spring and fall migration, they are most often recognized in autumn following the passage of a cold front. Brisk wind shifts to the north-northwest provide a tailwind boost to migrating birds and butterflies. With conservation of energy a foremost priority, they are able to cover long distances with a minimum expenditure of calories. Tom Lake.]
9/11 - Ulster Park, HRM 85: This was the last day that I saw hummingbirds at my feeders - an early departure.
- Bill Drakert
9/11 - Ulster County, HRM 78: At the Mohonk Education Orientation we did some pH sampling of surrounding water sources and lakes. We also had a sample of rain from the remnants of Hurricane Isaac. We all made our predictions as to what the pH would be - perhaps on the low end around 4.6 because of the track of the storm coming through the Midwest - but we were surprised as it tested to between 5.25 and 5.5, about the normal pH level for rain.
- Gayle Turowski
[The pH scale measures how acidic or basic a substance, such as water, is. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14 with a pH of 7.0 being neutral. If the pH is less than 7.0, the substance is acidic; if the pH is greater than 7.0, it is basic. Tom Lake.]
9/11 - Cold Spring, HRM 54: This was a flight morning until midday when the winds diminished. But while it was blowing strongly from the northwest, we watched a steady drift of vultures, nearly all turkey vultures, heading south through the Hudson Highlands. Crabbers on the pier were having their way with blue crabs, all in the six to seven inch (carapace width) range and nearly all males (Jimmies).
- Tom Lake, T.R. Jackson
9/11 - Bedford, Westchester County, HRM 35: The Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch spotted a light-morph Swainson's hawk today, a very nice find. Unfortunately, the distance at which the bird was observed prevented us from being able to determine whether the bird was an adult or juvenile.
- Genevieve Rozhon, Angela Woodside
[Swainson's hawk, a buteo or "buzzard hawk," is quite rare but of annual occurrence in the eastern U.S. during fall migration. This species breeds in western North America and winters in South America. The Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch has had two previous records, one from 1987 and one from 1994. Tait Johansson.]
9/12 - Germantown, HRM108: We have had a nice push of monarchs going across my yard for several weeks now. The buddleia is in full bloom with monarchs and other butterflies covering the blossoms.
- Mimi Brauch
9/12 - Bedford, HRM 35: One hundred twenty-one broad-winged hawks passed the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch today bringing the season total to 740 birds. One of the broad-wings spotted to the south appeared to have one "wonky" or broken wing. Other raptors counted today included 44 sharp-shinned hawks, nine American kestrels, eight osprey, and two male northern harriers ("gray ghosts").
- Genevieve Rozhon, Adam Zorn, Angela Woodside, Jack Kozuchowski, Tait Johansson
9/12 - Woodstock, HRM 102: I had the pleasure today of watching a short stretch of stream-side forest at mid-day. A red fox with a bad case of mange came through. It stopped at the base of a large pine and scratched and groomed itself for five minutes before moving on into an open grassy area. Nearby, a fawn grazed with its gaunt mother that stood on three legs and had recently lost half her hair as well. Her udders were swollen. Where was her second fawn? I watched for a half hour before the one with mama pricked its ears and bleated, then trotted off to greet its sibling. They seemed to touch faces or necks, then returned to their mother and began to nurse. Their tails flicked about wildly the whole two minutes they suckled. Then mama moved a little away and the fawns resumed grazing on shrubs.
- Krista Munger
9/12 - Clinton Point, Dutchess County, HRM 69: The low topography at the mouth of the Casper Kill emerges as a wide swath of sandy beach and extensive shallows at low tide, making an ideal location to haul a seine. Across several hauls of our 85-footer, we netted many hundreds of killifish 46-86 millimeters long [mm]. Nearly all were banded killies with only a few mummichogs mixed in. The only other species was a dozen young-of-the-year [YOY] striped bass (71-72 mm). I slipped on my snorkel and mask and made a pass across the area; visibility on the ebb tide was ten feet - extraordinary for the estuary - and counted scores of small blue crab moults. The river was 80 degrees Fahrenheit; a hundred feet away the water exiting the Casper Kill from Cobalt Lake was 73 degrees F. As we wrapped up our gear to leave, a pair of fish crows exchanged calls one from either side of the Casper Kill.
- Tom Lake, A. Danforth
9/13 - Albany County, HRM 138: On a perfect September afternoon we gathered with a group of 23 College of Saint Rose undergraduate pre-service teachers at Henry Hudson Park to run our final Day in the Life of the River workshop. The seine net pulled in five small river herring that delighted the students with their sharp-edged saw-bellies and their ability to shed (deciduous) scales. Our sediment core samples were pulled from around the corner at the mouth of the Vloman Kill and each one showed two distinctive layers: a small grained mud layer below and a larger-grained, sandy overlay. We hypothesized that 2011's tropical storms Irene and Lee played a large role in the coarse overlay. We have seen this elsewhere in the river.
- Margie Turrin, Chris Bowser, Zoraida Maloney
9/13 - Clinton Point, HRM 69: Another day with a fresh northwest breeze aiding the dozen or more monarchs we counted over a half-hour. The surprise of the afternoon was a migrating rough-legged hawk, teetering on the wind like a kestrel as it did an aerial search over the low shrubs along the Casper Kill. I spent some time on the low tide at the mouth of the Casper Kill and upstream a short distance looking for mitten crabs or their sheds, and found none.
- Tom Lake
[To my knowledge, no one has seen a mitten crab in the Hudson River in 2011 or 2012. No one has seen a mitten crab in St. Lawrence River for about five years. However, two were reported in Maryland and Delaware in 2011. This year there was a confirmed mitten crab in the Mianus River, CT, and one was reported from Maryland. Bob Schmidt.]
[The invasive Chinese mitten crab is native to East Asia. They were first reported along the East Coast of the United States in 2005. Mitten crabs can be found in both freshwater and saltwater environments and based on its environmental tolerance, this crab has the potential to spread south to Florida and the Gulf of Mexico. For more information on mitten crabs, visit http://mittencrab.nisbase.org/ . Tom Lake.]
9/13 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: This morning we spotted an osprey perched on a piling at the Croton Yacht Club. He hung around for 30 minutes before taking off. We looked at him through my marine binoculars and he filled the field-of-view with huge, nasty looking talons.
- Bob Boothe, Mary Ann Boothe
[Nearly all of the osprey we see along the estuary from spring through autumn are migrants that nest from points far to the northwest to northeast. For reasons that are not entirely clear, osprey have had difficulties nesting along the Hudson River estuary. One successful nesting has been on a light tower in the Tappan Zee; it has fledged young in each of the past two seasons. There have been a few other attempts that have failed, one at Croton Bay. Tom Lake.]
9/13 - Bedford, HRM 35: Although we only counted a moderate number of raptors at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch today, many of the hawks seen were flying rather low, giving pretty good looks overall. One adult bald eagle passed by the Hawkwatch at eye level, unbelievably close. We also were treated to the sight of three northern harriers, one osprey, and one sharp-shinned hawk all at the same time. Our monarch butterfly count was 49.
- Genevieve Rozhon, Adam Zorn, Angela Woodside, Laurie Goodrich
[The observation point for the Hawkwatch at Chestnut Ridge in Bedford is at an elevation of about 770 feet with a 180-degree view oriented to the east. Organized birders have been observing migrating raptors from Chestnut Ridge since at least 1978. Tait Johansson.]
9/14 - Kowawese, HRM 59: Not long after dawn, a fresh southerly breeze blew upriver through the Highlands, promising a warm day. On such a beautiful morning it was therapeutic to get in the water (78 degrees F). Through the clear waist-deep water we could see a dozen or more recently moulted blue crab sheds. As we seined, our catch was dominated by YOY striped bass with a broader size range (55-74 mm) than we had been seeing. Atlantic silversides were still in the shallows, suggesting some salt in the water - 2.5 parts per thousand [ppt].
- Tom Lake, A, Danforth
9/14 - Bedford, HRM 35: We saw dueling merlins today from the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch. They appeared out of the east and proceeded to have an aerial engagement before heading southwest. Other highlights included a peregrine falcon (first of the season for Chestnut Ridge), an immature bald eagle, and 15 American kestrels.
- Genevieve Rozhon, Angela Woodside, Chet Friedman, Jack Kozuchowski, Ted Anderson
9/15 - Ulster Landing, HRM 97: We have completed our volunteer assessment of submerged aquatic vegetation beds numbers 19-22, to assess the lingering late summer damage of last year's tropical storms Irene and Lee. We primarily conducted visuals rather than ascertaining every point as it was quite obvious that there was no vegetation (wild celery) in these assigned beds. Other volunteers have also reported not much wild celery although there was a believed to be a healthy bed in Stockport Flats (river mile 122). John Sperr found one single stem of Eurasian water milfoil at Goldrick's Landing, just north of the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge (river mile 96), but that was it.
- Peg Duke
9/15 - Norrie Point, HRM 85: On National Estuaries Day - also the 30th anniversary of the Hudson River National Estuarine Research Reserve - DEC conducted a public day of Science on the River at the Norrie Point Education Center. Among an array of estuarine research exhibits and displays was our public fishing program I Fish NY (see http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/44804.html). At one point in the afternoon, 73 people were engaged either holding a rod and reel or providing encouragement to those who were. Among the fish caught by participants were American eel, white perch, yellow perch, bluegill, pumpkinseed sunfish, and one pumpkinseed x green sunfish hybrid. Phillip Thagouras was "high hook" (four fish), including a ten-inch-long yellow perch. The river was 73 degrees F. (Photo of bluegill by Chris Bowser.)
- Tom Lake, Jim Herrington
9/15 - Beacon, HRM 61: The late afternoon high tide somehow looked different as we walked onto the beach at Long Dock. The incredibly expansive beds of water chestnut that had stretched nearly a mile south to Denning's Point all summer were gone, apparently flushed away in the current. In addition to tessellated darters, white perch, and striped bass, we caught dozens of tiny blue crabs, no more than 4.0 mm carapace width, as small as they can be and still be recognizable as decapods. None of them displayed the gorgeous cerulean blue claws they will have as they grow and mature; all were dark brown, matching the river bottom's sand and sediments - an adaptation for survival. The river was 78 degrees F and the salinity remained at 2.5 ppt.
- Tom Lake, T.R. Jackson
9/15 - Bedford, HRM 35: There were a few broad-wing "kettles" today (30 birds in one; 25 birds in another). The broad-winged hawk total count for the season is now at 941 birds. The Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch also had a few nice looks at low-flying American kestrels and one merlin.
- Genevieve Rozhon, Adam Zorn, Angela Woodside, Chet Friedman, Dan Heldridge, Hank Webber, Jan Linskey, Jim Jones, Nannette Orr, Pat Linskey, Tait Johansson, Ted Anderson
[During migration, broad-winged hawks will track each other's movements; when one finds a thermal - a rising column of warm air - and starts circling upward, others will fly into that thermal and do the same thing. The end result is a kettle - a bunch of hawks "boiling" upward in a group. After riding the thermal to great height, the hawks peel off one after the other, set their wings, and glide southward to the next thermal where they kettle upward again. Steve Stanne.]
9/15 - Brooklyn, New York City: Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy staff conducted a seining program in the East River directly under the Manhattan Bridge. Invertebrates among our catch included blue crabs, shore shrimp, hermit crabs, comb jellies, Asian shore crabs, and sea squirts. The fish included northern stargazer, skilletfish, a small porgy (either a scup or pinfish; identification pending), and an oyster toadfish that was hiding in a tire we pulled out of the East River.
- Cynthia Fowx
[This is the second skilletfish (Gobiesox strumosus) that we are aware of for the estuary. Skilletfish was added to our Hudson River fish fauna list on April 13, 2011, from a 52 mm-long fish collected by The River Project from the Upper Bay of New York Harbor. Tom Lake.]