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Hudson River Almanac September 16 - September 22, 2012

OVERVIEW

Frosty nights in the Adirondack Headwaters of the Hudson were sending a clear message to winged migrants. Raptors, led by an incredible number of broad-winged hawks, were following the Hudson Valley flyway south.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

9/18 - Minerva, HRM 284: This morning while returning from the transfer station a momma black bear crossed the road ahead of me, followed quickly by two cubs. The second cub was a tad slower than the first, and I had to hit the brakes and swerve to miss it. These were the sleekest, blackest little black bears I've seen in a long time. A half mile down the road four wild turkeys slowly made their way across the road in front of me. One of them was noticeably larger than the rest. Later, near the Minerva Central School, I helped hustle a large snapping turtle across the road.

- Milke Corey

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

9/16 - Esopus Creek, HRM 102: A fisherman came into my bait and tackle shop and showed me a six-inch-long fish he had caught (snagged on a crank-bait) in the tidewater Esopus. The fish was a young-of-the-year [YOY] Atlantic menhaden, a long way from home, being primarily a saltwater-brackish water herring.

- Tom Gentalen

9/16 - Germantown, HRM 108: My morning walk began rather mundanely with only a few flocks of migrating blue jays. But on my way back to the house I spotted the long neck of a great blue heron in the foliage by a small pond. This was the first time I was able to observe one for several minutes. There must have been something of interest in the vegetation for it extended its neck in an attempt to catch it. Later, I looked out the window and saw a sharp-shinned hawk perched on a branch overlooking our bird feeders, where it stayed for a while, I assume in hopes of catching its next meal.

- Cynthia Reichman

9/16 - Wappinger Falls, HRM 67.5: While sitting on my front porch this morning I was treated to the sight of a young red fox and a red squirrel roaming around in the field.

- Jen Kovach

9/16 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: This would be our last day for hummingbirds, always a sad time since they conjure up images of warm days and late sunsets. Last year they stayed around, or migrants came through, until October 2.

- Tom Lake

9/16 - Cornwall, HRM 57: Our resident red-tailed hawks were not around today, but we were excited to see a small kettle of eight broad-winged hawks right over our house. Later we spotted two troops of wild turkeys, each with a dozen or so birds, meandering across the road, not very concerned about anything at all.

- Sheryl Sturges, Jonathan Deull

9/16 - Crugers, HRM 39: After reading so many entries in the Hudson River Almanac about hummingbirds having left for the season, I was about to take down my feeder today when I saw one flying around near my monarda. I quickly filled the feeder with fresh nectar and hung it up again. Of course by then the bird was gone, but I hope it will return and fill up for its long migration.

- Susan Butterfass

9/16 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: I cleaned and refilled the hummingbird feeders in the last week, watched a few birds feed, but these last two days, the feeders have been occupied by only bees. I guess the hummingbirds have flown. I wish them safe flight, and a return next May.

- Robin Fox

9/16 - Bedford, HRM 35: The Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch observed at least three kettles of 100+ birds today and many smaller kettles of 35 birds or more. The broad-winged hawk number today was 1211 and the season total is now 2152, making up 69 percent of the total raptors sighted. Sharp-shined hawks were really on the move as well (93; season total 398). Many osprey were seen leading the streaming broad-wings as they came in right over us. The monarchs count today was 40.

- Genevieve Rozhon, Adam Zorn, Angela Woodside, Chet Friedman, Dan Heldridge,
Ed Williams, Jan Linskey, Janelle Robbins, Jim Jones, Nannette Orr, Pat Linskey, Steve Robbins, Tait Johansson, Ted Anderson

[Kettle is a birding term that describes a collection of birds, usually raptors or vultures, often circling overhead in warm, rising thermals. It is this circular movement of the group that seems like a cauldron of birds being stirred by the wind, thus a "kettle." While kettles can occur almost any time of the year, they are particularly common during fall migration. - Tom Lake]

9/16 - New York Bight: See Life Paulagics ran a 16-hour boat trip on the 100-foot-long Starstream VIII out to the deep waters in the Hudson Canyon. While no rarities were seen, birders had excellent looks at good numbers of great shearwaters (350), Cory's shearwaters (5), red-necked phalaropes (3), and pomarine jaegers (3). Several land birds were seen on the trip, including a northern flicker and a female purple finch.

Among the mammals spotted were two young humpbacked whales, one of which breached for us repeatedly. Common dolphins rode the ship's wake early in the morning and a small pod of Atlantic bottlenose dolphins were seen working behind a trawler. We also had a nice showing of bats, including a red bat and four unidentified species.
- Paul A. Guris

[The post-glacial draining of pro-glacial lakes in the interior of New York State 12,500 years ago, and possibly even older glacial meltwaters, carved the magnificent underwater Hudson Canyon that runs from the mouth of New York Harbor 120 miles seaward to the great abyss of the North Atlantic. This ancestral Hudson River is 3,600 feet deep and 5½ miles wide in places. - Tom Lake]

9/17 - Selkirk, HRM 135: Just three days ago there was plenty of hummingbird activity. Yesterday there were only two; today, after the storm, they are gone.

- Roberta S. Jeracka

9/17 - Hyde Park, HRM 82: I have been taking note of all the hummingbird sightings in the Hudson River Almanac. Eleven days ago I watched an incredible feeding frenzy, both flowers and feeders. The next day all was quiet. Then, just when I thought they'd gone, they were back. . However, from their behavior, I suspect that they were not "my" birds, but northerners passing through. Today, all was quiet again. But I won't close down the feeders just yet. In the fall of 2010 my last sightings were in early October.

- Barbara Wells

9/17 - New Paltz, HRM 78: I spotted three painted lady (thistle) butterflies in the gardens at Woodland Pond. Due to their protective coloration, they were hard to see unless they moved and one looked closely.

- Lucille Weinstat

9/17 - Bedford, HRM 35: Kettles galore! The Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch was constantly occupied with kettle action all day. Many of the kettles were small (contained about 30 birds), but several had over 100. Every kettle the hawkwatchers observed had at least one osprey in it (one kettle had five), usually leading the broad-winged-hawks (752) when they began streaming out to the west. Broad-wings have accounted for 73 percent of our raptor sightings. Our monarchs count was 26.

- Genevieve Rozhon, Angela Woodside, Jack Kozuchowski, Jane Branch, Janelle Robbins, Tait Johansson, Ted Anderson


[Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch information may be found at http://www.bedfordaudubon.org/hawkwatch.html. Visitors are welcome. Tom Lake]

9/18 - New Hamburg, HRM 67.5: A series of violent thunderstorms drenched the Hudson Valley with three inches of rain. The National Weather Service issued a tornado watch from Ulster County north to the Capitol District and the river was tossing whitecaps in the face of 40+ mph winds. At the height of the storm, Dave Cullen, of Rabbit Island, made the observation that the river looked like a scene from "Victory at Sea!" There are times when you must be at the river despite falling tree limbs, crackling transformers, thunder and lightning. Today was one of those.

- Tom Lake

[Victory at Sea was a World War II naval warfare documentary series (1952-1953) that was rebroadcast into the 1960s. The black-and-white footage frequently depicted naval warships in the Pacific encountering violently tossed seas. - Tom Lake]

9/19 - Verplanck, HRM 40.5: The crew of the Hudson River sloop Clearwater was in Verplanck for educational programs. Walking back and forth on the long circuitous dock between the sloop and the seining beach, one of the volunteer crew, Jean, spotted something in the water. We looked and saw two long, "translucent blue ribbons with eyes," staring at us as they wiggled in place - two Atlantic needlefish, both about a foot long. They spun and swam away.

- Tom O'Dowd

9/19 - Bedford, HRM 35: This was a "broad-winged" day (1493). They have now comprised 79 percent of our total raptor sightings. We had some huge kettles with several containing 200 birds. Most of the kettles also included sharp-shinned hawks, bald eagles, and osprey. Our monarchs count was 37.

- Genevieve Rozhon, Alan Alterman , Angela Woodside, Chet Friedman, Ed Williams,
Jack Kozuchowski, Jan Linskey, Pat Linskey, Richard Cowan

9/20 - Newcomb, HRM 302: We had our first frost of the season. Our growing season for this year was from about May 19 to September 20 - 124 days. Last evening also seemed like a big migration night for songbirds. It was calm and clear - a good night for celestial navigation. I could hear them chirping as they flew over. As I was having breakfast and looking at the mountain ash tree in our side yard, I counted at least eight different songbird species hanging out in the small tree.

- Charlotte Demers

9/20 - Kowawese, HRM 59: After several cool-to-cold nights, the water temperature had dropped several degrees to 74 degrees Fahrenheit [F]. Despite three inches of rain two days ago, we still measured more than 2.0 parts-per-thousand [ppt] salinity and with it came a dozen Atlantic silversides, a species that much prefers a little salt in the water. Schools of spottail shiners darted in and out of the seine as we hauled it ashore. The most interesting catch was not a new one: young-of-the-year striped bass. We measured several dozen and found that they were all considerably smaller at 63-67 millimeters [mm] than those we had been seeing in the last few weeks. Short of looking at their otoliths (ear bones) to determine their age, the best guess was they were either a younger group, spawned a bit later, or they were the same age but their foraging had not been as successful as the larger fish we had been seeing.

- Tom Lake, T.R. Jackson

9/20 - Bedford, HRM 35: The morning at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch was completely crazy; probably the most exciting morning we have experienced this season. In the first three hours we racked up over 1,000 broad-winged hawks. Almost all these birds were seen low and moving very, very quickly. Broad-wings now comprise 81 percent of our total raptor sightings. Our monarch count was 46.

- Genevieve Rozhon, Angela Woodside, Jack Kozuchowski, Janelle Robbins, Tait Johansson, AP Environmental Science Class from Box Lane High School

9/21 - Manitou, HRM 46.5: There were many signs of fall at Manitou. We counted at least five large, female praying mantises and two smaller males (perhaps the other males have already met their demise). Mating is taking place in the vicinity of where they were born this spring. The egg cases were found in the winter on the lo-and-behold buddleia. We watched them grow all summer and will look for the egg cases again when the leaves drop. The numbers of the brown marmorated stink bug are growing each day on the south side of the house; we are not looking forward to another infestation of them this winter. The Carolina wren was making a ruckus this afternoon when a red-eyed vireo was hunting for bugs in the same shrub.

- Owen Sullivan, Zshawn Sullivan


9/21 - Bedford, HRM 35: Very few raptors were observed at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch today. However, we did get some great looks at a merlin, several sharp-shined hawks, and a handful of American kestrels.

- Genevieve Rozhon, Angela Woodside, Jeanne Pollock, Jim Jones

9/22 - Rhinebeck, HRM 90: On this chilly autumn morning, I could hardly believe it when I saw a flutter in the still-blooming crepe myrtle bush outside my front window. It was a lovely dark-green hummingbird, not four feet from where I sat - what a treat! I don't feed the birds in summer, so their presence is unpredictable. I heard what must have been a hummer right near my head a few days ago as I worked in the garden underneath a big cleome plant.

- Joanne Engle

9/22 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: The air was still, but the leaves, twigs, and branches of a Norway maple began to rustle. I was unable to see why until I looked through my binoculars. At least a dozen small birds were frenetically hopping from branch-to-branch gleaning insects. From the silhouettes and behavior I suspected vireos but none stayed still long enough for a good look. Finally one did: a red-eyed vireo. Before I could spot another they all left heading south.

- Tom Lake

9/22 - New Windsor, HRM 59.5: With a strong, warm south wind blowing up through the Hudson Highlands, this was not a flight day. Monarchs were flying east-to-west rather than north-to-south. A broad-winged hawk came into a clearing in the forest canopy flying in a circle and was soon joined by another. And then another. In a matter of a minute there were eight broad-wings twirling in a kettle overhead making no headway and in fact drifting back upriver.

- Tom Lake, Dick Manley

9/22 - Kowawese, HRM 59: With rollers coming onto the beach, pushed by a strong south wind, it was difficult to be heard as we addressed Boy Scout Troop 416 from Washingtonville plus several packs of Webelos. This was our 13th annual Hudson Valley Ramble beach seining program, as well as the Autumnal Equinox. The heavy surf had created a high-energy zone in the shallows and that usually means "feeding fish!" A half-dozen hauls netted us twelve species, the highlights of which were a 20-inch-long channel catfish and a palm-sized hogchoker. Among the others were YOY bay anchovies (38-44 mm), striped bass (75-88 mm), gizzard shad (74-76 mm), alewives (76-78 mm), and a single American shad (84 mm). The water was 74F and the salinity remained at about 2.0 ppt.

- Dick Manley, Billy Pillsworth, Tom Lake

9/22 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: I hadn't seen hummingbirds in my yard for at least a week when, on this warm, breezy early Autumn Equinox day, a lone hummingbird zipped up to one of the feeders still hanging in the garden. The little bird was frustrated as that feeder and the other two are now encrusted with bees that cluster to feed day and night. After several attempts, the hummingbird gave up. It visited all the flowers and then off it flew.

- Robin Fox

9/22 - Bedford, HRM 35: It was a quiet day at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch. Twenty-five sharp-shinned hawks brought our season total for them to 585. In mid-afternoon, a merlin perched in a tree and began preening allowing us a great view. Our monarch count was 27.

- Tait Johansson, Angela Woodside

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