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Hudson River Almanac October 8 - October 14, 2012

OVERVIEW

Snow came to the High Peaks of the Adirondacks this week. Autumn migration, from songbirds to raptors to fish, continued seaward and south, keeping ahead of winter. Fall foliage, fading in the High Peaks, was near peak along the estuary.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

10/8 - Newcomb, HRM 302: The first snow of the season fell on the High Peaks this morning. There was no snow in town but lovely dusting could be seen on the tops of the high elevation mountains. Our leaves are past peak and I would estimate that about 75 percent of them have fallen from the upper canopy trees, American beech being the exception. The weather during the peak foliage was not conducive to getting out and enjoying what turned out to be some spectacular color. Last week was very wet with rain (1.32"). Finally a break in weather today: clear but cold.

- Charlotte Demers

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

10/8 - Yorktown, HRM 44: On the way in to work this morning I saw a small rafter of wild turkeys, 4-5 birds, all of which had beards. These must have been young birds, as their beards were only about five inches long, and they did not have very noticeable wattles. Most of them took their time crossing the road, but the last one flapped a bit to catch up with the others. Their camouflage is so good - they melted into the underbrush almost immediately once they were off the road.

- Susan Butterfass

10/8 - Town of Cortlandt, HRM 38.5: As our many sugar maples in Furnace Woods bloom with autumn color, I have my recurring annual thought: This is like living in a jack-o-lantern. The harvest grows meager but the woodpile and winter bird feeders promise some cozy times ahead.

- Christopher Letts

10/8 - Bedford, HRM 35: Of the birds we saw this morning from the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch, some seemed to be taking a path due west, while others even headed north, as if to avoid rain to the south. We counted three immature and two adult bald eagles as well as a steady number of Cooper's hawks.

- Ryan MacLean

10/8 - Croton Point, HRM 34: Raven sightings in Westchester County are special and infrequent, usually a cold weather phenomenon. However, in the past month I have heard or seen them several times near the Croton River railroad bridge, and have observed two here on each of the past four days. Today, the deep "gronk" of the ravens was seconded by the nasal call of the fish crows and the sharp cries of common crows. Nice.

- Christopher Letts

10/8 - Bronx, HRM 15: I led a series of walks at Wave Hill in Riverdale for their Raptor Day celebration. Immediately upon setting out on the first walk, an immature bald eagle soared into view over the Hudson and circled its way over the Wave Hill grounds. It was joined by an immature red-tailed hawk that didn't take kindly to this giant invader; it began to dive-bomb the eagle, making some close passes at its head. The young eagle seemed unconcerned and circled over the area for more than an hour. There were also an osprey and a Cooper's hawk. A big flock of 25-35 northern flickers were hopping on the lawn in search of ants. Numerous blue jays were streaming overhead as well, crossing the Hudson headed west. A large mixed flock of small songbirds passed through including red-breasted nuthatches, tufted titmice, and ruby-crowned kinglets. Among the warblers were northern parula, Nashville, yellow-rumped, black-throated-green, and black-and-white.

- Gabriel Willow

10/9 - Newcomb, HRM 302: It took less than 24 hours for the birds to discover that I had put up the feeders for the winter season. Blue jays, black-capped chickadees, northern juncos, purple finches, pine siskins, and evening grosbeaks populated the species list by the end of the day.

- Charlotte Demers

10/9 - Cornwall Bay, HRM 58: The early-afternoon low tide had shrunk the bay, creating many warm and shallow tidepools likely filled with fish. The snags and deadfalls that litter the bottom of the bay had risen and were now hunting and feeding perches for an adult and an immature bald eagle as well as an osprey. The osprey had a small fish clamped on a limb but both eagles had the look of being satisfactorily fed.

- Tom Lake

[Snags and deadfalls are terms used to describe fallen trees and their limbs that are washed into shallow water. At high tide they generally remain out of sight. But as the tide ebbs, they seem to rise out of the shallows, adding instant structure - furniture - for gulls, cormorants, raptors and wading birds. Tom Lake.]

10/9 - Town of Cortlandt, HRM 38.5: This was the "week of the robin" in Furnace Woods. They were everywhere, clucking through the undergrowth worming the lawn and gardens. Hermit and wood thrushes, visitors here only during migration, were a welcome sight.

- Christopher Letts

10/9 - Bedford, HRM 35: The cooler weather conditions were not ideal for the build-up of thermals but several small kettles of turkey vultures managed to form. Today was notable for the season's first kettles of migrating turkey vultures. They were seen up high, gaining in elevation before streaming off to the west and southwest. It was a fine day for Cooper's hawks (31) as well, the most we had seen this season.

-Genevieve Rozhon, Angela Woodside

10/9 - Croton Point, HRM 35: We tried to concentrate on the river but the flight of osprey and sharp-shinned hawks passing by made for a delightful distraction. Wild celery, almost completely absent in the freshwater reach of the river, had fared better in the brackish-water Haverstraw Bay. Small tide-rows of their leaves littered the mark of the last high tide. We hauled Henry's 250-foot-long seine out into the bay with great anticipation. We pulled the net ashore and grabbed the bag, feeling as though we were opening birthday presents. The catch was gratifying: 29 spot (6-8 inches long); 12 striped bass (7-9 inches long); and 11 bluefish (9-11 inches long). The salinity was 5.0 ppt, and the water temperature had cooled to 66 degrees Fahrenheit.

- Tom Lake, A. Danforth

["Henry's net" was built to exacting specifications: his own. Henry Gourdine of Ossining once built a 2600-foot commercial haul seine that used a quarter-mile of head rope. One day, more than 60 years ago at Crawbuckie Beach, Henry and his crew caught 14,000 pounds of shad and striped bass. He was not altogether happy about the haul; it took the crew so long to weigh, box, and ice the fish that they missed the opportunity to set on the next tide. Christopher Letts.]

A close-up of a brant goose sitting in dried up grass.

10/9 - Nyack, HRM 28: We spent the night on my sailboat, tied up at our club's pier. Despite a forecast low air temperature in the 40s, we never felt cold due to the water temperature of the river being near 70 degrees F. I was sitting in the cockpit admiring the late evening when I noticed a goose-like bird swimming near the pier. In the lights of the dock I could clearly see the white ring around the bird's neck identifying it as a brant. This was the first brant I had seen this season. What seemed odd to me is that this goose was by itself, or appeared to be. I often see them in flocks. [Photo of brant courtesy US Fish & Wlidlife Service.]

- Caleb Davison

10/10 - Ravena, HRM 133.5: A strong gust of wind shook our house last night. Winds persisted for the rest of the night and this morning I found my driveway covered with a thick carpet of yellowed needles that had dropped from the white pines around my house. The pines had been getting yellower and yellower for the past couple of weeks; the wind gave them the excuse they'd been looking for to shed their old needles. It's not just hardwoods that respond to the change of seasons.

- Larry Roth

10/10 - Crugers, HRM 39: Although dead spatterdock cluttered Ogilvie's Pond, there were ample areas of open water. We were delighted to spot the great blue heron that we had not seen in a month. It stood in the water at the side of the pond for a while and then flew across to the other side onto a branch that stuck out of the water where the bird preened its feathers. Another heron appeared on a branch a few yards away; this one was an immature green heron. Both herons stood on their branches, preening and looking around, for the full hour that we watched them.

- Dorothy Ferguson

10/10 - Bedford, HRM 35: The most interesting sighting at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch today was a small kettle of nine black vultures; the greatest number of black vultures seen at one time previously this season had been three.

- Genevieve Rozhon, Angela Woodside, Chet Friedman

10/10 - Croton Point, HRM 35-34: There were legions of robins throughout the Point, from end to end, with small flocks of cedar waxwings now and again.

- Christopher Letts

10/10 - Manhattan HRM 13.5. Just north of the entrance to the playing fields area of Inwood Hill Park, I encountered an immature red-tailed hawk dining on a pigeon. The bird had chosen a poor dining location; bikes and runners streamed past on the path, within a few feet, without causing the bird to flee. A few stopped to watch, but most hurried on.

- Kaare Christian

10/11 - Columbia County, HRM 112: Two northern harriers were swooping over a field of dried up sunflowers. The lighting was poor, making it difficult to clearly see the coloring of the birds. I guessed that the smaller one was a male and the larger a female. One of the harriers was dive-bombed by a small falcon, either a kestrel or a merlin.

- Reba Laks, Bayla Laks

10/11 - Putnam County, HRM 52: West Point, across the river, appeared to be lit up by dawn while the east side remained in shadows. The Hudson was shrouded in fog as the warmth rising off the river (70 degrees F) met the cold air (40 degrees). A large snag in the shallows at the edge of World's End held more than a dozen immature double-crested cormorants. Half of them had struck their "Dracula" pose, drying their wings after their fishing forays.

- Tom Lake

[World's End is the deepest point in the Hudson River at about 175 feet. This slot of river between West Point on the west and Constitution Island on the east is known for its treacherous tidal currents. Its name is derived from its legendary (notorious) effects on sailing ships, where boats and hands have met their "world's end." Tom Lake.]

10/11 - Bedford, HRM 35: Some large kettles of migrating turkey vultures appeared out of the east and streamed southwest at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch this afternoon.

- Genevieve Rozhon, Angela Woodside

10/11 - Brooklyn, New York City: We seined at Brooklyn Bridge Park, under the Manhattan Bridge and caught blue crabs, comb jellies, a white mullet, two silver perch and a cunner (bergall). The tide was very low so we took some time to explore under rocks in the lower intertidal area. There we found Asian shore crabs, snails, amphipods, and white fingered mud crabs.

- Cynthia Fowx

10/12 - Ravena, HRM 133.5: Tonight we had our first frost.

- Larry Roth

10/12 - Milan, HRM 90: Pine siskins, a winter finch, are around. This seems very early.

- Frank Margiotta

10/12 - Bedford, HRM 35: A few more small kettles of migrating turkey vultures were counted today at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch. Most kettles formed out to the east before streaming southwest. Two immature bald eagles flew low over the observation platform and an adult male sharp-shinned hawk (we call them "Blue Pixies" in California) flew right over the hawkwatch. A ridiculous number of migratory geese were seen today, both Canada geese and brant.

- Genevieve Rozhon, Woodside, Chet Friedman

10/13 - Ravena, HRM 133.5: Frost motivated me to take care of an annual chore: I drained the small plastic lily pond in a backyard garden to bring the goldfish into the house for the winter, and to transfer the frogs that had colonized it in the spring to a pond where they could better survive the winter. I had fewer gold fish than I'd put in back in the spring, but they were much larger. As for the frogs, I collected 20 of assorted sizes. They were mostly green frogs, but there were at least two bullfrogs.

- Larry Roth

10/13 - New Paltz, HRM 78: We saw a small flock (10) of eastern bluebirds in our yard this afternoon. Some were eating from our compost pile. We wondered if they are migrating or if they will stay the winter, given a food source.

- Shirley Warren

[Bluebirds have, in the last few decades, becomes more tolerant of our somewhat milder winters. As a child, I never saw them in winter. Now there are many locations in the Hudson Valley where bluebirds winter, finding adequate shelter and forage. Tom Lake.]

10/13 - Manitou, HRM 46.5: While filling and putting up the songbird feeders today, I turned around to see a female ruby-throated hummingbird at the buddleia bush flowers. She went on to the vegetable garden and enjoyed the lady slipper salvia that was untouched by the overnight 30.8 degree F air temperature.

- Zshawn Sullivan

10/13 - Bedford, HRM 35: The turkey vulture number (389) was certainly one of the highest single-day totals ever for the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch. We had our first golden eagle sighting of the season as well. A smaller hawk began to dive-bomb the eagle and we realized that it was a northern goshawk.

- Tait Johansson, Angela Woodside, Genevieve Rozhon, Jack Kozuchowski, Jim Jones, Ted Gilman

10/14 - Ravena, HRM 133.5: There was lively traffic at the bird feeders today. For about a month now I've been getting visits from chickadees, cardinals, and blue jays. More recently tufted titmice have also been regular visitors. Today I spotted a couple of juncos hopping around on the ground and a white-throated sparrow. And, of course, the local pack of gray squirrels has been fattening themselves up on my generosity.

- Larry Roth

10/14 - Gardiner, HRM 73: We had some good looks at an immature golden eagle flying near Tillson Lake in the town of Gardiner.

- Brian Houser, Rebecca Houser

10/14 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 68: A westerly breeze was not helping migratory birds yet flocks of starlings were heading south sheltered from the wind in the lee of the forest at Bowdoin Park. While the starlings were raucous, the next act filled the air with high-pitched "zeeees." For twenty minutes, a near continuous stream of cedar waxwings came through, stopping to feed in the four tall tamaracks before heading on their way south along the river.

- Tom Lake, T.R. Jackson

10/14 - Bedford, HRM 35: This was an amazing day for bald eagles. Early this morning the Chestnut Ridge hawk-watchers had the privilege of seeing two adult bald eagles interact directly in front of the observation platform including full-on stooping, talon grappling, and some upside-down acrobatic maneuvers. It was one of the most spectacular displays we have ever seen. We had five bald eagles fly past the hawk-watch in the afternoon over a span of ten minutes.

- Genevieve Rozhon, Adam Zorn, Deirdre Lewin, Derek Lovitch, Jeannette Lovitch, Jim Jones

10/14 - Palisades, HRM 23: The gorgeous weather and good company made up for the generally low hawk activity at the State Line Lookout (NY/NJ) this afternoon. There were some highlights, however: a merlin flew purposefully across the river and quickly past; two beautiful northern harriers (one migrating, one not) made appearances; and three adult eagles flew briefly into sight from behind the "point," two locked talons and spiraled towards the river, then released and all three flew away northward. Other migrants included kestrels, sharp-shinned hawks, and a small flock of palm warblers pumping their tails and gleaning insects from the cliff vegetation of the Palisades.

- Linda Pistolesi, Marcel Jaloveckas

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