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Hudson River Almanac September 3 - September 9, 2013

OVERVIEW

Passing cold fronts brought "flight days" to the Hudson Valley as shorebirds, raptors, and hummingbirds continued their seasonal migration. Monarchs were still appearing in numbers far fewer than hoped.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

9/4 - Tappan Zee, HRM 34-21.5: I joined the beach seining crew from NYS DEC's Hudson River Fisheries Unit as they gathered data on this summer's young-of-the-year [YOY] striped bass, American shad, and herring populations at eleven sites in the Tappan Zee from Ossining south to Hastings-on-Hudson. Using a 200-foot-long seine, we netted fifteen species of fish, including striped bass; white perch; bay anchovies; and Atlantic silversides (missing from these sites back in mid-July) - the latter were the most numerous species. Given the salinity of 5.86 parts-per-thousand [ppt] at Sleepy Hollow, the tessellated darter found there was a surprising catch. Perhaps this freshwater species was swept into the Hudson from the nearby Pocantico River. An inshore lizardfish and an Atlantic needlefish taken in Irvington were noteworthy, but the most unusual find was a striped anchovy caught in Upper Nyack. I had never seen one before, as it is an uncommon but perhaps overlooked visitor to the estuary.
- Steve Stanne

A striped anchovy lined up to a bay anchovy for comparison

[In the field, the striped anchovy can usually be differentiated from the much more common bay anchovy by its "striking silver stripe," as C. Lavett Smith notes; its size, which is generally a third to half-again larger; and the placement of its anal fin farther back than the dorsal fin. The only other striped anchovy entry we have recorded in the twenty years of the Hudson River Almanac occurred October 3, 2002, at Englewood, NJ, HRM 13.5. The several we caught that day averaged 188 millimeters [mm] total length. They were caught among many YOY bay anchovies (31 mm), crevalle jack (121 mm), and northern kingfish (80 mm). Tom Lake, Christopher Letts. Photo of striped anchovy (top) and bay anchovy (bottom) by Steve Stanne.]

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

9/3 - Crugers, HRM 39: When I cranked out the awning attached to my house this hot afternoon, to my surprise I discovered a little brown bat asleep on top of the canvas. He almost immediately inched his way farther up into the folds of the material as the rays of the sun reached his tiny body. He appeared to be in good health and I hope that he will be busy eating large amounts of insects in my backyard this evening.
- Dianne Picciano

9/3 - Bedford, HRM 35: The trickle of osprey has become a staple of our count this season at the Chestnut Ridge hawkwatch. A group of four American kestrels was also spotted heading southwest. Other migrants included 23 ruby-throated hummingbirds. Current selected season totals were 57 ospreys and 32 broad-winged hawks.
- Arthur R. Green, Gaelyn Ong

9/3 - Haverstraw Bay, HRM 35: Spearing, or Atlantic silversides, are not to be found this year. Traps and nets were not producing, and now that the "snapper blues" [YOY bluefish] are running strong, spearing are in great demand. Pat Ferris of Croton Bait and Tackle has not even been able to find them from out-of-state sources.
- Christopher Letts

[While Atlantic silversides were not recorded in the Hudson during the "Great Hudson River Fish Count" on July 20, more recently the Hudson River River Fisheries Unit has been finding them in their beach seines in the Tappan Zee south of Croton Point - see 9/4 observation in the Highlight section above. Steve Stanne.]

9/4 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 68.5: We followed a monarch for a quarter-mile as it slowly moved south along the base of a dolomite ridgeline. With a northerly breeze at its back it seemed in no hurry. T.R. Jackson found a bald eagle feather not far from a tall tuliptree where they are known to perch and preen.
- Tom Lake

9/4 - Crugers, HRM 39: We finally spotted our first monarch butterfly of the season as it flew over Ogilvie's Pond. We were watching the antics of the great blue heron as it walked into the phragmites, then out again to the middle of the pond. As we watched the great blue, we noticed a green heron standing like a statue in the water near the shore. Dragonflies flitted over the surface of the water on a perfect late summer day.
- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson

9/4 - Bedford, HRM 35: What a difference a cold front can make! While numbers remained low at the Chestnut Ridge hawkwatch, species diversity was quite good (nine species of migrant raptors). They were seen at rather casual elevations above the tree canopy, and showed no real propensity to soar at height. Also counted were sixteen ruby-throated hummingbirds. Current selected season totals were 59 ospreys and 35 broad-winged hawks.
- Arthur Green, Gaelyn Ong, Jim Jones

9/4 - Senasqua Park, HRM 35: Half a dozen killdeer were not willing to share the beach with me, and lifted up and away over the fence and onto the railroad tracks.
- Christopher Letts

9/4 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: We spotted the female grey fox at dusk. The exciting news was the fox kits that we heard for the first time calling outside their den at 3:00 AM. It sounded as if there were two or three of them.
- Scott Horecky, Kathy Sutherland

9/5 - Lake Katrine, HRM 97: We were kayaking on the lower Esopus Creek when I came upon a green heron perched on a limb over the water. It walked up some branches before disappearing into the woods.
- Carol Countryman

9/5 - Norrie Point, HRM 85: We saw a woolly bear caterpillar in the parking lot today. It had a wide brown mid-section with shorter black sections on the end. This woolly bear predicted that we were going to have a mild winter.
- Brianna Rosamilia, James Herrington

9/5 - West Park, HRM 83: We were delighted to see three large (5 plus inches long) praying mantises in a marshy area on Valli Road. They were mostly brown, with green along the body and green eyes. The two that stayed in view demonstrated their patience, moving only occasionally, very slowly, one leg at a time. One was on a low bush with large leaves, possibly a young tree. The second was in marshy vegetation, a combination of various grasses and sedges. The third flew up into a staghorn sumac where we lost sight of it.
- Peter Relson, Carol Anderson

9/5 - Bedford, HRM 35: An immature red-shouldered hawk drifted from the northeast over at the Chestnut Ridge hawkwatch today. Also counted were eight ruby-throated hummingbirds. Current selected season totals were 66 osprey and 51 broad-winged hawks.
- Tait Johansson

9/5 - Senasqua Park, HRM 35: The killdeer of yesterday had moved on, and in their stead at least half-dozen spotted sandpipers were poling and picking. When they flushed, they landed on the offshore breakwater rocks and promptly disappeared from view.
- Christopher Letts

9/5 - Croton Point, HRM 35-34: As I began my morning walk I soon spotted one of the resident red-tailed hawks perched on the rim of a garbage can. Finding a picnic table nearby, I sat down to watch. The bird walked the rim of the can, looking down into it, and then made another circuit scanning the ground nearby. At a second can it dropped to the ground and began feeding. I said "Excuse me, but I need to know what you are eating" and slowly walked to within ten feet of the hawk, who ignored me. It was feeding on a large and well gnawed corncob. I found a seat and watched as the bird spent fifteen minutes gleaning what it could from the cob before moving on.
- Christopher Letts

9/6 - Hurley, HRM 92: I was walking on the rail-trail and came upon two green herons in a wetland pond about 40 minutes walking time from the parking lot. In the same wetland were two great blue herons and two beaver lodges.
- Carol Countryman

9/6 - Hudson Valley, HRM 61-18: While it was not unusual to see a tiger swallowtail butterfly visiting my butterfly bush and flowering Rose of Sharon this summer, there were usually multiple white cabbage butterflies as well. So numerous were the sightings that while driving down the Taconic Parkway I began counting. The total was thirty-two in flight over patches of blooming goldenrod and purple loosestrife.
- Brian Herbst

9/6 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: They came in just after dawn, a pair of huge pileated woodpeckers, with a loud "Ki-Ki-Ki-Ki-Ki."' Their call always invokes the image of a cowboy on a bronco: "Yipee Kay-Ay, Kay-Ay." They landed in a large Norway maple and were soon sending down a stream of wood chips. Their size and silhouette also conjured images of something primordial: a pterodactyl. And finally, they reminded me that we still hold out hope that somewhere their very close relative the ivory-billed woodpecker - thought to be extinct - has found a niche in an old-growth forest that no one has yet discovered.
- Tom Lake, Phyllis Lake

9/6 - Beacon, HRM 61: After at least a week of looking, we finally found the immature little blue heron in late morning. It was walking on the water chestnut 200 feet offshore just north of the old landfill park during the last third of the flood tide. This was six miles south of where it was last seen. There was a string of double-crested cormorants along the outer edge of the water chestnut beds and a few great blue herons interspersed along a few hundred yards of shoreline. For fully five minutes the little blue was frozen like a front yard ornament, until finally it plunged into the water for something that it missed.
- Tom Lake, T.R. Jackson

A monarch butterfly perched on some bright flowers

9/6 - Cold Spring, HRM 55: A strong north-northwest wind was clashing with the last of the north-bound flood tide in midday, creating white-capped rollers on the river. High pressure made the cloudless sky a deep, rich blue. This was a flight day for migrating birds and butterflies. We saw quite a few swallowtails but only one monarch. Across the river and high above Storm King and Crow's Nest, we saw a string of specks in the sky, probably raptors by their size and flight, but too far away for identification. (Photo of monarch butterfly by Steve Stanne.)
- Tom Lake, T.R. Jackson

[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.]

9/6 - Bedford, HRM 35: Migrants were spotted within minutes of our arrival and were already taking to significant heights at the Chestnut Ridge hawkwatch. Apart from a general consensus on the west-southwest tack past the count site, no preferred flight-line seemed evident until late day when birds seemed to focus primarily on the near northeast ridge. We also had an adult red-headed woodpecker. The bird crossed in front of our east view just below eye level and approximately fifteen meters from the watch platform, where the diagnostic head and bold wing pattern could be seen with ease. Also counted were nine ruby-throated hummingbirds and two monarch butterflies. Current selected season totals were 72 ospreys and 111 broad-winged hawks (finally passing the osprey in numbers).
- Arthur Green, Gaelyn Ong, Megan Comerford, Pete Gustas, Ray Ferrara

9/6 - Croton River, HRM 34: The adolescent common loon was preening and drifting just downstream from the Route 9 bridge. A small flock of least sandpipers, feeding on a narrow strip of beach at high tide, was reluctant to fly - nowhere else to go. I sat quietly and they conducted their business within a few feet of me.
- Christopher Letts

9/7 - Amsterdam, HRM 157: An odd-looking crab turned up dead on the Port Jackson Boat Launch this afternoon.
- Ken Blanchard

[From the digital images supplied, it appeared to be a marine crab, likely an Atlantic rock crab (Cancer irroratus), based on color and the marginal teeth on the front edge of its carapace. If I was not reading the photos correctly, it could have been a related Jonah crab (Cancer borealis). Unless there was something very special about this crab, it was not living in the Mohawk River. There is a chance it could have been an aquaria release. Or it could have been a release by someone who had been at the ocean and thought they had brought home a neat pet. It also might have been a leftover from a backyard barbecue. Tom Lake.]

9/7 - Furnace Woods, HRM 38.5: Despite some difficult weather and a late start, we have enjoyed a good year with the tomato patch. The biggest problem has been an epidemic of tomato hornworms, larvae of a hawk moth (Manduca quinquemaculata). I have discovered more than 30 of these horrors on our dozen plants and they have taken a heavy toll on foliage and both ripe and green fruit. Some have been parasitized, perhaps by small wasps, and were covered with dozens of tiny white capsules. They seem to stop feeding on the plants as soon as they have been parasitized and as the wasp larvae do their work and hollow them out, the hornworms begin to sag and deflate much like a balloon with a slow leak. We have gardened for twenty years without seeing the hornworms, which can grow as long and fat as my index finger. Over the past three years, however, there has been increasing numbers of these pests. When they have been parasitized, we leave them alone. Otherwise they get tossed into the pond to feed the fish. Anyone else talking about this? I am wondering if the milder winters aren't part of our growing fungus and insect problems.
- Christopher Letts

9/7 - Bedford, HRM 35: Today was surely leftover pie from yesterday's flight at the Chestnut Ridge hawkwatch. It was still not half bad, with most of the broad-winged hawks still to come. Interestingly, ospreys continued in much the same numbers that we saw a week ago during those difficult and otherwise migrant-less days. Also counted were fifteen ruby-throated hummingbird and two monarchs. Current selected season totals were 79 osprey and 128 broad-winged hawks.
- Arthur Green, Charles Bobelis, Gaelyn Ong, Jim Jones, Paul Lewis

9/7 - Croton Point, HRM 35: A first year peregrine falcon was putting on a show - soaring, diving, generally trying out its newly realized power as emperor of the skies. This could well be the same bird I saw a week ago and a mile away, terrorizing the gulls and waterfowl on the mud bar at the mouth of the Croton River.
- Christopher Letts

9/7 - Ossining, HRM 33: I saw my first hairy woodpecker in possibly a year. It was hanging on the living room curtain, trying to keep away from our house cat that has access to the outside via a partially opened screen door. Whether the bird had come in voluntarily or the cat brought it in I don't know. The good news is that I calmed it down, took it outside and released it. The snappy fly-away looked normal.
- Bill Arnold

9/8 - Crugers, HRM 39: Both the great blue and green herons were at Ogilvie's Pond this morning. The great blue was walking around the pond, its legs completely submerged. We watched as it plunged its long beak in the water and came up with a small black stick. After this disappointing catch, it caught a large goldfish that it quickly swallowed whole, followed by another goldfish that it snatched out of the water a few feet away.
- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson

9/8 - Bedford, HRM 35: There was a steady movement of migrants throughout the day at the Chestnut Ridge hawkwatch. No preferred flight-line was observed. Also counted were twelve ruby-throated hummingbirds and two monarchs. Current selected season totals were 85 ospreys and 155 broad-winged hawks.
- Arthur Green, Gaelyn Ong

A slender grasslike plant called wild celery growing beneath the shallows of the Hudson River

9/9 - Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge, HRM 97-95: For the second year in a row, there has been no evidence of submerged aquatic vegetation [SAV] in the Hudson River in my assigned beds above and below the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge. Many other volunteers have reported the same along the river in the upper region, though there has been more SAV much farther down river. It would seem that tropical storms Irene and Sandy have had their impact upon the river bed and its vegetation.
- Peg Duke

[This observation has been echoed all along the estuary. East side near-shore shallows from North Germantown south to Little Stony Point (river miles 109-55) have been devoid of wild celery (Vallisneria americana), where five years ago it grew in beds so thick that you could barely wade through them and certainly not haul a seine. Also missing are the various and common pondweeds (Potamogeton) and Eurasian watermilfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum). Tom Lake. Wild celery photo by Steve Stanne.]

9/9 - Bedford, HRM 35: Birds were particularly high throughout the day at the Chestnut Ridge hawkwatch. Notable were small broad-winged hawk kettles in the late morning, accompanied by a fair movement of sharp-shinned hawks. Also counted were eleven ruby-throated hummingbirds and two monarchs. Current selected season totals were 91 ospreys, 253 broad-winged hawks, and 85 sharp-shinned hawks.
- Arthur Green, Gaelyn Ong

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