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Hudson River Almanac September 17 - September 23, 2013

OVERVIEW

This week saw investigations of the sporadic recovery of the estuary's submerged aquatic vegetation [SAV] from the effects of recent tropical storms, and that recovery's effect on fish and wildlife. Just as upland deciduous trees shed their leaves in autumn, so do wild celery and other species of SAV. Beaches where these tiderows of leaves do - or do not - occur offer hints to the presence or absence of SAV.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

a male moose with small antlers resting in the grass in Halfmoon

9/19 - Halfmoon, HRM 165: I photographed a bull moose resting in the grass along Bent Grass Drive in the Fairways of Halfmoon development. The moose drew a crowd of curious onlookers. We heard that the moose was spotted in Hemstreet Park, across the Hudson River from Mechanicville, on Thursday evening.
- Sandy McBride

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

9/17 - Bedford, HRM 35: A strong showing of broad-winged hawks (856 birds) at the Chestnut Ridge hawkwatch shut down rather abruptly by late morning. I'm guessing this was the residual of yesterday's push. Also counted were 43 cedar waxwings (seven flocks), 78 double-crested cormorants (one flock), two ruby-throated hummingbirds, and three monarch butterflies. Current selected season totals are 11,909 broad-winged hawks and 306 sharp-shinned hawks.
- Allen Kurtz, Jim Jones, Ray Ferrara, Tait Johansson

9/17 - Croton Point, HRM 35-34: A wave of kestrels had arrived and were perched on the well markers, taking in the view from atop the landfill. On the south side service road near the old wine cellars, I stopped dead for a measured eleven minutes watching Cooper's hawks. There was lots of determined chasing, with crows mixing in from time to time. As nearly as I could puzzle it out, the resident pair was taking exception to a female interloper, probably a migrant. Much of the action was right over my head, and then the contest moved off to the west.
- Christopher Letts

9/17 - Queens, New York City: As my Queens College general ecology class walked onto the beach under the Queens side of the Throgs Neck Bridge, we were greeted by the cackle of exotic green birds in a tall tree. This was a flock of monk parakeets that now nest in Brooklyn and this part of Queens on telephone poles or cell towers, often to the dismay of the utilities. The East River was dropping fast and we turned over intertidal rocks, revealing another exotic: numerous Asian shore crabs, sometimes a dozen under one stone. But the highlight was the many oysters we found. One showed a black stripe that indicated it may have been the progeny of a cultured oyster, but the rest were surely wild. Not only did the oysters cover all of the hard surfaces, such as boulders, scrap metal, a truck tire, and the bridge pilings, but even the sand flats had many clumps of about 3 to 10 oysters spaced just a few feet apart from each other. It was easy to see how these could be incipient oyster reefs, filling in with more shell and live oysters between them and rising higher with time.
- John Waldman

[The monk parakeet (Myiopsitta monachus) is a species of parrot native to temperate to subtropical areas of South America. Escapes from captivity have resulted in feral populations in the Northeast. The Asian shore crab, sometimes called the Japanese green crab, Japanese shore crab, and Pacific crab (Hemigrapsus sanguineus), is an invasive species that probably arrived in the United States in the ballast of cargo ships. It is native to the inshore ocean areas around China and Japan. This crab favors rocky intertidal areas and occupies similar habitats to native mud crabs. Adults can grow to 42 millimeters [mm] carapace width. Tom Lake.]

9/18 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 76: After the fog lifted this morning, several members of the Waterman Bird Club enjoyed birding at Peach Hill Town Park. We were delighted to have wave after wave (18-50) of broad-winged hawks fly low enough to identify them in detail. We counted at least 118 in 45 minutes. We also enjoyed watching migrating warblers including Blackburnian, black-throated green, prairie, chestnut-sided, magnolia, American redstart, and common yellowthroat.
- Barbara Michelin

9/18 - Dutchess County, HRM 74: I was driving east this morning at on Route 55 in LaGrange. Just as I reached the Taconic Parkway intersection, an adult bald eagle passed not twenty feet over my car.
- Lee Banner

9/18 - Beacon, HRM 61: While birding at Long Dock Park, I sighted a probable clay-colored sparrow in with many chipping sparrows for field mark comparison. Among the many ring-billed gulls were two smaller gulls with whiter underwings and a dark band on tail tip, probably Bonaparte's gulls (first winter).
- Ken Harris

[Clay-colored sparrows are considered "casual visitors" to Dutchess County and were last reported in 2011 at Stony Kill Farm, Town of Fishkill. Deb Tracy-Kral.]

9/18 - Denning's Point, HRM 60: How many cormorants can fit on a ten-foot-long deadfall? A long, stout log was mired in the water chestnut in Denning's Point bay at the outlet of Fishkill Creek. Eleven cormorants, with some squeezing and concessions, fit on the log. From the cramped look of it, I could envision some saying "Don't touch me!"
- Tom Lake, T.R. Jackson

9/18 - Cold Spring, HRM 54: After a cold overnight (39 degrees Fahrenheit), the black vultures in a small night roost were not eager to start their day. Slowly, one at a time, they lifted off, laboring a bit, until all six were airborne in the morning sunshine.
- Tom Lake, T.R. Jackson

9/18 - Bedford, HRM 35: Where were the broad-winged hawks today at the Chestnut Ridge hawkwatch? I can't help but think we lost out badly to today's rip-roaring thermals that would likely have sent passing birds very easily up and out of visual range. The birds that we did see flew suspiciously low over the tree canopy, often far to our south or passing over the near northeast ridge. A male American kestrel deftly caught a dragonfly that it proceeded to munch on rather casually as it soared aimlessly overhead. Other sighting included 84 cedar waxwings (seven flocks), six ruby-throated hummingbirds, and three monarchs. Current selected season totals are 11,916 broad-winged hawks and 322 sharp-shinned hawks.
- Arthur Green, Gaelyn Ong, Paul Lewis, Steve Ricker, Tait Johansson

9/18 - Tappan Zee, HRM 23-21: The DEC's Hudson River Fisheries Unit beach seining team hauled their 200-foot-long net through eleven sites spanning both sides of the estuary. We netted nineteen species of fish in this brackish reach of water (salinity was 5-10 parts per thousand [ppt]) along with blue crabs, shrimp, and such an abundance of comb jellies (ctenophores) that it was like a jelly mix filling the seine. Young-of-the-year [YOY] bay anchovies were the most abundant fish of the day while some of the more interesting catches included a crevalle jack, two beautiful northern kingfish, both summer and winter flounders, a gizzard shad, and a striped anchovy. One surprise (in 10 ppt salinity) was a very large freshwater drum netted near Dobbs Ferry. The river was 73 degrees F.
- Margie Turrin

a marine fish, the crevalle jack swimming in the Hudson River

[Crevalle jacks are temperate marine strays belonging to a tropical-looking family of fishes called the jacks (Carangidae). Other jacks that occasionally appear in the Hudson include Atlantic moonfish, permit, lookdown, and the round scad. These are temperate-water marine strays and are typical late summer and early-autumn YOY visitors to the lower, brackish estuary. Tom Lake.]

9/19 - Dutchess County, HRM 71: I live next to a newly-established white-tail deer farm in Poughquag. On my morning walks, I have noticed how often hawks have been sitting on the fencing or on the feeding stations. I guess they like the hunting prospects, especially just after the grass is mowed. This morning I noticed a larger-looking hawk, with a white head, on one of the feeders. Bald eagle? I got out my binoculars, saw a white head, and then took out my cell phone to get a picture. The image was fuzzy so I went back to the binoculars for a better look. The joke was on me. The "eagle" turned out to be shiny and rigid plastic! I realized that each of the feeders now had a "guard raptor" and they were all mixed breed: nice white head of a bald eagle but with a wonderful red tail of a hawk.
- Doreen O'Connor

9/19 - Fishkill, HRM 61: On a bright blue cloudless autumn day, a stand of jewelweed at the forest edge was jumping with activity. Two ruby-throated hummingbirds were quite determined not to let the other get anywhere near to the nectar of the bright orange tubular flowers. They would face off, spiraling up in the air and chasing each other about the yard. The birds should be saving their energy for the long journey south.
- Ed Spaeth

9/19 - Crugers, HRM 39: I walked out my front door and noticed a large praying mantis perched on the iron railing of the front steps. It appeared to be caught in the web of a large spider. On looking closer, I saw that the mantis was actually in the process of eating the spider that had apparently come to collect its prey, only to find it more than it could handle. Checking back a little later, the mantis had finished its meal, but was now upside down and stuck in the webbing, so I freed it.
- Stephen Butterfass

9/19 - Bedford, HRM 35: This was a day spent scouring blue skies for birds at the Chestnut Ridge hawkwatch. We had hoped to hit upon a goldmine of high-flying or distant broad-winged hawks, but we were not so lucky. We did have a notable mid-afternoon push of kestrels and sharp-shinned hawks. Also counted were five monarch butterflies. Current selected season totals are 11,963 broad-winged hawks and 355 sharp-shinned hawks.
- Gaelyn Ong, Tait Johansson, Jim Jones, Paul Lewis

9/19 - Ossining, HRM 33: In the face of a stiff south breeze, we hauled our seine for aquaria specimens for Ossining's Three-hundredth Anniversary Day. Our catch was modest with a few spot (127 mm), YOY bluefish (152-178 mm), and a gizzard shad (180 mm).
- Liz Feldman, Jacob Feldman

9/19 - Palisades, Rockland County, HRM 23: I saw my first monarch today, along with another butterfly, a red-spotted purple (Limenitis arthemis), notable for the hint of orange-on-blue in their wings.
- Linda Pistolesi

9/19 - Tappan Zee, HRM 27-25: Throughout the week three ospreys have appeared daily, plying the waters of the Tappan Zee for their next meal. I have seen them diving into the water, fully submerging themselves, and then flying off repeatedly shaking their wet feathers to dry off until their next instantaneous plunge.
- William D. Saksen III

9/20 - North Germantown, HRM 109: It was one day after full moon and the strong ebb tide had drawn the river down to expose extensive mud flats. This is a reach of the river where the near-shore shallows once supported a half-mile or more of SAV, including extensive beds of wild celery, vital habitat for small fishes and migrating waterfowl. Following hurricanes Irene and Sandy, however, SAV has been missing here and in many other places along the river where it once thrived. As we walked the flats on the start of the flood tide, we were heartened to see several acres of promising new growth wild celery (90-110 mm). Once the mud flats were covered, we hauled our seine through the wild celery "stubble" and caught many YOY striped bass (74-76 mm).The river was 67 degrees F.
- Tom Lake, T.R. Jackson

9/20 - Town of Fishkill, HRM 63: While birding at Stony Kill Farm this morning, I sighted a black-throated gray warbler.
- Ken Harris

[This bird is not on our list of species for Dutchess County, and we have not heard of anyone else seeing it. Our protocol for adding a bird to the list is three observers, or a specimen, or an accepted New York State Avian Records Committee report. Since 1992, the committee has accepted seven reports of black-throated gray warbler in the state. This species is normally found from the Rocky Mountains west. Barbara Butler]

9/20 - Bedford, HRM 35: We had a better-than-expected flight in the afternoon on south winds. Also counted were five monarch butterflies. Current selected season totals are 11,963 broad-winged hawks and 361 sharp-shinned hawks.
- Gaelyn Ong, Arthur W. Green, Charles Bobelis

9/20 - Croton Point, HRM 35-34: The kestrels that were such a pleasure a couple of days ago were just a memory - every bird flown. As compensation, two juvenile northern harriers coursed the grasslands. A welcome call came from Gino Garner who had been out fishing in the Tappan Zee: "I got fish!" Gino gave me two lovely Lafayettes, or spot, and two handsome bluefish. The spot make an interesting story. After years of seeing none, two running years of plenty have occurred. In Verplanck, I am told, kids fishing from docks can catch a couple of dozen in an hour. Last year, the sunfish-sized specimens were rarely six inches long. But this season, ten inches is more the rule.
- Christopher Letts

[Spot are a sporadic summer visitor to the Hudson estuary. Their colloquial name, Lafayette, for the Marquis de Lafayette of France, dates from the early nineteenth century. Lafayette's visit to New York City in 1824, to be honored for his role on behalf of the colonies during the American Revolution, coincided with unusually large numbers of these small drum in New York Harbor and the lower Hudson estuary. Tom Lake.]

9/20 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 34: As we were driving north over the Croton River, we were surprised to see a beautiful adult bald eagle flying very low against the clear blue sky. It came down the Croton River and headed toward the Hudson.
- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson

9/21 - Bedford, HRM 35: With minimal updrafts available, south winds, and three days elapsed since our last cold front, we were not particularly surprised to have struck out on broad-winged hawks entirely today. Instead, we received a smattering of low-altitude migrants that often powered their way in casual proximity to the watch platform. Despite the conditions, I think we fared surprisingly well. Also counted were 88 cedar waxwings (ten flocks), 72 double-crested cormorants (one flock), and our ruby-throated hummingbirds. Current selected season totals are 11,963 broad-winged hawks and 414 sharp-shinned hawks.
- Arthur W. Green, Charles Bobelis, Gaelyn Ong

9/21 - Ossining, HRM 33: With a strong south wind pushing our lines upriver, we fished with our backs to the breeze off the docks at the Shattemuc Yacht Club. Using floats and earthworms, we caught many YOY bluefish, "snappers," now fully 7-8 inches long. We put one particularly nice snapper - who we named "Nibbles" - into the aquarium at the yacht club.
- Delia Montague

9/22 - Indian Kill, HRM 85: We had a very successful night of sampling on the Indian Kill. After a tricky high-tide installation of our fyke net on Saturday, we were delighted at an amazing haul on Sunday morning. It included thirty eels, featuring a big one (680 mm). Other species included white perch, fallfish, bluegills, white suckers, redbreast sunfish, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, pumpkinseed sunfish, brown bullheads, green sunfish, and three Oriental weatherfish. Non-fish species included five wood turtles, a northern water snake, and a male blue crab.
- Chris Bowser, Karin Limburg, Dave Lindemann, Susan Hereth, Chauncey Hirose-Hebert, Mike Jacoby

9/22 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 76: In late afternoon we met the first moment of autumn (equinox) on the Walkway over the Hudson. With a strong northwesterly breeze, the ridgelines were peppered with migrating turkey and black vultures. The Hudson River Environmental Conditions Observing System real-time monitoring station display on the Walkway recorded the river temperature at 72.1 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Tom Lake

9/22 - Bedford, HRM 35: In the wake of last night's cold front, this was not exactly the deluge of broad-winged hawks we were hoping for at the Chestnut Ridge hawkwatch. Birds passed above eye-level to moderate height, with no real high-flyers. However, a number of migrants passed surprisingly close to the platform. Also counted were six ruby-throated hummingbirds and twelve monarchs. Current selected season totals are 12,001 broad-winged hawks and 414 sharp-shinned hawks.
- Arthur W. Green, Allen Kurtz, Gaelyn Ong, Jim Jones

9/23 - Greene County, HRM 116: We had the Greene-Columbia Community College ecology class at the river today at Cohotate to seine and caught practically nothing. When we had finished our seining we had only a couple of white perch, a few tessellated darters, and two YOY alewives to show for our efforts. This area of the river used to be choked with wild celery. All of that is gone now and so are the fish we used to catch here.
- John Powell

9/23 - Selkirk, HRM 135: Our resident female hummingbird was still here. I know it's the resident female by where she perches. However, I haven't seen a male hummingbird in weeks. I'm assuming it won't be long now before they are all gone for the year.
- Roberta Jeracka

A small tesselated darter in a seine net

9/23 - Kowawese, HRM 59: The air temperature - 58 degrees F - made the river (68 degrees F) feel cozy. We hauled our 85-foot seine up and down the beach with the same result: tessellated darters. With no SAV, the shallows were a desert, offering very little habitat to attract small fishes. The river bottom was sandy smooth - perfect for darters but lacking niches for crabs and YOY fishes. An adult bald eagle circled overhead as a strong west wind sheared over the top of the Hudson Highlands. (Photo of tesselated darter by Steve Stanne; "tesselated" means having a checkered appearance.)
- Tom Lake, T.R. Jackson

[Lack of SAV has diminished aquatic habitat for ducks and geese as well as fishes. Wild celery is a favorite of waterfowl. Barren shallows offer little forage for flocks that set down for an overnight in their migration. Tom Lake.]

9/23 - Bedford, HRM 35: It was day two, post-cold front, and the broad-winged hawks still did not show at the Chestnut Ridge hawkwatch. Nearly all the birds we observed passed at casual height over the tree canopy. Also counted were two monarchs. Current selected season totals are 12,059 broad-winged hawks and 464 sharp-shinned hawks.
- Arthur W. Green, Chet Friedman, Gaelyn Ong

9/23 - Croton Point, HRM 35: An immature red-headed woodpecker offered good looks this morning for Saw Mill River Audubon's bird walk.
- Anne Swaim

9/23 - Croton Point, HRM 34: I had not seen a catbird or house wren on the Point for weeks, but today I took my time and worked the south shore service road. There I found catbirds, flocks of catbirds, and more than a dozen house wrens. There must be a microclimate effect with the south and west fetch. If I need a catbird in winter, this is where I will look, in the thick understory near the old wine cellars.
- Christopher Letts

9/23 - Croton River, HRM 34: Riding the Metro North 7:20 AM to Grand Central Station, I spotted an adult bald eagle flying north over the Croton River.
- Hugh L. McLean

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