After more than a week with no measurable precipitation, brackish water (about 10% sea water) began to creep above the Hudson Highlands. Would it bring brackish water animals with it? The first of our winter feeder birds made a showing this week as well.
HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK
10/2 – Rhinebeck, HRM 90: I was awakened last night by continuous screeching from a tree outside my window. The racket went on for quite a while. As a birder, I knew it had to be a nocturnal predatory bird but had never heard one that sounded both so distressed and persistent. The gentlest comparison was of a large rusty gate careening on an eerily windless night. Today I did an online search of owl calls and the one I heard matched that of the barn owl. I regret missing this visual treat – it moved away next night. This is the classic owl middle-of the-night mythological “harbinger of death.” One can understand belief in ghostly apparitions by the haunting facial disc and white feathers of this bird with its tormented call.
– Pat Joel
NATURAL HISTORY NOTES
10/1- Hudson, HRM 118: One of the staff at the Questar III Columbia-Greene Educational Center discovered a praying mantis (that he named “Paula”), at the front entrance of our school early this morning. It was still there when I arrived a while later and it stayed at its post for hours, welcoming students and faculty.
– Lynn Seftner
10/1 – Rhinebeck, HRM 90: Brown marmorated stink bugs had arrived on the deck, on the outside of screens, and in sunny spots on the siding.
– Phyllis Marsteller
10/1 – Bedford, HRM 35: This was a rather sparse flight for early October at the Chestnut Ridge hawkwatch. Some birds were sighted flying surprisingly low despite rip-roaring thermals. A pair of bald eagles (an immature and a second-year bird) circling overhead were the raptor highlight of the day. There were no afternoon flights of either dragonflies or falcons. Also counted were five common ravens, 46 blue jays, one ruby-throated hummingbird, and a single monarch. Current selected season totals are 12,232 broad-winged hawks and 974 sharp-shinned hawks.
– Arthur W. Green
10/1 – Croton Point, HRM 35-34: It was a lovely morning for a walk and I took a long one. The entire Point vibrated with bird life – songbirds were everywhere. For two hours I was rarely out of sight or sound of blue jays and robins. Warblers, catbirds, flycatchers, and red-winged blackbirds were all over the place. However, I saw only one kestrel and a single monarch.
– Christopher Letts
10/2 – Fishkill, HRM 61: Looking up to the bright blue sky on a glorious October day, I noticed a kettle of seven birds circling on the thermals overhead. They were turkey vultures, high aloft, but one was distinctly different, much larger. As it effortlessly turned, its tail and then its head glinted white in the autumn sunlight. Wonderful! An adult bald eagle was riding the thermals with the vultures. My adrenalin rush didn’t reach as high as the eagle, but fairly close, for this was a first bald eagle sighting from my yard, which is several miles distant from the Hudson.
– Ed Spaeth
10/2 – Beacon, HRM 61: Following ten days with no rain, the sea salt finally made it to Long Dock Park for the first time this season. We measured 3.0 parts per thousand [ppt]; seawater at this latitude averages 32-33 ppt. The river was 67 degrees Fahrenheit.
– Tom Lake, T.R. Jackson
10/2 – Bedford, HRM 35: Many of the migrating raptors spotted from the Chestnut Ridge hawkwatch today were clearly struggling against the west winds as they made their way southwest. We counted one monarch today. Current selected season totals are 12,232 broad-winged hawks and 1,039 sharp-shinned hawks.
– Tait Johansson, Jim Jones
10/2 – Croton Point, HRM 35-34: Where there were thousands of passerines yesterday, where I listed three dozen species in two hours, I saw and heard barely a dozen this morning. Gone were yesterday’s legions of migrants. The constant was one kestrel and a solitary monarch.
– Christopher Letts
10/3 – Crugers, HRM 38.5: We had not seen the great blue heron from Ogilvie’s Pond for several days, so this afternoon we went searching, driving across the Oscawana Bridge over Furnace Brook. The tide was low and a tree trunk was exposed on the mud flats. Standing on it, preening its feathers, was our heron. Earlier, we had spotted a monarch butterfly on a butterfly bush, only the third one we’ve seen this year.
– Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson
10/3 – Furnace Woods, HRM 38: Ah, the leaves come down, they roar down, they thunder down. With barely enough breeze to alter their course of fall, they blanket the mirror surface of Pine Lake. Where I mulched millions two days ago there lies a solid new carpet of maple leaves, hiding the lawn beneath, hardly a speck of green showing through.
– Christopher Letts
10/3 – Bedford, HRM 35: We had excellent sharp-shinned numbers at the Chestnut Ridge hawkwatch despite lackluster conditions which assured that distant birds we’d normally see were lost to the haze. There was not much of a dragonfly push prior to the day’s mid-afternoon American kestrel flight, with only a few green darners observed near the watch platform. Also counted were 196 blue jays (36 small flocks), 32 cedar waxwings (four flocks), and one monarch. Current selected season totals are 12,232 broad-winged hawks and 1,105 sharp-shinned hawks.
– Arthur W. Green, Gaelyn Ong
10/3 – Croton Point, HRM 35-34: Another huge wave of songbirds had arrived and the trees and understory were throbbing with warblers and other small birds. I saw more birds in one scrubby black willow than in yesterday’s hour-long walk.
– Christopher Letts
10/4 – Middle Ground, HRM 119.5: We have been photographing an eagle family since May, three fledglings and the adults. The last day we saw the family together was September 25.
– Michael Kalin, Julie Elson
10/4 – Milan HRM 90: The first black-capped chickadees visited my feeder today. They are friendly little guys.
– Marty Otter
10/4 – Hyde Park, HRM 82: I watched a house wren tear into a meal of stink bug like a grizzly bear enjoying salmon.
– Barbara Wells
10/4 – Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: The hummingbird feeders came down today and the finch feeders went up. Immediately a half-dozen chickadees and a like number of goldfinches mobbed the feeders. One chickadee momentarily landed on my hand as I took too long to fasten the top on a feeder.
– Tom Lake
10/4 – Beacon, HRM 61: After more than a week of air temperatures in the 70s and 80s, no rain, and salinity at 4.0 ppt, we expected to see some brackish water fish in our net. Instead we caught an assemblage of typical freshwater species: smallmouth bass 84-100 millimeters [mm] long, largemouth bass (125-150 mm), banded killifish, tessellated darters, spottail shiners, and small American eels. The only evidence of brackish water were handfuls of comb jellies, looking like little translucent pearls in the seine.
– Tom Lake, Phyllis Lake
10/4 – Bedford, HRM 35: Our day at the Chestnut Ridge hawkwatch started and ended with very localized bands of brisk rain that hardly registered on the National Weather Service radar, but we were pretty well soaked! In spite of oppressive haze and some valley fog that pretty much ruled out detection of distant migrants, we did fairly well. It’s not inconceivable that we lost at least as many birds to the haze as we counted. Two of the three peregrine falcons passed close enough to the watch platform to be aged without binoculars. Also counted were 72 blue jays (ten small flocks) and 50 cedar waxwings (five flocks). Current selected season totals are 12,232 broad-winged hawks and 1,133 sharp-shinned hawks. (Photos of first year [left] and adult [right] peregrine falcons by Mike Pogue.)
– Gaelyn Ong, Jim Jones
10/5 – Norrie Point, HRM 85: There were easily a hundred Canada geese and 30 mallards foraging across acres of water chestnut. Each of two dozen deadfalls had a cormorant, many of them striking their “Dracula” pose, drying out (cormorant feathers lack the buoyant oils of waterfowl). We had time to notice these things because our public fishing program was practically non-existent. Across three hours, fifteen anglers landed just one fish, an eight-inch-long bluegill caught by one-year-old Chance Fernald, The tide was high and the river was 67 degrees F.
– Ryan Coulter, Tom Lake
10/5 – Bedford, HRM 35: Two of the four peregrine falcons we had today at the Chestnut Ridge hawkwatch passed close enough to the watch platform to be seen without binoculars. The day ended with a small push of all three species of falcons (peregrine, merlin, and kestrel) as well as sharp-shinned and Cooper’s hawks, and a small kettle of three ospreys. We also had a kettle of black and turkey vultures relatively close to the platform in mid-afternoon. Also counted were two monarchs. Current selected season totals are 12,232 broad-winged hawks and 1,165 sharp-shinned hawks.
– Gaelyn Ong, Arthur W. Green, Charles Bobelis, Chris Franks, Steve Walter
10/6 – New Paltz, HRM 78: We saw something pretty amazing at midday on the Wallkill River: An adult bald eagle swooped down to the water and snatched a fish off the surface. As it flew away the fish squirmed in an odd way and we realized it was an American eel!
– Tom O’Dowd, Anne Eshenroeder
10/6 – Verplanck, HRM 40.5: Hundreds of brant were flying south in large intermittent flocks. As we fed the mallards and a lone Canada goose, two brant came skidding into the flock and then walked onto the beach to pick grit and preen.
– Ed McKay, Hope McKay, Hunter McKay
10/6 – Bedford, HRM 35: With drizzle and fog, we could barely see from the Chestnut Ridge hawkwatch. In midday, by chance, a hunting juvenile Cooper’s hawk was spotted diving into the tree canopy. Current selected season totals are 12,232 broad-winged hawks and 1,165 sharp-shinned hawks (no increase from yesterday; no migrating raptors counted for the day).
– Gaelyn Ong, Arthur W. Green
10/7 – North Germantown, HRM 109: We kept a wary eye on the blackening sky over the Catskills to the west (tornado watch). The wind had picked up and a steady but light shower had begun to soak us. The expected low tide never materialized as a strong south-southeast wind had kept it in. We hauled our 85-foot-long seine across sandy shallows dotted with small clumps of vegetation, and then hastened to land it before the tide caught us or the storm reached us. As with our last visit (see 9/20) our net caught a dozen or more young-of-the-year striped bass (67-74 mm), mixed in with white perch, banded killifish, and small American eels. Within minutes of collecting our gear, the rain began (1.5″) accompanied by strong winds. The water was 67 degrees F.
– Tom Lake, T.R. Jackson
10/7 – Ulster County, HRM 97: With a couple of warmer nights recently, I’d begun to hear katydids again. Some nights just a couple, but others it was an entire chorus. I think this might be the latest I have ever heard them. I came upon a flock of wild turkeys this morning with two mature toms all fanned out like they were going to go at it. There were five or six hens around them.
– Scott Davis
10/7 – Bedford, HRM 35: Despite strong winds and impending storms, there was more activity than one might expect at the Chestnut Ridge hawkwatch. A lone, straggling adult broad-winged hawk was spotted before we were shut out by the first round of rain at midday. Our attempt to finish up the day was met almost immediately by another bout of hard rain, although it was nice to see resident turkey vultures and red-tailed hawks still making their rounds right up until visibility closed off completely. Also counted were 40 European starlings (one flock), 22 blue jays (seven small flocks), 30 Canada geese, and one monarch. Current selected season totals are 12,233 broad-winged hawks and 1,167 sharp-shinned hawks.
– Gaelyn Ong, Arthur W. Green
YOUNG TREES AND SHRUBS LOOKING FOR GOOD STREAMSIDE HOMES
The Hudson Estuary “Trees for Tribs” program is still accepting applications for plantings in late October and early November. The initiative provides free native trees and shrubs, planting materials, technical assistance, and site preparation for qualifying sites along streams in the Hudson River estuary watershed. Applicants must provide volunteer labor for planting and long term maintenance. Applications and additional information are available by emailing Hudson River Estuary Program Stream Buffer Coordinator Beth Roessler, calling (845)256-2253, or visiting the Trees for Tribs website.
FALL 2013 NATURAL HISTORY PROGRAMS
October 19: 9:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Hooked on Our Waters, a free daylong forum at the CUNY Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, will bring together the public, non-profits, and government agencies to explore how we all use the natural water resources around us: making healthy choices about eating fish you catch and fish you buy; restoring the ecology of New York City’s waters; creating water stewards; and connecting to the water. John Waldman will give the keynote address – “New York Harbor: Four Centuries between Eagles.” Space is limited and registration is required. For more information and to register visit the Hooked on Our Waters website. Sponsored by the Hudson River Fish Advisory Outreach Project and New York-New Jersey Harbor & Estuary Program; email the Fish Advisory Project or call 518-402-7537 for more information.
HUDSON RIVER MILES
The Hudson is measured north from Hudson River Mile 0 at the Battery at the southern tip of Manhattan. The George Washington Bridge is at HRM 12, the Tappan Zee 28, Bear Mountain 47, Beacon-Newburgh 62, Mid-Hudson 75, Kingston-Rhinecliff 95, Rip Van Winkle 114, and the Federal Dam at Troy, the head of tidewater, at 153. The tidal section of the Hudson constitutes a bit less than half the total distance – 315 miles – from Lake Tear of the Clouds to the Battery. Entries from points east and west in the watershed reference the corresponding river mile on the mainstem.
TO CONTRIBUTE YOUR OBSERVATIONS OR TO SUBSCRIBE
The Hudson River Almanac is compiled and edited by Tom Lake and emailed weekly by Steve Stanne, education coordinator at DEC’s Hudson River Estuary Program. Share your observations by e-mailing them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
To subscribe to the Almanac (or to unsubscribe), go to DEC’s Email Lists page, enter your email address, and click on “Submit.” A page listing available subscription topics will appear. Scroll down; under the heading “Natural Areas and Wildlife” is the section “Lakes and Rivers” with a listing for the Hudson River Almanac. Click on the check box to subscribe. While there, you may wish to subscribe to RiverNet, which covers projects, events and actions related to the Hudson and its watershed, or to other DEC newsletters and information feeds.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s high and low tide and tidal current predictions are invaluable for planning boating, fishing, and other excursions on and along the estuary.
Historical information on the movements of the salt front is available on the U.S. Geological Survey’s Hudson River Salt Frontwebsite.
Copies of past issues of the Hudson River Almanac, Volumes II-VIII, are available for purchase from the publisher, Purple Mountain Press, (800) 325-2665.