It was a mixed bag of sightings this week from bobcats to black squirrels, and another rare fish as well – a reminder of the warm and salty summer we had. The skies continued to fill with birds in migration, led by the right-on-time brant, small geese returning from their breeding grounds in the Arctic.
HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK
10/13 – Manhattan, HRM 1: We caught a juvenile black sea bass 50 millimeters [mm] long, our first this season, at The River Project’s sampling site on Pier 40 in the Hudson River Park. However, the surprise catch today was a gray snapper (80 mm). This was only the second one we have caught – the first occurred in 1999. The gray snapper, a saltwater fish also known as mangrove snapper, is a rare visitor to the lower estuary in late summer and fall. Gray snappers (Lutjanus griseus) range from Brazil to the New York Bight, and eastward to the coast of Africa, with a center of abundance from Florida through the Caribbean. In the southern part of their range they commonly enter rivers and estuaries.
[Collectively, there are probably fewer than ten records of snappers (Lutjanidae), tropical marine strays, for the Hudson River. The first record of a gray snapper (26 mm) was a fish caught by Robert Boyle in September 1967 in Haverstraw Bay (river mile 36). Boyle comments in his book, The Hudson River: A Natural and Unnatural History (1969), that “… so far as I can determine, the mangrove snapper is now the only species of fish which has been taken in both the Hudson and Congo rivers.” John Waldman adds that the bluefish (Pomatomus saltatrix) may also be found in both estuaries. Tom Lake.]
NATURAL HISTORY NOTES
10/10 – Verplanck, HRM 40.5: Just as witnessed two days ago, I spotted roughly 150 brant flying south down the river to wintering locations.
10/10 – Bedford, HRM 35: The bright blue sky made hawk watching difficult today at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch. It may have allowed birds to pass by undetected. In midday, a group of ten birds were seen high overhead, including sharp-shinned hawks; Cooper’s hawks; broad-winged hawks; and a turkey vulture. Non-raptor observations included two common ravens, 211 Canada geese, and two monarchs.
10/11 – Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 68: We spent an hour in quiet observation, arguably the best kind. We counted three monarchs and seven bluebirds – the former moving through, the latter settling in for the coming winter. Off to the north we heard “k-i-r-r-r-r-r.” With a brisk southwest breeze, the call sounded far off, but we soon saw the red-tailed hawk circling in the sky, tacking in the wind like a sailboat. Then we heard the “chortle” of a bald eagle and within a minute the red-tail began to joust with the immature eagle, using its smaller size and greater maneuverability to fly circles around the larger raptor. No harm done – they seemed to be going through the motions as though it was expected of them. Both were probably in migration and soon disappeared over the forest to the east.
10/11 – Denning’s Point, HRM 60: There is a big flat rock along the river south of Long Dock, near the top of Denning’s Point, where fishing is often very good. Today I caught and released two carp and a channel catfish. The carp were twelve pounds, seven ounces, and six pounds, four ounces. The channel catfish was about two pounds. It is very tricky to land large carp while fishing here. Anglers are relatively immobile at this site due to the rip-rap, so as the big fish race inshore, they drag the angler’s line up and down the shoreline across the many submerged rocks.
10/11 – Bedford, HRM 35: There was less activity than expected today at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch. Still, there was an increase in turkey vultures (31) and black vultures (14) moving through. Non-raptor observations included a common loon, 67 Canada geese, and three monarchs.
10/12 – Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 68: There is a small, spring-fed brook that runs down the fall line at the south end of Dutchess County’s Bowdoin Park. In prehistoric times it likely had a small run of white suckers, white perch, yellow perch, even river herring. Today it meets the river in a tidal backwater, a sediment trap formed inside the railroad tracks. At low tide today, we noticed a fish – a gorgeous smallmouth bass – caught upstream in the receding water, looking like it might get stranded in a shrinking pool. We climbed down to the water’s edge, scooped up the fish, and released it into deeper water. [Photo of smallmouth bass courtesy of Kathleen Courtney.]
10/12 – Beacon, HRM 61: We had to hustle! The new moon tide was rushing up on the sand, inches at a time, as we watched. Our seining team hauled the high tide beach with few expectations but managed to capture some gorgeous young-of-the-year [YOY] banded killifish (54-57 mm). My assistants, aged two to five years old, were impressed as the sunshine caught the killies’ iridescent purple and lavender bands. The river was a refreshing 66 degrees Fahrenheit – still swim-suit weather – and salinity measured about 1.0 parts per thousand [ppt].
10/12 – Bedford, HRM 35: Other than a large group of turkey vultures (37) moving past in morning, it was a slow day at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch. Non-raptor observations included 34 Canada geese and three monarchs.
10/13 – Clinton Corners, HRM 82: I spotted the leucistic hawk I had dubbed “Lucy” flying in the distance with another red-tailed hawk. She is a near-white red-tailed hawk that I have been photographing in the Stanfordville-Clinton Corners area for the past three years. [Photo of leucistic red-tailed hawk courtesy of Deborah Tracy-Kral.]
10/13 – Bedford, HRM 35: Turkey vultures (15) and black vultures (4) dominated the morning at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch with very minimal activity otherwise. One red-shouldered hawk brought their season’s total to seven. There was no raptor activity after 12:00 noon.
10/14 – Warren County, HRM 237: I am a surveyor in Warren County and being out in the woods every day I have noticed an inordinate number of black squirrels this year. I usually only see a handful a year but this month I have spotted at least fifteen in vastly different habitats.
[Melanistic or “black” squirrels are a genetic variation, a sub-group of the eastern gray squirrel that has increased melanin resulting in black fur. Biologists have suggested that black squirrels may have a selective advantage over gray squirrels due to an increased cold tolerance. While overall they are not particularly rare in the Hudson Valley – they are common in parts of Canada – it is estimated that only about one in 10,000 gray squirrels is melanistic. Tom Lake.]
10/14 – Milan HRM 90: A small flock of wild turkeys, one tom and four hens, just strolled past. Two of the hens were almost entirely white, leucistic, with only spots of normal color.
[Accroding to Birding.about.com, leucism is an abnormal plumage condition caused by a genetic mutation that prevents pigment, particularly melanin, from being properly deposited on a bird’s feathers. As a result, the birds do not have the normal, classic plumage colors listed in field guides, and instead the plumage has several color changes, including: white patches where the bird should not have any; paler overall plumage that looks faint, diluted or bleached ; overall white plumage with little or no color discernable. Leucism affects only the bird’s feathers, and typically only those with melanin pigment – usually dark feathers. It’s also possible that these were escapees from a domestic flock of turkeys. Steve Stanne.]
10/14 – Cold Spring, HRM 54: At first there was one, then two, then four adult bald eagles sharing the sky above the river in the Hudson Highlands just off Cold Spring early this morning. They circled about, ranging from Crow’s Nest up to Storm King and back for about ten minutes. Their interaction elicited some high-pitched chatter and calls among them. Two seemed to battle (or played) briefly above the slope of Crow’s Nest before everyone disappeared.
10/14 – Bedford, HRM 35: It was an even slower day than yesterday at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch. Six turkey vultures and six sharp-shinned hawks were the high count. Non-raptor observations included nine Canada geese, and three monarchs.
10/15 – Coxsackie, HRM 124: I came upon a banded adult ring-billed gull at the Coxsackie boat launch today and then found it again four hours later at the Hudson Boat Launch. I was unable to get the full band code numbers. Interestingly, I found this bird on October 31 last year, also at the Coxsackie boat launch, so I was able to get the full numeric band code from photos taken last year: Blue leg band FF9, USGS band 0954-19207.
[I received the banding data (0954-19207) on this gull from Jean-François Giroux of the Department des Sciences Biologiques, Universite du Quebec, in Montreal, Canada. The banding program was initiated by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation as part of a study on movements and population dynamics of ring-billed gulls in eastern North America. This male gull was banded on June 30, 2011, in Quebec, and was at least three years old, maybe older since they couldn’t tell its actual age when it was banded other than it was more than three years old. The gull was next spotted in April 2012 in Quebec, and then made three trips to Coxsackie in November 2013, October 2014, and October 2015. Rich Guthrie.]
10/15 – Northern Dutchess County: I had been looking for bobcats for years and years. My first one was in 1990, seen walking down the road like the Lord of the Manor. He turned and gave me a baleful look as if it questioning why I was on his road. Today I saw what I initially thought were fox crossing in front of my car. It was a mama bobcat and her two kits. [Photo of mother bobcat and kitten courtesy of Deborah Tracy-Kral.]
10/15 – Furnace Woods, HRM 38.5: Jim Bourdan handed me what was easily the largest giant puffball I had ever seen, bigger than a basketball. It was locally found in a hardwood forest in Westchester County. My refrigerator will have to be reorganized to accommodate it along with a week of mushroom suppers.
[The giant puffball (Calvatia gigantea), some of which can grow to be 28 inches or more in diameter, is a common mushroom found in fields and deciduous forests in late summer and fall. The interior of young puffballs is stark white, the distinguishing characteristic to prime edibility. Puffballs may be sauteed, broiled, or fried, but before eating any mushroom, be certain of its identity. Tom Lake.]
10/15 – Bedford, HRM 35: We had an excellent turkey vulture flight today (202) at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch with one kettle of 58 birds. Non-raptor observations included two American pipits, two common ravens, and four monarchs.
10/16 – Ulster County, HRM 97: We had the most extraordinary giant puffball growing in our garden by the roses. It looked like an alien egg! [Photo of giant puffball courtesy of Peg Duke.]
10/16 – Northern Dutchess County: After waiting fifteen years for a bobcat sighting, I had my second one in two days. I saw what I thought was a coyote crossing the road and traveling up a residential driveway. I quickly pulled over and was thrilled to see it was another bobcat. After looking and hoping for years, I now had two separate sightings in two days.
[While bobcats have a rather large range, entries such as this one are intentionally left vague other than to note their presence. The omission of exact locations of easily threatened fauna such as eagle nests, night roosts, snowy owls, rattlesnake dens, and bobcats, becomes necessary following examples of human intrusion. Tom Lake.]
10/16 – Kowawese, HRM 59: The water (62 degrees F) was more than a dozen degrees warmer than the air, which made being in, and wet, quite comfortable. Conspicuous by their total absence were the multitudes of YOY river herring that had been here for the last three months. Young-of-the-year striped bass (65-72 mm) helped make up for it, as did a dozen palm-sized blue crabs. Salinity still measured 1.5 ppt.
[Why are there so many seining entries in the Hudson River Almanac? It has to do with observation. If we are looking for birds, butterflies, insects, and other wildlife, our eyes and ears are sufficient, perhaps aided by optics. But fish are cryptic, hidden in streams, lakes and rivers. To see them requires equipment ranging from rods and reels to snorkels and masks to seines, pots, and traps. Tom Lake.]
10/16 – Bedford, HRM 35: There was a fairly consistent flow of migrants today at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch, with more turkey vultures (83) continuing to move. Non-raptor observations included three American pipits and 26 Canada geese.
10:16 – Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: The morning sun came over the reservoir and shined through the yellowing trees, dazzling them. As the day progressed, and the light shifted, the world turned peachy and golden, spotted with brilliant touches of the reds to come. I planted three packets of morning glories this year: one seed germinated. The spindly vine had started producing lovely blue flowers that mirrored the fall-blue sky.
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 DEC’s Hudson River Estuary Program. Share your observations by e-mailing them to email@example.com.
To subscribe to the Almanac (or to unsubscribe), go to DEC’s Email Lists page, enter your email address, and click on “Submit.” Fill in and submit the requested information on the “New Subscriber” page. This will take you to “Quick Subscriptions”. 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 current year’s issues are available at http://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/25611.html . To view older issues, visit the New York State Library’s Hudson River Almanac Archive. If it asks you to login, click on “Guest.” You may then need to reopen this page and click on the Almanac Archive link again to access the Almanac collection in the library’s files.
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For real-time information on Hudson River tides, weather and water conditions from eight monitoring stations, visit the Hudson River Environmental Conditions Observing System website.
Visit the U.S. Geological Survey’s Hudson River Salt Front website for historical information on the salt front’s movements in the estuary.
Information about the Hudson River Estuary Program is available on DEC’s website at http://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/4920.html .
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