Hudson River Almanac 9/19/15 – 9/25/15

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river otter - courtesy Deborah Tracy-Kral (see 9/23)

Hudson River Almanac

September 19, 2015 – September 25, 2015
Compiled by Tom Lake, Hudson River Estuary Program Naturalist


This was a week for iconic wildlife such as moose, river otters, black bears, bobcats, “woyotes,” ravens, and bald eagles. Along with the common loon, these are iconic in the sense that they remind us of less complex times, when demand on space in the watershed was less contentious.


9/22 – Chatham, HRM 126: A bull moose lumbered past my house this evening a half mile east of Chatham Village. The moose continued due north through 23 acres of woods where it stopped at a pond for fifteen minutes, keeping its eye on me as I moved around. He then continued due north. This was presumably the same moose that was spotted last evening on the east side of Route 22 in Copake, and then this morning at the Hawthorne Valley Farm. [Photo of young bull moose courtesy of Peter Blandori.]
– Peter Blandori


9/18 – Piermont Pier, HRM 25: A few students and I, the “Nyack College Fishing Club,” went to Piermont Pier today for some rod and reel, catch-and-release fishing. While we caught white perch, striped bass, and American eels, the highlights were three oyster toadfish (two adults) and two seven-inch-long weakfish.
– Kishi John, Pamila Ramotar-John, Emily Barner, Kuan Chiu, Angel Roman, Hector Nunez, Peter Park

weakfish[Weakfish (Cynoscion regalis) is one of the seven species of drum in the estuary, including freshwater drum, black drum, northern kingfish, spot, croaker, and silver perch. Most of them have a highly specialized swim bladder that serves as sound-producing organs. This has led to the colloquial family name of “drum.” Weakfish (the common name is a reference to its lightly structured mouth and its perchant for tossing fish hooks) are a highly prized saltwater sport fish along the Mid-Atlantic coast. Photo of weakfish courtesy of Peter Park. Tom Lake.]

9/19 – New Paltz, HRM 78: While relaxing in my backyard this morning with binoculars in hand I was surprised to see about 300 broad-winged hawks circling and making figure-eights overhead. These raptors migrate in great numbers down the eastern ridges of the Shawangunk Mountains in mid-September.
– Jason Clark

9/19 – Town of Lloyd, HRM 74: While it was not a full-blown flight day for birds and butterflies, there was still a nice west-northwest breeze, giving both a push. Walking through an apple orchard we began to notice monarchs winding their way down the rows of trees. After a half-hour we had counted eleven. Over the tops of taller trees we counted four sharp-shinned hawks zoom past. Higher still, we spotted a kettle of turkey vultures that held eleven birds.
– Tom Lake, T.R. Jackson

spotted garden slug9/19 – Dutchess County, HRM 61: While hiking at Wonder Lake State Park I saw more than a dozen northern leopard frogs leap from the trail as I approached. They were all juveniles about the size of a quarter, and it was encouraging to see so many in spite of the lack of rain. On a log I also saw a very large slug, about four inches long, that I had never seen before. It turned out to be a spotted garden slug (Limax maximus), an introduced species from Europe. I am glad that I haven’t seen any around my garden. [Photo of spotted garden slug courtesy of Jim Steck.]
– Jim Steck

9/19 – Bedford, HRM 35: It was a slow day at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch especially for broad-winged hawks (5). There was a mix of osprey, sharp-shinned hawks, and American kestrels throughout the day. Non-raptor observations included five ruby-throated hummingbirds and seventeen monarch butterflies.
– Charlie Plimpton, Avril Armstrong, Christiana Ricchezza, Gerardo Mendez , Jim Russell, Keith Michael, Ray Ferrara, S.J. Rozan, Tait Johansson

9/20 – Millbrook, HRM 82: Now that summer was ending, the common wood nymphs and great spangled fritillaries were disappearing; among butterflies only common sulfurs remained abundant. Among the asters, side-flowering, frost, New York, New England and white panicle were blooming all at once in the fields among the goldenrod, while the heart-leafed asters were blooming in the woods wherever there was a patch of light. The puffballs were “blooming” as well, including the edible gray puffballs in the fields and the gem-studded puffballs and poisonous common earthball (Scleroderma citrinum), a little puffball, related to the bolete mushrooms, in the woods.
– Nelson D. Johnson

9/20 – Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 68: A cold front moved through overnight and with a stark blue cerulean sky and a strong northwest breeze, this was looking like a perfect “flight day” for migrating birds and butterflies. It took a while but they came. First a kettle of broad-winged hawks, high and to the west, rotating in place while the kettle moved as a unit southward. A mixed kettle of both turkey and black vultures were spinning at a lower level but still moving, inexorably, down river. Over the forest I spotted a couple of sharp-shinned hawks coursing quickly past, and two falcons, possibly merlins, were also dodging the tree tops flying south. While I counted two dozen butterflies, only two were monarchs. Two adult bald eagles zoomed past, separately, but they were more than likely local birds.
– Tom Lake

[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.]

9/20 – Beacon, HRM 61: This was a fishing and observation day at Long Dock. I caught and released ten channel catfish (one to two pounds), one brown bullhead, and a carp (three pounds). There were many schools of small “baitfish” – they appeared as black clouds moving in compact groups a foot or so under the surface. Occasionally they would flip into the air with a small silver flash. The water chestnut that had been present all summer was now gone.
– Bill Greene

[This reach of the river was presently hosting large schools of silvery young-of-the-year [YOY] blueback herring. Tom Lake.]

9/20 – Bedford, HRM 35: It was another slow start in the morning at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch but the afternoon brought consistent but small streams of broad-winged hawks (1,060), a few in bigger kettles. Most birds were seen to the south. We also had an adult and an immature bald eagle fly high overhead in the last hour. Non-raptor observations included three ruby-throated hummingbirds and thirteen monarch butterflies.
– Charlie Plimpton, Allen Kurtz, Bill Anderson, Christiana Ricchezza, Ray Ferrara, Tait Johansson, Tony Loomis

9/21 – Long Lake, Essex County: I came upon a group of common ravens flushing from a dead animal on Route 28N in Long Lake [just outside the watershed]. I slowed down and, sadly, saw a dead black bear cub in the middle of the road. I was searching for something I could use to get the cub out of the road when I glanced in my rearview mirror. It was filled with the image of a bull moose. I took photos of this majestic animal before a car came by and the moose quickly disappeared over the guardrail.
– Joan Collins

9/21 – Milan, HRM 90: For the last few summers there has been a little brown myotis bat in a light fixture by my front door. Today there were four! A good sign.
– Marty Otter

adult bald eagle in pine tree9/21 – Town of Poughkeepsie: In mid-afternoon we were looking for the adult bald eagle pair from NY62. It had ben exactly three months since their nestling had fledged (June 21) and they had been back to the area only sporadically. We found an adult perched in a favorite tree next to the river. We assumed it was “Dad.” Later, near the nest tree, we watched a second adult fly up from the river and land. It was “Mom.” We were pretty sure we saw her blue band (N42). When we left in early evening, she was still there preening (Dad, being much less fastidious, would never have taken the time). [Photo of bald eagle N42 courtesy of Mark Courtney.]
– Mark Courtney, Kathleen Courtney, Bob Rightmyer

9/21 – Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: Early today a lone hummingbird flew up to the back door, hovered at the screen, and then vanished. I haven’t seen another one since. The feeders hang full, but no hungry visitors. Although there have been fewer feeding birds since the males left, this disappearance seems abrupt. I’ll wait a few more days, then take the feeders down.
– Robin Fox

9/21 – Bedford, HRM 35: Many broad-winged hawks (1,205) took to the sky very early today at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch, but the afternoon slowed down dramatically. Highlights included a few bald eagles and a merlin. Today was the first day that no hummingbirds were seen. There were two monarchs and John Askelson spotted a red-headed woodpecker.
– Charlie Plimpton, Allen Kurtz, Christiana Ricchezza, Jack Kozuchowski, John Askelson, Tait Johansson, Tony Loomis

9/22 – Ulster Landing, HRM 97: There was a large green swath – acres – of duckweed on the river today glistening neon green when the sunlight hit it. I still had two hummingbirds visiting the feeder.
– Peg Duke

9/22 – Yorktown, HRM 43: When I was younger, roaming the back woods of Westchester County, there was one elusive animal above all that seemed mythical: the bobcat. While on the Mohansic golf course this afternoon, I was stunned to see a bobcat, sporting the classic short bobtail, gallop like a horse from the woods across the fairway to a shrubbery thicket only 30 feet away. I cannot remember the last time I saw one in the wild – it was quite a wonderful event.
– Scott P. Horecky

9/22 – Croton Point, HRM 35: The inshore submerged aquatic vegetation [SAV] beds were pulsing with life. Two hauls of the beach seine, an hour apart, saw a total of 500 fish. Most were Atlantic silversides with a few dozen river herring in the mix. A dozen small snapper bluefish 75-100 millimeters [mm] long, some white perch and assorted sunfish, a few small striped bass, and a lovely pipefish were also in the catch. Running a dip net through the SAV resulted in a thumbnail-sized hogchoker, two “paper shell” blue crabs, and a dozen shore shrimp up to three inches long, many bearing eggs. All in all it was enough to keep two classes of Coman Hills Elementary students oohing and aahing through the morning.
– Christopher Letts

9/22 – Bedford, HRM 35: This was not a very active day at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch compared to what we had the past few days. However, there were a fair number of American kestrels (8) on the move. Non-raptor observations included one monarch and another red-headed woodpecker.
– Charlie Plimpton, Christiana Ricchezza

9/22 – Montclair, NJ, HRM 2: Yogi Berra passed away today. As a life-long Red Sox fan thanks to my New England boyhood, I have no love for the Yankees, but it is impossible not to admire Yogi. One of his famous Yogisms bears remembering here in the Almanac: “You can observe a lot by watching.”
– Steve Stanne

9/23 – Selkirk, HRM 135: The first day of autumn and all was quiet at the hummingbird feeder. In fact I have not seen one in three days since a female and, to my surprise, a male stopped by briefly. I had not seen a male hummingbird in weeks. I believe that is it for this season but will keep the feeder up for travelers.
– Roberta Jeracka

9/23 – Dutchess County, HRM 80: It was relatively quiet as we hiked the trails at the Audubon Buttercup Preserve. We spotted an immature Cooper’s hawk, an immature red-shouldered hawk being mobbed by crows, and a sharp-shinned hawk that was thwarted from its ambush of an eastern towhee. At one point a river otter came onto the path about 30 feet from the memorial bench; I was not sure which of us was more surprised!
– Deborah Tracy-Kral

9/23 – Furnace Woods, HRM 38.5:
Jilted by the sun
The basil’s jade turns to brown.
The lawn is overrun with forging grackles.
Who will help me find my woolly hat, warm gloves?
– Christopher Letts

9/23 – Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: Isn’t it miraculous how the weather follows the calendar? Or is it the other way around? Autumn officially arrived and suddenly the air felt, smelled, and looked different. No more real summer and, with that, farewell to the hummingbirds. Perhaps I said “farewell” to hummingbirds too soon? This afternoon, one, maybe two, flitted around but curiously, didn’t go to the feeders. I refilled them in hopes that the birds might feed.
– Robin Fox

9/23 – Bedford, HRM 35: A slow day at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch with sharp-shinned hawks getting the high count (24). Non-raptor observations included one monarch and two common ravens.
– Tait Johansson, Jack Kozuchowski

9/24 – Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 68: The biggest and healthiest-looking coyote we have ever seen showed up in our yard today, standing still and looking around. He finally spotted me and took off into our woods.
– Doreen Tignanelli

[The photo that accompanied this entry showed a very wolf-like eastern coyote (Canis latrans), a variety of coyote that grows to a larger size and often has darker fur than is generally associated with the species. While most of our coyotes exhibit the tan, lean, and hungry look we come to expect, there are some that research has shown to have gray wolf DNA (Canis lupus). This may explain why coyotes in the east are generally larger than their western counterparts – that is, more wolf-like in size – and why they are so much more varied in coat color, as might be expected from an animal with a more diverse genome. As a result, we coyote fans like to refer to them as “woyotes.” Photo of “woyote” coyote courtesy of Doreen Tignanelli. Tom Lake.]

9/24 – Fort Montgomery, HRM 46.5: I believe that I saw a sea turtle today climbing out of the river from under the ruins of an old dock at Mine Dock Park. The turtle was huge – estimated to be at least four feet by three feet – and mostly black and white. As he climbed over the structure I noticed his under carriage and back legs were very white. I have never seen anything of this size here before and I am 84 years old.
– James Thomson

[From James Thomson’s photos, I believe we are looking at a large snapping turtle. The base of the skull and presentation of the scute patterns on the shell don’t shout out “sea turtle.” The observer’s field note describing how it was climbing also supports a semi-marine turtles such as a snapper which can get rather large. To report a sighting of a healthy, sick, alive, or dead sea turtle, please contact The Riverhead Foundation at their emergency 24-hour Stranding Hotline phone number: (631) 369-9829.- Kim Durham.]

9/24 – Croton River, HRM 34: It was a September heat wave, but the back story revealed the true season: A dozen great blue herons stalked the shallows, all juvenile birds. Out in the running tide, patches of shimmering “nervous” water revealed the whereabouts of schools of bait. Every few seconds the waters parted and a shoal of panicked silvery fish caught the sunlight, followed by the splat of feeding snapper bluefish! Then the water went calm again. From time to time a monarch wafted past, always bound south and west. Yet it was not like a decade ago when we could number them in the hundreds per hour. But even now we can see half-a-dozen a day along the river and in our gardens.
– Christopher Letts

9/24 – Bedford, HRM 35: There was some movement in the morning at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch, with activity slowing down in the afternoon. The highlight of the day was when three adult bald eagles were spotted to the northeast. They moved together to the southwest and flew high directly over us. Non-raptor observations included two monarch butterflies.
– Charlie Plimpton, Christiana Ricchezza, Kate Branch, Tait Johansson

9/25 – Staatsburg, HRM 86: I was driving home from work and as I passed the Poughkeepsie train station, I saw a peregrine falcon perched atop a church spire along the road. Later on, as I was heading into Staatsburg, I saw an adult bald eagle soaring at tree top level. I pulled the car over for a better look and saw the adult eagle land in the top of a dead tree where a juvenile eagle was perched. Neither of these observations was very remarkable, but watching the eagles I thought back to when I was a teenager growing up in the Hudson Valley in the 1960s. At the time, I’d read about peregrines and bald eagles and thought wistfully that if I ever wanted to see either one I’d have to travel to faraway places. Now, 50 years later, is it not only common to see these birds along the river but it’s not unusual to walk out my front door, look up, and see an eagle gliding overhead.
– David Lund

9/25 – West Point, HRM 52: The grounds of the United State Military Academy at West Point are just wild enough to encourage nature while at the same time retaining its stature as a serious institution for learning. As we drove through the post today, dodging woodchucks, nine wild turkeys took their time strolling across the road, looking quite assured for their safety. As we waited, a Cooper’s hawk flew low over our vehicle, heading south, most likely a raptor in migration.
– Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson

9/25 – Bedford, HRM 35: Today saw more movement than yesterday at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch. The morning hours brought some remaining broad-winged hawks through (35). There was also an uptick in accipiters on the move (60 sharp-shinned hawks; ten Cooper’s hawks). In the afternoon, the winds shifted and ushered in a good number of American kestrels (23). Non-raptor observations included two monarch butterflies.
– Charlie Plimpton, Allen Kurtz,

9/25 – Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: Where were the bigger bluefish? At the tideline the wavelets folded onto the sand in a white froth. The salinity was about 15.0 parts per thousand. Schools of “bait,” silversides and river herring, were everywhere. Young-of-the-year “snapper” bluefish were active, but they were so tiny, maybe four inches long. Last year at this time they were twice as long and four times the weight. With this hot, droughty summer, I would expect yard-long bluefish in the Albany pool!
– Christopher Letts

[According to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, discrete groups of bluefish spawn at different times; there is a spring-spawned cohort and a summer-spawned cohort. Recent research has also identified a fall-spawned cohort, demonstrating an expanded and prolonged spawning season. Young bluefish move into estuaries like the Hudson after being spawned. By fall, we encounter bluefish in several size ranges, according to when they arrived and how long they’ve been feeding and growing in the Hudson’s rich nursery habitat. Steve Stanne.]


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.


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

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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 information on historical salt front movements in the estuary.

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Smartphone app available for New York outdoor enthusiasts!
DEC, in partnership with ParksByNature Network®, is proud to announce the launch of the New York Fishing, Hunting & Wildlife App for iPhone and Android. This FREE, cutting-edge mobile app gives both novice and seasoned outdoorsmen and women essential information in the palm of their hands. Powered by Pocket Ranger® technology, this official app for DEC will provide up-to-date information on fishing, hunting and wildlife watching and serve as an interactive outdoor app using today’s leading mobile devices. Using the app’s advanced GPS features, users will be able identify and locate New York’s many hunting, fishing and wildlife watching sites. They will also gain immediate access to species profiles, rules and regulations, and important permits and licensing details.

NY Open for Hunting and Fishing Initiative
Governor Cuomo’s NY Open for Fishing and Hunting Initiative is an effort to improve recreational opportunities for sportsmen and women and to boost tourism activities throughout the state. This initiative includes streamlining fishing and hunting licenses, reducing license fees, improving access for fishing and increasing hunting opportunities in New York State.
In support of this initiative, this year’s budget includes $6 million in NY Works funding to support creating 50 new land and water access projects to connect hunters, anglers, bird watchers and others who enjoy the outdoors to more than 380,000 acres of existing state and easement lands that have gone largely untapped until now. These 50 new access projects include building new boat launches, installing new hunting blinds and building new trails and parking areas. In addition, the 2014-15 budget includes $4 million to repair the state’s fish hatcheries; and renews and allows expanded use of crossbows for hunting in New York State.
This year’s budget also reduces short-term fishing licenses fees; increases the number of authorized statewide free fishing days to eight from two; authorizes DEC to offer 10 days of promotional prices for hunting, fishing and trapping licenses; and authorizes free Adventure Plates for new lifetime license holders, discounted Adventure Plates for existing lifetime license holders and regular fee Adventure Plates for annual license holders.

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, or email

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