Hudson River Almanac October 17 – 23, 2015

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Seining at Ward's Island

Hudson River Almanac

October 17-23, 2015

Compiled by Tom Lake, Hudson River Estuary Program



High-flyer geese and a taste of “Indian summer” provided a backdrop for our thirteenth annual Day-in-the-Life of the Hudson River.


10/18 – Albany County, HRM 144: We came upon a Townsend’s solitaire this afternoon along the Indian Ladder Trail at John Boyd Thatcher State Park. The bird was feasting on juniper berries along the trail near the under-construction visitor’s center. We promptly notified the birding community since this would be a new species for many area birders who haven’t had a chance to see them in their native western range.
– Ro Woodard, Craig Thompson (HMBirds)

[Townsend’s solitaires are a bird of Cascadia, the Pacific Northwest, up into Alaska, as well as the Rocky Mountains. In winter, some will take a short migration trip to places like Montana and the Dakotas. The markings on this solitaire told us that it was a young bird. Youngsters are more apt to wander than their more experienced adults. – Richard Guthrie]


10/17 – Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 68: On International Archaeology Day, an event held each year in October in celebration of archaeology and the thrill of discovery, we visited some of the locations in Dutchess County’s Bowdoin Park that have, over the last fifty years, yielded more than a half-dozen archaeological sites. The work at these sites has helped us discover and define what we know about prehistoric human life in the Hudson Valley in the time before Europeans. The sites have long been excavated by professionals like Bob Funk, Donna and Jack Vargo, and Stephanie Roberg-Lopez. The artifact collections that have brought the past to life, now reside in the New York State Museum and the American Museum of Natural History and are available to students. On our long ramble, over a mile end-to-end, we encountered our first black-capped chickadees of the season – a flock of twenty – and scattered fire-cracked rock.
– Tom Lake, T.R. Jackson

[Fire-cracked rocks are artifacts of hearths, campfires, and human food-processing that usually predate the advent of pottery in the Northeast about 2,000 years ago. They are often made of quartzite that, when fire-heated and then used to heat water, will crack, spall and fracture in a way that is diagnostic. Given the number of campfires that must have been used in the Hudson Valley across the millennia, it is easy to see why “FCR” is commonly found strewn along the flood plains and shoreline. – Tom Lake]

10/17 – Cornwall-on-Hudson, HRM 57: From the deck of our house on Grandview Avenue, I watched a magnificent adult bald eagle put on a nice flight display of cruising and hunting against the late-afternoon colors of the Hudson Valley. It was impossible to tell if this was a local bird or an eagle in migration.
– Stephan Wilkinson

10/17 – Croton Point, HRM 35-34: It was a breezy morning bird walk on the Point. Among our sightings were four white-crowned sparrows, three field sparrows, and great looks at a grey-cheeked thrush. Among the raptors were four immature bald eagles, a Cooper’s hawk, and two merlins.
– Larry Trachtenberg

10/17 – Bedford, HRM 35: It was a very busy day for turkey vultures (313) and sharp-shinned hawks (150) at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch. Many birds were seen to the south with movement being consistent throughout the day with the bulk of the birds coming through in the afternoon. There was also an increase in Cooper’s hawks (26). Non-raptor observations included a blackpoll warbler and 237 Canada geese.
– Charlie Plimton, Cristiana Ricchezza, Kathryn Schneider, Steve Walter, Tait Johansson

Silver Eel10/17 – Bronx River, New York City: We caught and tagged a big 860 millimeter (mm) American eel in July at the fifth dam on the Bronx River. She was a “yellow eel” at the time. Today we recaptured her again, same location, and she was “silvering.” [Photo of silver eel courtesy of John Waldman. Holding the eel is Jake LaBelle, Wildlife Conservation Society]
– John Waldman, Jake LaBelle, Richard DeMarte

[“Silvering,” or “Silver eel” is a colloquial name given to female American eels, 20-30 years old that have undergone physical changes preparatory to spawning. They have changed from the green-and-yellow coloration of their yellow eel phase, to dark black and stark white. Their eyes become enlarged and their alimentary canals atrophy. These changes are adaptations to traveling in the deep, dark waters of the North Atlantic to spawning locations that are still a mystery. – Tom Lake]

10/18 – Newcomb, HRM 302: We had our first snow of the season in the last two days. It was a light dusting that covered the ground as the leaves remained on the trees. Fall foliage was past peak with mostly yellows of the beech, birch, aspen, and tamarack now prominent. The High Peaks were coated in snow and the contrast with the yellow cast of the lower slopes was stunning.
– Charlotte Demers

10/18 – Minerva, HRM 287: My sons and I went hiking in the Pharaoh Mountain Wilderness area (46,283 acres) that spans Warren and Essex Counties. We got snowed on some as we got to the top of Pharaoh Mountain (2,556 feet). It was strange snow, more like tiny snowballs. From the summit we could see north and the snowy High Peaks. As for mushrooms, we found some destroying angels, small puffballs, and some small yellow and small brown mushrooms. There are only two wild mushrooms that I trust enough to eat: giant puffballs and morels.
– Mike Corey

10/18 – Schodack, HRM 139: Amid our first snowflakes of the season, our first dark-eyed juncos arrived.
– MaryEllen Grimaldi

10/18 – Albany County, HRM 135: This morning we visited Basic Creek Reservoir in the Town of Westerlo. Waterfowl were abundant, including American wigeon, green-winged teal, ring-necked duck, common and hooded merganser, and a good number of ruddy ducks. There was also a tight group of fourteen black scoters south of the causeway. At Alcove Reservoir, we found another tight group of black scoters that put to the air briefly, revealing a single white-winged scoter accompanying them.
– Tom Williams, Colleen Williams (HMBirds)

10/18 – Bedford, HRM 35: It was not as active as yesterday at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch, but we still saw some turkey vulture (143) and sharp-shinned hawk (48) movement. Non-raptor observations included 172 Canada geese, 50 common grackles, and two common ravens.
– Charlie Plimton, Cristiana Ricchezza

10/19 – Newcomb, HRM 302: We had a low of seventeen degrees Fahrenheit(F) this morning. Edges of the Hudson River had a skim of ice. This afternoon, a colleague spotted an American pipit moving along the edge of an ice-rimmed beaver pond.
– Charlotte Demers

10/19 – Croton Point, HRM 34.5: It was a day of bitter cold winds and persistent snow squalls.Kestrels were perched on the well markers of the landfill and a harrier wafted back and forth searching the grass for a hapless mouse. Nearby, a small flock of America pipits foraged in the mown grass, the first I had seen this season.
– Christopher Letts

10/19 – Bedford, HRM 35: It was an extremely busy day for turkey vultures (657) at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch. There was one kettle with more than seventy birds. Non-raptor observations included 150 Canada Geese and two hermit thrushes.
– Charlie Plimton, Charles Bobelis, Cristiana Ricchezza

10/20 – Thirteenth Annual Day-in-the-Life of the Hudson River
The weather was kind to us and we estimated that more than 5,000 students and educators from 100 schools, from above tidewater to the sea, participated in our Day-in-the-Life of the Hudson River events this year, our largest turnout ever!
– Chris Bowser

10/20 – Hoosic River, HRM 172: I took the briefest dark plunge at 5:30 AM to begin the annual Day-in-the-Life of the River. The temperature of the pond, below Little Colfax Mountain at the northern boundary of the Hoosic River watershed, was 49F. Throughout the day, in the meadow above the pond, turkey vultures, black vultures, ravens, coyotes, and a one-eyed bobcat took turns devouring a carcass of white-tailed deer.
– Doug Reed

10/20 – Schuylerville, HRM 186: As I crossed the bridge at Schuylerville, the Hudson River was running slowly at the median daily discharge value of 2,300 cubic feet per second (measured at Thompson, two miles upriver). Water temperature was 50.5F.
– Doug Reed

Greenside Darter10/20 – Schoharie Creek, HRM 157: The Middleburgh High School biology students sampled along this tributary of the Mohawk River for their Day-in-the-Life of the River. Here was the coldest water we measured all day: 48.2F. The Schoharie was running low at about two-thirds its mean daily discharge value of the past seventy-five years. The students hauled their twenty-foot-long seine upstream until the water flow was too strong to hold. Among the fishes and other aquatic life they caught were greenside darters (Etheostoma blennioides pholidotum) and longnose dace (Lepisosteus osseus). [Photo of greenside darter courtesy of Doug Reed and Mollie Burgett.]
– Mollie Burgett, Doug Reed

10/20 – Kowawese, HRM 59: Black Rock Forest hosted Vail’s Gate High Tech Magnet School on the north beach for Day-in-the-Life of the River. The highlight of their seining was young-of-the-year (YOY) Atlantic menhaden (66-69 mm), a marine-brackish water herring. The water temperature was 60F and the salinity was 1.5 parts per thousand (ppt).
– Mary Lynn Malone, Tom Lake

10/20 – Kowawese, HRM 59: The Hudson Highlands Nature Museum hosted Bishop Dunn Memorial School of Newburgh on the swimming beach for Day-in-the-Life of the Hudson River Estuary. The highlight of their seining was young-of-the-year bay anchovies (63-67 mm), the first of the season here. The water temperature was 61F and the salinity was 1.5 ppt.
– Tom Lake

Pipefish10/20 – Norrie Point, HRM 85: Poughkeepsie and Arlington high schools joined us to seine the bay at Norrie Point for Day-in-the-Life of the River. Much of our catch was expected: spottail shiners, brown bullheads, channel catfish, banded killifish, tessellated darters, striped bass, white perch, pumpkinseed sunfish, and bluegills. The unexpected catch was a northern pipefish usually associated with marine to brackish waters of the lower estuary. [Photo of northern pipefish by Giancarlo Coppola.]
– Giancarlo Coppola, Jim Herrington

[This may be an upriver record for this species. According to C. Lavett Smith, northern pipefish, a relative of the seahorse, are somewhat common in the estuary as far north as Indian Point (river mile 42). Pipefish can survive in freshwater but “prefer salinity from 13.0-20.0 ppt” (Hardy 1978:402). There was no measurable salinity at Norrie Point. – Tom Lake]

10/20 – Cornwall-on-Hudson, HRM 57: It was a panoramic experience for the sixty-six fifth-graders from Cornwall’s Willow Avenue elementary school. Kettles of turkey vultures quartered the west wind making their way across Storm King Mountain and jagged skeins of high flyer Canada geese made their way south. The students lined the beach in eager anticipation as we hauled our seine through the shallows on the rising tide. Among the expected fishes were young-of-the-year blueback herring (66-74 mm), American shad (75-87 mm), and striped bass (68-79 mm). Two penny-sized hogchokers delighted the students as did the beautiful Atlantic silversides (80-90 mm). As with the bay anchovies and Atlantic menhaden at Kowawese, silversides were another reminder of our warm and brackish summer and fall. The river was 61F, and the salinity was about 2.0 ppt.
– Chris O’Sullivan, Mary Lynne Malone, Tom Lake

10/20 – Croton Point, HRM 34.5: When I hauled a beach seine here a month ago, my students were amazed to see well over 500 fish in the net, mostly YOY river herring with a strong showing of Atlantic silversides. Today, with the water temperature twenty degrees cooler and ninety percent of the aquatic vegetation gone, we caught fewer than two dozen fish. Most were banded killifish with a few small sunfish and two northern pipefish. Instead of clouds of tiny moon jellyfish, windrows of autumn leaves clogged our net. Summer was over.
– Christopher Letts

10/20 – Bedford, HRM 35: Overall, it was a slower day than yesterday at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch. However, today did bring an adult golden eagle in mid-afternoon. The bird was seen to the east and flew right in front of the watch giving us brief, but excellent looks. Another highlight was an adult northern goshawk in midday traveling west. Both raptors were firsts of the season. Non-raptor observations included a monarch butterfly.
– Charlie Plimton, Cristiana Ricchezza

10/20 – Piermont Pier, HRM 25: It was a crisp and clear day for the students from Pearl River, Clarkstown South, and Oak Meadow high schools to enjoy their Day-in-the-Life of the River adventure. We sampled with our seine on the rising tide and the net filled with hundreds of small comb jellies (ctenaphores) and several dozen small blue crabs. Throughout the day we added dozens of Atlantic silversides, mummichog, striped bass, white perch, and a young American eel. The water temperatures ranged from 53F-58F during the day the salinity hovered around 9.0 ppt.
– Margie Turrin and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory team

10/21 – Cohoes, HRM 157: Two black-bellied plovers were on the rocky outer edge of the flats this morning. An adult bald eagle snagged a fish below the falls and flew to the cliffs to eat it.
– Ron Harrower (HMBirds)

10/21 – Cohoes, HRM 157: I stopped at Cohoes Flats this afternoon to try to relocate a dunlin I had seen previously. A juvenile peregrine falcon came screaming in, chased off two black-bellied plovers, and then proceeded to harass all the gulls as well as a juvenile bald eagle before perching in a snag for twenty minutes. After a rest, he did it all over again.
– Tom Williams (HMBirds)

10/21 – Millbrook, HRM 82: I saw a gorgeous butterfly on my porch today. I had never seen one like it before, so I snapped a picture.
– Eve Propp

[Eve’s photo revealed a beautiful Compton’s tortoiseshell butterfly (Nymphalis vaualbum), a member of the Brushfoots family (Nymphalinae). While they are not rare, they tend to be overlooked or lumped in with other similar butterflies like the American painted lady, question mark, and other fritillaries. – Tom Lake]

10/21 – Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 68: The vagaries of autumn: two days ago we had a cold north wind and persistent snow squalls; today the temperature reached 79F. On this “Indian summer” day we visited the North Rockshelter at Bowdoin Park where archaeologists discovered evidence of River Indians, possibly ancestral Mohicans, dating to nearly 8,000 years ago. While the remnants of their passage have long been removed, we sat in the warm sunshine filtering through the trees and imagined what the sights and sounds of long ago might have been.
– Tom Lake, T.R. Jackson

[Indian summer is a period of unseasonably warm, dry weather that can occur in autumn in our area. The National Weather Service defines this as “weather conditions that are sunny and clear with above normal temperatures, occurring from late-September to mid-November.” The origin of the term ‘Indian summer’ is unclear, but may have resulted from Indians describing the phenomenon to the first European – Tom Lake]

10/21 – Bedford, HRM 35: There were no goshawks or golden eagles today at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch, but there was still some decent movement of turkey vultures (33), sharp-shinned hawks (19), and Cooper’s hawks (15). Non-raptor observations again included a monarch butterfly.
– Charlie Plimton, Cristiana Ricchezza

10/22 – Saratoga County, HRM 164: This was Day 90 for the gray seal residing in the Hudson River above tidewater. He is reportedly still here and not venturing out of his little comfort zone just above Lock One in front of my house and the Bay of Lock One Marina. The tentative pump out date for Lock One is November 19, however I’ve been told that there are still more than twenty barges that have yet to come down river and lock through. Then the lock crew has to retrieve all of the buoys, etc. So the date may be pushed out.
– Shannon Fitzgerald

10/22 – Kowawese, HRM 59: The weather was strange: the sun was shining but we were working in a steady rainfall. A strong south wind was blowing up through the Hudson Highlands – wind against tide – lapping whitecaps on whitecaps. The breakers on the beach were so strong that they threatened to tear the net from our hands. Under such conditions, beaching a seine up on the sand is a challenge; I think we spilled more fish than we landed. Those that remained were all YOY, ocean-bound fishes: American shad (80-95 mm), alewives (65-76), and striped bass (73-80). The river was 62F and the salinity was 1.75 ppt.
– Tom Lake, A. Danforth

10/22 – Bedford, HRM 35: It was a slower day overall at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch, but we did have an immature golden eagle to the south in midday. The bird was distant, but seen for a few minutes as it proceeded to the southwest. Non-raptor observations included two common ravens.
– Charlie Plimton

10/23 – Town of Washington, HRM 82: A cold front was passing and with it came brisk winds out of the north. At twilight we watched seven flocks of high-flyer Canada geese pass over the cornfields, spaced out horizon-to-horizon.
– Tom Lake, Phyllis Lake

10/23 – Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 68: I was surprised to see five chipping sparrows pecking about my yard. Usually, by the time cold-weather songbirds arrive (juncos, white-throated sparrows, etc.), the chipping sparrows have all left.
– Diane DesAutels

10/23 – Bedford, HRM 35: Some serious heat distortion in the morning at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch led to a number of distant migrant raptors being left unidentified as to species. In early afternoon we spotted a northern goshawk diving at a raven, the raven diving back at it, before both disappeared behind a behind a ridge. Non-raptor observations included thirty-five Canada geese and a common loon.
– Tait Johansson


Saturday, January 23: 3:00 p.m.
Hudson Valley Bald Eagles: One of our greatest ecological recoveries, presented by Tom Lake, NYSDEC Hudson River Estuary Program naturalist.
Guilderland Public Library, 2228 Western Avenue, Guilderland NY.
Sponsored by Audubon Society of the Capital Region (ASCR). For information email:


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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National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration online tide and tidal current predictions are invaluable when planning Hudson River field trips.
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

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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