While the impressive autumn migration of monarch butterflies continued to amaze us, it was a very rare visit from a songbird that deserved the highlight. Student reactions to Day in the Life of the Hudson and Harbor [October 12] kept flowing in, some with a literary bent.
HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK
10/20 – Town of Warwick, HRM 41: Maria Loukeris spotted a Say’s phoebe, a flycatcher, early this afternoon near Liberty Marsh. Her view was from close up and identifying photos were taken. There is only one other record of Say’s phoebe for Orange County, a bird found by John Tramontano and Marty Borko on the E.A. Mearns Bird Club's annual Christmas Bird Count on December 17, 1988, near Orange County Airport in Montgomery. [Photo of Say's phoebe courtesy of Maria Loukeris.]
- Ken McDermott
[When I heard of this sighting, Wallace Stegner’s book Beyond the Hundredth Meridian, a story of the western U.S., came to mind. Roger Tory Peterson describes the range of Say’s phoebe as western North America east to the 100th meridian; it is a rarity in the northeast. Tom Lake.]
NATURAL HISTORY NOTES
10/12 – Staats Island Point, HRM 140: Robert C. Parker School students had an amazing Day in the Life of the Hudson at Staats Island. Three dozen young scientists marveled at the cool winds, gentle tides, blue sky and Hudson River fish. They noted a grasshopper minus a leg still moving in the brush, observed a nest of baby mice along the shore, and had many rich inquiries about the mysterious devil's heads [water chestnut seeds]. Avian life abounded in the nearby trees, still holding onto a near full set of summer leaves.
- Kate Perry & Robert C. Parker School students
10/12 – Manhattan, HRM 7: One of my seventh-grade students from The Speyer Legacy School, 59th Street and Ninth Avenue, wrote this poem upon discovering during our Day in the Life program at Pier i that the river was “alive.” I especially love it because many of our New York City students are skeptical about there being life in the Hudson River, their backyard.
- Kimberly Schwab
The river’s murky waters flow
When looking they don’t seem too much;
But now I know there is much more
Than a murky waters flow.
There is a world that is beneath there
Of crabs and fish and shrimp,
Of periwinkles, little snails,
Of jellies, all too many.
Although it seems like
The river is alive.
- Ben Levine
10/12 – Queens, New York City: My students from the International High School for Health Sciences sampled the East River from Francis Lewis Park for the Day in the Life. As we were conducting water quality tests, we heard and then saw a flock of geese as they made a grand pass over us. The students were so excited that they forgot about the tests and just watched the birds – they were seeing Canada geese for the first time in their lives.
[Mirela and her students reflect the incredible international diversity of their school. Her 30 students, all recent arrivals to the United States, were from Honduras, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Haiti, Columbia, Ecuador, Yemen, Iran, Bhutan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Laos, China and the Philippines. Their faculty were from Guyana, Dominican Republic, and Albania. Tom Lake.]
This brought back memories of a movie, Nils Holgersson, from when I was a child in Albania. Nils was a little boy who was a friend with wild geese and always traveled on the neck of a white goose. The movie was from a book by Selma Lagerlof, The Wonderful Adventures of Nils, that won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1909.
My students loved the experience of “a trip to the river,” especially the seining (they caught Atlantic silversides, winter flounder, hermit crabs, and shore shrimp). Their only complaint was that the experience was too short!
- Mirela Shkoder
10/14 – Tompkins Cove, HRM 41: Less than a minute into our seining of upper Haverstraw Bay we were second-guessing our decision. The river bottom, although shallow, was very rocky with hang-downs every few feet. It was a slow go – stop and go – all the way around our loop. While we hauled, a young white-tailed deer came down to the water’s edge, eyed us suspiciously, took a quick drink, and then bounded off.
When we hauled the net up on the rocks the fish caught made the effort worthwhile - young-of-the-year [YOY] bay anchovies and Atlantic menhaden, as well as Atlantic silversides. Two of the menhaden, possibly yearlings, were sizeable (13-14-inches). For the first time all season that we could remember, there were no striped bass in the net. The river was a very warm 72 degrees Fahrenheit and the salinity was 7.5 parts-per-thousand [ppt].
- Tom Lake, A. Danforth
10/14 – Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 34: I began counting at low tide and ended up with 22 great blue herons in the marsh on either side of the mouth of the Croton River. It was a season high number for me. In between blue herons, an adult bald eagle flew over.
- Larry Trachtenberg
10/14 – Bedford, HRM 35: It was a very calm day of raptor migration at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch. There was a small push of sharp-shinned hawks (9) and Cooper’s hawks (5) at midday. Nice surprises included a late broad-winged hawk, an immature northern harrier, and a merlin. Non-raptor observations included monarch butterflies (16).
- Silvan Laan, Charlotte Catalano
10/15 – Minerva, HRM 284: There has been an amazing crop of winter (holly) berries (Ilex verticillata) this year. The shrubs have been loaded down. The birds, such as cedar waxwings, have not descended on them yet. When they do, they will strip the bushes clean. While I was admiring the hollies, I heard a ruffed grouse drumming. I thought that was kind of odd, like I had heard spring peepers peeping earlier this month, both species emulating spring.
- Mike Corey
10/15 – Bedford, HRM 35: It was another calm day at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch. Two merlins passed by in the late afternoon, a familiar pattern by now. A peregrine falcon was seen hunting several times, but was not actively migrating. Non-raptor observations included monarch butterflies (9).
- Silvan Laan, Charlotte Catalano
10/16 – Green Island, HRM 153.4: A passing cold front had dropped the air temperature 20 degrees in 20 hours. The strong northwest wind had the waterfowl below the federal dam sequestered along the leeward (west) side of the river where they could linger without having to expend energy. There were a couple dozen Canada geese, six ring-necked ducks, at least one pied-billed grebe, and a single common loon. It seemed like they were closer to me than they felt comfortable, but probably weighed the options and found me less problematic. A half-dozen daring double-crested cormorants were out in the last of the flood current, diving for fish.
- Tom Lake
10/16 – Bedford, HRM 35: The day began at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch with a season high number of migrating turkey vultures (66) and black vultures (4). Later we counted a late-season broad-winged hawk and three northern harriers, among them a male (only the third this season). Non-raptor observations included monarch butterflies (16) and a single common loon.
- Silvan Laan
10/16 – Manhattan, HRM 1: We checked our research collection gear today in Hudson River Park at The River Project's sampling station on the lighthouse tender Lilac at Pier 25. Our crab pot held just a single fish, but it was large - a foot-long (300 millimeters) oyster toadfish that weighted more than 400 grams (nearly a pound).
- Siddhartha Hayes
10/17 – Stanfordville, HRM 84: It began as a test of wills between a pied-billed grebe and a bullfrog in a small pond near Stanfordville. I watched the grebe struggle with its hoped-for prize, but after 20 minutes of trying it finally gave up and swam away. Later, as I watched, the grebe finally caught a frog that it was able to manage and afterwards seemed quite pleased (as much as a grebe can look pleased). But the bird really had to work at it, grabbing a leg and spinning the frog around, diving with it, then trying to position it just right, then more spinning. It was hard work for a meal! [Photo of pied-bill grebe with frog courtesy of Deborah Tracy-Kral.]
- Deborah Tracy-Kral
10/17 – Bedford, HRM 35: Turkey vultures (93) were high count among migrants today at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch. Sharp-shinned hawks (13) were high for migrating raptors. Non-raptor observations included a monarch butterfly and Canada geese (45).
- Charlotte Catalano, Tait Johansson, Charlotte Catalano
10/17 – Yonkers, HRM 18: The Sarah Lawrence College men’s basketball team helped us seine this afternoon at the Beczak Center. Among the fishes caught were American eels, Atlantic silversides, mummichogs, and one YOY striped bass. Adding to the catch were blue crabs, moon jellyfish, shrimp, and comb jellies. We were surprised to see how warm the water was (68 degrees F).
- Elisa Caref
10/18 – Norrie Point, HRM 85: On my way out of my office today I noticed some movement across the cove at Norrie Point. It was a bobcat, eating a carcass right at the waterline. After 15 minutes, the bobcat moved back uphill and I went to take a look. It had been feeding on a beaver carcass; the bobcat was especially interested in its tail. This may have been the same bobcat that several of us saw a few weeks ago.
- Chris Bowser
10/18 – Bedford, HRM 35: We had a one-day high count for turkey vultures (130) today at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch. Sharp-shinned hawks (22) were high for migrating raptors. Non-raptor observations included monarch butterflies (9) and a common loon.
- Silvan Laan, Charlotte Catalano
10/18 – Yonkers, HRM 18: Two fourth grade classes from The Collegiate School helped us seine today at the Sarah Lawrence College Center for the Urban River at Beczak. They were impressed when we got into a big school of Atlantic silversides (118 fish) along with bay anchovies and a YOY striped bass. Also in the seine, complementing our amazing haul, were blue crabs, shrimp, moon jellyfish, and an incredible 228 comb jellies! We were also awed to see a flock of gulls harassing two bald eagles flying overhead. Eagles have endured this treatment for millennia and generally just ignore them.
- Elisa Caref
10/18 – Manhattan, HRM 2: The Hudson River Park Trust began sampling for microplastics in 2016, and have since performed monthly trawls (deploying a Neuston net, 0.3 mm mesh, standard sampling gear for microplastics) from July to October, 2016 and 2017 (eight months of sampling). Each month, we take two samples, one at West 32nd Street and the other at Vestry Street. At each site we take a near-shore and an off-shore (channel) sample, totaling four samples each month. Each trawl sample lasts 15 minutes. Each of today’s samples had numerous Atlantic menhaden (Brevoortia tyrannus) larvae (ten or more in each sample), which is notable because these were found both near-shore and off-shore. These may reflect the progeny of the huge summer and fall 2016 presence of menhaden in the Upper Bay and lower estuary. We have found fish larvae in the net before, but not in this quantity and at all sites.
[Microplastics, the most prevalent type of marine debris found in our oceans, are small plastic pieces less than five millimeters long (or about the size of a sesame seed) that can be harmful to our ocean and aquatic life. They come from a variety of sources, including from larger plastic debris that degrades into smaller and smaller pieces. In addition, microbeads, a type of microplastic, are very tiny pieces of manufactured polyethylene plastic that are added as exfoliants to health and beauty products, such as some cleansers and toothpastes. These tiny particles easily pass through water filtration systems and end up in the ocean posing a potential threat to aquatic life. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.]
- Tina Walsh
10/18 – Manhattan, HRM 1: We checked our research collection gear today in Hudson River Park at The River Project's sampling station on the lighthouse tender Lilac at Pier 25. The highlight of our catch was a YOY bass (95 mm) found in among dozens of isopods.
- Siddhartha Hayes, Ilsa, Sama
10/19 – Minerva, HRM 284: Our fall colors had come and gone. They were not bad, but not amazing either. The drought conditions of late September and early October closed the door on the spectacular colors that were predicted.
- Mike Corey
10/19 – Bedford, HRM 35: Turkey vultures (122) were still going strong today at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch. There also was a nice spread of eight migrating raptor species – bald eagle, northern harrier, Cooper’s hawk, sharp-shinned hawk, red-shouldered hawk, peregrine falcon, American kestrel, and merlin. Non-raptor observations included monarch butterflies (9).
- Silvan Laan
10/19 – Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 34: With daytime temperatures in the summer-like 70s, I sat and watched the butterflies. Among the six species I counted were monarchs, cabbage whites, orange sulphurs, painted ladies, gray hairstreak, and my first of the year common buckeye. [Photo of common buckeye courtesy of Steve Stanne.]
- Edward Mertz
10/19 – Yonkers, HRM 18: Two seventh-grade classes from the Windward School participated in our seining program today the Sarah Lawrence College Center for the Urban River at Beczak. The tide was high so we began netting our marsh before switching over to the river. Among the fishes we caught, collectively, were Atlantic silversides, bay anchovies, mummichogs, and naked gobies. For the students, however, the highlights included blue crabs (21), comb jellies (80), moon jellyfish (6), and both shore and sand shrimp (104).
[Mummichogs (Fundulus heteroclitus) are killifish that are common in brackish and salt water but less common in the freshwater reaches of the estuary. Their name is a derivation, a phonetic representation, of an Algonquian (river Indian) word that means “fishes that go in crowds,” an observation of their tendency to form large schools. Tom Lake.]
- Elisa Caref
10/20 – Yonkers, HRM 18: During a low tide today at the Sarah Lawrence College Center for the Urban River at Beczak, students from the High School for Environmental Studies helped us seine from our very muddy beach. Besides a few fish (mummichogs, naked gobies), our catch was dominated by shrimp (82) and blue crabs (33). Moon jellyfish (20) and comb jellies (6) shared the seine in 69 degrees F water that was measured at 14.8 ppt salinity. Dissolved oxygen was 7.3 parts-per-million, and the pH was 7.8.
- Elisa Caref
10/20 – Manhattan, HRM 1: We checked our research collection gear in Hudson River Park at The River Project's sampling station on the lighthouse tender Lilac at Pier 25. Our killifish trap had caught two tiny skilletfish (less than 8.0 mm each), as well as two oyster toadfish (240, 255 mm) and a tautog (180 mm).
- Siddhartha Hayes, Juliana
10/20 – Sandy Hook, NJ: An autumn day with air temperatures in the mid-70s was a gift. Ten of us gathered on the beach on the inside of the Hook to see what was home today. The water was a comforting 66 degrees F. As we hauled our 50-foot seine through sea lettuce and other vegetation, the onlookers were rooting for striped bass but we expected the typical Raritan Bay fauna. The ubiquitous Atlantic silversides were there but the catch highlight was a dozen YOY tautog (29-36 mm), perfectly camouflaged with their faint vertical bars and gray-sandy color. Mixed in with scores of mummichogs were one of our favorites, striped killifish (all males; 31-67 mm). The westerlies gave a tail-wind to the monarchs, producing a heavy and even flow that had us counting them (nearly 200 in just one hour).
[Sandy Hook, New Jersey, borders on the Lower Bay of New York Harbor and is either the beginning or the end of the Hudson River watershed, depending upon your perspective. Migrants, from fish to songbirds to raptors to butterflies, closely follow the coastline in autumn and springtime, making Sandy Hook an important way station in and out of the watershed. Tom Lake.]
- Tom Lake, T.R. Jackson
10/20 – Sea Bright, NJ: While we birded this afternoon the monarchs came past in a steady stream. Without even concentrating on them, I had well more than a hundred. I should have put down the binoculars and let the birds go – the monarchs were the show. An interesting observation was the apparent “pairing” of some monarchs with painted ladies.
- Mimi Brauch
[While its movements are not as regular or well-known as the monarch’s, the painted lady is also migratory. According to Everett D. Cashatt, Curator of Zoology at the Illinois State Museum, this species is unable to survive freezing temperatures in any of its life stages. In North America its annual northward migration is thought to originate in the warm temperatures and subtropical regions of northwestern Mexico where the butterfly is present every month of the year. Its southward migration occurs from August on. Chip Taylor of Monarch Watch reports that across the country reports of migrating painted ladies are unusually numerous this fall. Steve Stanne. Photo of painted lady courtesy of Steve Stanne.]
FALL 2017 NATURAL HISTORY PROGRAMS
Wednesday, November 1 - 7:00 PM
The Lives and Legends of Hudson River Fishes – presentation by Tom Lake, Hudson River Estuary Program Consulting Naturalist, at Shattemuc Yacht Club, Ossining [Westchester County]. Part of Ferry Sloops 2017 Lecture Series. For information, e-mail Chris Grieco.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Discover New York State Conservationist - the award-winning, advertisement-free magazine focusing on New York State's great outdoors and natural resources. Conservationist features stunning photography, informative articles and around-the-state coverage. Visit the Conservationist webpage for more information.
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 twelve monitoring stations, visit the Hudson River Environmental Conditions Observing System website.
Information about the Hudson River Estuary Program is available on DEC's website at http://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/4920.html .
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 email@example.com