Autumn migration continued this week with ocean-bound fishes such as striped bass in the river and “silver eels” exiting tributaries, as well as southbound butterflies and birds in the air. The first of our winter waterfowl had arrived on the upper Hudson as well as at a few sites along the estuary,
HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK
10/25 – Greene County, HRM 131: Early this morning in New Baltimore, a very late adult male ruby-throated hummingbird visited my feeders. He stayed for a while, visiting one or the other, but was not seen after mid-morning. Most ruby throated hummingbirds leave our area in early to mid-September. A few linger longer but this late into October is pushing it. Typically, adult hummingbirds (and most migratory birds in general) migrate before their youngsters, so an adult male ruby-throated hummingbird in the latter part of October in Greene County is indeed odd. Hummingbirds this late in the season are more likely to be one of the much rarer western species such as rufous, Allen’s, or calliope hummingbirds.
- Richard Guthrie
NATURAL HISTORY NOTES
10/21 – Saratoga County, HRM 182: Late this afternoon I checked Saratoga Lake at Brown's Beach, Silver Beach, and Riley's Cove, where most of the birds were seen. I found long-tailed ducks (5), white-winged scoters (11), red-breasted mergansers (3), and common loons (10). The lake was relatively calm and without glare so these birds were fairly easy to find.
[White winged scoters (Melanitta fusca) are often called “sea ducks.” They are the largest of the three scoters in our area, the others being black and surf scoter. Scoters are Arctic breeders and are seen in the watershed almost exclusively in migration. Their presence reminds us of how we are connected to faraway places by the Hudson River flyway. Tom Lake.]
- John Hershey, Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club
10/21 – Beacon, HRM 61: There is life after water chestnut! Now that the dense beds of Trapa natans are gone, the fish and fishing have come alive. I caught and released six carp and five channel catfish today. Included were two carp weighing 17 pounds, 12 ounces (my largest of the year) and 10 pounds, 7 ounces. The channel catfish were also of good size: two of them were stout 22-inch-long males.
- Bill Greene
10/21 – Bedford, HRM 35: It was an interesting day at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch including a one-day season high of turkey vultures (175). The day began with a lot of accipiter movement to our south, but blue sky, great distance, and heat haze made identifying them difficult. In the sixth hour, an immature golden eagle appeared straight overhead and then moved west. An hour later, another immature golden eagle was spotted on the eastern horizon. This bird, however, eventually disappeared toward the northeast. Non-raptor observations included monarch butterflies (9) and some big flocks of common grackle (close to a thousand). [Photo of immature golden eagle by Donna Dewhurst courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.]
- Silvan Laan, Charlotte Catalano, Hadley Roe
10/21 – Yonkers, HRM 18: Participants in our Saturday River Explorers program at the Sarah Lawrence Center for the Urban River at Beczak caught a mix of river life including American eel, blue crabs, shrimp, comb jellies, moon jellyfish, and two young-of-the-year [YOY] striped bass.
- Elisa Caref
10/21 – Sandy Hook, NJ: First light was blossoming in the east, and dawn over the Lower Bay of New York Harbor was not far off. The winds had shifted from west to south and the monarch butterflies were far fewer than yesterday. Those who made the attempt to head south flew close to the sand, tacking back and forth like a sailboat. At sunrise, the water behind the surf looked agitated: striped bass! The anglers on the beach had high hopes for trophy bass but every one that was landed fell in the 20-24 inch range [licensed anglers in New Jersey are allowed to possess one fish per day from 28 inches to less than 43, and one fish 43 inches or greater]. The surf was swim-wear friendly at a comfortable 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
[Artists have long revered sunsets in their work – the Hudson River School of painting comes to mind. But for me, I’ll take sunrise on an east-facing beach at dawn. The growing glow from first light to sunrise is a study in anticipation: rebirth, renewal, dawn of a new day. Tom Lake.]
- Tom Lake, T.R. Jackson
10/22 – Schuylerville, HRM 186: It took a lot of scanning through a ton of Canada geese to finally find the greater white-fronted goose. It was very interesting to watch the goose preen and it was unmistakable with an orange bill and legs and distinctive white around the bill. As it turned out I found it just in time; almost immediately the goose tucked its bill under its far wing and slept.
- Ron Harrower, Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club
10/22 – Greene County, HRM 106: I was traveling south on Route 9W through Smith’s Landing when I spotted a beautiful adult bald eagle as it swooped down to the center of the roadway and attempted to pick up a road-killed opossum. The eagle tried to lift off with the opossum in its talons but failed to make the grab as I approached. The eagle flew up an elevated railroad bed and then circled back. The eagle flew four feet above the roadway right in front of me and successfully secured the opossum on the second attempt.
- Timothy Wynne
10/22 – Bedford, HRM 35: Turkey vultures (45) were high count for migrants today at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch. Sharp-shinned hawks (27) and Cooper’s hawks (17) were high for migrating raptors. Non-raptor observations included monarch butterflies (19).
- Silvan Laan, Charlotte Catalano, Tait Johansson
10/23 – Norrie Point, HRM 85: As a part of Arlington High School's field trip to the Hudson River, we wrapped them in waders and stuck a 40 foot-long seine net in their hands. After a total of five hauls by Marabelle Pregall and her students, we had caught a staggering number of 18 species of fish. Among the most notable were an 18-inch channel catfish, a foot-long carp, nineteen goldfish, and two black crappie. The eighteen fish species in taxonomic order:
- American eel
- blueback herring
- American shad
- spotfin shiner
- common carp
- golden shiner
- spottail shiner
- channel catfish
- banded killifish
- white perch
- striped bass
- redbreast sunfish
- black crappie
- tessellated darter
- Skyler Chambers, Jim Herrington, Grace Ballou, Chris Bowser [Photo of black crappie (top) and white perch (bottom) courtesy of Steve Stanne.]
10/23 – Hyde Park, HRM 82: As part of the DEC's Hudson River American Eel Project, since June we have helped count American eels in our eel ladder at the foot of the Vanderbilt dam on Crum Elbow Creek. This year had been quite slow – only a handful of three to six inch yellow eels. But our counts suddenly jumped in late September into the teens and twenties. Last week we were thrilled to find 34 elvers in our collection barrel, a third of which were in the six to eight inch range. We wondered where all these eels have been hiding all summer. We caught 46% of this year's crop in the past 3 weeks and oddly, none have been more than a foot long.
- Dave Lindemann, Skyler Chambers
10/23 – Bedford, HRM 35: We reached a season total of 999 turkey vultures today at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch. Merlin (3) and bald eagles (3) were still going strong. In confirmation of what is perhaps common knowledge, adult sharp-shinned hawks and Cooper’s hawks seemed to have gained the upper hand by now, relative to immatures. Non-raptor observations included monarch butterflies (16).
- Silvan Laan, Charlotte Catalano
10/23 – Croton Bay, HRM 35-34: From atop the landfill during the Saw Mill River Audubon’s regular 4th Monday walk this morning at Croton Point, we spotted two male canvasbacks, two male buffleheads, a small raft of lesser scaup, ruddy ducks, and two adult brant amidst a raft of Canada geese in Croton Bay. There was also a single brant off the Croton Point swimming beach.
- Anne Swaim
10/23 – Town of Ossining, HRM 33: Over the last couple of weeks at Hudson Hills Golf course, there has been a group of immature brant (6-8) grazing in the fairways. They seemed very comfortable with people nearby. Until now, I had never heard their unusual calls.
- Scott Horecky
10/23 – 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 killifish trap treated us to a small school of juvenile butterfish (Peprilus triacanthus). The five fish ranged in size from 20 to 35 millimeters [mm]. Our crab pot also caught fish including a black sea bass (200 mm) and oyster toadfish (195 mm).
- Siddhartha Hayes, Juliana
10/24 – Little Stony Point, HRM 55: In the parlance of old-time fishermen, “The river had character today.” Amidst a sultry warmth, Storm King was in the clouds and the river was whipped to a froth by wind-against-tide. The wind-driven rain (gusts to 40 miles per hour), found its way into my oilskins. Our net slipped through the water, bounding over rollers as we went. Seining with the wind, the net probably could have hauled itself. Our catch included YOY striped bass (75-97 mm). They were growing up; their cohort measured 22-46 mm in late June. The surprise catch was YOY channel catfish (70-72 mm). Despite a salinity of 4.0 parts-per-thousand [ppt], there was no sign of brackish-water fishes. The water was 68 degrees F. Thunder rolled up the river as we were leaving. Just in time. [Photo of young-of-the-year channel catfish courtesy of Tom Lake.]
- Tom Lake, A. Danforth
[Little Stony Point in Putnam County is part of the Hudson Highlands State Park. Friction between a strong wind blowing in one direction and a tidal current flowing in the opposite direction can create especially rough conditions on the Hudson. Tom Lake]
10/24 – Bedford, HRM 35: There were very few birds today at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch, with turkey vultures (5) the high count. Bald eagles were (2) were high for migrating raptors. Non-raptor observations included one monarch butterfly heroically fighting the wind.
- Charlotte Catalano, Tait Johansson
10/25 – Norrie Point, HRM 85: Last night we put out a large fyke net in the Indian Kill hoping to catch adult eels as they began their migration to spawning grounds in the Sargasso Sea. Rainy conditions help make their downstream journey easier, and we caught 47 this morning! Most were “silver eels,” meaning they showed signs of being sexually mature adults that were preparing to spawn. Other animals in the net were channel catfish, carp, pumpkinseed, bluegill, redbreast sunfish, white sucker, golden shiner, goldfish, brown bullhead, largemouth bass, white perch, spottail shiner, weatherfish, green frog, wood turtle, dobsonfly larva, and spiny-cheek crayfish. All animals were released back into the stream. We measured maturity indicators such as eye diameter and pectoral fin length, before releasing the eels to continue their journey to the sea. [Photograph of mature eel showing enlarged eye courtesy of Chris Bowser.]
- Sarah Mount, Grace Ballou, Bob Schmidt, Dave Lindemann, Diana Aly, Johnathan Clementi
[“Silver eel” describes the sexually mature life stage of eels that have undergone physical changes preparatory to spawning. They have morphed from the green-and-yellow coloration of their yellow eel phase to a more dark-and-light shading. Their eyes become enlarged and their alimentary canals atrophy. These changes are adaptations to traveling through the deep, dark waters of the North Atlantic to spawning locations that are still a mystery. Tom Lake]
10/25 – Croton Point, HRM 34: Our morning field trip to Croton Point for Bedford Audubon was highlighted by a yellow-breasted chat – Roger Tory Peterson calls them a wren-like warbler – found in dense shrubbery near the end of the new trail that dead-ends at Croton Bay. The bird was next to a pokeberry bush in lots of porcelainberry. We also came upon a vesper sparrow at the top of the landfill, and five brant flying south over Croton Bay.
- Tait Johansson
10/25 – Bedford, HRM 35: It was a very calm day at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch. Sharp-shinned hawks (9) were high count for migrating raptors. Non-raptor observations included monarch butterflies (10).
- Silvan Laan
10/25 – 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 butterfish were still around although our killifish trap caught just one (30 mm). The butterfish is now alive and well in our WetLab for viewing by visiting students.
- Siddhartha Hayes, Ilsa, Sama
10/26 – Beacon, HRM 61: In the wake of 1.2 inches of rain two days ago, the salinity dropped from just over 4.0 to 3.0 ppt. In our quest to find the last of the ocean-bound migrants, we found none except for one YOY striped bass (76 mm). The locals were all there: spottail shiners and banded killifish. The river was 65 degrees F, about six degrees warmer than this time last year.
- Tom Lake, B.J. Jackson
10/26 – Bedford, HRM 35: It was an entertaining day with turkey vultures (36) at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch. In the afternoon, movement of sharp-shinned hawks (26) and Cooper’s hawks peaked. An immature bald eagle passed close by, offering great views. Non-raptor observations included a flock of about 50 brant flying south.
- Silvan Laan, Charlotte Catalano, Chris Graham, Jack Kozuchowski
10/26 – Yonkers, HRM 18: On a cool and rainy day, third-grade students with City and Country School helped us with marsh exploration at the Sarah Lawrence Center for the Urban River at Beczak. We used kick nets and dip nets and caught Atlantic silversides, blue crabs, mummichogs, and shrimp.
- Elisa Caref
10/27 – Saratoga County, HRM 182: Saratoga Lake was calm enough to allow decent viewing but the variety wasn't great. One raft of waterfowl held 120 mixed scoter species including a few each of white-winged, male surf, and many male black scoters. There were at least as many females but they were too far away to distinguish from males.
- Naomi Lloyd
10/27 – Beacon, HRM 61: A week ago I was quite pleased that the autumn fishing conditions (minus water chestnut) were now favorable. However, the river can be fickle and today I was plagued by tiny nibbles – I suspected golden shiners – or “bait-stealers.” It was difficult to keep a hook baited. When I checked my hook, it would be bare, with no indication of a bite. The single carp I managed to catch and release was 27 inches long, weighing about 10 pounds. The rest of the catch included brown bullheads and a golden shiner. [Photo of golden shiner courtesy of Rebecca Houser.]
- Bill Greene
10/27 – Bedford, HRM 35: Turkey vultures (121), sharp-shinned hawks (17), and Cooper’s hawks (8) peaked in early-afternoon at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch, a pattern mimicking yesterday. A late immature broad-winged hawk was an interesting addition in the last hour. Non-raptor observations included monarchs (16).
- Silvan Laan, Charlotte Catalano, Jack Kozuchowski
10/27 – Yonkers, HRM 18: We went seining just for fun in mid-afternoon today at the Center for the Urban River at Beczak. Our catch included Atlantic silversides and two YOY striped bass. There were comb jellies and moon jellyfish around but we did not count them. We noticed the water looked fairly clear, but had a lot of trash (flotsam) floating around, probably runoff from the rain of the last few days.
- Elisa Caref, Jay Muller
10/27 – 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 catch featured adult tautog (blackfish) measuring 245, 255, and a whopping 300 mm, as well as a smaller skilletfish (45 mm).
- Siddhartha, Nina, Toland
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.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org