Hudson River Almanac 10/28/17 – 11/3/17

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long-tailed duck - photo courtesy of Deborah Tracy-Kral (see 10/28)
Hudson River Almanac
October 28 – November 3, 2017
Compiled by Tom Lake, Hudson River Estuary Program Consulting Naturalist

OVERVIEW

The autumn migration of Canada geese and brant picked up steam this week along with raptors and vultures. There was also a return of an ocean fish that we had not noticed in the estuary in quite a few years.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

hickory shad10/28 – Yonkers, HRM 18: Fifty third-grade students from the Solomon Schechter School helped us sample the river today at the Center for the Urban River at Beczak. Twenty-five hauls of our seine netted us American eels, mummichogs, white perch, and bluegills (strays from the nearby Saw Mill River). Invertebrates included blue crabs, comb jellies, shrimp, and a gravid (with eggs) mud crab. However, the surprise catch was a gorgeous juvenile hickory shad 120 millimeters [mm] long. The river was 63 degrees Fahrenheit and the salinity was 10.0 parts-per-thousand [ppt]. [Hickory shad image © ASMFC Illustration by Dawn Witherington; used by permission.] - Elisa Caref, Jay Muller

[Hickory shad (Alosa mediocris) are a seasonally-common herring in the Mid-Atlantic Bight. In size, they fit between the smaller river herrings (alewife and blueback) and the larger American shad, perhaps reflected in their specific name, mediocris, Latin for “middling.” Others have suggested that mediocris relates more to their culinary quality, being less savory than American shad, A. sapidissima (sapidus = savory, tasty). Among other field marks, they can be identified by a lower jaw that extends beyond their upper jaw creating a straight profile with their head and dorsal surface.
Within their center of abundance, Chesapeake Bay to the Carolinas, they are anadromous, in that they ascend tidal rivers to spawn in freshwater. Their life history in the Hudson is quite unknown but appears to be connected to population abundance in the Atlantic and subsequent overflow into the estuary. Their presence is very sporadic. Periods of abundance in the estuary (1997-1999; 2002; 2004-2005; 2007) are offset by long stretches of scarcity (2008-2017). Occasionally a few adult hickory shad (to 20 inches) will be found in spring mixed with spawning American shad. More typically, however, they appear in late summer and provide great sportfishing opportunities. Tom Lake.]

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

10/28 – Little Stony Point, HRM 55: Heavy rain two days ago had dropped the salinity to 3.0 ppt. However, the warm river (66 degrees F) gave us still more ocean-bound young-of -the-year [YOY] fishes, including blueback herring (54-70 mm) and striped bass (64-73 mm). Mixed in were a few striped bass that were yearlings or very early spring hatches (143-145 mm).
- Tom Lake, T.R. Jackson

10/28 – Bedford, HRM 35: We broke 6,000 migrant raptors and vultures today at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch, largely thanks to the vultures [on this date last year, the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch had counted only 2,786 migrants]. Black vulture numbers reached a season high (9). Non-raptor observations included monarchs (2).
- Silvan Laan, Jack Kozuchowski, Jean Miller, Karen Troche, Pedro Troche

10/28 – Battenkill River, HRM 188: I counted six long-tailed ducks on the Battenkill River near the Greenwich Town Beach today. A belted kingfisher was also visible on the telephone lines. This section of the Battenkill has become quite the birding hotspot. [See banner photo of long-tailed duck by Deborah Tracy-Kral.] - Scott Varney, Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club

[The long-tailed duck (Clangula hyemalis) is uncommon in the watershed and seen primarily in migration. They breed in Arctic tundra pools and marshes, and in large mountain lakes; they winter along the east coast of North America and on the Great Lakes. The former common name for long-tailed duck was oldsquaw. Although that name is still found in old field guides, it was dropped from common usage more than a decade ago in favor of long-tailed duck. This was done for several reasons, among which was the negative connotation of the English word and its offensive reference to Native Americans. Tom Lake.]

10/28 – Ravena, HRM 133: Turkey vultures coming to roost are incredibly graceful as they silently glide in. Late this afternoon I watched thirty of them and four black vultures descent into their night roost.
- Rich Guthrie

tautog (blackfish)10/28 – Manhattan, HRM 11: I took my pessimistic father, Cipriano Guzman, to fish the Hudson River today at the marina on Dyckman Street. He had not fished the Hudson since the early 1980s, and he did not believe the reports from the Hudson River Almanac of the abundance of fishes in the river. Then he caught a 13" blackfish (tautog) that was eventually released after much admiration. Now he is a believer. He was using conch meat (marine mollusk) for bait - expensive, but well worth it for the special moment. [Photo of tautog courtesy of Chris Bowser.] - Felix Guzman

[In the Hudson River, tautog (Tautoga onitis), or blackfish, must be 16" in length with no more than four fish in possession during the season that runs October 5 to December 14. Tom Lake. ]

10/29 – Raritan Bay, NJ: The brant were definitely back at Sandy Hook! The typical-sized rafts were around in the bayside coves and the numbers were still building as flocks continued to arrive from points north.
- Scott Barnes

[Legendary ecologist Dery Bennett used to mark the seasons by noting how brant, a small species of goose, would return to Sandy Hook (NJ) each autumn around Columbus Day to spend the winter. They would then leave Sandy Hook the following Memorial Day, “shoving off for the Canadian Arctic where they breed and fledge young.” Tom Lake.]

10/30 – Poughkeepsie, HRM 75: While walking along the river in Kaal Rock Park this morning during a very high tide, I found a light green wine bottle bobbing along the shore with a message inside typed on plain white paper. The poem read as follows:
- Cathy Leak

From dawn to dusk we'll fight the foe,
But only 22 will show.
A jar, a ewe,
Some soot will do.
And in French,
Will come to you.

[Messages in bottles have been used in scientific studies of ocean currents, as well as to send distress messages, memorial tributes, final reports and letters from those believing themselves to be doomed, invitations to prospective pen pals, and letters to actual or imagined love interests. Ebbesmeyer & Scigliano (2009)]

10/30 – 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. We were greeted by a lone butterfish (45 mm) that happily joined our growing butterfish “school” in the River Project WetLab on Pier 40.
- Siddhartha Hayes

10/31 – Hyde Park, HRM 80: All Hallows Eve. For many fans of the season, Halloween is a time to dress up scary and go in search of tricks-or-treats. We have own tradition: An annual pilgrimage to the grave of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a Jesuit theologian, paleontologist, and renowned naturalist who died in 1955 and was buried on the grounds of the Culinary Institute. Amidst a hundred or more identical gravestones, de Chardin’s is easy to find. There are frequently flowers and always a collection of items–tokens of natural history–left by those paying homage. Teilhard de Chardin spent much of his life searching for common ground between religious dogma and natural history, reconciling his faith with modern science. That made him a truly unique individual in his time.
In keeping with the sciences–geology and archaeology, the realm of de Chardin–this year we offered a chert (flint) nugget collected this summer from the Lemay-Lafarge quarries near Mantes-la-Jolie (Yvelines) in France. This lithic was the raw material used by Neandertals for their Mousterian Stone Age tools 35,000 years ago, a culture familiar to de Chardin.
- Tom Lake. Phyllis Lake

[This Halloween tradition, in its ninth year, is a low-profile, unofficial version of such better known examples as roses and cognac to Edgar Allan Poe’s crypt in Baltimore or flowers and poetry to Jim Morrison’s grave in Paris. In the instance of de Chardin, it is very simply a means of remembering a kindred soul. Tom Lake.]

10/31 – Bedford, HRM 35: It was a fruitful day at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch with season-high counts for turkey vultures (191) and red-tailed hawks (8). Sharp-shinned hawks (13), Cooper’s hawks (11), and bald eagles (6) were also prominent. Highlights included an immature golden eagle migrating southwest in midday and an adult male northern harrier (“gray ghost!”). Non-raptor observations included monarchs (4).
- Silvan Laan, Charlotte Catalano, Jack Kozuchowski, Steve Bauer

bobcat10/31 – Tarrytown, HRM 27: I was cycling on the north county trail between Tarrytown Lakes and the Saw Mill River when I came around a corner to see an adult bobcat walking down the middle of the path. It looked healthy with a winter coat and slowly sauntered off into the woods. This was the best look I have ever had at a wild cat and I was struck by its apparent lack of concern. [Photo of bobcat courtesy of Deborah Tracy-Kral.] - Scott Craven

11/1 – Saratoga County, HRM 182: I counted 27 bird species on my survey of Saratoga Lake today. The most exciting find was at Manning Cove where I found five horned grebes right by the shore. They dove and came up, spread apart, came together in a tight group, and dove again. Among the other birds were greater and lesser scaup (15) mixed in with buffleheads (35) all in a long raft in the middle of the lake.
- Ron Harrower, Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club

11/1 – Schodack, HRM 139: I counted seven bird species on my survey today including 1,500 Canada geese on harvested cornfields, grass fields, and farm ponds.
- Nancy Jane Kern

11/1 – New Baltimore, HRM 131.5: I watched two adult bald eagles in hot pursuit of a lone brant. I don't think I've ever seen bald eagles take a bird in flight. The brant looked so small in comparison and my first thought was that it was a tern or a teal. But that was just my perception given the unlikely combination of species. The eagles looked like a tag team cutting off the brant on every twist and turn. Although they all flew behind a leafy tree and I could not witness the get-away, I could tell that the eagles came up empty since I soon saw the eagles perched together doing their loud “chirping.” Shortly afterwards, a small group of brant flew down river and I hoped the lone goose was able to join them to continue on to the coast.
- Richard Guthrie

11/1 – New Baltimore-Coxsackie, HRM 131-124: Brant were on the move. Early this morning I saw several flocks of brant (each with about 30 birds) flying down the river. In mid-afternoon, I saw a similar number of flocks and birds downriver at Coxsackie.
- Richard Guthrie

11/1 – Hyde Park, HRM 82: At dusk today, my wife called to me saying "Look at the bird feeder!" Sure enough, a black bear had pulled down our galvanized pipe bird feeder pole. We caught him in the act of eating a block of suet. Next time I'll put up a two-inch pipe and hang the feeders higher. It will soon start to look like a ship's mast and yardarm.
- Bob Tucker, Kate Tucker

[Postscript: The next morning I got up to repair the damage and suspected that we had another visit based on the position of the wreckage. I found two large piles of scat having similar volume. One pile black with something like pine nuts in it, the other a light grey with what looked like raspberry seeds. My first thought was that we may have had visits from two different black bears. Bob Tucker.] [Those who feed birds in bear country are advised to wait until the end of November to start. Bear nuisance complaint records reveal that at certain times of the year, bird feeders are involved in over 80% of the bear problems around homes. For more information, visit DEC’s Bears and Bird Feeders webpage. Steve Stanne.]

11/1 – Bedford, HRM 35: There were very few migrant raptors today (10) at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch with sharp-shinned hawks the high count (5). Non-raptor observations included thousands of passerines [perching birds] on the move. They included American robins (1,685) and cedar waxwings (110). Waterbirds were migrating as well including brant (105), Canada geese (335), and common loons (11).
- Silvan Laan

brant11/1 – Croton Bay, HRM 34-33: Last light was falling over Croton Bay - just enough to match silhouettes with modest field marks. Among hundreds of waterfowl, I counted four rafts of brant, 25-30 birds each, spaced along the bay not far offshore of Crawbuckie Beach. [Photo of brant by Ryan Hagerty, courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.] - Tom Lake

11/2 – Beacon, HRM 61: On a day like this, mariners often call the river “tortured” or “confused,” as a strong south wind met head-on against an equally strong ebb tide current, producing raucous white caps and rollers crashing up on the beach. Seining was not easy but we had to know what was out there! Not surprisingly, YOY striped bass (91-93 mm) dominated the catch. The river was still warm at 64 degrees F and the salinity had fallen to 2.0 ppt..
- Tom Lake, B.J. Jackson

11/2 – Bedford, HRM 35: We were blessed again today at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch with another golden eagle (immature). It appeared over Hill 2 at 9:50 AM, accompanied by an adult bald eagle, and they both migrated west. Two thirds of our count were turkey vultures (82). Two other observations of note were a merlin and an American kestrel. Non-raptor observations included a single monarch.
- Silvan Laan, David Ahrens

11/3 – Bedford, HRM 35: It was a quiet day at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch. Notables included a red-shouldered hawk and three northern harriers, one a male. Non-raptor observations included monarchs (7), brant (70), and a flock of common grackles (400).
- Silvan Laan, Blake Auchincloss

11/3 – Manhattan, HRM 13.5: At midday, the air temperature was an unseasonable 73 degrees F at Inwood Hill Park with almost no wind. Along the inlet of Spuyten Duyvil Creek a few red maples displayed some bright color. Both a great egret and a great blue heron were fishing but there were no geese. Then in the course of a couple of minutes, 17 turkey vultures passed over, flying high, heading south.
- Thomas Shoesmith

11/3 – 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. We caught six fish in one crab pot including three tautog (225-270 mm), a black sea bass (210 mm), and two oyster toadfish (180-210 mm).
- Siddhartha Hayes

[The River Project collection gear at Pier 25 includes 20 killifish traps (double-ended wire traps where fish enter but never seem motivated to leave), and four crab pots (larger wire “cages” with larger mesh to allow smaller fish to escape).  The latter, in other applications, are most often used to capture blue crabs. Tom Lake.]

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 trlake7@aol.com.

To subscribe to the Almanac (or to unsubscribe), use the links on DEC's Hudson River Almanac or DEC Delivers web pages.

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.

USEFUL LINKS

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 purple@catskill.net

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