The last remnants of summer were ebbing away: the salt front was slowly dropping downriver; water temperatures were falling; brackish-water fishes were retreating downriver, and landscape was becoming a riot of reds, oranges, and yellows.
HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK
10/3 - Furnace Brook, HRM 38.5: With the possibility of heavy rain on the horizon, we decided to pull the eel ladders at Furnace Brook. We quickly counted up the season's last eels - two five-inch elvers - and started to dismantle the buckets and hoses. There was a large blob of slime the size of a dinner plate coating the inside of one of the buckets. It turned out to be a colonial bryozoan (Pectinatella). I had seen them before as large roundish blobs on submerged branches and docks, but never in a flat sheet.
[The magnificent bryozoan (Pectinatella magnifica) is a colony of native filter-feeder invertebrate aquatic organisms. Bryozoans do not usually find their way into the Hudson River Almanac; our last entry, also from Chris Bowser, was in 2009 at Hastings-on-Hudson (river mile 21.5). Perhaps the most interesting entry was in 2000 at Yonkers (river mile 18): “Washing in the tideline was a Barbie doll, “Beach Blond Barbie,” one of the 270 million that Americans have purchased since 1957. Her fashion accessories included a shawl of bryozoans and a barnacle skirt.” Photo of magnificent bryozoan courtesy of Chris Bowser. Tom Lake]
NATURAL HISTORY NOTES
10/3 - Beacon, HRM 61: It was barely first light, raining, and with a weather disturbance just south of Long Island as well as Hurricane Joaquin offshore and further south, it was time to see if there was any storm surge being pushed ahead. Today’s morning tide was thought to be the lesser of today’s two highs, yet it appeared to be several feet higher than predicted. Even with that, it was barely capping over the sea wall. Nearby a small night roost of turkey vultures was stirring. In the heavy air, devoid of thermals, two birds made the attempt to lift out of the red oak, barely gaining altitude despite furious flapping. The other seven watched and seemed content to wait for more favorable conditions.
10/3 - Beacon, HRM 61: The evening high tide promised to be stronger, yet the water still did not look like the product of storm surge. The water temperature had dropped to 66 degrees Fahrenheit, cooler than this time last year (71), but on par with the year before (67). Salinity was about 1.0 part per thousand [ppt].
[As shown in this graph from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s tide gauge at the Battery in Manhattan, water levels throughout this period were higher than predicted due to the storms. On 10/3, water level were approximately two feet higher than predicted at the Battery; these higher levels were observed upriver too. Steve Stanne.]
10/3 - Furnace Woods, HRM 38.5: Our first look outside this soggy, misty morning was an eye-opener. Autumn color had arrived, seemingly overnight. The entire effect was that of being in a room full of pumpkins, the world back-lit with yellows and oranges.
10/3 - Bedford, HRM 35: It was not extremely active today at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch. In midday a Cooper’s hawk flew out over the horizon to the east, then northeast, before dropping back down into the trees. A short while later, two sharp-shinned hawks were seen flying back and forth to the east before going back down below the trees. Three osprey brought their season’s total to 331 birds.
10/4 - Saratoga County, HRM 164: By all accounts, the gray seal that has been living in the Hudson River above tidewater for at least 72 days continues to do well. It is presently still in the reach of the river between Locks One and Two of the Hudson-Champlain Canal. We have seen it lolling on the surface with an ever-curious expression, and behaving much like we’d expect a seal in the wild to act. [Photo of gray seal courtesy of Shannon Fitzgerald.] - Shannon Fitzgerald[As boat traffic winds down, the canal locks will soon close for the season.The seal will find its world, and perhaps its resources, shrinking. While the gray seal is comfortable in the cold waters of the North Atlantic, winter in the river between the locks would be a challenge. Tom Lake.]
10/4 - Staatsburg, HRM 85: After the weekend's earlier nor’easter rains, wind, and a close call by Hurricane Joaquin, today’s sun was a welcome relief. We took advantage of the day and hiked and wandered several trails at Norrie-Mills State Park. We felt wrapped in fall colors along the upland Red Trail and some side trails, where willows and maples blazed bright yellow and sumac and poison ivy burned red. The 270-degree up-and-down river view from Mill's beachfront was spectacular, and a bald eagle was perched just to the north. However, the rising tide and the waves kicked up by the northwest wind chased us off Dinsmore Point in short order. On the way back, the White riverside trail took us through lush summer-like greenery. The color differences between the sun-and-river-warmed shoreline, and the shaded upland trails, while only a third of a mile apart and 150 feet in elevation, was striking.
10/4 - Kowawese, HRM 59: I took my Queens College ecology class on a seining trip. While the number of fish caught was disappointing, our 30-foot net did manage to catch eight species. Chief among them were young-of-the-year [YOY] alewives, blueback herring, American shad, and striped bass. Also in the net were spottail shiners, tessellated darters, banded killifish, and a last vestige of our brackish summer, Atlantic silversides.
10/4 - Croton Point, HRM 35-34: Hosts of robins, overnight arrivals, were foraging in short grass areas. An immature peregrine falcon was keeping an eye on an immature bald eagle perched in a black locust on the fringe of the tidemarsh. Kestrels were in possession of the well markers up on the landfill and I saw several sharp-shinned hawks as I walked. Alas, no monarchs.
10/4 - Tuxedo Park, HRM 36: Last week, a half-dozen monarchs were feeding on my New England asters. Today several black swallowtail butterflies were likewise enjoying my parsley.
10/4 - Bedford, HRM 35: The storm system that brought the area all sorts of trouble finally moved out, leaving us, at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch, to find birds in the deep blue abyss. The highlights included two osprey carrying fish and traveling east and northeast. More than half of our count today was sharp-shinned hawks (27) bringing the season’s total to 765. Non-raptor observations included 62 blue jays and sixteen Canada geese.
10/5 - Town of Poughkeepsie: We arrived in late afternoon and found “Mom” (N42), the female bald eagle from nest NY62, perched in her white pine. We walked a short distance and found “Dad,” the male from NY62, perched in his tulip tree. After a while dad flew out toward the river and Mom soon followed. It has been so nice seeing them hang around the nest tree when they certainly have many options on how to spend their off-season.
10/5 - Palisades, HRM 23: As I looked out my office window at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory this evening, a loose flock of about a hundred robins come from the direction of the Hudson River. Over the next five minutes, waves of robins, several hundred individuals, passed over the campus.
10/5 - Bedford, HRM 35: We saw fairly even movement throughout the day at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch. Sharp-shinned hawks (42) were again the high count, and three bald eagles brought their season’s total to 59. Non-raptor observations included 237 blue jays and 24 cedar waxwings.
10/5 - Inwood Hill Park, HRM 13.5: Fall had definitely arrived. At the midday low tide, the great egret and great blue heron that I had seen all summer were still wading in the salt marsh. Cooler weather had invigorated life in the woods. Calico asters that seemed about to end a brief flowering were now abundant, and white snakeroot as well. Among the new acorns and bitternut hickory nuts that almost covered some paths, I saw a black-capped chickadee and a downy woodpecker, my first of the season. Sumac and poison ivy were beginning to show some red. Most goldenrods had finished but, suddenly, bluestem was blooming.
10/6 - Saratoga County, HRM 164: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries has been updated on the gray seal apparently trapped for 74 days above tidewater in the Hudson River. It is presently not clear as to what the trigger points would be to mount a response. As far as a short term plan, we will continue with monitoring the seal and noting all behavior.
10/6 - Bedford, HRM 35: The bulk of the migrants were spotted in the morning at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch. Once again, sharp-shinned hawks (32) accounted for half of the count. Non-raptor observations included 119 blue jays and one monarch.
10/7 - New Paltz, HRM 78: While taking a walk around the Shawangunks foothills, I came across a female Chinese mantis 100 millimeters [mm] long perched on a cluster of New England asters, possibly waiting for an early fall bumblebee snack or scouting a location to create her egg mass.
10/7 - Poughkeepsie to Clinton Point, HRM 77-69: The Hudson River Fisheries Unit’s beach seining crew visited five Mid-Hudson beaches, from just north of Quiet Cove to the mouth of the Casper Kill. The most interesting catch was at HRM 77, where twelve species of fish showed up in the net, the most numerous being YOY blueback herring (1,035 of them!). We also caught their look-alike relatives, alewives and American shad, along with the more distantly related Atlantic menhaden (7). Though not unheard of here, the presence of menhaden plus dozens of bay anchovies was unexpected; these two species are more common in brackish water downriver. A bit farther south near HRM 73 we recorded a salinity of 0.17 ppt, which put us very near the salt front. Its presence was also suggested by the single shore shrimp (Palaemonetes sp.) that we netted there. [Photo of - from top to bottom - YOY Atlantic menhaden, blueback herring, American shad, and alewife, courtesy of Steve Stanne.] - Bobby Adams, Joe Lydon, Steve Stanne
10/7 - Kowawese, HRM 59: One haul of our 85-foot seine in early afternoon netted nearly a hundred fish, albeit only three species: There were several dozen each of YOY striped bass (59-72 mm) and American shad (75-85 mm), as well as tessellated darters (69-71 mm) and immature blue crabs. The striped bass and shad seemed a bit smaller than usual for this time of the year. Maybe we had just tapped into a younger part of the run. Missing from the catch were YOY blueback herring, reinforcing the idea that although they are extremely abundant at this time of the year, they are not everywhere. In the shallows under an intense autumn sun the river had warmed to 70 degrees F. Salinity was measurable at just over 1.0 ppt.
10/7 - Bedford, HRM 35: The highlight of the day at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch was an immature golden eagle seen to the east at midday. We watched it for five minutes before it flew off to the northwest. Non-raptor observations included 122 blue jays and two monarchs.
10/7 - East River, New York City: I took my Queens College ecology lab classes to Little Bay, under the Throgs Neck Bridge, where the East River meets Long Island Sound. Our 30-foot-long seine caught striped killifish, mummichogs, silversides, and juvenile Atlantic menhaden. Most encouraging were the juvenile winter flounder (5) and more juvenile striped bass (20) than I've ever seen there. However, the large 2011 year class of wild oysters that had even carpeted naked sand bars, had expired without subsequent recruitment. Only a few live oysters were seen, all wedged among shore-side rocks.
10/8 - East Fishkill, HRM 66: I saw my first monarch butterfly of the season today. Sadly, I had not seen a single one all summer and fall until today, but now have counted four in the last 24 hours.
10/8 - Verplanck, HRM 40.5: The air temperature was 50 degrees F and the resident Canada geese were still present, foraging in the shoreline grass. Overhead, I heard and then saw my first flock of about 50 brant migrating down the river.
10/8 - Bedford, HRM 35: A southeast breeze brought about more activity than previous days at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch. It was nice to see an increase of northern harriers (4), Cooper’s hawks (15), and American kestrels (14). We also saw another (possibly the same one as yesterday) immature golden eagle to the south in mid-afternoon. Non-raptor observations included 56 blue jays, 31 Canada geese, and six monarchs.
10/9 - Hudson River: Margie Turin of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory asked a very thought-provoking question as she commented on the interesting bonefiish (Albula vulpes) catch from last week's Almanac (see Ossining, 10/1). If this was only the second record of this tropical species in the estuary, how could it be designated as “native” on the Checklist of Hudson River Watershed Fishes?
10/9 - Bedford, HRM 35: It was a slow day at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch. Only six raptors were counted as migrants. Multiple sharp-shinned hawks and Cooper’s hawks were spotted, sparring with each other and then diving back into the trees. Non-raptor observations included 26 blue jays, seventeen Canada geese, and one monarch.
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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