The impressive-to-incredible fall migration of monarch butterflies this week certainly earned the highlight [thanks to Bob Rightmyer for our banner photo]. Our 15th annual Day in the Life of the Hudson and Harbor brought thousands of students to the estuary where they met and learned about its aquatic life.
HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK
10/10 – Queens: At Fort Tilden this morning, after a very slow start, we ended up with more than 50 osprey heading west, a great number for this late date, and more than 20 merlins. The highlight of the day, however, was the massive westbound movement of monarch butterflies. A three-hour vigil atop the Battery Harris platform yielded approximately 4,000 monarchs moving to the west. This occurred after 8:00 AM, when the flow began as if a faucet had been turned on, and ended around 10:00 AM.
Later, at the Fisherman's Lot, among the abundant seaside goldenrod, the flow was much thicker and we peaked at a steady rate of 170/minute for 20 minutes. The rate then slowed to 150/minute for nearly three hours before settling at 110/minute. The rate fell further when the wind shifted more to the west. It was one of the most phenomenal migratory movements of any animal that I've ever seen. As for total numbers, from the notes of the rates I was taking throughout the day, I estimated that I saw about 35,000 monarchs heading west. Considering a 40-minute gap in my counting, it would be safe to say that 38,000-40,000 monarchs passed through Fort Tilden today.
- Doug Gochfeld
NATURAL HISTORY NOTES
10/8 – Highland Mills, HRM 50: We were treated to a wonderful display of monarch butterflies in our garden today, mostly on our lantana plants, but some were also sampling the vincas and what remained of our phlox. We counted at least a dozen with as many as ten more in another garden on zinnias. We supposed they were “fueling up” for their journey to Mexico.
- Alan Groth, Janice Groth
10/8 – Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 34: I spotted a red throated loon this morning – first of the fall for me – in the high tide marsh off the mouth of the Croton River.
- Larry Trachtenberg
10/8 – Bedford, HRM 35: Only five migrants were counted today at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch. Apparently the birds had a sense of "tropical depression" with tropical storm Nate to our southwest. Our time at the watch was well spent though, with two peregrine falcons passing through in close succession, and a flock of about 700 starlings swirling in response to a local Cooper's hawk. Non-raptor observations included monarchs (10) as well as cedar waxwings (40) that were still moving through in good numbers.
- Silvan Laan
10/9 – Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: After 29 days with less than 0.5 inches of the rain, Tropical Storm Nate, across two days, left us with 1.7 inches.
- Tom Lake
[This graph from the Hudson River Environmental Conditions Observing System shows salinity (in red) increasing at West Point as lack of rain allowed salty seawater to push upriver until 10/8-10/9. Freshwater runoff from Nate's rains (in blue, measured at Norrie Point) then reduced salinity at West Point. Steve Stanne.]
10/9 – Yonkers, HRM 18: On Indigenous Peoples’ Day, we arrived in the midst of high winds (40 mph gusts, reaching here after a twenty-mile fetch up from New York Harbor) and driving rain from Tropical Storm Nate. We joined the captain and crew of the Hudson River sloop Clearwater to discuss the role that indigenous (native) people played in shaping the cultural fabric of our Hudson River Valley. The river was a warm 72 degrees Fahrenheit and the salinity was a very salty 14.0 parts-per-thousand [ppt], about 40% the salinity of seawater.
[Fourth-grade, and higher, students who have had the state-required local history frequently ask: “Where are all the Indians?” When the Half Moon sailed up the Hudson River in September 1609, the Dutch met indigenous people who could trace their ancestry back more than 400 generations. To add some perspective, since that time, we have had 16 generations. Over the next 200 years, through war, disease, and loss of their cultural identity, Hudson Valley Algonquian-speaking indigenous peoples lost their homelands. They are found now on reservations in Oklahoma, Wisconsin, and elsewhere. Tom Lake.]
- Tom Lake
10/10 – Bedford, HRM 35: Three moments that stood out today at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch were a close merlin in the first hour, an adult red-shouldered hawk in the second, and a pair of Cooper's hawks migrating together in midday. There were good numbers of bald eagles (6) and a slight push of sharp-shinned hawks (27) toward the end of the watch. It was interesting to see an immature bald eagle chase an osprey carrying a big fish. The osprey dropped the fish that was then skillfully caught in mid-air by the eagle. Non-raptor observations included monarchs (63) and a flight of Canada geese (200).
- Silvan Laan, Charlotte Catalano, Gary Squires, Jack Kozuchowski, Will Squires
10/10 – Hudson River Estuary: We frequently get questions from students regarding sharks in the Hudson River, specifically large sharks that would make us wary to go into the water! Our checklist of Hudson River Watershed Fishes notes smooth and spiny dogfish sharks, but only a single “big shark” record, a dusky shark (Carcharhinus obscurus) at Peekskill (1898). However, from John Waldman's Heartbeats in the Muck, we read of many other unsubstantiated records including a hammerhead shark at Cornwall (1870s), several dusky sharks as far upriver as Peekskill (1881), a sand tiger shark (Carcharias taurus) at Peekskill (1952), and another dusky shark at Newburgh (1966). Until the middle of the nineteenth century, Manhattan’s commercial waterfront (see Fulton Market, since 1823) dumped raw organic refuse into the harbor, particularly the East River. This practice may have contributed to the famous shark attack in the Upper Bay of New York Harbor in 1870 when a school of sharks attacked a sailboat. Large sharks in the Hudson River that might give you pause before going in the water are possible, but...
[These reports bring to mind a bizarre tradition among some anglers, that is to say the dumping of fish from faraway places along the river. There have been several instances where anglers have brought home dead blue sharks and hammerhead sharks from ocean adventures and left them along the shoreline of the Hudson to confuse us. In 1994, an angler dumped a huge number of longnose gar along the Saw Mill River. That one had us stumped for a while. By analyzing stomach contents, however, ichthyologist C. Lavett Smith concluded that the gar had come from the Potomac River in Virginia. Tom Lake.]
- Tom Lake
10/11– Bedford, HRM 35: This was our best day at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch since September 22. We had season highs of turkey vultures (33), osprey (14), sharp-shinned hawks (81), and Cooper's hawks (38). Non-raptor observations included a season high count for monarchs (100+), flights of Canada geese (600), and a flock of 15 ring-necked ducks.
- Silvan Laan, Charlotte Catalano, Tait Johansson
10/11 – Yonkers, HRM 18: Fifth-grade students from The Chapel School joined us this morning at the Sarah Lawrence College Center for the Urban River at Beczak for seining both the river and our tide marsh. Collectively we caught Atlantic silversides (4), blue crabs (18), mummichogs (25), naked gobies (5), shore and sand shrimp (226), comb jellies and moon jellyfish. An unexpected catch was a nine-inch largemouth bass. This was only our second largemouth bass ever and, being a freshwater species, we guessed that it came from the nearby Saw Mill River. Salinity was 11.0 ppt.
- Elisa Caref
10/12 – Mohawk River, HRM 158: Hands-on learning was on the agenda at the Lock E7 River Station Park on the Lower Mohawk River. Niskayuna-based environmental group Environmental Clearing House hosted the 15th annual Day-in-the-Life of the River, a program coordinated by DEC’s Hudson River Estuary Program. Two dozen students from River Run Community Montessori School, as well as some home-schooled students, tested river water, met some fish, and watched a kayak and a canoe go through the lock. DEC’s Fisheries Bureau’s Russell Moore showed off different species of live fish that are found in the Mohawk River, including walleye, smallmouth bass and a large goldfish. Some students measured wind speed at the river’s edge while others measured the turbidity of a water sample. Closer to the lock, New York State Canal Corps representatives used a model to demonstrate how locks work and talked about the history of the Erie Canal. [Photo of students identifying a white sucker courtesy of Scott Wells.]
- Scott Wells, Kristin Schultz
10/12 – Town of Schodack, HRM 138.5: My daily walks in the woods with my dog, Loki, inspire me and always seem to hold surprises. Today I came upon a man and woman on their hands and knees scurrying about at the perimeter of a meadow. I had encountered this couple on past visits to these trails and, wondering if they had lost something, I asked if I could help. They thanked me, and explained that they do this every autumn when the hickory nuts fall from the trees. “Do what,” I asked. They explained that they were collecting the nuts to bring home. They return the nuts to the woods during the winter when the ground is frozen and covered with ice and snow so the squirrels and other wildlife can find them more easily. Another woodland surprise; another inspiration.
- Fran Martino
10/12 – Hannacroix Creek, HRM 132.5: I love the joy of discovering something new and then learning from my discovery. Today I came upon a lovely and unusual caterpillar along the Hannacoix Creek. I had never seen this one before so I investigated with my field guides and discovered that it was a brown-hooded owlet moth caterpillar (Cucullia convexipennis). [Photo of brown-hooded owlet moth caterpillar courtesy of Kelly Hallaron.]
- Kelly Hallaron
10/12 – Cornwall Landing, HRM 57: Fourth graders from Willow Avenue Elementary in Cornwall had a wonderful river experience today for the 15th annual Day-in-the-Life of the Hudson River program. With assistance from Emily Enoch and Devan Castillo, we seined the mid-tide shallows to see what fish were home today. Our catch of a dozen species was dominated by young-of-the-year [YOY] fishes, many heading seaward, including blueback herring 57-75 millimeters [mm] long and striped bass (70-110 mm). Other fishes, heading upriver in response to the rising salinity, were bay anchovies (54-82 mm), Atlantic silverside (82-83 mm), and Atlantic menhaden (75-80 mm). The river was a refreshingly warm 69 degrees F and the salinity was 4.0 ppt.
[At this latitude on the east coast of North America, seawater averages 32-35 ppt. The salinity in the estuary fluctuates as it becomes diluted by freshwater flow from upstream in the watershed. Today’s salinity (4.0 ppt) was a little more than 10% that of seawater and about at the threshold for the average person’s taste. Tom Lake.]
- Chris O’Sullivan, Tom Lake, Debbie Gillson
10/12 – Bedford, HRM 35: We had a season high count for Cooper’s hawks (41) and red-shouldered hawks (6) at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch today. Non-raptor observations included many fewer monarchs (14).
- Silvan Laan, Alan Alterman, Bernie Conway, Charles Bobelis, Charlotte Catalano, Steve Ricker, Tait Johansson
10/12 – Piermont Pier, HRM 25: At least 120 students from Pearl River, Clarkstown South, Tappan Zee, and Spring Valley high schools gathered at the Piermont Pier to investigate the Hudson River as part of our Day-in-the-Life of the Hudson River event. Seining on the ebb tide was slow but as the tide turned to flood, our nets began to fill with the salt-loving Atlantic silversides, as well as YOY bluefish, Atlantic menhaden, bay anchovies, and striped bass. We also found hundreds of comb jellies in the net. Currents of low oxygenated water swirled around the pier in the morning with sets of replicate samples showing 2.0 and 3.0 parts-per-million [ppm] dissolved oxygen. Salinity ranged from 11.0 to 13.0 ppt during the day.
[Biologists generally agree that an important measure of the health of a river’s fish populations is the presence of successive year classes. We frequently mention “young-of-the-year” as a way of documenting their numbers and sizes that then can be compared to other year classes. Tom Lake.]
- Margie Turrin
10/12 – Yonkers, HRM 18: Lincoln High School AP Science students helped us collect data for our Day in the Life of the Hudson program at the Sarah Lawrence College Center for the Urban River at Beczak. The water temperature was 68 degrees F and the salinity was a brackish 15.0 ppt. The strongest current we measured was 15 centimeters/second, heading downriver, even though the tide was rising. We seined on the rising tide and our catch included bay anchovies, mummichogs, naked gobies, northern pipefish, striped bass, and Atlantic silversides. Invertebrates included blue crabs, comb jellies, as well as shore and sand shrimp.
[The phenomenon that the Lincoln High School students encountered was not an illusion but rather is caused by the physics of water depth and current velocity. Current is a horizontal measurement of tidewater movement. Often the river’s water level will cease to rise or fall (tide), but the Hudson will continue to move up or down the river (current). From the language of the original Algonquian-speaking residents of the valley, the word “Mahicanituk” is generally translated as “the river that flows both ways.” It is possible that this is the phenomenon that we hear from Indian folklore, and not simply just the four tides each day. Tom Lake.]
- Elisa Caref
10/12 – Bronx, HRM 17: We held our Day in the Life of the Hudson River event on a beautiful sunny afternoon on The Point at Mount Saint Vincent College. Even though the water was a warm 69 degrees F, our seine came up empty after a few attempts to catch fish. Salinity was a brackish 16.0 ppt and dissolved oxygen was 6.0 ppm.
- Tara Anderson
10/12 – Manhattan, HRM 5: Sixth grade students from the Cornerstone Academy for Social Action helped us sample the Hudson River for our Day in the Life of the Hudson program from piers 84 and 85. The water looked very turbid and measuring with our sight tube yielded 47.0 centimeters visibility. Salinity was 21.0 ppt and dissolved oxygen was a stable 6.0 ppm. We collected a nice sample of macro-invertebrates with a male mud crab, some shore shrimp, and several isopods and amphipods.
- Tina Walsh, Lavonne Hunter
10/13 – Highland, HRM 75: I stopped at the river this morning at the west end of the Walkway over the Hudson River. A number of big black birds were spiraling overhead and I caught them in my binoculars. It took me a couple of minutes to put it all together, but there it was: 13 black vultures in a kettle on Friday the 13th. This was a Halloween moment! I wondered if there was night roost nearby. Black vultures are a sometimes sighting and are not nearly as common as turkey vultures. I stopped looking once I had the 13th, not wanting a 14th to show up and ruin the moment. [Photo of black vulture courtesy of Mike Pogue.]
- Tom Lake
[“Kettle” is a birding term that describes an aggregation of birds, usually raptors or vultures, circling overhead in warm, rising thermals. It is the circular movement of the group that appears like a cauldron of birds being “stirred” by the wind, thus a kettle. While kettles can occur almost any time of the year, they are particularly common during fall migration. Tom Lake.]
10/13 – Beacon, HRM 61: This was autumn fishing at its best. I caught and released a dozen fish today: five carp, four channel catfish, and three brown bullheads. The largest carp weighed 16 pounds, 11 ounces, and the largest channel catfish was 4 pounds, 3 ounces. The fish seemed to have put on the feedbag before the winter chill.
- Bill Greene
10/13 – Bedford, HRM 35: Sharp-shinned hawks (38) were high count today at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch. Cooper’s hawks (19) made a good showing as well. A peregrine falcon flew past lugging a caught-robin in mid-morning before disappearing toward the east. Non-raptor observations included monarchs (19) and a single common loon.
- Silvan Laan, Bill Anderson, Charlotte Catalano, David Ahrens, Jack Kozuchowski
10/13 – Manhattan, HRM 13.5: At low tide near midday at Inwood Hill Park, a great egret was stalking the inlet of Spuyten Duyvil Creek along with 60 Canada geese, half of them swimming and half walking on the mud. The woods were silent except for an occasional blue jay but I glimpsed a red-bellied woodpecker. The Osage orange trees were beginning to drop their fruit.
- Thomas Shoesmith
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 Contract Naturalist, at Shattemuc Yacht Club, Ossining [Westchester County] as part of the 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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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