A Project of the Hudson River Estuary Program
Compiled by Tom Lake, Consulting Naturalist
As we transition from summer-fall to winter, our entries featuring fishes might tend to fade as birds become the story. This week, we had two occurrences of uncommon water birds in migration making a stop in the Hudson Valley.
Highlight of the Week
11/6 – Albany County, HRM 134: I spotted two gray-backed shorebirds swimming out in the middle of Alcove Reservoir today. They were red phalaropes (Phalaropus fulicarius). In checking eBird, there are three other records of this species for the region, one from Saratoga Lake, one from Basic Creek Reservoir, both in the mid-1990s by Rich Guthrie, and one by Curt Morgan in Rensselaer County in 2009. This was at least the second record for Albany County. (Photo of red phalarope courtesy of Greg Lasley)
[Phalaropes are sandpiper-like birds, equally at home wading or swimming. They breed on tundra lakes in the high Arctic. These three red phalaropes were likely coastal migrants heading to their wintering grounds at sea off the southeast U.S. Barbara Butler (Ralph T. Waterman Birder Club)]
- Zach Schwartz-Weinstein (Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club)
Natural History Entries
11/2 – Wappinger Falls, HRM 67: We took a break from generator shopping [see the Halloween storm] to spend some time watching the birds at Wappinger Lake. There was an active, distant raft of American coot and closer was a small assemblage of northern shovelers. At the north end of the lake, a bald eagle kept putting up ring-billed gulls. (Photo of northern shoveler courtesy of Deborah Tracy Kral)
- Deborah Tracy Kral
11/2 – Bedford, HRM 35: We had a slow start at the Bedford Audubon Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch today with no raptors in flight for the first hour. Overall, however, we had a great day for golden eagles with three first-year birds. Two of them were headed southwest and the third bird was lost in blue sky before we could determine its direction. Of the 50 migrating raptors, red-shouldered hawks were high count with 26. Turkey vultures were the most prolific migrating bird today with 95 birds. Other non-raptor observations included a monarch butterfly.
- Richard Aracil, Karen Troche, Megan Owens, Pedro Troche
*** Fish of the Week ***
11/2 – Hudson River Watershed: Fish-of-the-Week for Week 47 is the brown bullhead (Ameiurus nebulosus), number 78 (of 230) on our watershed list of fishes. If you would like a copy of our list, e-mail - trlake7.
The brown bullhead is one of eight species of catfish (Ictaluridae) found in the watershed and is considered a native species. Within the eight catfishes, three are bullheads, the others being the yellow bullhead (A. natalis) and the white catfish (A. catus). Four other catfishes are much smaller, including tadpole, margined, and brindled madtoms, as well as the stonecat. The eighth species, channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus), was introduced from the Midwest and Mississippi watershed.
The brown bullhead, like most catfish, favors the bottom of ponds, lakes, and rivers feeding on benthic orgasms from crustaceans to small fishes. Their brown chin barbels serve as sense organs providing both touch and taste helping them to navigate in low-light conditions. While brown bullheads can get to be a foot-long, most of those we see are smaller. (Photo of brown bullhead courtesy of Michael Kesel)
- Tom Lake
11/3 – Little Stony Point, HRM 55: The air was 34 degrees Fahrenheit (F) at dawn and an icy north wind was blowing down the reach from Newburgh Bay. It was chilling, and we wondered, not for the first time that morning, why we were standing knee deep in the cold shallows with a wet net and nearly numb legs. We agreed that it was the eternal optimism that the next haul would bring to light a new understanding of the river. The revelation in the seine included many 90-100-millimeter (mm) spottail shiners, as well as dozens of young-of-year striped bass (70-85 mm) still traveling to the sea. The water was 52 degrees F, and the salinity was unmeasurable.
[Note: one inch = 25.4 millimeters (mm)]
- Tom Lake, A. Danforth
11/3 – Bedford, HRM 35: Red-shouldered hawks (37 birds) made a nice showing at the Bedford Audubon Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch today. Second high count among the 54 migrating raptors was sharp-shinned hawks with five. Vultures – turkey (95), black (6) – combined for the lead among all migrants. Other non-raptor observations included a monarch butterfly and 278 Canada geese.
- Richard Aracil, Jack Kozuchowski, Karen Troche, Pedro Troche, Tony Wilkinson
11/3 – Hook Mountain, HRM 31: We had 14 migrating raptors at the Hook Mountain Hawkwatch today. Red-shouldered hawks were high count with five. Turkey vultures led all migrants (41). Other non-raptor observations included 30 brant.
- Felicia Napier
11/4 – Esopus Meadows, HRM 87: Several weeks ago, a large, dead cottonwood that, when upright, had been a favorite perch for eagles, ospreys, and kingfishers, succumbed to the wind and weather. The birds will find another spot along the shore to perch, but not likely with as favorable a view.
- Peter Relson
11/4 – Bedford, HRM 35: Early in the count at today’s Bedford Audubon Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch, it was shaping up to be a fairly busy day, especially for red-shouldered hawks (37 birds). By midday, the red-shouldered push had almost totally stopped. The only consistent movement, once again, was turkey vulture (102). Other non-raptor observations included 80 brant and 791 American robins.
- Richard Aracil
11/4 – Hook Mountain, HRM 31: There was not much migratory action at the Hook Mountain Hawkwatch today. High count among six migrating raptors was three bald eagles. However, there was a lot of local action. As I set up the decoy owl, an immature bald eagle appeared overhead, eyeing it. Then there was a pair of frolicking peregrine falcons. Later, a red-tailed hawk engaged in loop-de-loops with a raven. That was a first for me – thrilling. Other non-raptor observations included a six-point buck that showed up, 20-feet away, grazing.
- Steve Miller
11/4 – Alpine, HRM 18: A member of the State Line Hawk Watch took a photo of a migrating gyrfalcon on one of the many perches favored by peregrine falcons. (Photo of gyrafalcon courtesy Robert Kaplan)
- Linda Pistolisi
11/5 – Saugerties, HRM 102: I had a brief look at our harbor seal at dawn this morning. It was swimming at the base of channel marker number 93 at the mouth of Esopus Creek opposite the Saugerties Lighthouse.
[This was Day 93 for a harbor seal sighting at the Saugerties Lighthouse in the vicinity of the mouth of Esopus Creek. Eye witness accounts lead us to believe it is the same seal. Tom Lake]
- Patrick Landewe (Lighthouse Keeper)
11/5 – Staatsburg, HRM 85: As I was walking on Old Post Road this morning, a sleek and well-fed bobcat came out of the swamp on the north side of the road near the Enderkill-Indian Kill. A car came by and slowed to a stop. The bobcat, seeing the car, also stopped in the middle of the road, one front paw up in the air. After a few seconds, the bobcat turned around and disappeared back into the swamp. I have occasionally seen bobcat tracks in the snow in the area, but this was the first time I had seen the actual bobcat. (Photo of bobcat courtesy of Deborah Tracy Kral)
- David Lund
11/5 – Bedford, HRM 35: It was not a very busy day for migrants at the Bedford Audubon Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch. At day’s end, the sky began to clear, and there was a nice push of turkey vultures (80 birds). Only two migrating raptors were counted, one each peregrine falcon and sharp-shinned hawk. Other non-raptor observations included 88 American robins.
- Richard Aracil
11/5 – Yonkers, HRM 18: Our education staff at the Sarah Lawrence Center for the Urban River at Beczak, along with Sarah Lawrence College student Ryland Cullen, went searching in the river today. Our seine captured Atlantic silverside and young-of-year striped bass.
[This was our last seining day for the season, and the salinity measured just 0.5 parts-per-thousand (ppt). The recent salinity drop was likely caused by more than two inches of rain that fell throughout the watershed in the last week. On our last day in 2018, salinity was 10.0 ppt. Our most brackish final day was 2016, with 11.2 ppt. Water temperature today was 55.4 degrees F. On our final day in 2018, it was 62.4 degrees. Our warmest final day was in 2017, at 61.9 degrees. Jay Muller]
- Jason Muller, Elisa Caref, Katie Lamboy
11/6 – Hudson Valley: I went over to far, far east Dutchess County (and beyond) and found the three sandhill cranes that had been alternating between cornfields and a marshy pond for at least a week. (Photo of sandhill crane courtesy of Sheila Bogart)
[Three sandhill cranes were first spotted there on October 29 by Roy Wilcox and relayed to Ralph T. Waterman Bird Club member Dot Fleury. These three sandhill cranes are presumably migrants, although a pair was spotted there in the spring. Deborah Tracy Kral]
- Sheila Bogart (Ralph T. Waterman Bird Club)
11/6 – Beacon, HRM 61: I caught and released, after measuring, two carp, two channel catfish, and a brown bullhead. The carp measured 23 and 26 inches, and their estimated weight was 6 pounds and 10 pounds. The channel catfish measured 19 and 21-inches and the brown bullhead was 9.5-inches. In more than a dozen years fishing the Hudson River, I've yet to catch a brown bullhead measuring more than 10-inches-long.
- Bill Greene
11/6 – Bedford, HRM 35: Today’s count at the Bedford Audubon Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch was overwhelmingly composed of turkey vultures (101 birds, 75% of the total). Of the 34 migrating raptors, red-shouldered hawks led with 18. The best bird was a northern goshawk that glided off to the southwest in early afternoon. Other non-raptor observations included 25 cedar waxwings. (Photo of cedar waxwing courtesy of J.B. Churchill)
- Tait Johansson, Pedro Troche
11/6 – Hook Mountain, HRM 31: Two-thirds of the migrants today at the Hook Mountain Hawkwatch were turkey vultures (29 birds). High count among the 15 migrating raptors was red-shouldered hawk with five. Best bird of the day was an immature golden eagle.
- Vince Plogar
11/6 – Yonkers, HRM 18: Jason Muller, Elisa Caref, and Katie Lamboy, our education staff at the Sarah Lawrence Center for the Urban River at Beczak, completed our goal of 100 seines (808 total hauls) for the 2019 sampling season. On our centennial haul today, we caught our seasonal mainstay species, Atlantic silverside, as well as young-of-year striped bass (80-85 mm). Crustaceans were represented by blue crabs, sand shrimp, and shore shrimp.
- Jason Muller, Elisa Caref, Katie Lamboy
11/7 – Newcomb, HRM 300: Until today, we have had two snowfalls that dumped several inches of snow in the High Peaks of the Adirondacks. They look awesome on a sunny day! And today, it is snowing again. I am confident that winter is here to stay in the High Peaks, the headwaters of the Hudson River.
- Dave Olbert
11/7 – Kowawese, HRM 59: It was a gloomy and cold afternoon in the twilight of the seining season. The steady rain was made a little less onerous by the lack of a serious wind. The air temperature was 46 degrees F. We knew Storm King was there, but it was lost in the clouds. A bit of a southeast breeze was pushing short, intense rollers against our legs as we hauled our net. Avoiding hang-downs, we made several hauls of our 85-footer and each came in a with single species: young-of-year striped bass (84-88 mm). These were joining multitudes more heading seaward. The river, at 49 degrees F, had dropped below the point where we could have expectations of a fabulously diverse catch.
[Decades of research, initialed during the infamous Westway Project on Manhattan’s west side (1971-1985), has shown that many young-of-year and yearling striped bass spend the winter in the intra-pier areas of Manhattan’s west side where they find a comfort zone, including marginally warmer water influenced by runoff from city streets, and security from most predators. Tom Lake]
- Tom Lake, A. Danforth
11/7 – Bedford, HRM 35: Total migrants today at the Bedford Audubon Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch numbered just seven, six of which were turkey vultures. The lone raptor was a sharp-shinned hawk. Other non-raptor observations included 88 cedar waxwings.
- Richard Aracil
11/7 – Hook Mountain, HRM 31: An adult bald eagle and two sharp-shinned hawks comprised the total count today at the Hook Mountain Hawkwatch.
- Trudy Battaly, Drew Panko
11/8 – Bedford, HRM 35: Highlights among the 35 migrating raptors today at the Bedford Audubon Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch were two golden eagles, one adult, the other a first-year bird, and a late-season osprey. We also noted eleven red-shouldered hawks. Turkey vultures were high count among non-raptors with 75. Among non-raptor observations, it was a big flight-day for Canada geese with 4,181 counted. Other notables included 111 brant and 27 double-crested cormorants.
- Richard Aracil, Debbie Mullins, Laura Weir, Mary Beth Kooper, Pedro Troche
11/8 – Hudson River/New York Bight: Kim Durham, New York State Sea Turtle Coordinator for the Atlantic Marine Conservation Society, urges us, with cold weather and subsequent cold-water season approaching (water below 50 degrees F), to keep a look-out for stranded sea turtles. Those that have not yet migrated south can become victims of paralyzing “cold stunning,” which is similar to hypothermia. It gives them the appearance of death, but they are actually in dire need of recovery and resuscitation.
Each year, from November through March, the Atlantic Marine Conservation Society responds to dozens of sea turtles that are found onshore and in our waters that are at the mercy of the waves. If you come upon a sea turtle, whether you think it's alive or dead, immediately call the New York State Stranding Hotline at (631) 369-9829. If you have photos or video, please send them to sightings. (Photo of sea turtle courtesy of NOAA)
- Tom Lake
Autumn 2019 Natural History Programs
Wednesday, December 4
DEC Now Accepting Applications for Urban Forestry Projects
DEC Now Accepting Applications for Urban Forestry Projects
- Up to $1.2 million in grant funding is available for urban forestry projects across New York State. Grants are available for tree planting, maintenance, tree inventory, community forest management plans and for educating those who care for public trees. https://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/5285.html
Eligible applicants include municipalities, public benefit corporations, public authorities, soil and water conservation districts, community colleges, not-for-profit organizations and Indian nations or tribes. Awards will range from $11,000 to $75,000, depending on municipal population. Tree inventories and community forest management plans require no match. Tree planting, maintenance and education projects have a 25 percent match requirement.
Interested applicants must apply for the grant in Grants Gateway. Not-for-profit applicants are required to pre-qualify in the Grants Gateway system, so DEC recommends that applicants start the process well in advance of the grant application due date. DEC will not accept paper or hand delivered grant applications. The deadline for applications in Grants Gateway is December 4, 2019 at 2 PM.
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.
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.
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 sixteen monitoring stations, visit the Hudson River Environmental Conditions Observing System website.
DEC's Smartphone app for iPhone and Android is now available at: New York Fishing, Hunting & Wildlife App.