By most accounts, record numbers of migrating raptors, led by red-shouldered hawks, have passed down the Hudson River Flyway this fall. Migrating turkey vulture numbers have also achieved record counts.
HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK
11/5 – New York Harbor, Lower Bay: I was on the last whale-watching cruise of the season, sponsored by Gotham Whale, aboard the American Princess out of Rockaway, Queens. The double-decker vessel cut through the day's rough waters around New York City’s Rockaway Peninsula as rain drove down in sheets. An hour of rain and waves passed but we saw no whales. Then came a shout from the captain: “Thar she blows!” Spouts were everywhere. Whales were heaving up and down, displaying their flukes, and “lunge feeding” on Atlantic menhaden. Several came up close to the vessel, both port and starboard, to our great shouts of awe. The crew leaders exclaimed that this was the biggest concentration of whales this season, all together on one voyage, as many as eight humpback whales. Twice we received a strong whiff of the whales' “blow-hole breath.” Ignoring the ripe smell, we could breathe in the whale’s exhalation. During the entire cruise we could see the crowded shoreline; the urban density and the whales made for a remarkable juxtaposition.
[Paul Sieswerda of Gotham Whale, together with American Princess Cruises, has been tracking humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) off the coast of New York City since 2011, after anglers began reporting sightings. To date, the organization has cataloged 60 individual humpback whales in the area. The Hudson River Almanac documented a young adult humpback whale, likewise attracted by huge schools of menhaden, in the Upper Bay of New York Harbor last fall (11/16 -11/22). Tom Lake.]
- Edythe Ann Quinn
NATURAL HISTORY NOTES
11/4 – Germantown, HRM 108: Within a half mile of each other, I had a liftoff of several hundred Canada geese from a local orchard and then had to stop the car for a murmuration [a collective noun] of starlings on both sides of the road as well as in the middle. I had to wait until they took off before I moved.
- Mimi Brauch
11/4 – Beacon, HRM 61: We could feel autumn ebbing away. We were in the lee of the point as brisk northwest winds were blowing the leaves off the shoreline cottonwoods. Although they were out of sight, we could hear the calls of Canada geese, high above us, getting a tailwind boost. In the river, the water temperature had fallen to 61 degrees Fahrenheit and the salinity had also fallen to 1.5 parts-per-thousand [ppt]. In the calm shallows, young-of-the-year [YOY] striped bass 78-80 millimeters [mm] long were still prominent. [Photo of young striped bass courtesy of Steve Stanne.]
- Tom Lake, T.R. Jackson
11/4 – Bedford, HRM 35: It was a pretty wild day at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch as we broke 7,000 for migrants this season. It was a big day for red-shouldered hawks with no fewer than 167 counted, sometimes in kettles up to 26 birds, intermixed with red-tailed hawks (22) and turkey vultures (242). An unidentified accipiter passed by, most likely a northern goshawk. Non-raptor observations included monarchs (12) and common loons (3).
[By comparison, on this date in 2016, the total count for migrating raptors and vultures was 3,246. Tom Lake.]
- Silvan Laan, Blake Auchincloss, Steve Tulchin
11/5 – Battenkill River, HRM 193: While traveling from Salem in midday, I pulled over on Route 29 to watch three golden eagles flying southwest toward Battenville. Two were adults with dark brown bodies, visible golden napes, and smaller heads (compared to bald eagles). The third was an immature with a distinctively wide white tail band. Later, at South Glens Falls, I found a single yellow-billed cuckoo hanging out in perfect sun, poised for photos. This was a “life-bird” for me!
[A “life list” is a common activity for many naturalists. Typically these are compilations of related species, like postcards from one’s travel through life. Some people keep bird lists; for others it can be fish, flowers, insects, mushrooms, fungi. Anyone can keep a list of almost anything that ultimately gives them a context and appreciation for the natural world. Tom Lake.]
- Scott Varney, Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club
11/5 – Columbia County, HRM 112: Patches of butter-and-eggs (Linaria vulgaris) sprinkled the Olana State Historic Site landscape as November brought its browns and greys to the Crown Hill trail. Oddly enough, both of my field guides told me that their “bloom time” was through the month of August. Climate change?
- Fran Martino
11/5 – Bedford, HRM 35: The first hour of the count at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch was very good with nine red-shouldered hawks and an immature golden eagle flying southwest. Non-raptor observations included Canada geese (26) and common grackles (70).
- Silvan Laan, Rebecca Rogan
11/5 – Manhattan, HRM 2: Dark-eyed juncos began to appear this week in Saint Luke’s Garden in the West Village, joining dozens of white-throated sparrows dining on the newly seeded lawn. There were also a few wood thrushes darting in and out. Painted ladies and monarch butterflies were still present among the carpenter bees, bumble bees, and honey bees. [Photo of dark-eyed junco by J. Dingel courtesy Pennsylvania Game Commission.]
- Robert Shapiro
11/6 – Saratoga County, HRM 182: I counted 36 bird species on my survey of Saratoga Lake today. Among the notables were Canada geese (850) and common loons (4). However, the most exciting sighting was a red-throated loon seen from Saratoga Lake Road looking toward Kayderosseras Creek outlet.
- Ron Harrower, Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club
11/7 – Red Hook, HRM 96.5: We were awakened at 3:00 a.m. by a ruckus in the backyard. An adult black bear was snacking on the seed contents of a bird feeder that had been cantilevered from the back deck. Apparently the bear was able to reach it from the railing of the steps (as I do to refill the feeder). The feeder was not damaged, but other seed feeders, a suet feeder and a shepherd’s crook support were. My plan is to resurrect my bird feeder array, but to remove them to the house each night for the next week hoping the bear will move along to forage elsewhere.
- Bill Maple
11/7 – Bedford, HRM 35: We had good numbers of turkey vultures (169), red-shouldered hawks (63), and northern harriers (6), including two males at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch today. A golden eagle of unknown age made an appearance heading west in late morning. Non-raptor observations included monarchs (2).
- Silvan Laan
11/7 – Hudson River Estuary: With the cold weather and subsequent cold water season upon us, Kim Durham (New York State Sea Turtle Coordinator, Atlantic Marine Conservation Society) urges us to be on the lookout for stranded sea turtles. 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. Some sea turtles become paralyzed when “cold stunned,” giving the appearance of death but are actually in dire need of recovery and resuscitation. If you have photos or video, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Tom Lake
[Records of sea turtles in the lower estuary have been limited to Kemp’s Ridley (Lepidochelys kempii). Juvenile Kemp’s ridleys (two to three years old) have been documented using Long Island Sound as an intermediate habitat and it would seem that we occasionally, but rarely, find one in the lower estuary. The most recent Kemp’s ridley occurrence was August 1995 when Buddy Long, trolling for bluefish, collected a prop-injured sea turtle in the river off Spuyten Duyvil (river mile 14). Tom Lake. Photo of Kemp's Ridley sea turtle courtesy of Tom Lake.]
[“Where the Florida Current picks up its supply of [Kemp’s] ridley turtles is not known … but there can be little doubt that it is the northeast sweep of this current just off the eastern shore that accounts for the occurrence in North Carolina and New York Harbor and Martha’s Vineyard. We can be sure that they are not born in those places. They are carried there.” Archie Carr - Windward Road (1967:15)]
11/8 – Saratoga County, HRM 157: We went to Vischer Ferry Preserve this morning and walked the towpath west of the Whipple Bridge for the length of the West Pond. Although lacking a spotting scope, we saw an excellent variety of dabbling ducks including mallards, American black ducks, wood duck, American wigeon, northern pintail, northern shoveler, green-winged teal, and gadwall. About the only ones missing were blue-winged teal and Eurasian wigeon
- John Hershey, Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club
11/8 – Esopus Meadows, HRM 87: The previously reported red-throated loon was still around but seemed to be staying out in mid-river most of the time. It does, occasionally, come by the park, but not as much. That loon can swim very fast! You turn your head and briefly look away, and when you look back it is a hundred yards farther away. From time to time, we can hear it calling—a strange sound to hear coming from the river.
- Jim Yates
11/8 – Town of Poughkeepsie: The newly-mated pair of bald eagles continued their attention to their nest (NY62) as well as their relationship (the original male of 16 years was struck and killed by a train last February). The “new” male caught a gray squirrel this morning and spent some time with it in a tulip tree before taking the squirrel to its mate perched in a nearby cottonwood. As we watched, he took off, buoyed by a strong north wind, and passed not more than 50 feet over our heads, gliding out to the river. [Photo of adult bald eagle in flight courtesy of Bob Rightmyer.}
- Bob Rightmyer, Tom Lake, B.J. Jackson
11/8 – Bedford, HRM 35: Red-shouldered hawks (105) were still peaking at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch. Turkey vultures reached a season one-day high (269). The last turkey vulture kettle of the day numbered 52 birds. The most notable non-raptor observation was a gigantic flock of blackbirds, more than 3,000, streaming west in late afternoon.
[The Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch has counted 406 red-shouldered hawks so far this season. On this date last year, they had counted only 55. Tom Lake.]
- Silvan Laan
11/9 – Town of Poughkeepsie: The adult pair in bald eagle nest NY372 continued to frequent the nest and surrounding trees—a great sign for the 2018 breeding season. Today, the female of the pair sat in the nest, looking very eager to begin the process.
- Bob Rightmyer, Dana Layton
11/9 – Bedford, HRM 35: The first bird of the day at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch was a golden eagle of unknown age moving west. A mixed flock passing low overhead contained turkey vultures, black vultures, red-tailed hawks and red-shouldered hawks, epitomizing the boon of November. Turkey vulture, this fall's most numerous migrant, again reached a one-day high (309) helping us break 8,000 total migrants for the season. The most notable non-raptor observation was a common loon heading south.
- Silvan Laan
11/9 – Manhattan, HRM 13.5: I spent a wonderful morning with a friend walking through Inwood Hill Park birdwatching. The lawns and edges of the woods were filled with dark-eyed juncos, golden-crowned kinglets, song sparrows, house sparrows, and even a field sparrow. Upon making our way to the top to the overlook, we timed it just right to enjoy some major raptor migration. Within minutes we spotted both black and turkey vultures, red-shouldered hawks, red-tailed hawks, and Cooper’s hawks. Another birder had earlier seen a bald eagle hunting out in the Hudson and successfully capturing a fish. We ended our hike through the woods with another wonderful winter visitor, a winter wren.
- Sunny Corrao
11/10 – Fort Edward to Schuylerville, HRM 202-186: I followed the Hudson River today from Schuylerville to the Fort Edward Grasslands. Notable sightings included a cackling goose on River Road, four buffleheads, an American kestrel, and lastly a male northern harrier. The best of the day however, was an adult female Cooper's hawk chasing songbirds on New Swamp Road with the precision of a falcon!
[The cackling goose (Branta hutchinsii) is a smaller version of the Canada goose. It was formerly considered the smallest subspecies of one variable species, but recent work on genetic differences found the four smallest forms to be very different. These four races are now recognized as a full species: the cackling goose. It breeds farther northward and westward than does the Canada goose. Cornell Lab of Ornithology.]
- Scott Varneyn, Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club
11/10 – Bedford, HRM 35: Red-tailed hawks got a boost today from a strong northwest wind at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch and reached a one-day high count (31). An adult golden eagle (eighth for the season) moved west in mid-afternoon. A late in the season osprey was an unexpected bird. Non-raptor observations included common loon (7) and brant (40).
- Silvan Laan
11/10 – Hook Mountain, HRM 31: Steve Bauer made an interesting observation at the Hook Mountain Hawkwatch today of how ravens seem to harass passing golden eagles, as they did with one today, but not as often harass bald eagles. [We wondered if golden eagles and ravens have a more competitive relationship since they share an upland niche, but not so much with bald eagles.] Red-shouldered hawks were high count today (12), a third of our sightings. Non-raptor observations included a Lapland longspur seen around our lookout, feeding on grass and then in mid-afternoon circling and calling low before disappearing in grasses again.
[Hook Mountain Hawkwatch: We have counted more broad-winged hawks (4,952) this season than either of the last two years. Our next golden eagle (we have had one so far this season) will be our 200th all-time golden eagle at the Hook Mountain Hawkwatch (since 1971). More good news for the season includes bald eagles, currently at a count of 164. We need 34 more to reach a one-season record. Our surprise of this season so far has been peregrine falcons (49). Our record year of 54 was 1990, a year when numbers were low on the barrier beaches but high inland. We have counted 1,070 sharp-shinned hawks so far. Our record low count for sharp-shinned (2016) was 1,426, so we need almost 400 to avoid a new record low. Drew Panko.]
- Anne Swaim, Steve Bauer
11/10 – Bronx, HRM 17: We have noticed an increase in ctenophores in the Hudson River this fall. From mid-October to early November, my College of Mount Saint Vincent students and I sampled the Hudson River, collecting Atlantic silversides, live oysters, blue crabs, shore shrimp, and ctenophores (comb jellies). The latter species appeared to be Leidy’s comb jellies (Mnemiopsis leidyi). The students were surprised to see them fill the net and happy to hear that they do not sting like some true jellyfishes. We were able to carefully place some in a clear viewer filled with river water and the students were amazed at their movements and iridescence. [Photo of Leidy's comb jelly by Karl Van Ginderdeuren courtesy World Register of Marine Species.]
- Tara Anderson
[Ctenophore abundance here seems to be driven by water temperature and salinity conditions. Comb jellies (Ctenophora) are often mistaken for jellyfish but they do not sting, and our two common Hudson River species - Leidy's comb jelly and Beroe's comb jelly (Beroe cucumis) - lack tentacles. Like true jellyfish, comb jellies are translucent, gelatinous, fragile, essentially planktonic, and drift at the whim of the wind and current. They are walnut-sized, often occur in swarms, and are common in estuarine shallows especially in the lower brackish-water reach of the Hudson in late summer and fall.
For a real treat, gently scoop a few from a net with a wet, cupped hand. Place them into a small clear glass container and gently rock the water. Their rhythmic, symmetrical, and altogether graceful movements are enchanting. Our fondest memories of comb jellies come from night-seining programs at Croton Point with our 300-foot, Henry Gourdine-built, seine. There were times in late summer and early autumn when we'd haul the net off the swimming beach in the black of night and the bioluminescence from comb jellies made the net appear to be on fire. And as we waded, our legs streamed ghostly greenish plumes behind us. Tom Lake.]
11/10 – Manhattan, HRM 5: The air temperature fell to 25 degrees F today, tying the record low for the date.
- National Weather Service
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.
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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.
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