With barely a quarter-inch of rain this week, the salt front, that constantly-on-the-move leading edge of dilute seawater in the estuary, crept upriver past Hudson River Mile 69; the graph above shows increasing salinity at Piermont through the week. With daytime temperatures in the 90s, water temperatures remained at seasonal highs in the 80s.
HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK
8/25 - Champlain Canal Lock One, HRM 164.5: I spent the better part of an hour and a half today watching the seal that has been with us for a month now. It was very wary of people and watched anyone nearby very closely. I did not have my camera with me but I’m almost certain this is a harbor seal, with some black spots, some white streaks, tiny ears and smaller eyes that I thought it would have. Another observer said that a yellow tag had been seen on its rear flipper three days ago. While I watched, the seal was swimming very well and diving for prolonged periods of time; I also saw it eat a fish. The seal seemed very adept at traveling through the lock; others who have seen it agree. This is a very handsome animal who seems to be doing well for itself.
NATURAL HISTORY NOTES
8/24 - Newburgh, HRM 61: I was watching a double-crested cormorant today at the riverfront in Newburgh. It was sitting on one of the floating docks beside a couple of gulls. As I got a closer view through my binoculars, I noticed that its gular sac was pulsating constantly and its beak was slightly open. The gulls nearby showed no movement of feathers, so it wasn't the wind. Is this a cooling device or did a fishbone get stuck?
8/24 - Bedford, HRM 35: We counted only two raptors today at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch, an osprey and a red-tailed hawk. Non-raptor observations included three ruby-throated hummingbirds and a Baltimore oriole.
8/25 - Washington Hollow, HRM 82: I stopped on the Cary Institute’s Lowland bridge and found lots of cedar waxwings hawking insects over the water and eating dogwood berries. Then I started seeing heads pop up: Was it a beaver? No. Muskrats? No. It was four river otters. I have seen them around in the past so I always looked for them. I happily watched as they swam and hunted - one ate a crayfish - and made their way downstream on Wappinger Creek. [Photo of river otter eating crayfish courtesy of Deborah Tracy-Kral.] - Deb Kral
8/25 - Bedford, HRM 35: We counted only one raptor today at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch, a broad-winged hawk. Non-raptor observations included a common yellowthroat, a Baltimore oriole, and a hairy woodpecker.
8/26 - Defreestville, HRM 142: We have a family of “pigs” at the historic Evert Van Alen House. They have been spotted in the peach tree on several occasions. We call them the “whistling pig family” because that is the call they have. They are woodchucks, ground-hogs (Marmota monax), also known as whistle-pigs. I finally got a picture today of one of them up in the peach tree.
8/26 - Town of Poughkeepsie: After a long absence, “Mama,” the adult female (N42) from eagle nest NY62, made an appearance in what we call the “feeding tree,” a large sycamore with a missing top, maybe 200 yards from the nest. This is where she would bring fish to entice the fledglings to come and feed.
8/26 - Crugers, HRM 39: While relaxing in the backyard on a beautiful afternoon, I noticed a very large bird flying overhead. At first I thought it might be a turkey vulture, but happily realized that it was a bald eagle. As I watched it fly higher and higher, two more eagles came into view. What a thrill to watch the three of them disappear into the puffy white clouds.
8/26 - Bedford, HRM 35: This was by far the most active day yet at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch: three broad-winged hawks, one osprey, and a northern harrier. Non-raptor observations included five ruby-throated hummingbirds (one of which stopped to check out our red wind flag), and six common ravens (all seen in the first 30 minutes of the day).
8/27 - Hyde Park, HRM 82: A ruby-throated hummingbird peered into my kitchen window for a few seconds today, determined there was nothing to be had, and continued on its way.
8/27 - Staten Island, New York City: We did a teacher workshop on marine invertebrates at Great Kills Park. As part of the field work, we did some seining on the Lower Bay of New York Harbor both on a sandy beach and an adjacent small Spartina marsh. On the sandy beach we caught good numbers of bay anchovies and Atlantic silversides, a few young-of-the-year [YOY] Atlantic menhaden, four northern kingfish, a YOY weakfish and, a bit of a surprise, a young gizzard shad. I thought they stayed mainly in fresh water; salinity here was about 26.0 parts per thousand [ppt].
[Ichthyologist C. Lavett Smith referred to spotfin mojarra (Eucinostomus argenteus) as “tropical fishes ... but an occasional stray into the Hudson.” This small marine species ranges widely along the Atlantic coast but is far more common in the southern part of its range. Tom Lake. Photo of YOY spotfin mojarra courtesy of Margie Turrin.]
8/27 - Bedford, HRM 35: It was a busy day at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch with most of the migration occurring in late morning. At 10:30, the first migrating sharp-shinned hawk was spotted to the east, moving southwest. There were also two migrating American kestrels in the 1:00 PM hour, migrating separately. Non-raptor observations included six ruby-throated hummingbirds and two common ravens.
8/27 - Croton Point, HRM 34: We were out for some early morning birding. There were lots of birds around, particularly on the south side of the Point along the low road to the wine cellars. The best was a yellow-breasted chat. Other warblers included pine, prairie, magnolia, black-and-white, and American redstart. There was a large movement of Baltimore orioles, maybe twenty, feeding by the wine cellars. There were several osprey and at least two adult bald eagles in the air, and an American kestrel hovering on the landfill.
8/28 - Esopus Meadows, HRM 87: I seined during a late afternoon low tide along River Road and caught a variety of fishes including two smallmouth bass 75 millimeters [mm] long, four bluegills of various sizes, nine banded killifish, a tessellated darter (50 mm), and fifteen logperch (50-100 mm).
8/28 - Cold Spring, HRM 54: In early evening, a “rafter” of about fifteen to twenty wild turkeys of all sizes – toms, hens, jakes, and poults – wandered across my backyard, heading toward the woods. Later, I saw some of them 40 feet up in large trees; I did not know they would fly that high.
8/28 - Putnam County: I came upon a timber rattlesnake today while hiking in the Hudson Highlands. A drama had unfolded before I arrived as a red-tailed hawk had tried to snatch the snake. It looked like the snake was fine but that the hawk was wounded. I am fascinated by rattlesnakes; they are the most iconic example of real wilderness that we see here in the east, at least for a while.
8/28 - Bedford, HRM 35: It was another solid day for migration at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch. The highlights included eight broad-winged hawks and six osprey. We also had our first migrating juvenile bald eagle. The bird wasn't seen until it was high above the ridge just to the south, and then it continued to ride thermals until it finally glided off to the southwest. Non-raptor observations included seven ruby-throated hummingbirds, two common ravens, and one monarch butterfly.
8/29 - Rhinebeck, HRM 90: In a tree, this morning, just beyond my deck, there was an invasion of cedar waxwings. Many of them were juveniles that looked drab compared to the adults. They had a bluish-gray back and streaked breast, but they had the black mask of the adults as well as the yellow band at the end of the tail. All of them, adults and juveniles, were acting like flycatchers, busily chasing insects. When I see the adults in the spring their behavior is far different: they are always busy eating seeds, like the catkins on birch trees.
8/29 - Bedford, HRM 35: We had a very active late morning into early afternoon at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch. Three adult bald eagles were spotted including the first adult to the northeast, traveling to the west-southwest. Non-raptor observations included eight ruby-throated hummingbird, an American redstart, four double-crested cormorants, and one monarch butterfly.
8/29 - Manhattan, HRM 1: We caught mating blue crabs at The River Project’s Pier 40 research site in the Hudson River Park this week, as well as our usual amount of YOY oyster toadfish and some more Atlantic silversides. Perhaps the most exciting moment was when our spider crab moulted!
8/30 - Schodack, HRM 139: By the light of the near-full moon, a pair of barred owls caterwauled from the depths of the woods. There was the usual “who cooks for you?” call, but then many variations as well. It was fantastical! The pair would start up at exactly the same moment, carry on with echoing vocalizations that often sounded like howler monkeys, and then stop at precisely the same time. And then start again about a minute later, over and over. It was wonderful!
8/30 - Saugerties, HRM 102: While fishing in the river near Saugerties, we were entertained by a kestrel on the hunt. Its target was a small shorebird that was sly enough to outwit the falcon. The shorebird showed up with the kestrel in hot pursuit; the shorebird dove and the falcon zipped up and circled back. The shore bird came up again and flew a short distance and the falcon resumed pursuit mode. This play of nature went on for six minutes with the shore bird winning its safety, for the time being, and the falcon moving away, looking for an easier meal.
8/30 - Hyde Park, HRM 82: A pair of Baltimore orioles made an unusual late summer visit to my bird bath today. They did not play well with the resident cardinals, bluebirds, and tree sparrows.
8/30 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 68: Early this morning I spotted a very healthy-looking red fox drinking from our ground-level bird bath. It had appeared trotting across our lawn, and when finished, returned the same way disappearing into the woods.
8/30 - Town of Fishkill, HRM 63: There have been small groups of southbound chimney swifts at dusk for the past several evenings. Last night they were joined by about fifteen common nighthawks.
8/30 - Bedford, HRM 35: There was less activity today than yesterday at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch with most coming in late morning. Seven osprey counted for the majority of the birds counted. Two adult bald eagles were spotted to the east; one flew west directly over the watch, and the other to the southwest. Non-raptor observations included twelve ruby-throated hummingbirds, an American redstart, four double-crested cormorants, and two monarch butterflies.
8/30 - Staten Island, New York City: The Macaulay Honors College and Freshkills Park hosted their annual BioBlitz. During a BioBlitz, a team of biologists intensely surveys wildlife within a designated site for a short duration, usually 24 hours. Bioblitzes involve researchers, students, and the general public working together to identify all species in the location, providing a snapshot of its biodiversity. BioBlitz 2015 included approximately 500 Macaulay Honors College students and twenty biologists from the greater New York area. We surveyed two sites: the Main Creek just east of its junction with Richmond Creek, and a tidal wetland abundant in Spartina about a half mile north.
8/31 - Champlain Canal Lock One, HRM 164.5: There were no new sightings of the seal in the last five days. That usually means that it has locked through and is north of Lock One in a wider part of the river. The seal really does travel very easily and very freely through the Lock.
8/31 - Town of LaGrange, HRM 69: Looking out at the ash trees along Sprout Creek this evening, we saw a flock of blue jays hunting insects. I've never thought of blue jays as bug-catchers, nor thought they were fast enough, but they seemed to be having success.
8/31 - Beacon, HRM 61: A strong “summer wind” from the southwest accentuated the air temperature (90 degrees F; tenth day at 90 or more this month); it felt like a hair dryer blowing in our faces. The recent full moon spring tides had left long and deep tide-rows of duckweed far up on the beach. Our seine filled with YOY alewives and striped bass that never reached the sand; we noted their numbers and sizes, and then released them in the shallows, lessening mortality in the 83 degree F water. Salinity remained at 2.0 ppt.
8/31 - Bedford, HRM 35: Two osprey counted for all the raptors spotted today at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch. Non-raptor observations included nine ruby-throated hummingbirds and one monarch butterfly.
8/28 - Piermont, HRM 25: Our deck gives us a great view of the amazing flora and fauna in and around the waters of Sparkill Creek. This section of the creek is separated by a small dam or “weir” from a lower part that runs into the Hudson. This spot is commonly occupied by diamondback terrapins. We've also been watching a pair of osprey raise a family in a huge pine tree not far away. Adding to the parade of wildlife, we had two black nears roaming around town last week.
SUMMER/FALL 2015 NATURAL HISTORY PROGRAMS
Thursday, September 17: 1:00 p.m.
Sunday, September 20: 2:00 - 5:00 p.m
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 .
To subscribe to the Almanac (or to unsubscribe), go to DEC's Email Lists page, enter your email address, and click on "Submit." Fill in and submit the requested information on the “New Subscriber” page. This will take you to “Quick Subscriptions”. Scroll down; under the heading "Natural Areas and Wildlife" is the section "Lakes and Rivers" with a listing for the Hudson River Almanac. Click on the check box to subscribe. While there, you may wish to subscribe to RiverNet, which covers projects, events and actions related to the Hudson and its watershed, or to other DEC newsletters and information feeds.
The current year's issues are available at http://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/25611.html . To view older issues, visit the New York State Library's Hudson River Almanac Archive. If it asks you to login, click on "Guest." You may then need to reopen this page and click on the Almanac Archive link again to access the Almanac collection in the library's files.
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For real-time information on Hudson River tides, weather and water conditions from eight monitoring stations, visit the Hudson River Environmental Conditions Observing System website.
Visit the U.S. Geological Survey’s Hudson River Salt Front website for information on the salt front’s movements in the estuary.
Information about the Hudson River Estuary Program is available on DEC's website at http://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/4920.html .
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