This was a week for iconic wildlife such as moose, river otters, black bears, bobcats, “woyotes,” ravens, and bald eagles. Along with the common loon, these are iconic in the sense that they remind us of less complex times, when demand on space in the watershed was less contentious.
HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK
9/22 - Chatham, HRM 126: A bull moose lumbered past my house this evening a half mile east of Chatham Village. The moose continued due north through 23 acres of woods where it stopped at a pond for fifteen minutes, keeping its eye on me as I moved around. He then continued due north. This was presumably the same moose that was spotted last evening on the east side of Route 22 in Copake, and then this morning at the Hawthorne Valley Farm. [Photo of young bull moose courtesy of Peter Blandori.] - Peter Blandori
NATURAL HISTORY NOTES
9/18 - Piermont Pier, HRM 25: A few students and I, the “Nyack College Fishing Club,” went to Piermont Pier today for some rod and reel, catch-and-release fishing. While we caught white perch, striped bass, and American eels, the highlights were three oyster toadfish (two adults) and two seven-inch-long weakfish.
[Weakfish (Cynoscion regalis) is one of the seven species of drum in the estuary, including freshwater drum, black drum, northern kingfish, spot, croaker, and silver perch. Most of them have a highly specialized swim bladder that serves as sound-producing organs. This has led to the colloquial family name of “drum.” Weakfish (the common name is a reference to its lightly structured mouth and its perchant for tossing fish hooks) are a highly prized saltwater sport fish along the Mid-Atlantic coast. Photo of weakfish courtesy of Peter Park. Tom Lake.]
9/19 - New Paltz, HRM 78: While relaxing in my backyard this morning with binoculars in hand I was surprised to see about 300 broad-winged hawks circling and making figure-eights overhead. These raptors migrate in great numbers down the eastern ridges of the Shawangunk Mountains in mid-September.
9/19 - Town of Lloyd, HRM 74: While it was not a full-blown flight day for birds and butterflies, there was still a nice west-northwest breeze, giving both a push. Walking through an apple orchard we began to notice monarchs winding their way down the rows of trees. After a half-hour we had counted eleven. Over the tops of taller trees we counted four sharp-shinned hawks zoom past. Higher still, we spotted a kettle of turkey vultures that held eleven birds.
9/19 - Dutchess County, HRM 61: While hiking at Wonder Lake State Park I saw more than a dozen northern leopard frogs leap from the trail as I approached. They were all juveniles about the size of a quarter, and it was encouraging to see so many in spite of the lack of rain. On a log I also saw a very large slug, about four inches long, that I had never seen before. It turned out to be a spotted garden slug (Limax maximus), an introduced species from Europe. I am glad that I haven't seen any around my garden. [Photo of spotted garden slug courtesy of Jim Steck.] - Jim Steck
9/19 - Bedford, HRM 35: It was a slow day at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch especially for broad-winged hawks (5). There was a mix of osprey, sharp-shinned hawks, and American kestrels throughout the day. Non-raptor observations included five ruby-throated hummingbirds and seventeen monarch butterflies.
9/20 - Millbrook, HRM 82: Now that summer was ending, the common wood nymphs and great spangled fritillaries were disappearing; among butterflies only common sulfurs remained abundant. Among the asters, side-flowering, frost, New York, New England and white panicle were blooming all at once in the fields among the goldenrod, while the heart-leafed asters were blooming in the woods wherever there was a patch of light. The puffballs were “blooming” as well, including the edible gray puffballs in the fields and the gem-studded puffballs and poisonous common earthball (Scleroderma citrinum), a little puffball, related to the bolete mushrooms, in the woods.
9/20 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 68: A cold front moved through overnight and with a stark blue cerulean sky and a strong northwest breeze, this was looking like a perfect “flight day” for migrating birds and butterflies. It took a while but they came. First a kettle of broad-winged hawks, high and to the west, rotating in place while the kettle moved as a unit southward. A mixed kettle of both turkey and black vultures were spinning at a lower level but still moving, inexorably, down river. Over the forest I spotted a couple of sharp-shinned hawks coursing quickly past, and two falcons, possibly merlins, were also dodging the tree tops flying south. While I counted two dozen butterflies, only two were monarchs. Two adult bald eagles zoomed past, separately, but they were more than likely local birds.
9/20 - Beacon, HRM 61: This was a fishing and observation day at Long Dock. I caught and released ten channel catfish (one to two pounds), one brown bullhead, and a carp (three pounds). There were many schools of small “baitfish” - they appeared as black clouds moving in compact groups a foot or so under the surface. Occasionally they would flip into the air with a small silver flash. The water chestnut that had been present all summer was now gone.
9/20 - Bedford, HRM 35: It was another slow start in the morning at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch but the afternoon brought consistent but small streams of broad-winged hawks (1,060), a few in bigger kettles. Most birds were seen to the south. We also had an adult and an immature bald eagle fly high overhead in the last hour. Non-raptor observations included three ruby-throated hummingbirds and thirteen monarch butterflies.
9/21 - Long Lake, Essex County: I came upon a group of common ravens flushing from a dead animal on Route 28N in Long Lake [just outside the watershed]. I slowed down and, sadly, saw a dead black bear cub in the middle of the road. I was searching for something I could use to get the cub out of the road when I glanced in my rearview mirror. It was filled with the image of a bull moose. I took photos of this majestic animal before a car came by and the moose quickly disappeared over the guardrail.
9/21 - Milan, HRM 90: For the last few summers there has been a little brown myotis bat in a light fixture by my front door. Today there were four! A good sign.
9/21 - Town of Poughkeepsie: In mid-afternoon we were looking for the adult bald eagle pair from NY62. It had ben exactly three months since their nestling had fledged (June 21) and they had been back to the area only sporadically. We found an adult perched in a favorite tree next to the river. We assumed it was “Dad.” Later, near the nest tree, we watched a second adult fly up from the river and land. It was “Mom.” We were pretty sure we saw her blue band (N42). When we left in early evening, she was still there preening (Dad, being much less fastidious, would never have taken the time). [Photo of bald eagle N42 courtesy of Mark Courtney.] - Mark Courtney, Kathleen Courtney, Bob Rightmyer
9/21 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: Early today a lone hummingbird flew up to the back door, hovered at the screen, and then vanished. I haven't seen another one since. The feeders hang full, but no hungry visitors. Although there have been fewer feeding birds since the males left, this disappearance seems abrupt. I'll wait a few more days, then take the feeders down.
9/21 - Bedford, HRM 35: Many broad-winged hawks (1,205) took to the sky very early today at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch, but the afternoon slowed down dramatically. Highlights included a few bald eagles and a merlin. Today was the first day that no hummingbirds were seen. There were two monarchs and John Askelson spotted a red-headed woodpecker.
9/22 - Ulster Landing, HRM 97: There was a large green swath – acres – of duckweed on the river today glistening neon green when the sunlight hit it. I still had two hummingbirds visiting the feeder.
9/22 - Yorktown, HRM 43: When I was younger, roaming the back woods of Westchester County, there was one elusive animal above all that seemed mythical: the bobcat. While on the Mohansic golf course this afternoon, I was stunned to see a bobcat, sporting the classic short bobtail, gallop like a horse from the woods across the fairway to a shrubbery thicket only 30 feet away. I cannot remember the last time I saw one in the wild - it was quite a wonderful event.
9/22 - Croton Point, HRM 35: The inshore submerged aquatic vegetation [SAV] beds were pulsing with life. Two hauls of the beach seine, an hour apart, saw a total of 500 fish. Most were Atlantic silversides with a few dozen river herring in the mix. A dozen small snapper bluefish 75-100 millimeters [mm] long, some white perch and assorted sunfish, a few small striped bass, and a lovely pipefish were also in the catch. Running a dip net through the SAV resulted in a thumbnail-sized hogchoker, two “paper shell” blue crabs, and a dozen shore shrimp up to three inches long, many bearing eggs. All in all it was enough to keep two classes of Coman Hills Elementary students oohing and aahing through the morning.
9/22 - Bedford, HRM 35: This was not a very active day at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch compared to what we had the past few days. However, there were a fair number of American kestrels (8) on the move. Non-raptor observations included one monarch and another red-headed woodpecker.
9/22 - Montclair, NJ, HRM 2: Yogi Berra passed away today. As a life-long Red Sox fan thanks to my New England boyhood, I have no love for the Yankees, but it is impossible not to admire Yogi. One of his famous Yogisms bears remembering here in the Almanac: “You can observe a lot by watching.”
9/23 - Selkirk, HRM 135: The first day of autumn and all was quiet at the hummingbird feeder. In fact I have not seen one in three days since a female and, to my surprise, a male stopped by briefly. I had not seen a male hummingbird in weeks. I believe that is it for this season but will keep the feeder up for travelers.
9/23 - Dutchess County, HRM 80: It was relatively quiet as we hiked the trails at the Audubon Buttercup Preserve. We spotted an immature Cooper’s hawk, an immature red-shouldered hawk being mobbed by crows, and a sharp-shinned hawk that was thwarted from its ambush of an eastern towhee. At one point a river otter came onto the path about 30 feet from the memorial bench; I was not sure which of us was more surprised!
9/23 - Furnace Woods, HRM 38.5:
9/23 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: Isn't it miraculous how the weather follows the calendar? Or is it the other way around? Autumn officially arrived and suddenly the air felt, smelled, and looked different. No more real summer and, with that, farewell to the hummingbirds. Perhaps I said “farewell” to hummingbirds too soon? This afternoon, one, maybe two, flitted around but curiously, didn't go to the feeders. I refilled them in hopes that the birds might feed.
9/23 - Bedford, HRM 35: A slow day at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch with sharp-shinned hawks getting the high count (24). Non-raptor observations included one monarch and two common ravens.
9/24 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 68: The biggest and healthiest-looking coyote we have ever seen showed up in our yard today, standing still and looking around. He finally spotted me and took off into our woods.
[The photo that accompanied this entry showed a very wolf-like eastern coyote (Canis latrans), a variety of coyote that grows to a larger size and often has darker fur than is generally associated with the species. While most of our coyotes exhibit the tan, lean, and hungry look we come to expect, there are some that research has shown to have gray wolf DNA (Canis lupus). This may explain why coyotes in the east are generally larger than their western counterparts - that is, more wolf-like in size - and why they are so much more varied in coat color, as might be expected from an animal with a more diverse genome. As a result, we coyote fans like to refer to them as “woyotes.” Photo of "woyote" coyote courtesy of Doreen Tignanelli. Tom Lake.]
9/24 - Fort Montgomery, HRM 46.5: I believe that I saw a sea turtle today climbing out of the river from under the ruins of an old dock at Mine Dock Park. The turtle was huge - estimated to be at least four feet by three feet - and mostly black and white. As he climbed over the structure I noticed his under carriage and back legs were very white. I have never seen anything of this size here before and I am 84 years old.
9/24 - Croton River, HRM 34: It was a September heat wave, but the back story revealed the true season: A dozen great blue herons stalked the shallows, all juvenile birds. Out in the running tide, patches of shimmering “nervous” water revealed the whereabouts of schools of bait. Every few seconds the waters parted and a shoal of panicked silvery fish caught the sunlight, followed by the splat of feeding snapper bluefish! Then the water went calm again. From time to time a monarch wafted past, always bound south and west. Yet it was not like a decade ago when we could number them in the hundreds per hour. But even now we can see half-a-dozen a day along the river and in our gardens.
9/24 - Bedford, HRM 35: There was some movement in the morning at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch, with activity slowing down in the afternoon. The highlight of the day was when three adult bald eagles were spotted to the northeast. They moved together to the southwest and flew high directly over us. Non-raptor observations included two monarch butterflies.
9/25 - Staatsburg, HRM 86: I was driving home from work and as I passed the Poughkeepsie train station, I saw a peregrine falcon perched atop a church spire along the road. Later on, as I was heading into Staatsburg, I saw an adult bald eagle soaring at tree top level. I pulled the car over for a better look and saw the adult eagle land in the top of a dead tree where a juvenile eagle was perched. Neither of these observations was very remarkable, but watching the eagles I thought back to when I was a teenager growing up in the Hudson Valley in the 1960s. At the time, I'd read about peregrines and bald eagles and thought wistfully that if I ever wanted to see either one I'd have to travel to faraway places. Now, 50 years later, is it not only common to see these birds along the river but it's not unusual to walk out my front door, look up, and see an eagle gliding overhead.
9/25 - West Point, HRM 52: The grounds of the United State Military Academy at West Point are just wild enough to encourage nature while at the same time retaining its stature as a serious institution for learning. As we drove through the post today, dodging woodchucks, nine wild turkeys took their time strolling across the road, looking quite assured for their safety. As we waited, a Cooper’s hawk flew low over our vehicle, heading south, most likely a raptor in migration.
9/25 - Bedford, HRM 35: Today saw more movement than yesterday at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch. The morning hours brought some remaining broad-winged hawks through (35). There was also an uptick in accipiters on the move (60 sharp-shinned hawks; ten Cooper’s hawks). In the afternoon, the winds shifted and ushered in a good number of American kestrels (23). Non-raptor observations included two monarch butterflies.
9/25 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: Where were the bigger bluefish? At the tideline the wavelets folded onto the sand in a white froth. The salinity was about 15.0 parts per thousand. Schools of “bait,” silversides and river herring, were everywhere. Young-of-the-year “snapper” bluefish were active, but they were so tiny, maybe four inches long. Last year at this time they were twice as long and four times the weight. With this hot, droughty summer, I would expect yard-long bluefish in the Albany pool!
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
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