Hudson River Almanac

Since 1995, the NYDEC has published the Hudson River Almanac, run by Tom Lake, the Hudson River Estuary Program Naturalist for the DEC. “Under contract to the state Department of Environmental Conservation, the almanac project is coordinated by Tom Lake of Wappingers Falls with additional support from the Greenway Conservancy for the Hudson River Valley Inc., the Hudson River Foundation for Science and Environmental Research and the J. P. Morgan Kaplan Fund publication program.”

Tom Lake has been editing The Hudson River Almanac for 17 years.

I started receiving the almanac only a month ago after I wanted to read first-hand accounts of the effects of Hurricane Irene on the Hudson. I find, the e-newsletter to be a wonderful letter full of interesting observations and insights from people who live right along the river, naturalists, scientists, citizens and river-lovers. I read with particular interest, about a migrating Gray Seal that survived the Hurricane and spent two months in the river this year. Last year, the Tidal Zone blog spotted a Harbor seal in Yonkers.

 

Here are excerpts from the latest weekly newsletter, just as I receive it. At the end of the newsletter, you’ll find information about signing-up.

<<<<<  OVERVIEW  >>>>>

After two months of residence along the Hudson in Hyde Park, an amazing and unpredictable event, the gray seal has apparently moved on, hopefully seaward. Odd bird occurrences continued with a second sighting of a great kiskadee in the Bronx. The autumn migration in the air and in the river began in earnest.

<<<<<  HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK  >>>>>

9/17 – Hyde Park, HRM 82: In mid-afternoon the gray seal was “playing with his food” again, just offshore, tossing a fairly large fish in the air like a sea lion at the circus. Several hours later boat club members came upon a dead sturgeon on the dock adjacent to where the seal had been performing. The dead fish turned out to be a shortnose sturgeon (length 76.5 centimeters [cm], 30 inches).We wondered if the seal had come too close to the dock, tossed the fish in the air, and then watched it land out of reach.

– Tom Lake

[The shortnose sturgeon had no talon marks that I could see, so we can somewhat safely assume that it was not an “eagle drop.” There were some anterior abrasions, however, that may have been teeth marks. Tom Lake.]

<<<<<  NATURAL HISTORY NOTES  >>>>>

9/16 – Sandy Hook, NJ: The Sandy Hook “Bio Blitz” was well attended. I led a plant walk to a back trail I’d always wanted to explore. Among the better sightings that day were several nice specimens of blue curls, a mint with the most extravagant of flowers: bright cobalt blue, with the most outrageous curled stamens emerging from the base of the flowers and bending gracefully back to the base. It was hard to imagine how many evolutionary mistakes it would take to make a blue curls curl properly.

– Dave Taft

9/17 – Kingston, HRM 92: As visits to the Rondout Lighthouse near their end for the season we had a good birding trip today. Besides the many cormorants and gulls, we saw two immature bald eagles, a belted kingfisher, great blue herons, and great egrets. Rondout Creek was still high and running to the river even though the tide was coming in, making for tricky docking at the lighthouse.

– Bill Drakert

9/17 – Manhattan, HRM 0: I had always hoped that an eagle would someday fly over one of my downtown Manhattan bird walks. It did not seem like an extraordinary wish – after all, the enormous birds are becoming common in the Hudson watershed from points north and west, to Manhattan Island, to Jamaica Bay. Why not downtown? Still, I was unprepared for what unfolded on our Battery Park City Parks Conservancy bird walk today. Steve Kugel pointed to a large bird over the river. Changing the focal point of our “how to focus binoculars” exercise, we were treated to a view of an osprey that was soon joined by another. They dove amid the ships and harbor buildings and we were even more excited when one came up with a fish. The osprey, still struggling to control his catch, was joined by a much larger, darker bird, an immature bald eagle! The two flew off into the distance, the eagle in hot pursuit over one of the world’s busiest ports. We turned inland to the nearby conservancy foliage and saw several ruby-throated hummingbirds buzzing in and out of the dappled light and gaudy flowers, as if swimming through a painting. Not to be outshone by mere eagles, one sat patiently on the end of a dogwood bough just four feet away, flying up every two or three moments to forage, only to return for a gentle landing, never disturbing a leaf. If there was a bird in the world in greater contrast to the massive, dark beauty of an eagle, here it was – not pirating fish from osprey, but sipping nectar from rose mallows. I’ve never walked out on a hummingbird before, let alone several this cooperative, but on a day like this, where anything seemed possible in lower Manhattan, there were other treasures to find in other fields between the high rises.

– Dave Taft

9/18 – Kowawese, HRM 59: This was our twelfth annual Hudson River Ramble program at Kowawese. Our attendees helped us put a net in the water to see “who” was home. Our catch was impressive, 300 fish of a dozen species, but it was the types of fish that made it very unusual: Many of them seemed to be fish that had been flushed out of Moodna Creek, a half-mile south, by the floods of tropical storm Irene. Included were a school of golden shiners (75-95 millimeters [mm]), black crappie (7″), 18 young-of-the-year (YOY) brown bullheads (55 mm), and a dozen YOY white catfish (50 mm). All were rare catches on this beach. Among the expected fish were YOY blueback herring (43-59 mm), alewives (80-90 mm), and a few striped bass (70 mm). The river temperature had dropped to 68 degrees Fahrenheit.

– Tom Lake, Dick Manley

[Young-of-the-year aptly describes the multitude of recently hatched fauna found in the Hudson River each spring, summer and fall. The progeny of shad, river herring, striped bass, white perch, blue crabs, shrimp, jellyfish, and many others, are present by the tens of millions. So many references are made of their presence that scientists and educators have taken to abbreviating the phrase to YOY. Tom Lake.]

9/19 – State Line Lookout, NJ, HRM 18: Our lunchtime visit to Palisades Interstate Park’s Lookout Point yielded a small parade of monarch butterflies rising up the face of the Palisades and lifting over the top, headed off in their migration. We also spotted a immature bald eagle soaring over the cliffs.

– Margie Turrin, Linda Pistolesi

9/20 – Bronx, New York City, HRM 14: Philip and Alice Brickner photographed a great kiskadee from their apartment window at Spuyten Duyvil on the Hudson River just north of Manhattan in the West Bronx. This is the second occurrence of this large tropical flycatcher (8.5″) along the Hudson. The previous sighting was 8/31 at 46th Street near the Intrepid Museum on Manhattan’s west side, about nine miles south.

– Angus Wilson

[The great kiskadee is most commonly found in tropical and semi-tropical forest settings from Central America into South America. They are occasionally found along the Gulf States of the U.S. with very rare strays into the Mid-Atlantic. For some context on their preferred habitat, the only great kiskadees I have ever seen were in the Amazon rainforest of eastern Ecuador. Tom Lake.]

9/21 – Kingston, HRM 92: The current in the Rondout had just recently slowed down considerably, but there was still quite a bit of flotsam making its way to the river. The tropical storms brought a variety of items downstream that included two unmanned sailboats, many pumpkins and a small car. Trees had to be extracted from underneath boats – logs, lumber, and debris have been commonplace. But the flow is nearly normal and the other day I spotted great egrets all roosting together in a single tree – four large white shapes bouncing peacefully in the wind – a terrific sight.

– William Murray

9/23 – Port Ewen, HRM 91: I spotted a trio of black bears on Kline Lane this morning – one large one and two smaller ones. I gave them plenty of room to get off the road and snapped a quick photo of them climbing into the woods. I zoomed around the corner for more bear tracking, but lost them.

– Patti Ellis

9/23 – Hyde Park, HRM 82: It has been a week now with no gray seal sighting. Over the last two months, daylight has shortened, river visibility has lessened, and river temperature has dropped significantly, although for a boreal marine mammal, cold water held no difficulties. But it may be that the message to move on was finally heard.

– Tom Lake, Skip Kilmer, Jim Broderick

 

The Hudson River E-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@aol.com . To sign up to receive the E-Almanac (or to unsubscribe), send an email message to hrep@gw.dec.state.ny.us and write E-Almanac in the subject line.

Weekly issues are archived at http://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/25611.html . The DEC website’s search engine can find species, locations, and other data in the archives.

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 purple@catskill.net

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