Posts Tagged 'Hudson'

The forest for the trees

TaurusTreesA hike in the fall woods is always a sensual and philosophical experience.KatydidI was in a yellow light under oaks and beeches in an overcast sky, later speared through by shafts of sunlight.Yes, both the woods and I were speared. My eyes kept shifting from the whole to the parts. Walking over even relatively smooth trails still requires at least one eye on the path for rocks and roots and unexpected katydids. You can just see one of the animal’s tympana, or ears, on the top foreleg, just under the joint, here.Shroom1And of course you must stop, and catch your breath, which has run away from you, and turn around. I mean all the way around.Shroom2This Chicken-of-the-Woods, with its cascade of yellow and orange petticoats, wouldn’t have been noticed otherwise.

In the Hudson Highlands

panoramaOn the flank of Mt. Taurus above Cold Spring, NY, yesterday. (Click on this image to view a larger version.)

Pyrrharctia isabella

Pyrrharctia isabellaWhat is Autumn without a Wooly Bear crossing your path?


IMG_4301Evidence of Pileated Woodpecker in the Hudson Highlands. The biggest hole is 7″ tall. This kind of excavation work is standard for this crow-sized woodpecker, which has a skull designed to absorb all that pounding.

To every thing there is a season

In memory of Pete Seeger, some photographs of the great Hudson River, which he campaigned to clean up, rather quixotically when he started in 1969, after more than a century of its being used as an industrial toilet. And some reflections.


Looking north from Fort Tryon on Sunday.

In Ullapool, Scotland, some years ago I went to a pub late in the long summer day to hear some traditional music and drink the local water of life. There was a fellow from Glasgow at the bar whose accent was so thick I needed subtitles, but I got his gist: he’d come up there especially just to hear the band, claiming there were few places to hear the stuff now in Scotland. The quartet’s songs were unfamiliar, but those tunes and melodies were like ghosts in my ears. I heard the rolling river of “Shenandoah” and I kept trying to place it. (Springsteen and company on the Seeger Sessions album have an affecting version.) The long journey of the Scots to Ireland and then America seemed to roll out of that music. Some of them may have been my ancestors, particularly on my mother’s side, but I don’t know enough of that history to say for sure.
Looking south from Little Stony Point.

Looking south from Little Stony Point.

My mother I know about. She was an “Okie,” born on a farm in a hamlet southwest of Oklahoma City, abruptly uprooted as a youngster during the Depression. Instead of the classic route to the promised land of California (or maybe not, if “you ain’t got that do-re-me,” as another Oklahoman, Woody Guthrie, noted), her parents retreated to the Illinois they’d started from. Then, somehow, she signed up with the State Department after a couple years of college in St. Louis and ended up in Baghdad, Iraq, in the 1950s. Later she worked in Frankfurt, where she was secretary to the head of the Escapee Program (escapees from the Eastern Bloc, that is; the then current immigration law was too exclusionist to let them into the US as refugees). That’s where she met my father, who was working for State’s Courier Service. When I was very young, she played folk music on guitar, much influenced by Joan Baez’s folk revivalist phase (that song book survived many a move around the world), complete with long straight hair (later, also like Joanie, she wore it short). Somewhere along the way she stopped playing and singing. Perhaps it was just a fad, as it was for many.
Looking north past Storm King.

Looking north past Storm King.

To this day, though, folk music — especially those plaintive gal singers (like Baez doing Seeger’s “Where Have All The Flowers Gone”) — tends to make me cry.
Sloop Clearwater

The tiller of the sloop Clearwater, docked on Pier 5 last year.

“A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance” ~ from the third section of Ecclesiastes, the King James Version — certainly the only worth-while committee-written book — put to music by Seeger in the much-covered “Turn Turn Turn.”

Goodnight, Pete, rest in song.

Weekend Birds, Ice, Sky

Mimus polyglottosNorthern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglots). This bird was quite territorial, chasing robins, sparrows, and me, making two passes overhead. Spring must be not too far away.Picoides pubescensDowny Woodpercker (Picoides pubescens). A rather subtle tapping alerted me to this one.LarusSize comparison between Herring (Larus smithsonianus) and Ring-billed (Larus delawarensis). All of the above were in Brooklyn Bridge Park.InwoodGratuitous: Inwood Hill in winter with Canada geese and a couple of Mallards in the foreground.HudsonAnd the Hudson from Fort Tryon. Spent some time — but not that much time in the cold — scanning the ice floes for Bald Eagles. No luck. A friend in Riverdale spotted a dozen eagles on the ice below him on the river in the thick of the cold this week. sky

Hiking the Highlands

The last two Sundays I’ve gone up to the eastern Hudson Highlands, just above Cold Spring. The earlier trip, I went along the Wilkinson Memorial, Notch, Brook, and Cornish trails. The Brook Trail, red blazed, follows Breakneck Brook, which cuts through the valley pictured below:That’s Breakneck Ridge and Sugarloaf on the other side. Picture taken this past Sunday, when I went up, along, and down Mt. Taurus (Bull Hill), which looms over Cold Spring, via the Undercliff, Nelsonville, and Washburn trails. You can see Manhattan and the Jersey City/Newark combine from the top of the Bull (with the spectacled eye, but not in this photo). Metropolis is a little less than sixty miles away. Also, you can get a good sense of the Hudson’s twisty route here through the ancient rock, north of the wide Tappen Zee.This was some great hiking, and so easy to access via the MetroNorth. Sweat-frothing scrambles, knee-thuddering descents (with my trusty blackthorn helping out), aerobic whatevers.

The paths were obscured by leaves, except for the western part of the Washburn, which is eroded to hardpan, showing its tremendous popularity. There were waves of wind in the trees. Pileated woodpeckers called attention to themselves one week, Red-bellied the next. Turkey vultures and Red-tailed hawks cruised by at eye-level at 1420ft, letting the thermals carry them. From somewhere distant, the bronchial croaks of ravens. And the colors, of course! Not quite “peak” but a great mix of the rainbow, with a lot of greens still in the mix. And a bittersweet surprise:American Chestnut. I noticed two saplings along the green-blazed Nelsonville trail, and below one of the doomed trees, yet another attempt:I feel a strange affinity for the American Chestnut. Must be my awareness of mortality….

Maples on Mt. Taurus

Ice, eagles

Yesterday morning, on a blustery cold day in Columbia County, New York, we listened to the ice moving down the Hudson. This wasn’t a very loud sound, but it was hypnotic hearing the crinkle of ice folding into itself, the cristle of it moving south with the current. (Excuse the smudge of my frozen finger there, this was my first video on this new device.)

This was at Nutten Hook, Stuyvesant, NY, site of the ruins of a 19th century ice factory, appropriately enough, and now part of the Hudson River National Estuarine Research Reserve. A few of the shards turned up along the rocks of the shore looked to be about four inches thickice shards but the ice company was from a time when the river froze solid all the way across, and could be crossed with horse-drawn ice plows. The structure dates to 1885; it could hold some 52, 800 tons of ice.

We saw 6-7 Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) on our 45-minuted walk in the area, most of them perched in trees on the other side of the river. One was on the ice in the middle of the river with two crows, who were probably waiting for leftovers. A large barge went by this trio without upsetting it. Most of the eagles were the brown juveniles, but two were adult birds, who get the white head and tail plumage at 4-5 years of age.

Going up to Hudson, NY, on Amtrak on Saturday, I noted six eagles along the river from the train. Coming back down to Penn Station yesterday, I counted eight, the southern-most near Peekskill. The ice was thin on the water there and completely absent further south at Croton-Harmon. These counts were via sporadic watching; if I’d kept my eyes open the entire two-hour trip I probably would have had more.

There is probably some duplicate counting here, since the same tree had a couple birds on it Sunday and three on Saturday. But, twenty sightings of bald eagles over two days in a small patch of New York is something to celebrate.

The first eagle we saw yesterday was above road 9J just before Nutten Hook, silhouetted by the blurry morning sun. The massive size and large head are pretty distinctive even in such rotten lighting. We turned the car around and hopped out to see out white-head sea eagle (which is what it’s binomial name translates as). It flew off with a very loud flap of its wings, a sound like fabric tearing (thanks to Karen for the analogy). Later, I watched another adult launch itself off from the ice to the train’s whistle, its white tail fanning like a magician’s handkerchief (that one is mine).

Two Invasives

One strategy for taking over the world is just to produce massive amounts of your kind. Some of ’em are going to take. Sometimes a whole lot of them are going to take. Here are the reproductive agents of two introduced species that have become invasive in our part of the world:Water chestnut, devil pod, water clatrop, Trapa natans. Masses of the floating seedpods were cluttered along the wrackline at Little Stony Point. I’ve noted them before; the form fascinates me.
Same location. A thick patch of Japanese Knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum) was still pendulous with thousands of three-winged achenes. This plant also reproduces by spreading rhizomes, so it’s got a couple of ways of taking over. While a torment to many (botanists, gardeners, farmers, etc.), knotweed does have one redeeming virtue: its flowers produce nectar that makes for a very tasty honey.


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