Hudson River Almanac 1/30/21 – 2/05/21

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
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Hudson River Almanac
January 30 - February 5, 2021

A Project of the Hudson River Estuary Program
Compiled and edited by Tom Lake, Consulting Naturalist

COVID-19 Guidance for Enjoying the Outdoors
While enjoying outdoor spaces, please continue to follow the CDC/NYSDOH guidelines for preventing the spread of colds, flu, and COVID-19. To find out more about enjoying DEC lands and New York's State Parks, visit DEC's website Play Smart*Play Safe*Play Local; https://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/119881.html

Keep at least six (6) feet of distance between you and others.
Wear a cloth face covering in public settings where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
Avoid close contact, such as shaking hands, hugging, and kissing.
Wash hands often or use a hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available.
Avoid surfaces that are touched often, such as doorknobs, handrails, and playground equipment.

DEC recommends avoiding busy trailheads. Find the trails less traveled and visit when trails may not be as busy during daylight hours.

Overview

Winter, complete with ice on the River, played a major role this week. Eagles on ice floes, eagles fussing around in their nests, were all part of a typical mid-winter week as eagle incubation season neared. Winter waterfowl and the incredible ongoing irruption of winter finches made it altogether seasonal. All of this was wrapped around a winter blizzard on February 2.

Highlight of the Week

Bobcat2/1 – Rensselaer County, HRM 172: In mid-afternoon at East Hoosick, we spotted a bobcat (Lynx rufus) in an open farm field. As we stopped to watch, the bobcat retreated a short distance to the scrubby edge of one of the small valley brooks. From there it attentively watched us for perhaps a minute before continuing downstream toward more wooded habitat. The area has plenty of game for the bobcat, including cottontails, pheasants, and chickens at nearby farms. We have only seen a couple of bobcats over the years, so this was a special treat. (Photo of bobcat courtesy of Robert Reed)
- Rita Reed, Robert Reed

Natural History Entries

Iceland gull (Kumliens)1/30 – Saratoga County, HRM 202-200: We birded the farmlands of Northumberland in Saratoga County this afternoon. Highlights included a flock of 500-1,000 snow buntings, thirty common goldeneyes, and an adult bald eagle at the river. Moving across the river to Washington County and the Fort Edward grasslands, we came upon two short-eared owls—one carrying a vole while being harassed by another short-eared owl—several harriers, red-tailed hawks, and a flock of common redpolls. (Photo of Iceland gull (Kumliens) courtesy of Jeremiah Trimble)
- Scott Stoner, Denise Stoner (Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club)

1/30 – Saratoga County, HRM 157: There were plenty of waterfowl in the vicinity of the Crescent Power Plant on the Mohawk River in Cohoes this afternoon. Lesser-lights included 35 Canada geese, a ring-necked duck, 32 common mergansers, and a drake hooded merganser hounding a hen hooded merganser. The highlight was an Iceland gull (Kumlieni subspecies), Larus glaucoides kumlieni. It was a beautiful adult with light gray wing tips. Most of the gulls were farther down the river on the solid ice, but this was one of the few hanging out right in front of the power plant. In addition to the white wings, pale gray back, and “cute” face with small bill, this bird had very faint gray markings on the wing tips, indicating it was a Kumlien’s (the typical subspecies in this area).
- Julie Hart, Daniel Hart (Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club)

[Kumlien's gull, a subspecies of the Iceland gull, is a large gull that breeds in the Arctic regions of Canada. It is migratory, wintering from Labrador south to New England and west across the Great Lakes. The subspecies is named after the naturalist Ludwig Kumlien (Brewster 1883).]

1/31 – Town of Esopus: With the real cold setting in over the last few days, the river had finally achieved a considerable ice pack. The tide continued to heave the ice pack around and stack 6-8-feet-deep stacks of broken floes on the shore today. Along with bald eagles, several common goldeneyes were present.
- Mario Meier

1/31 – New Hamburg, HRM 67.5: A river of ice was flowing upstream in the last of the flood tide. The floes were eagle-free, but there was steady passage of eagles in the air, most flying low over the water, west to east, a mix of eight immatures and adults.

Near shore the current had already switched to ebb (“the river that flows both ways” … at the same time), and the seam where the two forces met produced screeches, groans, and rumbles. This is what we have come to call “Hudson River Music,” a symphony that can be a beautiful floe song, or sound eerie and ominous, like an orchestra out of sync. The light tinkling and soft booms we heard sounded like violins and bass. Passing upriver in the channel and adding to the tossing and turning of the ice, was the United States Coast Guard Penobscot Bay, a 140-foot Bay-class ice-breaking tug, home-ported in Bayonne, New Jersey.
- Tom Lake, T.R. Jackson, B.J. Jackson

1/31 – Town of Fishkill, HRM 63: I had been watching my bird feeders and birdbaths all day, and it was the usual customers. But when I looked out in mid-afternoon, seven red-winged blackbirds were under the sunflower feeder mingling with the sparrows, juncos, cardinals, and a few starlings. They flew off together after ten minutes having had their fill. There is always the question with mid-winter red-winged blackbirds: Were these returning-birds, not-having-left-yet birds, or hardy winter holdovers?
- Andra Sramek

2/1 – New Hamburg, HRM 67.5: Ten mute swans glided into an open stretch of water between Rabbit Island and White’s Marina today. It is unusual to see so many at one time. This group had a few immatures in tow. Holding up against an ice shelf, they foraged for aquatic vegetation in advance of heading out to who knows where. Swans seem to prefer the sheltered water of tributaries, but with Wappingers Creek largely frozen-over, they had moved into the open water of the river.
- David Cullen

IMM Bald Eagle2/1 – Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: I watched through my camera lens as an immature bald eagle flew low over the Hudson River from west to east. Then, the eagle suddenly dropped out of my viewfinder—it had stooped on a goose. Heading straight for the goose, talons down, the eagle had decided it wanted to try for, or at least harass, a Canada goose. The goose dived fully under the water as the eagle hovered for a moment. When the goose surfaced, flapping, and making all sorts of noise, it seemed as though the eagle saw it was too much work for a goose and continued on its way. (Photo of immature bald eagle courtesy of Mauricette Potthast)
- Mauricette Potthast

2/2 – Hudson Valley: Across two days, a true winter blizzard with high winds, blowing snow, and treacherous driving conditions hit the Hudson Valley. Snowfall amounts ranged from ten inches at Albany to a foot in Manhattan. Totals in between were much higher including 26-inches at both Fishkill and Saugerties, and 24-inches at Beacon.
- National Weather Service

2/2 – Putnam County, HR 46.5: When the snow cleared today, I was able to get a good look at the Manitou eagle nest (NY527) across the river from Fort Montgomery. Although piled high with snow all around, an adult eagle was on the nest all day with the other adult perched nearby. I saw them change places at one point. I wondered if this meant they were incubating viable eggs in the nest?
- Scott Craven

[The temptation is to say that it was too early for incubating, but we have learned with wildlife to never say never. One the very earliest “on eggs” dates in recent years was February 17 (2019) at NY62 in the Town of Poughkeepsie. We think there is a good bit of timing with incubating and hatching (32-35 days after incubation begins), that coincides with a warming river and the early April arrival from the sea of spawning shad and river herring, forage for the nestlings. Tom Lake]

2/3 – Verplanck, HRM 40.5: The best result of this week’s wicked snowstorm was that now there was a layer of ice on the river with a promise of more to come. After a long wait, we counted nine eagles fishing off the floes today. Just before sunset, a pair of adults took to the sky in their ritual mating season ballet. Ten double-crested cormorants watched from their perch on the nearby channel marker.
- Dianne Picciano

[A decade ago, from Old Steamboat Dock in Verplanck, during a snow squall and in the company of students, we watched a courtship display over the river. Through a small break in the clouds came a shaft of sunlight and we watched that pair perform as though they were dancing on a sunbeam. Tom Lake]

2/3 – Manhattan, HRM 2: The work of our Hudson River Park’s River Project Staff to check the sampling and collection gear that we deploy off Pier 40 in Hudson River Park is a chilling task in winter. Braving the near-freezing water and trudging through snow and ice from this week’s massive snowfall, we found a batch, really a handful, of sleepy crustaceans awaiting us in the traps, predominantly sluggish amphipods, shore shrimp, and some mud dog whelks.
-Siddhartha Hayes, Carrie Roble, Toland Kister, Olivia Radick

Rainbow darter2/4 – Hudson River Watershed: Fish-of-the-Week for Week 106 is the rainbow darter (Ethesostoma caeruleum), number 161 (of 233) on our watershed list of fishes. If you would like a copy of our list, e-mail - trlake7.

The rainbow darter is one of nine perches (Percidae) in the watershed; others include tessellated darter, yellow perch, and walleye. The rainbow darter gets to 75 millimeters (mm) (three-inches) and is native to mid-America, including the Mississippi River watershed and the Great Lakes.

Additions to our list of fishes in the Hudson River watershed ordinarily occur as they are discovered in the field. However, on occasion, new species are discovered elsewhere. The rainbow darter became one of these in August of 2014 when Bob Schmidt found a rainbow darter in the collection of fishes at the New York State Museum.

The rainbow darter had been collected on July 9, 2009, from Fox Creek, a tributary of Schoharie Creek (river mile 157) by Bob Daniels, Rick Morse, and Bryan Weatherwax. Subsequently, rainbow darters have been found throughout the Schoharie system and more recently in many tributaries of the Mohawk closer to Albany. In C. Lavett Smith’s The Inland Fishes of New York State (1985), rainbow darter was only listed for western New York State having arrived there through the New York State canal system.

The rainbow darter has been called a “fish of the riffles,” favoring the gravelly and sandy substrate in the swift water of creeks (Smith 1985, Trautman 1981). Their name is derived from a kaleidoscope of colorful bands, including brownish-olive, brick red, blue green, light blue, and orange.
- Tom Lake (Photo of rainbow darter with permission by American Fisheries Society)

[1 inch = 25.4 millimeters(mm)]

Long-eared owl2/5 – Galeville, HRM 74: Near sunset, a long-eared owl joined the short-eared owls at the Shawangunks Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge. The owl sat out in the open and perched on a nearby post. It flew and appeared to land in the grass out of sight, after which a short-eared owl, in a display of “pecking order,” dive-bombed the area repeatedly. (Photo of long-eared owl courtesy of Karen Maloy Brady)
- Karen Maloy Brady

Bald eagle (NY372)2/5 – Town of Poughkeepsie: It was just about sundown when the female from bald eagle nest NY372, perched on a limb over the nest, struck a magnificent profile reflecting the late day sun. The pair has been busy with the start of incubation just a few weeks away. (Photo of bald eagle (NY372) courtesy of John Devitt)
- John Devitt

Bald eagles2/5 – Westchester County, HRM 43:34: We used to call it “making the run,” counting wintering bald eagles along a nine-mile reach of the river. Two weeks ago, I made an unsatisfactory “run” due in part to the absence of ice on the river. For wintering bald eagles, there was still no urgency to travel this far south until winter ice pushed them. Our final tally on that day was four adult and four immature bald eagles.

In the interim, winter had arrived and with it came considerable ice, encouraging me to make another run. However, a wintry mix—snow, sleet, freezing rain, and impenetrable fog—made it challenging. The five stops had a far different look this time with eagles on the ice. Even though handicapped by heavy fog, the run from China Pier to Old Steamboat Dock in Verplanck, from George’s Island and Dogan Point to Oscawana, and then Croton Bay, produced 18 immature and 12 adult bald eagles. Those 30 eagles likely represented only half of the birds that were out there beyond the fog. (Photo of bald eagles courtesy of John Badura)
- Tom Lake

USCG Penobscot Bay with permission by US Coast Guard
Winter 2021 Natural History Programs

Tuesday, February 23, 1:00PM - 2:30 PM (Webinar)
Open Space Inventories and Plans Webinar
Register now for this Conservation and Land Use webinar. Webinar attendees will receive an email confirming attendance, which may be submitted locally for 1.5 hours of municipal planning or zoning board training credit.

Wednesday, February 24, 3:00PM - 4:00 PM (Webinar)
Wildlife EducaShin: A Unique Perspective on Environmental Education, a Women in Science webinar
Shinara Sunderlal is a conservation educator at the New York Aquarium and has a story to tell. Register for the webinar now.

Hudson Estuary Trees for Tribs Program - Now Accepting Applications
The Hudson River Estuary Program’s Trees for Tribs program offers free native trees and shrubs for planting along the tributary streams in the Hudson River Estuary watershed. Our staff can help you with a planting plan and work with your volunteers. We are now accepting applications through March 1 for 2021 spring planting projects. Download and submit the two-page application found here: www.dec.ny.gov/docs/remediation_hudson_pdf/hrewtftap14.pdf.

For more information about the program or to download an application, please visit the DEC website at: HudsonEstuaryTFT, or call (845)256-3875 to find out if your site is eligible for a 2021 planting project!

Day-in-the-Life Videos (Hudson River Estuary Program)
The Day-in-the-Life Team and DEC produced three interactive videos from live footage at three geographic areas of the Hudson River estuary. Watch each one with your class to explore the Hudson River at your own pace. Watch the video pertaining to your region along the River or watch all three!
Students can collect data virtually alongside our partner organizations with their data sheets and an online Clearwater fish key.

Upper Estuary (Poughkeepsie to Troy and beyond):
Video
Data Sheet

Lower Estuary (Yonkers to Beacon/Newburgh):
Video
Data Sheet

NY Harbor (and connected waterways):
Video
Data Sheet


The Estuary Live! (Hudson River Estuary Program)

Our environmental education programs are broad, varied, flexible, and dependent on the needs and interests of your students. These distance-learning programs can last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour and are available on ZOOM, Google classrooms, or Webex platforms. Pre-program materials from our Virtual River content include videos and lesson plans for students to explore before their Estuary Live! program. Students are encouraged to ask questions which creates an interactive learning environment, rather than a lecture. Estuary Live! is often hosted from an outdoor location but is dependent on the weather and cell service. The Norrie Point Environmental Center has three indoor sets (The Library, The Lab, and The Classroom) that allow us to stay connected during lessons and give students a feeling of being here with us.

Program types and a brief description of the topics:
Wildlife (e.g., amphibians, turtles, and fish)
Hudson River basics, e.g. geography, tides, salinity, turbidity, temperature, basic ecology.
Climate change
American Eels
Stream Study: macroinvertebrates, e.g., adaptations, habitat, and human impact.

Educators can schedule a program for their students:
https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScr6Sidcq70JL3xLvubH1J-WfAkRMsR6AWvUtHsdcOiUvXrcw/viewform
Contact Maija Lisa Niemistö email:maija.niemisto

Follow Us On-Line:

Check out our wonderful Tide Finder video (3 minutes) with Chris Bowser marking the extreme highs and lows of a full moon tidal cycle: Tide Finder video

Virtual River website: Virtual River Website

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 trlake7. To subscribe to the Almanac (or to unsubscribe), use the links on DEC's Hudson River Almanac or DEC Delivers web pages.

Discover New York State

The Conservationist, the award-winning, advertisement-free magazine focusing on New York State's great outdoors and natural resources. The Conservationist features stunning photography, informative articles and around-the-state coverage. Visit The Conservationist webpage for more information.

Useful Links

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration online tide and tidal current predictions are invaluable when planning Hudson River field trips. For real-time information on Hudson River tides, weather and water conditions from sixteen monitoring stations, visit the Hudson River Environmental Conditions Observing System website.

DEC's Smartphone app for iPhone and Android is now available at: New York Fishing, Hunting & Wildlife App.

NY's Outdoors Are Open (https://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/119881.html)

PLAY SMART * PLAY SAFE * PLAY LOCAL: Get Outside Safely, Responsibly, and Locally

New York State is encouraging residents to engage in responsible recreation during the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis. NYSDEC and State Parks recommendations for getting outside safely incorporate guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the NYS Department of Health for reducing the spread of infectious diseases.

DEC and State Parks are encouraging visitors to New York's great outdoors to use the hashtags #PlaySmartPlaySafePlayLocal, #RecreateResponsibly, and #RecreateLocal on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to share their visit and encourage others to get outside safely, responsibly, and locally, too. Use the DECinfo Locator to find a DEC-managed resource near you and visit the State Parks website for information about parks and park closures.

Take the Pledge to PLAY SMART * PLAY SAFE * PLAY LOCAL: Enjoy the Outdoors Safely and Responsibly

1. I pledge to respect the rules and do my part to keep parks, beaches, trails, boat launches, and other public spaces safe for everyone.
2. I will stay local and close to home.
3. I will maintain a safe distance from others outside of my household.
4. I will wear a mask when I cannot maintain social distancing.
5. I accept that this summer, I may have to adjust how I enjoy the outdoors to help keep myself and others healthy and safe, even if it means changing my plans to visit a public space.
6. I will be respectful of others by letting them pass by me if needed on a trail and keeping my blanket ten feet apart from others on the beach.
7. I will move quickly through shared areas like parking lots, trailheads, and scenic areas to avoid crowding.
8. If I'm not feeling well, I will stay home.

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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Basil Seggos, Commissioner

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