Hudson River Almanac 5/27/17 – 6/3/17

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great blue herons at nest - photo courtesy of Will Cook - see 5/31/17

Hudson River Almanac
May 27 – June 3, 2017
Compiled by Tom Lake, Hudson River Estuary Program Consulting Naturalist

OVERVIEW

Our tenth season of monitoring glass eels in the estuary for both research and education ended this week. Our catch, from fourteen sites between Greene County and Staten Island, numbered 87,869 glass eels with an additional 3,167 elvers.

HIGHLIGHT OF A PAST WEEK

5/17 – Rosendale, HRM 84: As I arrived home this evening with the humidity around 60% and the temperature unseasonably warm at 81 degrees Fahrenheit, there was a wonderfully loud and raucous chorus of gray tree frogs (Hyla versicolor) in the neighborhood. According to The Amphibians and Reptiles of New York State, male gray tree frogs call between 500-15,000 times per hour, expending so much energy for their small bodies that they often lose weight during the breeding season and need to skip the chorus every few nights to resuscitate themselves. This helps to explain the incredible sounds of trills that were carried across the summery night air.
- Laura Heady

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

5/27 – Hunter’s Brook, HRM 67.5: High tide had just peaked as a dozen students from Abriendo Puertas (“Open Doors”) helped us gather up the cod end of our glass eel fyke on the last day of the season. Our catch was two glass eels and two elvers. We first set the net in the brook on April 14 and over the next 44 days we collected, counted, weighed, and released upstream 3,727 glass eels and 356 elvers. (We release the eels upstream to avoid counting them twice on subsequent days.)
- Grace Ballou, Tom Lake

5/27 – New Hamburg, HRM 67.5: Our home, Rabbit Island (1.3 square acres), was under siege from beavers. They were thriving. Last week one came ashore and in less than 45 minutes cut down three trees and carted them off the island to parts unknown, all in broad daylight. They have stripped branches off several of our weeping Alaskan cedars and sampled the bark of hemlocks, a gold-thread cypress, and various arbor vitae around the periphery of the island. The biggest loss was a prize 30 year-old lace-leaf weeping Japanese red maple which they dispatched in a few minutes but then couldn't get past the wire fence we had installed to keep beavers off the island. Our friend, “Trapper Steve” (a licensed trapping instructor) thinks these are adolescent beavers booted out of a local lodge. It is difficult to mount a defense when they could be coming ashore anywhere around the entire circumference of our island.
- David Cullen

[Suggestions from Almanac readers would be helpful and most appreciated. Encircling the entire property with chicken wire is not an aesthetically appealing option. We have already put chicken wire around many of the most valuable trees but the island is beginning to look like a giant poultry barn. We currently have two radios with classical music playing at high volume 24/7 hoping to deter further incursions. Trapper Steve believes that short of catching them in a box trap, the best deterrent would be an electric fence. Dave Cullen]

5/28 – Greene County: Paddling toward bald eagle nest NY203, I could see the outline of two eagles standing on the rim. It was easy to see that both were adults. With the long lens of my camera, I could also make out the head of a nestling.
- Kaare Christian

black bear5/28 – Town of Clinton, HRM 88: We were out on our deck this afternoon watching the hummingbirds when our cats got into a panic. Down in the yard a black bear was walking toward our inactive bird feeders. A week ago we had an adult and a cub; there was no cub this time and it was hard to tell if this was the same adult. As soon as I spoke, the bear scurried off up the hill into the forest. We were glad to see that the bear was in such good condition and was also very wary of our presence. [Photo of black bear courtesy of Ray Frizzell.] - Ray Frizzell, Klaudia Frizzell

5/28 – Bear Mountain State Park, HRM 45.5: A typically wonderful hike through Doodletown revealed not only new details about the town that once stood there (including a hillside concrete “staircase to nowhere”) but an especially rich buffet of wild things. Highlight birds included great views of cerulean and hooded warblers, both otherwise scarce in the region, several cuckoos (most as fleeting glimpses), a green heron on a tree branch above a pond; and many indigo buntings. Non-avian treats ranged from a beaver (its mouth full of grass) to a northern water snake. Our favorite sighting was a pair of red efts, a stage of a salamander species whose life story is one of the more remarkable in evolutionary history.
- Joe Wallace, Sharon AvRutick

5/29 – Westchester County: In my April 9 Almanac entry, I suggested to "look for ‘wood-rotters’ on stumps." The ample rainfall we have received has brought one particular species – Pluteus cervinus – out in droves. While walking in a town park in northern Westchester County, we found them in shades of gray and pale brown on many rotting logs almost to the exclusion of all other fungi. With the water table, reservoirs and streams restored we are hopeful that we will finally have a “normal” mushrooming season – it has been years!
- Steve Rock

[Pluteus cervinus, often called the “deer mushroom” in field guides, is widely distributed and common in much of North America, especially in temperate regions. It appears on deadwood, and features gills that are free from the stem. Michael Kuo.]

5/30 – Warren County, HRM 208: Two days ago we thought we heard two Chuck-will’s-widows on a West Mountain switchback off Northwest Mountain Road near Queensbury. This evening it was determined that we heard two different Chuck-will's-widows and we wondered if these were two singing males, a pair, or more than two birds. We learned that at least one of this species was heard a mile away last year. We also heard along the road five or six eastern whip-poor-wills calling.
- Nancy Jane Kern, Will Raup, Rich Guthrie – Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club

[Chuck-will’s-widow is a member of the nightjar family of birds (Caprimuldgidae) that includes the common nighthawk and whip-poor-will. The family name (Latin) translates to “goatsucker,” an appellation given during the Dark Ages when they were accused of milking the goats dry overnight. All three are essentially insectivores and crepuscular or nocturnal flyers. The latter two species are found in our area but normally, to find Chuck-wills-widow you would have to be below the Mason-Dixon Line in the Carolinas or Georgia. Rich Guthrie.]

5/30 – Germantown, HRM 108: I looked out the window very early this morning and saw a black bear exploring the yard. It was smaller than the one that visited us last August, so I'm guessing perhaps it was a yearling. The bear walked right up to our back stairs and then wandered around to the front lawn. It stood up on its hind legs and peered into one of our bluebird boxes that was currently occupied by a pair of nesting tree swallows. Fortunately, the bear left the birds alone. The bear then sauntered across the lawn and disappeared into the brush. Our wineberries and black raspberries were not yet ripe so the bear might be back.
- Cynthia Reichman

5/30 – Manhattan, HRM 2: During an early afternoon high tide, we sampled water quality parameters at The River Project’s Pier 40 research site in Hudson River Park. We wanted to compare today’s values with those collected on May 11 at Pier 40. Today’s results: 55 centimeters turbidity (60 cm on 5/11), 13.2 parts-per-thousand salinity (7.0 ppt on 5/11), 16.0 degrees C/61 degrees F water temperature (13.5 degrees C on 5/11), and dissolved oxygen (DO) 6.8 parts-per-million (6.8 ppm DO on 5/11).
- Jacqueline Wu

5/30 – Manhattan, HRM 1: We checked our collection gear in mid-afternoon in Hudson River Park at The River Project’s sampling station on the lighthouse tender Lilac at Pier 25. We caught two “prizes,” albeit very different fish. In a crab pot we found a striped bass 260 millimeters [mm] long and in a killifish trap we caught a feather blenny (85 mm).
- Jackie Wu, Nina Hitchings, Ashwin Chandrasekhar

[Feather blenny (Hypsoblennius hentz), a tropical marine stray, is a small, scale-less fish with fleshy cirri (“feathers”) on their head. Their lower jaw has a row of small, close-set teeth like those of a comb, thus their family name, combtooth blennies (Blenniidae). Blennies are benthic dwellers where they often burrow in the soft bottom or find refuge in old mollusk shells. C. Lavett Smith.]

5/31 – Newcomb, HRM 302: We set fish trap nets in Arbutus Lake in the Huntington Wildlife Forest of the Adirondack Mountains as part of an investigation as to why the lakes on SUNY ESF's research property appear to have lost their fish (see 10/5 - Newcomb, 2016). A wild thunderstorm rose up while we were setting our gear and we had to take shelter and watch as lightning struck the mountaintops. Eventually, the storm abated and we completed our set. We also did a short gill net set and caught a beautiful brook trout (393 mm; 15½ inches). We admired her, measured her, and released her back to the lake.
- Karin Limburg, Margaret Murphy

brook trout[There are very few, if any, more beautiful freshwater fishes in New York than the brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis). Brook trout were among the first fishes to occupy New York waters following the last ice age. Their native range includes the cold headwaters of brooks and streams in the Catskills and Adirondacks. As befitting their legacy and beauty, they are the official state fish of New York. Photo of male brook trout from DEC files. Tom Lake.]

5/31 – Norrie Point, HRM 85: Students from Wappingers Junior High were helping us discover what fishes might be in the cove next to the Norrie Point Environmental Center. The first four hauls of our seine came back empty. On days like this I recall the research axiom, “No data is still data.” But then we ruined it by netting two tiny pumpkinseed sunfish on our fifth haul. We all grumbled but were saved when an angler caught a large carp (19 pounds, 31 inches). One fish for show-and-tell, albeit a monster, saved our day. The river was 63.5 degrees F.
- Skyler Chambers, Fiona Moore, Kayla Feinberg, Tom Lake

5/31 – Bedford, HRM 35: The great blue heron rookery was noisy today with the combined vocalizing of the group. At several nests young herons were pecking at the adult’s bills looking for a meal, but that would have to wait for the arrival of the other parent. The adult guardians spent much of their time preening their feathers or checking their young. The nestlings were losing their downy look with the growth of their wing feathers. Their tail, at this point, was just a stub. At the former great horned owl nest, the adult heron was checking something in the nest before settling down. I could not see exactly what it was, but it may have been turning eggs before continuing to incubate. Birds need to turn the eggs periodically for the embryo to develop properly. With the large number of nests to keep track of, I had a rough count of 49 nestlings. [See banner photo courtesy of Will Cook.] - Jim Steck

5/31 – Manhattan, HRM 2: We were joined in late morning at The River Project’s Pier 40 research site by a group of first-graders from Léman Manhattan Preparatory School to see what had caught in our collection gear. Yesterday, a River Project volunteer had caught two striped bass, both about 24 inches, on rod and reel, so we had expectations. Although our gear caught zero fish, we did see many mud dog whelk snail eggs, three ctenophores (comb jellies), and three small blue mussels the size of apple seeds. There were also many large oyster drills (almond sized), shore shrimp, a few isopods, and mud crabs in sizes ranging from sunflower seeds to peanut M&Ms.
- Elisa Caref, Zef Egan Soloff, Jackie Wu

6/1 – Newcomb, HRM 302: As we continued our investigation as to why the lakes on SUNY ESF's research property appear to have lost their fish, we set gill nets in Huntington Wildlife Forest’s Rich Lake. We caught no fish. Later, we retrieved gill nets at nearby Arbutus Lake that we had set yesterday. Our catch included five brown bullheads (Ameiurus nebulosus) and two bullfrog tadpoles. This was far fewer from the thousands of bullheads we captured there as recently as 2014. The cause of the decline? Unknown at this point, although death from a low-oxygen event (due to record high temperatures last summer) was a definite suspect.
- Karin Limburg, Margaret Murphy, Yvette Heimbrand, Crew Stover

6/1 – Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 69: We watched what first looked like a mini-kettle of red-tailed hawks pirouetting high overhead. We were set up just down-slope from a known red-tailed nest, and through binoculars we saw that two of the four were adults and the others were immatures. These were two newly fledged red-tails accompanied by the adults. Pete Nye added that documented fledge dates for red-tailed hawks in our area range from mid-April to mid-summer.
- Tom Lake, B.J. Jackson

6/2 – Saw Kill, HRM 98.5: We electro-fished the lower Saw Kill below the first waterfall in a qualitative “let's see what's here” survey. Nearly 100 American eels came out from under rocks, although we missed capturing two-thirds of them. Yvette Heimbrand was impressed with the abundance and range of sizes, which was so different from her native territory of the Baltic Sea. We also logged in three green sunfish and one five-inch bluegill sunfish.
- Karin Limburg

red fox with woodchuck6/2 – Town of Poughkeepsie: I was visiting bald eagle nest NY372 today where, although the nest seemed to have failed this year, the adults were still hanging around – a good sign for next year. On this visit I watched as a red fox ambled past, returning from a hunt carrying a woodchuck. The kits would eat well today. [Photo of red fox with woodchuck courtesy of John Devitt.] - John Devitt

6/2 – Manhattan, HRM 2: We sampled the Hudson River water quality parameters during a late afternoon high tide at The River Project’s Pier 40 research site. We wanted to compare today’s values with those collected on May 30, also at high tide. Today’s results: 62 centimeters turbidity (55 cm on 5/30), 6.0 parts-per-thousand salinity (13.2 ppt on 5/30), 18.0 degrees C/65 degrees F water temperature (16.0 degrees C on 5/30), and dissolved oxygen (DO) 5.8 parts-per-million (6.8 ppm DO on 5/30).
- Jacqueline Wu

6/3 – Hudson River Estuary: During today’s third annual World Science Festival Great Fish Count, we sampled at 17 sites in the lower estuary and around New York City. Our totals were 1,009 fish of 26 species - the highest species total over three years, exceeding the 25 species (2,607 fish) at 15 sites last year. Our 2016 total individuals count – our highest over the three years – was swelled by the 2,000 bay anchovies taken in one seine haul at Lemon Creek Park on Staten Island. Five new species were added to our count list: conger eel (Valentino Pier, Brooklyn); common carp (in 4.0 ppt salinity at Englewood Boat Basin, New Jersey); oyster toadfish (Piers 25 and 84 in Hudson River Park, Manhattan); scup (Kaiser Park, Brooklyn); and cunner (Gantry Plaza State Park, Queens). That brought the total number of species caught over three years to 33.
The bay anchovy was again the most commonly caught fish, although we did not encounter any huge schools this year. The most widely distributed species were winter flounder, bay anchovy, and northern pipefish - each caught at seven sites. Atlantic silversides seemed low this year – only 41 at six sites compared to 270 at nine sites in 2016 and 202 at six sites in 2015.
- Steve Stanne

6/3 - Manhattan, HRM 13-11: As part of the Great Fish Count, we seined two locations in northern Manhattan. Our first stop was Inwood Park near Spuyten Duyvil where the salinity was 8.0 ppt (last year the salinity was 13.5 ppt). Our seine caught a colorful mix of young-of-the-year Atlantic menhaden, Atlantic silversides, bay anchovies, and mummichogs; some of the latter showed splendid male breeding colors. In the back of the net we also found eight quarter-sized winter flounder.
Our next stop was Fort Washington Park, just south of the George Washington Bridge. The heavy rain of the last week had lowered the salinity to 5.0 ppt, well below the 16.0 we found last year. We had hoped for a repeat of last year’s lined seahorse but settled for three (closely related) northern pipefish. There were also Atlantic menhaden, several winter and summer flounder, an impressive hogchoker (140 mm), white perch, and a handful of bay anchovies. We were puzzled by three beautifully marked spotted hake, each nearly six inches long, barely alive, that were floating in the water. We wondered what could have caused their condition.
- Margie Turrin, Brent Turrin, Allison Philpott

[Spotted hake (Urophycis regia) is one of eight members of the cod family (Gadidae) documented for the Hudson River estuary. For a checklist of all 226 species, e-mail trlake7@aol.com. Tom Lake.]

6/3 - Staten Island, New York City: Thirty-five participants helped us sample Lemon Creek on Staten Island for the Great Fish Count. The salinity on the beach was 21.0 ppt as we seined up a silver “confetti” of young-of-the-year bay anchovies and Atlantic menhaden. Additional treasures included striped killifish northern pipefish, winter flounder, windowpane flounder, and several types of Crustacea. In the tidal pond we caught blue crabs, mummichogs, four-spine sticklebacks, an American eel (elver), and a dramatic horseshoe crab. Sea water enters the tidal pond only at high tide, and the salinity was 23.0 ppt.
- Chris Bowser

SPRING 2017 NATURAL HISTORY PROGRAMS

Wednesday, June 14: 5:00 PM to dusk
Free Public Fishing Day at Hudson River National Estuarine Research Reserve, Norrie Point Environmental Center, Staatsburg [Dutchess County]. Family-friendly; all ages welcome. Free use of rods, reels and bait. Wheelchair accessible. For information: 845-889-4745 x109

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@aol.com.

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 Conservationist - the award-winning, advertisement-free magazine focusing on New York State's great outdoors and natural resources. 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 twelve monitoring stations, visit the Hudson River Environmental Conditions Observing System website.

Information about the Hudson River Estuary Program is available on DEC's website at http://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/4920.html .

Smartphone app available for New York outdoor enthusiasts!
DEC, in partnership with ParksByNature Network®, is proud to announce the launch of the New York Fishing, Hunting & Wildlife App for iPhone and Android. This FREE, cutting-edge mobile app gives both novice and seasoned outdoorsmen and women essential information in the palm of their hands. Powered by Pocket Ranger® technology, this official app for DEC will provide up-to-date information on fishing, hunting and wildlife watching and serve as an interactive outdoor app using today's leading mobile devices. Using the app's advanced GPS features, users will be able identify and locate New York's many hunting, fishing and wildlife watching sites. They will also gain immediate access to species profiles, rules and regulations, and important permits and licensing details.

NY Open for Hunting and Fishing Initiative
Governor Cuomo's NY Open for Fishing and Hunting Initiative is an effort to improve recreational opportunities for sportsmen and women and to boost tourism activities throughout the state. This initiative includes streamlining fishing and hunting licenses, reducing license fees, improving access for fishing and increasing hunting opportunities in New York State.
In support of this initiative, this year's budget includes $6 million in NY Works funding to support creating 50 new land and water access projects to connect hunters, anglers, bird watchers and others who enjoy the outdoors to more than 380,000 acres of existing state and easement lands that have gone largely untapped until now. These 50 new access projects include building new boat launches, installing new hunting blinds and building new trails and parking areas. In addition, the 2014-15 budget includes $4 million to repair the state's fish hatcheries; and renews and allows expanded use of crossbows for hunting in New York State.
This year's budget also reduces short-term fishing licenses fees; increases the number of authorized statewide free fishing days to eight from two; authorizes DEC to offer 10 days of promotional prices for hunting, fishing and trapping licenses; and authorizes free Adventure Plates for new lifetime license holders, discounted Adventure Plates for existing lifetime license holders and regular fee Adventure Plates for annual license holders.

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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