It was another week of faunal migration, nesting birds, spawning fish, and other spring rites of spring.
A HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK
5/7 – Hudson River: Four classes of third-grade students from Lakeview Elementary in Mahopac attended a presentation about Charlie the yearling gray seal that had been marooned and then rescued from the Hudson River in Saratoga County in December 2015. This was only the second occurrence of this seal in the Hudson River. Charlie’s misadventure touched them deeply and their poetry reflects their feelings.
- Tom Lake
Charlie the Gray Seal
Charlie is gray and dark, like rain clouds,
He is wet and salty like the sea.
Charlie is a good swimmer and loves the water.
First he got stuck in a jetty but got rescued,
But then got trapped again up the river past Albany in a lock.
Charlie would have died if the river had frozen–he was frightened.
He had my heart on a cliff-hanger.
But he was brave, he was saved, and taken back to the sea.
He is OK now! He is beautiful. Charlie is our hero.
- Eleanor Gerleit, Thea Nazario, James Romer, Adam Savino
NATURAL HISTORY NOTES
5/6 – Greene County, HRM 125: We noticed a ruffed grouse (Bonasa umbellus) in the woods by our house. Later in the day when I was outside, I noticed I was being followed. For the next 90 minutes the grouse followed me around the yard and at times, with no encouragement, coming right up to me. The best was when we were eating dinner and the grouse came to the porch door. We then went outside and walked around the yard and the grouse followed!
- David Crosby, Timothy Crosby, Ellin Crosby
5/6 – Hunter’s Brook, HRM 67.5: Students from Roy C. Ketcham High School helped us clear the fyke net today. We had high hopes after yesterday’s tally of 192 glass eels, but today we had only eight. Perhaps greater stream discharge due to the abundance of rainfall may have been a factor. We did enjoy the antics of alewives jumping in the brook. These were the last of the spawners heading upstream, albeit a very short distance to the fall line, a tidewater reach of no more than 500 feet.
[Our springtime spawning fishes from the sea, such as river herring, American shad, striped bass, and glass eels, do not ascend the river in a continuous stream. Rather they come in pulses, rising in numbers, tapering off, then rising again until the run ends. There are a multitude of factors that create this staggered flow including water temperature, strength of tides—we used to believe that peaks in runs occurred around new and full moon; now we are not so sure—and the dynamics of the spawning population. Tom Lake.]
- Mark Delaney, Chris Delaney, Dave Delaney, Chris Luhmann, Loraine Luhmann, Emrick Luhmann, Vivian Luhmann
5/6 – Hudson Highlands, HRM 58: I've been striped bass fishing in the shadow of Storm King Mountain for three weeks and during that time I have noticed a pair of osprey frequenting the navigation tower off Bannerman’s (Pollepel) Island. Last year’s nest was still there but until today, I had not witnessed any nesting activities. Today, finally, one osprey was perched on the rail of the light tower and the other was sitting in the nest.
- Owen Sullivan
5/6 – Storm King, HRM 57: A peregrine falcon nesting ledge eyrie on the face of Storm King Mountain appeared to be active. I had yet to see any peregrines but the whitewash on the rock face around the ledge was fresh.
- Owen Sullivan
5/6 – Randall’s Island, New York City: Several dozen high school student apprentices joined us today for a workshop in preparation for seining at the World Science Festival Great Fish Count on Saturday, June 3. We seined in two different areas of Randall’s Island. The first was a small salt marsh that had nice diversity including blue crabs, Asian shore crabs, shrimp, striped bass, American eels, mummichogs, white perch, several small young-of-the-year summer flounder and winter flounder, a northern pipefish, and a naked goby. The second site, along Ward's Island, gave us striped bass, comb jellies, a lion's mane jellyfish, and shrimp. The salinity was 22 parts-per-thousand [ppt], the water temperature was 64 degrees Fahrenheit, and the dissolved oxygen was 10 parts-per-million [ppm].
- Margie Turrin, Steve Stanne, Chris Girgenti
5/7 – Crugers, HRM 39: Ogilvie’s Pond was quickly being overrun by spatterdock with its little yellow flowers. We spotted the great blue heron on the opposite side of the murky pond perched on a large branch bent over the water. Surprisingly, the heron was pecking at and “eating” from a vine that covered the branch. We couldn’t understand why it might be eating vegetation. It continued eating for a while and then began preening its feathers.
[Erik Kiviat theorizes that the heron was likely not eating vegetation but perhaps insects in the vine. It was still an odd circumstance. Tom Lake.]
- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson
5/8 – Saratoga County, HRM 186: There was quite a swirl of gulls and terns flying around Riley Cove and Silver Beach at Saratoga Lake in mid-afternoon. Most numerous were Bonaparte's gulls, common terms, and black terns. Just as we were leaving, a female red-breasted merganser popped up.
- Susan Beaudoin, Ron Harrower, Naomi Lloyd, Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club
5/8 – Rensselaer County, HRM 143: I had a gorgeous indigo bunting at my feeders this afternoon along with two male rose-breasted grosbeaks. When I added in the male goldfinches, blue jays, and cardinals, it was a kaleidoscope of color.
- Deb Shaw, Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club
5/8 – Hyde Park, HRM 82: I spotted a songbird flying erratically around my house today before it gently crashed into a downspout. It seemed unhurt. I picked up the gorgeous magnolia warbler and it used my finger as a tree branch. It seemed to enjoy hanging with me for ten minutes before flying to my roof and then to the sky. [Photo of adult male magnolia warbler courtesy of Brenda Sramek.]
- Brenda Sramek
[In the Hudson Valley, the magnolia warbler is seen mostly in migration. Being a bird of the northern forest, it can be found nesting in the Catskills, Taconics, and Adirondacks. For more information about this bird, visit the All About Birds website. Steve Stanne.]
5/8 – Manhattan, HRM 1: We checked our collection gear in late morning at The River Project’s sampling station on the lighthouse tender Lilac at Pier 25 in Hudson River Park. The killifish traps and crab pots held an American eel 400 millimeters [mm] long, four blackfish (185-285 mm), and a lined sea horse (90 mm).
- Melissa Rex, Elisa Caref, Toland Kister
5/9 – Town of Poughkeepsie: I heard loud squawking coming from the area near bald eagle nest NY372. As I approached, an immature bald eagle flew away from the nest tree right over my head followed by a second immature flying out of the tree and heading away. It was then that I noticed one of the adult eagles (I think it was the female) on a branch still scolding the immature birds. When she repositioned herself, she revealed the big striped bass she had defended from the would-be fish thieves. [Photo of adult bald eagle eating striped bass courtesy of Debbie Quick.]
- Debbie Quickf
5/9 – Westchester County, HRM 44: The formerly single osprey at the Route 684 nest near Goldens Bridge now had a mate! I’ve seen both of them tending the nest on several occasions. Even though the nest is small, they seem to be enthusiastically augmenting it. I cannot tell if there are eggs yet. There is an arm of the Muscoot-Croton Reservoir nearby so fishing must be good.
- Rick Stafford
5/10 – Albany, HRM 145: As far as birds go, the Five Rivers Environmental Education Center in Delmar was quieter than I'd hoped for this morning. Fortunately, I had I timed my Hudson River crossing perfectly to see an early flock of 30 brant flying upriver. They were moving at quite a clip, too!
- Naomi Lloyd, Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club
5/10 – Croton Point, HRM 34: During a 30 minute walk on the low road alongside Croton Bay, I spotted several warblers, including black-throated green, pine warbler, American redstart, and yellow warbler, plus eastern towhee, Baltimore oriole, gray catbird, red eyed vireo, and warbling vireo. The bobolinks were back on landfill. I was treated to a great look at a yellow-billed cuckoo feeding on what I thought were gypsy moth caterpillars. But then I realized they were eastern tent caterpillars.
[The eastern tent caterpillar (Malacosoma americanum) is native to North America. The gypsy moth caterpillar (Lymantria dispar) was introduced in 1869 as a disease-resistant alternative to silk worm caterpillar. Tom Lake.]
- Larry Trachtenberg
5/10 – Bedford, HRM 35: I got my first look at a heron nestling at the great blue heron rookery; as they grow they will become more visible. Most of the nests had a heron settled down in the nest, keeping their young warm. A few nests had a heron standing on the rim and a couple of herons flew in and exchanged places with their mates.
- Jim Steck
5/11 – Albany, HRM 150: Someone “flipped a switch” last night and migrant songbirds appeared in numbers this morning at the Albany Pine Bush Karner Barrens East. Among the warblers were bay-breasted, Cape May, Blackburnian, blackpoll, northern parula, Nashville, and yellow-rumped, as well as scarlet tanager, veery, and both least and great-crested flycatchers.
- Tom Williams, Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club
5/11 – Millbrook, HRM 82: You just have a feeling that it will be a good day of birding when you spot a red-headed woodpecker just sitting on a fence along the road as you pass. [See banner photo of red-headed woodpecker courtesy of Deborah Tracy-Kral.]
- Deborah Tracy Kral
5/11 – Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 69: For the 105 Lakeview Elementary fifth-graders from Mahopac, it was like taking a journey back in time. We visited prehistoric sites in Bowdoin Park including a rockshelter where Indians periodically visited at least 7,000 years ago. Along the way we found sherds of fire-cracked rock, evidence of ancient hearths. Two bald eagle fly-bys added an aura of wildness. Excavations in the park by Donna and Jack Vargo (1983-1984) discovered a series of sturgeon butchering sites and smoking huts along the river dating to about 4,000 years ago. For one day at least, we were all able to strip away the modern landscape and sense the serenity of long ago.
- Cara Bowden, Tom Lake
5/11 – Manhattan, HRM 13.5: At midday in Inwood Hill Park, the air temperature was 60 degrees; spring seemed to be hesitating. Along the inlet of Spuyten Duyvil Creek, curly dock was fully grown and blooming and mugwort was also plentiful; the invasive species are quick and vigorous. In the woods, garlic mustard had now spread all the way down the Clove but pachysandra was showing new leaves and jewelweed was coming up. Up on the ridge, it looked more like spring. I saw a single flower of common cinquefoil and then several patches of wild geranium flowers. Here and there a single periwinkle flower remained among large numbers of cleavers and lots of porcelain berry. The smaller, non-native geranium called herb-robert, was also flowering and so was celandine. Flowers of yellow rocket (Barbarea vulgaris) were new to me here. False Solomon’s seal was budding and a little patch of Spanish bluebells was lovely. I was especially pleased to see several stems of lily-of-the-valley flowering; I had never seen that here before.
5/11 – Manhattan, HRM 2: During a late afternoon ebb 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 4. Today’s results: 60 centimeters turbidity (75 cm on 5/4), 7.0 ppt salinity (6.0 ppt on 5/4), 13.5 degrees Celsius/57 degrees F water temperature (14.0 degrees C on 5/4), and dissolved oxygen 6.8 ppm (5.8 ppm DO on 5/4). We also did a plankton tow and found many species of zooplankton.
- Jacqueline Wu
5/12 – Norrie Point, HRM 85: Juniors and seniors from Poughkeepsie High School helped us sample the south cove (river was 59 degrees F) at the Norrie Point Environmental Education Center. At first glance, our catch was very ordinary with six species of resident fishes including golden shiner, spottail shiner, tessellated darter, banded killifish, bluegills, and pumpkinseed sunfish. However, every fish has a story to tell. The two species of sunfish—bluegill (introduced) and pumpkinseed (native)—provided a contrast in two closely related fishes that share different origins. Both are genus Lepomis, but bluegills are native to the Great Lakes and were introduced into the watershed more than 100 years ago; pumpkinseed have been here since far back in prehistory. These two species are so closely related that they often hybridize. [Photos of pumpkinseed (left) and bluegill (right) courtesy of Steve Stanne.]
- Tom Lake
[In a world often overflowing with alien or invasive species, we often speak of “native” species as a counterpoint. When we ask students what we mean by native, we get answers like “it has always been here.” But always is an inexact word. Since the Hudson Valley was covered with more than a mile of ice 20,000 years ago (no one was home), perhaps a better measure is to ask “was the plant, bird, fish, flower, or mammal here when the first Europeans arrived?” If so, it is native; if not it was introduced later on, thus nonnative. Tom Lake.]
5/12 – Beacon, HRM 61: On a beautiful spring day, my angling efforts at Long Dock for carp produced ten fish, most in the two to four pound range although the two largest fish (27 inches long) were more like nine to ten pounds. All were released. Even though I used my usual bait—corn and fresh bread molded into a “doughy” ball—the bait stealers (golden shiners) left me alone. Also notably absent were channel catfish and brown bullheads throughout the six hours I fished.
- Bill Greene
5/12 – Bedford, HRM 35: I took a good look at the great horned owl during my visit to the great blue heron rookery. The nest appears empty; the fate of the nestling is unknown. I also had a good look at two great blue heron nestlings; the rest of the nests had an adult standing on the side either tending to their young or settled down keeping them warm.
- Jim Steck
5/12 – Manhattan, HRM 1: We checked our collection gear during a mid-afternoon low tide at The River Project’s sampling station on the lighthouse tender Lilac at Pier 25. There were two fish in a crab pot, a 205 mm-long blackfish (tautog) and a 210 mm-long white perch. In a killifish trap we caught a small male blue crab (20 mm carapace width) that was missing one claw. In a different killifish trap we caught another blackfish (55 mm), 49 shore shrimp, two sand shrimp, amphipods, isopods, and mud crabs.
- Hadassah Brenner, Jessica Lambert, Jackie Wu
Comment – Last week’s Hudson River Almanac (April 29–Hyde Park, HRM 82) reported on a large snapping turtle with a supposition that it was a female looking to lay her eggs. Erik Kiviat pointed out that the larger snapping turtles are primarily males, and that it was likely too early in the season for females to be scouting out locations to lay their eggs. Tom Lake.
Correction – Last week’s Hudson River Almanac (May 2–Stillwater), mistakenly noted the Hudson River Mile as 17 for the Highlight of the Week entry on the ruff. The HRM should have been 177. Tom Lake.
SPRING 2017 NATURAL HISTORY PROGRAMS
Saturday, June 3
World Science Festival Great Fish Count, produced in partnership with DEC’s Hudson River Estuary Program and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, explores the diversity of slippery, wriggly, and fascinating creatures usually hidden below the estuary’s surface at 17 sites in the New York City metro area. Depending on the site, participants may don waders to help haul a seine or try their luck with a fishing rod. After naturalists display and discuss the catch, the fish are released back to the river. Visit the Great Fish Count website for more information.
Monday, June 5: 7:00 PM
The Incredible Recovery of the Bald Eagle, presented by Tom Lake, Hudson River Estuary Program Consulting Naturalist, part of the Town of Lloyd Historical Society Program series at Building #6, Vineyard Commons, 300 Vineyard Avenue, Highland [Ulster County]. For more information, call 845-255-7742.
Sunday, June 14: 5:00 PM to dusk
Free Public Fishing Day at the 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
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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 email@example.com