The summer solstice arrived and with it a multitude of young-of-the-year (YOY) fishes, a reminder of the role of the estuary as a nursery for this spring’s progeny. In the uplands, fledgling eagles and songbirds reminded us that this season of new life was not confined to the river.
HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK
6/17 – Piermont, HRM 25: I came upon five diamondback terrapins of various sizes this morning sunning on the breakwater rocks north of the Piermont Pier. I also saw several fish jumping, possibly carp. There were large groups of Canada geese and mallards as well as a leucistic hen mallard that has been present for several days. I recall seeing one here last year as well.
- Linda Pistolesi
NOTE: DEC has adopted regulations to eliminate commercial harvest of diamondback terrapins and have added the species to the list of native turtles with no open season. The closure on harvest went into effect on May 1, 2018. https://www.dec.ny.gov/press/111457.html
[The diamondback terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin) is a turtle of salt to brackish water coastal marshes from Cape Cod to Chesapeake Bay. Their common name comes from the diamond-shaped rings on its carapace. There is a remnant population in the estuary at Piermont Marsh and they have been reported as far upriver as Verplanck (river mile 40). There are populations in Jamaica and Raritan bays that may recruit or exchange individual terrapins. The presence of these turtles at Piermont and vicinity has been tenuous, even threatened, in recent times due to human intrusion and subsequent habitat loss. Our knowledge of their life history at Piermont is sketchy at best. If you see any diamondback terrapins at Piermont or elsewhere in the estuary, please report the where, when and other particulars to Hofstra University’s Russell Burke, biorlb and to DEC biologist Kathleen O'Brien at kathleen.obrien. Please include photos. Tom Lake]
NATURAL HISTORY ENTRIES
6/16 – Wallkill River, HRM 77: It was nineteen years ago today as I walked along the edge of a fallow cornfield listening to the “witchity-witchity-witchity” song of the common yellowthroat, that I spotted a piece of gray stone (chert) protruding slightly from a crack in the dry earth. It was the thin edge of a small projectile point, 47 x 25 millimeters (mm), staring up at me having eroded out of the soil. I had found a very old Indian spear point that was later dated to c. 12,500 years ago. The implications reconfirmed our sense of the incredible time-depth of our watershed. (Photo of barnes (spear) point courtesy of Tom Lake)
[This stone artifact was a Barnes-type fluted spear point, a style that originated in southwestern Ontario about 12,500 calendar years ago. The lithic material came from a bedrock quarry in Sussex County, NJ. These fluted points predate “arrowheads” by eleven thousand years and are a diagnostic tool of what archaeologists believe were the first of us, called Paleoindians, to enter the Hudson Valley. The Wallkill River Valley was a seasonal passageway for these hunter-gatherers from southwestern Ontario, through the Mohawk River Valley, then south along the Hudson River, stopping at stone quarries along the way, and following game herds into northern New Jersey. Tom Lake]
- Tom Lake
6/16 – Beacon, HRM 61: Five hours of continuous action today (“bites”) resulted in a mixed bag of fishes in my catch at Long Dock. I caught, admired, weighed, and released seven channel catfish, a small carp, and a chubby, foot-long, bright orange goldfish. The largest catfish was just over 4.0 lb.
- Bill Greene
6/16 – Croton, HRM 35: It was a perfect afternoon to be in the river, which we did with our 50-foot seine on the beach at Croton Point. A dozen of us were sampling the inshore shallows for Clearwater’s 41st annual Great Hudson River Revival. We had expectations with the salinity at 6.5 parts-per-thousand (ppt), roughly 20% of seawater, and the water was a warm 78 Fahrenheit (F.). These efforts, however, are not choreographed – you catch what is there – and our catch was unexpectedly meager. After ten hauls we had captured and released young-of-the-year (YOY) bluefish (82-99 mm) and Atlantic tomcod (60-62 mm), a dozen white perch, and a few blue crabs. A few live wedge rangia clams (Rangia cuneata) were collected as the tide ebbed. As anglers are often prone to daydream, we wondered if an hour earlier or an hour later the surf would have been, or would be, brimming with rare and exotic fishes! (Photo of Clearwater Revival public seining program at Croton Point courtesy of Tom Lake)
- Eli Schloss, Zach Wolin, TR Jackson, Tom Lake
6/16 – Bedford, HRM 35: The nestlings were starting to spend a lot of time preening their new feathers at the great blue heron rookery. There were five nests containing four nestlings, with the rest having two or three. For the most part, however, they were not very active as they waited patiently for food to arrive. When an adult arrived with food, the nestlings would get excited, their crest feathers becoming erect.
- Jim Steck
6/16 – Yonkers, HRM 18: Six students joined us for our free River Explorers seining program at the Sarah Lawrence Center for the Urban River at Beczak. The tide was high, not the best of times, but it was fun nonetheless. We seined in our small tide marsh and caught bay anchovies, mummichogs, white perch, shore shrimp, blue crabs, and a moon jellyfish.
- Gabrielle Carmine, Elisa Caref, Alex Fink
6/17 – Valatie, HRM 129: The moisture-loving cottonwood trees were coming to the end of their shedding season along Kinderhook Creek. The “June Snow,” as it is commonly called, are their seeds encased in white, cotton-like fibers that covered the trails at River Street Park. Walking the trails we left our tracks in the thick carpet of the white, fluffy stuff as though it were snow.
- Fran Martino, Loki Martino
6/17 – Croton Point, HRM 35: We camped at Croton Point as volunteers for Clearwater’s Great Hudson River Revival. Motherwort was blooming at the campsite along with moneywort, tansy, spearmint, lots of celandine, and a few bushes of Japanese honeysuckle that perfumed the path. On South Field that floods in heavy rains, the eastern cottonwoods that can tolerate flooding, dominated, and the air was filled with their seeds, cottony fluff, drifting on the light wind. The mulberries had abundant fruit but were not yet ripe.
- Thomas Shoesmith, Donna Mendell
6/18 – Croton Point, HRM 34.5: While breaking camp this morning after volunteering for Clearwater’s Great Hudson River Revival, we noticed a large bird busily feeding on something just a few feet from our tent but safely separated from us by a chain link fence. It was a large red-tailed hawk, perhaps a female. She had pounced on breakfast – rabbit, chipmunk or squirrel – and it was being rapidly devoured. Some local blackbirds were dive-bombing the raptor and letting her know that she was not welcome, but she ignored both them and us.
- Sarah Underhill, Lyle Dutton
6/18 – Manhattan, HRM 1: Braving the heat, we checked our research sampling gear in Hudson River Park at The River Project's sampling station on the lighthouse tender Lilac at Pier 25 and were rewarded with two tautog (190, 265 mm), two juvenile oyster toadfish (45, 50 mm), and a darling little feather blenny (75 mm).
- Claire O’Loughlin, Henry Doering
6/19 – Hudson Valley: Several Almanac readers have asked, “What do we mean by fledgling?” as it relates to bald eagles and other birds. This is a term we use frequently in springtime to denote when a bird goes from being a nestling to being a fledgling.
[My first thought in considering this question was that a definition can vary widely among species as well as nest types. Perhaps the broadest and most useful definition of fledging might be the moment a nestling takes its first flight. In theory, when a nestling can fly, it is no longer tied to the nest. Yet, the dynamics of ground nests such as plovers, killdeer, and other shore birds, make that definition even more complicated.
- Tom Lake
Fledglings often come back to its nest, sometimes immediately, because they associate it with food and shelter. But, instinctively, they know they can fly. Some birders might modify the definition to be when the bird is on its own, no longer dependent on its parents for food and shelter. That is not an easy call and tough to measure. Ravens, for example, go through an extended period of mentoring from their parents, and bald eagles seem to be bonded with their parents through much of the summer learning to fish, forage, and become eagles. Tom Lake]
6/19 – Manhattan, HRM 4.5: The resident pair of peregrine falcons put on quite a show today in Hell’s Kitchen. From the roof of my building I noticed a falcon calling out from the ledge of the building across the street. It was soon joined by its mate that had prey clasped in its talons. They sat there for a few minutes calling to each other, before bird number one took off, followed a moment later by bird number two. They soared directly overhead, doing three complete turns, before alighting on the apartment building on the opposite block. It made for a great morning! (Photo of peregrine falcon courtesy of NY DEP)
[Hell’s Kitchen is a neighborhood on the West Side of Midtown Manhattan, bordered by 34th Street to the south, 59th Street to the north, Eighth Avenue to the east, and the Hudson River to the west. The name first appeared in September 1881 when a New York Times reporter went to the West 30s with a police guide to get details of a multiple murder. He referred to a particularly infamous tenement at 39th Street and Tenth Avenue as "Hell's Kitchen" and said that the entire section was "probably the lowest and filthiest in the city." Thus 39th Street between 9th and 10th Avenues became known as Hell's Kitchen and the name was later expanded to the surrounding streets. Mary Clark]
- Sean Gannon
6/20 – Corinth, HRM 202: A dozen of us peered into the crystal clear river shallows and were amazed by the “clouds” of tiny fish – more than hundreds. Such a view creates an overwhelming need to know what they are, so we set our 85-foot seine. As we neared the beach, however, we could see many of the tiny fish escaping through the net’s quarter-inch mesh. After sliding the seine onto the sand we scooped a hundred fish into a bucket and released the rest. An analysis of the catch found that most of them were YOY fallfish (14-42 mm), with many fewer and equally small YOY bluntnose minnows. The only adults were banded killifish in their spectacular lavender breeding colors. The Hudson River was 72.7 F.
[Fallfish (Semotilus corporalis) is the largest native minnow (Cyprinidae) in the Northeast reaching 17-inches in length. They are found from the Canadian Maritimes south along the eastern slopes of the Appalachians to Virginia. Although originally absent in the Adirondacks, they seem to have become introduced via canals or bait bucket releases. C. Lavett Smith]
- Tom Lake, Ryan Lewis
6/20 – Manhattan, HRM 1: We checked our research sampling gear in Hudson River Park at The River Project's sampling station on the lighthouse tender Lilac at Pier 25 and found two impressive tautog (190, 315 mm), as well as a 37.5 mm carapace-width blue crab.
- Michelle Wu, Alyssa de Falco
6/21 – Town of Poughkeepsie: The two new fledglings from bald eagle nest NY62 were flying together over a grassy field below the nest tree. In 2014, there had been two fledglings from NY62 as well, and they, too, did some tandem flying and exploring together. Later in the day, one of the fledglings mistook the tightly matted water chestnut covering a small pond as solid ground and, attempting to land, plunged into the water. This was part of its learning curve as it used its wings to paddle ashore.
- Brenda Miller
6/21 – Beacon, HRM 61: It was fitting on the first day of summer at Long Dock that our seine would fill with YOY fishes, from pumpkinseed sunfish to tessellated darters to spottail shiners. Beginning on the summer solstice, this was symbolically their season. The river was 77 F. (Photo of sunset at Long Dock Park, Beacon courtesy of John Devitt)
[I remember this piece of the Beacon waterfront as a small child in the mid 1950’s when it was an oil depot. Coupled with a burning dump just north along the river, the air was unbreathable. Beginning in 1996, Scenic Hudson invested much time and expense to turn this former industrial site into the beautiful 15-acre Long Dock Park on the Beacon waterfront. Tom Lake]
- Tom Lake, B.J. Jackson
6/21 – Hyde Park, HRM 82: I had heard of deer swimming across the Hudson and for the first time I got to actually see it. Not too far in front of my kayak, two white-tailed deer came off the eastern shore by the Vanderbilt Estate and began swimming to the Ulster shore. I was impressed by how graceful they looked swimming and how quickly they moved.
- Dale Becker
6/21 – Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: We were out for a sail from the Croton Yacht Club, slowly motoring out to find the wind (there wasn’t any). We were no more than 100 yards offshore when we saw what looked like a log moving in the water. Through binoculars we made it out to be a white-tailed deer, possibly arriving from the Rockland County side. When the deer reached the beach, it bounded out full of energy, running back and forth. It then appeared to go up the boat launch ramp and headed north.
[These two occasions were not rare occurrences, and something we have witnessed twice ourselves. Chris Lake and I were in mid-river at New Hamburg’s Diamond Reef years ago, jigging for striped bass, when we heard splash, splash, splash. A deer passed close by heading from the Orange County side toward New Hamburg. A couple of years later, we were lounging in our boat waiting as our shad net drifted down the river when, once again, we heard splash, splash, splash as well as some heavy breathing. It was another swimming white-tailed deer, this time heading eastward toward Chelsea. While the reasons why deer swim across the river are no doubt varied, the most common theories are they get chased by feral dogs and coyotes, or spooked by hunters, and decide to take their chances in the river. Tom Lake]
- Bob Boothe, Mary Ann Boothe
6/21 – Westchester County, HRM 30: A close-to-sunset walk on the Overlook Trail and Ash Tree Loop in Rockefeller State Park revealed an encouraging diversity of bird species singing on territory, and therefore likely nesting: Indigo bunting, at least two scarlet tanagers, three eastern towhees, three rose-breasted grosbeaks, several veery, several wood thrushes, and two eastern bluebirds. In a fragmented county, the expansive forests, fields, and edge habitats of Rockefeller State Park (along with its lake and streams) are a treasure for birds and other wildlife.
- Joe Wallace and Sharon AvRutick
6/21 – Yonkers, HRM 18: We had a lovely sail this evening on the Hudson River sloop Clearwater. Our otter trawl made a huge catch including 139 Atlantic tomcod, 117 hogchokers, a striped sea robin, 15 sand shrimp, two male blue crab, and some ctenophores (comb jellies). A number of the medium-sized hog chokers had distended abdomens indicating gravid females.
- Becky Rowland
6/22 – Town of Poughkeepsie: Just after midday, the male from bald eagle nest NY62 brought a pumpkinseed sunfish toward the nest before dropping it in the grassy field below. One of the fledglings that had been watching descended from its perch in a tulip tree and snatched it up. We wondered if this was an old trick we’d seen in other years at NY62. Recently fledged birds have to be taught that not all food will be brought to the nest; the young birds have to learn to catch their own or find it as in this instance. (Photo of bald eagle fledgling with pumpkinseed fish courtesy of Jack Currie)
- Jack Currie and Terry Hardy
6/22 – Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: This was a day of mixed (and perplexing) results while carp fishing in Haverstraw Bay. At ebb slack tide, I managed to catch and release three channel catfish (largest was 3 lb. 14 oz.). I expected better fishing on the subsequent flood tide, including some carp, but I failed to get even a single nibble.
- Bill Greene
6/22 – Manhattan, HRM 1: We returned to our research sampling gear in Hudson River Park at The River Project's sampling station on the lighthouse tender Lilac at Pier 25 and found two oyster toadfish, (one an adult at 200 mm; one a juvenile at 45 mm), as well as a lovely skilletfish (55 mm).
- Lauren Negron, Alyssa de Falco, Emma Palmer
SUMMER 2018 NATURAL HISTORY PROGRAMS
Saturday, August 11
Sixth Annual Great Hudson River Fish Count
For more information on specific times and locations, go to https://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/97891.html
(Data is presently being updated for 2018)
Free Trees for Streamside Planting
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. Since 2007, Trees for Tribs has provided more than 40,000 native trees and shrubs for planting along 20 miles of stream with the help of more than 9,000 local volunteers. We are now accepting applications for spring planting projects.
For more information about the program or to download an application, please visit the DEC website at: HudsonEstuaryTFT.
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 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.
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 Open for Hunting and Fishing Initiative: Under Governor Cuomo's Adventure NY initiative, DEC is making strategic investments to expand access to healthy, active outdoor recreation, connect more New Yorkers and visitors to nature and the outdoors, protect natural resources, and boost local economies. This initiative will support the completion of more than 75 projects over the next three years, ranging from improvements to youth camps and environmental education centers to new boat launches, duck blinds, and hiking trails. Read more about the Adventure NY initiative. For more information on planning an outdoor adventure in New York State, visit DEC's website at http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor.
Information about the Hudson River Estuary Program is available on DEC's website at http://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/4920.html.
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