Hudson River Almanac 6/3/17 – 6/9/17

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black rat snake (see 6/9/17) - photo courtesy of Bob OttensHudson River Almanac
June 3 - 9, 2017
Compiled by Tom Lake, Hudson River Estuary Program Consulting Naturalist

OVERVIEW

Entries this week remind of the great time depth of the Hudson Valley, from a reported sighting of an animal thought to have been extirpated 100 years ago, to a stone tool that may have been used more than a thousand years ago.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

6/4 – Yonkers, HRM 18: On a hazy afternoon, the crew of the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater watched a double-crested cormorant diving close to shore. Three times the bird came up with a hogchoker in its bill. On the first two attempts, the cormorant swallowed the fish but then coughed it up. Then the cormorant bounced it a few times, probably repositioning it, and on the third try successfully swallowed the hogchoker.
- Caitlin Zinsley

[Hogchokers are delightful little soles, ranging in size from a penny to the palm of your hand. They are found in the western Atlantic from Massachusetts to Panama. Their coloring is a mottled light and dark “squiggly” pattern of perfect camouflage and, like fingerprints and snowflakes, no two are exactly alike. If you stroke these little flatfish from head-to-tail, they are incredibly smooth. However, if you run your finger from tail to head, it will feel like the fine teeth on a saw. Eventually, cormorants will learn to swallow hogchokers head first. Tom Lake.]

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

6/3 – Waterford, HRM 158: When you pass above the Federal Dam at Troy and leave tidewater behind, you enter into an entirely different, and very refreshing, Hudson River. If you branch off to the west and climb the Waterford Flight, you find the Mohawk River with fish fauna just different enough to lure us there to haul a seine. For us, the magic of the Mohawk is in its fishes, seeing species that are not often encountered in tidewater. Our catch today included some native fishes such as creek chub (Semotilus atromaculatus), but the others were nonnative canal immigrants from the Great Lakes and the Mississippi watershed to the west. These included bluntnose (Pimephales notatus) and fathead minnows (P. promelas), spotfin shiners (Cyprinella spiloptera), and northern logperch (Percina caprodes semifasciata). This was the spawning season, particularly obvious for the male bluntnose minnows that sported breeding tubercles on their heads. These small bumpy projection indicate a male (much less frequently female) that is sexually mature and ready to breed.
- Tom Lake, T.R. Jackson

[The Waterford Flight is a series of five Barge Canal locks that rise nearly 170 feet from the Hudson to the Mohawk River. Tom Lake.]

biface projectile point6/3 – Dutchess County, HRM 85: I enjoy kayaking along this reach of the river and often see the swirling disturbances of huge fish tails lazily breaking the surface for a second or two before disappearing. I take these to be giant sturgeon. I pass deadfalls where cormorants perch and eagles fly overhead. I came ashore today for a rest and found what I thought was an ancient stone tool that had eroded out of the river bank. [Photo of projectile point courtesy of Tom Hall.] - Tom Hall

[Photos of the two-inch-long stone tool showed a biface (worked on both sides), and is what archaeologists call a “projectile point.” In reality, this tool may have had a multitude of practical uses as a stone knife, a hide scraper, or a “preform” still being flaked on its way to becoming a spear point. The point and its characteristics do not fall into a readily identifiable “type” therefore aging was difficult. While stone tools like this one were used in the Hudson Valley for the last 12,000 years, given where and how it was found, a guess of 1,500 to 2,000 years old would be reasonable. The black smooth material (lithic), called chert, was in this instance Normanskill chert. The raw material came from Stone Age quarries either in Greene County or from the Helderberg Escarpment in Albany County. Tom Lake.]

6/3 – Manhattan, HRM 1: Participating in the third annual World Science Festival’s Great Fish Count, we checked our collection gear in early afternoon in Hudson River Park at The River Project’s sampling station on the lighthouse tender Lilac at Pier 25. Our prize catch was an oyster toadfish 190 millimeters [mm] long. A lined seahorse was hanging off a rope of a killifish trap but it fell back into the river before we could measure it. We also checked water quality and found salinity to be 10.0 parts-per-thousand, dissolved oxygen 5.6 parts-per-million, and water temperature 18 degrees Celsius (62 degrees Fahrenheit).
- Mei Meadows, Jessica Bonamusa, Jackie Wu

6/4 – Green Island, HRM 153: At high tide, shore-bound as well as boat anglers were catching the occasional striped bass. Most went back over the side. (Striped bass regulations for the Hudson River are one fish 18-28", or one fish over 40".) As you stand along the shore at Green Island it takes some imagination but you can almost visualize the spot hundreds, even thousands of years ago. Before the original dam at Green Island-Troy, completed in 1825, there was a wide plunge pool beneath a long series of rapids that gradually rose above the fall line. It was a place where sea run shad, herring, and sturgeon mingled each spring, calling on their energy reserves to get them above that last challenge. Mohicans, Mohawks, and people for whom we have no names, stood here each spring, thanking their gods for such a bounty. Today’s visualization was made more difficult because I had to also remove both dame’s rocket and Morrow’s honeysuckle. Native people did not smell the incredibly sweet fragrances of these introduced wildflowers.
- Tom Lake

6/4 – Greene County, HRM 123: I am sure that I saw a mountain lion yesterday! I spotted it as it crossed the road in front of me as I was driving. From a distance, my first thought was white-tailed deer – it was the same color. But as I got closer, I saw that long thick tail as it entered the woods.
- Anne Cubeta

[New York State has had three “big cats” in historic times: bobcat, Canada lynx, and the largest of the three, the Eastern cougar – also called mountain lion or puma (Puma concolor). The latter was here before the first of us arrived, but in historic times they have suffered from habitat loss and human intolerance until finally being extirpated in the early twentieth century. Statewide, recent isolated sightings involved cougars not native to New York. A couple involved captive mountain lions that escaped from licensed facilities; another involved a wild cougar that traveled through New York as it trekked nearly 1,800 miles east from its native population in South Dakota. Sightings have been reported in the Hudson Valley, but thus far they have not been supported by unambiguous evidence such as photos or physical evidence such as scat, fur, or reliable tracks. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that one or more of these enigmatic cats might be around, but if so they are surprisingly adept at consistently eluding automobiles and hunters. Visit DEC’s Eastern cougar sightings webpage  for more information. Tom Lake.]

6/4 - Millbrook, HRM 82. As noted in last week’s Almanac, the local roads have been lined with dame’s rocket, a pretty invader from Eurasia. Its variation in flower color is thought to arise mostly from one or two genes, with dominant forms producing white flowers and recessive ones producing purple flowers. Another invader frequently accompanies the dame’s rocket, the white-flowered cow parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris), said to be edible and even medicinal, but it is easily confused with its poisonous relatives.
- Nelson D. Johnson

6/5 – Minerva, HRM 284: My area of Essex County was greening up nicely. Wildflowers included starflower, painted trillium, red moccasin-flower, and smooth yellow violets. I was in the “back forty” in early evening when I heard swamp sparrows, red-winged blackbirds, common yellowthroats, and something that was very satisfying: our seasonally resident American bittern. Bullhead lily was blooming in the pond and stream and pond levels were high.
- Mike Corey

musk turtle6/5 – Rockland County, HRM 24.5: Our team found a small turtle this afternoon in the eel ladder recently installed at the first dam on Sparkill Creek. We were convinced that it was a common musk turtle with its smooth carapace, faint head-stripes, and a decent amount of skin around its plastron. Erik Kiviat commented that from what he can tell, musk turtles are somewhat rare in the estuary but perhaps not that rare in sluggish streams and lakes. [Photo of musk turtle courtesy of Chris Bowser.] - Chris Bowser

6/5 – Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 34.5: Odd living arrangements and visits continued at the osprey cell tower nest. As I was walking to the Metro North commuter train this morning, I saw an osprey jump from one antenna to another and a second osprey take off (in no hurry) from the cell tower nest. Then I noticed they had company. There was a third adult osprey on the far side of the cell tower. This is the second time that I have seen three adult osprey in or very near the nest.
- Hugh McLean

6/6 – Saw Kill, HRM 98.5: A June 2 Hudson River Almanac entry noted a catch of three green sunfish in the Saw Kill. After taking a second look at the fish, it was discovered that all three were redbreast sunfish – same genus (Lepomis), but a different and easily confused species. The most significant aspect of this change moves the catch from an introduced species (green sunfish) to a native species.
- Tom Lake

6/6 – Crugers, HRM 39: As we approached Ogilvie’s Pond on our daily quest to spot the great blue heron, we saw a bird fly in and land on the spatterdock. It was a gorgeous green heron. It flitted around from one floating leaf to another, occasionally flapping its wings. Most of the time it crouched down but when it stood to its full height, we could see its vibrant colors: green back, brown breast, yellow legs and eyes. We noticed its very long and sharp beak that no doubt makes it easy to capture fish.
- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson

6/7 – North Germantown, HRM 109: I went for my usual bald eagle check today at the Anchorage (Lasher Park) looking both up and down the river. There was much to see – I spotted a river otter making its way upriver along the shoreline and a three-year-old immature bald eagle cruised in to perch in a tree at the boat launch. As expected, the big bird took off the minute I reached for my camera.
- Mimi Brauch

male pumpkinseed sunfish6/7 – Norrie Point, HRM 85: The flood tide was rising quickly as students from Wappingers Junior High helped us carry our seine to the cove next to the Norrie Point Environmental Education Center. There was no time to lose. It was a teaching moment for us and a learning moment for the students: most research on estuaries is very tide dependent; the tide will not wait on the convenience of researchers. There may not be a prettier fish in the river than a banded killifish of which we caught several. With iridescent blue, lavender and silver highlights in their bands, they are sometimes called the “blue-banded mudminnow,” a colloquialism coined by riverman Everett Nack. Equally impressive were the male pumpkinseed sunfish in brilliant breeding colors including an orange abdomen, a red tab on their gill cover, and turquoise piping on their heads. The river was 63 degrees F. [Photo of male pumpkinseed sunfish courtesy of Tom Lake.] - Linda Flynn, Heather Cameron, Tom Lake

6/7 – Bedford, HRM 35: I was surprised today to see two healthy-looking red squirrels chasing each other around an oak tree. This may have been the first time I had seen a red squirrel in this area in 20 years and it begged the question, what happened to the red squirrel population? Thirty years ago they were quite common in the area; perhaps the explosion of red-tailed hawks over that same period has been a factor.
- Scott Horecky

[Red squirrels tend to favor coniferous forest more so than gray squirrels so it is possible that sensitivity to land use, habitat change, or a shift in the makeup of lower Hudson Valley forests, may account for their scarcity. Tom Lake.]

6/7 – Manhattan, HRM 1: We checked our collection gear in midday in Hudson River Park at The River Project’s sampling station on the lighthouse tender Lilac at Pier 25. In one of our killifish traps we found a American eel 435 mm long. We also had a rather large lined seahorse that fell off one of the crab pots. Among many invertebrates, we found a comb jelly, 49 mud dog whelk snails, a large oyster drill, four isopods, some mud crabs, and an increased number of amphipods from the past few weeks.
- Hadassah Brenner, Ameera Khan, Juliana Maronilla, Jacqueline Wu

6/8 – Bedford, HRM 35: The young herons at the great blue heron rookery continued to grow and their down was being replaced by feathers – they are beginning to look more like their parents. Some nests still have a guardian while others have both parents away hunting for food.
- Jim Steck

6/8 – Manhattan, HRM 2: We checked our collection gear at The River Project’s Pier 40 research site and found a white perch, a small lined seahorse, a gravid mud crab, and a very large isopod (15.0 mm).
- Melissa Rex, Annabel Finkel, Ameera Khan, Michelle Wu

6/9 – Ulster County, HRM 85: I watched as one of the adults from bald eagle nest NY92 near Sturgeon Pool on the Wallkill River made two trips back to the nest after hunting. In the first pass heading to the nest, the adult carried a foot-long American eel. On the second pass, the eagle carried a limp gray squirrel. The nestling was being well fed.
- Jim Yates

6/9 – New Paltz, HRM 78: After a short walk through Mohonk’s foothills today, I came across a black rat snake estimated to be nearly six feet long warming itself on the road. It didn’t move with my approach so I got a chance to admire it for a while. Hearing an approaching car, I coaxed it to the shoulder of the road and into the adjacent field. [See banner photo of black rat snake courtesy of Bob Ottens.] - Bob Ottens

SUMMER 2017 NATURAL HISTORY PROGRAMS

Thursday, July 27: 7:00 PM
The River before Henry, presented by Tom Lake, Hudson River Estuary Program Contract Naturalist; part of the Huntington Lecture Series at the Adirondack Interpretive Center, 5922 State Route 28N, Newcomb [Essex County]. For more information, email cdemers@esf.edu

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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