This week we read of the summer wanderings of black bears in search of new territory and forage (often, unintentionally, our offerings), as well as this year’s class of birds and fish.
HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK
7/4 – RamsHorn, HRM 112.2: We were kayaking into the RamsHorn Livingston Sanctuary today by way of Catskill Creek and came upon a juvenile common loon diving for eels. It did not seem perturbed at all by our presence. [Photo of juvenile common loon courtesy of Sharon Askew.]
- Sharon Askew
[Photos showed that this is last year's loon. Many immature common loons spend their first summer along the coast. However, some, but not as many, will stop their northward migration short by staying over at large water bodies along the way. Rich Guthrie.]
NATURAL HISTORY NOTES
7/1 – Rosendale, HRM 84: There are three large snapping turtles living in a reservoir on our property and at least one other in a pond on Mountain Road. Over the last several weeks, we have encountered four large snapping turtles, as well as a box turtle, laying eggs in different locations. Last year my wife and I encountered almost two dozen snapping turtle hatchlings on our driveway during a rainstorm. We moved them into cooking pans and transported them to the reservoir and pond.
- Gilberto Villahermosa
7/1 – Millbrook, HRM 82: I have fields of milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) but I’ve never seen monarch larvae or foliage with signs of herbivory. I wonder if it is because black swallow-wort - Vincetoxicum nigrum - is also abundant in this area. Vincetoxicum, native to Europe, is a relative of milkweed and contains the cardiac glycosides that stimulate oviposition in female monarchs, but its foliage is toxic to larvae. Consequently, female monarchs lay eggs on the Vincetoxicum but the larvae die before they mature. I can see how that could eliminate a local populations that might otherwise succeed. Monarchs have been exposed to Vincetoxicum for only the last couple hundred years; one would expect monarchs to eventually evolve the ability to discriminate between it and more suitable hosts. I expect Vincetoxicum is exerting strong local selection these days on monarchs, but I wonder whether there has been sufficient time, and the selective pressure has been geographically broad enough, for evolution to work out a solution.
[A cursory look at scientific literature on invasive black swallow-wort (formerly Vincetoxicum nigrum, now Cynanchum louisiae) impacts on monarchs suggests that there is potentially reason for concern. However, studies done in different geographic regions came to different conclusions about the degree and nature of the threat to monarch populations, especially if milkweed is present in abundance. Lack of evidence of feeding on milkweed may or may not be related to a decline in monarch populations due to swallow-wort. Steve Stanne.]
- Nelson D. Johnson
7/1 – Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: I watched a great blue heron do battle with a fat catfish (brown bullhead) that appeared to weigh a couple pounds at Brinton Brook Wildlife Sanctuary. The catfish was so heavy that the heron had trouble picking it up. It took 45 minutes before the heron could lift the fish high enough to maneuver into his gullet where it was swallowed in a single gulp.
- Roger Pare
7/1 – Manhattan, HRM 13.5: On a visit to Inwood Hill Park a week ago (6/23), along the inlet of Spuyten Duyvil Creek, the horse-nettle (a nightshade) had flowers, and the white mulberries had fruit – wonderfully sweet. All the little weedy summer plants had flowers, including red and white clover, black medick, pineapple weed, common quickweed (Galinsoga), and field peppergrass (Lepidium). A small patch of foxtail barley had come up amid the more “ordinary” grass and Greene’s rush. English plantain had its little “crowns” and a few flowers of chicory, hedge mustard and fleabane provided a little color. A great egret was wading on the south side of the inlet where three stems of field garlic carried their odd inflorescence; white sweet-clover had flowers and Spartina sp. (cordgrass) was knee high.
In the Clove, spicebush was fully leafed and jewelweed was two feet high, but I saw just two blossoms. The glacial pothole, filled with spring water, had abundant tiny mosquitoes and larvae. Up on the ridge, white avens and the tiny white bells of common enchanter’s nightshade (not a nightshade) were everywhere. The woods were bright with hundreds of day-lilies, patches of them in all the less shady spots, their flowers leaning toward the light. Fleabane was plentiful and staghorn sumac had bright red fruit.
- Thomas Shoesmith
7/2 – Greene County: We paddled to bald eagle nest NY203 today to check on the two nestlings. As we got close to the nest, we saw an adult on a low branch overhanging just in front of the nest tree. The adult had a DEC blue band on its right leg, but even with a clear photo we could not make out a number on the band. The nestlings were clearly visible and appeared larger than on the previous June 14 visit. The adult flew off and after a few minutes we paddled away. Within 100 yards we encountered another adult perched on a branch. Gaetano Hamilton got a nice photo that revealed a DEC left-leg blue band pretty clearly ending in the digit '6' (the previously documented adult for NY203 was right-leg banded K96). It was likely that these were the NY203 adults, but our photos were teasing us with conflicting evidence.
[On 7/31, 2016, Kaare Christian in his second season of monitoring NY203, was able to photograph a blue DEC band number K96 on the right leg of one of the adults. Bald eagle K96 was born in a nest (NY12) at Pepacton Reservoir in the Catskill Mountains of Delaware County, was banded on May 17, 2000, and recorded as a probable female. Pete Nye.]
- Kaare Christian, Robin Raskin, Michael Hamilton, Gaetano Hamilton
7/2 – Town of Poughkeepsie: Ever since mid-April when we were forced to conclude that bald eagle nest NY62 would not have any nestlings this year, we have been heartened by the continued presence of the two adults at or near the nest. This would be the original female, or so we suppose, and a new male replacing N42. This pair was a last minute coupling near the end of the breeding season and though they tried, it just would not happen. This evening we watched both adults perched nearly side-by-side in their favorite tree. This bodes well for 2018.
- Bob Rightmyer, Tom Lake, B.J. Jackson
7/2 – East Fishkill, HRM 66: I had a beautiful black bear in my backyard this morning. It looked smaller than an adult and there was no sign of mama (it may have been part of the visit on 5/15 when we had a sow and her cub). I had taken in the bird feeders and suet feeders hours earlier, but nevertheless the bear got busy destroying my squirrel feeders and eating birdseed on the ground. It looked quite content and I have to admit that it was gorgeous.
[DEC recommends not feeding birds through the summer. Birds don't really need supplemental food at this time of year when their natural food is most abundant. Black bears are generally timid and avoid people but if allowed access to human foods, chronic problems can develop. It is against DEC regulations to directly or indirectly feed bears; people who feed them, intentionally or otherwise, are doing bears a great disservice. Once a bear learns to get food from people, it can be difficult to change the animal's behavior. Steve Stanne.]
- Diane Anderson
7/3 – Columbia Country, HRM 128: I was driving in Chatham Center by the Kinderhook Creek bridge when I came upon a bald eagle scavenging a road-killed white-tailed deer carcass on the side of the road. I slowed but it spotted me and flew away down the road in front of me – what a beautiful sight. It circled back and perched in a tree above the road kill.
[Bald eagles are great hunters, but they will supplement their diet with roadkill as well as railroad-kill, sometimes to their great peril. Tom Lake.]
- Ian Weaver
7/3 – Ulster County, HRM 85: A juvenile rough-winged swallow hitched a ride across the Hudson River with me this evening. It perched on my shoulder, chirping in my ear, from the mouth of Black Creek to just offshore of Norrie Point Marina.
- Mike Cavanaugh
7/3 – Beacon, HRM 61: The apparent scarcity of young-of-the-year [YOY] herring in the Mid-Hudson reach might have been a result of inadequate gear more than a lack of fish. We had been using seines with quarter-inch mesh; today we switched to three-sixteenths-inch. As we pulled the seine up on the sand, scores of tiny silver fish streamed through the mesh. But not all of them – we managed to grab a small number before the y made it back into the swash. Our larger mesh nets likely had been a sieve for them. These were YOY blueback herring 22-31 millimeters [mm] long. The river was a tepid 81 degrees Fahrenheit.
[This small seine (12 x 6-foot) was a gift from C. Lavett Smith, a mentor, ichthyologist, and my professor in grad school (Ohio State University). We used this seine all summer long 23 years ago, sampling the streams of Ohio and Lake Erie for their colorful darters. Tom Lake.]
- Tom Lake, B.J. Jackson
7/3 – Westchester County: Last week (see 6/26) I commented that the season for the often misidentified Boletus sensibilis had just started. Sure enough, the subsequent heavy rains brought them out in droves. An hour-long walk in our favorite northern Westchester park filled my basket (and seven dehydrator trays, even after giving away two pounds and cooking another pound). These Boletes stain indigo blue almost the second you touch them (see photo). After exercising due caution for a long time, I broke down and sampled them three years ago. I found them to be delightfully earthy and nutty, but I recommend similar caution for anyone considering collecting them for consumption. Another caution: the Amanitas are starting to come up and this genus contains several of the deadliest species on the planet. We spotted several examples of the snow white and aptly nicknamed “destroying angel” (Amanita bisporigera) in our brief foray and warned a dog-walker that dogs and children are the most frequent victims of mushroom poisoning. We also spotted A. rubescens (an edible Amanita called "the blusher" because of its red-staining properties) and A. muscaria var. guessowii (the blonde-haired cousin of one of the most often depicted mushrooms in literature). Specimens in the genus Russula are more common now, so there's lots of color to be seen on the forest floor if you look for it. [Photo of Boletus sensibilis showing blue staining courtesy of Steve Rock.]
- Steve Rock
[The cap of a bolete looks like those of other mushrooms viewed from above, but its underside does not have gills. It is sponge-like - covered with the openings of tiny tubes in which the mushroom's spores are produced. Steve Stanne.]
7/4 – Saratoga County, HRM 170: Traveling by canoe this morning, I logged 31 bird species. Among them was a black tern (Chlidonias niger) flying all around Round Lake and, at one point, over the Anthony Kill (this may have been a second black tern).
[New York State has listed the black tern as an endangered species. Breeding colonies once occurred at 56 sites; today, approximately 200 nesting pairs occur at less than 20 of the state’s historic breeding sites. For more information, visit DEC’s black tern fact sheet. Steve Stanne.]
- Scott Stoner, Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club
7/4 – Clifton Park, HRM 164: We were sitting on our deck in early evening when we saw what we thought at first was a young dog moving steadily up the street before suddenly veering through a backyard in the direction of Stony Creek. It was a lean, light brown animal with a rather long, thin tail - a coyote. We have heard howls at night and seen tracks around in the winter, but had never seen one until now.
- Debra DiBattista
7/5 – Bedford, HRM 35: Several nestlings at the great blue heron rookery were perched on branches that supported their nests. The branching was done by a single heron per nest, likely the oldest and strongest individual. The young herons were now almost the size of their parents and the nests had become very crowded. Branching activity gives them more room to exercise their wings as they wait for food to arrive. When an adult arrives, there is a lot of begging as they wait for the food to be regurgitated. The food is regurgitated in several small amounts, which gives the young herons more or less an equal opportunity to be fed. They all appear to be well fed which is a good indicator of the hunting skills of their parents.
- Jim Steck
7/5 – Manhattan, HRM 1: Guests naturalists from the Brooklyn Bridge Park's Education Center helped us check our collection gear during a midday low tide in Hudson River Park at The River Project’s sampling station on the lighthouse tender Lilac at Pier 25. Our crab pots were bustling with river life that included two blackfish/tautog (155, 210 mm – the latter was dead with some of its caudal fin missing, a white perch (210 mm), a gorgeous black sea bass (220 mm), and a lined sea horse clinging to the side of a pot. Our killifish traps collected a northern pipefish (190 mm) and two oyster toadfish (40, 85 mm). It was also a good day for sand shrimp, mud dog whelk snails (and their eggs), amphipods, and oyster drills.
- Gabby, Juliana, Elisa Caref, Jacqueline Wu
7/6 – Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 34.5: As I watched early this morning, one of the adult osprey from the Croton-Harmon cell tower nest attacked and drove off an adult bald eagle that had apparently strayed too close to the nest. Although I haven’t seen them, I have heard what sounds like chicks calling from the osprey nest. Since we frequently see fish parts falling from the nest, we took a look today and discovered a small and partially eaten common carp below the nest.
- Hugh L. McLean
7/6 – Manhattan, HRM 2: We sampled Hudson River water quality parameters during a midday low tide at The River Project’s Pier 40 research site. We wanted to compare today’s values with those collected on June 29 at Pier 40. Today’s results: 105 centimeters turbidity (95 cm on 6/29), 16.0 parts-per-thousand salinity (15.0 ppt on 6/29), 22.0 degrees Celsius/72 degrees F water temperature (23.0 degrees C. on 6/29), and 4.8 parts-per-million dissolved oxygen (8.0 ppm DO on 6/29).
- Jacqueline Wu
7/7 – Stanfordville, HRM 84: This was getting ridiculous – my poor garden was under siege! After a visit the other evening by a very large black bear, I kept the feeders in. Today, in the rain, I put out smaller rations and a small amount of suet for the woodpeckers. This time it was a smaller, first-year black bear that seemed very much afraid of me. I have a feeling this was a second bear because the suet feeder was gone. [Photo of black bear courtesy of Deborah Tracy-Kral.]
- Deborah Tracy-Kral
7/7 – Kowawese, HRM 59: Seining after dark is not our usual fare but dark and the tide came early after a day of rain (one inch). The quiet serenity of hauling a net against a backdrop of a nearly full moon, the clatter of trains across the river, and the slap of waves on the sand created a peaceful atmosphere. There were no surprises in the seine: a dozen each of YOY striped bass (40-41 mm) and blueback herring (36-38 mm). Small blue crabs (20-40 mm) dominated the catch, scattering across the net onto the sand and back into the river like big spiders. The river was 79 degrees F.
- Tom Lake, Bob Glohs
7/7 – Manhattan, HRM 1: We checked our collection gear during mid-morning heavy rain (more than two inches) in Hudson River Park at The River Project’s sampling station on the lighthouse tender Lilac at Pier 25. Three of our twenty killifish traps caught a fish each: a skilletfish (45 mm) and two oyster toadfish (55, 90 mm). The traps also collected shore shrimp, mud dog whelk snails, ctenophores, and mud crabs.
[Skilletfish (Gobiesox strumosus) are a small benthos-loving fish somewhat related to gobies and blennies. They find oyster reefs ideal habitat for both forage and safety. Their name comes from a dorsally-flattened body with a large, roundish head that altogether looks like a skillet. Tom Lake.]
- Stockton, Jessy, Zef, Elisa Caref
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 email@example.com
Saturday, August 5: The Sixth Annual Great Hudson River Estuary Fish Count
Check out the slippery, wriggly, and fascinating creatures usually hidden below the estuary’s surface. Except as noted, programs will include seining. Visit the Great Hudson River Estuary Fish Count website for more information. Programs are free, but some require pre-registration and there may be parking fees at some parks.
Brooklyn/Valentino Pier at end of Coffey St, Red Hook: 12:30-2:30 PM [Hudson River Estuary Program/DEC]
Brooklyn/Brooklyn Bridge Park at beach under Manhattan Bridge: 1:00-2:30 PM. RSVP requested. [Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy]
Manhattan/Steamship Lilac on Hudson River Park Pier 25 at West St & North Moore St: 11:00 AM-1:00 PM. Minnow & crab pots. [The River Project & Lilac Preservation Project]
Manhattan/Hudson River Park Pier 84 at 12th Ave & 44th St: 11:00 AM-3:00 PM. Angling. [Hudson River Park Trust]
Manhattan/Randall’s Island Park on Harlem River north of 103rd Street footbridge: 2:00-4:00 PM [Randall’s Island Parks Alliance]
Yonkers/Habirshaw Park at 35 Alexander St, 1 block from Metro North Hudson Line Station: 2:00-4:00 PM. RSVP requested. [Sarah Lawrence Center for the Urban River at Beczak]
Piermont/Piermont Pier near blockhouse at end: 11:00 AM-1:00 PM [Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory]
Sleepy Hollow/Kingsland Point Park at Kathryn W. Davis RiverWalk Center: 1:00 PM. RSVP requested. [Teatown Lake Reservation & Strawtown Studio]
Croton-on-Hudson/Croton Point Park at Mother’s Lap waterfront just west of swim beach: 2:30 PM [Westchester County Parks]
Cold Spring/Little Stony Point at north end of Sandy Beach: 3:30 PM [Hudson River Almanac/DEC]
New Windsor/Kowawese Unique Area/Plum Point county park beach: 5:30 PM [Hudson River Almanac/DEC]
Beacon/Long Dock Park: 8:00-10:00 AM [Scenic Hudson]
Poughkeepsie/Waryas Park at north end near Fall Kill: 6:00-7:00 PM [Scenic Hudson]
Kingston/Kingston Point Beach: 5:00 PM [Hudson River Estuary Program/DEC]
Coxsackie/Riverfront Park at boat launch during Riverside Festival: 10:00 AM-12:00 noon [Hudson River Estuary Program/DEC & Capital District Marine Aquarists Society]
Castleton/Schodack Island State Park boat launch: 10:00 AM [RiverHaggie Outdoors & Rensselaer Land Trust]
Waterford/Peebles Island State Park just east of bridge to Waterford: 10:00 AM-12:00 noon [Hudson River Estuary Program & DEC Region 4]
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 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