Hudson River Almanac 7/22/17 – 7/28/17

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
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red-necked grebe (see 7/26) - photo courtesy of Sharon Askew
Hudson River Almanac
July 22 - 28, 2017
Compiled by Tom Lake, Hudson River Estuary Program Consulting Naturalist

OVERVIEW

Two features of the week were out-of-season appearances by a snow goose and an adult red-necked grebe, both rare summer-sightings in the Hudson Valley. There was an announcement of a record production of baby bald eagles in spring 2017 and stories from the High Peaks of the Adirondacks. A reminder: the Great Hudson River Estuary Fish Count takes place Saturday, August 5 - check out the calendar listings below for sites and times.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

7/26 – Stockport Creek, HRM 121.5: We were out for a kayak paddle into Stockport Creek when we came upon a single red-necked grebe. It did not seem to be too perturbed by us but did swim by pretty swiftly. I then used an “app” on my phone to play its call to see if it would come closer, and it did, turning around and coming back toward us. It was definitely one for the books; we were excited! [See banner photo of red-necked grebe courtesy of Sharon Askew.] - Sharon Askew, Kelly Halloran

[A red-necked grebe (Podiceps grisegena) is a truly rare sighting in our area in July. Roger Tory Peterson calls grebes “duck-like divers,” and they are occasionally seen passing through in migration between wintering on the Atlantic coast and breeding areas in the mid-continent prairies of Canada. It’s possible that this bird was a very early migrant, perhaps from a failed nesting. Tom Lake.]

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

bald eagle7/22 – Hudson River watershed: “Bald eagles are thriving in historic numbers across New York and the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) reported the highest number of nesting pairs, a record-breaking estimated 323 breeding pairs state-wide, since the agency undertook a restoration effort in 1976,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos announced today. “New York State has been a leader in the restoration and recovery of the bald eagle in the northeastern United States, and this news confirms that our rivers, lakes, and forests are capable of supporting our nation's symbol for generations to come.”
DEC encourages the public to continue to chronicle the conservation success story of bald eagles in New York. Members of the public that have found a new nesting pair of eagles or can provide updates on the status of a nesting pair, should contact DEC at (518) 402-8957 or by email. For more information on bald eagles and how DEC manages the species, please visit the DEC website to view the Conservation Plan for Bald Eagles in New York State. [Photo of adult bald eagle courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.]

7/22 – Westchester County: There's nothing like getting out early on a hot summer day to see what mushrooms have come up since your last visit. My favorite northern Westchester park did not disappoint. There were still nice specimens of Boletus sensibilis (Boletus bicolor mushroom) worthy of picking but now I was also finding various Xanthoconium species (Boletes) most notably a lot of X. affine, one of my favorite edibles. They typically have three to five-inch caps but today I encountered two older specimens growing in ferns; their caps exceeded 10 inches in diameter. Of course there were still plenty of Russula and Amanita specimens to be seen including the deadly “destroying angel” (Amanita bisporigera), so be wary when walking children and dogs in the woods as they are the most common victims of mushroom poisoning.
- Steve Rock

7/22 – Manhattan, HRM 13.5: A few days ago at Inwood Hill Park, I watched a dozen Canada geese cruising leisurely on the inlet of Spuyten Duyvil Creek. A few of the geese, including a fuzzy juvenile, were foraging on the grass. These were the first I had seen here since spring. Most striking was a great egret almost motionless near trees on the south shore: a living haiku.
- Thomas Shoesmith

7/23 – Beacon, HRM 61: In early evening the sky was as black as midnight over Storm King Mountain. Thunderstorms were not far off – we could hear the rumbles from across the river. We hurried our hauls with an eye on the sky as a drip, drip, drip began to fall. As has been the case in recent days, the shallows were filled with young-of-the-year [YOY] striped bass 41-43 millimeters [mm] in length. We lounged in the warm river (81 degrees Fahrenheit) as long as we dared before gathering our gear to make our escape, but not before the skies opened up.
- Tom Lake, T.R. Jackson, B.J.Jackson

7/23 – Piermont, HRM 25: Low tide this evening brought more than 140 shorebirds, semipalmated and least sandpipers, to the mud flats on the north side of the Pier. There were also 23 semipalmated plovers.
- Linda Pistolesi

{Semipalmated means partially webbed, referring to these shorebirds’ feet. Steve Stanne.]

7/23 – Brooklyn, New York City: A Saturday afternoon seine at Brooklyn Bridge Park on the East River hauled in some of the usual estuarine organisms: blue crabs, Atlantic silverside, shrimp, and comb jellies. Among the YOY fishes were striped bass, winter flounder (50 mm), and eight river herring (30 mm), one of which was identified as an American shad.
- Christina Tobitsch, Cynthia Fowx

7/24 – Coxsackie Creek, HRM 127.5: Kayaking at the mouth of Coxsackie Creek, I came upon a snow goose loosely associated with a family of Canada geese. As I slowly drifted closer, the Canada geese left the creek and went out into the river but the snow goose went into the shoreline phragmites (common reed). It was interesting that the snow goose went for cover while the geese gathered up their goslings and departed.
- Kelly Halloran

[Our best guess is that this was an injured goose. Snow geese are presently breeding in the Arctic. Steve Stanne.]

7/24 – Catskill, HRM 113: The catch data was in for the seventh annual United Way Catfish Derby at Dutchman’s Landing, 7:30 AM to 2:00 PM on July 15. We had 457 registrations to fish, including 80 to “Sponsor a Child.” There were 121 fish measured and entered into the contest – 113 were channel catfish but there were also four brown bullheads and four white catfish. Every fish was released into the river alive. The adult winner was Greg Van Wormer (28 7/8-inch channel catfish); the junior winner was Evan Hoffman (24 ½-inch channel catfish).
- Brad Poster

[Local businesses donated hot dogs and hamburgers, condiments and buns, charcoal, a tent, tables, chairs, a one-day insurance policy, junior and adult prizes, as well as volunteers. We estimate that this year’s United Way fund raiser will net $23,000, every penny of which will be forwarded to 17 local non-profit organizations. Brad Poster.]

7/24 – 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. Three of the four crab pots were empty but the last one was teaming with animals. Most noteworthy was a big oyster toadfish (300 mm) with one of the biggest heads we have ever seen (about the size of a Haas avocado!). Next was a blackfish/tautog (200 mm), the two blue crabs. Our killifish traps caught two more oyster toadfish 20 and 90 mm long (they love the substrate around the West Side piers), a northern pipefish (130 mm), and a small butterfish (15 mm).
- Melissa Rex, Ford, Lucas, Stockton, Grace

[Butterfish (Peprilus triacanthus) are rather small rhombus-shaped fishes recognizable by their lack of pelvic fins. While they are known to be prime forage for predators such as bluefish and striped bass, the Nova Scotian Institute of Science (1939) describes them as “... one of our best table fish, fat, oily, and of delicious flavor.” Tom Lake.]

Amanita cokeri7/25 – Putnam-Westchester Counties: Having found golden chanterelles and a single Lactarius corrugis (milk cap mushroom) last weekend, I hunted them again in a southern Putnam County park but found none of either species. Instead I encountered a nice fruiting of Boletus bicolor (red-and-yellow bolete mushroom). I returned to the northern Westchester County park and collected more B. sensibilis (Boletus bicolor mushroom) and some other Lactarius for my table. I also came across good examples of Amanita cokeri (Coker’s amanita), Amanita rubescens (blusher mushroom), and a gorgeous young Amanita jacksonii (Jackson's slender Caesar) just exiting its “egg” (or volva). [Photo of Amanita cokeri courtesy of Steve Rock.] - Steve Rock

[A “universal veil” of tissue completely surrounds some mushrooms when they are very young; it somewhat resembles an egg. As the mushroom grows, it breaks out of the universal veil, often leaving bits of the veil behind at the base of the mushroom's stalk, forming a sort of cup called a volva. Steve Stanne.]

7/25 – Bedford, HRM 35: At the great blue heron rookery we were down to two young birds in separate nests. As usual they both were facing southwest waiting for their parents to arrive with food, although neither parent arrived during the half hour I was there. On my last visit, two adults at separate nests were attending to the remaining young herons. It was clear from the difference in size that the nestlings were not mature enough to fledge. When ready to fledge, they are almost as large as their parents. Soon they both will be gone.
- Jim Steck

7/25 – Manhattan, HRM 2: We checked our collection gear in late afternoon at The River Project’s Pier 40 research site in Hudson River Park. We saw a school of Atlantic silversides but did not manage to catch any. We watched them leaping out of the water to get away from predators, possibly the bluefish that Hudson River Park has been catching downriver at Pier 25.
- Jackie Wu, Melissa Rex, Nina Hitchings, Grace, Ameera, Justin

7/26 – Piermont, HRM 25: As part of Teaching the Hudson Valley’s summer teacher institute, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory conducted a field day that included seining just to see what was home in the river today. Two first-time seiners were on the net when we pulled in a very feisty and beautifully green-tinted 25-inch-long American eel. The overall size suggested that it was a female. We got her into a bucket from which she quickly escaped and had to be rescued (“slippery as an eel!”). We also caught YOY striped bass and white perch. With the recent rains, the salinity was only 4.0 parts-per-thousand [ppt].
- Margie Turrin

7/26 – Manhattan, HRM 2: Independence High School students assisted us in checking our collection gear at The River Project’s Pier 40 research site. Young-of-the-year oyster toadfish were featured as we caught eight, all of them 25 mm long.
- Melissa Rex, Ford, Ameera, Juliana

[Oyster toadfish (Opsanus tau), known colloquially as “oyster crackers,” are common along the Atlantic Coast and in New York Harbor. They set up shop on the bottom of the river and, with strong, sharp teeth, they crush and feed on shellfish such as crabs, mussels, oysters, and other bivalves. Tom Lake.]

YOY oyster toadfish7/26 – Manhattan, HRM 1: We checked our collection gear during an early afternoon high tide in Hudson River Park at The River Project’s sampling station on the lighthouse tender Lilac at Pier 25. Our crab pots were empty but the killifish traps caught seven oyster toadfish. One toadfish was 105 mm long; the others were 20-25 mm. (Melissa Rex commented that the small ones looked “fierce beyond their years,” so to speak.) We also caught shore shrimp, oyster drills, mud dog whelk snails, a tiny bloodworm, blue mussels about the size of a shelled peanut, and amphipods of varying sizes. [Photo of YOY oyster toadfish courtesy of The RIver Project.] - Jackie Wu, Nina Hitchings, Juliana, Ameera, Ford

7/27 – Newcomb, HRM 300: Doug Carlson of DEC Fisheries conducted an electro-shock fish survey of the Hudson River near its headwaters in Essex County. Their goal was to capture suckers in the Hudson River and surrounding lakes for tissue samples to archive for taxonomic research on these fish (Catostomidae) in the Adirondacks. Fourteen species were collected, eleven native (n), and three introduced (i):

  • cutlips minnow (n)
  • golden shiner (n)
  • northern red-bellied dace (n)
  • creek chub (n)
  • fallfish (n)
  • white sucker (n)
  • brown bullhead (n)
  • central mudminnow (i)
  • banded killifish (n)
  • slimy sculpin (n)
  • rock bass (i)
  • redbreast sunfish (n)
  • pumpkinseed (n)
  • largemouth bass (i)

The river temperature was 67 degrees F, 13-15 degrees cooler than it was 250 miles downriver.
- Tom Lake, Ruth Olbert

[Electro-shocking gear uses high voltage pulsed DC (direct current) passing from a cathode to an anode which temporarily stuns fish for capture. Fish experience galvanotaxis which causes them to involuntarily swim towards the electrical field. The size of fish being targeted determines the amount of voltage and amperage applied to the water. Smaller fish tend to be more difficult to stun than larger fish due to the fact that they have less surface area to be affected by the electrical field. Generally, fish are released unharmed. Wes Eakin, Hudson River Fisheries Unit, DEC.]

7/27 – Piermont, HRM 25: Students from the St. Thomas Aquinas College summer program helped us sample the river today. The first time we hauled our seine we caught what looked like the same beautifully green-tinted American eel (25 inches) that we caught yesterday. With the salinity at 5.0 ppt, we caught YOY striped bass along with white perch, mummichogs, and six blue crabs.
- Margie Turrin

7/27 – Manhattan, HRM 1: Students from the Isaac Center's Introduction to Science camp helped us check our collection gear during a midday high tide in Hudson River Park at The River Project’s sampling station on the lighthouse tender Lilac at Pier 25. The last crab pot we checked held an oyster toadfish (220 mm). The killifish traps had some diversity with a skilletfish (15 mm) and two blackfish/tautog (195, 230 mm). The former seemed gravid (with eggs).
- Melissa Rex, Zef, Annabel, Jessy

7/28 – Newcomb, HRM 302: After a day of steady rain, first light broke clear and crisp (41 degrees F) along Arbutus Lake. A brisk north breeze in our faces added to the chill. From what sounded close by, but was certainly carried on the wind, came the haunting call of a loon. The call that echoed across the lake bordered by heavy forest was a three-note yodel, repeated twice, about ten seconds apart. This is a call of the male common loon and is usually a territorial warning. We were told that a pair of loons on the lake had one chick this spring; perhaps another loon had ventured too close.
- Tom Lake, T.R. Jackson

[Author John McPhee beautifully describes common loon (Gavia immer) behavior, including their four distinct calls, in his Survival of the Bark Canoe (1982). Writer William Barklow adds “There is perhaps no natural sound that more completely symbolizes the northern wilderness lake than the call of the loon.” In Europe, they are called the “Great Northern Diver,” a name perfectly befitting this magnificent bird. Tom Lake.]

7/28 – Bedford, HRM 35: All was quiet at the great blue heron rookery today. All of the nests were empty and not a single heron was seen in any of the trees or flying in the area. It was another successful year with the rookery producing 50 fledglings from 17 nests. They are all out there somewhere with their parents, learning to hunt for their own food.
- Jim Steck

7/28 – 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. Five killifish traps each had a YOY oyster toadfish [20-25 mm]. They also had a sea pill bug, shore shrimp, blue mussels the size of edamame beans, oyster drills, mud dog whelk snails, and four crab megalops (larval life stage of the blue crab). One crab pot had a couple of blue crabs in a pre-copulatory hold. The male was 165 mm carapace width, the female 95 mm.
- Nina Hitchings, Jackie Wu, Siddhi, Jessy, Sunny

[Mating blue crabs are called “doublers.” This occurs when a male cradles a female as part of a protracted mating process. Once the female selects a mate, she submits to being cradled in his walking legs. The two crabs remain coupled until she makes her final moult at which time the male deposits packets of sperm in the female. He then resumes carrying her, sometimes for a couple of days, until her shell hardens and she can defend herself. Tom Lake.]

TREES FOR TRIBS OFFERS FREE TREES & SHRUBS FOR STREAMSIDE PLANTING

Do you own or manage land along a stream? You can apply for free native plants to help reduce erosion and improve habitat along your stream! The Hudson Estuary 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.
We are now accepting applications for fall planting projects, with plants and planting dates available on a first come-first served basis. For more information about the program or to download an application, please visit the Hudson Estuary Trees for Tribs website. If you have questions about a potential planting site, please contact Beth Roessler by phone (845) 256-2253 or email.

SUMMER 2017 NATURAL HISTORY PROGRAMS

Saturday, August 5: The Sixth Annual Great Hudson River Estuary Fish Count
DEC’s Hudson River Estuary Program and partners from river education groups will introduce visitors to some of the slippery, wriggly, and fascinating creatures usually hidden below the estuary’s surface. Except as noted, programs will involve use of seine nets. 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 99 Plymouth St; 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/near blockhouse at end of Piermont Pier: 11:00 AM-1:00 PM [Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory] Sleepy Hollow/Kathryn W. Davis RiverWalk Center at Kingsland Pt. Park: 1:00 PM. RSVP requested. [Teatown Lake Reservation & Strawtown Studio] Croton/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/north end of Waryas Park: 6:00-7:00 PM [Scenic Hudson] Staatsburg/Norrie Point Environmental Center: [Hudson River National Estuarine Research Reserve] Kingston/Kingston Point Beach: 5:00 PM [Hudson River Estuary Program/DEC] Coxsackie/Riverfront Park 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]

Saturday, August 12: 1:00-3:00 PM
Fish Tales (mostly true) recalling the “golden years” of Hudson River commercial fishing. An afternoon with Tom Lake, NYSDEC Hudson River Estuary Program consulting naturalist, John Mylod, and Christopher Letts at the Hudson River Maritime Museum, Kingston [Ulster County]. Free; sponsored by Hudson River Maritime Museum, Mid-Hudson Folk Arts, New York Regional Economic Development Council, and New York State Council on the Arts. For more information, email Elinor Levy.

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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Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor * Basil Seggos, Commissioner

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