An important aspect of Hudson River education is providing the opportunity for students to participate in fieldwork, to meet the wildlife and learn protocols for measuring their role in the watershed. We saw several examples of that opportunity this week, from tidemarshes to beaches and from the piers of Manhattan to the East River.
HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK
7/31 – Town of Saugerties, HRM 102: I was out in the field looking for a few butterflies when I came upon a rather comical, yet unfortunate, sight that I seem to encounter at least once a year in mid-summer. An adult common yellowthroat was feeding a loudly squawking, full-grown juvenile brown-headed cowbird. The cowbird's wing-flapping making it appear to be more than three times the size of the “parent.” And, of course, no sign of any yellowthroat offspring.
- Steve M. Chorvas
Note: This week Lynn Bowdery of New Paltz watched as a male cardinal fed a cowbird fledgling at her platform feeder. Jim Yates, also in Ulster County, has had phoebes and even a chipping sparrow feeding young cowbirds. Doreen Tignanelli’s contribution to this story had Carolina wrens raising cowbirds; last year she saw two Carolina wrens fledged along with two brown-headed cowbirds, not a common outcome. Tom Lake.
[The brown-headed cowbird (Molothrus ater) is what scientists call an “obligate parasite.” They lay their eggs in the nests of other songbirds. The young are then raised by the surrogate “parents,” usually at the expense of the songbird’s own nestlings. Tom Lake.]
NATURAL HISTORY NOTES
7/29 – Town of Bethlehem, HRM 141: We launched our 24-foot cuddy cabin powerboat at Henry Hudson Park in Bethlehem just before noon and motored south. We had a friend aboard who was very interested in seeing eagles, so we traveled slowly with the falling tide to make for easier spotting. We were rewarded minutes later by our first sightings of the day, an immature and an adult just north of the Castleton Boat Club. By the time we made it to our destination, Catskill Creek, we had already spotted 36 bald eagles, a mix of adults and immatures. We then headed north on the flood tide and again spotted many eagles, two osprey, and a pair of goldfinches having quite a disagreement over the river. We passed Bethlehem, looped around the Albany railroad bridge, and spotted a peregrine falcon in the nest box at the Dunn Memorial Bridge before returning to Bethlehem. Our overall tally: 55 bald eagle sightings, the last one as it flew right over the river while we loaded our boat on the trailer. We have seen many eagles along the river but never anything like this. It was fantastic!
- Jeff Deal
7/29 – Greene County, HRM 112: I was surprised this morning to see a hen wild turkey cross Beech Ridge Road in West Kill with two newly-hatched poults that were, at most, a day or two old. Most of this year's young are practically adult size by now. [Wild turkey with poults by Kevin Cole from Wikipedia; used under Creative Commons license.]
- Emily Plishner
7/29 – Westchester County: A specimen of Boletus pallidus (pallid bolete) mushroom that I threw into the yard for the squirrels over the weekend was instead being consumed by the fungus Syzygites megalocarpus, also known as “troll fungus” [a mycoparasitic fungus that feeds on other fungi]. The gorgeously filamentous aerial hyphae are the spore production and distribution method for this fungus that we sometimes encounter on strawberries or other fruit left too long on the kitchen counter.
- Steve Rock
7/29 – Staten Island, New York City: Beach walking on the south shore of Staten Island near Seguine Point, I came upon a dead fish in the sand at the high water mark near Lemon Creek. The fish was at least four feet long but its head had deteriorated to the point where I needed John Waldman, viewing a photo, to identify it as a black drum.
[While black drum (Pogonias cromis) are not unknown from the lower river and New York Harbor, their presence had diminished significantly in the last century. An adult black drum weighing nearly 30 pounds was found at Piermont, river mile 25, in August 2010 (adult black drum can reach 90 pounds). Since then, we have come upon several juvenile black drum in the estuary, from Piermont to Staten Island, for the first time in at least the last half-century. Tom Lake]
- Chris Meyer
7/29 – Staten Island, New York City: From Midland Beach this morning, we spotted two brown pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis) in Raritan Bay. By late afternoon, we counted five in the Lower Bay of New York Harbor from the Miller Field Beach, about five miles southwest of the Narrows.
- Isaac Grant
7/30 - Greene County: A month ago it seemed as though the two nestlings in bald eagle nest NY203 were just beginning to think about flight. When I paddled over to the nest today, it was empty. Minutes later an immature soared, almost motionless on the wind, directly above the nest. It was very likely one of the two nestlings that were now fledglings. There were other eagles in the area including an adult on a branch watching us as we launched and another adult on a tree about quarter-mile away. Our best guess is that we had seen maybe half of the NY203 “family.”
- Kaare Christian, Robin Raskin, Hannah Nance
7/30 – Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: We heard our first katydids of the summer chittering in the heat of mid-afternoon.
[Katydids seem to be a harbinger of midsummer. We reviewed twenty-four years of Hudson River Almanac data for the earliest initial report, latest initial report, and an average date. The earliest was July 15, 2010; the latest August 19; and the average was July 25. Tom Lake.]
- Phyllis Lake
7/30 – East Fishkill, HRM 66: Our bear, the one we think was here last summer as a cub, showed up again yesterday. He stayed for an hour and was not afraid of our air horn. However, just now, my cats got very anxious. I looked outside. There was a small cub and a much larger bear that seemed to be grooming the cub. I am now thinking that we actually have three black bears!
- Diane Anderson
7/31 - Staatsburg, HRM 86: I took a walk along the Hudson River at the Mills Mansion today and spotted two immatures and one adult bald eagle. They took off in flight from a tree along a dirt path that snakes along the edge of the river.
[These birds were almost certainly from bald eagle nest NY143 that fledged two nestlings this spring. I have seen the adults and the fledglings together as well. Dave Lindemann.]
- Susan Livingston
7/31 – Town of New Paltz, HRM 78: The red-headed woodpecker pair that was seen defending their nest hole from starlings and red-bellied woodpeckers at Weston Road swamp (see 7/18) appeared to be nesting successfully. What a great combination of color produced by a beautiful blue sky and the sharp red, white, and black of the woodpeckers. This pair might have learned a hard lesson a few years ago that it is imperative for one parent remain at the nest at all times to defend against attacks by starlings.
- Peter Relson
7/31 – Peekskill, HRM 43: I shifted my search for carp to the Peekskill waterfront today and although the carp did not show up, I had a nice catch of channel catfish. The six I landed and released ranged from one to four pounds in weight, with the largest being 22 inches long. There was also a large number of vultures present. Most of them were perched in nearby trees but some were walking along the shore. They were segregated by species with 25 black vultures in one tree and a half-dozen turkey vultures in another.
- Bill Greene
8/1 – Town of Poughkeepsie: Despite failing to fledge young this spring, the adults at bald eagle nest NY372 have continued to show fidelity. The have been frequenting the nest tree and nearby areas, bringing back fish to feeding perches. Nest watchers have dubbed the pair “Jack and Jill,” and today “Jack” posed for me for a photo, seeming familiar with my not-too-close presence.
- Sheila Bogart
8/1 – Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 68: I was surprised at Bowdoin Park today when I saw two flying squirrels racing around a tree in broad daylight. They were very active for a short time, then simply disappeared. [Photo of flying squirrel courtesy of Bob Rightmyer.]
- Bob Rightmyer
[Southern flying squirrels (Glaucomys volans) have a membrane (patagium) that connects their front and back legs and is used to glide through the air. Southern flying squirrels are nocturnal; they feed on fruit and nuts from trees such as red and white oak, hickory and beech. Marty Otter once wrote, describing flying squirrels in his yard, “The gremlins had returned: flying squirrels! Their eyes reflect the light at night and their flight (glide) is silent and ‘outer-space’ like.” Tom Lake.]
8/1 – Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: Our butterfly bushes were glowing in the sunlight with purple and lavender flowers and many butterflies. We counted eight monarchs; all seemed to be young and healthy, likely recent hatches. Others included red admirals, great spangled fritillaries, tiger swallowtails, and many silver-spotted skippers.
- Tom Lake, T.R. Jackson
8/1 – Piermont, HRM 25: Students from the Columbia New Frontiers Summer Class helped us catch our first Atlantic silversides of the summer – five shining flashes in the net. Our seine also caught young-of-the-year [YOY} striped bass and two large mummichogs (killifish), one a yellow-bellied male and the other a very plump female. The salinity continued low at 3.8 parts-per-thousand and the river temperature was 79 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Margie Turrin
8/1 – Manhattan, HRM 2: Students from New York University assisted us in checking our collection gear at The River Project’s Pier 40 research site in Hudson River Park. We caught three oyster toadfish, one of which was massive (280 millimeter [mm]; 400.2 grams/0.9 lb.). There were also two tiny naked gobies in our killifish trap, both the length of a fingernail.
- Eli Caref
8/1 – Manhattan, HRM 1: Staff and interns checked our collection gear this afternoon in Hudson River Park at The River Project's sampling station on the lighthouse tender Lilac at Pier 25. Highlights included a male lined seahorse (80 mm), a winter flounder (65 mm), and two female blue crabs. The larger crab – a “sponge crab,” a female carrying eggs – was collected in a crab pot and measured 130 mm carapace width.
[Gravid female blue crabs tuck their fertilized eggs under their tail (apron) that they wrap under their abdomen. When the eggs are near hatching, it looks as though she is carrying either an orange sponge, or maybe a tennis ball. Tom Lake.]
- Nina Hitchings, Justin, Ashwin
8/2 – Columbia County, HRM 126: We had our first visit of the season of a monarch butterfly to our flower garden in North Chatham. After feeding for a short time on Echinacea (purple cornflower), it flew high into the sky to continue its journey. In decades past, we would see hundreds of monarchs every summer. Now we see maybe a half dozen.
- Kevin Leak
8/2 – Kowawese, HRM 59: We did a prep seine for Saturday’s Great Hudson River Fish Count to the distant sounds of an approaching thunderstorm. We hurriedly hauled our seine to get a quick count: YOY American shad, alewives, blueback herring, and striped bass. Not many of each but still a presence. Then came the heavy, heavy rain, thunder-boomers, and jagged lighting, along with heavy fog draped over Storm King. While the fishing was so-so, the ambiance was electric! The river was 82 degrees F and the salinity was barely measurable.
- Tom Lake, B.J. Jackson, T.R. Jackson
8/2 – Manhattan, HRM 1: Our interns checked our collection gear this morning in Hudson River Park at The River Project’s sampling station on the lighthouse tender Lilac at Pier 25. Among the fish in the killifish traps was a lined seahorse (75 mm), two YOY oyster toadfish (25, 30 mm), and a very small naked goby (10 mm). As we hauled a crab pot to the surface, we saw a tautog/blackfish swim free through the mesh. There was also the assortment of invertebrates: shore shrimp, mud dog whelk snails, sea squirts, oyster drills, baby mud crabs, and amphipods galore.
- Ameera, Ford, Juliana
8/2 – Brooklyn, New York City: We had a talk-and-tour program today at Pier 5 on the East River for the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy. This included demonstrations of field research equipment and techniques (e.g., seines, fish traps) and also featured hook-and-line fishing in which attendees participated. We caught and released several striped bass (largest 18 inches), several oyster toadfish, a YOY “snapper” bluefish and, to our surprise, a smooth dogfish.[Photo of smooth dogfish courtesy of Peter Park.]
- Peter Park
[Smooth dogfish (Mustelus canis) and the spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias) are by far the most common sharks found in the lower estuary and New York Harbor. Both can reach five feet in length but neither are a threat to humans. The smooth dogfish favors shellfish, while the spiny dogfish is more of a piscivore. Both of these dogfish have been found as far upriver as Englewood (NJ), river mile 13. However, they might venture father upriver if conditions suited (optimum salinity, water temperature, forage, etc.). Tom Lake.]
8/3 – Greene County, HRM 112.2: I was walking the trails at the RamsHorn-Livingston Preserve – the new signage and bridge are very nice – when I spotted an immature bald eagle flying over the creek and an adult being chased by a crow. The adult kept soaring, nonchalantly, while the smaller bird pestered him for quite a while. Not long ago I was walking at the Preserve and came upon a fair-sized school of koi swimming in Ramshorn Creek by the footbridge.
[Koi are a domesticated variety of common carp (Cyprinus carpio). Carp are native to Asia and were introduced into the Hudson River from Europe at Newburgh in 1831 (Boyle 1969). While koi are best known from being stocked as ornamentals in backyard ponds, they are also found in the wild, probably as the result of aquaria releases. Tom Lake.]
- Lisa D'Arcangelis
8/3 – Piermont, HRM 25: Our Secondary School Field Research Program’s Fiddler Crab team was out in Piermont Marsh to empty and set traps for their counts. Along with pursuing Atlantic marsh fiddler crabs, it was a great day for birding: paddling down Sparkill Creek we saw a juvenile black- crowned night heron wading in the mud; paddling across the marsh, an adult bald eagle stood and watched us as we moved by; and on our way back, we startled an osprey perched high in a tree. To our delight it took flight, moving overhead with a fish grasped tightly in its talons.
- Margie Turrin
8/4 – Saratoga County, HRM 197: As part of a line of widespread severe thunderstorms, a small tornado crossed the Great Sacandaga Lake today near Edinburg.
- National Weather Service
8/4 – Kingston, HRM 192: I photographed an adult bald eagle in a snag facing the river on a small island at the mouth of Rondout Creek this evening. Although it was at a distance, I think I was able to make out a blue (DEC) band N72. I enjoy going to Sleightsburg Spit to watch the eagles and osprey fish. A pair of osprey were working on a nest on the old crane in the Rondout. I guess they are setting up territory for next season since it was too late to breed.
[Bald eagle N72 was banded by DEC on May 31, 1996, at the Hemlock Lake territory, Livingston County, about 250 miles west of Kingston. She was one of three nestlings and when banded was thought to be a female. Brittany Moore.]
- Deborah Tracy-Kral
8/4 – Manhattan, HRM 1: Students from Quad Manhattan Summer Camp helped us check our collection gear this morning in Hudson River Park at The River Project's sampling station on the lighthouse tender Lilac at Pier 25. Despite the morning's intense thunderstorms, skies cleared up and provided beautiful weather for trap checking. We caught a large male blue crab in a crab pot, (125 millimeter carapace), and a similar-sized gravid female in another. Students had the opportunity to see two impressive blackfish/tautog (165 mm, 240 mm) and a tiny (10 mm) young-of-the-year fish that we could not identify. We brought it back alive to our Wet Lab and its identification is still pending.
- Elisa Caref
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 at (845) 256-2253 or by email.
SUMMER 2017 NATURAL HISTORY PROGRAMS
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.
Saturday, September 16: 2:00 PM
Eighteenth Annual Hudson River Valley Ramble Seining Program at Kowawese Unique Area, New Windsor [Orange County]. Join Tom Lake, NYSDEC Hudson River Estuary Program consulting naturalist, to haul a net in the warm shallows to see “who” is home in the river today and then hear their fascinating stories. Wear shorts and sandals and help us seine. For more information, email Tom Lake.
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