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Hudson River Almanac
February 22 - February 28, 2020

A Project of the Hudson River Estuary Program
Compiled by Tom Lake, Consulting Naturalist


Our watch began this week on Hudson Valley bald eagle nests for the start of egg incubating. Some were on eggs or looking very expectantly. Our summer tanager still lingered and will likely make it through the winter. The amazing harbor seal in the tidewater Esopus, more than 110 miles from the open sea, continued it unprecedented presence, now at more than 210 days. And then, a third harbor seal popped up in Columbia County, a not so subtle sign of the not far off arrival of spawning fish from the sea.

Highlight of the Week

Canada Goose2/22 – Westchester County, HRM 42: Last week I was at Lent's Cove Park on the Hudson River, a regular stop for bald eagles and other raptors, belted kingfishers, gulls, and Canada geese. I go there to photograph bird behavior. At low tide, a gaggle of geese was foraging along the shore and over a sand bar. One of the geese came out of the water sporting “bling” (a colloquial word for a silver band) and headed toward me. I tried to get a good angle to capture the band numbers, but to no avail.

Yesterday, the banded goose was foraging by itself, turned around right in front of me, and I was able to catch its band number:1158-13020. I sent in a report to cmreports (U.S. Geological Survey), and when I received the details today about the Canada goose, I was blown away.

* The goose was a female, too young to fly, and was banded on July 14, 2014.
* The banding agency was Jean Rodrigue, QC-SCG-Sauvagine, at Varennes, Quebec, Canada. (Varennes is an off-island suburb of Montreal, on the Saint Lawrence River.)
* She was free for 2,048 days (and still is) and traveled at least 334 miles. (Photo of Canada goose courtesy of Bonnie Coe)
- Bonnie Coe

Natural History Entries

2/22 – Town of Poughkeepsie: We were unanimous in our opinion that the adult pair in bald eagle nest NY62 were incubating. This was in keeping with recent dates; across the last eight years, incubation had begun from February 17 to 27. Our best guess on a possible range of hatch dates was March 24-28.
- Debbie Quick, Bob Rightmyer

2/22 – Town of Poughkeepsie: We witnessed the two adults orchestrate an 8:00 AM turnover at bald eagle nest NY372. The female left the nest, and the male took her place covering their eggs. As with other area nests, our best guess on a possible range of hatch dates is March 24-28.
- Sheila Bogart

[Adult bald eagles share incubating duties. While the division of labor is highly variable depending on weather, individual personalities, preferences of the birds, and probably reasons we cannot discern, the females generally tend to the eggs about 16 hours of the 24 each day and usually throughout the night. Tom Lake]

*** Fish of the Week***
Alligator gar2/22 – Hudson River Watershed: Fish-of-the-Week for Week 60 is the Alligator gar (Atractosteus spatula), number 14 (of 230) on our watershed list of fishes. If you would like a copy of our list, e-mail - trlake7.

The alligator gar is one of two species of the family Lepisosteidae found in the Hudson River watershed. The other is the longnose gar. They inhabit a wide variety of aquatic habitats throughout the lower Mississippi River Valley, Gulf Coast of the southern United States, and Mexico (Ploy 2001). Adult alligator gar are apex predators with long tooth-lined jaws and are known to reach 10-feet in length and weigh in excess of 300 pounds. [I witnessed one of that size in Lake Ray Hubbard near Dallas, Texas.]

Given its native range far to the south and west, alligator gar was one of the least likely species to show up in the Hudson River watershed. However, one did, almost certainly an intentional release, in the Hackensack River. In June 2002, a 21-inch alligator gar was caught in a gill net during the survey (Fishery Resource Inventory of the Lower Hackensack River 2001-2003, Bragin, et al. 2005). The river was 74 degrees Fahrenheit (F), and the salinity was 2.75 parts-per-thousand (ppt).

That was the only record of the species until August 2017 when George Marx caught an alligator gar in Iroquois Pond, a seven-acre lake in downtown Schenectady’s Central Park. This was certainly another intentional release. (Photo of alligator gar courtesy of George Marx)
- Tom Lake

Canvasback2/23 – Fort Miller, HRM 192: A drake canvasback continued its presence on the Hudson River at Fort Miller just downstream of Lock 6 of the Hudson-Champlain Canal. While the duck was largely by itself, it shared the general area of the ice-free river with many buffleheads, common goldeneye, and common mergansers. (Photo of canvasback courtesy of Ron Harrower)
- Gregg Recer

2/23 – Mohawk River, HRM 157: I came upon a gull today at the Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site in Fort Hunter that had me puzzled. I tried to make it a Glaucous gull, but it did not quite fit. After much deliberation, I settled on it being a Glaucous gull x herring gull hybrid.
- Marianne Friers (Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club)

[This appears to be the first e-bird record of this hybrid in Region 8 (Albany, Schenectady, Greene, Schoharie, Montgomery, Fulton, Saratoga, Warren, Washington, Rensselaer, and Columbia counties) and has been verified by a number of gull experts. The Glaucous-like structure with very dark primaries is typical of this hybrid. They occur regularly, though infrequently, on the Great Lakes. Zach Schwartz-Weinstein (Hudson Mohawk Bird Club)

Pumpkinseed fish2/23 – Albany, HRM 145: Each month, especially during school recess weeks, you can find me at the New York State Museum in Albany on behalf of the Rensselaer Land Trust, funded by Health Research, Inc., to present education about the New York State Department of Health’s Hudson River Fish Advisory project. A parent and a young student came up to me today – they looked familiar. They had been at the NYSM last year during the winter school recess, and we had talked about fish among other topics. Today, they were both very excited to tell me that young William Xavier, after our conversation and apparent inspiration last winter, had caught his first fish, a pumpkinseed sunfish in Albany’s Washington Park. William’s dad showed me a photo and video, documenting the birth of an angler! It is days like these that make me love my work. (Photo of pumpkinseed fish courtesy of Fran Martino)
- Fran Martino

Harbor seal2/23 – Stockport Flats, HRM 122: We traveled along the river today looking for bald eagles, possibly incubating. Because of today’s new moon “spring tide,” the river was exceptionally low. We ordinarily begin searching in March, but as we were walking along the shore near Stockport Creek, we saw one of our favorite eagle pairs. About then, down on the inshore flats, we saw movement. At first, we thought it was a beaver, but it was a harbor seal, hauled out on the muddy tide flats! We watched the seal for half an hour until the tide turned, the river began to rise, and the seal left. Someone at the Stockport Creek boat launch told us that a seal, possibly this one, had been seen just to the south of Stockport Creek a few weeks earlier. (Photo of harbor seal courtesy of Elson-Kalin)
- Julie Elson, Michael Kalin

[Tide is a vertical measurement of water in the estuary while current is the horizontal measurement of tidewater movement. Around the new and full moon, tides tend to be extra high and extra low. These are called spring tides. Around the first and third quarter moon, tides are of average height, and are called neap tides. Tidal variance is the vertical measurement on any particular tide from slack low to slack high tide. Tom Lake]

Striped bass poster2/23 – Ulster County: Students from the Mount Elementary School in Esopus joined hundreds of students from across New York State in the DEC's “We all live in a Watershed” poster contest. Although our students did not make the top selections, this poster was one of their wonderful entries, Striped Bass, created by seventh-grader Jordan Barth. (Photo of Striped Bass poster courtesy of Jordan Barth)
- Mario Meier

[Note: Last week’s poster, Recycle, from the Mount Elementary School in Esopus, was created by seventh grader Kaylin Wiser. Tom Lake]

2/23 – Columbia County, HRM 128: At Malden Bridge, Town of Chatham, I could hear the cheery sound of the season’s first red-winged blackbirds. I saw three displaying in the distinctive "bowing-tweeting" silhouette, and I could hear a few more in the treetops as well. Our snowdrops emerged today in my doorstep garden promising an early spring.
- Kathryn Conway

2/24 – Eastern Dutchess County: There are several collective nouns that describe a group of eagles, including an "aerie," "convocation," "jubilee," "soar," and "tower" of eagles. While surveying an area I was covering within the New York State Breeding Bird Atlas, I noticed a single adult bald eagle far out on an iced-over lake and what I thought was a flock of Canada geese. Instead, it was a convocation of bald eagles. My high count without a scope was 28 birds, but I am sure I missed some perched or farther back on the lake. I think this may have been in the vicinity of a night roost. It was an amazing sight.
- Deborah Tracy Kral

2/24 – Norrie Point, HRM 85: I counted seven woodpecker species here this morning, including northern flicker, yellow-belied sapsucker, pileated, downy, hairy, red-headed, and red-bellied woodpecker.
- David Chernack (Ralph T. Waterman Bird Club)

Bufflehead2/24 – Manhattan, New York City: As members of the Randall's Island Park Alliance staff, we were luckily able to escape our windowless offices today and took a quick stroll around the park. We spotted ducks, such as buffleheads, mallards, and gadwall, as well as geese including brant and Canada geese. (Photo of bufflehead courtesy of Jen Adams)
- Jackie Wu, Jen Adams

2/25 – Kowawese, HRM 59: The effects of yesterday’s new moon had drawn the low tide well off the beach (spring tide). A strong south wind was pushing rollers up on the sand. The 65 degree F air temperature argued for April, but the water, at 36 degrees F, reminded us that it was still winter. Our seine caught no fish, which was no surprise, but there was a single thumbnail size,14 millimeter (mm) white-fingered mud crab (Rhithropanopeus harrisii). We were thankful for small favors on a late February day.
- Tom Lake, Phyllis Lake

[Note: one inch = 25.4 millimeters (mm)]

2/25 – Yonkers, HRM 18: Our education team at the Sarah Lawrence Center for the Urban River at Beczak was back in the amazing waters of the Hudson River despite its frigid temperatures. Our staff, along with Bronx Collaborative High School student interns Natasha and Stacy, walked the high tide of the river and caught a most welcome killifish, a (60 mm) mummichog (Fundulus heteroclitus), as well as an amphipod in the Beczak Marsh. The salinity was 5.0 ppt; water temperature was 42 degrees F.
- Katie Lamboy, Elisa Caref, Jay Muller

House finch2/26 – New Paltz, HRM 78: A banded house finch (Carpodacus mexicanus) came to my feeder today and appeared to be the same female house finch that visited me last year. The band on her left leg was green over silver and the right leg was yellow over pink. Kara Belinsky and one of her students banded the bird on June 5, 2018. The banded house finch had been free for 614 days, and still counting. (Photo of house finch courtesy of Pam Plummer)
- Pam Plummer

[Pam Plummer’s banded house finch is part of my SUNY New Paltz Research in Biology class. We have banded several hundred house finches, goldfinches, and chickadees over the past three summers (2017-2019). All the birds have a USGS numbered band as well as three color bands (some are striped).

Our research question is two-fold: We would like to know more about their seasonal movements and we are “asking” the birds to tell us what types of landscaping/buildings/development best supports birds, for example, which of our nine campus bird feeders do they visit and stay at most often? Which residential neighborhoods and yards do the same? How can we design campuses and suburbs to better support birds? If we were able to follow individual birds through time, they could tell us this on a larger scale.

If you have a sighting of a banded bird, please contact us so we can add to our database: (NPcolorbandedbirds or Instagram @newpaltzornithology). Kara Belinsky]

Asian shore crab2/26 – Manhattan, HRM 1: It had been a relatively mild winter, but we still had to bundle up today to check The River Project's research, sampling and collection gear on the lighthouse tender Lilac moored at Pier 25 in Hudson River Park. No fish again today – our last fish, a young-of-year striped bass, was caught December 18. However, there was life in one of the traps, a tiny (10.0 mm) Asian shore crab. (Photo of Asian shore crab courtesy of Siddhartha Hayes)
- Siddhartha Hayes, Toland Kister

[The Asian shore crab (Hemigrapsus sanguineus) is an invasive species that likely arrived in the United States in the ballast of cargo ships. It is native to the inshore ocean areas around China and Japan. The Asian shore crab favors rocky intertidal areas and occupies similar habitats and competes with our native mud crabs (Panopeidae). Adults can grow to 42 (mm) carapace width. Tom Lake]

2/27 – Greene County, HRM 112: During this past week of warm weather in the Spruceton Valley, we have been serenaded by a male cardinal atop the sugar bush (large sugar maple) at the end of our driveway. Today, amidst snow squalls and gusty winds, he and a female cardinal took shelter on our porch near the sunflower seeds in the feeder. They were kept company by fifteen American goldfinches, with a few bright yellow breeding feathers beginning to dot their sides, and one magenta-colored house finch. The wind was causing the feeder to spill its seeds, and the blue jays were feasting on the ground beneath. Quite a colorful assemblage!
- Emily S. Plishner

NY487 Bald Eagle2/28 – Northeast Dutchess County: Bald eagle nest NY487, which we have named “The Pine Tree Family,” has begun its third nesting year. The pair is not incubating as yet, but one of the adults was perched in the nest today, looking expectantly. (Photo of NY487 Bald Eagle courtesy of Deborah Tracy Kral)
- Deborah Tracy Kral

2/28 – Town of Wappinger, HRM 68: A female summer tanager (Piranga rubra), first spotted at our seed feeders on January 15, was still there this morning (6:40) on Day 45. For Dutchess County, there are only three previous records of a summer tanager, and none in winter.
- Melissa Fischer, Stephen Fischer (Ralph T. Waterman Bird Club)

2/28 – Rockland County, HRM 33: We finally had an adult eagle sitting low in bald eagle nest NY336. I am guessing that they have begun to incubate eggs or are very close. Up until a few days ago, the adults were simply perched nearby. Now, they are focused on the nest. Maybe we will have Easter (April 12) nestlings? Last year, two nestlings hatched on April 5.
- Chris Galligan

Eagle flying over raft of ducks courtesy of Deborah Tracy Kral
Winter 2019-2020 Natural History Programs

Wednesday, March 11, 2020 9:00 am - 4:00 pm (Snow Date Friday, April 10, 2020)
Studying Ecosystems of the Tidal Hudson
Norrie Point Environmental Center, Staatsburg, NYThe Hudson River National Estuarine Research Reserve invites you to attend Research in the Reserve 2020: Participate in an all-day forum on collaborative ecosystem research conducted with the Reserve or at its four tidal wetland sites along 100 miles of the Hudson Estuary.

March: Help Count Eels in Hudson River Tributaries
Are you looking for an outdoor volunteer opportunity? The DEC Hudson River Eel Project is seeking community members to help study eels in streams of the Hudson River estuary. The American eel (Anguilla rostrata), a migratory fish, is hatched in the Atlantic Ocean and enters North American estuaries, including the Hudson River, as tiny, see-through "glass eels" each spring.

As a volunteer, you will work in a team with scientists to collect these eels from specialized nets, count the fish one-by-one, weigh them in groups, and release them to habitat upstream. You will also help collect and record water temperature and water-quality data. Eels are counted in 15 streams from Staten Island to Troy. The field work takes place from March through May, and schedules are flexible. Training and all gear are provided. For more information, visit DEC's website or e-mail: eelproject.

April: Trees for Tribs "Buffer in a Bag"
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s statewide Trees for Tribs "Buffer in a Bag" application period is now open. The Buffer in a Bag initiative is designed to increase riparian buffers statewide by engaging landowners in small-scale plantings. Qualifying private and public landowners may apply for a free bag of 25 tree and shrub seedlings for planting near streams, rivers, or lakes to help stabilize banks, protect water quality, and improve wildlife habitat.

Anyone who owns or manages at least 50 feet of land along a stream or waterbody in New York State is eligible to receive a free bag of seedlings. Applicants are limited to one bag per property. All participants must provide photos and information indicating where the trees will be planted. There is a limited supply and recipients are selected first-come, first-served. Not sure if your site fits these criteria? Contact the Trees for Tribs program by calling (518) 402-9405 or emailing treesfortribs.

May: Cooperative Angler Program
Do you fish for striped bass in the Hudson River? You can be part of the Cooperative Angler Program, share your fishing trip information, and help biologists understand and manage our striped bass fishery. Fill out a logbook we provide or record your trips on your smart-phone using DEC's Hudson River online logbook (PDF) whenever you fish on the tidewater Hudson River. Record general location, time, gear used, what you caught (or if you didn't catch anything) and return the logbook when you are done fishing. You'll receive an annual newsletter summarizing the recreational fishery information, in addition to the latest news regarding Hudson River regulations and the river.

For more information on the angler program and instructions on installing the Survey123 App to access the online logbook, visit Hudson River Cooperative Angler or email hudsonangler. If you primarily fish for striped bass in New York waters south of the George Washington Bridge, the DEC has a separate Striped Bass Cooperative Angler Program.

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.

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 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.

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