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Hudson River Almanac May 24 - May 31, 2015

OVERVIEW

Late spring was showing with the end of the river herring and glass eel "runs," talk of bald eagle, osprey, and great blue heron nestlings, and the World Science Festival's Great Fish Count in the lower Hudson River estuary.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

5/31 - Black Creek, HRM 85: It was the last week of this season's glass eel project. The recent wet weather finally put some water in the small streams that feed Black Creek; they had been dry the previous two weeks and the alewives were having a great deal of difficulty swimming upstream in shallow water. This morning, multiflora rose was in bloom and their scent was detectable. Mushrooms were on tree stumps as well as springing up from the damp black soil. We saw no alewives in the creek and, correspondingly, the great blue heron we often see fishing by our fyke net was not there. We collected 33 glass eels (although by now they had gained some darker pigmentation, even blackish) as well as three elvers. One was five inches long; we wondered how old it was, as it was significantly larger than any other elver caught this year. The elver was very strong and several times nearly escaped by jumping in an effort to get out of the pail. Someone commented that the he behaved like a typical three-year-old. The water temp was 72 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Sophia Hsieh

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

5/24 - Rhinebeck, HRM 90: A few days after the Hudson River Almanac reported a northern water snake at Norrie Point, a neighbor and I saw a clump of at least six water snakes in the pond beyond my deck. I had seen these crossing the pond before, each with its head above the water, leaving a wide wake behind. But today it looked as if they were in some sort of mating frenzy. Each snake was two to three feet long, and the group was intertwined at the edge of the pond like a batch of thick black pasta. The next day, the snakes had disappeared - a one-day wonder.
- Phyllis Marsteller

[Northern water snakes breed in spring and often form a "mating ball" of many individuals. Tom Lake.]

close up of a bald eagle nestling in a tree against a blue sky

5/24 - Town of Poughkeepsie: The eagle nestling in NY62 was now more than half the size of her parents. She was eating well and beginning to explore her surroundings. [Photo of young bald eagle courtesy of John Badura.]
- John Badura

[Since the nestling hatched on March 29, we have been keeping a list of food items brought to the nest. We may have missed a few, but so far we have noted American eel, common carp, koi (carp), striped bass, channel catfish, brown bullhead, American shad, alewife, gray squirrel, cottontail rabbit, and American robin. Tom Lake.]

5/24 - Croton Point, HRM 34: Bobolinks were calling and swaying on grass stalks in the middle of a patch of blue and white phlox. Down the slope, eastern kingbirds were busy with extravagant display flights and it seemed there must be at least one singing oriole per tree top. It was a real nice day for a walk.
- Christopher Letts

5/24 - Bedford, HRM 35: I was finally able to see some nestlings at the great blue heron rookery today. It is my guess that some eggs hatched two to three weeks ago. They grow fast and appear to be the size of a bantam chicken. There are about ten occupied nests in different stages of development, with eggs having been laid days or weeks apart. I was able to see two nestlings at several nests and three nestlings at another. I expect to see more as they outgrow the bottom of their nests. There does not appear to be much, if any, aggressive behavior among the adults or nestlings. The herons seem to like being together with their nests very close to each other, sometimes in the same tree.
- Jim Steck

5/24 - Piermont, HRM 25: We returned to the Pier hoping to see the red necked phalarope spotted yesterday, but no luck. However, we were excited to see a black-bellied plover, as well as numerous semipalmated plovers, a spotted sandpiper, and seven short-billed dowitchers that were gathered on a single rock in the mud flats sitting there as the tide came in slowly around them. The strangest finding was a two-foot-long section of an Atlantic sturgeon, at least eight inches in diameter. We estimated that, in life, it may have been six to seven feet long.
- Linda Pistolesi, Marcel Jaloveckas

[If you see a dead sturgeon floating or on the shore of the Hudson River, please notify DEC by calling 845-256-3071 (Kathy Hattala) AND 845-256-3073 (Amanda Higgs). DEC's Atlantic sturgeon webpage lists the details needed about your find, as well as information about research on this iconic species.]

5/25 - Furnace Woods, HRM 38.5: As I was tending to my garden early this morning, a call I have heard a thousand times before, but rarely here, so out of context that it took long seconds to know that I was listening to a loon. It was a mile or more away, perhaps a half-mile high; the call came several times. The bird was moving north - no surprise - high above the Hudson.
- Christopher Letts

male bobolink perched on a plant with greenery in the background

5/25 - Croton Point, HRM 34.5: At least two singing grasshopper sparrows were atop the landfill grasslands at Croton Point this morning. Other birds enjoyed this morning during the regular Monday Saw Mill River Audubon walk included at least six singing and displaying male bobolinks, also atop the landfill, willow flycatchers vocalizing and seen in various locations, the usual abundance of yellow warblers, a showy bunch of Baltimore orioles with one singing orchard oriole, and cliff swallows coming and going from the Route 9 bridge over the Croton River, likely nest building as in previous years. [Photo of male bobolink courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.]
- Anne Swaim

5/26 - Saw Kill, HRM 99: A visit to the Saw Kill at Annandale convinced me that the river herring and white sucker runs were over. Water clarity was good but I saw none of either species. It seemed to me that the herring run had good numbers but did not last as long as other years, and the sucker run was trivial compared to the past. I did catch six species of fish: yellow perch, rock bass, smallmouth bass, striped bass (six inches, last year's young), redbreast sunfish, and fallfish ("poor man's trout"). There was a huge midge hatch going on; they were piled up everywhere along the stream margin in uncountable numbers - I never saw so many midges. I also saw a hatch of alderflies, the size of a small moth, with black wings and "fluttery" flight, with small flashes of white.
- Bob Schmidt

5/27- Dutchess County, HRM 80: As a dozen pre-schoolers and their parents hiked the trails at the Audubon Buttercup Preserve, the scent of dame's rocket, honeysuckle, and multiflora rose filled the air making the heat and humidity seem less oppressive. The air was quiet in late morning;birdsong was nearly non-existent. A Baltimore oriole flew across in front of us and several ruby-throated hummingbirds were drinking from late-season lilacs and honeysuckle. The ponds were ringed with nonnative yellow flag, so pretty but so reviled, and the sunfish nests were empty, the young having hatched and dispersed. We came upon a long row of healthy hemlocks, free of the invasive woolly adelgid insect that has killed many of these conifers in the Hudson Valley. We saw otter signs, encountered a garter snake, a green frog, and a half-dozen beaver lodges and dams, all of which seemed empty, but probably were not. They had heard us coming.
- Tom Lake, T.R.Jackson

[One of the signs of the waning spring season is the appearance of dame's rocket in the uplands and along the river and its tributaries. This nonnative wildflower comes in white, pink, violet, and purple. Carried by spring breezes, its wonderfully sweet fragrance fills the air from mid-May through early June. Tom Lake.]

5/27 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 75: We counted 40 brant mid-river, stopping over on their way to their Arctic breeding grounds. They were playing off the countrary effects of a strong ebb tide current and a brisk southerly wind to maintain their position.
- Tom Lake, T.R. Jackson

5/27 - Kingston, HRM 92: This evening, after a rain storm, a pale blue male budgie landed on my bird feeder. What a beautiful bird. Then I realized that this was someone's pet!
- Karen L. Salzer

[The budgerigar (Melopsittacus undulatus), also known as common pet parakeet and nicknamed the budgie, is a small, long-tailed, seed-eating parrot. Budgerigars are found wild throughout the drier parts of Australia where the species has survived harsh inland conditions for the last five million years. Budgerigars are naturally green-and-yellow with black scalloped markings on the nape, back, and wings. Budgerigars are popular pets - the third most popular pet in the world, after the domesticated dog and cat - due to their small size, low cost, and ability to mimic human speech. Parrots, Lories, and Cockatoos (David Alderton: 1982)]

5/27 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: This morning one of the ospreys from the cell phone tower nest brought in a fish. Leaving, it was harassed by two crows. The other adult osprey moved around in the nest, presumably sharing a meal.
- Hugh McLean

5/28 - Denning's Point, HRM 60: While checking out Denning's Cove during low tide, I noticed a large flyer off in the distance. Viewed with binoculars, I watched an adult bald eagle land out in the bay in the shallows at the edge of flowing fresh water from Fishkill Creek. Then I enjoyed a fifteen minute show of the eagle splashing like a sparrow, enjoying a good bath.
- Harriet Zbikowski

5/29 - Coxsackie, HRM 124: Brant were still moving through. A flock of 70 went by this evening.
- Rich Guthrie

5/29 - Greene County, HRM 112: I had a female American redstart in my house in West Kill today. The cabin doors were open to facilitate the entry and exit of the hounds. Unlike a previous visitor, a ruby-throated hummingbird, the redstart did not panic. She perched in a crown of thorns by the window, tried exiting through a screened window, peeped a bit, and then followed me out the door. We also have a cottontail that has been resting inside the fence line at night; she will probably make a nest soon and produce some young. Last year, she (or another) had two litters inside the fence and at least eight made it until it was time to leave their nest.
- Emily Plishner

5/29 - Greene County: Just before sunset, paddling my kayak, I visited the bald eagle nest (NY203) not far from where I live. I watched from a distance, still trying to determine if there had been a hatch and if there were nestlings. The tide was extremely low. One adult was sitting on the rim of the nest, easily visible, but still no sign of fledglings.
- Kaare Christian

close up of the yellow flag iris
close up of blue flag iris

5/30 - Tivoli North Bay, HRM 100: While paddling on a DEC canoe program, we found three stands of the native blue flag iris in bloom along the main channel of the marsh. The non-native yellow flag iris was also in bloom and very common. [Photos of blue flag and yellow flag courtesy of Steve Stanne.]
- Jean McAvoy, James Herrington

5/30 - Dutchess County, HRM 63: While driving from Poughquag to East Fishkill this morning I came upon two tiny white-spotted, white-tailed deer fawns on wobbly legs, ducking back into the greenery on one side of the road while their mother watched and waited on the other side.
- Brian Herbst

5/30 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: I was struggling to open a window closed since last fall when something brilliant-orange flashed by. I was so startled, but a final push got the window open and there were two male Baltimore orioles jousting in the bushes. Unperturbed by the noise of my struggle with the window, they continued sparring and finally flew off. Very nice! I hope they find mates and stay.
- Robin Fox

5/30 - As a part of the eighth annual World Science Festival on May 30, a Great Fish Count took place fourteen locations in the greater New York City area, from Staten Island to southern Westchester County, and Jamaica Bay to the Palisades Interstate Park in New Jersey. A few highlights follow.

Habirshaw Park, Yonkers, HRM 18: Many small seiners covered the beach at the Sarah Lawrence Center for the Urban River at Beczak, helping to haul in an amazing eight eels, seven striped bass, a hogchoker, a mummichog, five white perch, and five blue crabs, along with shrimp and softshell clams. The diversity was impressive and the river kept producing seine after seine. The salinity was 5.0 parts per thousand [ppt} and the dissolved oxygen concentration was 10.0 milligrams per liter [mg/L].
- Margie Turrin

Inwood Hill Park, Harlem River, HRM 13.5: We scooped up netfuls of wriggling mummichogs, most no more than two to three inches long. The males were striking in their mating colors, with bright yellow bellies and pelvic fins, an eye-spot marking on their dorsal fin, and silvery striped bars on their sides. Many of the females were carrying eggs. The group intently counted each of 103 fish. Salinity was 10.0 ppt and dissolved oxygen was 10.0 mg/L.
- Margie Turrin

blue claw crab shedding its molt while in a person's hand

Ft. Washington Park, Manhattan, HRM 11: The first net came in with just two small striped bass, but the group of participants at greeted their appearance with great enthusiasm. The second net brought in a blue crab and, as we watched, it began to moult. It suddenly went very still as we set it in a bucket; concern mounted that perhaps it had died. But its eyes began to shift back and forth, and then - with a final push - it was free of its old shell. The crowd erupted into cheers! The next net brought in an old barbeque filled with debris and an assortment of small mud crabs and blue crabs (two more were softshells), more than a dozen shrimp, and two small summer flounder perfectly camouflaged against the sand. A final seine pulled in a northern pipefish. Salinity was 12.0 ppt, dissolved oxygen was 11.0 mg/L, and the water temperature was a warm 72 degrees F. [Photo of blue crab molting courtesy of Margie Turrin.]
- Margie Turrin

Randall's Island Park, Manhattan: Near the junction of the Harlem and East Rivers, we seined at the mouth of a tidal creek winding its way out of a recently restored salt marsh. Two young of the year [YOY] Atlantic tomcod were the surprise of the day - pretty amazing that these little guys, no more than two inches long and hatched in the freshwater Hudson in late winter, had already made it downriver to Randall's Island. As the tide fell in early afternoon, large numbers of small fish gathered to feed where the dwindling salt marsh creek entered a shallow bay of the Harlem River. With Advanced Inquiry Program master's degree students from the Wildlife Conservation Society/Bronx Zoo, we netted over 900 mummichogs in two hauls of the seine. Among them were a few striped killifish (the first time I've found them in Manhattan waters) and at least 20 yearling striped bass.
- Steve Stanne

Valentino Pier, Red Hook, Brooklyn: At this park's short beach, not a hundred feet wide, the water was a cool and refreshing 63 degrees F in contrast to the 84 degree air temperature. Three dozen beachgoers willingly shared the waterfront with us, as did wading children and Labrador retrievers chasing tennis balls. With the help of volunteers Renny Moulton, Dana Hutchins, Aliya, Zaid, and Noreen Palaniswamy, we hauled our seine, captured three species of native fishes - striped bass 92-102 millimeters [mm] long, winter flounder (119-140 mm), and windowpane flounder (45-60 mm) - and returned them safely to the bay. We also found shore shrimp (Palaemonetes species) and mud dog whelks (Ilyassoma obsoleta) in the net. The salinity was 23.0 ppt; dissolved oxygen was 9.0 mg/L.
- Rebecca Houser, Kacie Giuliano, Tom Lake

Lemon Creek Park, Raritan Bay, Staten Island: We seined at two sites here. The first was a constructed tidal pond. The water was warm and salty (84 degrees F, 27.0 ppt) with a lot of sea lettuce (Ulva lactuca) but plenty of fish as well. They included dozens of striped killifish, mummichogs, fourspine sticklebacks, Atlantic silversides, an alewife, and an American eel whose efforts to leap out of the bucket and escape delighted everyone. Invertebrates included mud dog whelks, shore shrimp, two green crabs, and several feisty blue crabs. The strangest catch of the day was a small drone (remotely operated vehicle) that someone must have accidentally crashed in the pond. We then moved to the beach on the bay side (77 degrees F, 24.0 ppt). Several hauls resulted in six lady crabs, two dozen bay anchovies, many silversides, and a northern pipefish. Invertebrates included a dime-sized blue crab, both sand and shore shrimp, dog whelks, and a seemingly endless supply of hermit crabs. The young beachcombers among us found a decaying bluefish and an ancient-looking but live horseshoe crab, its carapace covered with a thick layer of barnacles.
- Chris Bowser, Katie Friedman, Carl and Lucy Alderson, Michelle Luebke, Orion Weldon, Mary Lee

two mummichogs, one male (below) one female (top) in a fishing net

Here is a list of the fish species reported to date from the World Science Festival Great Fish Count:
1. Mummichog (Fundulus heteroclitis) - 1,077; high count 943 from Randall's Island [photo of female (top) and male (bottom) mummichogs courtesy of Steve Stanne.]
2. Striped killifish (Fundulus majalis) - 64; high count 60 from the tidal pond at Lemon Creek Park
3. Atlantic silverside (Menidia menidia) - 45; high count 30 from the beach at Lemon Creek Park
4. Striped bass (Morone saxatilis) - 43; high count 30 from Randall's Island
5. Bay anchovy (Anchoa mitchilli) - 36; high count 25 from the beach at Lemon Creek Park
6. Fourspine stickleback (Apeltes quadracus) - 20, all from the tidal pond at Lemon Creek Park
7. Winter flounder (Pseudopleuronectes americanus) - 12; high count 10 from the seaplane ramp, Floyd Bennett Field, Brooklyn
8. American eel (Anguilla rostrata) - 9; high count 8 from the Sarah Lawrence Center for the Urban River at Beczak
9. White perch (Morone americana) - 8; high count 5 from the Sarah Lawrence Center for the Urban River at Beczak
10. Summer flounder (Paralichthys dentatus) - 3; two from Ft. Washington Park and one from Bloomers Beach, Palisades Interstate Park, Englewood, NJ
11. Atlantic tomcod (Microgadus tomcod) - 2 from the salt marsh creek at Randall's Island
12. Banded killifish (Fundulus diaphanus) - 2 from Inwood Hill Park
13. Northern pipefish (Syngnathus fuscus) - 2; one each from Ft. Washington Park and the beach at Lemon Creek Park
14. Windowpane (Scophthalmus aquosus) - 2 from Valentino Pier
15. Alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus) - 1 from the tidal pond at Lemon Creek Park
16. Hogchoker (Trinectes maculatus) - 1 from the Sarah Lawrence Center for the Urban River at Beczak
17. Bluefish (Pomatomus saltatrix) - 1 found dead on the beach at Lemon Creek Park

[Note: If you would like an electronic copy (e-mailed as an attachment) of the Hudson River Fish Fauna Checklist of 221 species, please e-mail trlake7@aol.com.]

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5/31 - Coxsackie, HRM 124: There was a common loon in breeding plumage on the Hudson River at the Coxsackie Boat Launch this evening. I watched it flapping and diving so I assumed it was OK.
- Rich Guthrie

5/31 - Crugers, HRM 39: Ogilvie's Pond was choked with spatterdock, its yellow flowers in full bloom, so much so that it was difficult to see any areas of open water. Not having seen the great blue heron there for quite some time, we were happy to spot it under the branches of a low lying tree on the opposite side of the pond, barely visible among the spatterdock. We watched as it proceeded to stick its long neck in and out, but didn't see it catch any fish.
- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson

5/31 - Manhattan, HRM 1: Among the fish we caught this week at The River Project's Pier 40 location, were an oyster toadfish, three YOY Atlantic tomcod, a northern pipefish, and a juvenile striped bass.
- Jessica Bonamusa

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