NY.gov Portal State Agency Listing Search all of NY.gov
D E C banner
D E C banner

Disclaimer

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has added a link to a translation service developed by Microsoft Inc., entitled Bing Translator, as a convenience to visitors to the DEC website who speak languages other than English.

Additional information can be found at DEC's Language Assistance Page.

Hudson River Almanac December 4 - December 12, 2007

OVERVIEW

It was announced this week that a second Chinese mitten crab, this one an immature female, was recently found along the Hudson. Coupled with the first recovery this past June, it casts an ominous cloud on the estuary (see 12/9 Cold Spring).

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

12/4 - Sleepy Hollow, HRM 28: It was 12 degrees F at 6:00 AM, and not much better at 9:30, cold and blowing, when I lit the woodstove fire at the Tarrytown Lighthouse. The chill was off when the 2nd graders trooped in an hour later, each bearing a token piece of stovewood. The wind had risen to 20, gusting to 30 mph, and for only the third time in 3 decades I decided to forego the trip up to the bell deck - 50' aloft there was an even stronger wind. We explored the iron structure and then yarned by the woodstove as the wind screamed higher and louder. Protected and coddled as we are today, the buffeting of the wind was a neat reminder of how difficult life would have been 125 years ago when this light was new.
- Christopher Letts

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

12/5 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 34: Today, for the first time, I saw several male and female common redpolls, a species of winter finch, at my feeders. They were mixed in with a Carolina wren, red-breasted nuthatches, and several goldfinches and house finches that were feeding on the ground.
- Jane Shumsky

12/5 - Crugers, HRM 38.5: There is a large hawk that hides in a pine tree near my bird feeders. He waits until the songbirds land in the feeders and then attacks and carries one off. What can I do? Shall I bring the feeders in for a few days until he gets tired of waiting for an easy meal, or do you think he will just come back again?
- Dianne Picciano

[This is likely a hawk of the group known as accipiters, either a Cooper's (about the size of a crow) or the smaller sharp-shinned hawk. Most people who feed birds eventually run into this situation. Here are some thoughts. Mr. Hawk will take one, maybe two birds a day. That is probably a very small percentage of the total number that you are feeding. If you take in the feeders, the overwhelming majority of the birds may suffer. And, there is no guarantee that Mr. Hawk will move on. He could be a local resident for the winter. Generally speaking, predators tend to pick off prey that are not as wary. From a strictly natural selection perspective (one that does not give a hoot about emotional tugs on the heart strings) Mr. Hawk is probably serving a useful purpose in fine-tuning the population. For example, birds that are too "smart" to become prey may have offspring that are likewise naturally wary. In order to serve both of these approaches, you could take in the feeders for a couple of days, and then put them back out. If Mr. Hawk returns, be resigned that this is nothing new; raptors have to eat as well, and this situation has been recurring far longer than we have been around to see it. All will survive. Tom Lake.]

12/5 - Brooklyn, New York City: A Cooper's hawk made a low sweep between the cars on the Belt Parkway near Plum Beach during this morning's rush hour commute. I've seen these hawks make moves like these before, but this time I really didn't think he'd survive. It takes wings of a wonderful ancient design to out-maneuver a rushing SUV - more of a design disaster, if you ask me.
- Dave Taft

12/6 - Minerva, HRM 284: The Almanac frequently speaks of wildlife in numbers, such as a flock of geese or a gathering of crows, what James Lipton calls "nouns of multitude" in his An Exultation of Larks. For Lipton they might be a "gaggle" of geese and a "murder" of crows. This fall what we have noted as a "surge" of winter finches might likewise be called a "charm" of finches, depending on how it is used. We have seen a "parade" of wild turkeys that might also be called a "rafter." Others might include a "party" of jays, a "wedge" of swans, a "convocation" of eagles, a "clutter" of starlings and, for the Almanac, how about a "squint" of observers?"
- Mike Corey

12/6 - Croton Point, HRM 34.5: On the landfill today I encountered another flock of American pipits.
- Jane Shumsky

12/7 - Yorktown Heights, HRM 43: I was in a huge empty parking lot waiting for a friend when I noticed what looked like a couple of pigeons clustering frantically. I edged the car closer to get a closer look. It was a fierce hawk pressed on top of a flailing pigeon. The hawk seemed to be squeezing its prey flat. When the pigeon stopped struggling the hawk took off with the limp bird dangling from its talons. The heavy pigeon made the escape flight low and slow. It took the entire length of the parking lot for the hawk to gain height and disappear.
- Robin Fox

[Without more physical field marks to narrow down the identification, this hawk may have either been a Cooper's hawk or a peregrine falcon. It sounds too big for a sharp-shinned, too small for a goshawk. The description of the "escape flight" suggests a Cooper's hawk. Tom Lake.]

12/7 - Sandy Hook, NJ: The American Littoral Society has set up a pair of inshore artificial habitats, one at Sandy Hook, the other at Atlantic City. They are plastic trash-basket sized containers in about 6-8 feet of protected water, tied off to docks, with a few bricks for stability and filled part way with odd shapes and sizes of PVC plastic pipe. We call them fish condos and today was a last of the season check for the Sandy Hook unit. It contained one fish, a 4" bergall (cunner in New York; chogy in New England) in a piece of straight pipe, lying on its side on mud. It looked in good condition, and moved its eye. Bergalls, and their close relative the blackfish (tautog) are reef dwellers. Maybe this one had settled in for the winter. We reset the condo. The air temperature was 30 degrees F, the water close to freezing; we have had some skim ice in quiet water.
- Dery Bennett

[Tautog and bergalls are wrasses, a family of marine fishes that have a peculiar habit of lying on their side. Aquaria viewers often mistake this for everything from sleeping, to being sick, playing dead, to being dead. However, it seems to be a natural posture, perhaps an adaptation or a long-ago survival strategy. Tom Lake.]

12/8 - Newcomb, HRM 302: The Hudson River has been frozen over in sections for a couple of weeks now, and even bays in lakes are frozen. I don't know that I would actually attempt to walk on the ice, but for light critters it might be passable.
- Ellen Rathbone

12/8 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: I was munching on my lunch, not really focusing on anything, when I realized I was watching a blur of bluebirds in the bushes, on the lawn, and at the bird feeder. Long-awaited bluebirds had finally arrived! Earlier this year I'd put out special houses as neighbors had told me of nesting pairs in the area. I spent the spring and summer hoping they'd come to my yard. And now, in December, they appear. Migrants. I rushed out with extra seeds but the visit was over, the birds had flown.
- Robin Fox

12/9 - Newcomb, HRM 302: A small flock of snow buntings greeted me in front of the house this morning. Later this evening I heard another flock of geese passing over. A week or more ago I heard a couple of flocks that sounded different, like geese with sore throats, but in the dark I was unable to identify them. This time they sounded like regular Canada geese. It seems late in the year for them to be migrating through.
- Ellen Rathbone

12/9 - Cold Spring, HRM 54: This past October 29, a second Chinese mitten crab was found at the Cold Spring Boat Club boat launch (see 6/3 Nyack for the first mitten crab, an adult male). It was confirmed as an immature female, 30 mm carapace width. The juvenile female mitten crab was brought to the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Edgewater, Maryland, in early November. Although we now have 11 confirmed mitten crabs from the Mid-Atlantic region, this is the first appearance of a juvenile. Yet, we still cannot confirm a self sustaining population. Continued monitoring is needed to establish a better understanding of the population.
- Carin D. Ferrante, Amanda Higgs

[The Chinese mitten crab (Eriocheir sinensis) is native to the estuaries of China where it is highly regarded in the market. Mitten crabs are catadromous, meaning that they spend much of their life in freshwater, then return to higher salinities in the lower estuary (15-20 parts-per-thousand salt) to reproduce. The salinity gradients of east coast estuarine systems like the Chesapeake Bay, Delaware Bay, and the Hudson River are nearly ideal for them. Adult mitten crabs have a carapace width of about 3", but six of its 8 legs are almost twice as long, giving them an almost "spider crab" look. Unlike the native blue crab, a swimming crab, mitten crabs are burrowing crabs, similar to our mud crabs only many times larger. They have a generalist diet, varied in prey, and their potential ecological impact on east coast estuaries is still unknown.
Chinese mitten crabs were inadvertently introduced to Europe in the 1930s and are now widespread. The first U.S. mitten crab was caught in San Francisco Bay in 1993, though they may have been there earlier. They first appeared along the Atlantic coast in Chesapeake Bay in 2005. One more followed in 2006, and another this year. Already, 4 mitten crabs have been collected from Delaware Bay this year. All 7 of these crabs, plus the earlier one from the Hudson, have been males.
Chinese mitten crabs have been an invasive species in Europe for a decade or more. The Marine Invasions Lab at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Edgewater, Maryland, is working with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, NOAA, and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources in monitoring their presence. It is illegal to import mitten crabs into the United States, but there is genetic evidence that the east coast mitten crabs arrived here from Europe via commercial traffic, much like zebra mussel in 1988.
If you encounter a mitten crab in New York State, please notify Leslie Surprenant, NYSDEC Invasive Species Management Coordinator (518) 402-8980, (ljsurpre@gw.dec.state.ny.us), and Carin D. Ferrante, Smithsonian Mitten Crab Coordinator (ferrantec@si.edu). Do not release them alive! If you take photos, make certain that you take both dorsal and ventral - top and bottom - views so we can determine its sex. Leslie Surprenant.]

12/9 - Croton Point, HRM 34.5: I have been finding owl pellets under some trees near the landfill. Today an Audubon group spotted 2 long-eared owls close by and I wondered if these trees were their perches.
- Jane Shumsky

[Long-eared owls are normally strictly nocturnal, unlike their close relative the short-eared owl. Their daytime roosts are often in dense conifers. These habits make them hard to observe, but they do regularly appear in the Hudson Valley, where they hunt grasslands and open woodlands for small mammals, especially when winter limits the availability of food farther north. Tom Lake and Steve Stanne.]

12/10 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67.5: After a night of freezing rain, first light revealed a world coated in rime ice, every branch, branchlet, and twig glistening. I was at Hunter's Brook to retrieve some research equipment I had stashed along the bank a while ago. In a quiet run of the brook near my destination floated 4 wood ducks, a drake and 3 hens, a kaleidoscope of vivid color. I watched them for a few minutes and then decided I could get my gear some other time.
- Tom Lake

12/10 - Furnace Woods, HRM 38.5: For the second year, a yellow-bellied sapsucker is a regular at the suet feeders. Same bird? Well, it looks the same!
- Christopher Letts

12/11 - Saratoga County, HRM 196: The Hudson River still has open water. It really has not been cold enough to cover the great flow with ice. I have been seeing quite a few common mergansers but I have yet to notice any goldeneyes, scaup, or canvasbacks.
- John DeLisle

12/11 - New Hamburg, HRM 67.5: A large raft of common mergansers, both males and females, drifted in the channel just below Diamond Reef. New arrivals, they had not been there an hour earlier. They dipped in the swales of the choppy river disappearing, reappearing, the males glowing like beacons, the females nearly indistinguishable against the backdrop of a somber December landscape.
- Tom Lake

12/11 - Croton Bay, HRM 34: Reports of common mergansers in numbers have been around from points north for several weeks. Today, a raft of about 100 males floated off the wine cellar beach on the south side of Croton Point, and both males and females were fishing the Croton Estuary.
- Christopher Letts

12/12 - Saugerties, HRM 102: Two common loons in their drab winter plumage swam together at the mouth of Esopus Creek. I watched them through a scope from the Saugerties Lighthouse to get a closer look but they suddenly dove underwater with a splash as if startled. I looked up. An adult bald eagle flew over.
- Patrick Landewe

12/12 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 69: The grassy landfill wedged between Dutchess County airport and Wappinger Creek is often a good spot to see flocks of winter finches, particularly along the forest edge. I was having no luck finding any songbirds this morning when a "ghost" bird, a raptor, flared up from behind a grassy hummock. My first thought was "snowy owl" - the setting was right - but as it passed by I could see the russet tail. It was a fully-white, other than the tail, albino red-tailed hawk.
- Tom Lake

12/12 - Croton Point, HRM 35: When I began to walk at 7:00 AM, winds were calm, the temperature almost balmy. An hour later, the cloudscape was changing by the second, with wave after wave of multi-shaped, particolored clouds galloping by, pushed by a gusty northwest wind. The immature bald eagle hanging over the north side beach had a pair of shadows. The resident red-tail hawks ghosted the big bird's every move, Periodically one of the hawks would stoop on the eagle in a blazing dive. The eagle always met the dives with a smooth barrel roll that greeted the incoming hawk with an upraised array of huge talons. No contest!
- Christopher Letts

12/12 - Croton Point, HRM 34.5: After hearing of their presence for a week now, today I finally saw one of the two long-eared owls.
- Jane Shumsky

Previous Week's Almanac

Next Week's Almanac

  • Important Links
  • Contact for this Page
  • Hudson River Estuary Program
    NYSDEC Region 3
    21 S Putt Corners Rd
    New Paltz, NY 12561
    fax: (845) 255-3649
    845-256-3016
    Send us an email
  • This Page Covers
  • Page applies to Hudson River region