Hudson River Almanac July 18 - July 25, 2010
It was another sultry week with a warm river and squadrons of dragonflies. Were these all somehow connected? A school of small barracuda showed up in the East River, reminding us how the estuary is connected to the sea.
HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK
7/24 - Brooklyn, New York City: The DEC Hudson River Estuary Program, Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy, and The Coastal Marine Resource Center joined forces to celebrate the third annual City of Water Day with a group of forty adults and children. We seined under the Manhattan Bridge in Brooklyn Bridge Park and caught northern kingfish, winter flounder, northern puffer, northern pipefish, striped bass, bluefish, Atlantic silverside, comb jellies, sand shrimp and blue crabs. We also hauled the seine right into a small school of northern sennet, all of them 100-120 mm long.
- T.J. Ryan, Sarah Mount, Steve Stanne, Cynthia Fowx
[Northern sennet, along with a related species, guaguanche, are small barracuda. They are known from the Hudson River from only a few occurrences, 1986-1987 at Indian Point (HRM 42), and in the early 1990s at Croton Point (HRM 35). While they do not grow to the size of the great barracuda (six feet long), they still get to be 18-24 inches. Dery Bennett reported catching northern sennet in Sandy Hook Bay, and commented that they looked like "a miniature barracuda in all proportions." Tom Lake.]
NATURAL HISTORY NOTES
7/18 - Town of Shandaken, HRM 92: Standing on our foot bridge across the Little Bushkill, a tributary of the Esopus Creek, we looked upstream and spotted a mink, thirty feet away, on the rocks at the side of the stream. It didn't notice us and we could see that it was hunting. It jumped into a small pool and we could watch it swimming sinuously, effortlessly, underwater, chasing something we could not see, perhaps small fish or invertebrates. It went up over some rocks and then into another pool all the while getting closer to us. It was as much at home under water as it was on land. Finally the mink disappeared from view under our feet, going under the bridge, then downstream, then back under the bridge again, until at one point it did not reappear.
- Peter Relson, Carol Anderson, Danny Davis
7/18 - Kowawese, HRM 59: It felt like we were on the set of the movie Groundhog Day - another scorcher in the 90s. The river, chest deep, was 84 degrees and felt like a sauna. On the first haul our seine filled with young-of-the-year [YOY] river herring. Two-thirds were blueback herring (56 mm); the other third was equally alewives (57 mm) and American shad (68 mm). A few YOY striped bass were also mixed in (45 mm). Salinity was 3.0 parts per thousand, just barely "tasteable." Rocks in the littoral zone (just below the reach of tide) had many tiny bay barnacles, a testament to the increasing salinity.
- Tom Lake, A. Danforth
[Bay barnacles (Balanus improvisus) are crustaceans related to shrimp, crabs, and lobsters. Their exoskeleton is a trap-door house made of small plates, within which the animal lives. Although it is unclear exactly how barnacle larvae arrive upriver in the freshwater reach above the Hudson Highlands to settle and attach to suitable substrate, their method of transport may be the flood tide current in times of low freshwater flow. Tom Lake.]
7/18 - Cornwall Bay, HRM 58: As the tide fell, an adult bald eagle was perched on a deadfall amidst acres of emerging shallows. Nearly a hundred Canada geese were scattered around as well, appearing to be fully at ease. The eagle must have already eaten.
- Tom Lake
7/19 - Town of Milan, HRM 90: I saw a turtle starting to cross Round Lake Road so I carried it over to where it was headed. Its smooth shell was maybe four inches long with one yellow spot on each plate on the carapace. Underneath, the plates were orange with an irregular black splotch in each one. I believe it was a spotted turtle, although my specimen seemed to lack color on the head, neck or legs as indicated in the guides.
- Alice McGovern
7/19 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 76: We visited the Fall Kill today on our rounds of looking for crabs. We finally got our hands on a live Chinese mitten crab, a male, 43 mm carapace width, under the Poughkeepsie train station. It is perpetual twilight under there and the crabs are occasionally out and visible. We also picked up eleven blue crab sheds and saw three live ones scurrying around in the rapids. There was a dead brown trout in the rapids. We have been seeing several 8-10 inch trout in the pools near the Children's Museum and saw several again today. The water temperature was 75 degrees Fahrenheit, pushing the upper limit that trout will tolerate. We wondered if the dead trout succumbed to the warm water.
- Bob Schmidt, Ian Hetterich, Nico Hernandez
7/19 - Manitou, HRM 46: I saw my first bats of the season this evening. As the last light of the day faded, three bats were flying around above the dried up lawn. I was hoping they were eating the mosquitoes that had been attacking me as I was trying to water the vegetable garden.
- Zshawn Sullivan
7/20 - Columbia County, HRM 118: For the last four evenings, we have been listening to katydids. I noticed a dark shape swoop and land on a telephone pole at the road's edge. After a short time, it came around my side of the pole and scurried up to the power lines. It was a flying squirrel. This was confirmed when it glided off into trees on our neighbor's property. All the flying squirrels I have seen closely were southern flying squirrels but I hear that the northern flying squirrels could potentially be here as well.
- Bob Schmidt
7/20 - Cornwall-on-Hudson, HRM 57: About sixty children from the Cornwall-on-Hudson Summer Camp came to the beach to watch us seine and hear about the Hudson River. Among the catch were YOY smallmouth bass, striped bass, and river herring (alewives and blueback herring). Even though we did our best to dump the net back in the water quickly to limit fish mortality, a half-dozen river herring drifted motionless ... that is until a large blue crab swam into the swash right at our feet and grabbed the herring. Nothing goes to waste. As the program concluded, we noticed that the grassy field next to the river was swarming with scores, maybe hundreds, of dragonflies.
- Sarah Mount, Rebecca Houser, Tom Lake
7/20 - Croton River, HRM 34: I was glancing across the Croton River at last light - in that light purple shadows give an added dimension to the riverscape making it even more bucolic - when a great blue heron swooped in, only inches above the flat water, and landed among the rocks on the far shore. Not to be outdone, a cormorant executed a perfect three point landing, dove, and then surfaced with only his serpentine neck emerging.
- Sandy Plotkin
7/20 - Manhattan, HRM 4: I was at Pier 62 in Chelsea when I noticed that the new carousel that opened this year has animals from the Hudson River Valley, including peregrine falcon, cormorant, Canada goose, raccoon and black bear. There was one exception - a unicorn. But who knows, maybe in some distant imaginary time there were some. The carousel also has a "green roof" that includes prickly pear cactus that can be found on shoreline areas in New York City.
- Regina McCarthy
7/21 - Newcomb, HRM 302: When Toby Rathbone and I went out for our walk there were platoons of dragonflies skimming the road and yards, and squadrons of them patrolling overhead. They were all "darners" (the big guys). I've never seen so many at once. We ran into Charlotte Demers from the SUNY-ESF Ecological Center shortly after we started our walk, and she was amazed by the sight, too. I suspect there might have been a hatch.
- Ellen Rathbone
7/21 - Poesten Kill, HRM 152: Stopping by the Poesten Kill in Troy, we were looking over the First Street Bridge when we spotted four shorthead redhorse. These are large suckers that we rarely see elsewhere in the tidal Hudson. They had orange and red fins and were calmly feeding on the surface of rocks. In the early summer the fins are bright red.
- Bob Schmidt, Bryan Weatherwax, Ian Hetterich, Nico Hernandez
[The shorthead redhorse is a member of the sucker family. They are well known from the Mohawk River and its tributaries, and were collected from the Poesten Kill in 2001. Like the brook silverside, the shorthead redhorse has expanded its range downstream from the Mohawk into the Hudson in the last decade. Tom Lake.]
7/21 - Pleasant Valley. HRM 77: While out watering my vegetables and watching butterflies this morning, I spotted cabbage whites, a single red-spotted purple who's been around the yard for most of a week, and then a swallowtail flitting by. My first thought was tiger swallowtail. But after it hung around about a minute I realized that it was a giant swallowtail. This was the first one I have seen in New York, although I found them common in south Florida and south Texas.
- Don Pizzuto
7/22 - Columbia County, HRM 114: Chris Nack, a SUNY-ESF Master's student studying habitat use by larval American shad, collected a sample in a secondary channel at Rogers Island on June 11. Unexpectedly, he found shad larvae full of young zebra mussels (a life-stage called veliger). The fish were 17-18 mm long and contained, on average, 22 tiny zebra mussel veligers. One larval shad had eaten 49 veligers. The only previous report of larval fish (white perch) consuming zebra mussel veligers in the Hudson was by Nack's advisor Karin Limburg and student Kristi Arend in 1994. Ironically, Chris' grandfather, Everett Nack, was the first person to discover the presence of zebra mussels in the Hudson River (1991), also at Rogers Island.
- Tom Lake
7/22 - Ulster County: The presence of the emerald ash borer, a green beetle native to Asia, has been confirmed in Ulster County. New York has 900 million ash trees, representing about 7% of all trees in the state. Since 2002, the emerald ash borer has killed 70 million ash trees in 13 mid-western states and Pennsylvania. It spreads 15-20 miles per year. Ash is a critical riparian tree; a recent survey found that over half of the trees along the Mohawk River are ash. If the emerald ash borer grabs a foothold in New York, one could conclude that where ash is present in riparian forests at high densities you'll likely see some impacts to streams such as increases in water temperature.
- Kevin Grieser, Riparian Buffer Coordinator, NYSDEC Hudson River Estuary Program
7/22 - Crugers, HRM 39: After the heavy rain and hail of overnight, I looked out the window and spotted a female red-bellied woodpecker busily pecking at the peanut feeder. It was soon joined by another, only without the red around its neck - a juvenile red-bellied. Then came a female downy and a blue jay. When I went outside to determine if the storm had done any damage, I looked up to see two great blue herons flying over, side-by-side, large shapes against the clear blue sky. Their awesome size never ceases to amaze me.
- Dorothy Ferguson
7/22 - Ossining, HRM 33: As we walked out toward the river in early afternoon we were surrounded by a swarm of dragonflies with orange bodies and double sets of clear gossamer wings. They kept swooping and swirling around us, not alighting anywhere. We usually see dragonflies scooting over ponds in search of insects, but these just kept on flying around us. There must have been thirty or more of them.
- Dorothy Ferguson, Dorothy Casey
7/23 - Little Stony Point, HRM 55: Fourteen teachers from a NYS Outdoor Education Association workshop joined us on the beach to see who was home in the river. After a morning deluge (half-inch of rain) the river had cooled off to 78 degrees. Salt was still detectable at about 2.5 parts per thousand. We wondered if habitat could attract certain species, so our seining included sampling of open water along a sandy beach and a nearby shallow bay with aquatic vegetation. Before we began, a raven flew low overhead and on up the beach. Ravens and peregrine falcons nest in the rocks faces of Storm King and Breakneck Ridge, which - along with Mount Taurus - comprise the northern gateway to the Hudson Highlands.
Along the beach we caught many YOY river herring was well as striped bass, spottail shiners, and two brackish water species, Atlantic silverside and bluefish. The latter two are fish of "open water" so their presence, given the location and the salinity, was not surprising. In the bay we caught many more YOY river herring and striped bass. However, the more sheltered, less dynamic habitat of the bay held banded killifish, pumpkinseed, smallmouth bass, and tessellated darters. "Jimmie" and "Sally" blue crabs, of all sizes, were everywhere.
- Rebecca Houser, Steve Stanne, Tom Lake
[Blue crabs have several colloquial names. Adult males are called "Jimmies," mature females are called "Sooks," and immature females are known as "Sallys." New York State regulations require "keeper" blue crabs to be at least 4.5-inch hard-shell carapace width. No more than 50 per day, and no females with eggs (sponge crabs), may be in possession. Tom Lake.]
7/23 - Brooklyn, New York City: The Coastal Marine Resource Center and the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy seined under the Manhattan Bridge in Brooklyn Bridge Park with a group of 50 children from the Center for Family Life. We caught blue crabs, amphipods, a nine-inch "clam" worm, a hermit crab, sand shrimp, shore shrimp, comb jellies, hydromedusae, Atlantic silversides, winter flounder, a northern pipefish, a YOY striped bass, and two northern puffers.
- Cynthia Fowx
7/24 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 75: The air temperature reached 95 degrees Fahrenheit today, one degree short of the record for the date.
- National Weather Service
7/24 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: Not long after dark an intense thunderstorm simply appeared. Rather than the usual sweep of a single storm this one seemed to be everywhere at once - pyrotechnics lit up a 360 degree horizon. After 45 minutes of relentless downpour (more than an inch of rain), the storm finally left.
- Tom Lake
7/25 - Ulster Park, HRM 87: We saw our first clymene moth in about 10 years today. It had a bold "fleur de lis" pattern on a cream-colored background. Its folded-wing position formed a crisp triangle. This all caused it to stand out vividly as it rested on some leaves. I remember having had a really hard time identifying the first one we ever saw because the picture in the guide had its wings spread open, which made it look very different.
- Peter Relson and Carol Anderson
[Clymene moths are relatively large (49-50 mm) and colorful "tiger moths" found in central, southern and eastern North America. Tom Lake.]
7/25 - Buchanan, HRM 40.5: While driving past Indian Point this evening, we spotted what we thought was a German shepherd sauntering across the road. As we got closer, we realized that it was a large, healthy looking coyote.
- Dianne Picciano, Phil Picciano
7/25 - Crugers, HRM 39: We were just about knocked out of bed just after midnight by a horrendous thunderstorm. Never before have I seen so much lightning nor heard such rolling thunder! This lasted for about forty minutes. The sky is starting to clear and the almost full moon was peering through the clouds.
- Dianne Picciano