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Hudson River Almanac August 2 - August 8, 2012

OVERVIEW

Entries about fish tend to dominate the Almanac in late summer and early autumn. The Hudson estuary provides critical nursery habitat for the young of many fishes, including species valued by anglers and commercial fishing operations along the Atlantic coast. Fisheries managers speak of the annual "crop" of young fish, an agricultural metaphor that seems apt at this time of year, when the abundance and diversity of fish in the river mirrors the abundance and diversity of vegetables, fruit, and other produce available in the Hudson Valley's farm markets.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

8/6 - Ossining. HRM 33: During a seining program in June, several small herring 115 millimeters [mm] long were captured and initially identified as yearling American shad (see 6/2 - Ossining). The identification was made based on non-intrusive yet diagnostic features including the angle of their lower jaw, eye diameter, and body shape and size. They were saved and have now been fully analyzed. While they had "shad jaws," their peritoneum (body cavity lining) was black. These were actually blueback herring masquerading as American shad. Why one-year-old blueback herring were in the Tappan Zee in June, when they might have been expected to be at sea maturing, is a mystery.

- Karin Limburg

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

8/2 - Milan, HRM 90: This evening was like old times: There were more bats flying around than I had seen in many years. It was great to see and I hope they help with the mosquitoes.

- Marty Otter

[A common thread for Almanac entries is a reference to Hudson River miles. These give context to each entry - that is to say, where in the watershed the observation occurred. For research and navigation purposes, the Hudson River is measured upriver from the Battery (river mile 0) at the tip of Manhattan, in the Upper Bay of New York Harbor: The George Washington Bridge is at river mile 12, the Tappan Zee Bridge is 28, Albany 145, and the Federal Dam at Troy, at the head of tidewater, is about river mile 153. While cities and bridges make convenient points of reference, river phenomena do not always occur at such neat and tidy intervals, so we see many references to places in between. While these designations are not exact, they do allow us to create a mind's eye picture of points on the river and in the Hudson watershed. Tom Lake.]

8/2 - Black Creek, HRM 85: We had a great day electro-shocking for American eels upstream from the Hudson River on Black Creek. We did not catch any eels but did turn up 13 redbreast sunfish, nine yellow bullheads, three tessellated darters, and one white sucker. The most interesting aquatic animal we found was rusty crayfish (19). Rusty crayfish are highly aggressive and a very strongly invasive species here (they are native to the Ohio River watershed). We kept the ones we caught and put them in aquaria at Norrie Point. Our black sea bass loves to eat rusty crayfish, a freshwater species that it would never encounter in its coastal marine environment.

- Sarah Mount

8/2 - Greene County, HRM 125: This entry comes from Maynard Ham, referencing the Red Hook Journal of 1912:

"While fishing in the Potick Creek, Tuesday evening, W. B. Hall caught a German brown trout that weighed eight pounds and measured 29 inches. This is the largest trout ever taken from any water in Greene County, and no doubt the largest of its species ever caught in the state." - Cairo Herald

[Potic Creek (current spelling) runs north to south in Greene County and supplies the water for the Village of Catskill's reservoir. Rich Guthrie.]

["German" brown trout (Salmo trutta) is a colloquial name not often used today. When this species was first introduced to North America (1883), its European origin was frequently used as a common name, such as German brown and Loch Leven trout. The current New York State record for this species is 33 lb. 2 oz., from Lake Ontario; the world record is 40 lb. 4 oz. - a brown trout captured in Arkansas. Tom Lake.]

8/2 - Crugers, HRM 39: On this hot, humid afternoon, we spotted the great blue heron in Ogilvie's Pond strutting along the far bank, its legs all brown and muddy. As we watched, it thrust its long beak out and jabbed a fish which it quickly devoured. Then it walked away into the phragmites at the side of the pond.

- Dorothy, Bob, Brandy Ferguson

8/3 - West Point, HRM 51: I watched banded killifish in a drainage ditch at the South Dock that the incoming tide had filled with water. They appeared to be spawning. The lighter, more colorful fish, bluish in appearance, were males. They chased each other and would then very briefly pair up with a darker and duller female. There were a fair number of them in the ditch and all were active and healthy looking.

- Doug Gallagher

[Identifying fish in their natural environment is a practiced skill. Short of snorkeling, which can be problematic in an estuary, the best way to identify fishes, especially in shallow water, is by developing a "sight image" based on their size, shape, color, swimming characteristics, and other behaviors. One of the best guides to this activity is C. Lavett Smith's Fish Watching: An Outdoor Guide to Freshwater Fishes (1994). "Smitty," as he is best known, is Curator Emeritus of Ichthyology at the American Museum of Natural History, founder of our popular Hudson River Fish Fauna list, and an expert on the fishes of New York State. Tom Lake.]

8/4 - Ulster County, HRM 90: My friend Eliza saw it first, likely a two-year-old black bear that ran east across Clove Road. We could see her ambling off into the forest. No sign of anyone else.

- Betty Boomer

8/4 - Manhattan, HRM 12.5: There have been a growing number of shorebirds at Inwood Hill Park these past few days. Two days ago we had 50, with two semipalmated plovers, 14 least sandpipers, and semipalmated sandpipers making up the rest. Yesterday we had double that, 101 birds, with the same ratio of least and semipalmated sandpipers plus one lesser yellowlegs. Today we had 150 birds, all least and semipalmated sandpipers. While these two "peeps" and a smattering of other shorebird species are not unheard of at this site, I had not seen such big numbers before.

- Nadir Souirgi

8/5 - Newcomb, HRM 302: I had a nice paddle on the river today with some beautiful flowers blooming along the shore including cardinal flower, spotted Joe-Pye weed, turtlehead, and common arrowhead. It seemed like every cluster of cardinal flower had hummingbirds feeding from the blossoms. An abundance of roadside flowers such as black-eyed Susan, fireweed, St. Johnswort, common mullein, goldenrod and, unfortunately, the invasive spotted knapweed were coloring the edge of the highways. Of our four common loon nests that we have been surveying this summer, three have successfully hatched at least one chick (four in total). We will continue to keep a watchful eye on the chicks until they have attained their flight plumage for their journey to coastal waters where they will spend the next few years of their lives before reaching sexual maturity.

- Charlotte Demers

8/5 - Rensselaer County to Greene County, HRM135-112: We sampled 16 near-shore habitats between North Schodack Island and Ramshorn Creek to the south. Juvenile river herring and shad were our quarry, but we also kept track of other fish collected in our seine as well as other aspects of the habitat. Hurricane Irene's reduction of wild celery was evident throughout this reach. Where thick beds grew last year, only muck or sand remained. Juvenile shad were sparse at most sites; overall, blueback herring were more abundant. We captured over a dozen species including many silver dollar-sized hogchokers, Atlantic needlefish, emerald shiners, and a mummichog or two. The find of the day was a juvenile freshwater drum, captured in among the pickerelweed on the east side of Rogers Island.

- Karin Limburg, Chris Nack, Emily Ogburn, Garry Nack

8/5 - Norrie Point HRM 85: Eight volunteers had a very productive morning of seining. We caught over a hundred fish and identified thirteen different species, among them blue crab, hogchoker, pumpkinseed and red-breast sunfish, spottail shiner, white perch, yellow perch, tessellated darter, golden shiner, river herring, striped bass, and one American eel.

- Jim Herrington

8/6 - Hyde Park, HRM 82: I've seen the same buck white-tailed deer twice in the last week. The first time he came barreling out of the woods right at my patrol car and darted back and forth not knowing which way to go to stay out of the way. I clearly caught four points of a velvet rack on one side before he disappeared back into the woods. This evening I saw him at the same spot feeding. He's is a large buck with all of eight points [antlers] covered in velvet.

- Michael Paulson

8/6 - Wappinger Falls, HRM 67: As I walked around Wappinger Lake today and was watching a great blue heron fishing, an adult bald eagle came out from the trees, flew low along the bank, and then back into the trees where it perched overlooking the lake. This was a nice and unexpected surprise.

- Jamie Collins

8/6 - Brooklyn, New York City: Over the weekend, Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy seining programs caught five bay anchovies, 60 Atlantic silversides, 2 blue crabs (adults mating), 60 ctenophores (comb jellies), 13 European green crabs, one striped bass, one Asian shore crab, a black sea bass (six inches long), three hydromedusae, and three small juvenile fishes (species still to be determined). The water temperature throughout the weekend averaged at 72 degrees Fahrenheit.

- Giulia Morrone

8/7 - Staatsburg, HRM 85: As I was walking along the riverside trail in Mills-Norrie State Park, I watched an adult bald eagle fly south along the western shoreline of the Hudson for a few hundred yards before landing on a tree overhanging the river.

- Jamie Collins

[There are two active bald eagle nests within five minutes of eagle-flight time from the State Park. Tom Lake.]

8/7 - Wappinger Creek, HRM 67.5: I found what I thought was a dead blue crab along Wappinger Creek where the tide had recently gone out. The crab was upside down so I flipped it over but, unfortunately, there didn't seem to be any life in it. It was still intact with no obvious damage so it seemed a bit strange for it to be lifeless. It was still wet from the recent tide.

- Jamie Collins

[I am pretty certain that you came upon a crab moult. As crustacean, they shed their exoskeletons as they grow, May to November, and move into a newly formed one, like getting a new suit of clothes. Blue crab moulting tends to increase during periods of high water such as during the new and full moon (August 2). We get emails and phone calls occasionally reporting "dead blue crabs" washed up on beaches along the tidewater Hudson. These reports are rarely accurate. Most of the time, they are moults, shed exoskeletons of blue crabs. Many of them are perfect imitations of live crabs until you lift the carapace and discover that no one is home. Tom Lake.]

8/8 - Hyde Park, HRM 82: We've been enjoying the antics of our hummingbirds. Two of them are standouts; one is a very large female and the other a small male, though he's only small in stature as he spends as much of his time chasing as feeding. I wish he had taken on the grey squirrel who chewed off the portals, ruining my wonderful Droll Yankee feeder.

- Barbara Wells

8/8 - Kowawese, HRM 59: An osprey hung far overhead in the thermals blowing upriver off Storm King Mountain as the students from the Hudson Highlands Nature Museum's Summer Camp helped us seine. Much of the catch was predictable including scores of banded killifish, still in breeding colors (males) or lack thereof (females). Of special note were the dozens of young-of-the-year striped bass ranging in length from 39-64 mm. The one surprise was Atlantic silverside, a fish commonly associated with salty-to-brackish water; we netted a dozen or more (64-66 mm). The salinity measured just over 2.0 parts per thousand and the water temperature was 82 degrees F.

- Tom Lake, Carl Heitmuller (photos of young of the year striped bass and adult Atlantic silverside by Steve Stanne)

A young of the year striped bass A picture of an Atlantic silverside, a small fish commonly found in the Hudson River

8/8 - Crugers, HRM 39: Ogilvie's Pond was very still and peaceful in the late afternoon with dragonflies flitting over the surface. The long neck of the resident great blue heron emerged from behind some spatterdock and we watched as it made its way slowly through the water and then up onto a curved branch sticking out over the pond. We enjoyed its beautiful coloring as it spread its wings, cormorant-like, and began preening its feathers - we could see little wisps of feathers falling from its body. In the woods behind the pond we spotted a white-tailed deer moving. Then a doe and spotted fawn came into full view as they passed through a clearing.

- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson

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