Hudson River Almanac July 17 - July 23, 2013
The second annual Great Hudson River Fish Count helped many of us get thoroughly wet during a seven-day period of 90+ degree Fahrenheit air temperatures. The hot and wet summer was reflected in the measurements of the river and the makeup of our catch.
HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK
7/20 - Iona Island, HRM 45.5: I was at the Iona Island-Doodletown Bird Conservation Area today and watched two river otters crossing the access road from Route 9W. They went from the north side to the south side into the cattails just east of where the tide pools end.
- Michael Gischner
NATURAL HISTORY NOTES
7/17 - Crugers, HRM 39: We wondered if we'd see the great blue heron on Ogilvie's Pond during this oppressive heat wave. We spotted the bird, not in the water cooling itself, but standing atop a flat-topped tree at the far side of the pond. Its wings were spread out, cormorant-style, as it took in the scorching rays of the mid-day sun.
- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson
7/17 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: This morning I spotted seven great blue herons flying in a ragged formation over the upper village of Croton. Family group? I never witnessed that before. Beautiful to see!
- Michael Grant
7/18 - Minerva, HRM 284: I found an extremely late black-backed three-toed woodpecker nest today. I initially found this nest hole on May 4, when the male was seen excavating it, but there was never any evidence of subsequent nesting. Today, there were very young birds in the nest and the adults were going into the hole to feed them. This nest is 6-7 weeks later than normal for our area.
- Joan E. Collins
7/18 - Saugerties, HRM 102: Ulster County Deputy Sheriff Joe Steyer took photos of adult Atlantic needlefish in the tidewater Esopus Creek.
- Thomas P. Baudanza
[Sightings of Atlantic needlefish in the estuary have been occurring for the last forty years or so. In the 1970s and 80s, anglers reported catching adults about 11-18 inches long, especially around the warm water outflow of power generating facilities. The literature cited needlefish as strictly temperate marine strays and did not recognize them as estuarine spawners in the Hudson. The fact that we were seeing no young-of-the-year [YOY] supported that position. However, beach seines began to catch post-larval, YOY, yearling, and juvenile needlefish by the 2000s. Some of these were caught at a time, at a size, and in locations that provided solid (almost empirical) evidence that Atlantic needlefish were, in some measure, spawning in the freshwater Hudson. The U.S. and Wildlife Service literature states that needlefish "are bay and estuary spawners in at least 27.0 parts per thousand [ppt] salinity." In the Hudson estuary that would be the Lower and possibly the Upper Bay of New York Harbor. However, a footnote does allow that there "may be" freshwater spawning in Florida. Now we can probably add the Hudson River estuary to that footnote. Tom Lake.]
7/18 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 75: I heard my first katydid of the summer tonight.
- John Mylod
[Katydids seem to be a harbinger of midsummer. We reviewed twenty years of Hudson River Almanac data for the earliest report, latest report, and an average date. The earliest report was July 15, 2010 (Stephen Seymour, Town of Wappinger); the latest was August 19 (Bill Drakert, Ulster Park). The average date of first record has been July 25. Tom Lake.]
7/19 - Norrie Point, HRM 85: It was Day Six of the current heat wave of days in excess of 90 degrees F. The low tide shallows were practically "percolating" and few fish chose to be there. A quick pass with a 15-foot seine caught a dozen YOY blueback herring 44-47 millimeters [mm] long. The river was 80 degrees F.
- Tom Lake
7/19 - Newburgh, HRM 61: The view of the Hudson Highlands was inspiring but the air was stifling. The air temperature was 93 degrees F and the mid-afternoon heat index was 104. The river was 80 degrees, so there was little respite except being neck-deep in the water. Snorkeling was difficult; visibility was limited to no more than three feet. The only show came from quarter-sized blue crabs and a few tessellated darters that scurried along the sand below me.
- Tom Lake
7/20 - Kingston, HRM 92: As I waited on the bow of the Pennsy #399 barge to give a talk for the River Days program, an adult bald eagle flew down Rondout Creek toward the river, passing the crowd gathered along the shore. Not too many years ago, eagles were so uncommon that if one showed up at a program, someone would ask if we had somehow arranged it.
- Tom Lake
7/20 - Kingston Point, HRM 92: The tide didn't seem ideal for productive seining - too high - but a group had gathered for our Great Hudson River Fish Count program near the swimming beach. A number of volunteers were happy to don waders and pull the net. As they approached the beach, excited cries went up when the wake of a large fish arrowed across the closing circle of water. Safely ashore, the meshes were rolled back to reveal a channel catfish 18 inches long, plus a 10" long smallmouth bass, eleven spottail shiners, six white perch, four YOY blueback herring, two YOY striped bass, and - a surprise - 26 YOY Atlantic menhaden well north of their usual brackish water haunts. [Photo by Rebecca Houser of channel catfish and other fish caught in seine at Kingston Point.]
- Steve Noble, Steve Stanne, Rebecca Houser
7/20 - Norrie Point, HRM 85: We seined this morning with high school students from the Marist College Pre-College summer program. We had a high tide so we left the waders on shore and just went in with shorts and t-shirts. We caught a dozen YOY river herring, two three-inch-long bay anchovies, a water bug with dozens of eggs stuck to its back, and a small blue crab molt. Water temperature was 79 degrees F. We seined along the edge of the water chestnut beds and found that the dissolved oxygen [DO] levels inside were 4.0-5.0 parts per million [ppm], about 50% saturation. Outside the beds, the DO was 7.0 ppm and nearly 90% saturation.
- Chris Bowser
7/20 - Little Stony Point, HR 55: We shared this Hudson Highlands State Park beach with more than a hundred swimmers but still found adequate room to maneuver our 50-foot seine. Sixteen students from the New York City Fresh Air Fund were there with director Tom Smith to help with the Great Hudson River Fish Count. We caught 111 fish for including a channel catfish (150 mm), YOY striped bass (34-95 mm) and Atlantic menhaden (45-49 mm), adult spottail shiners (65-110 mm), white perch (125-145 mm), and six immature blue crabs (4.0"). Two-thirds of our catch were YOY fish. The water was 81 degrees F; salinity was undetectable.
- Tom Lake, Diana Franco; Kaina Liverpool
7/20 - Kowawese, HR 59: As at Little Stony Point, the beach at Kowawese was bustling with swimmers. Kate and Patrick Papaccio were there with Cub Scout Pack 1, Den 1, from Rockland County to help us with our Great Hudson River Fish Count. Biting deer flies made standing on the beach nearly impossible so most of us were in the river at least knee-deep. The 120 fish we caught included YOY striped bass (33-49 mm), Atlantic menhaden (47-70 mm), white perch (34-36 mm), blueback herring 40-42 mm), and spottail shiners (28-31 mm), plus adult spottail shiners (75-117 mm) and white perch (83-146). Seventy-eight percent of our catch were YOY fish. Water temperature was 83 degrees F; salinity was undetectable.
- Tom Lake, Phyllis Lake
7/20 - Piermont, HRM 25: The air temperature reached a sultry 90 degrees F and the water temperature in the shallows was not far behind at 86. We scooped up a net full of small YOY Atlantic menhaden, a sampling of young striped bass no larger than an inch in length and just barely showing their striping, several bay anchovies, a few white perch and several good-sized blue crabs. Oxygen levels were 8 ppm - surprisingly high for the warm temperature - and the salinity hovered at a brackish 5.0 ppt.
- Margie Turrin, Jo Anne Pederson, and a team of Rockland County AmeriCorps members
[The Hudson River Estuary Program's second annual Great Hudson River Estuary Fish Count tallied 440 fish of 19 different species at 13 sites. What were the stories in this year's catch?
Most interesting was the lack of Atlantic silversides. This species, an indicator of salty conditions, is usually common in summer in the lower, brackish water estuary. However, it was reported only from Brooklyn Bridge Park on the East River. Last year's count found Atlantic silversides at our two stations in the lower estuary - 10 at Piermont, 25 at Yonkers - and they were common at other sites in that area later last summer.
Dr. John Waldman reports that this scarcity of silversides "is in keeping with what I've (not) seen in the western [Long Island] Sound this year. I've been watching the Sound for half a century and there are always silversides, ranging from ubiquity to extremely abundant. But this year I've not seen even a single silverside, which is sort of like not seeing ants, bees, or sparrows." The Hudson River Fisheries Unit has also missed Atlantic silversides in their beach seines this summer, but notes that there have been years of low numbers in the past. Reports from New Jersey indicate that there are plenty to our south.
Given the lack of silversides, it was perhaps surprising that Atlantic menhaden - another species usually found in brackish water - was netted in good numbers north as far as Kingston Point, well into fresh water. All were YOY fish born this spring. Menhaden, also known regionally as bunker, mossbunker or pogies, spawn offshore; their young then move into estuaries.
The role of the Hudson estuary in providing nursery habitat was underlined by the fact that two thirds of the individual fish caught during the count were young of the year. The rich broth of nutrients and detritus in the river promotes the growth of algae and bacteria that feed tiny animals and in turn small, recently hatched fish. The estuary's sheltered bays and shallows, along with the usually turbid conditions of the water, provide a measure of protection from predators.
The largest fish caught this year was the 18-inch-long channel catfish netted at Kingston Point. The most unusual? Probably the skilletfish found in an oyster garden cage hauled out at East River Park. It looks something like a tadpole with fins. The species was not recorded from the Hudson until 2011, but has been found several times since. The skilletfish is more common in mid-Atlantic waters and is often associated with oysters. Steve Stanne. Photo of skilletfish by Dan Tainow.]
7/21 - Germantown, HRM 105: I have several feeders at my property's edge and visible from my living room window. Besides the common feeder birds, there are groundhogs, many cottontails, chipmunks, both red and gray squirrels, and this morning, a porcupine! At first I thought it was a skunk, since I saw white on the head. I grabbed my field glasses and saw the dark lump of a porcupine body. A happy cool dawn!
- Mimi Brauch
7/21 - Dutchess County, HRM 67-61: Counting monarch butterflies has become a summer-fall ritual, primarily due to the love and respect they have earned with their incredible migration odyssey. As mentioned previously, there have been few sightings so far this summer, a strange and disturbing observation. Possibly the cause lay with the record rainfall the northeast has received, coupled with two separate weeks of 90 degree plus heat this summer. Today I had to content myself with counting seven tiger swallowtails as I drove and walked along the river.
- Tom Lake
7/22 - New Baltimore, HRM 131.5: I was delighted to watch a great blue heron feeding as I slowly approached in my kayak. I was able to watch the heron dip for small fish four times in the river before it stretched its throat to gulp them whole. As herons almost always take flight upon approach, observing this one was a real treat.
- Kelly Halloran
7/22 - Milan, HRM 90: I watched a giant swallowtail butterfly for at least fifteen minutes as it visited a large stand of coneflowers in my garden. This has to be the largest butterfly that I have ever seen, beautiful, and in magnificent condition. [Photo of giant swallowtail by Deborah Tracy-Kral.]
- Frank Margiotta
7/23- Milan, HRM 90: Neighbors in the area have mentioned several sightings of black bears. I have not seen any but in the early spring I had bird feeder damage and a bluebird house was pulled down. The tree swallow eggs in that box were broken but the house itself was not badly damaged. Until last week, all twelve of my bird boxes have been doing well, fledging tree swallows and bluebirds. Today I noticed that two of my bluebird houses were down. This time the houses were completely demolished. It's always amazing to see evidence of the brute strength of these animals.
- Frank Margiotta
7/23 - Fishkill, HRM 61: A host of butterflies were frequenting a patch of wild bergamot in my openly wooded backyard. Included in the fluttering array were several spicebush swallowtails, an eastern tiger swallowtail, a silver-spotted skipper, a few cabbage whites, and a small unidentified skipper. Certainly most notable was a giant swallowtail, a first for my yard, with its distinctive yellow lines forming an X near the tips of its forewings. Also, in attendance seeking nectar from the flowers were numerous hummingbird moths and several honey bees.
- Ed Spaeth
7/23 - Montrose, HRM 40.5: The sky was very unsettled all day and heavy rains competed with sunshine. In the evening we were delighted to see a large rainbow in the southeastern sky. As we watched it, another rainbow appeared above it. We'd never seen a double rainbow before. Beautiful.
- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson
7/23 - Crugers, HRM 39: This morning we saw the great blue heron walking quickly through the murky water on the far side of Ogilvie's Pond. It poked its beak into the water and came up with something "squiggly." Apparently it wasn't something the heron wanted to eat since it tried to shake it off. The bird kept walking and dipping its bill into the water a half-a-dozen times before the squiggly thing finally disappeared. A female wood duck watched from her perch on a curved branch in the water nearby, and a female kingfisher flew by. Later in the day, we spotted the great blue in the lower reach of Furnace Brook, near the Oscawana Bridge, a spot that it often visits when it leaves Ogilvie's Pond.
- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson