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The Nature of Things

A blog about nature and the environment

Archive for March, 2009

Today’s post brought to you


By the letter S. Spring, sunshine, snake, sssss. The photo by TJN photographer Stuart Bayer shows a garter snake last Friday (3/27) emerging from its winter nap.

Next up on the snake’s agenda? According to this Web site:

Garter snakes generally mate after emerging from hibernation in March or April. Females give birth to 12-40 young anytime from July through October.

Here’s the required nod to Sesame Street.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Tuesday, March 31st, 2009 at 10:36 am |
| | 1 Comment »

They’re back


The pair of bald eagles who have chosen a slice of suburban Putnam County in which to raise their family are back for another year. I stopped to take a look at the couple’s nest this morning. What I’m assuming was mom was hunkered down on the nest. Dad stopped by a couple of times while I was there, apparently just checking on things because he wasn’t carrying anything.

Last year, the Southeast pair were taking care of two young eagles, brown, awkward-looking birds. But the last time I stopped by, in late June, only one was visible flying around the nest. I’m not saying that’s bad news. The other sibling could have already mastered flying and was just off elsewhere.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation has known about the nest since 2006, when the pair raised one young. In 2007, they raised three.

Here’s the state’s “Bald Eagle Report 2008.” As you can see, Region 3, which includes Putnam, Westchester, Rockland, Dutchess, Ulster, Sullivan and Orange counties, is very productive, eagle-wise.

Regionally, southeastern New York (DEC Regions 3 & 4) continues to be the densest area of eagle nesting activity in the state, accounting for 53% of all the occupied territories and 57% of all the young fledged in the state in 2008.

Region 8 took honors for the most new pairs in 2008, with six, while Region 3 got the gold star this year for the greatest number of occupied pairs and young fledged in the state (table 6).

The photo by TJN photographer Frank Becerra shows the nest last year.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Monday, March 30th, 2009 at 1:30 pm |
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Opening Day tips


For trout, that is. Baseball would be another blog . . . Following are some suggestions and information from the state Department of Environmental Conservation. The state’s trout season begins Wednesday, April 1. TJN photo shows anglers on the Croton River in Croton Falls.

From the DEC:

Early Forecast

Although early season trout angling in northern and mountainous reaches of New York may be slow due to lingering cold weather and melting snow, conditions in other areas of New York should be good for early-season angling. Waters on Long Island, the lower Hudson Valley and western New York tend to warm up earlier and provide the best early-season fishing opportunities.

Slow presentations using spinners or minnow-imitating lures and, where permitted, live bait, work well in the early season. Those preferring to fly fish will find that similar slow, deep presentations using weighted nymphs and streamers can be effective. Trout and salmon fishing on lakes and ponds is often best immediately after ice-out. Since many Adirondack and Catskill ponds are likely to remain frozen for the April 1 opener, anglers should scout out areas beforehand. Prime areas to fish are those locations that warm the earliest, including tributary mouths and near surface and shallow shoreline areas. Afternoons can be better than mornings during the early season, as the sun’s rays can significantly warm surface waters. Early season anglers are reminded to be extra cautious as high flows, ice and deep snow can make accessing and wading streams particularly hazardous. Anglers are reminded that ice fishing is prohibited in trout waters, except as noted in the Fishing Regulations Guide.

Stocking and Hatcheries

Several hatchery improvement projects were completed last year. Most significant among these was the completion of an extensive pole-barn complex covering hatchery ponds at the Rome Fish Hatchery to reduce trout predation by birds. It is estimated that this project will save 50,000 to 100,000 fingerling trout annually from predatory birds and will lead to more efficient hatchery operations.

Additional hatchery rehabilitation projects are planned for this upcoming year including the rebuilding of the main hatchery building at Rome. Rome Hatchery is one of DEC’s oldest and largest hatcheries, growing and stocking more than 650,000 yearling brown and brook trout annually.

Spring is a busy season for the DEC Hatchery System. From mid-March through mid-June, nine trout and salmon hatcheries stock fish five days a week using 30 state-of-the-art stocking trucks.

Stocking of catchable-size trout generally commences in late March and early April in the lower Hudson Valley, Long Island, and western/central New York, and then proceeds to the Catskills and Adirondacks. This year, DEC plans to stock more than 2.3 million catchable-size brook, brown, and rainbow trout in 304 lakes and ponds and roughly 3,000 miles of streams across the state. Approximately 100,000 two-year-old brown trout ranging from 12 to 15 inches in length will also be stocked into lakes and streams statewide.

More than 2 million yearling lake trout, steelhead, landlocked salmon, splake and coho salmon also will be stocked by DEC this spring to provide exciting angling opportunities over the next several years. For those who prefer a quieter more remote setting, 325,000 brook trout fingerlings will be stocked in 343 remote lakes and ponds this spring and fall to bolster “backwoods” fishing opportunities. For a complete list of waters planned to be stocked with trout this spring go to www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/30465.html <http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/30465.html> . A listing of waters stocked with all sizes of trout last year can be found at www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/30467.html <http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/30467.html> . In addition to stocked waters, New York State has thousands of miles of wild trout streams that provide excellent fishing opportunities. Regional fisheries offices, which are listed in the Fishing Regulations Guide, can offer specific details abo ut the locations and opportunities offered by these waters.

The general creel limit for brook, brown and rainbow trout is five fish per day and the open season for trout in most New York State waters runs from April 1 through Oct. 15. There are numerous exceptions however, so anglers should review the Fishing Regulations Guide before heading out to their favorite pond or stream.

A New York State fishing license is required for all anglers 16 years of age and older. Those looking to renew licenses can do so at http://www.dec.ny.gov/permits/6101.html or by calling 1-86-NY-DECALS. Fishing licenses can also be purchased from various sporting license outlets located throughout the state (town and county clerks, some major discount stores and many tackle and sporting goods stores).

When purchasing a fishing license, anglers should also consider purchasing a Habitat/Access Stamp, which is available to anyone for $5 from any sporting license issuing agent. Proceeds from sale of this stamp have funded many valuable trout stream access and habitat projects in New York, such as the development of a parking area and footpath on Felts Mill Creek in Jefferson County this past year.

For anglers seeking publicly accessible stream fishing locations, DEC continues to add to its inventory of public fishing rights (PFR) maps that can be downloaded here. New maps covering DEC Region 4 have recently been added to the existing maps covering DEC Regions 3, 5, 7, 8 and 9.

Prevent the Spread of Invasive Species and Diseases

With the recent discovery of the fish disease Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHS) in New York, and an invasive species of algae, didymo, in the Delaware River system and the Batten Kill, anglers are reminded of the important role that they play in preventing the spread of these and other potentially damaging invasive species and fish diseases. Please thoroughly dry equipment, particularly waders and wading shoes, for 48 hours before moving from water to water. If drying is not possible, equipment must be disinfected. One of the easiest and safest ways to disinfect gear is by soaking it for 10 minutes in a cleanser/disinfectant containing the ingredient alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride. This ingredient is found in most common household antiseptic cleansers such as Fantastic, Formula 409 and Spray Nine. Anglers are also encouraged not to use felt-soled waders as they are more apt to transport didymo and other invasives than other forms of wading soles. For more informa tion on invasive species and disinfection procedures, request a copy of the new DEC brochure “Anglers and Boaters: Stop the Spread of Aquatic Invasive Species and Fish Diseases in New York State” from your local DEC office.

New Baitfish Regulations Established to Protect New York Fisheries

Anglers are reminded that a new “Green List” of baitfish species that can be commercially collected and/or sold for fishing in any water body in New York where it is legal to use fish as bait has now been established in regulation. For a complete discussion of these regulations and how to identify these approved baitfish species, download the new brochure www.dec.ny.gov/docs/fish_marine_pdf/baitfishofny.pdf. Personal collection and use of baitfish other than those on the “Green List” is permitted, but only on the water from which they were collected and they may not be transported overland by motorized vehicle. These new regulations have been established to stem the spread of non-native baitfish and dangerous fish diseases in New York State.

Hudson Valley/Catskills (DEC Region 3)

Public fishing rights (PFR) maps for Region 3 are now available on the DEC web site at www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/9924.html <http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/9924.html> . These maps are designed to provide anglers with location information for public fishing easements in the Region. PFR easements are also marked with yellow signs to help anglers find these locations on the stream. Please contact the regional office if you have any questions or believe that a PFR is posted incorrectly.

Region 3 has introduced a new Fishing Hotline to provide information on how and where to catch fish throughout the region. Please call: 845-256-3101 or check the DEC web site at: http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/fishhotlines.html for timely updates.

Anglers looking for good early season trout fishing east of the Hudson River should consider Wappinger Creek, Ten Mile River, Sprout Creek and Fishkill Creek, all located in Dutchess County. These fairly large streams will be well stocked prior to opening day and all support holdover trout from previous years’ stocking, as well as some wild brown trout. In Putnam County, good early season bets are the East Branch and West Branches of the Croton River. These streams are located on New York Watershed Property and a free NYC Public Access Permit is required. The New York City Department of Environmental Protection has updated and improved the permit issuing system. Permits can now be obtained online at http://www.nyc.gov/html/dep/html/watershed_protection/html/wsrecreation.html. Information and permit applications can also be obtained by calling 1-800-575-LAND. In Westchester County, the Croton River, below New Croton Dam, and Stone Hill River are well stocked early season favorites that do not require a city permit.

Although most of the Catskill trout streams are readily accessible by road, people looking for a more remote fishing experience have many options. There are thousands of acres of state lands in Sullivan and Ulster counties, and most have small wild trout streams. Some much larger waters also exist in remote settings, like the Neversink River Unique Area below Bridgeville and above Oakland Valley, and the Mongaup River below Rio Dam in the Mongaup Valley Wildlife Management Area.

Other notable trout resources in the area include 17 New York City reservoirs totaling more than 23,000 acres. Large brown trout, including some weighing more than 20 pounds, may be found in many of these waters. Ashokan Reservoir is famous for large rainbow trout, and Rondout and Kenisco Reservoirs have thriving populations of lake trout. Lake trout fishing in the Kensico, a 2,218-acre reservoir in Westchester County, has improved greatly in recent years and now is supported primarily through natural reproduction. Neversink and West Branch Croton Reservoirs have modest populations of landlocked salmon that supplement the more traditional brown trout experience. As noted previously, all New York City watershed lands require a free permit for recreational access.

During the spring and early summer, DEC hatchery staff will deliver over 300,000 trout to 85 streams and 30 lakes and ponds within Region 3. Included in this total will be nearly 16,000 of the larger (12-15″) two-year-old brown trout, which will be distributed to about 40 of the larger and more accessible streams. This year’s stocking information can be obtained by sending a stamped, self-addressed envelope to: Fisheries Office, DEC Region 3, 21 South Putt Corners Road, New Paltz, NY, 12561.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Saturday, March 28th, 2009 at 8:46 am |


Stay out of caves


That’s the request from federal officials as scientists and researchers are still trying to figure out what is causing the death of hundreds of thousands of bats.

From a story in today’s NYT:

Federal officials are asking people to stay out of caves in states from West Virginia to New England, where as many as 500,000 bats have died from a disease called white-nose syndrome.

The Fish and Wildlife Service made the request to guard against the possibility that people are unwittingly spreading the mysterious affliction when they explore multiple caves. There is no evidence that the disease is a threat to people.

Here’s the press release from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and, of course, an earlier post about white-nose syndrome.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Friday, March 27th, 2009 at 4:21 pm |

Eels, eels everywhere


OK, well maybe not everywhere. But those researching American eels in the Hudson River and its tributaries are happy with what they found this week.

Chris Bowser, a science educator with the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s Hudson River National Estuarine Research Reserve, sent the following eel e-mail along this week. He’s working with some high school students on Furnace Brook in Cortlandt

On Tuesday, March 24, we put in the fyke net at Furnace Brook with several students from Ossining High School. Our goal: to monitor the migration of tiny juvenile eels—“glass eels”—as they entered the tidal
mouth of Furnace Brook.

I cautioned the students that we were starting several weeks earlier than last year, and that the water was still very cold (9 degrees C). Undaunted, we pounded rebar and slogged through mud so that we could capture data
around this week’s new moon.

The next day, Wednesday March 25, there were 75 glass eels in the net. Today, Thursday March 26, I just got a text message: “134!!”

Glass eels refer to the tiny, transparent young eels born more than 1,000 miles away in the Atlantic Ocean. They’re now migrating into coastal rivers, where they will spend most of their lives. The photo above by TJN photographer Stuart Bayer shows a glass eel captured and counted during last year’s undertaking.

Here’s an earlier eel post with links to more information and last year’s story. Here’s a DEC paper about the students’ work.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Friday, March 27th, 2009 at 2:12 pm |
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Wabbit season. No, duck season.


If you’re a duck hunter, the state Department of Environmental Conservation wants to hear from you. Specifically, the agency is looking for your thoughts on when the 2009/2010 waterfowl hunting seasons should open, close, etc.

New York State is divided into five waterfowl hunting zones: Western, Southeastern, Northeastern, Lake Champlain, and Long Island. DEC recently appointed task forces for each zone (except Lake Champlain, see below) to make recommendations for the Fall 2009 hunting seasons. Each task force includes representatives from the New York State Conservation Council, established waterfowl hunting organizations, and individual waterfowl hunters who were chosen to provide a broad range of input.

Task force members act as representatives of all duck hunters in each zone and collectively recommend season opening and closing dates (and split seasons if desired) and dates for a Youth Waterfowl Hunting Weekend that best satisfy the diverse interests in their zone. The recommended dates must be within federal guidelines established by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). For Fall 2009, DEC biologists expect the USFWS to allow a 60-day duck season, split into no more than two segments per zone, opening no earlier than Sept. 26, 2009, and closing no later than Jan. 31, 2010.

Suggestions can be sent to any task force member by April 3. Names and contact information can be found here.

As for this post’s headline, that’s a reference to the Elmer Fudd-Bugs Bunny-Daffy Duck routine.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Thursday, March 26th, 2009 at 11:10 am |
| | 1 Comment »


Learn about local animals


The head of an organization that teaches folks “to observe, interpret, record and monitor evidence of wildlife habitat in their communities” will give a free slide presentation and talk Friday (3/27) about mammals of the Northeast.

Susan Morse of Keeping Track will give her presentation starting at 7 p.m. in the Patterson Library’s community room. The event is sponsored by Friends of the Great Swamp.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Wednesday, March 25th, 2009 at 11:04 am |
| | 1 Comment »

How to make buildings “green”


The Rockland Municipal Planning Federation will focus on green building when it holds its 21st annual dinner meeting at 7 p.m. March 31.

Architect Michael Shilale will describe why existing buildings are prime opportunities for reducing carbon emissions and energy use. He will also present information about the LEED-EB rating system and ways to implement improvements in building systems, water and energy use.

LEED stands for the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system. The EB stands for existing buildings.

Buildings earn points based on how well they incorporate green-friendly techniques into their designs, including their energy consumption and pollution output. The goals include encouraging sustainable building practices and the reduction of carbon emissions and energy use.

The planning federation provides a forum for sharing information, and for discussing common land-use planning and regulation, zoning and related issues. The organization also offers education and training, as well as certification for municipal planning and zoning board members.

The dinner costs $35 per person and will be held at the Clubhouse at the Patriot Hills Golf Club, off Clubhouse Lane, in Stony Point. Advance registration is requested. For more information or to make a reservation, contact Arlene Miller at miller@co.rockland.ny.us or 845-364-3448.

Posted by Laura Incalcaterra on Tuesday, March 24th, 2009 at 3:28 pm |

Lamont-Doherty lecture series continues


When you want to learn more about climate change, the first place you should be looking, apparently, is a marsh.

In this case, the Piermont Marsh, where researcher Dorothy Peteet has been poking around for the past few years. It turns out that tidal marshes are pretty recorders of history, especially if one is willing to spend hours taking sediment cores and analyzing the peat, as Peteet has done.

Her research allows the counting of pollen grains, plant macrofossils and charcoal, all of which tells the story of dramatic and abrupt shifts in the Hudson Valley’s regional climate, according to information provided by Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, which is based in Palisades.

Lamont-Doherty will host a presentation by Peteet from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at the observatory campus, off Route 9W. The cost is $5 per person and includes a light reception after the lecture, which allots time for questions and answers. Registration is suggested due to space limitations.

Two other lectures will follow:

• April 19, scientists Nick Christie-Blick and Byrdie Renik discuss “Continental Stretching.”

• April 26, scientist Brendan Buckley discusses “The Tree Ring Project.”

Get more information about all the talks here, and register for the programs, by emailing events@ldeo.columbia.edu or calling 845-365-8998.

Posted by Laura Incalcaterra on Tuesday, March 24th, 2009 at 3:07 pm |
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Indian Point to be debated


A debate on whether the Nuclear Regulatory Commission should reject the license renewal application for Indian Point Nuclear Generating Units 2 and 3 will be held from 7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. March 30 at the Haverstraw King’s Daughters Public Library, Route 202 in Garnerville.

The Hudson Valley Debate Union is sponsoring the program, which revolves around an “Oxford-style” debate, with each side getting a set amount of time and guests able to participate and vote on the outcome. Go to www.hvdebateunion.org for more information.

Posted by Laura Incalcaterra on Tuesday, March 24th, 2009 at 2:28 pm |
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About this blog
The Nature of Things provides a chance to talk about the wild denizens that share the Lower Hudson Valley with us and the natural settings that make this place home for everyone. From Long Island Sound to the Hudson River to the Great Swamp and beyond, almost anything related to the environment is fair game in this blog.


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About the authors
SBenischekJournal News staff writer Greg Clary writes Earth Watch, reporting on environmental issues in the lower Hudson region. Clary has been a reporter, editor and columnist at the Journal News since 1988 and has covered police and courts, transportation, municipal government, development and the environment in the Lower Hudson Valley, among other topics.
Laura IncalcaterraLaura Incalcaterra covers the environment, open space and zoning and planning issues for The Journal News. A Boston College graduate, Laura grew up in Rockland, attended East Ramapo schools and has worked for The Journal News since 1993. Laura has written features and covered North Rockland, crime, government and a host of other issues.
SBenischekMike Risinit covers Patterson and Kent in Putnam County, as well as environmental topics touching on the Hudson River and the Great Swamp. Risinit has been a reporter at The Journal News since 1998.
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