With daylight decreasing, north winds blowing in chillier air, and ever increasing red, yellow, and gold foliage on trees, there is a strong sense the seasons are changing around New York Harbor.
Yet, it’s not just me who get this feeling. Look all around and you will start to spot wildlife getting ready for colder weather. Ubiquitous gray squirrels are starting to build messy leaf, twig, and grass nests, called dreys, near the top of tall trees for winter mating. Box turtles are seeking the perfect place to hibernate. A place with lots of groundcover and leaves, perhaps near a newly fallen tree with leaves still attached to branches. It’s here a turtle might dig out a shallow soil depression from two to ten inches or more below the surface before pushing itself backwards into its own private winter retreat.
Up in the sky, hawks are in the middle of a fall journey, migrating southward from nesting sites up in New England or Canada. Monarch butterflies are also in motion, flying fast on small wings to far away mountains in Central Mexico to rest and pass away the winter. In tidal waters, striped bass and bluefish are feeding heavily on small fish as they swim south to warmer waters for the winter.
With all this commotion, it’s easy to overlook some small and slight seasonal delights.
One of my favorites has to be chipmunks on the move. They don’t go far or even fast, but as winter approaches, these energetic and endearing animals start to get really busy.
By Charles Q. Choi, Live Science Contributor | October 11, 2016 02:51pm ET
Disastrous floods like those seen during Hurricane Sandy in 2012, which killed 159 people in the United States, destroyed neighborhoods in New York and caused an estimated $50 billion in damages, may hit New York City 17 times more often in the next century, a new study finds.
Hurricane Sandy was the second costliest hurricane in U.S. history, according to the National Hurricane Center. The hurricane caused widespread flooding of streets, buildings and subway tunnels in Manhattan after storm surges pushed the East River to overflow its banks.
The storm surge, or storm-linked rise in sea level from Sandy, reached 9.2 feet (2.8 meters) in New York City, and the storm tide — the combined height of the normal ocean tide and the storm surge — reached a record height of 11.3 feet (3.44 meters) there. A better understanding of how often such catastrophic flooding might happen is key to minimizing future damages, the researchers said. [A History of Destruction: 8 Great Hurricanes]
The scientists found that from 1800 to 2000, the chances of Sandy-level floods have tripled from once every 1,200 years to once every 400 years due to factors such as the slow sinking of the land in the mid-Atlantic region in response to the end of the last ice age. In addition, based solely on how the rate of sea-level rise is expected to accelerate over the 21st century, the researchers estimated that flooding on a par with Hurricane Sandy would become 4.4 times more likely by the end of this century.
"It was a big change in flood frequency that we found, especially comparing this century to the past two centuries," Lin told Live Science.
Even if the number of strong hurricanes does not increase between now and 2100, sea-level rise alone will likely increase the frequency of Sandy-like events, according to study co-author Ben Horton, a professor in the Department of Marine and Coastal Science at Rutgers University.
Read more here
By COREY KILGANNONOCT. 14, 2016
The New York Times
“The hardware is here,” Rob Buchanan said, wheeling in the trophies on Thursday night for an unusual award ceremony.
He was pulling a little wagon bearing a toilet seat painted gold and a toilet plunger painted silver.
“Let’s get this over with, so we can go back to drinking beer,” he said, officially kicking off the 2016 Golden Toilet Awards.
Mr. Buchanan coordinates a volunteer water-testing program for the New York City Water Trail Association, an advocacy group, and holds the awards each fall to honor, or really dishonor, the most polluted waterways in and around New York City. He also hand-paints the two trophies himself.
Whether given to Flushing Bay, Newtown Creek or the Gowanus Canal, these awards — the plunger goes to the runner-up — are no coveted achievements, but rather seats in an environmental hall of shame.
The awards are held at the end of 20 weeks of testing conducted by the Citizens Water Quality Testing Program, a volunteer group. Its members sample water at some 50 locations from Yonkers to Jamaica, Queens, and take them — by subway, by kayak, by a network of cyclists in Brooklyn known as the Pony Express — to Pier 40 in Manhattan or other testing sites throughout the city.
The samples are tested for fecal bacteria from sewer runoff — hence the toilet-themed awards — and the results are posted online, providing water-quality enthusiasts with data in addition to what is typically made available by government agencies. The levels often rise with rainfalls that exceed the capacity of treatment plants and cause sewage to flow directly into local waterways.
The awards have now been held five times. Last year, the winner was Flushing Bay, near La Guardia Airport, and the year before that, the Saw Mill River, which runs through Westchester County and empties into the Hudson River in Yonkers. The river regularly registers the highest pollution levels, but Mr. Buchanan awards other bodies of water to widen the spotlight.
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By LIAM STACKOCT. 15, 2016
The New York Times
Pedals, a beloved American black bear who walked upright and strolled around the suburbs of New Jersey like a Hanna-Barbera cartoon come to life, was believed to have been killed by a hunter last week, animal welfare activists said. His age was not known.
Since 2014 residents of Rockaway Township have posted videos online of the bear strolling through their neighborhoods and backyards with admirable posture, his forepaws pulled close to his chest. Many commented that on first glance, Pedals resembled a man wearing a bear suit.
But it appears that local celebrity was not enough to save Pedals during the state’s five-day hunting season for black bears, which began on Monday and allowed hunters to kill bears with a bow and arrow for the first time since the 1960s. He was one of 487 bears killed by hunters in New Jersey last week.
It was unknown whether Pedals walked upright because his forepaws were injured or if he had been born with a congenital defect, but either way his supporters had organized into an online community to promote his well-being. On Friday, an administrator of a Facebook group dedicated to the bear posted an anguished statement for its more than 21,000 followers. It was tagged “feeling heartbroken.”
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BASKING RIDGE, N.J. — The locals say that George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette — the Frenchman who bankrolled the American patriots with cold, hard cash — picnicked in the shade it provided. Rank-and-file soldiers are said to have rested under it, gathering strength before going on to beat the redcoats.
It is a huge oak tree, now estimated to be 600 years old. Arborists such as Rob Gillies consider it one of the oldest in North America. It is a local landmark, right there in the cemetery of the Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church.
On Thursday, Mr. Gillies sliced into it with a chain saw.
Not the trunk, rotund and rotted inside and long since shored up with cement, like a cavity in a bad tooth. Mr. Gillies, who is 52 and has long experience in teasing extra life out of old trees, took aim at the upper reaches.
From his perch in the bucket of a cherry picker, he gave the tree a haircut, trimming away trouble spots — thick limbs that hung and could snap if tossed by winter winds or weighed down by snow. They could crash onto the street or slam into the church sanctuary, a relative youngster at only 177 years old, or an adjacent wing that is in its early 60s. Or the ancient headstones in the cemetery, the oldest of which is 280.
“It’s hard to even talk about this,” Mr. Gillies said. “I really wanted to save the tree.”
But a dead tree cannot be saved, and dead it is, Mr. Gillies said. It was declared unsavable last month after the latest round of soil tests and consultations with other experts.
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"Scientists....say the waters around Montauk Point as well as those as far north as Cape Cod and as far south as New Jersey have long been considered part of a regional white shark nursery."
Researchers confirm there's a great white shark 'nursery' off Long Island.
Los Angeles Times
October 8, 2016
A privately funded great white shark research group has confirmed that the waters off Long Island's Montauk Point are a shark "nursery," a first in the study of great whites in the northwest Atlantic Ocean, the organization and other leading scientists say.
But the OCEARCH expedition, which wrapped up months of work in the region Friday, is generating more than just scientific intrigue as it works off New York’s Long Island and Nantucket Island, Mass.
Edward Grant of Middletown, New Jersey, caught a fish Sunday in Raritan Bay. It’s a fluke, in more ways than one. It appears that something, possibly a bluefish or shark, had taken a bite out of the fish. The injury was completely healed.
"We were very shocked," Grant said, adding, "We used a few other words, too."
Grant tossed the 18.5 inch fluke back into the bay, deciding it had been through enough already and deserved to live.
"I felt bad for it," he said.
Was this fish lucky for both surviving such a bite and being tossed back in by a fisherman? Or is it unlucky for being bitten and being hooked?
Fall and spring seem to be good times to spot a whale in New York Harbor, especially humpback and minke whales, as they migrate and are seeking easy sources of food while traveling.
When baitfish or forage fish are in abundance and swimming in large schools, such as menhaden or moss bunker and other species of fish in the herring family, the probability is high to see at least one hungry whale foraging for fish. With waters getting ever so slowly cleaner and populations of forage fish getting ever so slowly higher, sightings of whales and dolphins are becoming ever so slowly more common.
For the past several years, there has been at least one sighting of a whale feeding in New York Harbor during fall migration. Check out the article below from 2015 for more information and remember to keep your eyes open for whales swimming in one of the most urban waterways in the world. If you do spot a whale, please notify the US Coast Guard so they can help protect the marine mammal from ship strikes or other man-made dangers.
September 1, 2016
Contact: Janet Lathrop
AMHERST, Mass. – Declining populations of pollinators is a major concern to ecologists because bees, butterflies and other insects play a critical role in supporting healthy ecosystems. Now a new study from urban ecologists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst suggests that when urban and suburban lawns are left untreated with herbicides, they provide a diversity of “spontaneous” flowers such as dandelions and clover that offer nectar and pollen to bees and other pollinators.
Private lawns make up a significant part of urban lands in the United States, an estimated 50 percent of city and suburbs, say Susannah Lerman and co-author Joan Milam, an adjunct research fellow in environmental conservation. They write, “Practices that support nesting and foraging opportunities for bees could have important implications for bee conservation in suburban areas.”
For the first time in history, a group of bees in the U.S. will be protected under the Endangered Species Act, following a recent announcement from wildlife officials.
The group of bees, who are commonly known as yellow-faced bees because of the markings on their faces, are endemic only to the Hawaiian islands. While there are dozens of species, scientists identified several of them who are at risk of extinction and have been calling for their protection for years.
In 2009, the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to protect seven of the most at risk species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, and now it’s celebrating a win for these bees.
STOP THE WILLIAMS FRACKED GAS PIPELINE THROUGH NY HARBOR!
MY TOP 5 FAVORITE BOOKS ABOUT NY HARBOR
1. Field Guide to the Neighborhood Birds of New York City by Leslie Day
2.Heartbeats in the Muck by John Waldman
3. The Fisheries of Raritan Bay by Clyde L. MacKenzie Jr.
4. Waterfront: A Walk Around Manhattan by Phillip Lopate
5. The Bottom of the Harbor by Joseph Mitchell