A juvenile Soft-shell clam
By Joe Reynolds
NY Harbor Nature Blog
Bees do it and birds do, but both do it mainly in the spring. For soft-shell clams (Mya arenaria), once is just not enough. They like to do it twice a year.
The soft shell clam is a common bivalve mollusk within estuarine waters of New York Harbor with a thin, oval, elongated shell. They usually spawn once in late spring and once in mid-to-late autumn. Which means the clams are getting ready to once again create new life.
There is a reason for the twin spawning times. Clams are low on the food chain, which means just about anything loves to eat a clam. These little bivalves need to reproduce often and with many young if they wish for the species to survive.
Predators are quite abundant and include several species of crabs and horseshoe crabs, snails, sea stars, killifish, rays, skates, and even diving ducks and raccoons. Humans also harvest soft shell clams commercially. With so many predators, it’s no wonder why soft shell clams are capable of reproduction after their first year of life. They need to hurry up and just do it.
Similar to hard clams, soft-shell clams reproduce by releasing eggs and sperm into the water column. Once the eggs have been fertilized, free-swimming larva develops within a few hours or within one day. Though the larva are able to swim freely, currents in the bay, winds and wave action often disperse the little critters a great distance away from the site of fertilization. No worries, though, this action helps to increase genetic diversity among the species. Disbursement takes place for about 1 to 3 weeks,
During this time, many clams will become food for plankton eating fish and shellfish. But those that survive will go on to change into juvenile clams, resembling small adults with a small foot and shell.
Next they will find an appropriate place to settle by crawling along the bottom of the bay looking for suitable sandy substrate and low wave action. Ultimately each living clam will find a permanent place to burrow and call home. They will anchor to the bottom of an estuary using thin threads secreted from a gland on the foot and dig into the sediments using their muscular foot.
When soft shell clams become adults, the remainder of their life is spent beneath the sandy sediments, up to a foot in some places, in relatively the same location with minimum movement, often buried in a mixtures of sand, mud and gravel. They can tolerate a variety of salinities and withstand below freezing temperatures too, which makes them well adapted to an estuarine life.
Like all other bivalves, soft shell clams are filter feeders extracting their food, which is mostly plankton, from the water column by use of a slimy siphon. One clam can filter up to a gallon of water per day.
When a soft-shell clam feels threatened, it will often spew out a long spurt of water via their siphon and dig down deeper into the sand. This squirting behavior has earned the soft-shell clam a nasty nickname of "piss clam."
Hurricanes: Bad for People, Good for Dolphins
Katrina led to a marine-mammal boom, and Harvey, Irma and Jose might do the sameBy By Jason G. Goldman
September 9, 2017
Biologist Lance Miller noticed something odd while conducting dolphin surveys in the Gulf of Mexico in 2007: baby dolphins. Lots of them, and lots more than he expected given the results of surveys in 2005 and 2006. The reason? Hurricane Katrina.
Hurricanes like Harvey, the one that devastated Houston and other parts of Texas last week, and like Irma, the one currently threatening Florida, are typically associated with loss of life, loss of property, and other economic losses, the effects of which can be felt for years. That's not only true for humans. It's true for wildlife too.
Starting in December 2004—before Katrina struck—and continuing through November 2007, a group of scientists from the University of Southern Mississippi led by Miller (now at the Chicago Zoological Society), motored around the Gulf of Mexico looking for Atlantic bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus), initially as part of an study about their social organization.
A young bottlenose dolphin seen this past summer within a pod of dolphins in Sandy Hook Bay while forging for bunker.
By Joe Reynolds
NY Harbor Nature Blog
Even though bottlenose dolphins (with their slight upturn in the corner of their mouth which appears to people as the animal is always smiling) is one of the most well known species of marine mammals in the world, many people still don’t realize bottlenose dolphins can frequently be seen in New York Harbor during the summer and early fall. Sightings might not always be well-known, but nearly every summer and fall there are dolphins swimming close by.
Typically, Atlantic bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus), arrive to New York Harbor and surrounding tidal waters between May and June. Many people regularly pay for the opportunity to see dolphins from a boat, but for those lucky folks who are in the right place at the right time many dolphins can be seen from the shoreline, sometimes within 300 feet. An amazing natural experience made even more remarkable as it takes place within sight of New York City, the most developed coastline in America!
Why do bottlenose dolphins swim in the busy waters of New York Harbor? It’s all about the food. Over the past several decades, as local waters have slowly become cleaner (though not clean, still more work to do), an abundance of sea life is gradually returning to New York Harbor, such as ospreys, whales, seals and bottlenose dolphins too.
Atlantic bottlenose dolphins are a group of marine mammals known as cetaceans, which are high level marine predators having, in part, their daily activities related to the location of their prey. They swim to the harbor for the abundance and diversity of food: from weakfish, croaker, spots, and mullets to skates, rays, squid, shrimp, crabs, and clams.
Their favorite food by far is Atlantic menhaden (Brevoortia tyrannus), also known as “bunker.” Menhaden is a herring-like fish, often swimming in large schools into the thousands or hundreds of thousands. Menhaden can be found from the Maritime Provinces of Canada to the east coast of Florida in estuarine and coastal waters.
Brain damage in fish from plastic nanoparticles in water
Date: September 25, 2017
Source: Lund University
Calculations have shown that 10 per cent of all plastic produced around the world ultimately ends up in the oceans. As a result, a large majority of global marine debris is in fact plastic waste. Human production of plastics is a well-known environmental concern, but few studies have studied the effects of tiny plastic particles, known as nanoplastic particles.
"Our study is the first to show that nanosized plastic particles can accumulate in fish brains," says Tommy Cedervall, a chemistry researcher at Lund University.
The Lund University researchers studied how nanoplastics may be transported through different organisms in the aquatic ecosystem, i.e. via algae and animal plankton to larger fish. Tiny plastic particles in the water are eaten by animal plankton, which in turn are eaten by fish.
By Joe Reynolds
NY Harbor Nature Blog
A sure sign that Old Man Winter will be arriving soon to New York Harbor. Every morning for the past three weeks I've listened to a few downy woodpeckers drilling holes in oak trees near my house. The sound is distinctive and can be heard a great distance by me and probably by other animals.
Downy woodpeckers often excavate roost holes in the fall. The birds are busy excavating not just one, but several roosting holes in preparation for the coming winter.
Having a winter home is important for the survival of a downy woodpecker. A slow-moving woodpecker that didn’t drill at least one in time will be forced to roost in the open where it will have a difficult time retaining heat on a cold winter’s night. It will also be more exposed to owls and other predators during the night.
Listen closely for the next few weeks during the daytime around New York Harbor in nearby urban and suburban parks, woodlots and in residential areas, especially in areas with lots of deciduous trees near a waterway. Perhaps you too will hear the soft rapid drilling sound of the smallest woodpecker in North America.
But don’t confuse drilling with drumming. Both are common activities for woodpeckers, but each with a specific purpose. Drilling is when a woodpecker will create a hollow area in a tree for nesting or roosting. Drumming, on the other hand, is what a woodpecker does to attract a mate or mark a territory. Drumming occurs primarily in the spring.
Right now, downy woodpeckers are drilling. They are making a series of very rapid strikes onto deciduous trees, usually a large dead limb or dead tree, or low tapping sounds that usually last only a few seconds. They seem to be most active early in the morning to around mid-day.
As woodpeckers drill, they will chip out wood to make a small cavity for winter roosting. In the spring, a resurgence of drilling activity occurs in preparation for the nesting season.
It usually takes between 3 to 7 days for a single downy woodpecker to whittle away a home in a tree, depending on the thickness of the tree of course. Throwing out around 40 billfuls of sawdust in the process. If the perfect tree cannot be found, I have seen downies hollow out the interior of bluebird nest boxes. They have also been known to roost in old fence posts.
Roosts are usually 7 to 20 feet above the ground, but can be as high as 60 feet. The entrance is usually a couple inches long, and the cavity is 4 to10 inches deep. The hole is often oriented away from chilly northerly winter winds.
Sometimes sneaky titmice, chickadees, nuthatches or flying squirrels will try to take over a downy’s winter roosting cavity when temperatures become really cold at night. But the birds have seen this tricky behavior before. There is no evidence of downy woodpeckers migrating south for the winter. They have learned to tough it out in hopes for better nesting spots come spring.
Lucky for us, the downy woodpecker is equally at home in urban parks or backyard bird feeders. So even if you don’t get a chance to hear the bird drilling this autumn, chances are really good you can take delight in seeing this ubiquitous feathered resident around New York Harbor sometime soon.
What happens to marine wildlife during hurricanes?
When a big hurricane hits, the animal living underwater search for refuge ... if they can.
September 8, 2017, 3:31 p.m.
Mother Nature Network
Hurricanes are incredibly powerful storms that wreak havoc on marine and coastal ecosystems as they work their way from deeper water toward land. The force of the storm churns up water, mixing warmer water at the surface with cooler water from farther down the water column. In all this churning, what happens to the wildlife living in the storm-tossed waters?
While some species can sense the approaching danger and head to safer areas, those that cannot escape the path of the hurricane are displaced or don't survive.
"When Hurricane Andrew hit Louisiana the government estimated that more than 9 million fish were killed offshore. Similarly an assessment of the effect of that same storm on the Everglades Basin in Florida showed that 182 million fish were killed. Hurricane Katrina also had a huge effect on dolphin species," wrote the National Wildlife Federation.
Meanwhile, those species that survive may find their ecosystem dramatically altered, with new threats to livability ranging from increased silt to decreased salinity.
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