By Joe Reynolds
New York Harbor Nature Blog
Here we are again! While it seems like winter arrived weeks ago with bouts of snow and cold earlier in December, this was probably just Old Man Winter getting primed. The official first day of winter for the 2017-2018 season arrives today, Thursday, December 21 at 11:28am. EST.
The Winter Solstice marks the shortest day of the year and the longest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. During winter, temperatures are likely to get colder as cold air builds up over the Arctic region due to the low intensity of sunlight.
This is because the tilt of the Earth’s rotational axis in the Northern Hemisphere is 23.5 degrees away from the sun, providing the Northern Hemisphere with the least daylight of the year and the opportunity for December, January and February to be cold winter months up north until the Sun climbs higher in the sky.
Although quite a few people around New York Harbor think the seasons are caused by how close the Earth is to the Sun: summer the Earth is closer to the sun and winter the Earth is farther from the sun. This just isn’t true.
It's all about Earth's tilt! As Earth travels through its yearlong path around the sun, it does so on a slight slant of about 23.5 degrees either toward or away from the Sun during different times of year. The solstice marks the beginning of the winter. At Winter Solstice, the Northern Hemisphere is titled the farthest away from the Sun and we experience winter. Around the Summer Solstice, the Northern Hemisphere is tilted toward the Sun and we get more of the Sun's direct rays and enjoy warmer temperatures.
The seasons, of course, are reversed in the Southern Hemisphere where they are now experiencing summer. The Southern Hemisphere is titled towards the Sun this time of year. Hence the reason why it is summer now in Australia.
In ancient times, the Winter Solstice was an important time for early civilizations, as it marked the changing of the seasons and a new year. Today, however, many people in Western-based cultures refer to this holiday as "Christmas” and have largely forgotten its unique physical roots.
Welcome to Winter! New York Harbor had its first significant snowfall of the 2017-2018 winter season, twelve days before the official start of the winter season.
Most places around the harbor received between 3 to 6 inches of snow. New York City's Central Park and LaGuardia Airport both picked up 4.6 inches of snow, marking the first measurable snow for the season.
The snow started on Saturday morning and ended before midnight. It was a heavy wet snow that fell across New York Harbor from a coastal storm that stretched all the way from the Gulf of Mexico to Maine and the Canadian Maritimes.
Snow is no stranger to the month of December to both New York and New Jersey. Generally, snowfall becomes a factor with an average snowfall around New York Harbor of about five inches.
But it’s not only snow. Nights are at the longest this month and the duration of daylight is at its shortest. Cloudiness is also at its peak in December. Thank goodness for holiday lights to provide some cheer for an otherwise dark December.
Snowfall total in inches around Sandy Hook Bay in New Jersey
BABY OYSTERS ARE FINALLY GROWING IN RARITAN BAY
December 2, 2017
By John Burton
The Two River Times
N.W.S. EARLE — It may be a little early for handing out cigars, but the New York/New Jersey Baykeeper is happy that oysters appear to have taken to the Raritan Bay.
Scientists working with the environmental organization’s oyster restoration program last week discovered the natural growth of baby oysters on the group’s manmade reefs in the local waterways, Baykeeper announced.
“It’s really exciting. We should be celebrating,” said Meredith Comi, restoration program director for Baykeeper.
Biologically known as spat, the baby oysters were found for the first time at the manmade oyster restoration reef the organization established at the shipping pier at Naval Weapons Station Earle’s Leonardo location, an approximately 2.9-mile-long structure jutting into the Raritan Bay.
New York City Has Genetically Distinct ‘Uptown’ and ‘Downtown’ Rats
A graduate student sequenced rats all over Manhattan, and discovered how the city affects their genetic diversity.
New York City is a place where rats climb out of toilets, bite babies in their cribs, crawl on sleeping commuters, take over a Taco Bell restaurant, and drag an entire slice of pizza down the subway stairs. So as Matthew Combs puts it, “Rats in New York, where is there a better place to study them?”
Combs is a graduate student at Fordham University and, like many young people, he came to New York to follow his dreams. His dreams just happened to be studying urban rats. For the past two years, Combs and his colleagues have been trapping and sequencing the DNA of brown rats in Manhattan, producing the most comprehensive genetic portrait yet of the city’s most dominant rodent population.
As a whole, Manhattan’s rats are genetically most similar to those from Western Europe, especially Great Britain and France. They most likely came on ships in the mid-18th century, when New York was still a British colony. Combs was surprised to find Manhattan’s rats so homogenous in origin. New York has been the center of so much trade and immigration, yet the descendants of these Western European rats have held on.
Coywolf — Coyote-Wolf Hybrid — Spotted Roaming In Rockland County
December 4, 2017 at 5:47 pm
CBS New York
CONGERS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — There was a warning Monday night about an unusually large animal roaming through Rockland County.
As CBS2’s Brian Conybeare reported, it is a hybrid of two dangerous creatures – and it’s called a coywolf.
The animal is an eerie sight through the fog at the Georgetown Manor condos on Route 303 in Congers – part coyote and part wolf.
“It looks larger than your average coyote,” said Nyack resident Sean McCormack. “Very scary, yeah, very scary’”
McCormack, who works as a plumber, took cellphone video of what is believed to be the same animal last week on North Midland Avenue in Upper Nyack, where h said it crouched down and may have been hunting a woman taking her trash cans out to the street.
Rapid Evolution Saved This Fish From Pollution, Study Says
By JOANNA KLEIN DEC. 9, 2016
The New York Times
The State of New Jersey says you can’t eat the fish or shellfish from the Lower Passaic River and Newark Bay. That’s because they’re living in the Diamond Alkali Superfund Site, where toxic leftovers from the manufacture of chemicals like DDT and the infamous Agent Orange oozed into surrounding waterways to be taken up by the animals that inhabited them. It’s an evolutionary miracle some of these animals are even alive. No, seriously. A fish that adapted to survive in this water shows evolution at its finest, according to a study published Thursday in Science.
The Atlantic killifish is a slippery sliver of silver about the size of a fat finger and as common as the minnow. Starting in the late 1990s, researchers became aware that the fish was tolerant of the toxic waters at the Lower Passaic Superfund site and at least three other highly polluted areas along the Atlantic coastline. The new study found that over just a few decades, distinct populations of killifish independently developed similar genetic adaptations that make life possible in the most unlikely environments. The findings show that evolution doesn’t have to start in one place to be repeated.
“It’s these shared changes as well as the unique pattern of changes in these different populations that provide us with a really useful field example of how animals can respond to rapidly changing and extreme environments,” said Diane Nacci, a biologist at the Environmental Protection Agency who worked on the study.
Lobster found with Pepsi logo 'tattoo' fuels fears over ocean litter
The ‘tattooed’ lobster was found off New Brunswick, Canada.
By Ashifa Kassam in Toronto
Wednesday 29 November 2017 16.20 EST
Concerns over debris littering the world’s oceans are back in the spotlight after a Canadian fishing crew found a lobster with the blue and red Pepsi logo imprinted on its claw.
Trapped in the waters off Grand Manan, New Brunswick, the lobster had been loaded on to a crate to have its claws banded when Karissa Lindstrand came across it.
Lindstrand, who drinks as many as 12 cans of Pepsi a day, quickly spotted the resemblance.
“I was like: ‘Oh, that’s a Pepsi can,’” she said. On closer look, it seemed more like a tattoo on the claw. “It looked like it was a print put right on the lobster claw.”
Neither she or any of the crew had seen anything like it. More than a week after the find, debate has swirled over how it might have come to be: some believe the lobster might have grown around a can that ended up at the bottom of the ocean. Others speculate that part of a Pepsi box somehow become stuck on the lobster.
On Thursday afternoon, November 30, 2017, the U.S. Geological Survey reported that a 4.4 magnitude earthquake struck Delaware and was felt as far north as Saugerties, New York. The quake's epicenter was near Dover, Delaware, on the shores of Delaware Bay, but residents in New York City, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and Connecticut reported feeling the quake.
A Snowy Owl spotted by the author of this blog in 2013 on a beach around
New York Harbor.
Will New York Harbor once again be visited by many Snow Owls, as it did four years ago in 2013. In a typical winter, at best one or two Snowy Owls visit beaches or coastal parks near and around New York Harbor, but in 2013 the region had dozens of sightings. They were part of the largest Snowy Owl irruption in the U.S. since the 1920s. Will it happen again this year?
Snowy Owls, which typically breed in the Arctic regions of Canada, Greenland, Scandinavia and Russia, have been spotted in abundance in New York and New Jersey in recent months. Basically young Snowy Owls fly down here when their population is high, but food supplies are low. So far, the birds seem to be moving around a lot rather than staying in one place.
If you see a Snowy Owl, please view these magnificent large birds from a respectable distance. Leave the weary owls alone to rest and hunt. Owls do not tolerate noise or people getting too close. They need quiet and plenty of room to feel safe. People should not view Snowy Owls too long, or pursue or chase the owls for closer looks or photos with cell phones or point-and-shoot cameras that require pictures in close proximity to the subject. Please respect wildlife, give them distance.
Hold Onto Your Bins: Another Blizzard of Snowy Owls Could Be Coming
Will this winter bring an irruption of the Arctic raptors to the continental U.S.?
A few clues from up north have Project SNOWstorm predicting yes.
By Leslie Nemo
November 17, 2017
Four years ago, thousands of Snowy Owls stormed the northern United States, taking up posts in surroundings drastically different from the flat Arctic tundra over which they typically preside. Some whiled away the hours peering at dog walkers from suburban fences; one learned to hunt around a Minnesota brewery with mouse problems. In a typical winter, around 10 Snowies visit Pennsylvania, but in 2013 the state was graced by 400. They were part of the largest Snowy Owl irruption, or influx of a species into a place they don’t usually live, the U.S. has seen since the 1920s.
If you missed it, you might be in luck. Project SNOWstorm, a volunteer-fueled Snowy Owl-tracking organization founded after that irruption, predicts another wave of Arctic raptors will hit North America this winter, according to their most recent blog post.
Scott Weidensaul, one of the directors of Project SNOWstorm, says the clues point to a big irruption, but the group also fully admits there's no way to definitively know how big it could be or if it will even happen at all. “There’s a little bit of voodoo and black magic in all of this,” Weidensaul says. Though Snowy Owl migration patterns are mostly mysterious, there have been some tell-tale signs that the birds are on their way.
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