Hudson River Almanac 5/13/17 – 5/19/17

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baby painted turtle - photo courtesy of Chris Bowser

Hudson River Almanac
May 13 – 19, 2017
Compiled by Tom Lake, Hudson River Estuary Program Consulting Naturalist


The Hudson River lost a long-time friend this week. Our loss was somewhat tempered by a delightful display of springtime renewal from bald eagle nestlings to black bear cubs to the annual spring migration of brant heading to the Arctic.


5/18 – Kowawese, HRM 59: The heat was intense on the beach (95 degrees Fahrenheit) so we had to limit each of the three groups of 20 third-grade students to a half-hour of seining in the sun. Our catch mirrored yesterday’s – American eel, tessellated darter, and spottail shiner – but there was a bonus: baby blue crabs 35-85 millimeters [mm] across. The students wanted to know why these small sandy-colored crabs were called “blue” crabs, so we explained the value of camouflage, and how these crabs, as they grew, periodically put on a new set of “clothes” (moulting). Our net also caught all manner of rocks and sticks, even an ancient piece of planking, probably part of an old wooden barge from the days when Kowawese was a commercial port.
– Cristin Sauter, Tom Lake

[Even though the spottail shiner (Notropis hudsonius) is found throughout the Great Lakes, it could be called the “Hudson River fish.” All known biological organisms on earth have a scientific name, usually Latin, Greek, or a combination of the two. Following the protocol for naming a fish, spottail shiners were described and named by De Witt Clinton in 1824, between his two terms as governor of New York State. Clinton provided a detailed physical description of the spottail shiner and delivered it to the forerunner of the International Committee for Zoological Nomenclature (founded in 1895). They determined that this was a new species and accepted his name Clupia hudsonius (trivial name hudsonius in honor of the Hudson River). After several iterations of the genus, New York State Ichthyologist J.R. Greeley settled on Notropis hudsonius (1935). Tom Lake.]


5/13 – Saratoga County, HRM 186: I spotted two little gulls (Larus minutus) this morning together with 13 Bonaparte’s gulls on a dock at Brown’s Beach at Saratoga Lake. The smaller size compared with the Bonaparte’s was apparent as well as the white wingtips rather than the Bonaparte’s black.
– John Hershey, Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club

5/13 – Hudson River Valley: Some Almanac readers, responding to our sidebar on native vs. nonnative species, wondered if there was a date earlier than the late 16th century that we could use to denote the watershed moment when nonnative flora and fauna could have become introduced. Yes there was an earlier date; however …
In AD 1001 – 491 years before Columbus – Leif Ericsson established a Norse presence on the northwest coast of Newfoundland at L’Anse aux Meadows. There they met Native Americans whom the Norse treated the very poorly, clearly seeing them as inferior if not sub-human. The Norse were forced to leave L’Anse aux Meadows in AD 1010 when the settlement became too risky. While the Norse may have made some impact on the flora and fauna of North America in that decade, the impact was likely far less than that made by the arrival in the late 16th century of English, Spanish, Dutch, and French, looking to “improve” their new home.
– Tom Lake

5/13 – Schodack Island State Park, HRM 135: On a dreary morning, I went to visit bald eagle nest NY52. The nest was largely obscured by leaves but I had enough of a view to catch both nestlings trying out their wings in the nest. As I watched, one of the adults dropped off a fish, a sign that the nestlings were now eating on their own. Having hatched in late March, they were about seven weeks old.
– Drew Cashman

[Based on Drew’s estimate, we can expect a fledge sometime between June 8 and June 26 (the average fledge date is 72-90 days after hatching). Tom Lake.]

5/14 – Town of Washington, HRM 83: We had a gray fox in our yard this morning – what a pleasant surprise. At first I thought it was a coyote because of its color and ears, but something was off with the tail – a blunt end rather than tapered, as though it had been cropped and rather bushy like a fox. The fox was poking around, walking along the grass at the tree line before ambling off into the woods. I noticed fox tracks in the snow over the winter; I wonder if they belonged to this one?
– Dann Kenefick

scarlet tanager5/14 – Dutchess County, HRM 82: I had stopped by a roadside drip on Deep Hollow Road to watch a few birds when a gorgeous scarlet tanager flew in to get a drink. [Photo of adult male scarlet tanager courtesy of Deborah Tracy-Kral.]
– Deborah Tracy-Kral

5/14 – Hunter’s Brook, HRM 67.5: The brook was a torrent today; its watershed had received an inch-and-a-half of rain. John Jay High School students helped us clear the fyke; after yesterday’s catch of 22 glass eels we had some expectations. However, today’s total was just two glass eels and one elver. I think there were at least two factors in play: the great rush of water on the overnight ebb tide and the falling water temperature (53.6 degrees F, six degrees lower in a week). If we add in the end of the season, I suppose the catch was not remarkable.
– Luke Rabideau, Tom Lake

5/14 – Town of Montgomery, HRM 62: I looked along the creek at Winding Hills Park for water snakes as they often occur there. I spotted one (18-inches) just at the edge of the water; it was opening and closing its jaws that were wrapped around a sunfish. It maneuvered the fish so that the head was pointing toward its mouth and began to widen its jaws. The sunfish was wider than the snake’s mouth and the snake was unable to swallow it. The snake re-maneuvered its catch, always with the head towards its mouth, to try again. Although the tail of the fish was much narrower, it made no attempt to consume it from that end. After watching for a while, the snake was no closer to swallowing its prey and a thunderstorm forced me to leave.
– Patricia Henighan

[The jaws of the northern water snake (Nerodia sipedon) allow its mouth to open wider than its body in order to swallow their prey whole. Once swallowed the catch is then digested over a long period of time. The water snake was careful to swallow the sunfish head first in deference to it spiny dorsal fin. Swallowed head first, the dorsal folds down; swallowed tail first, the fin becomes erect and would choke the snake. Tom Lake.]

5/14 – Crugers, HRM 39: I saw the great blue heron in Ogilvie’s Pond today, being bombarded by eight red-winged blackbirds! The heron had gotten too close to their nests in the phragmites. They surrounded the heron and pecked at its back; in defense, the heron pointed its beak up at them. At that point the heron slowly waded away and the attack ceased.
– Dorothy Ferguson

American shad5/15 – Coxsackie, HRM 124: The NYSDEC monitors the spawning stock of striped bass and American shad in the Hudson River each spring using a 500-foot haul seine. Sampling this spring had been cold and rainy, and we had not been finding many fish. We arrived early in the morning at the Coxsackie boat launch and had our first haul by 6:30. The catch was a single freshwater drum and it looked as though it was going to be a long day. On the next haul, however, our fortune turned and over the next three hauls we captured 162 American shad and 115 striped bass. This was the most shad we had captured in a day since 2010, the year the Hudson River fishery for American shad was closed. We collected biological information from the fish and outfitted them with individual tags. The data we collected will give us the information necessary to make fisheries management decisions about Hudson River American shad and striped bass. [Photo of American shad courtesy of Steve Stanne.]
– Gregg Kenney, Robert Adams, Matt Best, Trevor Foxwell, Andrea Leontiou, Kyle Martin, Chelsea McGlyn, Chris Standley, Steve Stanne

5/15 – East Fishkill, HRM 66: “Our” black bears showed up early tonight (last year our first bear visit was July 1). We heard weird grunting noises and when we looked out there were two bears casually walking in our backyard – one was much larger, possibly a sow and her cub. We turned on our floodlights as they continued grunting, but they eventually went back into the woods. This morning we found a squirrel feeder knocked down and destroyed, but no other damage.
– Diane Anderson

5/15 – Manhattan, RM 1: We checked our collection gear in mid-afternoon at The River Project’s sampling station on the lighthouse tender Lilac at Pier 25 in Hudson River Park. In one crab pot we caught a 260 mm gravid blackfish (female with eggs) as well as a white perch (225 mm). In another crab pot we caught an oyster toadfish (250 mm), isopods, shore shrimp, mud crabs, and an amphipod.
– Ileana Aguilar, Toland Kister, Jackie Wu

5/16 – Norrie Point, HRM 85: As a group of wader-wrapped sixth graders from Kinry Road Elementary were tromping down to the shore at the Norrie Point Environmental Center preparing to seine for fish, they found a gorgeously intricate baby painted turtle at the water’s edge. Its plastron was about the size of a quarter but it was bold and alert. [See banner photo of baby painted turtle, courtesy of Chris Bowser.]
– Skyler Henry, James Herrington, Krissy Werba, Chris Bowser

eggs of American robin5/16 – Montrose, HRM 40: My children were playing on our deck when they noticed a robin sitting on a nest on the bush just beyond the railing. When they went to take a closer look, mama bird fled revealing three perfect blue “Easter eggs,” as they described them. We immediately left the area and mama returned.
– Ed McKay

5/16 – Manhattan, HRM 1: We checked our collection gear in midday at The River Project’s sampling station on the lighthouse tender Lilac at Pier 25. In one killifish trap we found a juvenile blackfish (80 mm). In another trap there was an American eel (400 mm, about 16 inches).
– Toland Kister, Hadassah Brenner

5/17 – Selkirk, HRM 135: In late afternoon, a flock of 100 brant passed by Henry Hudson Park in Selkirk. They were flying no more than 15 feet over the water.
– John Kent, Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club

[Riverman Chris Letts notes that “Brant will not lift; they fly right on the deck. They even fly under bridges rather than lifting over them.” Tom Lake.]

5/17 – New Baltimore, HRM 131.5: It was “brant moving day” today! I saw flocks streaming upriver this morning and that will likely occur through the day and into the evening.
– Richard Guthrie

[Waterman Dery Bennett used to mark the seasons by noting how brant, a small species of goose, left Sandy Hook, NJ, around Memorial Day after spending the winter, and headed north. In his words, “They would shove off for the Canadian Arctic where they breed, fledge young, and then return around Columbus Day.” Tom Lake]

5/17 – Ulster County, HRM 85: The nestling in bald eagle nest NY92 near Sturgeon Pool appeared to be doing fine and was being fed well. There seemed to be a fish delivery each morning; this morning both adults brought in a fish within minutes of each other. One was certainly a catfish; the other looked very much like a brown trout. Most of their fishing seems to be in the Rondout below the falls.
– Jim Yates

5/17 – Ulster County, HRM 85: As I kayaked across the river this morning to the Norrie Point Environmental Education Center, I spotted two flocks of brant streaming north. I always thought of brant as high-fliers but these groups were flying low.
– Chris Bowser

5/17 – Norrie Point, HRM 85: Our DEC public fishing program drew about 25 anglers. Our catch-and-release efforts produced largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, striped bass, yellow perch, white perch, pumpkinseed sunfish, brown bullhead, and golden shiner. The oddest occurrence was not a fish but a beaver, hanging out in the cove, just swimming around.
– Rebecca Houser

5/17 – Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 70: The air temperature reached 92 degrees F today, tying the record high for the date.
– National Weather Service

5/17 – Kowawese, HRM 59: It was a summer’s day in May. The air temperature reached 91 degrees F (the river was 60 degrees). We had 50 third-graders on the beach to help us see “who” was home in the river today. An adult bald eagle from nearby nest NY50 circled overhead for much of the time, hunting the low tide when fishes are more vulnerable. A long skein of brant flew swiftly upriver, not more than a few hundred feet off the water. Our catch was rather unremarkable, consisting of resident tessellated darters, spottail shiners, and “shoe-string” American eels. The contrast of the silvery and swift shiners with the bottom-loving darters, was a good exercise on “hide or flee” survival strategies.
– Penny Wieser, Cristin Sauter, Tom Lake, T.R, Jackson

[“Shoe-string” eel is a colloquial name often used by anglers to describe 6 to 8-inch-long American eels. This is a highly effective size to live-line for big striped bass. The DEC slot-size regulation for American eel as bait, downstream from the Federal Dam at Troy to the Battery at the southern tip of Manhattan Island, is 6 to 14 inches. Tom Lake.]

great blue heron nestling and adult5/17 – Bedford, HRM 35: It was a warm day at the great blue heron rookery with the adults and nestlings panting to cool off. I counted eleven nestlings today including one nest with three.
– Jim Steck

[Rick Stafford, a Bedford great blue heron rookery monitor, suggested that great care be taken when visiting the viewing area. The best location is on an exposed curve of Route 211 that has considerable vehicular traffic. Tom Lake.]

5/17 – Manhattan, HRM 1: In late afternoon we checked our collection gear at The River Project’s sampling station on the lighthouse tender Lilac at Pier 25. The highlight, a butterfish (20 mm), was found in a killifish trap. In another trap we found a yearling striped bass (95 mm).
– Ileana Aguilar, Nina Zain, Jackie Wu

[The butterfish (Peprilus triacanthus) is a small (6-10 inches) rather rhombic-shaped fish lacking pelvic fins. It is found in the lower estuary when the river warms and salinity rises. It is an important forage species for bluefish, striped bass, and summer flounder. Tom Lake.]

5/18 – Ulster County, HRM 78: I went fishing today at Chodikee Lake and across five hours I caught 15 bluegills, five black crappie, five largemouth bass and a 15-inch walleye in Black Creek north of the main lake. It was returned to the creek after a quick photo. In more than 20 years that I have fished this lake I had never caught a walleye. [I later learned that local sportsmen’s clubs have stocked walleye in Chodikee Lake.]
– Bob Ottens

5/18 – Ulster County, HRM 87: My father, Jim O’Dowd, was visiting Holy Cross Monastery today and was quite certain that he saw a seal traveling downriver. [Two weeks ago, a harbor seal was sighted 35 miles upriver at Coxsackie.]
– Tom O’Dowd

5/18 – Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 70: The air temperature reached 94 degrees F today, tying the record high for the date.
– National Weather Service

5/18 – Verplanck, HRM 40.5: While out for my morning dog walk I saw a flock of at least 150 brant returning to the far north for the summer. Trying to get a more accurate count was nearly impossible with the constant shifting of position within the skein.
– Ed McKay

5/18 – Westchester County, HRM 38.5: We found quite a few yearling blue crabs – last year’s hatch – at Furnace Brook today (the water was a balmy 70 degrees F). We caught only five glass eels in our fyke net; the season was nearing the end. We also noted several flocks of low-flying brant heading upriver.
– Chris Bowser

5/19 – Robert H. (Bob) Boyle died today. He was 88. Bob was an iconic figure who leaves behind an immense legacy. He is perhaps best remembered for his seminal work, The Hudson River, a Natural and Unnatural History (1969). For many of us, Bob’s book was our introduction to the Hudson River, its delights and dangers, its treats and threats to its viability. For those of us who have gone on to become teachers, with the river as our classroom, we try to bring with us the incredible love and passion for the Hudson that Bob instilled.
– Tom Lake

5/19 – North River, HRM 263: We have been at our place in North River since 1984. However, today was the first time a Baltimore oriole had come to flowers on our porch (the flowers were red and were next to our hummingbird feeder). What a thrill!
– Marion Fuller

5/19 – Manhattan, HRM 1: In mid-afternoon we checked our collection gear at The River Project’s sampling station on the lighthouse tender Lilac at Pier 25. Our crab pot held a gorgeous 260 mm-long blackfish (tautog). The killifish traps were less exciting but we still found shore shrimp, mud crab, and amphipods.
– Melissa Rex, Nina Zain


Saturday, June 3
World Science Festival Great Fish Count, produced in partnership with DEC’s Hudson River Estuary Program and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, explores the diversity of slippery, wriggly, and fascinating creatures usually hidden below the estuary’s surface at 17 sites in the New York City metro area. Depending on the site, participants may don waders to help haul a seine or try their luck with a fishing rod. After naturalists display and discuss the catch, the fish are released back to the river. Visit the Great Fish Count website for more information.

Monday, June 5: 7:00 PM
The Incredible Recovery of the Bald Eagle, presented by Tom Lake, Hudson River Estuary Program Consulting Naturalist, part of the Town of Lloyd Historical Society Program series at Building #6, Vineyard Commons, 300 Vineyard Avenue, Highland [Ulster County]. For more information, call 845-255-7742.

Sunday, June 14: 5:00 PM to dusk
Free Public Fishing Day at Hudson River National Estuarine Research Reserve, Norrie Point Environmental Center, Staatsburg [Dutchess County]. Family-friendly; all ages welcome. Free use of rods, reels and bait. Wheelchair accessible. For information: 845-889-4745 x109


The Hudson is measured north from Hudson River Mile 0 at the Battery at the southern tip of Manhattan. The George Washington Bridge is at HRM 12, the Tappan Zee 28, Bear Mountain 47, Beacon-Newburgh 62, Mid-Hudson 75, Kingston-Rhinecliff 95, Rip Van Winkle 114, and the Federal Dam at Troy, the head of tidewater, at 153. The tidal section of the Hudson constitutes a bit less than half the total distance – 315 miles – from Lake Tear of the Clouds to the Battery. Entries from points east and west in the watershed reference the corresponding river mile on the mainstem.


The Hudson River Almanac is compiled and edited by Tom Lake and emailed weekly by DEC’s Hudson River Estuary Program. Share your observations by e-mailing them to

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National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration online tide and tidal current predictions are invaluable when planning Hudson River field trips.

For real-time information on Hudson River tides, weather and water conditions from twelve monitoring stations, visit the Hudson River Environmental Conditions Observing System website.

Information about the Hudson River Estuary Program is available on DEC’s website at .

Smartphone app available for New York outdoor enthusiasts!
DEC, in partnership with ParksByNature Network®, is proud to announce the launch of the New York Fishing, Hunting & Wildlife App for iPhone and Android. This FREE, cutting-edge mobile app gives both novice and seasoned outdoorsmen and women essential information in the palm of their hands. Powered by Pocket Ranger® technology, this official app for DEC will provide up-to-date information on fishing, hunting and wildlife watching and serve as an interactive outdoor app using today’s leading mobile devices. Using the app’s advanced GPS features, users will be able identify and locate New York’s many hunting, fishing and wildlife watching sites. They will also gain immediate access to species profiles, rules and regulations, and important permits and licensing details.

NY Open for Hunting and Fishing Initiative
Governor Cuomo’s NY Open for Fishing and Hunting Initiative is an effort to improve recreational opportunities for sportsmen and women and to boost tourism activities throughout the state. This initiative includes streamlining fishing and hunting licenses, reducing license fees, improving access for fishing and increasing hunting opportunities in New York State.
In support of this initiative, this year’s budget includes $6 million in NY Works funding to support creating 50 new land and water access projects to connect hunters, anglers, bird watchers and others who enjoy the outdoors to more than 380,000 acres of existing state and easement lands that have gone largely untapped until now. These 50 new access projects include building new boat launches, installing new hunting blinds and building new trails and parking areas. In addition, the 2014-15 budget includes $4 million to repair the state’s fish hatcheries; and renews and allows expanded use of crossbows for hunting in New York State.
This year’s budget also reduces short-term fishing licenses fees; increases the number of authorized statewide free fishing days to eight from two; authorizes DEC to offer 10 days of promotional prices for hunting, fishing and trapping licenses; and authorizes free Adventure Plates for new lifetime license holders, discounted Adventure Plates for existing lifetime license holders and regular fee Adventure Plates for annual license holders.

Copies of past issues of the Hudson River Almanac, Volumes II-VIII, are available for purchase from the publisher, Purple Mountain Press, (800) 325-2665, or email

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