Hudson River Almanac 5/20/17 – 5/26/17

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dame's rocket (see 5/21-Town of Poughkeepsie) - courtesy of Steve Stanne

Hudson River Almanac
May 20 – 26, 2017
Compiled by Tom Lake, Hudson River Estuary Program Consulting Naturalist


We had sightings of two uncommon-to-rare birds this week: a positive as well as a “maybe.” The spring warblers continued to please birders and black bears had begun their seasonal roaming in our area.


Henslow's sparrow5/23 – Galeville, HRM 74: As I was leaving the Shawangunks Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge after watching and photographing a dickcissel (songbird), I was intrigued by a funny repetitive sound in the grass along the trail. A small bird popped up and I took a photo. Later, another birder identified it as a Henslow’s sparrow, a life bird for me. [Photo of Henslow’s sparrow courtesy of Deborah Tracy-Kral.]
– Deborah Tracy-Kral

[Henslow’s sparrow is listed on the Checklist of the Birds of Ulster County as rare. Historically, they were a reliable breeder at what is now the Shawangunk Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge. The last record for Ulster County is from the summer of 2002 when Henslow’s sparrow was recorded at the refuge as a probable breeder (singing male on territory on multiple occasions). It had been 15 years since the last known record. Steve Chorvas.]

[According to the Birds of North America Online, Henslow’s sparrow populations have declined over the last half-century, and this species has been identified as the highest priority for grassland bird conservation in eastern and midwestern North America. In New York State, the species is listed as “Threatened.” For more information, see DEC’s Henslow’s sparrow fact sheet. Steve Stanne.]


Correction: Last week’s Hudson River Almanac cited the DEC slot-size for American eel to be used as bait, from the Federal Dam at Troy downriver to the Battery in Manhattan, at 6-14 inches. The correct allowable slot-size is 9-14 inches. Tom Lake.

5/20 – Greene County, HRM 116: Students from Emma Willard School in Troy visited the Columbia-Greene Community College field station at Cohotate Preserve for a service learning field trip. The students were an international collection from England, Australia, China, Vietnam, Korea, Mexico, and New York. The class participated in water quality testing and seining. Environmental educators from Greene County Soil & Water, DEC’s Five Rivers Environmental Center, and River Haggie Outdoors presented an information session about environmental career paths to be considered by this soon-to-graduate high school class.
– Fran Martino, Gemma Halfi

5/20 – Sleightsburgh Spit, HRM 91.5: I saw five separate flocks of brant this afternoon flying north up the river. The flocks ranged from a couple hundred birds to near 1,000. As the tide was rising, I watched an osprey catch a small goldfish right in front of me; a few minutes later, a bald eagle caught an even larger one. The “orange” of these fish must stand out pretty well in the bright light, making them easy targets. There have been more osprey hanging around the Spit this year than ever, sometimes four birds in view at once.
– Jim Yates

5/20 – Esopus, HRM 87: I’ve been kayaking by bald eagle nest NY394 every morning this week. Each day an adult eagle was been perched on a branch nearby and there was activity in the nest just visible above the rim. At least one nestling.
– Dale Becker

5/20 – Hopewell Junction, HRM 67: I was at the Hopewell Reformed Church in Hopewell Junction this morning when a swallow-tailed kite flew in and circled two large sycamore trees in the parking lot for a minute or two. I had great views of it but wished I had my camera. It was kite-size, white and black, with a forked tail. It appeared to be catching insects from the tree leaves and branches. This is a life bird for me and I know it is rare to be this far north but I don’t know what else it could have been.
– Jeff Gerlach

[Roger Tory Peterson describes kites as graceful birds of prey, shaped like giant barn swallows, generally of southern U.S. distribution, with falcon-shaped pointed wings. Kites are extremely rare in Dutchess County. Barbara Butler reminds us that John Askildsen saw a swallow-tailed kite at the Institute of Ecosystem Studies Cary House in Millbrook two years ago. Exactly one year later, in exactly the same place, John saw a Mississippi kite. Tom Lake]

5/20 – Nyack Beach State Park, HRM 31: After tracking down a great crested flycatcher I had heard calling in the distance, I came across two carcasses on the beach. The first was a sea robin washed up on a sandy section of the shore – the large pectoral fins were quite fascinating. The second animal on the rocky shore was a large turtle.
– Steve Rappaport

[Photos showed the fish to be a striped sea robin (Prionotus evolans), an ocean fish that is found in the seasonally warm water of the lower estuary. Although the fish did not show any trauma, it could have been an osprey drop. The turtle was an Asiatic softshell (Amyda cartilaginea) a freshwater turtle native to Southeast Asia that is found in ethnic food markets in New York City. This could have been an escape. There is a native softshell turtle in New York, the spiny softshell (Apalone spinifera), found primarily in the western part of the state. Tom Lake.]

5/21 – Greene County, HRM 115: We were fishing for striped bass just north of the Rip Van Winkle Bridge when we noticed two peregrine falcons in pursuit of a bird not more than 50 yards away. The chase went on for at least five minutes. We wondered if this was the pair that we had seen as we passed under the bridge, tending to a nest. The prey was caught (we heard loud chirps) and the peregrines began to fly toward the bridge. But the bird twisted free. The peregrine renewed its attack and again caught the prey but almost immediately the bird freed itself again making its way toward the shore. The quarry (identify unknown) made it this time to the safety of the riverside brush.
– Richard Booth, Don Naylor

5/21 – Town of Clinton, HRM 88: We heard a noise outside and thought it was a raccoon inspecting our grill. It was a black bear! As soon as we turned on the light it lumbered away. Then we spotted a cub as it ran across the yard and up a tree. The grill was fine, however the empty suet basket and bird feeder that were strung between two trees was completely torn down. We had not seen a bear in our yard for more than ten years.
– Klaudia Frizzell, Ray Frizzell

white-eyed vireo5/21 – Dutchess County, HRM 82: The trails were nicely mown at the Buttercup Audubon Sanctuary East and the birds were active but well hidden. A very cooperative white-eyed vireo followed me down the trail; I wished the warblers were more visible. Among those I saw were blackpolls, Tennessee, Canada, and the usual breeding warblers such as black-and-white, blue-winged, yellow, American redstarts, ovenbird, and common yellowthroat. I also heard a distant ruffed grouse drumming. [Photo of white-eyed vireo courtesy of Deborah Tracy-Kral.]
– Deborah Tracy-Kral

5/21 – Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 69: One of the signs of the waning spring season is the appearance of dame’s rocket (Hesperis matronalis) in the uplands and along the river and its tributaries. This naturalized wildflower, native to Eurasia and brought to North America in the 17th century, comes in white, pink, violet, and purple. Carried by spring breezes, its wonderfully sweet fragrance fills the air from mid-May through early June. [See banner photo courtesy of Steve Stanne.]
– Tom Lake, T.R. Jackson

5/21 – Peekskill, HRM 43: I was not expecting much from fishing today; the tide would not begin to rise until mid-afternoon and the first few hours were pretty empty. Then the carp came alive soon after the start of the flood tide. I caught and released four, the biggest of which was 13 pounds, 9 ounces. The others topped 13 pounds as well. Two of the carp hit different rods at the same time; one of them was landed by a bystander who wasn’t fishing, but fortunately knew what to do as I asked him to grab the second rod.
– Bill Greene.

5/21 – Piermont, HRM 25: I came upon a male ruddy turnstone (Arenaria interpres) in bright orange, black, and white breeding plumage; it was working the stony edge on the north side of the mud flats at Piermont Pier. These small wading birds are common along the coast and are occasionally found inland. I scanned the breakwater rocks for diamondback terrapins (Malaclemys terrapin terrapin) and spotted just one. I estimated its carapace to be 6-7 inches in diameter.
– Linda Pistolesi

5/22 – Manhattan, HRM 1: We checked our collection gear on a rainy morning in Hudson River Park at The River Project’s sampling station on the lighthouse tender Lilac at Pier 25. One of our crab pots held an oyster toadfish 230 millimeters {mm} long. The killifish traps contained several shore shrimp, mud crabs, amphipods, and mud dog whelk snails.
– Melissa Rex, Toland Kister

[Oyster toadfish, known colloquially as “oyster crackers,” are common along the Atlantic Coast and in New York Harbor. They set up shop on the bottom of the river and, with strong, sharp teeth, they crush and feed on shellfish such as crabs, oysters, and other bivalves. While they are most often found in salt or brackish water, they can tolerate low salinity and even freshwater for a short time. Tom Lake.]

5/23 – Brockway, HRM 62: It was shortly after sunrise but an early-morning fog hung low and thick over the river. The forest surrounding bald eagle nest NY377 was now fully green and along with the fog obscured the view. At times like this, evidence of an eaglet cannot be verified by sight, but the fact that both adults were perched riverside, not more than 200 feet from the nest, their white heads glowing in the diffused light, made the presence of a nestling likely.
– Tom Lake

5/24 – Waterford, HRM 159: Over the last three days, we tested our new sonar technology at Lock 6 on the Mohawk River to see if we could count anadromous (in from the sea) blueback herring (Alosa aestivalis) traversing the lock and canal system of the Waterford Flight as they proceed up the Mohawk to their spawning grounds. The instrumentation used high resolution sonar to visualize solid objects; we can pick up as much detail as the fins on a black bass. We set up just upstream of the floodgate below the Crescent Pool and recorded data every time the locks and floodgates were opened to allow boats to pass through. We saw resident fishes such as bass, sunfish, and walleye, but when the gates opened, the herring came through in recognizable schools. Some consisted of just a few fish while others numbered in the hundreds. We confirmed that these were blueback herring with a sample. Given the anticipated small size of this year’s herring run, we were glad to see that our pilot study worked so well.
– Cara Ewell Hodkin, Mark Breen-Klein, Kaylyn Zipp, Karin Limburg

5/24 – Schodack Island State Park, HRM 135: For three delightful days, fifth grade students from Castleton Elementary joined me for a springtime mini-version of “A Day in the Life of the Hudson River.” Students visited the Moordener Kill, a tributary to the Hudson River that flows through southwestern Rensselaer County near their school to release brown trout (Salmo trutta) they had raised since hatching as part of Trout Unlimited’s “Trout in the Classroom” initiative. Students took water samples to measure dissolved oxygen and pH levels, and used field guides and dichotomous keys to identify fish species caught in our seine (spottail shiners, golden shiners, white perch, blueback herring, and striped bass). The school’s principle, Mr. Derby, removed his suit jacket, tucked in his tie, and donned a pair of chest waders to help with the netting with thunderous applause from the students.
– Stuart Morse, Fran Martino

[Our 15th annual Day in the Life of the river will be held October 12. For more information visit the event’s website. Steve Stanne.]

great blue herons5/24 – Bedford, HRM 35: The scene was quiet today at the great blue heron rookery. The nests had two to four nestlings, of which many remained hidden down inside. As they get larger we will see more of them. Those with four nestlings were the most active; their collective vocalizing sounded like chatter. The heron nest that had hatched a great horned owl was now occupied by a great blue heron, settled down inside. It could be a late arrival, but my guess is that one or both of the pair just reached sexual maturity and this might be their first attempt at nesting. Sexual maturity for great blues is 22 months. [Photo of nest with four great blue herons courtesy of Jim Steck.]
– Jim Steck

5/24 – Manhattan, HRM 1: We checked our collection gear this morning in Hudson River Park at The River Project’s sampling station on the lighthouse tender Lilac at Pier 25. On one of the killifish traps we found two lined seahorses (85 mm, 100 mm); one was hanging on to the outside of the trap, the other was clinging to the rope. We have also begun to see mud dog whelk snail eggs along the traps and caught our first comb jellies of the season.
– Elisa Caref, Melissa Rex, Megan Moroney

[Comb jellies (Ctenophora) look like jellyfish but do not sting. Like true jellyfish, they are translucent, gelatinous, fragile, and essentially planktonic, drifting at the whim of the wind and current. Peanut to walnut-sized, they often occur in swarms, and are common in warm, brackish estuarine shallows. Gently scoop one with a wet, cupped hand and place it in a small clear container to see the “combs” – eight rows of cilia which beat synchronously to propel the animal lazily through the water. There are two common species in the Hudson – Leidy’s comb jelly or sea walnut (Mnemiopsis leidyi) and Beroe’s comb jelly or pink slipper comb jelly (Beroe cucumis); the former bioluminesces. Tom Lake, Steve Stanne.]

5/25 – Hyde Park, HRM 82: Standing riverside at the Rogers Point Boat Club this evening, I witnessed one of the largest sturgeon I had ever seen jump out of the water like a rocket. The fish had to be at least six feet long! One of our members heard the splash and thought somebody had fallen in the water. This is not unusual as we see this from time to time, but I still do not know why they do that amazing leap. [Robert was the first person to spot the gray seal that visited Rogers Point from July 19 to September 16, 2011.]
– Robert Sage

[Sturgeon are the stuff of myth and legend. In terms of evolution, they are a very ancient class of cartilaginous (non-bony) fishes whose ancestry date back several hundred million years. Among their many unusual behavioral traits is their predilection for jumping clear out of the water, similar to the breaching behavior of dolphins and whales. Sturgeon can leap several feet out of the water and then land with a loud splash. There are Hudson River records of sturgeon leaping and landing in canoes and fishing boats. While drift-netting for American shad twenty years ago, Chris Lake and I had a five-footer leap, land on the gunnel of our boat, teeter, and then topple back into the river. Why they leap is a mystery. It may be a way to rid themselves of external parasites or to take in air to fill their swim bladder. Tom Lake.]

5/26 – Staatsburg, HRM 86: From an appropriate distance, I was able to count three nestlings in bald eagle nest NY143 (the nest had two fledglings last year). Last year’s nest fell out of the tree in autumn so this is a “new” NY143 not far from the old one. I can hardly wait for them to stretch their wings – it will surely be a crowded nest.
– Dave Lindemann

5/26 – Manhattan, HRM 1: We checked our collection gear in mid-morning in Hudson River Park at The River Project’s sampling station on the lighthouse tender Lilac at Pier 25. On the rope of a killifish trap we found a lined seahorse (60 mm). The other traps had shore shrimp, amphipods, mud crabs, mud dog whelk snails, and oyster drill snails.
– Megan Moroney, Melissa Rex

[The Atlantic oyster drill (Urosalpinx cinerea) is a small sea snail, a marine gastropod. The oyster drill preys on oysters by drilling though their shell to get at the animal inside. – Tom Lake]


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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Discover New York State Conservationist – the award-winning, advertisement-free magazine focusing on New York State’s great outdoors and natural resources. Conservationist features stunning photography, informative articles and around-the-state coverage. Visit the Conservationist webpage for more information.


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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