A Project of the Hudson River Estuary Program
Compiled by Tom Lake, Consulting Naturalist
This week’s Almanac is an unusual edition that begins with several older entries that missed their specific due date. However, they were important, and we include them here, including the Highlight of the Week. Also featured are accounts of the ongoing, on-river education for the next generation of biologists, naturalists, river constituents, and nature enthusiasts.
Highlight of the Week
10/25 – Brooklyn, New York City: Today was another “new jelly” spotting on the East River at Brooklyn Bridge Park. Middle school students from Manhattan came to learn about the intertidal zone as we went out to Pebble Beach at low tide for beach combing. Students found Asian shore crabs, periwinkle snails, scuds (Gammarus), and algae, but the highlight was a large stranded lion's mane jellyfish. Once we ensured that it was safe to touch, we allowed students to feel and investigate. (Photo of lion's mane jellyfish courtesy of Margie Turrin)
[The lion's mane jellyfish (Cyanea capillata) is the largest known species of jellyfish in the world. They use their stinging tentacles to capture prey such as fish and smaller jellyfish. The tentacles of larger lion’s mane jellyfish can reach 100-feet in length and they can attain a bell diameter of over six-feet, although most are far smaller. In July 2008, swarms of lion’s mane jellyfish were reported in the Hudson River off Manhattan’s west side. Tom Lake]
- Christina Tobitsch, Shad Hopson
Natural History Entries
10/22 – Brooklyn, New York City: Eighty eighth-grade students from Brooklyn Heights joined Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy educators on the East River at the Pier 4 beach for seining and water quality testing as a part of the annual Day-in-the-Life of the River. Among the fishes, high count was Atlantic silverside (584); others included bay anchovy, winter flounder, northern pipefish, and Atlantic menhaden. In addition, hermit crab, ribbed mussel, moon jellyfish, and several Beroe's and Leidy's comb jellies were collected. Though Beroe’s comb jellies have been previously caught in our 12-year seining history, this marks the first time we have specifically recorded both Beroe's and Leidy's comb jellies at the same time. (Photo of beroe's comb jelly courtesy of Christina Tobitsch)
- Christina Tobitsch
10/23 – Brooklyn, New York City: Volunteers performed a coastal clean-up this morning on the East River at Pebble Beach in Brooklyn Bridge Park. As they were collecting trash that had been left by the tide, volunteers noticed large transparent plastic-looking shapes. There were 5-6 of them and they varied in size from 3-5-inches in diameter. They appeared to have been washed up on the rocks and left behind as the tide went out. After some research, we discovered that they too belonged to the genus Aequorea, probably the many-ribbed hydromedusa (Aequorea aequorea). (Photo of many-ribbed Aequorea courtesy of Christina Tobitsch)
- Elizabeth Harnett, Christina Tobitsch
11/4 – Alpine, NJ, HRM 18: A birder at the State Line Hawkwatch took a photo of a migrating gyrfalcon on one of the many perches favored by peregrine falcons. (Photo of gyrfalcon courtesy of Muhammad Faizan)
- Linda Pistolisi
Note: This entry appeared in the Almanac last week, but the accompanying photo mistakenly used was of a peregrine falcon. This week we have included a photo of the gyrfalcon. Tom Lake]
11/4 – Manhattan, HRM 1: We checked our research sampling gear in Hudson River Park at The River Project's sampling station on the lighthouse tender Lilac at Pier 25 and found a load of our local fishes including a single, 35-millimeter (mm) oyster toadfish and several black sea bass (85-180 mm). Sharing the crab pot were six young-of-autumn blue crabs (10-25 mm).
[1 inch = 25.4 millimeters(mm)]
- Siddhartha Hayes
11/6 – Manhattan, HRM 1: Once again, we checked our research sampling gear in Hudson River Park at The River Project's sampling station on the lighthouse tender Lilac at Pier 25 and were delighted to find a young-of-year striped bass (80 mm). A double treat was a feather blenny (60 mm), a fish we see only a few times a year. (Photo of feather blenny with permission of National Marine Fisheries Service)
[The feather blenny (Hypsoblennius hentz) is a small, scaleless, seasonally resident marine fish with fleshy cirri (“feathers”) on their head. Their lower jaw has a row of small, close-set teeth like those of a comb, thus their family name, combtooth blennies (Blenniidae). Blennies are benthic dwellers where they often burrow in the soft bottom or find refuge in old mollusk shells. It was added to our watershed fish list in August 1994 from a feather blenny caught at The River Project (Pier 41) in Manhattan. Tom Lake]
- Siddhartha Hayes, Meagan Fontanez, Chelsea Quaies
11/8 – Manhattan, HRM 1: We finished our sampling week by checking our research gear in Hudson River Park at The River Project's sampling station on the lighthouse tender Lilac at Pier 25. To our surprise, we caught our second feather blenny in two days, this one slightly larger (80 mm). Young-of-year striped bass were high count (7) in the killifish pot (65-80 mm). Rounding out a fabulous catch was a beautiful black sea bass (90 mm).
- Siddhartha Hayes, Nina Hitchings
11/9 – Bedford, HRM 35: We had four golden eagles today, two immatures and two adults, at the Bedford Audubon Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch. There was also a very good flight of red-shouldered hawks (45 of 73 migrating raptors). We saw one red-shouldered hawk attempt to grab a windblown leaf in flight. Other non-raptor observations included an impressive movement of American robins (more than 2,100), as well as 114 red-winged blackbirds
- Richard Aracil, Gail Benson, Tom Burke
11/9 – Ossining, HRM 33: In late afternoon, I found an Iceland gull, a “winter gull,” at The Boathouse Restaurant on the Ossining waterfront. Peter Post had spotted the gull earlier, two miles upriver, at the Croton-Harmon Metro North train station. The gull hung around for maybe three hours. It was my first Iceland gull ever.
- Larry Tractenburg
11/9 – New York Harbor: We were on the Capitol Princess fishing boat out of the East River with Captains Richard and Eric Collins. On board were the awesome environmental educators from Randall’s Island Park’s Alliance, Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy, City Parks Foundation, Battery Park City Parks, and the Lower East Side Ecology Center, who work tirelessly for the East River. After passing through the Upper Bay of New York Harbor, we began fishing along the inshore waters outside the Verrazano Narrows. The action was slow, but we did manage to catch a few tautog. On our way back into the Upper Bay, we came upon a striped bass feeding frenzy – they were blitzing Atlantic menhaden. We caught several of them, one of which was 20 pounds. (Photo of tautog courtesy of Peter Park)
- Peter Park, Chris Girgenti, Luis Gonzalez, Marieke Bender, Isa Del Bello, Kellan Stanner
11/10 – Selkirk, HRM 135: There was a “dark morph” snow goose, also known colloquially as a “blue goose,” among hundreds of Canada geese on the pond at the Clapper Road water treatment facility in Selkirk. (Photo of snow goose courtesy of Deborah Tracy Kral)
- John Kent (Hudson-Mohawk Bird Cub)
11/10 – Bedford, HRM 35: It was a very slow day at the Bedford Audubon Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch. Turkey vultures were the only birds on the move (54 of 60 total migrants). Of the six migrating raptors, Cooper’s hawk was high count with three. Other non-raptor observations included 111 American robins.
- Richard Aracil
11/10 – Hook Mountain, HRM 31: It was a very slow day at the Hook Mountain Hawkwatch with only six migrating raptors noted. Bald eagles were high count with three, followed by peregrine falcon with two. The sixth raptor was a northern harrier. Other non-raptor observations included a raven.
- Felicia Napier
11/11 – Little Stony Point, HRM 55: We set our seine in the evening ebb tide wondering if this was the sundown on a season. The November full moon would soon be rising over Mount Taurus, the air was chilly, and the water, 49 degrees Fahrenheit (F), was likewise dropping. Our catch still reflected the season with many young-of-year striped bass (70-76 mm) heading seaward, as well as what may have been the last of the blue crabs – palm-sized male “jimmies” – before they also moved downriver to more brackish water for the winter.
[To the Native people of the northeast, the November full moon was thought of as the Beaver Moon. This was the time of year when beaver would stock up on provisions to help them get through the winter when their ponds, lakes, and other waterways would freeze over. Beaver still follow this instinctive process of collecting forage, including branches, limbs, even small trees, dragging them into their ponds, and then securing them on the bottom where they can be retrieved during the cold and ice of mid-winter. Tom Lake]
- Tom Lake, Phyllis Lake
11/11 – Bedford, HRM 35: There was a nice push today of red-shouldered hawks at the Bedford Audubon Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch – 19 came through in the midday hour. Thirty-five of the 43 migrating raptors counted today were red-shouldered (81%). It appeared that the best red-shouldered movement at Chestnut Ridge tends to occur when it is sunny with very light winds. Co-high count among all migrants was turkey vulture with 35 birds. Other non-raptor observations included 21 cedar waxwings.
- Tait Johansson, Pedro Troche
11/12 – Bedford, HRM 35: It was cold, with periods of light rain changing over to sleet and snow in the morning, at the Bedford Audubon Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch. The weather definitely affected my ability to see birds. There were no migrating raptors for the day, and only six turkey vultures were counted. Once the precipitation ended in the afternoon, non-raptor observations included skeins of Canada geese (270) as well as flocks of cedar waxwings (220).
- Richard Aracil
11/12 – Yonkers, HRM 18: We tallied up our final count of fishes (7,952) caught during our 2019 education season at the Sarah Lawrence Center for the Urban River at Beczak. This was the third highest in 15 years of data collection (2005–2019). Last year’s total of 9,962 (107 seining days) was our highest catch. Our lowest catch, 1,823, occurred in 2014 (64 seining days).
- Jason Muller, Elisa Caref, Katie Lamboy
11/13 – Bedford, HRM 35: Red-shouldered hawks were the main species moving today at the Bedford Audubon Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch. Of the 68 migrating raptors, red-shouldered hawk was the high count with 38. Turkey vulture (54) was the overall high number for migrants. Bald eagles (6) also showed well today. Non-raptor migration numbers were very impressive: Canada geese (1,267), snow geese (383, our first), common grackle (890), and American robin (499)
- Richard Aracil, Pedro Troche
11/13 – Yonkers, HRM 18: We conducted a further analysis of our count of fishes caught during our 2019 education season at the Sarah Lawrence Center for the Urban River at Beczak and discovered 34 different species of Hudson River aquatic life. This included five first-time catches: emerald sea slug, Asian shore crab, inshore lizardfish, hydromedusa (sp.), and eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica). Moon jellyfish comprised more than 50% of our total diversity followed by Atlantic silverside (15.9%), blue crab (11.2%), sand shrimp/shore shrimp (6.1%), and mummichog (5.5%).
- Jason Muller, Elisa Caref, Katie Lamboy
11/13 – Manhattan, HRM 0: We compiled our Marine Education program data for fall 2019. Ten programs were held along the promenade at Wagner Park in Battery Park City from September 21 through October 29. Among the schools attending were PS56, PS108, PS124, PS/ IS 266, IS77, and Epiphany School.
Using bloodworms, frozen (thawed) clam, and frozen squid, students caught eight species of fish. Black sea bass (3-8-inches) were easily the high count with 128. Oyster toadfish (3-10-inches) and striped bass (7-11-inches) were next with ten each, followed by scup (porgy) with six (3-8-inches), cunner (bergall) with five (3-7-inches), and one each for tautog (blackfish), white perch, and striped sea robin. Across those 38 days, the water temperature fell from 71 to 67 degrees F.
- Doug Van Horn, Marieke Bender
*** Fish of the Week ***
11/13 – Hudson River Watershed: Fish-of-the-Week for Week 48 is the white perch (Morone americana), number 141 (of 230) on our watershed list of fishes. If you would like a copy of our list, e-mail - trlake7.
White perch are one of three River Basses (Moronidae) found in the watershed and are very closely related to both striped bass and white bass. Physiologically, they do well in an estuary if given time to acclimate to water ranging from salt to brackish to fresh. They are native to the Atlantic slope from Canada to South Carolina with a center of abundance between the Hudson River and Chesapeake Bay. While they can reach 18-inches, those we see in the Hudson River are a foot-long or less.
Several years ago, as I was sampling Hudson River tidewater tributaries in the spring documenting fish populations, my net seemed to be catching an inordinately high number of “fat-bellied” white perch. I wrote off the first dozen or two as gravid females until it seemed like there were no males at all. Finally, with a Roy C. Ketcham high school class assisting, we did some invasive surgery and discovered that the stomachs of every “gravid” white perch was filed with glass eels (juvenile American eels). Glass eels, in from the sea each spring, surge into many tributaries from March through May creating robust forage for many predators. (Photo of white perch courtesy of World Science Festival)
- Tom Lake
11/13 – Manhattan, HRM 5: The air temperature fell to 23 degrees F today, tying the record low for the date. The previous record was 24 degrees, set in 1986.
- National Weather Service
11/14 – Wappinger Creek, HRM 67.5: It was a winter tableau in mid-November along the tidewater Wappinger Creek. After three nights of below freezing air temperatures, the first ice of the season had claimed the shoreline and was now creeping outward into deeper water. Nine drake (male) hooded mergansers, their brilliant white crests glowing in the defused light of dawn, moved about in a loose assemblage. Nearby, an adult bald eagle was perched in a stark-white sycamore, apparently disinterested in the opportunities floating below. (Photo of hooded merganser courtesy of Terry Hardy)
[Legendry Audubon naturalist James P. Rod used to say that finding hooded mergansers on the river in November and December meant a cold, icy winter ahead, as waters in the uplands were beginning to freeze. Tom Lake]
- Tom Lake, B.J. Jackson
11/14– Hook Mountain, HRM 31: It was another slow day at the Hook Mountain Hawkwatch with only seven migrating raptors noted. Bald eagles were again high count with three, followed by northern harrier with two, and one each red-shouldered and red-tailed hawk. Other non-raptor observations included an interesting chase of a black vulture after a turkey vulture across the sky from east to west.
- Trudy Battaly, Drew Panko
11/14 – Yonkers, HRM 18: We assessed our catch of Hudson River fishes caught during our 2019 education season at the Sarah Lawrence Center for the Urban River at Beczak and discovered 22 different species. These included, in taxonomic order, American eel, blueback herring, alewife, Atlantic menhaden, Atlantic herring, bay anchovy, inshore lizardfish, Atlantic tomcod, eastern banded killifish, mummichog, Atlantic silverside, northern pipefish, white perch, striped bass, bluegill, largemouth bass, bluefish, northern kingfish, naked goby, summer flounder, winter flounder, and hogchoker. Of the 22 fishes, only two were nonnative, both transplanted sunfishes from the Midwest (largemouth bass and bluegill).
- Jason Muller, Elisa Caref, Katie Lamboy
11/14 – Manhattan, HRM 1: In our final sampling of the week, we checked our research gear in Hudson River Park at The River Project's sampling station on the lighthouse tender Lilac at Pier 25 and were delighted to find two more feather blennies (75, 85 mm), making four of these very uncommon fishes in one week. Elsewhere in the killifish pot, we came upon a young-of-year striped bass (70 mm), an adult tautog (300 mm), and two shiny black sea bass (55, 65 mm).
- Toland Kister, Melissa Rex, Ashlee Zhang, Chelsea Quaies
11/15 – Mohawk River, HRM 157: This morning shortly after 6:00 AM, I was traveling east on Route 5 out of Amsterdam. I was about to go under an old railroad bridge when a pigeon-to-duck-sized bird zoomed passed my vehicle. I was going 55 miles-per-hour (mph), and whatever this bird was, it not only outpaced my vehicle in a straight line, but held a lead even after weaving north across the divided highway and then back over the eastbound lanes to pass the railroad bridge. The predawn darkness was enough to soon take the bird out of sight. I never got a look at the head, the feathers, or any other details beyond glimpses of the silhouette against the eastern sky or around the edge of headlight beams.
[The estimated speed suggests it was a falcon, probably a peregrine. However, given the scant details, a pigeon (rock dove) cannot be ruled out. Ornithologist Heinz Meng, one of the heroes of the peregrine falcon’s return to the Northeast following pesticide poisoning (DDT), often extolled the straight-away speed of pigeons and how peregrines often had all they could handle in catching them. Tom Lake]
- Ken Blanchard
11/15 – Catskill Mountains: The golden eagle migration was peaking at the Delaware-Otsego Audubon Franklin Mountain Hawkwatch near Oneonta, Otsego County, in the northern Catskills. Forty-three golden eagles were tallied on November 12, and 23 more on November 13. These flights were welcome after a very slow October with only one golden spotted. As of today, the season total was 125.
Movement of golden eagles should continue through the month on days with good conditions -- winds from the north, northwest, or west, particularly following passage of a cold front. There is an e-mail alert available 2-3 days in advance of anticipated good flight days. If you are interested in being on our alert list, contact me (andymason). More information, and directions to the Hawkwatch can be found at http://www.franklinmt.org. If you visit, be sure to dress warmly, especially on windy days.
[While the Franklin Mountain Hawkwatch is in the Delaware River watershed, we include it here as a contiguous region and to make the connection to our own hawk watches and their autumn golden eagle migration. Tom Lake]
- Andy Mason
11/15– Bedford, HRM 35: It was a good day for red-shouldered hawks (32 birds) at the Bedford Audubon Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch. Turkey vultures were still moving in good numbers (54) as well. The big Icterid [blackbird] and American robin flights of the past couple of days was almost totally non-existent today. However, other non-raptor migration numbers were very impressive: Canada geese (1,267), snow geese (our first) 383, and American robin (499)
- Richard Aracil
11/15 – Piermont, HRM 25: This morning on the Piermont pier, I spotted a trio of male buffleheads, winter ducks, bobbing lightly in the river with their sharp contrasting black-and-white plumage. The ducks told me that winter was upon us! As I raised my eyes, I noticed an adult bald eagle perched on the rocks that surround the bay on the north side of the pier. It was working on a fish that was tucked in its talons.
- Margie Turrin
11/15 – Manhattan, HRM 7.5: We found 42 species of birds today in Central Park. Highlights included a late-date summer tanager, an orange-crowned warbler, a hairy woodpecker, a pied-billed grebe (first-of-season), American kestrel, 165 northern shovelers, and a female eastern bluebird. The eastern bluebird was found by Sol Shamilzade and was one of two bluebirds in the area. (Photo of summer tanager courtesy of Alex Rinkert)
- Robert DeCandido, Deborah Allen
Autumn 2019 Natural History Programs
Wednesday, December 4
DEC Now Accepting Applications for Urban Forestry Projects
DEC Now Accepting Applications for Urban Forestry Projects
- Up to $1.2 million in grant funding is available for urban forestry projects across New York State. Grants are available for tree planting, maintenance, tree inventory, community forest management plans and for educating those who care for public trees. https://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/5285.html
Eligible applicants include municipalities, public benefit corporations, public authorities, soil and water conservation districts, community colleges, not-for-profit organizations and Indian nations or tribes. Awards will range from $11,000 to $75,000, depending on municipal population. Tree inventories and community forest management plans require no match. Tree planting, maintenance and education projects have a 25 percent match requirement.
Interested applicants must apply for the grant in Grants Gateway. Not-for-profit applicants are required to pre-qualify in the Grants Gateway system, so DEC recommends that applicants start the process well in advance of the grant application due date. DEC will not accept paper or hand delivered grant applications. The deadline for applications in Grants Gateway is December 4, 2019 at 2 PM.
Hudson River Miles
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.
To Contribute Your Observations or to Subscribe
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 trlake7.
To subscribe to the Almanac (or to unsubscribe), use the links on DEC's Hudson River Almanac or DEC Delivers web pages.
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 sixteen monitoring stations, visit the Hudson River Environmental Conditions Observing System website.
DEC's Smartphone app for iPhone and Android is now available at: New York Fishing, Hunting & Wildlife App.