A Project of the Hudson River Estuary Program
Compiled by Tom Lake, Consulting Naturalist
While birds-of-prey, seaward-bound fish, and students discovering the magic of the Hudson River dominated the stories this week, perhaps the most interesting tales were two entries devoted to tiny “jellyfish,” cryptic aquatic fauna that go through life almost unnoticed, except to the most discerning educators’ eyes.
Highlight of the Week
11/1 – Manhattan, New York City: During our Randall’s Island seining at Little Hell Gate saltmarsh today, Randall's Island Park Alliance Staff Educators captured some hydromedusae jellyfish (small, transparent or lightly pigmented jellyfish). After a bit of research, it was determined that these were most likely white-cross jellyfish (Staurophora mertensi). However, since the catch occurred significantly outside the documented range of the white-cross jellyfish – Arctic waters south to Rhode Island (Gosner 1978) – we referred the question and accompanying photos to an expert. (Photo of white cross hydromedusae courtesy of Jackie Wu)
[While I was initially skeptical, thinking these were more likely to be young Aurelia aurita (moon jellyfish), I now concur. The white cross on this species is very diagnostic. An initial stumbling block was size: white-cross jellyfish adults have bell diameters of 8-10-inches. However, the white-cross jellyfish young can be 36 millimeters (mm), or smaller, as these appear to be. Jim Edward Rice]
[Note: one inch = 25.4 millimeters (mm)]
- Jackie Wu
Natural History Entries
10/22 – Hudson River Watershed: We held our 17th annual Day-in-the-Life of the River covering more than 160 river miles at 83 sites from above the Federal Dam at Troy to Staten Island and the East River. Both students (4,610) and teachers-educators (605) made up the total of 5,215 participants. We had so many stories of adventures and discovery that needed to be told, that we had to save many for this week (see below).
Day-in-the-Life of the River has become a time to blend science, education, and almost a poetic reverence to our connection to the world we share. It is a day to pay homage to our educators and scientists and recognize their role. Naturalist Teilhard de Chardin said it well: “the future belongs to those who give the next generation reason for hope.” (Photo of Day in the Life Students with Region 4 Fisheries courtesy of Scott Wells)
- Tom Lake
10/22 – Hudson River Watershed: NYSDEC Region 4 Fisheries, Team Stamford, organized a group effort to showcase our Hudson River watershed fishes as a contribution to the annual Day-in-the-Life of the River. Our effort expanded into the upper Hudson River (non-tidal) including the Hoosic River and the lower Mohawk River, as well as Schoharie Creek.
Sampling was conducted at four different locations in the upper watershed. We used a total of eleven staff, crewing Region 4's electro-fishing boat in the lower Mohawk River (Niskayuna-Waterford) and Hudson River estuary at Troy. Some 300 fish comprising 27 species were captured in 2.4 hours of boat shocking, beach seining, along with backpack electro-shocking in Schoharie Creek. Many of the large and more hardy river fishes were held in four live cages placed near collection sites for retrieval and delivery to stations extending 35 miles downriver from Troy to Hudson (river miles 153-118).
During our extended Day-in-the-Life program, we reached a record 13 river stations and averaged 39 students per site. Our team of professionals combined forces with faculty, staff, and parents to educate students on river habitat, water quality, fish identification, anatomy, and behavior while answering many other river-related questions. Teachers commented on how wonderful it was to have live river fishes displayed for their respective school groups (grades 1-12). (Photo of fish collection at Hudson Shores Park courtesy of Scott Wells)
[Team Stanford consisted of fifteen staff from nine different programs: Division of Fish and Wildlife - Bureaus of Fisheries, Wildlife, and Ecosystem Health; Division of Lands/Forests and Law Enforcement, NYSOPRHP – Invasive Species Team, The Natural Heritage Program, Capitol-Mohawk PRISM, and the USGS – Science Center (Troy).]
- Scott Wells, Regional Fisheries Biologist DEC Region 4 Stamford Fisheries
10/22 – Albany County, HRM 148: For our Day-in-the-Life of the River program, we had 50 fifth-grade students from the North Colonie CSD Learning Enrichment Program at the rowing dock on the river’s edge at Hudson Shores Park in Watervliet. We hauled our seine in the wind and fog and captured spottail shiners and pumpkinseed sunfish (50-80 mm). The water temperature was 57 degrees Fahrenheit (F).
- Sherri Mackey and Maude Salinger
10/22 – Beacon, HRM 61: The river was calm, and the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater was sailing offshore. Students from Newburgh Free Academy’s PTEC program donned waders and were very excited to see what they could catch from the river with our net. In just a few hauls of the seine, we tallied spottail shiners, yellow perch, white perch, and banded killifish.
A while later, students from Valley Central Middle School arrived at nearby Pete and Toshi Seeger Park. They began busily conducting water tests, looking for microplastics, identifying fish, sketching, and were all together intrigued by the Hudson River. Even later, I went aboard the Clearwater with 40 fourth-graders from Pine Bush Elementary. We hauled the sails, set the otter trawl, and sang sea shanties.
- Rebecca Houser
10/23 – Esopus Meadows, HRM 87: Four classes of fourth-grade students from the Robert Graves Elementary in Port Ewen joined us at Esopus Meadows for another Day-In-The-Life of the River! We hauled our seine eight times and caught bluegill sunfish, banded killifish, spottail shiners, and a comely shiner, the first of those we had ever taken. Young-of-year fishes were represented by largemouth bass and striped bass. Spottail shiners were high count with 31 fish.
- Eli Schloss
10/23 – Manhattan, HRM 2: Students on a school field trip enjoyed our Hudson River Park Estuary Lab catch-and-release rod and reel fishing program at Pier 40 in Hudson River Park. During the program they caught four amazing fish, including two black sea bass (6-7-inches) and two striped bass (7-8-inches).
- Olivia Radick
10/25 – Yonkers, HRM 18: Two dozen fifth-graders from the Eugenio Maria de Hostos Microsociety School in Yonkers visited the Sarah Lawrence Center for the Urban River at Beczak today. During our seining program, we captured some small hydromedusae (small transparent or lightly pigmented jellyfish). Through detailed, painstaking research, naturalist Jay Muller discovered that these tiny hydromedusae were many-ribbed jellyfish, hydrozoans, only somewhat related to jellyfish.
[Many-ribbed jellyfish (Rhacostoma atlanticum) are found nearly world-wide in oceanic waters. Despite their common name, they are not true jellyfish, but rather hydromedusae. Taxonomically, they are in the family Aequoreidae from the class Hydrozoa. Tom Lake]
- Elisa Caref
*** Fish of the Week ***
10/26 – Hudson River Watershed: Fish-of-the-Week for Week 46 is the comely shiner (Notropis amoenus), number 50 (of 230) on our watershed list of fishes. If you would like a copy of our list, e-mail - trlake7.
The comely shiner is a native species, one of 34 minnows (Cyprinidae), the largest family of fishes in the watershed (15%). Their range extends along the Atlantic Coastal Plain from New York to North Carolina. C. Lavett Smith (1985) describes their preferred habitat as “moderate-sized to larger streams.” Lee, et al. (1980) notes those locations and adds rivers as well. Its trivial name, amoenus, is Latin for pleasant, or delightful, thus comely (“pleasant to look at”). Despite all this flattery, the comely shiner is a rather small (to 88 mm), unpretentious minnow easily confused with other somewhat nondescript relatives. (Photo of comely shiner courtesy of Eli Schloss)
- Tom Lake
10/26 – Bedford, HRM 35: Turkey vultures (153) were by far the most numerous migrating species today at the Bedford Audubon Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch. Of the 31 raptors counted, red-shouldered hawks (14) also made a decent showing. Other non-raptor observations included six monarch butterflies and 75 brant.
- Richard Aracil, Karen Troche, Megan Owens, Pedro Troche
10/26 – Hook Mountain, HRM 31: It was almost an empty-sky day at the Hook Mountain Hawkwatch with only six raptors noted. Sharp-shined hawks were high count with three. Other non-raptor observations included one monarch butterfly.
- John Beccarelli
10/27 – Piermont, HRM 25: While seining at Piermont Pier in advance of a Daisy Scouts visit, we netted a 210 (mm), adult white perch and were surprised to note how wide its “face” appeared. Upon closer inspection, we saw that its gills were filled with parasitic isopods, four on one side and one on the other. Each isopod was gravid (with eggs), clearly using the blood-filled gills as a host. We worked to remove the parasites using tweezers. After holding onto the fish for several hours to be sure it had recovered from our surgery, we returned it to the river. (Photo of parasitic isopod courtesy of Margie Turrin)
- Margie Turrin, Laurel Zaima, Ian McGrath
10/28 – Beacon, HRM 61: I caught, measured, and released three channel catfish (17-19-inches) and a brown bullhead (ten-inches) in today's session at Long Dock. There was a lot of bait stealing by smaller fish that did not get hooked. There was no sign of carp activity. A passer-by reported seeing a dead freshwater drum along the shoreline. (Photo of freshwater drum courtesy of Tom Lake)
[Freshwater drum (Aplodinotus grunniens) are an invasive species in the watershed. We’ve seen them in the Hudson River since the early 1990s when they began showing up in commercial shad nets. They likely arrived here through the New York State canal system and the Mohawk River connecting the watershed with the Great Lakes. In Lake Erie, they are known colloquially as “sheepshead” – they have that look. Freshwater drum are lovers of mollusks and are known to feed on zebra mussels. Other members of the drum family found in the Hudson River are marine species such as northern kingfish, croaker, spot, black drum, silver perch, and weakfish. Tom Lake
- Bill Greene
10/28 – Bedford, HRM 35: We had some good but sporadic turkey vulture movement (111) at the Bedford Audubon Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch today. Red-shouldered hawks counted for 18 of the 38 migrating raptors. Other, non-raptor observations included two monarch butterflies, 102 Canada geese, 90 brown-headed cowbirds, eight red-winged blackbirds, and seven common ravens.
- Tait Johansson, Megan Owens
10/28 – Hook Mountain, HRM 31: We spotted a couple of eagles pretty quickly today at the Hook Mountain Hawkwatch. We tried, unsuccessfully, to decide between immature bald eagles and golden eagles as they flew in front of the sun. But we couldn't see the diagnostic markings. We went with “un-identified.” However, we did count three bald eagles. Peregrine falcons (2) were also having fun, cavorting, flying fast, and definitely headed south. The only other three raptors were, one-each, sharp-shinned, red-tailed, and red-shouldered hawks.
- Steve Miller, Tom White
10/28 – 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 five black sea bass (35-100 mm), a species that has been very common in the Upper Bay of New York Harbor this summer and fall. Two less common catches were an adult white perch (210 mm) and a small (35 mm) naked goby.
- Siddhartha Hayes, Toland Kister, Melissa Rex
10/29 – Danskammer Point, HRM 66.5: There is an adage about estuaries that no one moment will ever occur again in exactly the same way, that every minute of every hour is unique. Given all of the factors that go into an estuarine "moment," is seems mathematically logical.
Thirty-seven years ago today, a moment occurred that, as far as I know, has never been repeated. I was drift-fishing in the ebb current of the warm-water outflow from the Danskammer Point Power Generating Facility (Orange County) when a large school of small herring erupted from the water. Something was chasing them. At almost the same time a dozen foot-long silvery flashes appeared, and one hit my lure. The fish was an acrobat, leaping from the water, swapping ends, before splashing back. The hook pulled free, but then another one struck. This one leaped boat side and landed on the gunwale, teetering there for a few seconds before flopping into the boat. The rest of them dispersed never to be seen again, and I've been looking for 37 years. (Photo of ladyfish courtesy of Tom Lake)
[This was a school of ladyfish (Elops saurus), a tropical relative of the tarpon. Tropical marine strays, aided by the Gulf Stream and warming inshore waters of the Mid-Atlantic, are not uncommon in the lower estuary. We see jacks fairly regularly, and on very rare occasions we catch grouper, snapper, bonefish, and small barracuda. Ladyfish, however, have managed to remain an elusive memory. Tom Lake]
- Tom Lake
10/29 – Beacon, HRM 61: The overnight high tide, buoyed by the new moon, had claimed almost the entire flood plain at Long Dock. We sloshed through shin-deep puddles to reach the half-tide beach. Downriver, fog and low clouds shrouded Storm King Mountain and a serious-looking rain squall was heading our way. We made as many quick hauls as we could, and not surprisingly, each yielded a dozen spottail shiners (80-90 mm), the popular resident species. It seemed to us that the river was not far from taking a nap for the year. Then the rains came. The water was 59 degrees F.
- Tom Lake, A. Danforth
10/29 – Yonkers, HRM 18: We had an incredibly high tide today at the Sarah Lawrence Center for the Urban River at Beczak. This new moon spring tide may have been the highest I’ve ever seen in our beach area. We hosted a group of students from Lincoln High School in Yonkers for a field trip on water quality testing. Students found that the salinity was 7.66 parts-per-thousand (ppt), and the water temperature was 64 degrees F.
[Tide is a vertical measurement of water in the estuary while current is the horizontal measurement of tidewater movement. Around the new and full moon, tides tend to be extra high and extra low. These are called spring tides. Around the first and third quarter moon, tides are of average height, and are called neap tides. Tidal variance is the vertical measurement on any particular tide from slack low to slack high tide. Tom Lake]
- Elisa Caref
10/30 – Manhattan, HRM 2: Our winter field trips had begun at the Hudson River Park’s Estuary Lab in Hudson River Park. Today, was the first trip in a series of five for a group of fifth-graders from Manhattan P.S. 86. We began with an introduction to the estuary followed by an opportunity to catch and release fish on Pier 40. By far, the highlight of the fishing was two hickory shad that students caught (9-10-inches).
[Hickory shad (Alosa mediocris), like American shad (A. sapidissima), are anadromous, in that they are ocean fish that return to their natal rivers in spring to spawn. They are uncommon seasonal visitors in the Hudson River estuary being far more common in their home range from Chesapeake Bay to Georgia. Their trivial name (mediocris) translates from Latin as “ordinary, mediocre.” This may have been the opinion of Samuel Mitchill (1814), the ichthyologist who gave the fish its scientific name, referring to their supposed poor culinary quality. At points south along the Atlantic Coast, commercial operations used to separate hickory shad from American shad because their market price was far less. I have smoked hickory and would rate them below American shad for taste, but considerably above gizzard shad and Atlantic menhaden. Tom Lake]
These were our program’s first hickory shad. (Photo of hickory shad courtesy of Laken Fournier)
- Olivia Radick
10/30 – Manhattan, HRM 1: We checked our research sampling gear today in Hudson River Park at The River Project's sampling station on the lighthouse tender Lilac at Pier 25 to find that we had collected two elegant black sea bass (50, 95 mm), as well as a quarter-size blue crab.
- Siddhartha Hayes, Chelsea Quaies
10/31 – Hyde Park, HRM 80: All Hallows Eve. For many fans of the season, Halloween is a time to dress up scary and go in search of trick-or-treats. We have our own tradition: an annual pilgrimage to the grave of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a Jesuit theologian, anthropologist, paleontologist, and renowned naturalist who died in 1955 and was buried on the grounds of the Culinary Institute. Teilhard de Chardin spent much of his life searching for common ground between religious dogma and natural history, reconciling his faith with modern science. That made him a truly unique individual in his time. Amidst a hundred or more identical gravestones, de Chardin’s is easy to find. There are frequently flowers and always a collection of items – tokens of natural history – left by those paying homage.
Teilhard’s love of the natural sciences inspired us, in a driving rainstorm, to leave a small nodule of black chert from the Cliffs of Moher, on the sea in western Ireland, that had eroded out of 320 million-year-old Namurian shale. The black chert (a crypto-crystalline stone) showed evidence of being “worked.” It had been flaked or fashioned into a stone tool, an artifact, i.e., lithic debitage, by paleolithic stone age people, possibly as long ago as 12,000 years. (Photo of Teilhard de Chardin courtesy of Tom Lake)
[This Halloween tradition, in its eleventh year, is a low-profile, unofficial version of such better-known examples as “roses and cognac” to Edgar Allan Poe’s crypt in Baltimore, or “flowers and poetry” to Jim Morrison’s grave in Paris. In the instance of de Chardin, it is very simply a means of remembering a kindred soul. For more in-depth thought on Teilhard de Cardin, see The Jesuit and the Skull by Amir D. Aczel (2007). Tom Lake]
- Tom Lake
11/1 – Adirondack Mountains: A powerful low-pressure system pushed a strong cold front with heavy rain and winds (up to 70 miles-per-hour (mph)) through the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast overnight (10/31) and into Friday (11/1). The major storm began on Halloween (10/31) causing flooding, downed trees and power lines, and damaged homes across the Northeast on Friday (11/1). By midday Friday (11/1), more than 450,000 customers were without electricity. A tornado, with winds of 111 to 135 mph, tore through Delaware County (PA).
The storm seemed to stall over the Adirondacks, with both Hamilton and Essex county receiving declarations of emergency. All schools in both counties were closed on Friday (11/1) due to road wash-outs and safety issues. Rainfall amounts in Hamilton and Herkimer counties totaled 7-8-inches. Other areas in the Adirondacks received 3-5 inches. Streams and brooks in the Adirondacks were spectacular, as they simply could not handle all the water. State Route 30 in Hamilton County was awash with the raging Sacandaga River, taking out the bridge at Wells.
- National Weather Service
11/1 – Bedford, HRM 35: In mid-afternoon at the Bedford Audubon Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch, a second-year golden eagle was spotted to our north heading northwest – our first of the season. Due to the direction it was headed, it was not counted as actively migrating. Of the 24 migrating raptors, high count was sharp-shinned hawk with eleven. Turkey vultures (65) were high count for all migrants. Other non-raptor observations included 240 brant.
- Richard Aracil, Megan Owens, Pedro Troche
11/1 – Manhattan, HRM 1: We ended 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. While fishes dominated the catch, we were impressed with the seven juvenile, nickel-to-quarter-size, blue crabs. Black sea bass and oyster toadfish comprised the fish-catch with the latter ranging from young-of-year (40 mm) to adult (205 mm).
- Siddhartha Hayes, Melissa Rex, Gianluca Astudillo, Isabel Pryor
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.