A Project of the Hudson River Estuary Program
Compiled by Tom Lake, Consulting Naturalist
While enjoying outdoor spaces, please continue to follow the CDC/NYSDOH guidelines for preventing the spread of colds, flu, and COVID-19. To find out more about enjoying DEC lands and New York's State Parks, visit DEC's website #Recreate Local; https://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/119881.html
Keep at least six (6) feet of distance between you and others.
Wear a cloth face covering in public settings where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
Avoid close contact, such as shaking hands, hugging, and kissing.
Wash hands often or use a hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available.
Avoid surfaces that are touched often, such as doorknobs, handrails, and playground equipment.
DEC recommends avoiding busy trailheads. Find the trails less traveled and visit when trails may not be as busy during daylight hours.
The season for bald eagles and their nestlings has arrived, and we must give serious thought to our wildlife viewing habits. This weekly Almanac features a look at our national bird, as well as cautionary tales with regard to how we share the landscape with them.
Elsewhere, the Esopus Creek harbor seal extended its semi-residence past eight months, an immature bald eagle in Brooklyn was found to have been banded in Connecticut, and the Hook Mountain Hawk Watch documented a near-steady stream of returning raptors.
Highlight of the Week
4/15 – Brooklyn, New York City: An immature bald eagle had been seen a few times in Green-Wood Cemetery (Kings County) in Brooklyn this month. Another birder reported the eagle taking a fish from the cemetery's Sylvan Water in the northwest area of the cemetery. I saw the bird today in a white pine being scolded by crows. My photo revealed that the eagle was banded with a silver U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (US F&WS) band (0709-08255) on its right leg and a black band (R/7) on its left. (Photo of bald eagle being banded courtesy of Jenny Dickson)
- Matthew Wills
[The left-leg band had been manufactured in 2005 as part of a series of black bands delivered to the US F&WS. From there it was sent to New Hampshire and finally to Connecticut where it was applied to a nestling bald eagle by Jenny Dickson on May 11, 2018, at the New Haven Evergreen-Cemetery.
Nearly two years later, it was photographed on April 15 by Matthew Wills in Green-Wood Cemetery (note the symmetry), Kings County, Brooklyn, near the Upper Bay of New York Harbor. It is fun to wonder where the eagle had traveled—and they are travelers—for the last 706 days, in an ongoing journey that finally led the bird to a place only 120 miles from where it had been hatched. Tom Lake] (Photo of banded bald eagle courtesy of Matthew Wills)
Natural History Entries
4/11 – Hudson River Watershed: The bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) is our national bird, chosen by the Continental Congress in 1782 as the emblem of the United States and given legal protection by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (1918) and the Bald Eagle and Golden Eagle Protection Act (1940).
In the late 20th century, bald eagles were on the brink of extirpation in the contiguous United States. In 1967, the bald eagle was listed as an endangered species in the lower 48 states under the Federal Endangered Species Preservation Act (1966). By 1970, only one active bald eagle nest remained in New York State. Then, in 1972, the banning of DDT set the stage for the recovery of eagles.
Populations have since recovered, and the species was removed from the U.S. government's list of endangered species on July 12, 1995 and transferred to the list of threatened species. It was removed from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife in the contiguous United States on June 28, 2007.
An intensive restoration program began in the late 1970’s in New York State to slowly rebuild the nesting population. As a result of the restoration program and additional protection and management provided by New York State DEC, the New York population of bald eagles increased to the point where New York State down-listed the bald eagle from endangered to threatened in 1999. The bald eagle was removed from protection under the Federal Endangered Species Act in 2007. Today, we have dozens of active bald eagle nests (territories) in the Hudson River Watershed.
- Tom Lake
4/11 – Town of Pittstown, HRM 165: I found a Barrow’s goldeneye (Bucephala islandica) on Tomhannock Reservoir this morning in with a group of eight common goldeneye and an immature long-tailed duck (there were more of the latter out on the reservoir). Barrow's goldeneye is distinguishable from common goldeneye with its orangish bill and steep forehead. (Photo of long-tailed duck courtesy of Jim Yates)
[The long-tailed duck (Clangula hyemalis) is uncommon in the watershed and seen primarily in migration. They breed in Arctic tundra pools, marshes, in large mountain lakes, and winter along the east coast of North America and on the Great Lakes. The former common name for long-tailed duck was oldsquaw. Although that name is still found in old field guides, it was dropped from common usage more than a decade ago in favor of long-tailed duck. This was done for several reasons, among which was the negative connotation of the English word in reference to Native Americans. Tom Lake]
- Greg Recer (Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club)
4/11 – Waterford, HRM 158: It was very windy (winds gusting to 30 miles-per-hour (mph)) and cold (air temperature in the 40s) on Peebles Island this afternoon. I was there to check on bald eagle nest NY485 through my spotting scope from a proper distance. One adult was in the nest and appeared to be turning the eggs before laying back down. A second adult arrived without food, walked around the rim of the nest for several minutes, and then flew off.
[Federal law prohibits any form of harassment or disturbance in our interaction with bald eagles. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service guidelines recommend a 330-foot buffer between observers and bald eagles, especially their nests, representing a “proper” and legal distance.
- Howard Stoner
In the field, in the excitement of the moment, it is difficult to resist the urge to “get a little closer” to a nest, or individual birds. Humans on foot, approaching a bald eagle, can trigger their flight instinct which constitutes an illegal disturbance. Anytime we cause an eagle to flush (fly), it is considered harassment, no matter the distance. Bald eagles will abandon their nests if they feel threatened. Once disturbed, off eggs while incubating, or from a feeding perch, this disturbance can result in many hours of abandonment of normal behavior which can be fatal. Spotting a bald eagle is a special moment; no one ever tires of watching them. However, we all have to temper our enthusiasm. “Getting closer” must be a function of our optics, not our legs. Tom Lake]
For more information, guidelines, and regulations on safely viewing bald eagles, see:
NYSDEC Bald Eagle Conservation Plan
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service guide
4/11 – Waterford, HRM 158: Today was the earliest arrival I can recall of returning tree swallows in this area. Hundreds of them could be seen flying over the surface of the third and fourth branches of the Mohawk River at Peebles Island.
- Drew Prairie
4/11 – Rondout Creek, HRM 92: I counted fifty northern map turtles basking on the banks and boulders of Rondout Creek above the Eddyville Dam. Smaller turtles were stacked on top of larger individuals–reminiscence of stone cairns marking trails in the mountains. I have seen them in this spot for years, but I am not the only one. The map turtles are enjoyed by locals and kayakers as a sure sign that spring is here! (Photo of map turtles courtesy of Sharon Askew)
[Northern map turtles (Graptemys geographica) get both their common and scientific names from the markings on their skin and carapace. The light markings resemble contour lines on a map or chart. They are quite common basking turtles along the Hudson. I see them frequently at Henry Hudson Park (Selkirk), especially at the mouth of the Vlomankill, and on the jetty at Coeymans that runs parallel to the shore. I have watched them basking on the jetty as high tide approaches. The waves make them dive back into the river. Al Breisch]
- Nate Nardi-Cyrus
4/11 – Hook Mountain, HRM 31: We counted 68 migrating raptors today at the Hook Mountain Hawkwatch. Broad-winged hawk led with 49. In the first hour, the migrants were seen to our northeast and across the river, as it was yesterday with similar winds. Also, in the first hour, a sharp-shinned hawk skimmed over the summit, just a foot off the ground. Notable non-migratory birds included bald eagle (3), red-tailed hawk (3), peregrine falcon (1), turkey vulture (3), and black vulture (4).
[The Hook Mountain Hawkwatch began in 1971 as an all-volunteer endeavor, an independent group of raptor enthusiasts. The Hawkwatch is located on the Long Path north of Nyack and we welcome new participants and visitors. Groups should contact us at merlin for introductory materials and possible volunteer scheduling. Trudy Battaly]
- Ajit I. Antony, Liza Antony
4/12 – Minerva, HRM 284: I did some canoeing down Minerva Stream this afternoon, a three-mile run from Irishtown to Olmstedville. It is a great run with a nice current, beautiful wetlands, and lots of beaver dams that sometimes makes the trip interesting. The wind was up and it was not warm, but it was indeed manageable. We spotted two great blue herons, a turkey vulture, a mallard pair, and heard two eastern phoebes off in the woods. There were no song sparrows or red-winged blackbirds, which was surprising. We also heard a chorus of wood frogs in one of the flooded open pool areas off the main stream. It was all so refreshing!
- Mike Corey
*** Fish of the Week ***
4/12 – Hudson River Watershed: Fish-of-the-Week for Week 67 is the cutlip minnow (Exoglossum maxillingua) number 41 (of 230) on our watershed list of fishes. If you would like a copy of our list, e-mail - trlake7.
The cutlip minnow is one of 32 carps and minnows (Cyprinidae) in the watershed, representing nearly fourteen percent of the 230 species. They are small, rarely more the 120 millimeters (mm) long. The cutlip minnow is native to the Northeast United States and are found in small clear-water streams ranging from the Saint Lawrence River watershed south to the Carolinas.
(One inch = 25.4 millimeters (mm))
C. Lavett Smith describes them as “drab, with subdued colors, heavy-bodied, nearly terete in cross-section, an all-together ‘somber fish.’” Perhaps their most notable behavior is their predilection for plucking out the eyes of other fishes. The center lobe of the cutlip minnow’s lower jaw is sharply hardened. They use it, not unlike a scalpel, to core out fish eyes. When you come across a one-eyed white sucker, yellow perch, or goldfish, you can be quite certain that there are cutlip minnows in the area. This is a life history that could have been devised by Stephen King. (Photo of cutlip minnow courtesy of Jean Francois Desroches)
[The eye-plucking behavior is largely aggression and seems to only appear at high cutlip minnow densities. Predators often aim for the head to disable a prey fish and the eye is a good indicator of where the head is. Fish have developed tail spots in correlation with eye stripes to deflect predators toward the tail. The eye stripe camouflages the real eye and the tail spot is often highly contrasted to make it a more appealing target. A predator going for the tail is less likely to succeed. I once took a class out collecting in Stony Creek. The creek had mostly dried up but we found a pool where fish were trapped in high densities including cutlip minnows. Sure enough, several bluegills were missing an eye. Bob Schmidt] (Photo of cutlip minnow victim courtesy of Tom Lake)
4/12 – Hook Mountain, HRM 31: We counted 45 migrating raptors today at the Hook Mountain Hawkwatch. Broad-winged hawk led with 29. We also spotted a raven chasing an osprey. Notable non-migratory birds included bald eagle (5), red-tailed hawk (4), peregrine falcon (1), turkey vulture (6), and black vulture (3).
- Ajit I. Antony, Liza Antony
4/12 – Manitou, HRM 46.5: We spent nearly two hours this morning watching bald eagle nest NY527. A perched adult was easy to view on the nest rim with the naked eye, but it required our spotting scope to get a good look at the nest. After many minutes of viewing, a downy gray head popped up. Then another. Two hatchlings! We watched a brief pecking battle and much clumsy wing flapping. According to our timeline, the nestlings were 23 days-old today.
Looking back, we began the NY527 incubation clock on February 17, concurrent with continuous nest occupation. On March 20 (32 days) we saw an increased activity level at the nest. Hatch day. Two days later, we watched one of the adults snatch a fish out of the prop wash of a northbound tug and deliver it to the nest. Today was the icing on the cake.
- Owen Sullivan, Zshawn Sullivan
4/13 – Town of Wappinger: It was a day of torrential rain and wind gusts to 60 mph. The river was barely recognizable as it was tossed in the wind–a white froth and spray–with deep and steep troughs in the rollers. We followed a route to several area bald eagle nests to ensure they were surviving the wind, NY459 chief among them. In May of 2018, straight line winds from a massive storm that included tornados, destroyed the nest. Within a short time, the pair had rebuilt the nest. To our relief, NY459's black locust was withstanding the wind while other nearby trees were seriously bending.
[The native range of the black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) follows along the Appalachian Mountains from Pennsylvania south to Alabama. Black locust has been widely planted and has become naturalized in areas to the north of its range. They are considered to be the strongest timber in North America and was a staple of the architecture of Colonial America.
- Tom Lake
They are a shade-intolerant species. In the instance of NY459, this black locust is the tallest tree on the top of the highest hill. Black locust is a spiny tree with long thorns on its limbs. Bald eagle expert Pete Nye recalls a springtime visit to a nest in Astor Cove in Dutchess County where a bald eagle pair had set up a nest near the crown of a tall black locust. “It was nearly impossible to climb that tree with the thorns tearing at me everywhere. But, after much pain and cursing, we managed to band the two nestlings.” Tom Lake]
4/14 – Waterford, HRM 158: I visited bald eagle nest NY485 on Peebles Island early this morning. Through the spotting scope, the nest seemed quiet. An adult in the nest raised slightly and looked off as if something had caught its attention. Then I heard a little "screech.” This seemed curious until I spotted some motion below the nest–a gray squirrel. The squirrel proceeded to climb up the outside of the nest until it topped out and was met by the adult eagle with wings wide open. Needless to say, the squirrel escaped back down the tree, and the eagle went back to its duties.
- Howard Stoner
4/14 – Saugerties, HRM 102: The semi-resident harbor seal was seen again this afternoon hauled out on a large dead-fall in Esopus Creek, upstream from the waterfront park. This was his Day 254.
- Patrick Landewe
4/14 – Staatsburg, HRM 86: One of the wonderful things about being outside in the Hudson Valley is that there's always a surprise waiting somewhere. After more than thirty years of frequent walks through the Mills-Norrie State Park, today we found a ledge where walking fern (Asplenium rhizophyllum) was growing. The name "walking fern" derives from the fact that new plantlets grow wherever the arching evergreen leaves of the parent touch the ground, creating a walking effect. We had no idea that this fairly rare, lime-loving, native fern was growing practically in our backyard. (Photo of walking fern courtesy of Linda Lund)
- Linda Lund, David Lund
4/14 – Town of Wappinger, HRM 68: The female summer tanager (Piranga rubra) returned today after being absent for 23 days. She was first spotted at our feeders on January 15, and then every day for 66 days thereafter until March 20. For Dutchess County, this is only the fourth record of a summer tanager.
- Barbara Michelin, Allan Michelin
4/14 – Hook Mountain, HRM 31: We counted 40 migrating raptors today at the Hook Mountain Hawkwatch. Broad-winged hawk led with 28. A sharp-shinned hawk dove repeatedly on an osprey. Notable non-migratory birds included bald eagle (5), red-tailed hawk (4), turkey vulture (8), and black vulture (2).
- Ajit I. Antony, Liza Antony
4/15 – Cornwall Landing, HRM 57: Hauling our seine this spring, looking for fish, has been largely an empty exercise. This afternoon, in the shadow of Storm King Mountain, we netted the clear inshore shallows and found very few fish at home. The spottail shiners and tessellated darters were there, but few in number. There was no sign of what we were looking for: river herring. Our consolation was looking a half-mile upriver into Cornwall Bay where an adult bald eagle was having greater success. Through binoculars, it appeared the eagle had snared a gizzard shad. The river was 52 degrees Fahrenheit (F).
- Tom Lake, A. Danforth
4/15 – Manitou, HRM 46.5: Three days ago, we determined that bald eagle nest NY527 had two nestlings. In talking to another NY527 observer today, she was confident that there was a third nestling.
- Owen Sullivan
4/15 – Bedford, HRM 35: The great blue heron rookery remained quiet while incubation continued. All of the nests had a single heron on eggs with its mate off hunting for food. The herons take turns incubating the eggs, with the female doing about sixty-percent of the incubation time. (Photo of great blue heron courtesy of George Jackman)
- Jim Steck
4/15 – Hook Mountain, HRM 31: We counted 20 migrating raptors today at the Hook Mountain Hawkwatch. Broad-winged hawk led with 15. In the first hour, I heard a different sound and, when I looked up, it turned out to be an immature red-tailed hawk flying at our great horned owl decoy. Notable non-migratory birds included bald eagle (1), red-tailed hawk (4), turkey vulture (5), and black vulture (3).
- Ajit I. Antony, Liza Antony, Steve Sachs
4/16 – Ulster County: In February, high in a black oak on the edge of a nearby swampland, a large twig nest appeared. From a distance one could see the distinctive spiked head of a great horned owl. On March 22, two baby owlets appeared above the nest edge, fluff balls with beaks! Today, the first fledgling had clambered up the tree crotch and was proudly sitting on the branch next to Mom. The other nestling that stayed at home basically filled the entire nest. (Photo of great horned owl courtesy of Mario Meier)
- Mario Meier
4/16 – Hook Mountain, HRM 31: We counted 115 migrating raptors today at the Hook Mountain Hawkwatch. Broad-winged hawk led with 93. During the day, most of the migrants were either seen to the south-southeast or to the north-northeast. Most of the broad-winged hawks were singles except for one group of four. Broad-winged hawks seen close enough to identify by age were all adults. Some of the broad-winged hawks were wind-blown requiring deep flaps and, with their pointed swept-back wings, looked like falcons. Notable non-migratory birds included peregrine falcon (1), bald eagle (1), red-tailed hawk (3), turkey vulture (3), and black vulture (4).
- Ajit I. Antony, Liza Antony
4/16 – Rockland County, HRM 32: I revisited a great horned owl nest I had discoverer on March 28. I spotted one young owlet in the nest. Later, one of the adults joined the nestling and the second adult was nearby. It was nice to see the entire family.
- Chris Galligan
4/17 – Hudson Valley: We will soon be coming into the nesting season for our native land turtles. Most of them will be on the move in May seeking sandy areas or loose soil to lay their eggs. The North American wood turtle (Glyptemys insculpta) is among the eleven species of native land turtles in our watershed. Their population is deemed to be in decline and the New York Natural Heritage Program list the wood turtle as a species of special concern. Wood turtles prefer slow-moving streams with a sandy bottom and heavily vegetated shoreline. Drivers are encouraged to be extra vigilant in watching out for all of our slow-moving reptiles as they cross our roads. (Photo of wood turtles courtesy of Charlie Roberto)
- Tom Lake
Spring 2020 Natural History Programs
DEC advises New Yorkers to take measures to reduce bear conflicts
State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos reminds New Yorkers to take steps to reduce conflicts with bears. Feeding bears either intentionally, which is illegal, or unintentionally through careless practices around properties, has consequences for entire communities. DEC advises everyone who lives in or visits bear habitat, which is much of Upstate New York, to remove items that are attractive to bears. People should take down bird feeders by April 1, store garbage inside secure buildings, and feed pets indoors. These actions are necessary to live responsibly with black bears, protect people, property, and bears. For more information about how to reduce human/bear conflicts, visit DEC's website.
Guidelines on how to avoid problems with black bears: http://www.dec.ny.gov/press/113258.html
DEC Announces Changes to 2020 Striped Bass Fishing Regulations
State Adopts New Recreational and Commercial Slot Size Limits
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has adopted new regulations for recreational and commercial fishing for Atlantic striped bass. These regulations, which take effect immediately, are to reduce state commercial and recreational harvests by 18 percent as required by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC). Recreational striped bass seasons start on April 1 in the Hudson River and tributaries and on April 15 in marine waters. Anglers are encouraged to use circle hooks in 2020 when using bait.
For more information on fishing, visit DEC’s website: https://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/fishing.html
DEC reminds anglers to practice social distancing to prevent the potential spread of COVID-19.
2020 Striped Bass Recreational Regulations:
In marine waters: (South of the Mario M. Cuomo Bridge (formerly Tappan Zee)
• Slot size limit: 28" - 35" total length
(No fish smaller than 28" or greater than 35" may be kept)
• Season date: April 15 - December 15
• Daily possession limit of 1 fish/angler
In the Hudson River and its tributaries:
• Slot size limit: 18"- 28" total length
(No fish smaller than 18" or greater than 28" may be kept)
• Season date: April 1 - November 30
• Daily possession limit of 1 fish/angler
DEC Seeks Birdwatchers to contribute to 2020 Breeding Bird Atlas
State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos has announced a call for citizen-science volunteers to help in the development of a comprehensive, statewide survey that takes place every two decades to detail New York’s breeding bird distribution. Starting in 2020, five years of field surveys will be conducted by volunteers and project partners to provide the data that will be analyzed to create the third New York State Breeding Bird Atlas.
“Just as New Yorkers are embarking on the 2020 Census to track human populations and trends, DEC and our partners track our natural populations to evaluate the effectiveness of New York’s programs and initiatives to promote diverse and healthy wildlife,” Commissioner Seggos said. “The Breeding Bird Atlas is a valuable tool to help protect birds and habitat, and I encourage all New Yorkers to get outdoors safely and responsibly and participate in this year’s survey while practicing social distancing.”
DEC is partnering with the New York Natural Heritage Program, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF), Audubon New York, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, New York State Ornithological Association, and New York Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit on this project. When complete, the atlas will provide species-specific details about distribution, maps, and illustrations.
The last atlas was published in 2008, with information on its results available on DEC’s website. Five years of fieldwork by more than 1,200 contributors provided the data for the second addition to New York’s understanding of the state’s avifauna (birds). This substantial book revealed striking changes in the distributions of many of our breeding birds since New York's first Breeding Bird Atlas was published in 1988. Data showed that half of New York’s 253 species showed a significant change in their distribution, with 70 species showing increases and 58 species showing declines. A comparison study between the first two atlases showed that the distribution of 129 species moved northward an average of 3.58 kilometers due to climate change. The 2020 atlas will provide further data on this shift and climate change’s potential impact on wildlife.
To participate, volunteers can make a free eBird account and submit data online through the atlas website (ebird.org/atlasny) or via the eBird mobile app. Simply record the species and any breeding behaviors observed. All sightings can count. As observations are reported, data can be viewed here: https://ebird.org/atlasny/state/US-NY.
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
The Conservationist, the award-winning, advertisement-free magazine focusing on New York State's great outdoors and natural resources. The 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.
NY's Outdoors Are Open
#RecreateLocal-- Safely and Responsibly
DEC and Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (State Parks) are encouraging New Yorkers to engage in responsible recreation during the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis. DEC and State Parks recommendations incorporate guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the New York State Department of Health for reducing the spread of infectious diseases and encourage New Yorkers to recreate locally, practice physical distancing, and use common sense to protect themselves and others. In addition, DEC and State Parks launched a new hashtag-#RecreateLocal-and encourage New Yorkers to get outside and discover open spaces and parks close to home.
Information about the Hudson River Estuary Program is available on DEC's website at http://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/4920.html.