Hudson River Almanac 5/09/20 – 5/15/20

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Hudson River Almanac
May 9 - May 15, 2020

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;

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.


With the advent of COVID-19, we have adapted safety into our relationship with the out-of-doors without losing a sense of connectiveness. Walking, hiking, birding, photography, fishing, and seining with shelter-in-place partners has, for now, replaced group gatherings. It has also given us time to reflect on the important aspects of our lives, like mothers, on Mothers’ Day week, from eagles to owls to ours.

Highlight of the Week

Red trillium5/15 – Essex County, HRM 263: We found red trillium galore, yellow violets, and yellow bellflowers along the edges of the trail to Spectacle Pond in the Pharaoh Mountain Wilderness Area. The brook trout were biting, and, from our 16-pound Slipstream canoe, we caught six between us. We put most of them back, but those that made their way home were delicious pan fried. (Photo of red trillium courtesy of Barbara Nuffer)
- Barbara Nuffer, Fred Nuffer

[The Pharaoh Lake Wilderness Area, an Adirondack Park unit of New York's Forest Preserve, straddles the Essex-Warren county line in the towns of Ticonderoga, Hague, Horicon and Schroon. Tom Lake]

Natural History Entries

5/9 – Schodack Island State Park, HRM 138: The only thing missing on today’s school field trip were the students! I met with fifth grade teacher Stuart Morse and Innovative Learning Lab teacher Sarah Lant from Castleton Elementary School. We were at the Moordener Kill to release more than 100 brown trout that had been raised by students in the classroom. Mr. Morse has piloted the Trout in the Classroom program at the school for many years. The program seems to be working well as local fly-fishers have shared photos of recent catches from their undisclosed “secret spots.”

We also visited two Hudson River locations at Schodack Island State Park and Nutten Hook in Stuyvesant to do some seining. There’s an old saying, “The fishing was good, it was the catching that was bad.” Our net may not have been the fullest with only various shiners and banded killifish taken, but any day on the river is a good one. A video of the virtual field trip is being created to be shared with students and other river educators.
- Fran Martino

Netsinker5/9 – Hudson River Fishing: When we walk on a beach with students, what can we tell them about the spot where they stand? Maybe we can offer them the ghosts of ancient seiners? The first of us who entered the Hudson River Valley brought with us, from our trail across the North American continent, a rich culture containing the requisite skills for making a living. Following the Ice Age, remnants of which left the greater Northeast about 13,000 years ago, we were lured here by a diversity and richness of ecological resources. The growth of deciduous forests and the game animals living here, as well as the fish-rich seaward-running Hudson River, promised to provide a year-round living.

There is a romantic image of our ancestors, whom anthropologists have named Paleoindian, as being prolific big-game hunters of five-ton woolly mammoths and mastodons. Much of that is untrue; there is little or no evidence of ancient “elephant hunting” east of the Mississippi.

But there is evidence of fishing. Perishables such as nets made of natural cordage and wooden floats for their seines, have long since biodegraded. However, along the river and in tributaries of the upper Hudson above tidewater, there are remnants of field-stone weirs. These structures guided fish into an enclosure where they could be easily captured.

Along most of the river and its tributaries reaching halfway across New York State, stone net sinkers fashioned from palm-sized pebbles can be found strewn along beaches and ancient fish processing sites. Archeologists have excavated post-holes of fish-smoking huts along the estuary where migrating fish from the sea, such as sturgeon, shad, and striped bass, were captured, processed and smoked to extend their shelf-life. One of these huts was discovered on the river at Bowdoin Park in the Town of Poughkeepsie where sturgeon “scutes” (scales) the size of dinner plates was found. In Greene and Columbia counties, ancestral-Mohicans developed a stone tool industry for large chert knives, called Petalas blades, used to butcher giant Atlantic sturgeon. Harpoons were carved from white-tailed deer antlers and bones.

This is an important aspect of our river’s deep-time legacy. When we gather students on a beach, poised to discover what is home in the river, we like to explain that others, like ourselves with curious minds, stood here long ago. With much skill and patience, they would set their seine and hope for a rewarding haul. They were our first seiners and although they were seining for sustenance, they shared with us a feeling of being connected to the tides and rhythms of the river. (Photo of netsinker courtesy of Tom Lake)
- Tom Lake

5/9 – Greene County, HRM 112: I woke up in West Kill to an inch or more of fluffy snow on the ground! I hadn't put the bird feeder out for over a month because of bears, but I found a scoop of leftover black oil sunflower seeds and hung the feeder on the porch. My first visitor was a male rose-breasted grosbeak in full breeding colors. He was soon joined by two others before they were all chased off by a common grackle flashing his bright yellow eye ring. We've had a flock of grackles hanging around this year--never had them before. Then, a bright yellow goldfinch showed up—really tropical-looking against the snowy background. Then, a field sparrow and a few chickadees and juncos. But over the course of the day, the grosbeaks predominated. They were so active it was hard to count them, but I saw at least eight males at one time, fewer females.
- Emily Plishner

5/9 – Millbrook, HRM 82: Today provided the season’s first opportunity to chew on sweet vernal grass (Anthoxanthum odoratum) as I walked through my fields, albeit most stalks were still crusted with ice from the morning’s freeze. Sweet vernal grass is an introduced species with coumarin in it, which reportedly gives a vanilla odor but bitter taste to deter herbivores. Coumarin is also present in some members of the cinnamon genus, and to me sweet vernal grass always tastes like cinnamon.
- Nelson Johnson

5/9 – Town of Wappinger, HRM 67.5: Snow squalls, pushed by 40 mph sustained winds, stormed across the river this afternoon at a frequency that coalesced like a snowstorm. The wind and windchill had us concerned about bald eagle nest NY459 (this nest had been blown out of its tree by a massive microburst on May 16, 2018). A dozen wild turkeys seemed unfazed as they strutted across the understory. The nest tree, a tall rugged black locust, took the wind well. Looking up, we could see the two round brown heads of the nestlings on either side on an adult. All was well.
- Tom Lake, Phyllis Lake

5/9 – Buchanan, HRM 42: Our backyard feeders were very busy this morning as we welcomed cardinals, blue jays, grackles, brown-headed cowbirds, mourning doves, white-throated sparrows, downy woodpeckers, chickadees, starlings and gray catbirds. We were really delighted when a beautiful Baltimore oriole and a bright yellow goldfinch joined in competition for the suet cake. The topper to the day was a hen wild turkey, carefully picking at the seeds that had fallen under the feeders. Eventually, it strutted away but returned later to continue its feast under the feeders.
- Dorothy and Bob Ferguson

American redstart5/10 – Schuylerville, HRM 186: Early this morning, I spotted at least a half-dozen gorgeous American redstarts flitting in the shrubs by the Hudson River. It was a most beautiful Mother’s Day gift. (Photo of American redstart courtesy of Evan Lipton)
- Suzy Nealon (Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club)

[Rich Guthrie reminds us that to French-Canadians, colloquially, the colorful American redstart is referred to as the “Flamboyant Warbler!” Tom Lake]

Bar-headed goose5/10 – Rensselaer County, HRM 153: A bar-headed goose (Anser indicus) had been hanging out in a farm pond in Brunswick in the company of three Canada geese. My first brief thought was snow goose. The bar-headed goose is native to Central Asia (a long way from home), and even though eBird has a record of one in Iceland, this one was most likely an escapee from someone's collection. The bar-headed goose holds the title of the highest-flying goose, able to migrate over the Himalayas. (Photo of bar-headed goose courtesy of Mary Downey)
- Mary Downey

5/10 – Hudson River Valley: It felt like a fitting tribute to Mother’s Day as white and purple lilacs opened up today along many parts of the Hudson River Valley. In days gone by, when we worked our shad nets in the tidewater Hudson, we’d be talking of the “lilac shad,” and the timing of the final surge of American shad heading in from the sea to spawn in a 50-mile reach of the river from Esopus Meadows to the Vloman Kill.
- Tom Lake

Bald Eagle NY3725/10 – Town of Poughkeepsie: On Mother's Day, we recognize the maternal love for all mothers, including those tending to bald eagle nestlings. Among more than three-dozen tidewater nests, NY372 (Tombstone), is a story of persistence. The nest was first noticed in 2015, with 2016 as the first year with an attempt at nesting. That year was the first of three failed seasons (2016, 2017, 2018). At the end of 2018, the original pair abandoned the site. With a vacant nest, another pair took over for 2019. The female of that pair was not quite fully mature while the male was fully adult. They did everything right their first year, laying and incubating eggs, conducting changeovers every few hours, but to no avail–no nestling for 2019. This spring, with the female now fully adult, they have two big and beautiful eaglets. (Photo of bald eagle courtesy of Debbie Quick)
- Dana Layton, Sheila Bogart, John Devitt

Bald eagle NY625/10 – Town of Poughkeepsie: Bald eagle nest NY62 is a good example of the incredible resilience of the species. This nesting territory, in its third location, has had the same female across 20 years, and she has produced 22 nestlings. Our best guess is that she was born in 1995, and since she does not carry a leg band, we have long thought that she might be a Canadian bird.

Her first partner (mate) was born in 1995. He was one of three nestlings in bald eagle nest (NY20) on the Delaware River just below Narrowsburg in Sullivan County. DEC’s Pete Nye banded him as a nestling (N42). After 16 years and 17 fledglings, he was hit by a train and killed along the river not a mile from their nest. A new male joined NY62 for the 2018 breeding season, and in the three years since, they have produced five more nestlings. (Photo of bald eagle courtesy of Dominick Santore)
- Tom Lake

5/10 – Town of Wappinger: Bald eagle nest NY459 (The Bridge Nest) was new for 2018, and the pair hatched two nestlings. On May 16, 2018, a violent storm called a “microburst” swept across the Hudson River from the west. The storm carried tornadoes and straight-line winds in excess of 95 mph. As it roared through the woods, it snapped off telephone poles, 90-foot white pines, and 45-foot maples like matchsticks. It destroyed NY459 and dumped the two nestling onto the forest floor. With help from Gary and Mauricette Char Potthast, Meghan Oberkircher, and Annie Mardiney, the two nestlings were sent to a wildlife rehabilitator and survived. By June 26, 2018, the pair had already begun to rebuild the nest.

On May 16, 2019, we discovered that this resilient pair had, once again, two nestlings. The 2020 season continued their remarkable success, with two more nestlings—six nestlings in three years. Tom Lake] [A microburst is a localized column of sinking air (downdraft) within a thunderstorm that can cause extensive damage. Tom Lake.]

Bald eagle NY4885/10 – Newburgh, HRM 61: Bald eagle nest NY488 (Saint Mary’s) is yet another example of eagles overcoming adversity. NY488 was new in 2018 and produced two nestlings. Not long after they fledged, the nest fell out of the tree. For 2019, the pair built a new nest two blocks away and once again hatched two nestlings. This spring they did even better with three nestlings—seven nestlings in three years. (Photo of bald eagle courtesy of Dan Tooker)
- Chuck Thomas, Dan Tooker, Nancy Thomas, Jeremy Baracca, Peter Turrone

[Bald eagles ordinarily have one, two, or three nestlings with one or two being the most common. This spring, as evidenced by no fewer than four Hudson Valley nests, three nestlings have not been rare. Pete Nye’s explanation of the numerous three-nests includes habitat and forage sources still being plentiful, and the breeding pairs becoming more experienced and hence more successful. Tom Lake]

Sand dollar5/10 – Staten Island, New York City: Something out of the ordinary, a sand dollar, washed up at midday on Oakwood Beach. (Photo of sand dollar courtesy of Pawel Pieluszynski)
- Pawel Pieluszynski

[The sand dollar (Echinarachnius parma) is an echinoderm; its name is derived from the Greek echinos (spiny) and dermos (skin). They are found over sandy bottoms of inshore shallows from Labrador to New Jersey with Staten Island being at the southern fringe of their range. Sand dollars are related to sea urchins, sea cucumbers, and sea stars. They have an interesting array of colloquial names throughout their range including sea cookie, sea biscuit, and sand cake.

Live sand dollars are rarely found on beaches. The round, flat and disc-like skeletons (tests) of dead sand dollars washed ashore have lost their velvet skin and spines and have been bleached white by the sun. Their size (diameter) ranges from 50-100 millimeters. Sand dollars feed primarily on copepods, algae, diatoms, and larval crustacean. Tom Lake]

(1 inch = 25.4 millimeters)

Brown bat5/11 – Minerva, HRM 284: I had a very close look today at something I have not seen in years: a little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus). The bat, a glossy darkish brown, was moving very slow on this cool morning when I found it near the door to the house. The bat’s forearm was a little less than two-inches-long, and its full-body length was three-inches. As it warmed up and began to move, it hid in a dark spot between a couple of flower boxes on the porch. I heard it squeaking for a bit, and I left it alone. When I came out an hour later, it had disappeared. Pretty exciting! (Photo of brown bat courtesy of US Fish and Wildlife Service)
- Mike Corey

5/11 – Saratoga Springs, HRM 182: I decided to take a midday stroll along the entire length of the trail at the Bog Meadow Brook Nature Trail and Meadowbrook Preserve to see some warblers. I heard many birds singing along the trail and ended my two-hour trip with a good list of warblers. Among them were American redstart, black-and-white warbler, black-throated blue warbler, black-throated green warbler, common yellowthroat, Louisiana waterthrush, ovenbird, Tennessee warbler, Wilson's warbler, yellow warbler, and yellow-rumped warbler.
- Scott Varney (Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club)

Scarlet tanager5/11 – Orange County, HRM 58: Two pairs of brilliant scarlet tanagers spent the afternoon in our yard in Campbell Hall. For several hours, they went from tree to grass to tree, over and over again. This was the first time we had ever seen these gorgeous songbirds here. (Photo of scarlet tanager courtesy of Jim Yates)
- Jane Groves, Art Groves

[Roger Tory Peterson describes the scarlet tanager (Piranga olivacea) as “flaming scarlet.” Their trivial name, olivacea, is from the Latin olivaceus, meaning "olive-green," a reference to the color of the female. They favor deciduous forests, especially oaks. They winter in South America; my Dutchess Community College students and I have seen them wintering in the Sacred Valley of the Inca in the Andes of Péru. Tom Lake]

Striped bass5/11 – Hudson Highlands: When Everitt Polman hooked his huge striped bass today, he said it gave a big tug and then just sat on the bottom and wouldn’t move. After a stand-off that lasted a few minutes, the fish began its run before surfacing twenty feet from the boat right in front of him and Ralph Scala, his long-time fishing buddy. “We instantly knew it was a gigantic fish, and it would be a day I’d never forget.” They measured the fish at 47-inches-long, gently released the big female bass back into the river, and later estimated it to have been in excess of 51 pounds. (Photo of striped bass courtesy of Everitt Polman)
- David Fugura

5/12 – Greene County: I paddled over to check out bald eagle nest NY203 today; it seemed active, from a distance, and I expect to see nestlings sometime soon.
- Kaare Christian

5/12 – Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: Our spruces and pines were displaying their response to the warmth of spring with a couple of inches of downy new growth appearing at the tip of each branch. This new growth, known as the meristem, always reminds me of legendary naturalist Aldo Leopold who is considered the father of modern wildlife ecology. Leopold tracked a year in the life of a pine beginning in May when the new growth bud or “candle” at the tip of the branches began to grow. In that new growth he saw a flame, pent up energy, the tip of a burning candle. This blends well with Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu and his thoughts on the intensity in the tip of a candle’s flame, seemingly still, yet having great vibrancy, “like a candle burning in a windless place.” Today, all that philosophy was erupting in the ecology of our conifers.
- Tom Lake

5/12 – Buchanan, HRM 42: Although our suet and peanut feeders have attracted many red-bellied and downy woodpeckers over the years, we had never had a red-headed woodpecker in our yard. What a joy to find this beautiful bird busily devouring peanuts today, oblivious to the enjoyment it was providing for us.
- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson

5/12 – Bedford, RM 35: I stopped by the great blue heron rookery today and found very little activity except for a single nest where three nestlings were moving around. The little ones seemed fairly well along but still had their fuzzy feathers and stumpy wings. It was chilly, and it appeared the other birds were all hunkered down keeping their chicks warm.
- Rick Stafford

*** Fish of the Week ***

5/12 – Hudson River Watershed: Fishes-of-the-Week for Week 70 are the butterflyfishes (Chaetodontidae), two of which are found in the Hudson River watershed. They are the foureye butterflyfish (Chaetodon capistratus), number 192 (of 230), and the spotfin butterflyfish (C. ocellatus), number 193, on our watershed list of fishes. If you would like a copy of our list, e-mail: trlake7.

The butterflyfishes are perhaps the most tropical looking, albeit rare, fish found in the estuary. Both are tropical marine strays and are selected this week primarily because of their closely allied range, behavior, and rarity in our area. Foureye butterflyfish are found from New England to the Gulf of Mexico and are the most common butterflyfish in the Caribbean. Spotfin butterflyfish are found from New England to Brazil, including the Gulf of Mexico.

Foureye butterflyfishThe foureye butterflyfish is quite small, usually no more than 75 mm long. Its name is derived from a dark “eye spot” just forward of its caudal fin. This spot is surrounded by a brilliant white ring, suggesting another eye. This spot, combined with a vertical black bar through its eye, are adaptations designed to confuse predators. This species was added to our watershed fish list in 1989, from a foureye butterflyfish captured at The River Project’s Pier 26 in Manhattan.

Spotfin butterflyfishThe spotfin butterflyfish is the larger of the two species getting to near 200 mm long. Its name comes from a small dark angular black spot on the trailing tip of its soft dorsal fin. Males have a second, rather large, dark spot at the base of their soft dorsal fin. These spots, coupled with a dark black vertical bar on their head that runs through their eye, comprise adaptations designed to confuse predators. This species was added to our watershed fish list in 1988, from a spotfin butterflyfish captured at The River Project’s Pier 26 in Manhattan.

Most if not all butterflyfish found in the estuary are young-of-year that were caught up in the northward running Gulf Stream until dispersing shoreward into rivers, bays, and estuaries of the New York Bight. Among the many good references on butterflyfishes, two favorites are Fishes of the Bahamas (Böohkle and Chapman, 1968), and Field Guide to Tropical Fishes (C. Lavett Smith, 1997). (Photo of foureye butterflyfish courtesy of Kevin Bryant; photo of spotfin butterflyfish courtesy of New England Aquarium)
- Tom Lake

5/13 – Minerva, HRM 284: Our dog and I were walking around the pond (Sharon Pond) this afternoon in the back forty and flushed something fast and interesting out of a small creek. It was a river otter, and I had a good look from only fifteen feet away. The otter made a lot of noise crashing back into the creek, swimming fast through a culvert under a dirt road, before heading out into the beaver-dammed part of the pond before disappearing. It was dark-brown, sleek, and fast, proof that something in the pond had been nailing the freshwater mussels and leaving little midden piles along the pond margins.
- Mike Corey

5/13 – Town of Esopus, HRM 88: Maybe it’s because I’m home more to actually see it, but today the birds at my simple suet feeder have been exceptional. There are all the usual suspects: downy woodpecker, white-breasted nuthatch, Carolina wren, and tufted titmouse. But today there has been an additional cast of colorful characters: Baltimore oriole, red-bellied woodpecker, yellow-rumped warbler, and rose-breasted grosbeak. Even a few cardinals were skittishly scrounging scraps on the sill. I expect the frequent flyovers of a red-tailed hawk are also inspired by this avian diversity.
- Chris Bowser

5/13 – Bedford, HRM 35: The great blue heron rookery remained quiet while the herons sheltered their young or continued to incubate. One nest had an osprey present—it may have landed on an empty nest. Due to winter storms, the rookery was now down to ten nests with half appearing to be occupied. However, many nests were deep and could conceal a heron. As the young herons grow, they will become more visible.
- Jim Steck

Black snake5/14 – Ulster County, HRM 86: Walking in the woods near the Hudson River in Esopus, I came upon a six-foot black snake (Pantherophis alleghaniensis) draped over a tree limb. Glistening black in the May sunshine, the enormous snake appeared to have recently shed its skin. While all snakes must be wary of raptors, from eagles to hawks to owls, one of this size probably had fewer potential predators. (Photo of black snake courtesy of Mario Meier)
- Mario Meier

Brant5/14 – Hudson River Valley: Legendary waterman Dery Bennett used to mark the seasons by noting how brant (Branta bernicla), a small species of goose, left Sandy Hook, NJ, around Memorial Day after spending the winter, and headed north. In his words, “They would shove off for the Canadian Arctic where they breed, fledge young, and then return around Columbus Day.” (Photo of brant courtesy of Doug Wechsler)
- Tom Lake

5/14 – Poughkeepsie, HRM 75: In early evening, I spotted a large flock of brant flying up the river.
- Kyle Bardwell (Ralph T. Waterman Bird Club)

5/14 – Albany County, HRM 146: I counted 200 brant flying overhead in Colonie just after dark.
- Tom Williams (Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club)

5/14 – Scotia, HRM 157: An hour after the Tom Williams sighting, 50 brant flew over low enough for us to hear the wing beats.
- Dan Leonard (Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club)

5/14 – Kowawese, HRM 59: Adapting to COVID-19 has produced a modified procedure for spectator beach seining. It is comprised of compromise. Curious onlookers, or serious fans of river wildlife, can stand at a safe distance and listen to a commentary spoken loudly through a protective face mask.

We laid out our 85-footer for what we promised was a single haul (we were losing the tide). Two beach walkers happened by, curious, but not foolhardy. However, they were kind enough to let their well-behaved dogs briefly off their leash and they both cantered down to join us. One was a black dog, Coal, professed to be “mostly” black lab, and a yellow dog, Sunshine, that we had no issue believing was a yellow lab. We now numbered four although two of our crew did little more than shake water at us (63 degrees Fahrenheit (F)).

We made our one long haul, got hung down a few times by rocks the size of basketballs, and managed to catch just a single fish, a gorgeous yearling channel catfish (62 mm). We were most appreciative that our two assistants were not judgmental about our meager catch. We gave thanks all around and promised to come with Milkbone biscuits next time.
- Tom Lake, A. Danforth

[As we were finishing up, a flash of color caught our eye. An adult male Baltimore oriole had come down to the water’s edge, walked in a short way, doused itself, and shook—an orange and black blur—like a bird in a paint mixer. Tom Lake]

5/15 – Saratoga Lake, HRM182: There was a substantial flock of Bonaparte's gulls, no fewer than 57, near the southwest corner of the lake.
- Gregg Recer (Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club)

5/15 – Saratoga County, HRM 170: A small raft of seven white-winged scoters, four drakes and three hens, were visible in Round Lake off the boat launch on State Route 9.
- Gregg Recer (Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club)

[Scoters are “sea ducks,” Arctic breeders that are primarily found as spring and fall migrants in the watershed. White-winged scoters (Melanitta fusca) is by far the largest of our three scoters. The other two are the surf scoter (M. perspicillata) and black scoter (M. americana). Scoters winter along the coast with other sea ducks and breed in the far north near shallow freshwater lakes. Their presence reminds us how faraway places are connected by the Hudson River flyway. Tom Lake]

5/15 – Waterford, HRM 157: The light-colored fuzz was turning grayish-black on the younger nestling in bald eagle nest NY485. The slightly older nestling showed signs of dark areas on the back edge of its wings. There was a lot of nest maintenance by the adults this week with additional sticks for the perimeter and chunks of moss and dry grasses being added to the nest. One morning, with the female in the nest, the male landed at the far end and immediately began moving sticks around. He picked up one stick and swung it across the middle of the nest. He was about to place the stick on the opposite end when the female grabbed the stick and put it back exactly where it had been. Thus, is life, in the top of a tree.
- Howard Stoner

5/15 – Saugerties, HRM 102: While mowing our lawn, we came upon a bog turtle alongside a stream that runs through our yard. The bog turtle (Glyptemys muhlenbergii) is an endangered species in New York State. We brought the tiny turtle (40-mm carapace length) to a boggy area alongside the stream. As it was released, we watched as it seemed to be orienting itself to the environment before moving off.
- Marjory Greenberg-Vaughn

Baltimore oriole courtesy of Susan Otto

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:

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:

Editor's Note: In last week's Almanac, the boundary for marine waters was incorrectly defined as south of the Mario M. Cuomo (Tappan Zee) Bridge. The correct boundary for these regulations is south of the George Washington Bridge. We apologize for any confusion this may have caused.

New York State Striped Bass Recreational Angling Regulations (updated 2020)

• In marine waters – (south of the George Washington Bridge)
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 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 ( 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:

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.

Useful Links

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

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation respects your right to privacy and welcomes your feedback | Update preferences or unsubscribe | Learn more about DEC Delivers.
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2020 Census: New York counts on you
Basil Seggos, Commissioner

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