A Project of the Hudson River Estuary Program
Compiled and edited by Tom Lake, Consulting Naturalist
Love Our NY Lands
State Lands Belong to All of Us
All New Yorkers and visitors should be able to access, enjoy, and feel welcome on state lands. These lands belong to all of us, our families, and our neighbors. While enjoying these shared spaces, be respectful of other visitors. Share trails, treat people with kindness, and leave things as you found them for others to enjoy. All of us have a responsibility to protect State lands for future generations. For more information, visit: https://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/119881.html
The bald eagle “Class of 2021” is beginning to leave (fledge) from their nests. There are scores of bald eagle nests in the Hudson Valley, most of which are either unmonitored or lost in the new leafing of their nest trees. The handful that we closely monitor either have fledglings now learning to be eagles, or nestlings that are standing on the rim of their nests contemplating that first big step into their new world.
Highlight of the Week
6/1 – Brooklyn, New York City: I pulled up one of our East River Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy oyster research cages hanging off our Pier 5 Marina this morning and found several amazing creatures residing with the oysters. They blended in very well at first, but we eventually caught site of a small, lined seahorse (50 millimeters (mm)) as well as a slightly larger northern pipefish. Those, however, were not the most exciting find; attached to a shell was a rather plump-looking sea anemone. It did not look much like other anemone species we have seen in this area. With some help from the science community, it was finally identified as Paranthus rapiformis, the onion anemone! (Photo of onion anemone courtesy of Christina Tobitsch)
[The onion anemone, also known as the sea onion (Paranthus rapiformis) is from Actinostolidae, a family of sea anemones. They are a burrowing anemone inhabiting the lower reaches of rivers and bays, such as the East River. They can attach to the bottom muds in tidal flats by an expanded basal disk, often over pebbles and shells. Gosner (1978) describes their movements as “gliding about freely on their pedal disks.” Lippson and Lippson (1984) adds “When their tentacles are withdrawn, they look more like a garlic clove, than an onion.” Tom Lake]
[1 inch = 25.4 millimeters (mm)]
- Christina Tobitsch
Natural History Entries
5/29 – Stillwater, HRM 172: During a recent northbound Riverkeeper patrol aboard the 36-foot R. Ian Fletcher, I spotted a gang---no fewer than ten---of northern map turtles sunning on a deadfall near Champlain Canal Lock 4. Every trip I make by here during the warm-water season, there are always a bunch at this same spot. They are obviously social animals and quite fussy about their basking sites. (Photo of Northern map turtle courtesy of John Lipscomb)
[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 a quite common basking turtle along the Hudson River. Most of the turtles in John Lipscomb’s photo are females. Males are smaller than the females and often tend to have a slight knobby keel along the center of their carapace as well as having a larger tail. Al Breisch]
- John Lipscomb, Riverkeeper Patrol Boat Captain
5/29 – Pleasant Valley, HRM 77: On a recent evening, a large, winged visitor, a cecropia silk moth (Hyalophora cecropia), came to our porch. It was no doubt drawn there by our hanging lights. The moth hung around for several hours, well into early next morning, clinging to a down spout. It was a first for both of us and seeing a moth that large was very exciting. (Photo of cecropia moth courtesy of Jamie Collins)
- Jamie Collins, Leena Collins
5/29 – Town of Esopus: There had been heavy rain last night that continued into this morning. I spotted what I am certain was the smaller of the two fledglings from bald eagle nest NY142 sitting wet and bedraggled on a large rock on the edge of a hayfield preening itself.
Back at NY142, there was a very active fledgling, the larger of the two, flapping at the edge of the nest. It had flown back to the nest. Both adults perched side-by-side on a branch. It was humorous to see them simultaneously rotate their heads left, then to the right, and the female even looking nearly 180 degrees back toward the river without shifting her westward-facing stance.
- Mario Meier
*** Fish of the Week ***
5/30 – Hudson River Watershed: Fish-of-the-Week for Week 123 is the conger eel (Conger oceanicus), fish number 22 (of 234), on our Hudson River Watershed List of Fishes. If you would like a copy of our list, e-mail: trlake7.
Because eels can trace their ancestry back hundreds of millennia, the resulting myriad of specialized adaptations makes their relationships not well understood. C. Lavett Smith suggests that “... the present arrangement of 600 species must be considered tentative.” The conger eel (Congridae) is one of the largest families with 38 genera and 100 strictly marine species, and the only member of the family in our watershed. They are considered a temperature marine stray; when it is found in the lower estuary or New York Harbor, it can easily be mistaken for an American eel. In the field, we have to note the origin of their dorsal fin relative to the placement of other fins to tell them apart.
Conger eels can reach more than seven feet in length and weigh up to 88 pounds. They feed on fish, shrimp, and small mollusks. Conger eels range from Nova Scotia to the Gulf of Mexico. Locally, they spawn offshore of New England in deep water. Like American and European eels (Anguillidae), conger eels spawn once and then die. (Photo of conger eel with permission by NMFS)
- Tom Lake
5/30 – Town of Esopus: I took a rainy walk at low tide along the Hudson River shoreline. The rain and low pressure were holding a hatch of large-winged insects down near the water and under the low-hanging branches. This provided a feeding extravaganza for two-dozen barn swallows and several tree swallows. As I camouflaged behind branches, the fork-tailed, brightly colored, aerial acrobats swirled and darted just feet above the water as they feasted. They took delight in skimming the water and many times swooped only inches from me, seemingly oblivious of my presence. I have often seen them at a distance but never had such a close encounter. (Photo of tree swallow courtesy of Carol Riddell)
- Mario Meier
5/31 – Hudson River Watershed: The Big Breeding Bird Atlas Weekend is coming up on June 25-27. Whether it’s a bald eagle, American robin, or a scarlet tanager, please consider submitting reports of breeding birds to the current 2020-2024 Breeding Bird Atlas! The current Atlas began in 2020 and continues for five years. This is the third comprehensive, statewide survey of birds in New York and your observations will allow researchers to analyze changes since 1980 and contribute directly to their conservation.
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 at: https://ebird.org/atlasny/state/US-NY.
- Julie Hart (New York Breeding Bird Atlas III Project Coordinator)
6/1 – Town of Esopus: Exhibiting some confidence in flight, the two fledglings at bald eagle nest NY142 had come back to their nest. They perched side-by-side on a branch, stretching their massive wings, making the size difference very apparent. Although they hatched four days apart, which could account for some difference in size, our best guess is that the female is the larger. They had been screeching for food all day yesterday, but now they can truly fly enhancing their chances for survival. (Photo of bald eagles courtesy of Mario Meier)
- Mario Meier
6/1 – Bedford, HRM 35: The great blue heron rookery nestlings were getting larger and were showing more of themselves. The oldest nestlings were very active, moving about their nest and exercising their wings. Their bodies were still covered in downy feathers with pin feathers emerging on their wings. So far nine nestlings were visible with one nest having four. In the coming weeks, I expect others will get larger and we will soon see them all. (Photo of great blue herons courtesy of Jim Steck)
- Jim Steck
6/2 – Beacon, HRM 61: Half-tide seining on Long Dock beach is often very rewarding: at low tide, we trudge through deep sediments; at high tide we are back in the wood line. The tide was right, but the fish stayed home. It took far too many hauls to net a few of the locals like spottail shiner, golden shiner, and white perch.
A better story, however, had been written on rocks and driftwood: In silent testimony to last summer, they were studded with bay barnacles. For the first 26 days of last June, we had only 0.38 inches of rain. Salinity was not extreme (5.0 parts-per-thousand (ppt)), but clearly adequate for barnacles. Today, the river was 64 degrees Fahrenheit (F), and the salinity was barely measurable at 1.0 ppt. (Photo of bay barnacles courtesy of Tom Lake)
[Bay barnacles (Balanus improvisus) are crustaceans related to shrimp, crabs, and lobsters. Their exoskeleton is a calcareous cone-like house made of six small calcium plates that form a circle
- Tom Lake, Phyllis Lake
within which the animal lives. Four more plates form a "trap-door" that the barnacle can open or close, depending on the tide. They cement their house to rocks and other hard benthic material (ship hulls, bulkheads, etc.) and permanently set up shop.
When conditions are optimal, they open their trapdoor and feed by extending feather-like appendages called cirri that filter for microscopic organisms. While they flourish in salty to brackish water, they can close up for a limited period in times of very low salinity, until conditions improve. Although it is unclear exactly how barnacle larvae arrive upriver from brackish water and attach to suitable substrate, their method of transport may be the flood tide current in times of low freshwater flow.
For a real-time treat, not unlike watching the dance of the comb jellies, place a rock encrusted with barnacles in aquaria. Then gently stir the water and watch as the barnacles open their trapdoors and extend their feathery cirri, to filter the water. It looks altogether like a water ballet. Tom Lake]
6/3 – Town of Wappinger, HRM 67.5: Eighteen years ago, today, our field crew was winding down our 2003 sampling season at Hunter’s Brook, a tidewater tributary of the Hudson River. We had set our fyke net in the brook on March 17, facing downstream to intercept the two-inch-long translucent eels freshly in from the sea that were headed upstream. Since then, we had been capturing, measuring, weighing, recording, and releasing yearling American eels (“glass eels”). In three days, we would haul out our net after having caught 876 eels. At Hunter’s Brook, we sampled 79 continuous days (83 days in 2003) each season from 2003 through 2008, averaging 466 glass eel per year.
Today, educators from DEC’s Hudson River Estuary Program, as well as students and faculty from R.C. Ketcham High School and Wappinger Falls Junior High, closed their 2021 Hunter’s Brook glass eel season. To honor all those who had monitored this season’s fyke net, we held an “Eel-ebration!” (In a shortened, two-week season, the students had captured 702 glass eels.) (Photo of glass eels courtesy of Tom McDowell)
[The American eel can trace its ancestry back millions of years successfully surviving global cataclysms—they have an amazing life-history that is filled with adaptations for survival. However, at the turn of the 21st century, fisheries scientists began to notice that our global freshwater eel populations were diminishing, even disappearing in places for largely unknown reasons.
- Sarah Mount, Kate Cooper
This prompted the DEC Division-Bureau of Marine Resources (East Setauket) to initiate a project that included fyke-net sampling of glass eels in an effort to create baseline data for Hudson River American eels. Hunter’s Brook was one of the two original Hudson River tributaries—the Saw Kill was the other—where we began sampling in 2003. Our sampling continued in 2021. Tom Lake]
6/4 – Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: I was walking on Croton Point when I spotted something drifting slowly toward the ground. It was a large, white, downy feather. Just as I focused on it, a barn swallow snatched it out of the air with its beak. I expected the bird to head off to its nest, but instead it dropped the feather, and then circled and plucked it out of the air again.
For the next few minutes, I watched the swallow repeatedly release the feather, sometimes flying straight up to a height of fifty feet or more, other times letting it land on the ground, and then make wide loops from all angles to grab it in flight. Finally, the swallow headed off, I imagine, to line its nest. It seemed clear to me that the bird was playing; it turns out that swallows do play in this way, often with big, downy feathers just like this one. (Photo of barn swallow courtesy of Mason Maron)
- Joe Wallace
Spring 2021 Natural History Programs
Hudson River: Striped Bass Cooperative Angler Program
You can share your fishing trip information and help biologists understand and manage our Hudson River striped bass fishery.
- Here’s how it works: Fill out a logbook provided by us whenever you fish on the Hudson River (by boat or from shore). You can also use our survey123 app and record your trips using a smart phone or computer. Record general location, time, gear used, what you caught (or if you didn’t catch anything) and return the logbook when you are done fishing for the season.
- You’ll receive an annual newsletter summarizing the information in addition to the latest news regarding regulations and the river. Whether you catch-and-release or take home a keeper, you can be part of the Cooperative Angler Program. Online logbook instructions can be found here: https://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/remediation_hudson_pdf/hrcoopanglerelogbook.pdf
Join today by contacting: hudsonangler or call 845-256-3009
Day-in-the-Life Videos (Hudson River Estuary Program)
The Day-in-the-Life Team and DEC produced three interactive videos from live footage at three geographic areas of the Hudson River estuary. Watch each one with your class to explore the Hudson River at your own pace. Watch the video pertaining to your region along the River or watch all three!
Students can collect data virtually alongside our partner organizations with their data sheets and an online Clearwater fish key.
Upper Estuary (Poughkeepsie to Troy and beyond):
• Data Sheet
Lower Estuary (Yonkers to Beacon/Newburgh):
• Data Sheet
NY Harbor (and connected waterways):
• Data Sheet
The Estuary Live! (Hudson River Estuary Program)
Our environmental education programs are broad, varied, flexible, and dependent on the needs and interests of your students. These distance-learning programs can last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour and are available on ZOOM, Google classrooms, or Webex platforms. Pre-program materials from our Virtual River content include videos and lesson plans for students to explore before their Estuary Live! program. Students are encouraged to ask questions which creates an interactive learning environment, rather than a lecture. Estuary Live! is often hosted from an outdoor location but is dependent on the weather and cell service. The Norrie Point Environmental Center has three indoor sets (The Library, The Lab, and The Classroom) that allow us to stay connected during lessons and give students a feeling of being here with us.
Program types and a brief description of the topics:
Wildlife (e.g., amphibians, turtles, and fish)
Hudson River basics, e.g. geography, tides, salinity, turbidity, temperature, basic ecology.
Stream Study: macroinvertebrates, e.g., adaptations, habitat, and human impact.
Educators can schedule a program for their students:
Contact Maija Lisa Niemistö email:maija.niemisto
Follow Us On-Line:
Check out our wonderful Tide Finder video (3 minutes) with Chris Bowser marking the extreme highs and lows of a full moon tidal cycle: Tide Finder video
Virtual River website: Virtual River Website
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.
Save the date for Outdoors Day 2021 on Saturday, June 12!
Outdoors Day is a free, open-house style event held in conjunction with National Get Outdoors Day. Try a new outdoor activity or introduce your family to old favorites like hiking, archery, paddling, and fishing. Bring the whole family and spend the day having an outdoor adventure!
2021's event will be modified to meet COVID-19 guidelines including mask and social distancing requirements.
Check out photos from previous events on our Flickr album (link leaves DEC website) or view the event video on our YouTube channel.
Don't forget to share your photos using #OutdoorsDayNY!
Information about the Hudson River Estuary Program is available on DEC's website at http://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/4920.html.