A Product 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 Hudson River and its atypical peculiarities this summer has had such a pull—like a siren's lure. It has been difficult to stay away or even just stay out of the water. The relentless heat in the Hudson Highlands (weekly average high 92 degrees Fahrenheit (F)), high water temperatures and elevated salinity, along with the incredible numbers and variety of young-of-year fishes, continues to make it seem like the “Circus” is going by, and we have to be there to see it.
Highlight of the Week
7/20 – Ulster Park, HRM 87: While insect hunting this morning in the lower field at Shaupeneak Ridge Cooperative Recreation Area, a drab, medium-sized skimmer flying circles above me stood out from the widow skimmers and pondhawks. It perched for a brief moment and allowed a few photos. The mystery dragonfly was a spot-winged glider (Pantala hymenaea), the first record of this species in Ulster County. These can be found almost nationwide but are relatively rare across the northern extent, including New York. (Frank Beres photo)
- Frank Beres
Natural History Entries
7/18 – Greene County, HRM 111: On a hike today along the Escarpment Trail at North-South Lake in Haines Falls, Greene County, I spotted a bright red Caesar's mushroom. (Sue Livingston photo)
[This is an Amanita (Amanita caesarea) commonly known as Caesar's mushroom. It is closely related to the Death Cap (A. phalloides) considered the most poisonous mushroom in the world. Caesar’s mushroom is a highly regarded edible mushroom native to southern Europe and North Africa. Tom Lake]
[Eating some species of wild mushrooms can cause sickness and even death. Despite widespread beliefs to the contrary, there is no general rule that allows you to distinguish between a poisonous mushroom and one that is safe to eat. Wild mushrooms should only be considered for consumption after being identified by an expert mycologist, and even then, only in moderation with samples of fresh specimens retained and properly stored to aid in identification whenever poisoning is considered a possibility. Steve Rock]
- Sue Livingston
7/19 – Town of Esopus, HRM 86: While taking my grandchildren swimming on our first 97 degrees F day this season (heat index, “real feel,” was 106 degrees), we noticed tiny butterflies getting nutrients on the wet sand. They were pearl crescents with a wingspan of just 32 millimeters(mm). They reminded us that there is beauty all around us. (Mario Meier photo)
[The heat index, also known as the apparent temperature, is what the temperature feels like to the human body when relative humidity is combined with the air temperature. National Weather Service]
- Mario Meier
(1 inch = 25.4 millimeters(mm))
7/19 – Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: Once in a while we come across old newspaper articles referencing life on the Hudson River. This one came to us courtesy of Marc Cheshire, Village Historian, Croton-on-Hudson. It is from an article titled, “Do You Remember?” published in 1900 and it recalls an article from a local newspaper dated July 19, 1877, 143 years ago today.
“There were a great many schools of fish, called moss bonkers, in the cove and Dr. Van Wyck had men carting them up on his farm for fertilizer. I kept a tally and one day they took 150 bushels. They were caught in nets at Croton Point."
From the description, the cove was likely a spot called “Mother’s Lap”, and the fish were Atlantic menhaden (Brevoortia tyrannus). Mother’s Lap is a colloquial name for a small, sheltered cove in Haverstraw Bay on the north-east end of Croton Point. When commercial fishing was in its heyday in the mid-twentieth century, fishermen knew they could find refuge from wind and tide in this little bay as their nets worked offshore. In that regard, it reminded them of the calm and solace of sitting in “mother’s lap.”
- Tom Lake
7/19 – Manhattan, HRM 2.5: Hudson River Community Sailing is a program at our dock on 26th Street in Manhattan. Members can sail with instructors, and we also provide free sailing courses with affiliated schools. Currently, members are in the City Sail program, a sailing camp for young students. Our education efforts include deploying an eel mop off our dock to catch aquatic life for show-and-tell. We have caught various crabs, shrimp, a northern pipefish, and small eels.
[Eel mops are a basketball-sized tangle of polypropylene tentacles placed in the river and found by eels and other aquatic fauna be a very cozy habitat. The mop can be lifted out, shaken, and wildlife will fall into a waiting bucket. The Atlantic State Marine Fisheries Commission literature has the perfect name for the mops: the “Medusa” device. Medusa was a priestess in Greek mythology. In a fit of anger, the Greek goddess Athena, daughter of Zeus, transformed Medusa’s hair into a head of snakes. As the eel mop gyrates in the current, it conjures that image. Tom Lake]
- Miles Hupert
7/20 – Ulster Park, HRM 87: I followed a berry-picking trail through a field at the Shaupeneak Ridge Cooperative Recreation Area and came across a surprise: A giant swallowtail (Papilio crephontes), North America’s largest butterfly, was busily feeding on the abundant wild bergamot. I don’t believe these beautiful butterflies to be particularly rare across their range, but they are uncommon enough in New York to be listed on the Natural Heritage Program rare species reporting form. The bergamot was teeming with other Lepidopterans [butterflies] as well, including tiger swallowtails, several species of small whites and blues, silver-spotted skippers, duskywings, and two species of hummingbird moths. (Frank Beres photo)
- Frank Beres
7/20 – Little Stony Point, HRM 55: On the path to the river, the forest was abuzz with mosquitoes and the humidity was oppressive. It was a sultry first light on the beach, promising a steamy day ahead. Out in the channel, the current was still heading seaward on the last of the down tide. At the beach, however, the new moon tide had turned to flood, and the current was running up along the shore—the river that flows both ways ... at the same time. A pair of ravens soared in circles over Mount Taurus, and scores of vultures had no issues finding a thermal to rise from their night roosts.
There was no sign of the immense biomass of comb jellies encountered here three days ago. Young-of-year striped bass (32-60 mm), white perch (30-42 mm), alewives (45-65 mm), bay anchovies (31-34 mm), and Atlantic silverside (61-63 mm) dominated the catch. Adult bay anchovies (70-72 mm) also showed up along with tessellated darters, spottail shiners and palm-sized blue crabs–a very rich fauna. The river was 81 degrees F, and the salinity was 4.0 parts-per-thousand(ppt).
- Tom Lake, A. Danforth
7/20 – Manhattan, HRM 2.5: Our Hudson River Community Sailing program captured a lined sea horse in our eel mop today. We will keep it in our aquarium for educational purposes and will release it soon. (Miles Hupert and Russell Jacobs photo)
- Miles Hupert, Russell Jacobs
7/21 – Cohoes, HRM 157: I spotted a short-billed dowitcher working the edge of the Cohoes flats by the Albany County line along the Mohawk River.
[This short-billed dowitcher (Limnodromus griseus) was a southbound migrant. They breed along the shores of Hudson Bay, and the adults begin migrating south in July. They are uncommon inland in New York, but a few are seen each summer and fall. I believe the reason that they are uncommon is that they usually make a nonstop flight over our area. Looking at the eBird data, it looks like they may stop off at the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River to refuel, then make a direct flight from there to the coast where they are abundant in late summer and early fall. I think the same happened in the spring migration of May 2015. A local birder stopped at a farm pond in Coeymans Hollow right after a thunderstorm and found 60 short-billed dowitchers. Pretty amazing, since a sighting of a single one is notable. I believe they were migrating through at altitudes but were forced down by the thunderstorm. John Kent]
- Zach Schwartz-Weinstein (Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club)
7/21 – Troy, HRM 153: Several paddlers from the Albany Chapter of the Adirondack Mountain Club were surprised to see an adult common loon in breeding colors on the Hudson River on the downstream side of the Federal Lock. They watched the loon swimming and preening. (Carena Pooth photo)
- Erica Lovrin
7/21 – Manhattan, HRM 2: Hudson River Park’s River Project staff members went out to check a series of minnow and crab pots suspended from a floating dock on Pier 40 today. Our traps yielded a small oyster toadfish (55 mm), a young-of-year butterfish (35 mm), and several blue crabs including one that was missing a claw. Our crab pots also yielded a range of invertebrates, including amphipods, isopods, shore shrimp, and a juvenile spider crab.
[Blue crab are decapods, Latin for ten feet, or ten legs: six walking legs, two swimming paddles, and two claws. When one of a crab’s appendages is lost, the crab will begin a process called regeneration. A lost leg is often the result of a “release” called autonomy. Blue crabs frequently conduct territorial battles with other crabs or find themselves in the bill of a heron, at which point they can release a leg and escape. Eventually, through many moults, blue crabs have the ability to grow a new leg. Tom Lake]
- Olivia Radick, Daisy Rivera
7/22 – Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 76: Finally! I was beginning to lose hope that we would be hosting monarchs this year when a gorgeous butterfly appeared today on our Ice Ballet milkweed. (Doreen Tignanelli photo)
- Doreen Tignanelli
7/23 – Little Stony Point, HRM 55: The new moon three days ago had strong tides that likely encouraged blue crabs to molt. Our seine was now finding larger, market-size blue crabs. Young-of-year fishes included alewives (33-44 mm) and striped bass (27-73 mm). Today’s chosen gear was a net with a bit larger mesh size and, predictably, dozens of young-of-year bay anchovies (20-24 mm) filtered out of the bag and wiggled down the sand and back into the river. The water was a warm 82 degrees F, and the salinity was 3.5 ppt. (Tom Lake photo)
[Commercial blue crabbers follow a size regime based on point-to-point carapace size for marketability:
- Tom Lake, Lauren Martin, Phyllis Lake
- Jumbos are the biggest and the best of the catch, the prime market crab (7-inches-plus)
- Number One Jimmies are the next largest crab and most commonly caught size (6-inches-plus)
- Number two are smaller crabs, but marketable; the minimum market size (5-5½-inches).
- For keeping crabs, DEC regulations call for a minimum of 4.5-inches. Tom Lake]
7/23 – Manhattan, HRM 2: The River Project and Hudson’s Estuary Lab have officially become Hudson River Park’s River Project. The new name represents the culmination of a year-long strategic alliance between the Hudson River Trust and The River Project as well as an expansion of environmental education and research in the Park.
- Richard Corman
*** Fish of the Week ***
7/24 – Hudson River Watershed: Fish-of-the-Week for Week 80 is the bluefish (Pomatomus saltatrix), number 169 (of 231), on our Hudson River Watershed List of Fishes. If you would like a copy of our list, e-mail: trlake7
Bluefish, an ocean species and high-end predator, is found around the world in many temperate and subtropical waters. They are the only extant species of their family, Pomatomidae. Bluefish are born at sea and are part of a large contingent that migrates seasonally from Nova Scotia to Florida following huge (3-5 miles-long) schools of Atlantic menhaden. They are both a recreational species and a commercial fish.
Young-of-year bluefish surge upriver in summer, and their presence is marked by the carnage they leave behind. Among the most common indicators are schools of herring swimming wildly, leaping out of the water to escape snapping jaws, as well as gulls and terns screaming overhead in a mass feeding frenzy tableau. More subtle indicators often follow, such as fish swimming in circles with missing tails, floating bits and pieces of fish, and regurgitated fish-slurry.
Bigelow and Schroeder (1953) describes bluefish as “sea-green above, silvery below.” Young-of-year bluefish are called “snappers,” one of several colloquial names they are given referencing incremental age, size, strength of their jaws, and even disposition. Young-of-year in the Chesapeake (up to about 10-inches) are often called “snapping mackerel.” Yearlings are known as cocktail or tailor blues. Once they reach the 10-12-pound range, anglers speak of choppers, or slammers. Names like alligator and gorilla blues are reserved for the very largest and meanest of bluefish, weighing as much as twenty pounds or more. The U.S. record may be a 27-pound bluefish, caught in 1902 at Nantucket, Massachusetts. Tom Lake] (Peter Park photo)
7/24 – Essex County, HRM 281: I was out in a bog this morning (Moxham Pond) and, in addition to orchids and other delights, I found some beautiful slime mold (Fuligo septic). They seem to grow in various forms, but all are some sort of yellow. We had rain last night, and these probably showed up then or this morning. I spotted five of them, all on live plants. (Mike Corey photo)
[This species of slime mold also has some endearing common names as scrambled egg slime and dog vomit fungus. Tom Lake]
- Mike Corey
7/24 – Columbia County, HRM 92: Marian Sole found an immature little blue heron earlier today, and I was fortunate enough to find it and get a good photograph. I was also hoping to watch the heron hunt, but someone slammed their car door and off it flew.
[Little blue herons are also quite uncommon, but most years there is at least one sighting in the Capital District. The immatures seem most common in the Hudson Valley. When they do show up, it is often during post-breeding dispersal, mid-to-late summer. That is when we also get great egrets here with an occasional snowy egret. In recent years another wading bird, glossy Ibis, has begun showing up as well, though still more uncommon than the little blue herons. John Kent]
- Deborah Trace Kral
7/24 – Piermont Pier, HRM 25: I drove out to the end of the pier for a short walk. A small, black-headed gull caught my eye on the north side resting on the breakwater rocks. It had a slender black bill. If there was any white around the eye it was barely noticeable. It’s back was pale grey and it had black wingtips. At one point a great black backed gull forced it off its rock, and I was able to see it had reddish legs. It was a Bonaparte’s gull. On the south end of the pier an adult common tern and two begging young were on the pilings.
- Linda Pistolesi
7/24 – Manhattan, HRM 2: Hudson River Park’s River Project Staff members checked our sampling gear today between bouts of rain. Our fish traps yielded an unsurprising retinue of species for this time of the summer: black sea bass (135 mm), tautog (150 mm), oyster toadfish (225 mm), and six blue crabs. Two of the blue crabs were paired, preparing to mate, while the remaining four were unpaired males.
- Toland Kister, Siddhartha Hayes
Summer - Fall 2020 Natural History Programs
DEC Trees for Tribs: The Hudson River Estuary Program’s “Trees for Tribs” program offers free native trees and shrubs for planting along the tributary streams in the Hudson River Estuary watershed and is now accepting applications (deadline is August 1). Our staff can help you with a planting plan. Since 2007, Trees for Tribs has provided more than 40,000 native trees and shrubs for planting along 20 miles of stream with the help of more than 9,000 local volunteers. We are now accepting applications for planting projects.
For more information about the program or to download an application, please visit the DEC website at: HudsonEstuaryTFT.
2020 "I BIRD NY" Challenge
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced the start of the 2020 "I BIRD NY" challenges for beginner and experienced birders. The I BIRD NY program was launched by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo in 2017, to build on the State's efforts to increase access to New York's vast natural resources and promote low-cost opportunities to explore the great outdoors and connect with nature. New York is home to a wide range of habitats that support more than 450 different bird species throughout the year. There are also 59 designated Bird Conservation Areas to safeguard and enhance bird populations and habitats on State lands and waters across the state.
DEC is hosting its annual I Bird NY Beginner's Birding Challenge, which is open to anyone 16 years of age and younger. To complete the Beginner's Birding Challenge, participants must identify 10 common New York bird species and submit their challenge sheet to DEC. Entries can be mailed or emailed. All participants in this challenge will receive a certificate of participation and be entered into a random drawing for a chance to win birding accessories. For information, go to: https://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/administration_pdf/begbirdchallenge2019.pdf
In addition to the Beginner's Birding Challenge, DEC is offering the I Bird NY Experienced Birder Challenge. To complete the challenge, birders of any age must identify at least 10 different bird species found across New York State. All participants in this challenge will also receive a certificate of participation and be entered into a drawing for birding accessories. For information, go to: https://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/administration_pdf/expbchallenge2019.pdf
During the COVID-19 public health crisis, getting outside for a nature break is more important than ever and DEC will continue to encourage new and experienced naturalists alike to participate safely and responsibly in birding and other outdoors activities."
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 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.