Hudson River Almanac 3/07/20 - 3/13/20

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
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Hudson River Almanac
March 7 - March 13, 2020

A Project of the Hudson River Estuary Program 
Compiled by Tom Lake, Consulting Naturalist


COVID-19 Guidance for Enjoying the Outdoors

While enjoying outdoor spaces, please continue to follow the CDC/NYSDOH’s guidelines for preventing the spread of colds, flu, and COVID-19:

  • Try to keep at least six (6) feet of distance between you and others.
  • 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.


Any week when we can touch the deep past and make it relevant, is a good week, indeed. Beachcomber Tom Hall reminds us of the great time depth of us in the Hudson Valley. For lovers of mystery, the Fish-of-the-Week will satisfy the need for intrigue. Bald eagles and great blue herons were seriously into their nesting seasons and harbor seals seemed to be heralding the arrival of spawning fishes from the sea.

Highlight of the Week

Harbor seal3/11 – Saugerties, HRM 102: After a long and careful search for the harbor seal in Esopus Creek, I finally spotted him upstream at the extent of my 10x42 binoculars. He bobbed on the surface for no more than three seconds before sounding. I waited a half-hour, but he did not come back. I was fortunate, however, to find several anglers on a breakwater catching yellow perch, a couple of which were a foot long. They regaled in their stories of the seal visiting them and showing immense curiosity. One concern was voiced in the way the seal had “hauled out” on to a rock the day before. They thought that the seal looked as though it might be uncomfortable, ill, or injured. (Photo of harbor seal courtesy of Jim Yates)
- Tom Lake

[Seals are far more mobile in the water than on dry ground. Because of their physical dimensions, “hauling out,” literally lifting themselves out of the water, can appear very awkward. Seals haul out onto riprap, rocks, and piers at various times of the tide primarily to rest. When hauled out, they usually lay in a typical "banana" pose, a posture, suggesting a banana. This frequently leads observers to believe that the seal is in distress. The banana pose is just the natural way they choose to relax. Tom Lake]

Natural History Entries

3/7 – Greene County, HRM 112.2: Spring peepers and wood frogs were calling from a vernal pond down the trail just past the entrance to the RamsHorn-Livingston Sanctuary. They were right on time, just one day later than the earliest I’ve heard them here in years past. We also saw an adult bald eagle sitting on the local nest adjacent to the interior marsh of the Sanctuary.
- Larry Federman

Peacock3/7 – Millbrook, HRM 82: On an early morning walk, I once again saw my neighbor’s leucistic peacocks (a genetic condition called leucism) at their roost in an old maple. The birds stretch about six feet from the tops of their heads to the tips of their tail feathers hanging below; they appeared like ethereal banshees in the pre-dawn light. Sub-freezing air temperatures are supposed to be hard on peafowl, but it was 29 degrees Fahrenheit (F) this morning, and I have seen them roosting in temperatures as low as 4.0 degrees.

I presume these are one of the commonly domesticated peafowl, Pavo cristatus (blue) and P. muticus (green). Blues are more common than greens, and greens can be truly enormous, up to ten feet long from head to tail. These leucistics have been around for at least a couple of years, somehow managing to avoid cars, coyotes, foxes, and bobcats. (Photo of peacock courtesy of Jivdaya Charitable Trust)
- Nelson Johnson

[Peafowl are native to India, where they are the national bird. Male peafowl are called peacocks, females are called peahens. They belong to a family (Phasianidae) of heavy, ground-living birds, that includes pheasants, partridges, junglefowl, chickens, turkeys, Old World quail, and many of the most popular game birds (McGowan 1994).

3/7 – Hook Mountain, HRM 31: The first raptor we saw upon reaching the summit of the Hook Mountain Hawkwatch was an adult bald eagle, fifty-feet overhead, slowly drifting westward in the wind. Another nonmigratory bald eagle was seen far to the south being harassed by a smaller raptor. Two peregrine falcons were spotted at the same time over the river, one significantly larger than the other (male and female). Another peregrine was seen just north of the watch. Hawk-watching wisdom says that northwest winds should be better than north winds, but today the reverse was true – the moment the winds changed, the migration stopped completely. We also counted three red-shouldered hawks, all adults.
- Ajit I. Antony, Liza Antony

*** Fish of the Week ***
Dusky shark3/8 – Hudson River Watershed: Fish-of-the-Week for Week 62 is the dusky shark (Carcharhinus obscurus) number 4 (of 230) on our watershed list of fishes. If you would like a copy of our list, e-mail -

The dusky shark is a member of the requiem shark family (Carcharhinidae), the largest family of living sharks. The dusky shark is on our list of fishes for less-than-reliable evidence. The original report of a dusky shark found on the shore in Peekskill was by Edgar Mearns (1989). Mearns gave no distinguishing characteristics and, on the face of it, a dusky shark might have been the least likely of requiem sharks to be found upriver in the estuary. Another, more inshore, less pelagic species like the bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas) would have been much more likely. To the untrained eye, these two closely related requiem sharks look very similar and may have been easily confused. (In recent times, additions to our watershed list of fishes have required irrefutable evidence such as photos, videos, or specimens.)

Murdy, Birdsong, and Musick’s The Fishes of Chesapeake Bay (1997: 31-32), assesses the behavior of these two sharks: ‘It [dusky shark] does not normally enter estuaries.” For bull sharks, “[they] are known to frequent brackish waters and low salinity rivers.” “They are known from ... 1,000 miles upriver in the Amazon and Mississippi rivers.

Adding to the confusion is a bizarre “tradition” among some anglers of dumping fish from faraway places along the river giving the appearance that they were found in situ, or with valid provenience (in their original place). There have been several instances where anglers have brought home dead sharks from ocean adventures and left them along the river, including a blue shark at Yonkers (1979), a sand tiger shark (Carcharhinus taurus) at Peekskill (1952), and another dusky shark at Newburgh (1966).

Despite all of the reservations on the occurrence of these large sharks in the estuary, the river is open to the sea, and that demands that we never say never. However, even 122 years later, we still exercise our skepticism of Edgar Mearns’ 1898 report. (Photo of dusky shark courtesy of Richard Ling)
- Tom Lake

3/9 – Milan HRM 90: We heard our first spring peepers of the season tonight – second night in a row. What a wonderfully welcome sound. As though they were a pair, our black bear also came around, second night in a row, but it behaved itself this time.
- Marty Otter (Ralph T. Waterman Bird Club)

Indian artifact3/9 – Northern Dutchess County: Low tide is the best time for beach combing. As I was walking along the river today, I came upon a small stone that looked as though it may have been “worked” (modified by human hands), thus an artifact. It was the base of a Brewerton eared-notched projectile point, likely a dart point for an atlatl (spear thrower). At 20 millimeters (mm) long, this re-sharpened point had, after much use, been reduced to twenty percent of its original length and had been re-purposed as a small scraper or a graver.  (Photo of Indian artifact courtesy of Tom Hall)
- Tom Hall

(one inch = 25.4 millimeters)

[Brewerton eared-notched points have been radiocarbon dated from organic contexts in the Northeast to 4,500 years old. Their type site is Brewerton, along Oneida Lake in Onondaga County. This tool had been fashioned from a brownish Kalkberg chert, from the Helderbergs, by ancestral Algonquian people. They were pre-ceramic, hunters and gatherers, fishers and foragers. Given the range of their homeland, and where this artifact was found, they may have been ancestral Mohicans.

There are few things more magical than holding a moment of the deep past in your hand, sensing the imagination of the artist and envisioning the time of its creation. To apply some context to the great time depth of our Hudson Valley, as the artisan was creating this tool, the Great Pyramid of Giza, the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, was being constructed during the Fourth Dynasty of the Egyptian pharaoh Khufu. Tom Lake]

3/9 – Beacon, HRM 61: I caught, measured and released a 19-inch channel catfish in my first fishing trip of the 2020 season. Usually I pass up on fishing for carp and catfish until much later in March. This winter, however, we have had a run of warmer weather. More importantly for fishing, the water temperature has been making a sustained move - approaching the 40-degree F level. After fishing for a few hours without any bites, the tide went out, and the sun started beating down on the now-shallower inshore water. At that point, I started getting tentative nibbles and finally the channel catfish took hold.
- Bill Greene

American woodcock3/9 – New Paltz, HRM 78: Five spring peepers were calling tonight, as well as three wood frogs that were initiating future chorusing with their calls. Not to be outdone, a male woodcock was letting his presence be known with his aerial display. All of this occurred just north of the village of New Paltz. (Photo of American woodcock courtesy of Barbara Fernald)
- Roland Bahret

3/9 – Hook Mountain, HRM 31: It was mostly clear and sunny, cool to begin with, and then quite warm at the Hook Mountain Hawkwatch. There was minimal cloud cover with very hazy visibility; southern Manhattan looked ghostly with some of the birds just disappearing into the haze to the west. Eleven of the thirty raptors we saw today were Cooper’s hawks. Non-migrating raptors included two peregrine falcons flying over the Hudson River and three adult bald eagles, two fully adult and one new adult with some black feathers still in its tail.
- Ajit I. Antony, Liza Antony, Steve Bauer

Bald eagle3/10 – Ulster County: All intuitive indications told me that incubation had begun at bald eagle nest NY142 on February 5, which would make today Day 35 (average incubation runs 32-35 days). I scoped the nest at midday from across the river on the back deck of the Norrie Point Environmental Education Center. An adult eagle perched peacefully but alertly in the nest as the pair had been doing for 35 days. A few minutes later I spotted a second adult standing on the edge of the nest. I had missed its arrival. The adult in the nest was poking around in the nest cup; had the second adult delivered a fish? What followed was their common "rip and feed" behavior, as the nest-minder bobbed up and down and back and forth for several minutes. Perhaps the adults were just into housekeeping, or maybe this was the first nestling hatched and fed this year. (Photo of bald eagle courtesy Mario Meier)
- Dave Lindemann

[Adults have been in the area (territory) of bald eagle nest NY142, including the present nest, since at least 2006. The white pine that held their original nest died in 2012 and the pair built a new nest nearby the following spring. Thanks to exhaustive monitoring and detailed data from nest monitor Dave Lindemann, we know that in their first seven seasons (2006-2012) the pair produced ten nestlings. From 2013 through last year (2019), their second seven seasons produced another ten nestlings. Tom Lake]

3/11 – Manitou, HRM 46.5: I happened to be at the right place at the right time to see a harbor seal swimming downriver in the ebb current close to shore. A little more than three weeks ago, a harbor seal was spotted just off the village dock at Cold Spring, eleven miles upriver. Might this have been the same seal? Nearby, the adults from the Manitou Marsh bald eagle nest NY527 have been attending to business full time.
- Zshawn Sullivan

[Marine mammals began visiting the Hudson River Estuary about 13,000 year ago, following the Ice Age and after the retreat of glacial ice from the Laurentide Ice Sheet. With lower sea levels, it took a while for the ocean waters to find the lower river, but by the time the first of us arrived, about 12,000 years ago, marine mammals were likely quite common. Tom Lake]

Great blue heron nest3/11 – Bedford, HRM 35: The Great Blue Heron rookery had more herons today claiming their nest. One nest had two herons, and five nests had one heron on each nest. Herons usually build their nests high up in tall dead trees in colonies called rookeries. There are known rookeries with more than a hundred nests. This rookery of about a dozen active nests is the only one in Westchester County. (Photo of great blue heron nest courtesy of Jim Steck)
- Jim Steck

3/11 – Hook Mountain, HRM 31: We counted ten raptors today at the Hook Mountain Hawkwatch, eight of which were red-shouldered hawks. The other two were a bald eagle and a sharp-shinned hawk. Among non-migrating raptors were five red-tailed hawks and three adult bald eagles, two of which rose up almost together from Nyack. Many of these birds were extremely high and distant.
- Ajit I. Antony, Liza Antony

3/12 – Saratoga County, HRM 173: I came upon two tundra swans today in with Canada geese in a flooded field at the north end at Wrights Loop.
- Thom McClenahan (Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club)

[Tundra swans (Cygnus columbianus) are often called “America’s native swan.” Their common name refers to their summer nesting range north of Hudson Bay in the Arctic tundra. They can usually be heard calling long before they are seen, which leads to another frequently used colloquial name, “whistling swan.” Tundra Swans are occasional visitors to the Hudson Valley during spring and fall migrations. Tom Lake]

Bald eagle3/12 – Town of Wappinger: The adults at bald eagle nest NY459 still seemed to be incubating. Nearby, a gorgeous immature near-adult bald eagle perched at low tide and surveyed Wappinger Creek. (Photo of bald eagle courtesy of Brenda Miller)
- Brenda Miller

[This immature had a showy-white display, with so much white in its chocolate feathers that it may have been what Peter Dunne has described as a “white extreme.” Tom Lake]

3/13 – Waterford-Peebles Island, HRM 158: Our best guess is that the adults at bald eagle nest NY485 at Peebles Island State Park went on eggs today. We have marked our calendar as March 13 for the start of incubation. The 32-35 days for incubation (on average) can be exciting and filled with anticipation. Our projected hatch date is April 13-16.
- Andrew Prairie

3/13 – Saugerties, HRM 102: The harbor seal made an appearance this evening at the Saugerties Lighthouse at dead low tide on Day 222.
- Patrick Landewe

[In recent times, we have had three long-term seal visitors in the Hudson River:

- In 2011, a gray seal took up residence at the Rogers Point Boat Club in Hyde Park (river mile 82) for 60 days. Across those two months, it dined regularly on striped bass, catfish, and even a shortnose sturgeon, an endangered species, as well as endured the effects of tropical storms Irene and Lee. It left as suddenly as it arrived.

- In 2015, another gray seal found itself marooned above tidewater in the Town of Halfmoon, Saratoga County (river mile 164), for at least 133 days before being rescued.

- Our current harbor seal (the third of three male seals) has eclipsed them both, with a stay of 222 days, and counting. Tom Lake]

Bird feeder3/13 – Kingston, HRM 92: I found our bird feeder on the ground this morning, smashed and empty, several feet away from where it had been hanging outside our living room window. A suet feeder was also down, bent out of shape, and empty as well. While we did not hear a thing, we knew we had a black bear visit during the night.

While the DEC website suggests taking down bird feeders by early April, the mild winter has our Hudson Valley bears already out and about availing themselves of this attractive food source. It is a good idea to take down bird feeders now. Please see the NYS DEC Guidelines on how to avoid problems with black bears:

Black-capped chickadees were fluttering about, flying from the near-by bushes to where the feeder’s cap was now dangling. On a brighter note, our daffodils had not only sprouted, but were well on their way to budding. (Photo of bird feeder courtesy of Nancy Beard)
- Nancy Beard

3/13 – Town of Wappinger, HRM 68: A female summer tanager (Piranga rubra), first spotted at our seed feeders on January 15, was still there this morning 7:36 on Day 59. For Dutchess County, there are only three previous records of a summer tanager, and none in winter.
- Melissa Fischer, Stephen Fischer (Ralph T. Waterman Bird Club)

Tundra swans courtesy of Benjamin Zack (see 3/12)

Spring 2020 Natural History Programs

Cooperative Angler Program
Do you fish for striped bass in the Hudson River? You can be part of the Cooperative Angler Program, share your fishing trip information, and help biologists understand and manage our striped bass fishery. Fill out a logbook we provide or record your trips on your smart-phone using DEC's Hudson River online logbook (PDF) whenever you fish on the tidewater Hudson River. 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. You'll receive an annual newsletter summarizing the recreational fishery information, in addition to the latest news regarding Hudson River regulations and the river.

For more information on the angler program and instructions on installing the Survey123 App to access the online logbook, visit Hudson River Cooperative Angler or email If you primarily fish for striped bass in New York waters south of the George Washington Bridge, the DEC has a separate Striped Bass Cooperative Angler Program.

April: Trees for Tribs "Buffer in a Bag"
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s statewide Trees for Tribs "Buffer in a Bag" application period is now open. The Buffer in a Bag initiative is designed to increase riparian buffers statewide by engaging landowners in small-scale plantings. Qualifying private and public landowners may apply for a free bag of 25 tree and shrub seedlings for planting near streams, rivers, or lakes to help stabilize banks, protect water quality, and improve wildlife habitat.

Anyone who owns or manages at least 50 feet of land along a stream or waterbody in New York State is eligible to receive a free bag of seedlings. Applicants are limited to one bag per property. The application deadline is April 10, 2020. All participants must provide photos and information indicating where the trees will be planted. There is a limited supply and recipients are selected first-come, first-served. Not sure if your site fits these criteria? Contact the Trees for Tribs program by calling (518) 402-9405 or emailing

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

To subscribe to the Almanac (or to unsubscribe), use the links on DEC's Hudson River Almanac or DEC Delivers web pages.

Discover New York State Conservationist - the award-winning, advertisement-free magazine focusing on New York State's great outdoors and natural resources. Conservationist features stunning photography, informative articles and around-the-state coverage. Visit the Conservationist webpage for more information.

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.

Adventure NY

Under Governor Cuomo's Adventure NY initiative, DEC is making strategic investments to expand access to healthy, active outdoor recreation, connect more New Yorkers and visitors to nature and the outdoors, protect natural resources, and boost local economies. This initiative will support the completion of more than 75 projects over the next three years, ranging from improvements to youth camps and environmental education centers to new boat launches, duck blinds, and hiking trails. Read more about the Adventure NY initiative. For more information on planning an outdoor adventure in New York State, visit DEC's website at

Information about the Hudson River Estuary Program is available on DEC's website at