Hudson River Almanac 9/19/20 - 9/25/20

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Hudson River Almanac
September 19 - September 25, 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 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 Play Smart*Play Safe*Play 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.


A persistent lack of precipitation in the estuary has kept salinity at a seasonally high level. As a result, conditions have been ideal for brackish water fauna from fishes to barnacles to comb jellies. As we passed into Autumn, the migration of birds and butterflies flying south and fishes heading to the sea was in full vigor.

Highlight of the Week

Net sinker9/21 – Greene County, HRM 120: As I was launching my kayak to go camp on the Stockport Middle Ground, I spotted a notched, palm-sized piece of sandstone on the shore. My first thought was a prehistoric net sinker. (Photo of net sinker courtesy of Bill Munzer)
- Bill Munzer

[It is not rare to find a net sinker on a Hudson River beach. In an archaeological context, net sinkers are often found where there was ancient fish processing and near smoking huts or smoking platforms. Prehistoric stone artifacts such as net sinkers are timeless in terms of form and function. However, being inorganic, they cannot be precisely dated. Yet, simply holding one of these in your hand takes you to a beach on a long-ago day in the company of kindred souls. Tom Lake]

Natural History Entries

9/18 – Hudson River Estuary: Taking all COVID-19 social-distancing and mask-wearing precautions, our Fisheries Science Practicum class from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forest Biology (ESF), traveled from Syracuse to the Hudson Valley for a half-weekend exploration of the fish diversity of the Hudson River estuary and its tributaries.

On 9/18, we sampled Hannacroix Creek (Greene County), a tributary known for its good water quality and plentiful American eels. On 9/19, we sampled low tide at Kowawese (Orange County) at the northern gateway to the Hudson River Highlands. Finally, we visited the lower estuary at the Alpine Boat Basin (Bergen County, NJ) at the base of the Palisades.
- Karin Limburg, Justin Herne, Ian Foote, Emily Klimczak, Jarrett Landreth, Maddie Webb, Kyla Watson

9/18 – Hannacroix Creek, HRM 132.5: Our SUNY ESF’s Fisheries Science Practicum class sampled the creek for American eels 3.4 miles from its confluence with the estuary. There is a substantial natural waterfall barrier between there and the Hudson River, and this effectively limits the number of eels that make it upstream. Those that arrive eventually grow quite large.

It had been very dry, and the creek was very low. We electro-fished and captured eight eels ranging in size from 12.7- 60.0 centimeters (5.0-24-inches). We caught a number of other fishes, including a small yellow bullhead, cutlip minnow, bluntnose minnow, eastern blacknose dace, and common shiner.
- Karin Limburg, Chris Bowser, Elizabeth LoGiudice

[Electro-fishing (or shocking) gear uses high voltage pulsed DC (direct current) passing from a cathode to an anode which temporarily stuns fish for capture. Fish experience galvanotaxis which causes the fish to involuntarily swim towards the electrical field. The size of fish being targeted determines the amount of voltage and amperage applied to the water. Smaller fish tend to be more difficult to stun than larger fish due to the fact that the smaller fish have less surface area that can be affected by the electrical field. Generally, fish are released unharmed. Wes Eakin]

(1 inch = 2.54 centimeters (cm) = 25.4 millimeters (mm))

Herring9/19 – Kowawese, HRM 59: Our SUNY ESF’s Fisheries Science Practicum class’ next stop was on the beach at Kowawese in New Windsor. It was a very chilly sunrise (36 degrees Fahrenheit (F)) and in the frigid overnight, the water temperature had fallen seven degrees to 65 degrees F. The salinity was 4.0 parts-per-thousand (ppt).

For this stop we used a 36-foot seine and caught a dozen species. Among the notables were three species of river herring (Alosinae): American shad (82 mm), alewife (55-67 mm), and blueback herring (64-67 mm). We got the perfect young-of-year image of the three placed in a student’s palm, cascading in size from shad to alewife to blueback.

The salty river brought brackish-water fishes such as bay anchovy (38-46 mm), Atlantic menhaden (56 mm), and Atlantic silverside (69-77 mm). Fishes local to the freshwater included smallmouth bass (147-184 mm), bluegill, white perch, spottail shiner, and American eel. As expected, we caught many young-of-year striped bass (60-84 mm) heading toward the sea. There were invertebrates as well with bay barnacles, a half-dozen blue crabs, and an uncountable number of Beroe’s comb jellies (Beroe cucumis). (Photo of herring courtesy of Tom Lake)
- Karin Limburg, Amanda Higgs, Tom Lake

9/19 – Alpine, HRM 18: Our SUNY ESF’s Fisheries Science Practicum class’ final stop was on the beach at the Alpine Boat Basin in Bergen County (NJ). We arrived later than we’d hoped, so the tide was rising. It was a spring tide (new moon +2 days) coupled with an onshore breeze. We made a half-dozen short sweeps with our seine as the beach was quickly swallowed up by the high tide. Our prize catch was an American shad (140 mm). We considered that it might have been a holdover (class of 2019) or, when populations are really sparse, the young-of-year can be huge. With present conditions in decline, we caught just a few other fish including Atlantic silverside and young-of-year striped bass. The invertebrates in the net were shore shrimp and Leidy’s comb jellies (Mnemiopsis leidyi).

On our way back to the van, we saw that the parking lot had flooded considerably. Clearly, this was an instance of what is called “sunny day flooding,” a phenomenon where high tides and storm surges cause coastal flooding. This is partially due to climate-change-induced sea level rise, and it was an important lesson for us all to witness.
- Karin Limburg

9/20 – Cohoes, HRM 157: Birding on the Cohoes Flats just after sunrise, I counted 250 birds of 16 species. Among the notable birds were blue-winged teal, black-bellied plover, American golden-plover, pectoral sandpiper, semipalmated sandpiper, and solitary sandpiper.
- John Roosenberg

9/20 – Hook Mountain, HRM 31: We counted 107 migrating raptors at the Hook Mountain Hawkwatch today, and broad-winged hawk was high count with 56. Non-raptor migrations included a ruby-throated hummingbird.
- Felicia Napier

Bald-faced hornets9/21 – Millbrook, HRM 87: I noticed a gray hornet’s nest in the eaves of one of my sheds. From its basketball-size, I assumed it was built by bald-faced hornets (Dolichovespula maculata).

Bald-faced hornets are known for their aggressiveness, so I watched the nest and its occupants closely whenever I entered the shed. Yesterday morning, after two nights in the 30s, it appeared that some animal had punched holes in the side of the nest and neatly cored its center, presumably to eat the larvae and other occupants. Since this happened within a day of the first cold temperatures of the season, I would guess that the animal (woodpecker?) knew the nest was there, bided its time until the cold weather made the wasps lethargic, and then attacked at the first opportunity.  (Photo of bald-faced hornets courtesy of Nelson Johnson)
- Nelson Johnson

9/21 – Hook Mountain, HRM 31: We counted 57 migrating raptors at the Hook Mountain Hawkwatch today. Sharp-shinned hawk was high count with 31. Non-raptor migrations included five ruby-throated hummingbirds.
- Anne Swaim, Tom White

9/22 – Kowawese, HRM 59: We timed our visit to the beach to coincide with the onset of Autumn (0931). Continued lack of significant precipitation had kept the salinity at 4.5 ppt and the river at 72 degrees F. Our catch echoed both the river and the season with scores of young-of-year striped bass (66-72 mm), Atlantic silverside (88-92 mm), and American shad (80-82 mm).
- Tom Lake, Phyllis Lake

[On the Autumnal Equinox, the sun passes directly over the Equator through the geometric center of the Sun's disk on its shift southward. Equinox is derived from the Latin aequus (equal) and noctis (night). On the day of the equinox, daytime and nighttime are approximately equal in duration. The Autumnal Equinox leads to summer to the Southern Hemisphere and winter to the Northern Hemisphere. Tom Lake]

9/22 – Bedford, HRM 35: We counted 241 migrating raptors today at the Bedford Audubon Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch. Sharp-shinned hawk was high count with 152. Non-raptor migrants included two monarch butterflies.
- Richard Aracil, Jack Kozuchowski, Karen Troche, Pedro Troche

9/22 – Manhattan, HRM 2: Our Hudson River Park’s River Project Staff checked the sampling and collection gear that we deploy off Pier 40 in Hudson River Park. It seemed the blue crabs were finally slowing down as we only caught four (20-145 mm carapace width). In the traps as well were an oyster toadfish (60 mm) and a gorgeous, young-of-year black sea bass (55 mm).
-Toland Kister, Olivia Radick

9/23 – West Point, HRM 52: Cadets from the Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering at United States Military Academy (West Point) seined a shallow cove near Hudson River Light 39. We made four hauls on the ebb tide with a 30-foot seine.

Our catch was impressive with 171 fish. They included, in order of abundance, Atlantic silverside (87), white perch (62), young-of-year striped bass (21), and a young-of-year bluefish. Invertebrates included several blue crabs that appeared to have recently shed (moulted). Salinity was relatively high at 4.5 ppt and the water temperature was 67 degrees F.
- COL Mindy Kimball, CPT Melissa Moorehouse, MS Kimberly Quell, Dr Patrick Baker

Seine9/23 – Hudson River Watershed: The first of us in the Hudson Valley, ten-millennia or more ago, brought fish-catching technologies with us from previous stops across North America. The easiest of them to deploy, as well as the most useful, were seines. Seine technology is universal, both temporally across time, and spatially around the world. Their primary advantage is mobility: you can go to the fish rather than wait for them to arrive at set locations. A long and sturdy net worked by skilled handlers could provide ample protein for a family, a clan, or a village.

However, the only components of prehistoric fishing traditions that remain are the inorganic, non-perishable parts. From limited evidence, such as stone weirs, smoking platforms, net sinkers, sturgeon scutes, and other fish scales, archaeologists are able to reconstruct prehistoric fishing efforts.

The most important component of a prehistoric seining operation was the net, fashioned from natural cordage. Notched net sinkers could be crafted in a matter of minutes. Gourds or other floatables were fastened to the top seam line, and net sinkers were tied to the bottom line. The simplicity of the gear and its inherent mobility were very attractive.

After a seining session, the floats and sinkers were cut off—no need to carry them around since they could be easily replaced. The net, however, represented time and effort and had to be saved. The seine had to be dried—left wet it would bio-degrade. In historic time through much of the 20th century, this applied as well to linen nets. However, with modern nets made of nylon, this step has become unnecessary. (Photo of seine courtesy of Tom Lake)
- Tom Lake

9/23 – Bedford, HRM 35: There was a slow trickle of migrating raptors today at the Bedford Audubon Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch. Of the 64 raptors spotted, sharp-shinned hawk was high count with 29. Non-raptor migrants included two ruby-throated hummingbirds and one monarch butterfly.
- Richard Aracil, Julia Berliner

9/24 – Ulster County, HRM 87: I took advantage of a beautiful autumn morning to kayak across the river and was rewarded to see two adult bald eagles in the NY394 nest tree. One was perched above the nest and the other to the side. The nest was wholly new construction this year, but I think it still needs some rebuilding for next year. The adults’ expert care this past spring and summer resulted in the fledging of two nestlings.
- Dale Becker

9/24 – Saugerties, HRM102: The harbor seal made an appearance in mid-morning at the south dike at the mouth of the Esopus Creek, just west of channel marker #93. He took an interest in our neighbor who had just arrived on his stand-up paddle board. A half hour later, I could still see him swimming around in the same area on the far side of the dike. This was Day 415 for the male harbor seal in the vicinity of Saugerties-Esopus Creek.
- Patrick Landewe

*** Fish of the Week ***
Bluntnose stingray9/24 – Hudson River Watershed: Fish-of-the-Week for Week 89 is the bluntnose stingray (Dasyatis say), number 10 (of 234), on our Hudson River Watershed List of Fishes. If you would like a copy of our list, e-mail:

Bluntnose stingray is the lone member of its family (Dasyatidae, whiptail stingrays),in the estuary and is known from a single record.

On June 23, 2012, Captain Steve Cherry was fishing for summer flounder in the Upper Bay of New York Harbor about a mile upriver of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. Fishing a standard “fluke rig” of a spearing [silversides] and a strip of squid, he hooked and landed a bluntnose stingray. Steve’s fish was an adult female (no claspers), measured thirty-inches long (minus its long tail), and weighed 10 pounds. While this was the first of this species recorded for the Hudson River, the bluntnose stingray is known to enter estuaries and may have been around in small numbers with previous catches misidentified or not reported.

Bluntnose stingray can reach 36-inches in length. They prey upon small invertebrates, including crustaceans such as sand shrimp (Cragon septemspinosa), annelid worms, bivalves, gastropod mollusks, and fish. They are considered a temperate marine stray, frequenting coastal waters from New Jersey to the Gulf of Mexico. (Photo of bluntnose stingray courtesy  of Steve Cherry)
- Tom Lake

Black-throated green warbler9/25 – Waterford, HRM 158: We went to Peebles Island State Park this morning looking for warblers, pectoral sandpipers, and the American golden plovers previously seen at Cohoes Flats. We succeeded with all three. We found the two golden plovers that had been reported for several days on the Cohoes Flats, at least two pectoral sandpipers, and nine different warbler species, including Blackburnian, blackpoll, black-throated green, magnolia, northern parula, chestnut-sided, yellow-rumped, black-and-white, and American redstart. The most common species was, surprisingly, northern parula with more than ten birds. (Photo of black-throated green warbler courtesy of John Hershey)
- John Hershey, Ron Harrower

9/25 – Manhattan, HRM 13.5: The tide was low on the inlet of Spuyten Duyvil Creek. Two dozen mallards were resting on the shore and a dozen more were on a nearby mud flat. There were also three red-eared sliders, the first time I've seen them here. This species, native to the southern U.S., is the most popular pet in the world and are often released into the wild where they act as invasives competing with other freshwater turtles.

Elsewhere along the water, porcelain berry had fruit, licorice golden rod was flowering, and yam-leaved clematis was still plentiful. The wispy female flowers of baccharis were beginning to show. Along the path up through the Clove, jewelweed was now blooming, and clearweed was budding. Up on the ridge, aster was now blooming everywhere, and white snakeroot was budding. The two usually flower around the same time and often grow together. The plants are often confused when they're not in bloom. Poison ivy and Virginia creeper were both turning deep orange.

I saw just one Osage orange fruit on the ground but did not see any on the trees. They seem to vary in abundance from year to year. Osage orange trees have an interesting history. They apparently depended on certain large animals, now extinct, for distribution of their seeds. In modern times, their natural range was limited to parts of Texas and Oklahoma. The Indians prized the wood greatly for bows, so it was an important trade item, and European settlers found the trees could be used to create “living fences” that were of great importance before the invention of barbed wire. They were also planted as ornamentals, as they were on Inwood Hill.
- Thomas Shoesmith, Donna Shoesmith

9/25 – Manhattan, HRM 2: Our Hudson River Park’s River Project Staff checked the sampling and collection gear that we deploy off Pier 40 in Hudson River Park. Blue crabs were still missing—we caught just one, tiny, young-of-season (10 mm). In one pot we found an adult oyster toadfish (285 mm) as well as the prize of the day, a handsome black sea bass (188 mm).
- Siddhartha Hayes, Olivia Radick

Seining photo courtesy of Tom Lake

Fall 2020 Natural History Programs

Thursday, October 8, 2020 from: 6:00 – 7:00 PM
Eels and Other Fish of the Hudson River
Aiden Mabey, NYSDEC Hudson River Estuary Program, environmental educator
Hosted by the Hudson Area Library, Claverack Free Library, Philmont Public Library, and Roeliff Jansen Community Library
To register, email or call 518-828-1792 x101. To access the Zoom link directly go to

2020 I Bird NY Challenges are open now!

Are you 16 years or younger and live in New York State? If you have an interest in birds, try the I Bird NY challenge! Find 10 common New York bird species and we'll send you a special certificate for taking the challenge. You will also be entered into a random drawing for birding accessories. Download our I Bird NY Beginner's Challenge form (PDF) and get started today. The Beginner's Challenge is also available in Spanish (PDF).

The Experienced Birder Challenge: If you are already a birder, take your birding to the next level by taking the I Bird NY Experienced Birder Challenge! The wide variety of habitats found in New York State support more than 450 different bird species. Find any 10 (or more) different bird species to complete the challenge. Find a lifer? Let us know! Complete and submit the Experienced Birder Challenge entry sheet (PDF) for a chance to be entered in a random drawing for birding accessories. The Experienced Birder's Challenge is also available in Spanish (PDF).

DEC Seeks Birdwatchers to contribute to 2020 Breeding Bird Atlas
NYSDEC 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.

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. The 2020 atlas will provide data on changes in species distribution 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 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 (

PLAY SMART * PLAY SAFE * PLAY LOCAL: Get Outside Safely, Responsibly, and Locally

New York State is encouraging residents to engage in responsible recreation during the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis. NYSDEC and State Parks recommendations for getting outside safely incorporate guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the NYS Department of Health for reducing the spread of infectious diseases.

DEC and State Parks are encouraging visitors to New York's great outdoors to use the hashtags #PlaySmartPlaySafePlayLocal, #RecreateResponsibly, and #RecreateLocal on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to share their visit and encourage others to get outside safely, responsibly, and locally, too. Use the DECinfo Locator to find a DEC-managed resource near you and visit the State Parks website for information about parks and park closures.

Take the Pledge to PLAY SMART * PLAY SAFE * PLAY LOCAL: Enjoy the Outdoors Safely and Responsibly

1. I pledge to respect the rules and do my part to keep parks, beaches, trails, boat launches, and other public spaces safe for everyone.
2. I will stay local and close to home.
3. I will maintain a safe distance from others outside of my household.
4. I will wear a mask when I cannot maintain social distancing.
5. I accept that this summer, I may have to adjust how I enjoy the outdoors to help keep myself and others healthy and safe, even if it means changing my plans to visit a public space.
6. I will be respectful of others by letting them pass by me if needed on a trail and keeping my blanket ten feet apart from others on the beach.
7. I will move quickly through shared areas like parking lots, trailheads, and scenic areas to avoid crowding.
8. If I'm not feeling well, I will stay home.

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