Hudson River Almanac 10/03/20 - 10/09/20

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
DEC Delivers - Information to keep you connected and informed from the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation
Share or view as a web page || Update preferences or unsubscribe

Hudson River Almanac
October 3 - October 9, 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.


Cooler weather and some much-needed precipitation resulted in a week featuring mushrooms. Autumn in Manhattan’s Central Park has long been a stage for the unexpected bird sighting. This week it was once again. We also harken back to much simpler times with an archaeological find. Discoveries like these lend so much insight into a Hudson River Valley that time has forgotten.

Highlights of the Week 

Henslow's sparrow10/5 – Manhattan, HRM 7.5: Perhaps the rarest of the rare, a Henslow's sparrow, was found in Central Park a couple of days ago. It was only the third record ever for Manhattan’s Central Park. The previous two sightings were also in October (1992, 2006).

Regionally, this is a mega-rare nesting bird that prefers tall-grass prairie habitat, something which is also rare in the eastern United States, even more so now than 100 years ago. October is the best time to see diversity in Central Park as sparrow numbers will be peaking soon, warblers still abound, and there are the wild cards such as cuckoos, hawks and owls. (Photo of Henslow's sparrow courtesy of Deborah Tracy Kral)
- Deborah Allen, Robert DeCandido

Natural History Entries

Hen of the Woods10/3 – Town of Esopus: It’s the season for the Maitake fungus (Grifola frondosa), aptly named “Hen-of- the-Woods,” because it looks like a grey sitting hen. We found these choice mushrooms today very well camouflaged in an autumnal forest setting where it grows in large clusters at the base of mature oak trees. Maitake are said to have high medicinal value with immune boosting properties and they also have a strong, delicious flavor. (Photo of Hen-of-the-Woods courtesy of Mario Meier)
- Mario Meier

[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. Joining a mushroom club and participating in lectures, foraging forays and mushroom identification classes is an excellent way to begin to learn all that needs to be known before you can feel competently and independently confident in identifying a mushroom as being safe and edible. Steve Rock]

10/3 – Bedford, HRM 35: We spotted 120 raptors today at the Bedford Audubon Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch. Sharp-shinned hawk was high count with 74. Non-raptor migrants included 53 monarch butterflies, 373 Canada geese, and 1,268 Blue Jays.
- Tait Johansson, Julia Berliner, Karen Troche, Pedro Troche

10/3 – Hook Mountain, HRM 31: We counted 208 migrating raptors today at the Hook Mountain Hawk Watch. Sharp-shinned hawk was high count with 127. Non-raptor migrants included Canada geese, brant (modest numbers), common loon (2), and 32 monarch butterflies.
- Trudy Battaly, Drew Panko, Bill Oswald, Denise Oswald, Fred Shaw

Genessee point10/3 – Ulster County: I took a walk along the Shawangunk Kill today, the largest tributary of the Wallkill River. As I crossed a gravel bank, a dislodged pebble struck something that sounded like glass. I picked up a dark gray stone that appeared to be an Indian artifact. (Photo of Genesee point courtesy of Bill Munzer)
- Bill Munzer

[Bill Munzer’s find was a near-perfect, despite some re-sharpening (65 x 40 millimeters (mm)), Genesee projectile point. A cursory look at the lithic (dull gray stone) suggests Normanskill chert, perhaps fashioned from material collected at stone-age quarries at West Athens Hill or Flint Mine Hill in Greene County.

Radiocarbon dating of associated organics at the point’s type site in western New York (Wyoming County), dated this style of artifact to be about 3,700 years old. Given its length and heft, it was likely a spear point rather than an arrowhead (bow and arrow technology would not arrive in the Hudson Valley for another two thousand years).

At that time, in the deep past, we traveled the landscape in groups comprised of families, extended families, and clans, as hunters, gatherers, fishers, and foragers. Without historic records, it is a challenge to determine our precise lineage especially in pre-ceramic times when we did not have pottery types to use as ethnic markers. However, given the location of Bill Muzer’s find, the artisan who produced this exquisite stone tool might have been ancestral Mohican. Tom Lake]

(one inch = 25.4 millimeters (mm))

Amanita mushroom10/4 – Eastern Dutchess County: I came upon eight gorgeous specimens of immature Amanita phalloides today, also known as the Death Cap. They were growing under a stand of Norway Spruce as the only mushrooms growing in the vicinity.

The Death Cap is one of the deadliest species of mushroom on the planet. They are not native to North America and are very rarely found in the Northeast. Norway spruce (also not native) is the species to which it is most closely associated. (Photo of Amanita mushroom courtesy of Steve Rock)
- Steve Rock

10/4 – Millbrook, HRM 82: These dewy fall mornings are a good time to enjoy the webs of the large yellow garden spider, Argiope aurantia, a “zipper” spider common in fields and disturbed areas. Argiopes spiders create elegant webs in vertical planes a foot or more in diameter, ornamented by a conspicuous zipper design called a stabilimentum (a conspicuous silk structure).

In the morning, tiny dewdrops bead the web strands which then sparkle in the early sunlight. The webs are easy to spot because they are dense and numerous (I counted forty this morning without moving or turning my head) and, for some reason, the spiders commonly point them in the same direction. The overall impression is one of a boat regatta, with sparkling sails all oriented by the same wind.
- Nelson Johnson

10/4 – Beacon, HRM 61. Following three-inches of rain, the salinity here was halved (2.0 parts-per-thousand (ppt)). While not gone entirely, there were far fewer bay barnacles. Atlantic silversides with their silver-flash dominated our seine hauls. To me, they are the fish-equivalent of bald eagles: I never, ever, tire of seeing them. During our half-hour of hauling, we had a near-constant procession of high-flyer Canada geese passing over headed south. The river remained a toasty 71 degrees Fahrenheit (F).
- Tom Lake, A. Danforth

[We call them “high-flyers” because that is what they do. Skeins of migrating geese, Canada and snow geese, often miles high, fly strung out in Vs and large checkmarks, always in flux, the birds constantly changing their position in the geometrics of the sky. It always reminds me of volleyball team members switching spots after every point. A modest northwest breeze was pushing these flocks south allowing the geese to save on “fuel.” Tom Lake]

10/4 – Bedford, HRM 35: There was nice movement of raptors today with a good showing of sharp-shinned hawk (third-highest total of the season). Of the 146 raptors today at the Bedford Audubon Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch, sharp-shinned hawk was high count with 81. Non-raptor migrants included 23 monarch butterflies and 269 Canada geese.
- Richard Aracil, Julia Berliner, Karen Troche, Pedro Troche

Hen-of-the-Woods10/4 – Westchester County: Last week's rains had yet to reveal any Hen-of-the-Woods (Grifola frondosa) mushrooms at any of our usual trees until we visited our favorite northern Westchester County site today. There, we found some. There were no other terrestrial mushrooms to be found except a single Cortinarious iodes (spotted cort), but we were pleased to also spot a small fruiting of oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus) and one of the onion-bagel mushrooms (Pholiota squarrosa) on decaying trees. (Photo of Hen-of-the-Woods courtesy of Steve Rock)
- Steve Rock, Margaret Kuhar

10/4 – Hook Mountain, HRM 31: We counted 61 migrating raptors today at the Hook Mountain Hawk Watch. Sharp-shinned hawk was high count with 38. Non-raptor migrants included 25 monarch butterflies.
- Felicia Napier

*** Fish of the Week ***
Comely shiner10/5 – Hudson River Watershed: Fish-of-the-Week for Week 91 is the comely shiner (Notropis amoenus), number 52 (of 234), on our Hudson River Watershed List of Fishes. If you would like a copy of our list, e-mail:

The comely shiner is a demure, unpretentious little minnow, native to our watershed. They are found in systems along the Atlantic Coast slope from New York south to Cape Fear, North Carolina. While rather uncommon in our watershed, these slender, silvery minnows are known from medium-sized creeks particularly in the Wallkill River watershed. Their species name, amoenus, translate from Latin as pleasing and lovely. They feed on aquatic and terrestrial insects and are known to reach 80-mm in length. (Photo of comely shiner courtesy of Robert Aguilar)
- Tom Lake

10/5 – Bedford, HRM 35: Good day for Cooper’s hawk (12), sharp-shinned hawk, and late osprey (9). We also had our highest total this season for merlin (5) and turkey vulture (22). The turkey vultures came all at once in a kettle of 18+ birds flying high and moving southwest. Of the 101 migrating raptors noted today at the Bedford Audubon Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch, sharp-shinned hawk was high count with 54. Non-raptor migrants included 32 monarch butterflies.
- Richard Aracil, Julia Berliner, Tony Wilkinson

10/5 – Hook Mountain, HRM 31: A common nighthawk went by today at the Hook Mountain Hawk Watch, with a very distinctive flight and a silhouette that is almost unique for any bird in our region. We counted 176 migrating raptors today. Sharp-shinned hawk was high count with 92. Non-raptor migrants included 14 monarch butterflies and a common loon.
- Tom Fiore, Marty Wyenn

10/6 – Bedford, HRM 35: We counted 70 migrating raptors today at the Bedford Audubon Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch. Sharp-shinned hawk was high count with 34. However, migrating vultures (turkey, 37; black, 3) comprised the bulk of the movement. Bald eagles had a good day as well. At one point, I had a "kettle" of four overhead. Non-raptor migrants included 15 monarch butterflies.
- Richard Aracil

10/6 – Hook Mountain, HRM 31: We counted 40 migrating raptors at the Hook Mountain Hawk Watch today. Sharp-shinned hawk was high count with eleven. Migrating vultures also showed well (turkey, 12; black, 6). Non-raptor migrants included three monarch butterflies.
- John Phillips, Abby Rudin, Kottie Christie-Blick

10/6 – 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. Today saw a veritable menagerie: There were three blue crabs (40-120 mm), four hefty, adult tautog (290-340 mm), three handsome oyster toadfish (115-245 mm), a black sea bass (65 mm), and an impressive yearling striped bass (320 mm).
- Toland Kister, Olivia Radick

Yellow-rumped warbler10/7 – Saratoga County, HRM 157: I walked along the towpath west of the main parking lot at the Vischer Ferry Nature Preserve this morning. The warbler diversity had diminished, but I found an abundance of fairly drab yellow-rumped, palm, as well as magnolia and yellow warblers. Waterfowl-wise, I saw at least five northern pintails and many green-winged and blue-winged teal. Due to the changing plumage, and the fact that I did not have a scope, I could have missed a few other species. (Photo of yellow-rumped warbler courtesy of John Hershey)
- John Hershey

[The Mohawk Towpath Byway runs from Waterford to Schenectady along the historic route of the Erie Canal. The road tells the story of the Erie Canal and the role that seventeen communities played in the westward expansion of the country and in the Industrial Revolution. Diverse wildlife habitats, classic architecture, and beautiful vistas are sprinkled throughout the corridor. The word “Towpath” comes from a period of the Erie Canal's history when canal vessels were moved principally by draft animals–mostly mules–that pulled from the path atop the side berm of the canal along the Mohawk River. New York State DOT]

10/7 – Bedford, HRM 35: We counted 26 migrating raptors today at the Bedford Audubon Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch. Sharp-shinned hawk was high count with 16. Migrating turkey vultures (21 birds) also showed well. Non-raptor migrants included five monarch butterflies.
- Richard Aracil

10/7 – Hook Mountain, HRM 31: We counted 34 migrating raptors at the Hook Mountain Hawk Watch today. Sharp-shinned hawk was high count with 27.
- Trudy Battaly, Drew Panko, Marty Wyenn

American shad10/8 – Cornwall Landing, HRM 57: A strong west wind had the river capped-over, but we were snug on the beach in the lee of Storm King. This is one of many sites we will sample for our 18th annual October 22 Day-in-the-Life of the River and Harbor. This is half-tide beach for seining. On low tide we struggle in soft sediments up to our knees; on high tide we are getting up near the railroad tracks.

We went slip-sliding through the gravelly half-floodtide and were rewarded with a bagful of young-of-year American shad (82-88 mm). This has been a remarkable autumn for young American shad and, while it has been a very small sample, it may signal a good recruitment year. Summer had not completely left either as evidenced by several dozen gorgeous Atlantic silversides (76-79 mm). The water was 69 degrees F, and the salinity was 2.5 ppt. (Photo of American shad courtesy of Tom Lake)
- Tom Lake, A. Danforth

[Windward and leeward are terms that are often used to provide color and accuracy to the description of a location or condition under which a sighting was made. These are sailing terms used to denote wind exposure: windward being in the face of the wind; leeward meaning sheltered, as in the lee of a point, an island, a stand of trees or, in this instance, a mountain. Tom Lake]

10/8 – Bedford, HRM 35: We counted 328 migrating raptors today at the Bedford Audubon Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch. Sharp-shinned hawk was high count with 245 (75%). Just before noon, we were very excited to see a short-eared owl headed northwest. With stiff northwest winds, there were many skeins of migrating Canada geese. Non-raptor migrants included eight monarch butterflies.
- Richard Aracil, Julia Berliner, Kevin McGrath

10/8 – Hook Mountain, HRM 31: We counted 20 migrating raptors at the Hook Mountain Hawk Watch today. Sharp-shinned hawk was high count with twelve.
- Steve Sachs

10/9 – Bedford, HRM 35: We counted 327 migrating raptors today at the Bedford Audubon Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch. Sharp-shinned hawk was high count with 214. Migrating turkey vultures (218) also showed well. We had a really impressive movement of pine siskin and purple finch in the morning hours with continuous flocks passing by heading west-southwest. Non-raptor migrants included three monarch butterflies.
- Richard Aracil, Julia Berliner

10/9 – Hook Mountain, HRM 31: We counted 185 migrating raptors at the Hook Mountain Hawk Watch today. Sharp-shinned hawk was high count with 140 (76%). We saw V’s of Canada geese (176 birds); one of the skeins had a cackling goose, easily identified by being much smaller.
- Ajit I. Antony, Liza Antony

Three-seeded mercury10/9 – Manhattan, HRM 13.5: It was a perfect early-autumn day in Inwood Hill Park. The inlet of Spuyten Duyvil Creek was at low tide, and a great blue heron was fishing in the shallows. Two dozen mallards were resting on an exposed mud flat along with three red-eared slider turtles. The groundsel bushes were now in full bloom, cloud banks of snowy white that were somewhat unexpected this late in the year. Up on the ridge, the woods were quiet except for a scolding blue jay, but I did see a song sparrow. Also, a plant I had never seen here before: growing on a low wall was a surprising salmon pink three-seeded mercury (Acalypha rhomboidei), also called a copperleaf. (Photo of three-seeded mercury courtesy of Thomas Shoesmith)
- Thomas Shoesmith

10/9 – 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. Among our catch was a 225 mm (carapace width) blue crab, two adorable little black sea bass (60-65 mm), and a handsome 170 mm northern pipefish!
- Olivia Radick, Siddhartha Hayes

Green Heron courtesy of Bob Rightmyer

Fall 2020 Natural History Programs

Wednesday, October 21, 2020 at 7:00 PM
Community Conservation: Reptiles and Amphibians
Laura Heady, NYSDEC Hudson River Estuary Program Conservation and Land Use Program Coordinator, and John Wnek, Project Terrapin
Hosted by the Brooklyn Bridge Conservancy
This online event is free and open to all. Visit for more information.

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