Hudson River Almanac 10/10/20 - 10/16/20

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
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Hudson River Almanac
October 10 - October 16, 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.


This was a week that featured diversity, including a rare dragonfly sighting, a very rare visit from a shorebird, a record fish from our neighboring Lake Champlain watershed, and the continued late-season surge of young-of-year blueback herring, fish feared lost due to the COVID closure of access to the Mohawk River.

Highlight of the Week

Golden plover10/14 – Manhattan, New York City: An American golden plover was seen on Randall's Island today by Gloria Hong. It was the first record (ever) of this species for Manhattan. Regionally, this is a shorebird that nests in short grass areas well to our north, habitat that has been declining during the last century. (Photo of golden plover courtesy of Deborah Allen)
- Deborah Allen, Robert DeCandido

Natural History Entries

White pelican10/10 – Ulster County, HRM 92: A white pelican was spotted at Ashokan Reservoir on August 21 and stayed around until, at least, October 3. White pelican sightings in our watershed are quite rare. Our previous white pelican visit was photographed by Jim Yates on May 2019 at river mile 91. (Photo of white pelican courtesy of Elizabeth Martine)
- Rich Guthrie

[White pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) are a large bird (nine-foot wingspan) of the Great Plains on up through central Canada. While every year or so, one or more turn up somewhere in the Northeast, they are a rare sighting in the Hudson River watershed. Pelicans are strong flyers with the ability to soar at great heights, covering long distances. Their presence here generally occurs when blown off course either in migration or drawn here from the Great Lakes area by nor’easters. Rich Guthrie]

Atlantic menhaden10/10 – Little Stony Point, HRM 55: With a temporary return to dry conditions in the uplands, the river’s salinity was up a bit to 3.5 parts-per-thousand (ppt), ten percent that of seawater at this latitude. We could tell by our brackish-water catch that there was salt present without having to taste, including Atlantic silverside (76-102 millimeters (mm)) and young-of-year Atlantic menhaden (81-91 mm). Young-of-year striped bass (73-75 mm) had a dominant presence as well. The river was 69 degrees Fahrenheit (F). (Photo of Atlantic menhaden courtesy of Tom Lake)
- Tom Lake, Phyllis Lake

[Atlantic menhaden (Brevoortia tyrannus) is a species of herring that spawn in salt to brackish water. Adults, also known regionally as bunker, mossbunker or pogies, and their young-of-the-year, known colloquially as peanut bunker or penny bunker, are found by the many millions in the estuary in summer providing forage for osprey, eagles, seals, striped bass, bluefish, and humpback wales in the Lower Bay of New York Harbor. Tom Lake]

(One inch = 25.4 millimeters (mm))

10/10 – Bedford, HRM 35: With less favorable southerly winds, bird movement in general was much reduced. However, we still counted 79 migrating raptors at the Bedford Audubon Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch. Sharp-shinned hawk was high count with 41. Migrating turkey vultures (46) also showed well. Non-raptor migrants included ten monarch butterflies.
- Richard Aracil, Julia Berliner, Karen Troche, Pedro Troche

10/10 – Hook Mountain, HRM 31: On our hike up to the Hook Mountain Hawk Watch today, we spotted a red fox on the lower part of trail. At the hawk watch, we counted 82 migrating raptors. Sharp-shinned hawk was high count with 36. Migrating turkey vultures (152) also showed well. Non-raptor migrants included two monarch butterflies.
- Tom Fiore

10/10 – Queens, New York City: Across two days, the New York City Parks Regional Environmental Education team held a public fishing clinic—six sessions that ran for an hour each—from Pier 4 at Gantry Plaza State Park. Forty participants caught eleven fish, including a striped bass (14-inches), northern puffer (eight-inches), back sea bass (nine-inches), scup (nine-inches), and an oyster toadfish (seven-inches).

Using a mobile fish trap, we also caught a skilletfish (three-inches), a lined sea horse (five-inches), and many tiny blue crabs. The water was 65 degrees F, and the salinity, over the two days, averaged 23.0 ppt.
- Jenna Otero

10/11 – Bedford, HRM 35: Again today, with less favorable southerly winds, bird movement in general was much reduced. Still, we counted 160 migrating raptors today at the Bedford Audubon Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch. Sharp-shinned hawk was high count with 92. Migrating turkey vultures (147) also showed well (plus two black vultures). Non-raptor migrants included more than 1,300 Canada geese and eleven monarch butterflies.
- Richard Aracil, Julia Berliner, Karen Troche, Pedro Troche, Tony Wilkinson

10/11 – Hook Mountain, HRM 31: We counted 50 migrating raptors at the Hook Mountain Hawk Watch today. Sharp-shinned hawk was high count with 15 (broad-winged hawk was a close second with 14).
- Felicia Napier, Tim Brew

** Fish of the Week **
Northern puffer10/12 – Hudson River Watershed: Fish-of-the-Week for Week 92 is the northern puffer (Sphoeroides maculatus), number 234 (of 234), on our Hudson River Watershed List of Fishes. If you would like a copy of our list, e-mail:

The northern puffer is one of two members of the Porcupine fishes (Diodontidae) documented for the estuary. The other is the smooth puffer (Lagocephalus laevigatus). The northern puffer is categorized as a temperate marine stray in the estuary and is found regionally in bays and estuaries along the Atlantic Coast from Newfoundland to Florida. Aliases to their common name include balloonfish, blowfish, swell-fish and, in the northern reach of their range, sea squab.

Their most noteworthy morphological characteristic is their ability to inflate themselves in response to the slightest disturbance. This is an adaptation to confuse predators or make them more difficult to swallow. Once inflated, they float belly up on the surface looking like a tennis ball. When the perceived danger abates, they deflate. The northern puffer can grow to 14-inches and feeds on small crustaceans such as crabs and shrimp. (Photo of  northern puffer courtesy of Peter Park)
- Tom Lake

10/12 – Hook Mountain, HRM 31: We counted 39 migrating raptors at the Hook Mountain Hawk Watch today. Sharp-shinned hawk was high count with 21. In the first full hour we noticed a raptor sitting in a tree to the east of the watch. It was a merlin. In the next hour another merlin landed in another tree lower down the slope. In all we had six migrating merlins, presumably pushed inland from the coast by the northeast winds.
- Ajit I. Antony, Liza Antony

Blueback herring10/13 – Cornwall Landing, HRM 57: We seined in a driving rain as a prelude to our 18th annual Day-in-the-Life of the River and Harbor on October 22. Young-of-year dominated our catch: Atlantic menhaden (65-76 mm), American shad (85-93 mm), striped bass (70-80 mm), and a surprisingly robust number of blueback herring (51-70 mm). All were headed seaward: the shad and herring would be back in four years; the striped bass, with a more complex life history had a less predictable future; the Atlantic menhaden were heading to saltwater because they are a saltwater herring. Even in the heavy rain, the incredibly brilliant silver-stripe of the Atlantic silverside cut through the gloom. The water was 65 degrees F, and the salinity was 4.0 ppt. (Photo of blueback herring courtesy of Tom Lake)
- Travis Cherry, Christopher O’Sullivan, Tom Lake

10/13 – Bedford, HRM 35: The count was very slow today at the Bedford Audubon Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch due to rain. However, we counted 22 migrating raptors today. Sharp-shinned hawk was high count with 13. Non-raptor migrants included one monarch butterfly.
- Richard Aracil, Julia Berliner

10/13 – Hook Mountain, HRM 31: We counted eleven migrating raptors at the Hook Mountain Hawk Watch today. Sharp-shinned hawk was high count with six. Migrating black vultures (12) also showed well (plus five turkey vultures). Non-raptor migrants included dark-eyed junco (20), brown creeper; tufted titmouse; yellow-rumped warbler; blue jay, purple finch (nine females, two males); chipping sparrow; American robin; red-bellied woodpecker; flock of pine siskin (18), common yellowthroat; cedar waxwing (5); American crow; two large flocks of red-winged blackbirds (35 birds each) and several northern flickers over the course of the afternoon.
- John Phillips

Tautog10/13 – Manhattan, HRM 2: Our Hudson River Park’s River Project Staff today checked the sampling and collection gear that we deploy off Pier 40 in Hudson River Park. The highlight was two tautog or blackfish, one a young-of-year (60 mm) and the other an adult (320 mm). We also had an immature oyster toadfish in our grasp before it slipped away. (Photo of tautog courtesy of Christina Tobitsch)
-Olivia Radick

[Blackfish is a colloquial name for tautog (Tautoga onitis) a rather common, bottom-dwelling fish of New York Harbor. Their common name, blackfish, refers to the adults as they attain a deep, mottled, coal black color. Among their favorite foods are shellfish that they find in abundance in near-shore rocky areas. In the spirit of “you are what you eat,” blackfish, perhaps owing to their shellfish diet, are a sought-after food fish. Tom Lake]

Mottled darner10/14 – Ulster Park, HRM 87: As the season for dragonfly hunting draws to a close in our area, species diversity and observation opportunities both become limited. Nevertheless, a chance encounter in midday at Shaupeneak Ridge Cooperative Recreation Area provided one of the most amazing interactions I’ve had all year: a female mottled darner (Aeshna clepsydra) perched right before my eyes! While I watched this rare beauty that was well past its recorded New York State flight season, I also noticed several of the more common male darners for this time of year (shadow, black-tipped) patrolling in the small clearing.

This appears to be an Ulster County first as well as a surprisingly late season record for the species—the Natural Heritage guide lists September 22 as the latest in New York, but also claims early October for Massachusetts. (Photo of mottled darner courtesy of Fran Beres)
- Frank Beres

Monarch butterfly10/14 – Town of Esopus: Today was one of those warm and clear October days that started out with Venus and the sickle moon all backlit with earth’s reflection. Then the clear blue sky highlighted the autumn colors with plenty of green still around. Monarchs continued on the wing and Canada geese were passing high overhead in their V’s. (Photo of monarch butterfly courtesy of Mario Meier)
- Mario Meier

10/14 – Bedford, HRM 35: Despite the steady, sometimes strong south winds, we had a decent amount of birds today at the Bedford Audubon Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch. We counted 118 migrating raptors; sharp-shinned hawk was high count with 69. Migrating turkey vultures (188) made a huge move as well. During the last hour, an impressive kettle of 68 came right over the platform. Non-raptor migrants also included three monarch butterflies.
- Richard Aracil, Jack Kozuchowski, Julia Berliner

10/14 – Hook Mountain, HRM 31: We counted 27 migrating raptors at the Hook Mountain Hawk Watch today. Sharp-shinned hawk was high count with 14. A kettle of 32 turkey vultures that looked like broad-winged hawks, “kettled” up and moved through in formation.
- Steve Sachs’

[“Kettle” is a birding term that describes an aggregation of birds, usually raptors or vultures, often circling overhead in warm, rising thermals. It is the circular movement of the group that appears like a cauldron of birds being “stirred” by the wind, thus a kettle. While kettles can occur almost any time of the year, they are particularly common during fall migration. Tom Lake]

10/15 – Minerva, HRM 284: I was out hiking in the back-forty today and flushed (from the trees) two American woodcock (Scolopax rusticola). They were moving fast but that whistling sound their wings were making was pretty evident. Must be stopping by on their way south.
- Mike Corey

[“Back-forty” is a colloquial expression meant to convey wild or rough terrain adjacent to a developed area. In the instance of a farm, for example, it might be a small percentage of the land left uncultivated or natural, frequently in the “back forty acres” of the property. Tom Lake]

Lake trout10/15 – Lake Champlain: The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department today officially recognized a new angling record for a 36.5-inch lake trout caught on rod-and-reel by Jeffrey Sanford in Lake Champlain in August. While the fish was not the largest fish of its species caught in the state, it was the largest lake trout caught in Lake Champlain.

Shawn Good, a fishery biologist, explained that this catch was exciting for more than just its size. He explained that it shows the effectiveness of the ongoing sea lamprey control efforts in Lake Champlain. “We’re seeing lower overall wounding rates on many of these fish, and the fact that anglers are catching older, larger lake trout and salmon is proof that our continued long-term sea lamprey control is working and resulting in improved fishing opportunities on Lake Champlain."  (Photo of lake trout courtesy of Vermont Fish and Wildlife)
- Vermont Fish and Wildlife

10/15 – Bedford, HRM 35: Despite the steady, sometimes strong south winds, we had a decent amount of birds today at the Bedford Audubon Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch. We counted 94 migrating raptors; sharp-shinned hawk was high count with 47. Migrating turkey vultures (99) made a big move as well. Through the morning, there was an impressive number of pine siskins moving with over 350 being seen passing the platform. Some flocks numbered up to 60 birds. Non-raptor migrants also included one monarch butterfly.
- Richard Aracil, Julia Berliner

10/15 – Hook Mountain, HRM 31: We counted 78 migrating raptors at the Hook Mountain Hawk Watch today. Sharp-shinned hawk was high count with 33. American kestrels were on the move (19 falcons) as well. Migrating turkey vultures (14) also showed well (plus four black vultures). Non-raptor migrants included butterflies: cabbage white, monarchs (4), buckeye, and painted lady (2).
- Trudy Battaly, Drew Panko, Avril Armstrong

10/15 – Yonkers, HRM 18: We returned to the Sarah Lawrence Center for the Urban River at Beczak today for remote programming and decided to take advantage of the absolutely gorgeous weather and go seining. The tide was near low at midday, and it was wonderful to feel fish in the net again.

Our catch was very diverse. Among the fishes were American eel, Atlantic silverside, mummichog, white perch, and young-of-year striped bass. Crustaceans included sand shrimp, shore shrimp, and blue crabs varying in size from a penny to a small crabapple. There were also ctenophores, including Leidy’s and Beroe’s comb jellies, and four moon jellyfish. The water temperature was 70 F, and the salinity was a whopping 16.5 ppt.
- Elisa Caref, Jay Muller

Crested Late-Summer mint10/15 – Manhattan, HRM 13.5: It was a perfect autumn day at Inwood Hill Park. On the inlet of Spuyten Duyvil Creek, the tide was low enough so that one little mud flat was exposed with a dozen mallards swimming in the adjacent open water. Along the shore, a yellow-rumped warbler was flitting through the mulberries. Virginia creeper was changing color and the smooth asters (Symphyotrichum laeve) at the Nature Center were now blooming. Although they get full sun, these blue asters bloom later than the smaller white wood asters up in the woods. Up on the ridge, I passed a chicken-of-the-woods at the base of an oak and came upon a sizable patch of crested late-summer mint (Elsholtzia ciliata). These are also called Vietnamese balm, an Asian immigrant that is often considered a noxious weed. Their unusual one-sided flower spikes look like blue-legged caterpillars. (Photo of crested late-summer mint courtesy of Thomas Shoesmith)
- Thomas Shoesmith

10/15 – 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 as part of our ongoing Live from the Field series. We caught young-of-year black sea bass (60 mm) and oyster toadfish (60 mm). However, the star of the lift was a hefty blackfish (350 mm).
- Siddhartha Hayes

10/16 – Saugerties, HRM 102: The male harbor seal that has found a home in Esopus Creek and vicinity was seen today (video from a kayak) at the head of tide, at the base of the dam, 1.25 miles upstream from the Hudson River. This was extraordinary Day 437 for the harbor seal in freshwater 113 miles from the sea.
- Bill Munzer

[This male harbor seal (Phoca vitulina), carrying a white tag on its rear flipper (#246) was rescued on April 28, 2018, from Lower Goose Island, Harpswell, Maine. The pup had been abandoned by its mother for reasons unknown, although it was suspected the pup may have been a premature birth. Medical rehabilitation followed at the Mystic (Connecticut) Aquarium Animal Rescue Program, and a satellite tag was applied before being released at Charlestown, Rhode Island, on January 17, 2019. Tom Lake]

Blueback herring10/16 – Kingston, HRM 92: The river off the beach at first gray light had a decidedly primeval feeling: Rain, fog, and the very damp and chilly air challenged the wool I wore. Looking through the gloom, I could barely see in the shallows just off the beach two common loons in their winter colors—gray and white—loons in the mist. They exchanged a few “hoots,” one of the several calls loons use to keep in contact in low-light conditions.

Seining seemed quite secondary to the ethereal moment, when our net captured young-of-year striped bass (60-62 mm), American shad (80-84 mm), and many hundreds of blueback herring (63-71 mm). The river was 62 degrees F. As we packed up to leave, a cold, stiff northeast wind came up sweeping the fog away and transforming the magic of the morning into what felt like a preview of winter. (Photo of blueback herring courtesy of Tom Lake)
- Tom Lake, A. Danforth

[During spring migration on the river, it is not uncommon to hear common loons giving their “wail,” a haunting call that loons give back and forth to figure out each other’s location. Tom Lake]

Great Blue Heron photo courtesy of Deborah Tracy Kral

Fall 2020 Natural History Programs

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