Hudson River Almanac 9/18/21 to 9/24/21

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Hudson River Almanac
September 18 to September 24, 2021

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

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Arguably, this week’s “highlight” is a cautionary tale of another invasive species poised to inflict much collective harm to our ecosystem. Please note the spotted lantern fly alert from the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets. The Saugerties-Esopus Creek harbor seal had officially returned, extending his Hudson River stay to more than two years.


spotted lanternfly9/19 – Hudson Valley: The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets (AGM) is asking for the public’s help in combating the Spotted Lanternfly (SLF), an invasive pest from Asia. Residents can help by surveying their properties and reporting sightings of SLF. If possible, collect the insect, place it in a plastic baggie, and take photos. If the insect cannot be caught, taking photos is still very helpful. The report can be entered using the web reporting tool found here.
For more information about spotted lanternfly please visit the AGM website. (Photo of Spotted Lanternfly courtesy of AGM.)

[The Spotted Lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) is native to China and was first detected in Pennsylvania in September 2014. Spotted lanternfly feeds on a wide range of fruit, ornamental and woody trees, with tree-of-heaven being one of the preferred hosts. Spotted lanternflies are invasive and can be spread long distances by people who move infested material or items containing egg masses. If allowed to spread in the United States, this pest could seriously impact the country’s grape, orchard, and logging industries. United States Department of Agriculture]


9/18 – Essex County: Recently, due to COVID restrictions, visits to Pyramid Life Center on Pyramid Lake were limited to registered program attendees, of which we were two.

mushroomsIt had been over a decade since I first encountered specimens there in the Boletus edulis [mushroom] complex that were so large they stopped me in my tracks and brought me to my knees. Today’s mushroom hunt along the northeastern shore of the lake once again yielded dramatic results of the same species, albeit not quite as impressive. However, these were much larger than specimens I typically find in Putnam County. Two of them were fresh, firm, and gorgeous; one of them was accompanied by two specimens of Suillus sp. of undetermined species. (Photo of Boletus edulis courtesy of Steve Rock.)
- Steve Rock

[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, forays and mushroom identification classes is an excellent way to begin to learn all that needs to be known before you should feel that you can competently and independently identify a mushroom as being safe and edible 100% of the time. Steve Rock]

9/18 – Saugerties, HRM 102: Day 25 was a day of confirmation for the harbor seal that had been seen almost daily for three weeks prior, either in Esopus Creek or in the Hudson River near the Saugerties Lighthouse. We saw him this afternoon as we were riding on a stand-up paddle board near the lighthouse. My son, Cricket, noticed him first as the seal approached. We could hear the seal’s breathing as he surfaced behind us, and then swimming past us several times allowing us to see that the white tag was still attached to his flipper. (Photo of harbor seal courtesy of Karalyn Lamb.)
- Patrick Landewe, Cricket Landewe

harbor seal[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.

Once released, the satellite tag imagery revealed that the seal traveled 81 miles up the Connecticut River to the Holyoke Dam, the first impassable barrier. The seal then reversed its course exiting downriver into Fishers Island Sound, across Long Island Sound, to the Peconic Bays before going offshore. The seal then traveled down along the south shore of Long Island into the New York Bight and eventually into the Hudson River estuary.

Heading upstream into freshwater on August 21, 2019, he found a home in Esopus Creek at Saugerties, river mile 102. For 620 days, the male harbor seal, a marine mammal more than 100 miles from the sea, was faithfully monitored by Patrick Landewe, Saugerties Lighthouse Keeper.

Then, in late April, he mysteriously disappeared for 123 days. There were a couple of seal sightings downriver in those 123 days, but nothing connecting them to the Saugerties seal. Then, on August 25, a seal was once again spotted in Esopus Creek. Subsequently, across 24 days, local sightings were also inconclusive as to whether this was the tagged harbor seal. Until today. He has now extended his Hudson River stay to 768 days. Tom Lake]

9/18 – Bedford, HRM 35: Among the 303 south-migrating raptors today at the Bedford Audubon Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch, broad-winged hawk was high count with 263; osprey was next with 15. Among the non-raptor migrants were monarch butterfly (43), common nighthawk (18; one wearing a transmitter), ruby-throated hummingbird (13), and cedar waxwing (29).
- Richard Aracil, Karen Troche, Pedro Troche, Tony Wilkinson

Pipevine Swallowtail9/18 – Hook Mountain, HRM 31: We counted 98 south-migrating raptors at the Hook Mountain Hawkwatch today. Broad-winged hawk was high count with 47; sharp-shinned hawk was next with 27. Ruby-throated hummingbird (6) led non-raptor bird migrants.

Butterflies included pipevine swallowtail (a rare sighting for Hook Mountain), monarchs (38), black swallowtail, eastern tiger swallowtail, spicebush swallowtail (less common than the previous two swallowtails), cabbage white, orange sulphur, summer azure, eastern tailed-blue, hackberry emperor, red-spotted purple, dun skipper, and a small number of unidentified butterflies that I believe may have been American lady or painted lady. Dragonflies included common green darner, wandering glider, and black saddlebags. (Photo of pipevine swallowtail courtesy of Edward Perry.)
- Tom Fiore, Carl Howard

9/19 – Little Stony Point, HRM 55: We embarked on our contribution to the 21st annual Hudson River Valley Ramble. It was one day before the full moon, and the extra high spring tides had lifted all manner of debris off the beach overnight, including uncountable numbers of water chestnut seeds, and drawn it all back into the river where our seine was certain to collect it. Brisk north winds and a strong moon-tide current added to our challenge.

Atlantic menhadenDespite the impediments, our talented crew of able seiners including Timmy Trapani, Tom Baudanza, Emanuel Ntone Edjabe, and the Jackson brothers, managed very well. Across seven seine-hauls, we collected young-of-year Atlantic menhaden, blueback herring, American shad, and striped bass, as well as adult spottail shiners, white perch, and nickel-size blue crabs. There were no showstoppers, but it was very representative of summer 2021: warm water (75 degrees Fahrenheit (F)), and barely measurable salt from the sea.

We then held our traditional “eel race.” There were only two eel entries today, fewer than usual, Hudson and Jeremy eel. After a spirited 30 seconds, Hudson won the race quite handily as Jeremy had a bit of trouble getting out of the starting gate. (Photo of Atlantic menhaden courtesy of Tom Lake.)
- Emanuel Ntone Edjabe, Rhodes Pitts, Seth Dinitz, Sylvia Wallin, T.R. Jackson, B.J. Jackson, Tom Lake

[Our traditional “eel race” has been an occasional part of our seining programs for many years, almost always when young students were in attendance. The eel race is best held on a sandy beach, preferably with a gentle slope to the water. Five-gallon buckets, a quarter-full of water, are lined up a short distance apart, parallel to and about fifteen feet from the water’s edge. An American eel (Anguilla rostrata), a special “racing eel,” is placed in each.

A group of eager students are assigned to each entry. Competing groups can be boys/girls, teachers/students, blue eyes/brown eyes, earth signs/sun signs, or any other meaningful assemblage. The eels are given honorary names like Eelie, Slimy, Snakey, or Fred, which makes cheering much easier. Today’s eels were named “Hudson” and “Jeremy”.

At the chosen moment the buckets are tipped over. The length of the race is a product of factors such as distance to travel, gradient of the beach, how well we watered the “racetrack” ahead of time, wind velocity, barometric pressure, enthusiasm of the cheering fans, and the individual eel’s competitive nature. With luck, and about twenty seconds, there is a winner. Tom Lake]

9/19 – Bedford, HRM 35: Among the 924 south-migrating raptors today at the Bedford Audubon Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch, broad-winged hawk was high count with an amazing 781; American kestrel was next with 63. Among the non-raptor migrants were monarch butterfly (102), ruby-throated hummingbird (10), common nighthawk (8), and cedar waxwing (207).
- Richard Aracil, Abbey Butler, Karen Troche, Pedro Troche, Tait Johansson

9/19 – Hook Mountain, HRM 31: We counted 195 south-migrating raptors at the Hook Mountain Hawkwatch today. Broad-winged hawk was high count with 101; sharp-shinned hawk was next with 41. Monarch butterfly (11) led non-raptor migrants.
- Felicia Napier, Steve Sachs, Tom Fiore, Tom Moran

9/19 – Yonkers, HRM 18: On a beautiful final day of our summer season at the Sarah Lawrence Center for the Urban River at Beczak, we hosted a teachers and educators training session in preparation for the 19th annual Day-in-the-Life of the River event on October 14. Our goal was to learn new skills or hone old ones.

Our seining netted a nice assemblage of fish and other animals that collectively hinted of good water quality. Salinity at 5.0 parts-per-thousand (ppt) and 8.9 parts-per-million(ppm) dissolved oxygen (DO) was enough to lure brackish-water fishes inshore, including (our high count) Atlantic silverside (41). We also caught American eel, young-of-year striped bass, and white perch.

Invertebrates included blue crabs, Leidy’s comb jellies, small moon jellyfish, and grass shrimp. A surprise was the turbidity with very low water clarity at 10-12 centimeters of visibility.
- Margie Turrin, Rebecca Houser, Jason Muller, Laurel Zaima

[On the same day, 37 miles upriver, we witnessed the same very low visibility. It was one day before the full moon and the extra high spring tides had lifted all manner of debris off the beach overnight, including uncountable numbers of water chestnut seeds, and drawn it all back into the river where our seine was certain to collect it. Brisk north winds and a strong moon-tide current added to our challenge. I concluded that at Little Stony Point, as well as the beach at Beczak, it was the strong moon tides and associated currents at play causing the low visibility. Tom Lake]

Leopard slug9/20 – Albany, HRM 145: The leopard slug (Limax maximus) is aptly named for its leopard patterned markings. Recently, I have seen very large specimens more than four-inches-long. Although they are invasive, they are not considered garden pests although they devour the shiitake mushrooms that I grow.

On the positive side, they are a natural enemy of the Spanish slug, a far more destructive species. Slugs can be deterred by putting down diatomaceous earth around garden beds. Strips of copper are also used.
These slugs move at a very rapid rate, for slugs (six-inches-per-minute) and it’s fascinating to see them explore the world ahead of them with their set of feelers. (Photo of leopard slug courtesy of Mario Meier.)
- Mario Meier

Bald Eagle9/20 – Town of Poughkeepsie: The adults at bald eagle nest NY62 were back in the vicinity after a very short absence. There was a time, twenty-years ago, when there were very few bald eagle nests in the entire Hudson Valley. In those early years (post-1997), once that year’s young were safely fledged, paired adults would "take off" from July until late December. With so few eagles around, they had little concern that another pair would claim their nest before they returned. The adults might travel up into New England, or south to the DelMarVa.

That has all changed. The density of bald eagles in the Hudson Valley is now nearly overwhelming. In addition to 30-35 or more nesting pairs, there are many new adults and unattached adults looming, lingering in the off-season. If the NY142 adults went too far afield, they might return to find their nest had been claimed. (Photo of bald eagle courtesy of Bob Rightmeyer.)
- Bob Rightmyer

9/20 – Bedford, HRM 35: Among the 171 south-migrating raptors today at the Bedford Audubon Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch, sharp-shinned hawk was high count with 71; broad-winged hawk was next with 45. With the southeast winds, the broad-winged hawk migration largely missed us, although we did manage to find a couple small kettles numbering no more than five birds each. Among the non-raptor migrants were monarch butterfly (77), cedar waxwing (53) and, for the first time this season, no ruby-throated hummingbirds.
- Richard Aracil, Abbey Butler, Tony Wilkinson

9/20 – Hook Mountain, HRM 31: We counted 448 south-migrating raptors at the Hook Mountain Hawkwatch today. Broad-winged hawk was high count with 289; sharp-shinned hawk was next with 105. We had a fair number of low or fairly low migratory raptors with not that many seen at extreme limit of un-aided vision. I would single out one of the many observers for sharp eyes: Eugene Gardner, who helped us with any number of more-distant birds or groups of raptors.

Ruby-throated hummingbird (6) led non-raptor bird migrants. Butterflies included monarchs (121), black swallowtail, eastern tiger swallowtail, cabbage white, Orange Sulphur, eastern tailed-blue, hackberry emperor, red-spotted purple, cloudless sulphur, and summer azure. Dragonflies included common green darner, wandering glider, black saddlebags, and one great spreadwing (photo-documented). This damselfly has been seen on Hook Mountain previously but is either rare or very uncommon in late summer and early fall.
- Tom Fiore, Frank Bonano, Vince Plogar

9/20 – Yonkers, HRM 18: Our Sarah Lawrence Center for the Urban River at Beczak staff had a very successful seining session today highlighted by an array of invertebrates. Among them were blue crabs, grass shrimp, penny-size moon jellyfish, and an impressive catch of comb jellies (26) including one the size of a Brussel sprout (large by Hudson River standards). The fish catch included American eel, Atlantic silverside, white perch, and young-of-year striped bass. The river was 74 degrees F, and the salinity was 8.2 ppt.
- Jason Muller, Sukaina Rashid

9/20 – Manhattan, HRM 2: Hudson River Park’s River Project staff checked the sampling and collection gear that we deploy off Pier 40 in Hudson River Park. Today’s catch included two handsome oyster toadfish (90-200 mm), two black sea bass (60-65 mm) and two young-of-year bluefish (120-140 mm).
- Toland Kister, Natalie Kim

[One inch = 25.4 millimeters (mm)]

9/21 – Hudson River Watershed: Fish-of-the-Week for Week 139 is the Atlantic croaker (Micropogonias undulatus) number 193 (of 235), on our Hudson River Watershed List of Fishes. If you would like a copy of our list, e-mail:

Atlantic Croaker (fish)[The Atlantic croaker is one of seven members of the drum family (Sciaenidae) found in our watershed, some of which have specially developed swim or air bladders that can produce a “croaking” or “drum” sound. Others include, freshwater drum, silver perch, weakfish, spot, northern kingfish, and black drum. In the field, distinguishing among some the drums can be a challenge. Croaker characteristics include three to five pairs of small barbels or "whiskers." Their trivial name undulatus translates from Latin as “wavy,” a tribute to their subtle color pattern, an adaption for concealment which allows them to dissolve into background shadows.

Croakers, known colloquially to anglers as “hardheads,” are found along the Atlantic coast from Massachusetts to the Gulf of Mexico but are more common in the southern end of their range. Adults occur over mud and sandy-mud bottoms in coastal waters and in estuaries where their nursery and feeding grounds are located. They feed mainly on worms, crustaceans and fishes. They are not uncommon in the lower Hudson River estuary from summer through early autumn. The largest croakers can reach 18-24-inches and weigh just over two pounds. (Photo of Atlantic croaker courtesy of Tom Lake.)
- Tom Lake

9/21 – Bedford, HRM 35: Among the 62 south-migrating raptors today at the Bedford Audubon Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch, sharp-shinned hawk was high count with 24; American kestrel was next with 12. High count among the non-raptor migrants was monarch butterfly (16).
- Tait Johansson, Abbey Butler, Pedro Troche

Atlantic silverside9/21 – Yonkers, HRM 18: Across five seine hauls today on the final day of summer, our Sarah Lawrence Center for the Urban River at Beczak staff found the fauna of the Tappan Zee still in full summer mode. As has been the case for months, Atlantic silverside (137) dominated our catch. Although in lesser numbers, young-of-year striped bass (75 mm) represented the future of the Tappan Zee for seasons to come. Again today, invertebrates made an impression, including moon jelly fish and comb jellies. The river was 74 degrees F, and salinity had risen to 10.62 ppt. (Photo of Atlantic silverside courtesy of Tom Lake.)
- Jason Muller, Anna Mitchell, Bella Biane, Ishika Joshi

9/21 – Manhattan, HRM 2: Hudson River Park’s River Project staff checked the sampling and collection gear that we deploy off Pier 40 in Hudson River Park. One freshly-moulted blue crab (130 mm) and three black sea bass (45-70 mm) were waiting for us in our traps today.
-Natalie Kim, Yaritza Morales

[A freshly-moulted blue crab is referred to as a soft-shell, highly prized in commercial markets. As crustaceans, blue crabs have an exoskeleton and must shed their shell from time to time to accommodate a growing body inside. The new paper-thin soft shell takes 1-2 days to harden depending upon water temperature—the warmer the water, the quicker it will harden. While they are in soft-shell, they are extremely vulnerable to predation, unable to use their crushing claws. - Tom Lake]

[Blue crab measurements (size) are taken in millimeters (mm) point-to-point cross their carapace. Tom Lake]

9/22 – Cornwall Landing, HRM 57: It was the first evening of autumn. A strong east wind from over the Highlands pushed the tide up on the beach and made our 88-foot seine a sail at times. The beach at Cornwall Landing, snug under Storm King Mountain, is a half-tide beach. If you set a net at high tide, it will feel as though you are laying it off the railroad tracks. At low tide, you get mired knee-deep in a substrate of silt, sand, and mud.

Evening turned to night, and the beach became a lighter shade of black. This beach is one of the very few spots on the river where we can almost always expect to catch young-of-year America shad. And tonight, did not disappoint. Each haul contained several shad (74-85 mm) among equal numbers of young-of-year blueback herring (55-60 mm). The river was 75 degrees F, with not a trace of salinity.
- Tom Lake, A. Danforth

Haul seining historical photo[A hundred years ago, night fishing on the estuary was common. During the spring run of shad and striped bass, commercial rivermen would go to the river, the darker the better, and lay out their seines, some nearly a mile-long including the head ropes. Then came the labor of many to haul the net ashore. Henry Gourdine used to remark that these men, including himself, had “... strong arms, a strong back, and weak minds.” Catches of 1,000 striped bass and as many shad in a single haul were commonplace. With lanterns on the beach, the men would process and ice their catch hoping to finish in time to make the next tide. 

In a symbolic effort to rekindle this atmosphere, twenty years ago Chris Letts and I ran our own version of night seining at Croton Point (river mile 35). Henry Gourdine had built a 300-foot seine for us for the occasion. It became an annual public event in mid-September, on a dark and starry night, that lured hundreds to the beach. We would line up several Coleman lanterns on the sand. One of us would then haul an end, striking out into the dark water eventually beyond the light of the lanterns and the sight of onlookers. For those on the beach the anticipation was intense. Would we catch enormous numbers of fish? Would there be strange and wonderful fishes from the sea? Would Tom ever emerge out of the blackness? At one time or another, all three would occur.

What did we learn? The high-end predators came out at night. Bluefish with bunker tails sticking out of their mouths were common. This was the only place and time that we ever caught weakfish (Cynoscion regalis) and adult summer flounder in the lower estuary. These were magical moments on those cool autumn nights. (Photo of haul seining at Cornwall Landing courtesy of the Florida Historical Society.) Tom Lake]

9/22 – Manhattan, HRM 2: Hudson River Park’s River Project staff checked the sampling and collection gear that we deploy off Pier 40 in Hudson River Park. Today’s haul included a young-of-year black sea bass (50 mm) and an adult blackfish (340 mm).
-Natalie Kim, Yaritza Morales

9/23 – Manhattan, New York City: Randall’s Island Park Alliance staff conducted a windy waterbird survey today with winds reaching 14-miles-per-hour at the southern end of the Island. We did not encounter very many waterbirds; we didn't even see the customary double-crested cormorants that like to sit on the rocky outcroppings.

Even so, we were fortunate to spot a belted kingfisher at both the western end of the Bronx Kill as well as the Little Hell Gate Salt Marsh. There were at least 3 that hung around the island last winter. We also saw a great blue heron at the western end of the Bronx Kill. It had been a while since we had seen one on the island. At the Little Hell Gate Salt Marsh, we also came upon a snowy egret on a low branch as well as a juvenile black-crowned and a yellow-crowned night heron. Lastly, a red-tailed hawk swooped into a tree right as we were about to leave. Perhaps it's the same one we spotted a few days ago with a fresh rat kill.
- Jackie Wu, Doug Kenney

9/24 – Staatsburg, HTM 85: Yesterday we set a fyke net in the Enderkill, a Hudson River tributary at Norrie Point, to sample for “silver eels,” the mature life stage of the American eel. Silver eels are known to migrate during overnight rain events, so that is when we deploy the net.

This morning, we emptied the net and counted the fish we caught. They included 83 pumpkinseed sunfish, 62 bluegill sunfish, seven redbreast sunfish, six brown bullheads, two smallmouth bass, a white sucker, and a tessellated darter. Other animals in the net included a northern water snake, a spiny-cheek crayfish, eight blue crabs (seven males, one female), and two eels. Both eels displayed characteristics of mature silver eels in color, larger eye, and pectoral fin size.

One eel had been tagged upstream in August and showed distinct movement downstream (heading out of the stream towards the river and the sea), as well as increase in eye and pectoral fin size since the summer.
- Sarah Mount, Kate Cooper, Trevorneize Green, Audrey Trossen, Sarah Stopak, Maija Niemisto, Aidan Mabey, Bob Schmidt, Alec Schmidt, Julie Hart, Chris Petty

["Silver eel" is the name of the sexually mature adult life stage of the American eel. Silver eels go through physiological changes to prepare for their migration back to the sea where they were born, and where they will spawn and die. These changes include an increase in eye and pectoral fin size, and color changes (from the green/yellow/brown colors of a freshwater resident eel to a starker contrast of black on their back and white on their bellies), and internally, the development of gonads and atrophy of the digestive tract. These are adaptations to aid the eels in their journey to the deep, dark waters of their Atlantic spawning grounds, the location of which are still a mystery. Sarah Mount]

9/24 – Manhattan, HRM 2: Hudson River Park’s River Project staff checked the sampling and collection gear that we deploy off Pier 40 in Hudson River Park. Today we collected two gorgeous adult blackfish (310-335 mm), a blue crab (100 mm), and a black sea bass (85 mm).
-Natalie Kim, Yaritza Morales

children and adult seining

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.

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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.