Black Bears

Project of the Hudson River Estuary Program

Compiled and edited by Tom Lake, Consulting Naturalist

This was a week when the first of our amphibians risked their life and limb to get to the “other side.” This week’s full moon brought us a little more than usual, as well. And, with many bald eagle nests incubating, we begin to do the math on when hatches may occur.

Highlight of the Week

2/29 – Little Stony Point, HRM 55: We were on our second day of nearly sustained 40-45 miles-per-hour northwest winds. The result, early this morning, was a blowout-tide. Low tide had been at 5:03 a.m. and the wind just kept pushing the river out. Remnants, timbers of derelict hundred-year-old wooden quarry-ore barges, lay settled in the mud. This was the lowest tide I had ever seen.– Seth Dinitz, Ellie Dinitz

Blowout tide

Blowout tide – courtesy of Seth Dinitz

[Blowout tides are not common. They are a phenomena that occurs when strong and persistent seaward winds blow the water out of a waterway (Stevens Flood Advisory System, Stony Brook University). This culminates in an ebb tide that seems to go on forever toward the sea, draining tide marshes and inshore shallows, giving us a glimpse of seldom seen parts of the river bottom. -Tom Lake]

Natural History Entries

2/23 – Town of Wawayanda, HRM 47: There was a frosty drizzle at first light. Heavy fog had settled on a field of winter rye and a light breeze gave it the haunting effect of Brigadoon. Where there had been 4,000 wintering snow geese five days earlier, this morning there were only four, but no less resplendent—in the even light they seemed to glow. Were these laggards? Or snow geese given to independent thought. Finding wintering snow geese in the Back Dirt Region of Orange County is an annual treat. – Tom Lake

Snow geese

Snow geese – courtesy of Matt Zeitler

[In 2004, I was part of Cultural Resource Assessment team that conducted archaeology in the next field over from the geese. We recovered evidence of a seasonal human presence there beginning more than 5,000 years ago. As I absorbed the sounds and beauty of this moment, I wondered if those hunters and gatherers passing through winters long ago felt a similar sense of awe. -Tom Lake]

Netsinkers and Vosburg projectile point

Netsinkers and Vosburg projectile point – courtesty of Tom Lake

2/24 – Manhattan, HRM 1-2: Dinoflagellates are weird in a couple of ways. For starters, they are characterized by the presence of two flagella, which are whirling hairlike structures used to move up and down in the water column. While this ability to move may sound entirely un-plantlike, that is only the beginning of how this group defies our expectations of a photosynthetic organism.

Many dinoflagellate species are capable of both performing photosynthesis as well as feeding on other organisms, classifying them as mixotrophs. In their own way, they are a bit like microscopic Venus fly traps—they will soak in the sun and do photosynthesis when light and nutrients are available, but many species will resort to eating other organisms when low light, low nutrients, or other conditions limit their rate of growth and reproduction. Some dinoflagellates even act as tiny plant-vampires, sucking out chloroplasts from other phytoplankton to use in their own bodies.– Toland Kister

Dinoflagellate

Dinoflagellate (Tripos macroceros) – courtesy of Toland Kister

2/24 – Hudson River Watershed: Among indigenous peoples, full moons have long been labeled with fanciful names that are rooted in oral traditions, indigenous memories, and ethnographic accounts. Among Mohican people, whose ancestral homeland lies wholly within the Hudson River watershed, the February full moon is known as the Deep Snow Moon (Mo’che osãane keesook). Tribal translations of full moons pre-date colonization and generally reflect the seasonality of the lunar phase. Moon phases, in fact, are used by indigenous people as measurements of time.– Larry Madden

Odysseus Moon Lander

Odysseus Moon Lander – courtesy of NASA

[This full moon brought with it the first American vehicle to land on the moon since the Apollo 17 mission December 7-19, 1972. This was the Odysseus Moon Mission Lander, a 14-foot tall, six-sided cylinder with six landing legs built by Intuitive Machines of Houston. The landing site was an impact crater close to the moon’s south pole called Malapert A, an area characterized by treacherous and rocky terrain. – NASA]

2/25 – Newburgh, HRM 61: I went to Newburgh Waterfront Park to try one more time for the Wilson’s Warbler. Well, I guess five times was the charm, because not only did I get the bird, but it also posed for photos. Otherwise, it was the usual, including the ruby-crowned kinglet that has been at that spot for a while now. – Matt Zeitler

Wilson's warbler

Wilson’s warbler – courtesy of Matt Zeitler

2/26 – Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: The adult bald eagles at the “Bridge Nest,” NY459, on the tidal Wappinger Creek, were finally incubating. If our calculations are accurate, we may expect a hatch during March 27-30. – Judy Winter

Bald eagles NY459

Bald eagles NY459 – courtesy of Judy Winter

2/26 – Hook Mountain, HRM 31: We counted 21 northward bound raptors at the Hook Mountain Hawkwatch. Red-shouldered hawk was high count with 18. The others were red-tailed hawk. Turkey vulture (24) was the numerical high count among non-raptor migrants. No bald eagles or peregrine falcon were seen on the day, slightly unusual not to see either species in five hours at Hook Mountain with the sun out. – Tom Fiore

Fish of the Week

2/27 – Hudson River Watershed: Fish-of-the-Week for Week 258 is the spot (Leiostomus xanthurus), number 191 (of 237) on our watershed list of fishes. If you would like a copy of our list, e-mail – trlake7@nullaol.com.

Spot is one of seven members of the drum family (Sciaenidae) in our watershed. Others include freshwater drum, weakfish, silver perch, northern kingfish, Atlantic croaker, and black drum. Except for the freshwater drum, a freshwater fish introduced from the Midwest, they are all saltwater species found seasonally in the brackish reach of the estuary (spot are designated as a seasonally resident marine species). Some of the Sciaenids (drums) have a highly specialized swim bladder that serves as a sound-producing organ. This has led to their colloquial name of “drum.”

Spot, a favorite recreational species, is a small fish not often exceeding ten-inches or weighing more than a pound. They range from Massachusetts to the Gulf of Mexico (their Type Site is “the Carolinas”) and are found over sandy or muddy bottoms in coastal waters. They are benthic (bottom) foragers feeding on worms and small crustaceans such as Amphipods, shrimp (Palaemonetes sp.), and mud crabs (Panopeidae).

Spot have lent their presence to the lore and legend of Hudson River. When I fished commercially, a while ago, for American shad, I paid close attention to the veterans who plied their trade on the water. I frequently heard the name “Lafayettes” from well-seasoned fishermen. I learned that this was a colloquial name for a somewhat ephemeral fish called the spot. While the colloquial name has since faded out of memory, the story remains legendary.

After a long absence of spot in the Hudson River, “a great run of spot” from temperate waters down the coast came into the lower Hudson River in 1824. Their arrival coincided with a visit from France’s Marquis de Lafayette, a hero of the American Revolution. The Marquis was invited to Manhattan for a parade in his honor to show America’s gratitude for his effort on behalf of the Colonies in the American Revolution. A further honor was bestowed on the Marquis when Leiostomus xanthurus, the spot, became known as the “Lafayette.”

In recent times, the presence of spot in the river has been sporadic as evidenced by a near absence in the New York Bight from the late 1920s until 1976 (Briggs and Waldman 2002). Following a modest return, they all but disappeared again. We now see a modest number each summer, caught in seines from the lower estuary into the East River.

An exception occurred in June 2019, when several young-of-year spot (36 mm) were caught in a seine, among clouds of killifish, seemingly out of place in freshwater at Hathaway’s Glen, Orange County, river mile 62. Hathaway’s Glen is the terminus of a small, cold water brook, a tributary of the Hudson, that spills down the fall line into a short run to the river. The broad beach at Hathaway’s Glen is a strand, and in the ebbing tide it rises out of the river like a leviathan.– Tom Lake

Spot (Leiostomus xanthurus)

Spot (Leiostomus xanthurus) – courtesy of ElizaBeth Streifeneder

2/28 – Waterford, HRM 158: I checked bald eagle nest NY485 on Peebles Island today. I found one of the adults perched in a nearby hardwood and, after a half hour of watching, I spotted the other adult on the nest, clearly in incubation. I’m counting February 27 as the start. If our calculations are accurate, we may expect a hatch during March 29 – April 1.– Howard Stoner

2/27 – Town of Warwick, HRM 41: I was at the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge near Pine Island in late afternoon scouting a location to place an acoustic recorder to monitor frog and bird calls at the Liberty Loop trailhead. A friendly birder asked if I had seen the sandhill cranes. She pointed out into the wetland where I counted five of them just southeast of the trailhead. One of the cranes let out an amazing rattling sound that wouldn’t seem out of place at the start of a parade. – Patrick Baker

Sandhill crane

Sandhill crane – courtesy of Terry Hardy

2/27 – Town of Lloyd, HRM 75: I walked the half-mile stretch of North Elting Corners Road this evening that I monitor each year as part of the NYSDEC Amphibian Migrations and Road Crossings Project. Conditions were highly favorable with an air temperature of 54 degrees F and light rain. I moved seven spring peepers, four wood frogs, two four-toed salamanders, and one juvenile spotted salamander across the road. I also came upon at least as many amphibians of the same or similar species that did not make it across having been struck by vehicles. – Patrick Baker

Wood frog

Wood frog – courtesy of Mary Holland

2/27– Hudson River Watershed: Why do amphibians cross the road?Most of our salamanders and frogs migrate from their wintering site in uplands to the wetland or aquatic habitat where they breed and lay eggs each spring. Frequently roads cross these migration routes resulting in road mortality which primarily occur on rainy night when the temperature is above 41 degrees F.

Looking at the data collected during the 10-year Herp Atlas Project, the species most frequently encountered as DORs (Dead-on-Road) are the species that winter in upland, wooded habitat and breed in vernal pools. Spotted salamanders are the Northeast’s poster HERP for these spring migrants, but we also experience high numbers of DORs of wood frog, spring peeper, red-spotted newts, American toads, and other species. There is a second smaller peak of DORs from late summer into fall when the adults and recently transformed larvae move back to their upland habitat. – Al Breisch

Spring peeper

Spring peeper – courtesy of Deborah Tracy Kral

2/27 – Yonkers, HRM 18: Our research and education team at the Sarah Lawrence Center for the Urban River at Beczak checked our tidemarsh fyke net for glass eels this morning. The low tide may have helped as we netted 150 glass eels as well as three Atlantic herring (25 mm). The water temperature had risen to 40 degrees F, the salinity was 9.1 parts-per-thousand (ppt), and the dissolved oxygen (DO) was 11.5 parts-per-million (ppm).–  Jason Muller, Frances Kenney, Sarah Babyak, Jordyn Medina, Charlotte Reynolds, Jacob Martin

2/28 – Yonkers, HRM 18: Our research and education team at the Sarah Lawrence Center for the Urban River at Beczak, along with the EELS Team of Yonkers High School Students, returned to our tidemarsh to check our fyke net. We found 29 glass eels, two Atlantic herring (20 mm), and a winter flounder. The water temperature had risen to 44 degrees F, the salinity was 7.5 ppt, and the dissolved oxygen (DO) was 10.5 ppm.– Jason Muller, Fiona Goodman

2/29 – Yonkers, HRM 18: Our research and education team at the Sarah Lawrence Center for the Urban River at Beczak, along with the EELS Team of Yonkers High School Students returned to our tidemarsh this morning in a gusty wind and a very low tide (blowout tide) to check our fyke net. Raucous water often brings the best result with collection gear and today we found 142 glass eels. The water temperature was 41 degrees F, the salinity was 5.4 ppt, and the dissolved oxygen (DO) was 11.8 ppm. – Jason Muller, Fiona Goodman

3/1 – Yonkers, HRM 18: Our research and education team at the Sarah Lawrence Center for the Urban River at Beczak ended a busy week of mixed success with our catches by returning to our tidemarsh to check our fyke net. The results were meager, just a single glass eel. Did the dropping water temperature and lowered salinity contribute? We did catch one mummichog (Fundulus heteroclitus). The water temperature was 39 degrees F, the salinity was 5.4 ppt, and the dissolved oxygen (DO) was 11.8 ppm. – Jason Muller, Caitlin McCabe, Louisa Hausslein, Diane McKay

Beroes comb jelly

Beroes comb jelly – courtesy of Andrew Martinez

3/1 – Yonkers, HRM 18: After a rather empty net morning, or research and education team at the Sarah Lawrence Center for the Urban River at Beczak hauled our seine to the mid-tide beach this afternoon to see what was home. We made five hauls of our net and managed just a single (dime-sized) comb jelly. The water temperature was 39 degrees F, the salinity was 4.8 ppt, and the dissolved oxygen (DO) was 11.8 ppm.– Jason Muller, Caitlin McCabe, Louisa Hausslein, Diane McKay

Red eft

Red eft

Winter 2024 Natural History Programs and Events

Science Saturdays at Norrie Point Environmental Education Center

Norrie Point Environmental Education Center will be hosting “Science Saturdays”. Events are free and open to the public. Please visit our website for more information.

March 9, 2024 11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. Come learn the basics of how you can make your own maple syrup. This family-friendly program will demonstrate how to identify a maple tree, tap the tree, and boil the sap down to syrup. There will be samples of syrup for tasting. Afterward, enjoy your own self-guided hike at beautiful Mills Norrie Point State Park.

Upcoming dates:

    • April 6, 10 a.m.-12 p.m.: Vernal Pool Exploration
    • May 4, 9 a.m.-12 p.m.: I Love My Park Day
    • June 8, 11 a.m.-1 p.m.: Get Outdoors Day

Learn More

Conserving New York’s Rarest Rabbit – The New England Cottontail

March 9, 2024 2:00 p.m.Desmond Fish Library in Harrison. Free.Putnam Highlands Audubon Society.Conserving New York’s Rarest Rabbit – the New England Cottontail,with NYSDEC biologist Dr. Susan Booth-Binczik.

Volunteer for the Amphibian Migration & Road Crossing Project

Join the DEC Hudson River Estuary Program and Cornell University for a virtual training for the Amphibian Migrations & Road Crossings (AM&RC) Project, a community science project based in the Hudson Valley. AM&RC volunteers conduct road surveys on rainy nights in late winter and early spring, to document the annual migrations of forest amphibians to vernal pools for breeding. This training will serve as an introduction to new participants and a refresher for returning volunteers.

Volunteer for the Hudson River Striped Bass Cooperative Angler Program

Do you fish for striped bass in the Hudson River? Whether you catch-and-release or take home a keeper, you can be part of the Cooperative Angler Program. Share your fishing trip information and help biologists understand and manage our striped bass fishery.

Here’s how it works:

  • Fill out a logbook we provide or record your trips on your smartphone using DEC’s Hudson River online logbook (PDF) whenever you fish on the tidal Hudson River (by boat or on the shore);
  • Record general location, time, gear used, what you caught (or if you didn’t catch anything); and
  • Return the logbook when you are done fishing.

Join today! For more information on the angler program and instructions on installing the Survey123 App to access the online logbook, visit Hudson River Cooperative Angler webpage or email hudsonangler@nulldec.ny.gov.

Note: If you primarily fish for striped bass in New York waters south of the George Washington Bridge, the DEC has a separate Striped Bass Cooperative Anglers Program.

Volunteer for the Hudson River Eel Project

We are seeking volunteers to help study eels in streams of the Hudson River estuary! Volunteers check specialized nets for young transparent “glass eels” as they enter freshwater from their spawning grounds over 1,000 miles away in the Atlantic Ocean. Eels are counted, weighed, and released upstream, and environmental conditions are recorded. Sample sites include streams from NYC to near Albany, and all gear is provided.

If you’re interested in participating, email eelproject@nulldec.ny.gov and include where you live and a little bit about yourself, so we can match you with the best nearby site. For more information, visit the Hudson River Eel Project webpage.

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

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 trlake7@nullaol.com.

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Helpful Resources

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, and Wildlife App.