Black Bears

Project of the Hudson River Estuary Program

Compiled and edited by Tom Lake, Consulting Naturalist

After a sluggish start to spring with low water temperatures and very low salinity in the Tappan Zee, the estuary has warmed and become seasonally salty. This sems to have triggered some impressive catches by educators and biologists throughout the estuary. In the uplands, nesting bald eagles were still doing well and, in the air, spring migration of returning raptors has all but concluded.

Highlight of the Week

5/2 – Newburgh, HRM 61: In late afternoon, I came upon a neotropic cormorant (Nannopterum brasilianum) perched on a piling on the Newburgh waterfront near the New York Waterways Ferry. This was the third year in a row I have found this rare species at the Newburgh Waterfront.

My 2022 sighting of the neotropic cormorant (first of three) was a first sighting for not only Orange County but for the entire Hudson River Valley. They are the most widespread species of cormorant in the Americas from the mid-south U.S., through the Caribbean, to Cape Horn at the tip of South America.
– Bruce Nott

Neotropic cormorant

Neotropic cormorant – courtesy of Bruce Nott

Natural History Entries

4/28 – Town of Newburgh, HRM 60: I did my usual running around the county looking for birds today—there are plenty of new birds around. I added eleven new species to my Orange County year-list, one of which was a black-crowned night heron at the mouth of Quassaick Creek. These days that’s a pretty good bird for the county, and it’s been seen in that location now for several years.
– Matt Zeitler

Black-crowned night heron

Black-crowned night heron – courtesy of Matt Zeitler

4/29 – Little Stony Point, HRM 55: On the beach today, we found an uncommon combination of a perfect tide, current, wind, and warmth (56 degree Fahrenheit water) for seining. We hauled with the last of the down-tide and intercepted what seemed to be less of a school and more like a pulse of young-of-year bay anchovies (25-35 millimeters). They had come in from the sea, heading upriver, not to spawn but to “summer” in the plankton-rich freshwater (they are filter-feeders) of the estuary. We netted and later released several hundred and a like-number made it through the quarter-inch mesh of our seine and wiggled back into the shallows. We also found a dozen or more yearling striped bass (class of 2023) in our net (70-90 mm).
– Tom Lake, Seth Dinitz, Ellie Dinitz.

[Note: One-inch equals 25.4 millimeters (mm). Tom Lake]

[In some seasons, the bay anchovy (Anchoa mitchilli) is the dominant [fish] species in the Hudson River estuary (W.L. Dovel 1977).]

Bay anchovy

Bay anchovy – courtesy of Tommy Jackson

4/29 – Hook Mountain, HRM 31: We counted 184 northward bound raptors at the Hook Mountain Hawkwatch today. Broad-winged hawk was high count with 143. Sharp-shinned hawk was next with 17.

Among non-raptor migrants, turkey vulture was high count with 65. A local peregrine falcon came through at high speed, eye-level, and performed a few dizzying aerodynamic displays. 
– Tom Fiore, Kristine Wallstrom

4/29 – Yonkers, HRM 18: Our research and education team at the Sarah Lawrence Center for the Urban River at Beczak, with enthusiastic assistance from a third-grade class from Manhattan’s Dalton School, made nine hauls of our beach seine today at mid-tide. Our catch was highlighted by our first striped bass of the year as well as three (young-of-the-winter) Atlantic herring. The river was 54 degrees Fahrenheit (F), the salinity was 4.6 parts-per-thousand (ppt), and the dissolved oxygen (DO) was 9.6 parts-per-million (ppm).
– Amy Lienert, Emily Orr, Katie Lamboy, Suzy Schwimmer

4/29 – Manhattan, HRM 1-2: Our Hudson River Park’s River Project staff and interns checked our research gear (pots and traps) that we deploy at Piers 26 and 40 as part of our fish ecology survey. It seemed to us that the fish must be enjoying the spring (warming river) as much as we were, as we caught a variety of species in our traps. Among the fishes was a ten-inch American eel (260 mm), a cunner (135 mm), two tautog (190-210 mm), and three amazing, lined seahorses (50-65 mm).
– Toland Kister, Sierra Drury, Laila Ortiz

4/30 – Sullivan County, HRM 94: A brilliant blue male indigo bunting came to our bird feeder today in Bethel (two miles from the original 1969 Woodstock site). The sighting generated an honest: “Wow!”

Recently, we have also had rose-breasted grosbeaks among several other common visitors. Our feeder is cone-shaped with seed on the top and suet underneath. The indigo bunting would fly in from a tree about 15 feet from our deck. I was super excited and tried to contain my enthusiasm, otherwise I would have scared the bird off.
– Susan Brown Otto

[Indigo buntings are found in eastern North America extending west to the Black Hills of South Dakota and the Great Plains. They winter from Middle America south to the Caribbean, Mexico, and Panama. Roger Tory Peterson]

Indigo bunting

Indigo bunting – courtesy of Susan Brown Otto

4/30 – Hudson River Watershed: This entry requires some background regarding how we see and classify wildlife (nature). Keeping with the theme, we have made note of some changes (through taxonomy) in our Hudson River Watershed List of Fishes.

Taxonomy is the practice and science of categorization or classification of organisms. Put more succinctly, taxonomy creates order out of chaos. Eighteenth-century Swedish physician and botanist Carl von Linnaeus is the founder of the modern system of binomial nomenclature (Genus, Species). His major work, Systema Naturae (1735), created a series of hierarchical classification: Domain, Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, and Species. Most scientists in biological disciplines follow Linnaeus’ protocols.

Presently, there is a comprehensive assessment of genus Notropis by ichthyologists from which several new Genera have been designated.

  • Ironcolor shiner is now Alburnops chalybaeus. (formerly Notropis chalybaeus)..
  • Sand shiner is now Miniellus stramineus (formerly Notropis stramineus).
  • Spottail shiner is now Hudsonius hudsonius (formerly Notropis hudsonius).

The last of the three, spottail shiner, is of most interest to the Hudson River. DeWitt Clinton (previously the sixth governor of New York State) described the spottail shiner to science in1824 (the spottail shiner’s type site is the Hudson River), and named the fish Clupea hudsonia, as a tribute to the river.
– Tom Lake

4/30 – Yonkers, HRM 18: Our research and education team at the Sarah Lawrence Center for the Urban River at Beczak, with enthusiastic assistance from a second-grade class from Manhattan’s Bank Street School, made nine hauls of our beach seine this morning at mid-tide. Our catch was highlighted by six Atlantic herring, a species that was quite rare in the Hudson River until a decade ago, when young-of-year began to appear. The reason for this increased presence may be traced to population dynamics, Gulf Stream alterations, or some other favorable ecological change.
– Christina Edsall, Amy Lienert, Emily Orr, Suzy Schwimmer

Yonkers, HRM 18: In the afternoon, our research and education team at the Sarah Lawrence Center for the Urban River at Beczak returned to our tidemarsh at high tide to begin our 15h week of sampling for glass eels with our fyke net. Our catch of glass eels (48) remained high, especially for late April. The cod end of the fyke had overnight also collected an elver (last year’ glass eel), three grass shrimp, and a white-fingered mud crab, The river temperature was 58 degrees F, the salinity was 5.2 ppt, and the dissolved oxygen (DO) was 9.4 ppm. 
– Jason Muller, Frances Kenney, Maria Cecconello, Jacob Martin

5/1 – Hudson River Estuary: The NYSDEC has announced new recreational fishing regulations for striped bass in the Hudson River for the 2024 season. Effective May 1, striped bass caught in the Hudson River and tributaries north of the George Washington Bridge may only be kept if they are between 23 inches and 28 inches long. The Hudson River striped bass fishing season and bag limit remains unchanged, with targeted angling allowed between April 1 and November 30 and a one fish bag limit.

For current fishing limits, check DEC’s Recreational Saltwater Fishing Regulations. Anglers must enroll in the annual no-fee Recreational Marine Fishing Registry before fishing New York’s Marine and Coastal District waters or when fishing in the Hudson River and its tributaries for “migratory fish of the sea.” Anglers can enroll for the registry online, by phone (1-866-933-2257, option 2), or by visiting a license-issuing agent location.
– NYSDEC

Striped bass

Striped bass – courtesy of Richard Pendleton

5/1– Hudson River Estuary: In many places along the estuary, lilacs (Syringa sp.) were now in bloom. In the era of commercial fishing for American shad (Colonial times until 2010), lilac was the final meaningful bloom of spring, a temporal marker, a progression that had begun with shadbush in early April.

Lilac time meant the river was warming. Primarily “backrunners” were filling the nets—spawned shad heading back to the sea that had no commercial value. Following soon after the lilacs, shad nets would be stowed for the year and replaced by pots and traps for blue crabs.
– Tom Lake

Lilacs

Lilacs – courtesy of Dan Gilchrist

5/1 – Yonkers, HRM 18:  Our research and education team at the Sarah Lawrence Center for the Urban River at Beczak, with assistance from high school students from Yonkers Montessori Academy, returned to our tidemarsh at low tide to check our fyke net. Glass eels numbers had fallen to 17, a dip that had been expected as the season was winding down. Our one non-eel fish was an Atlantic herring. The river was 56 degrees F, salinity was 5.3 ppt, and the dissolved oxygen (DO) was 9.3 ppm. 
– Jason Muller

5/1 – Manhattan, HRM 1-2: Our Hudson River Park’s River Project staff and interns checked our research gear (pots and traps) that we deploy at Piers 26 and 40 as part of our fish ecology survey. Staff and interns on. Today’s catch, a beautiful spring day, included four tautog (150-260 mm), three black sea bass (65-85 mm) and our first oyster toadfish (260 mm) of the season.
– Avalon Daly, Siddhartha Hayes, Brandon Campos, Renee Mariner

[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 and 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 fishes. – Tom Lake]

Tautog

Tautog – with permission by Chesapeake Bay Program

5/2 – Hudson River Watershed: Our northern population of red admiral butterflies (Vanessa atalanta) migrates to southern states in the fall. Over the winter, a new generation of red admirals mature to fly north in early spring. They can be seen now feeding on dandelions and other early-blooming flowers as well as sap and bird droppings.

Adult red admirals live for about two weeks and during this time they mate and lay their green, hairy eggs on all species of nettle, where they are well camouflaged. Black, spiky larvae hatch and feed voraciously on nettle plants before pupating and emerging as vibrant orange-striped, white-spotted adult butterflies. There are two summer generations in the Northeast. Male red admirals are highly territorial, which is why they are commonly encountered chasing each other from their preferred roosting spots.
– Mary Holland

Red admiral

Red admiral – courtesy of Mary Holland

Fish of the Week

5/2 – Hudson River Watershed: Fish-of-the-Week for Week 267 is the seaboard goby (Gobiosoma ginsburgi), number 214 (of 236) on our watershed list of fishes.

In this issue of the Almanac, we note three changes to our Checklist of Fishes. If you would like a copy of the new, updated list, please e-mail – trlake7@nullaol.com.

Seaboard goby is a temperate marine stray in our watershed and one of three members of the recently downsized goby family (Gobiidae). The others are the naked goby and the round goby. The former is a native fish species, and the latter was introduced.

The seaboard goby inhabits coastal inshore waters from Massachusetts to Florida. They are a small, demersal species, living on or near the bottom, and can reach 60-millimeters in length. They feed on small crustaceans. While the related naked goby (G. bose) has a broad comfort range for salinity (freshwater to full salt), the seaboard goby tends to favor ocean salinities, which may be a factor for why they are uncommon in the lower salinity estuary.

In May 2021, naturalists Christina Tobitsch and Peter Park, seining for The Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy, caught two seaboard gobies off the Pier 4 beach in the East River. Where they are found in numbers, they use old oyster shells as primary spawning sites. In times when oysters flourished in the Upper Bay of New York Harbor and the East River, it is possible that seaboard gobies were more common. 
– Tom Lake

Seabord goby

Seabord goby – courtesy of NJ DEP

5/2 – Yonkers, HRM 18: Our research and education team at the Sarah Lawrence Center for the Urban River at Beczak, with assistance from an 11th-Grade class from Manhattan’s Dalton School, made nine hauls of our seine with extraordinary results (this week was notable that we caught our first striped bass, northern pipefish, Atlantic croaker, and Atlantic silverside of the season.)

Today’s catch, among fishes, had several highlights including an Atlantic croaker (70 mm), a northern pipefish (180 mm), and a mummichog (60 mm). Invertebrates may have been even more impressive with 16 grass shrimp and 14 blue crabs (15-90 mm). The river was 56 degrees F, salinity was 4.8 ppt, and the dissolved oxygen (DO) was 9.5 ppm.
– Emily Orr, Jason Muller, Suzy Schwimmer

[Crab measurements (size) are calculated in millimeters (mm) point-to-point across their carapace. Tom Lake]

5/2 – Yonkers, HRM 18: In the afternoon, our research and education team at the Sarah Lawrence Center for the Urban River at Beczak returned to our tidemarsh at mid-tide to check our fyke net. While glass eel numbers (5) continued to fall, our catch was nonetheless varied and impressive. Among invertebrates we found an Atlantic marsh fiddler crab (Uca pugnax), a white-fingered mud crab, two grass shrimp, and a blue crab. Two mummichogs rounded out the catch. The river was 59 degrees F, salinity was 4.4 ppt, and the dissolved oxygen (DO) was 9.3 ppm.
– Jason Muller, Collin Sugrue, Hamima Hossain, Cristal Soriano, Logan Roman

5/2 – Manhattan, HRM 1-2: Ahoy Hudson River Park fans! I am the newest member of the Hudson River Park’s River Project team, and I gobble up plastic in the Hudson River. I am GULP, and don’t be alarmed, but I’m a shark.

They call me a Waste-Shark, and I’m only ferocious to unwelcome plastic waste in our waters. I’m doing my part as an aqua-drone to clean the Hudson River Park’s Estuarine Sanctuary waters. If you’re walking along the esplanade, I am easy to spot. I am bright orange and weigh 150 pounds when my stomach is empty. I am given a helping hand by River Project team members who use a remote-control to guide me through the river sanctuary alongside Gansevoort Peninsula.
– Hudson River Park Trust (info@nullhrpt.ny.gov)

GULP

GULP – courtesy of Hudson River Parks

5/3 – Yonkers, HRM 18: Our research and education team at the Sarah Lawrence Center for the Urban River at Beczak returned to our tidemarsh at low tide today to check our fyke net. Glass eels count was still significant (18), and the catch was buoyed by 25 Atlantic herring and two grass shrimp.

However, the best show was later in the day when we made five hauls of our seine and caught the first common carp we had ever seen here. This was no ordinary carp: it was 26-inches-long. Also, in the seine was a grass shrimp, a blue crab, and four comb jellies. The river was 56 degrees F, salinity was 5.6 ppt, and the dissolved oxygen (DO) was 9.1 ppm.
– Jason Muller, Maria Cecconello, Louisa Hausslein

Common carp

Common carp – courtesy of Christina Edsall

5/3 – Manhattan, HRM 1-2: Our Hudson River Park’s River Project staff and interns checked our research gear (pots and traps) that we deploy at Piers 26 and 40 as part of our fish ecology survey.

On yet another gorgeous spring day, staff collected a black sea bass (85 mm), a blue crab (80 mm), an immature American eel (30 mm), last year’s glass eel, a lined seahorse (70 mm), and two northern pipefish (100-135 mm). One pipefish was gravid (with eggs), and we released him back into the river after measuring.
–  Toland Kister, Avalon Daly

[Notice that we did not say we released her back into the river. With pipefish and seahorses, it is the males that carry the eggs. Tom Lake]

5/3 – Hudson River Watershed: Queen among spring ephemerals is the large-flowered trillium (Trillium grandiflorum), whose bright white three-petaled flowers can carpet the forest floor at this time of year, given the right (not highly acidic) soil. Because the base of its petals overlaps, the flower has a funnel-like shape and as they age, the petals turn pale to deep pink.

As its genus name indicates, this trillium, like others, has its parts arranged in threes or multiples of three: three leaves, three sepals, three petals, six stamens, three stigmas and an ovary that has three sections. Never take a large-flowered trillium flower for granted – the plant must grow for 16-17 years before producing a flower. Plants more than 70 years of age have been documented.
– Mary Holland

Large-flowered trillium

Large-flowered trillium – courtesy of Mary Holland

Atlantic Marsh fiddler crab

Atlantic Marsh fiddler crab – courtesy of Emily Roberts

Spring 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. Learn more about Science Saturday events.

Upcoming events:

  • June 8, 11 a.m.-1 p.m.: Get Outdoors Day
  • July 13, 10 a.m.-12 p.m: Animal Saturday

Hudson River Lesson Plans

Explore our collection of Hudson River lesson plans, videos and online activities to support hand on investigations of the Hudson River in your classroom.

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.