Black Bears

Project of the Hudson River Estuary Program

Compiled and edited by Tom Lake, Consulting Naturalist

The sixth annual World Fish Migration Day (June 1) was by far the story of the week. The day was celebrated along the estuary through fish-focused events from the Hudson Highlands sixty-two miles to the sea at Staten Island. In the instance of our Hudson River, documented fish migration reminds us how our estuary is naturally connected to faraway places through fish migration from the Gulf of Maine to the Gulf of Mexico. The roles our fish play in their travels play a part in maintaining a healthy ecosystem.

Highlight of the Week

6/6 – Yonkers, HRM 18: Our research and education team at the Sarah Lawrence Center for the Urban River at Beczak with the exuberance of a fifth-grade class from the Charter School of Educational Excellence in Yonkers made eleven exceptional hauls with our seine today.

Despite a new moon tide (extra high tide and extra strong current), our net exceeded expectations with 311 young-of-year Atlantic menhaden (painstakingly counted). The tide had drawn in 35 comb jellies to go along with three blue crabs and four mummichogs. The river was 71 degrees Fahrenheit (F), salinity was 10.8 parts-per-thousand (ppt), and the dissolved oxygen (DO) was 6.7 parts-per-million (ppm).
– Emily Orr, Christina Edsall, Jason Muller, Mireia Rosenblum-Martín, Amber Strumer

Atlantic menhaden

Atlantic menhaden – courtesy of Phyllis Lake

Natural History Entries

6/1 – Hudson River Watershed: In last week’s Almanac, this breathtaking red fox photo (vixen and kits) that accompanied a 5/30 entry was misattributed. The photographer is Deborah Tracy-Kral.
– Tom Lake

Red foxes

Red foxes – courtesy of Deborah Tracy-Kral

6/1 – Orange County, HRM 60: Bruce Nott called yesterday to let me know he had come upon a Kentucky warbler at Mine Road. It was not until this morning that I was able to make it there to try for the bird and, fortunately, the warbler was still present. This was far and away the best experience I’ve ever had with this species (I’d only had poor or distant sightings with no photos). Congratulations to Bruce for yet another great find.
– Matt Zeitler

Kentucky warbler

Kentucky warbler – courtesy of Matt Zeitler

6/1 – Little Stony Point, HRM 55: Fifteen of us met on the beach in Hudson Highlands State Park’s Little Stony Point. We were cradled in a circle of awe with Storm King Mountain, Crow’s Nest, Breakneck Ridge, and Mount Taurus close around us. This was our contribution to the sixth annual World Fish Migration Day. Both the river and the air were a warm 73 degrees F.

A persistent west breeze and strong river traffic resulted in continuous rollers up on the beach during the down tide creating a challenge to our seine haulers, Tommy and Benjamin Jackson. However, the resulting turbidity predictably produced a dozen or more palm-sized white perch, foraging on the small river life suspended by the turmoil.

Our aim on World Fish Migration Day was to catch migrating fish and tell their life stories as best as we knew them. It took a half-dozen hauls of our 30-foot net before we had one: an American eel. At ten-inches long, it was on the larger end of what we call an elver. It had been a “glass eel” perhaps three years ago arriving in the estuary one spring after a ten-month 1,000 mile journey from where it had hatched in the middle of the North Atlantic at a place called the Sargasso Sea. In from 12-25 years, they will make a return journey as adults to the Sargasso Sea, more than a mile deep, to spawn and die, or so we think.

Then came a series of hauls with young-of-year striped bass ranging 81-84 millimeters (mm), a champion migrator among fishes. Hudson River striped bass tagged and released have been recaptured, often several years later, along the Atlantic Coast from the Gulf of Maine to the Carolinas.

Our third noteworthy migrator was several small silvery herring (32-35 mm). We considered that they might be young-of-year alewives (Alosa pseudoharengus). The timing was right for the progeny of these early spring freshwater spawners to appear. But we also thought of Atlantic menhaden (Brevoortia tyrannus), a very similar-looking marine spawner whose young-of-year flood into the estuary in late spring to take advantage of the river’s abundant zooplankton (they are filter-feeders). Menhaden are fast growers, and by fall, they will be of a size to attract humpback whales into New York Harbor.

But which species were these? If still uncertain after examining their external attributes, you must look elsewhere. This required Tommy Jackson to perform some mildly invasive surgery. Within seconds we were looking down its esophagus at a black-as-night peritoneum (the lining of the abdomen). These were Atlantic menhaden (the alewife’s peritoneum is silvery-gray).
– Tom Lake, Lauren Konan, Annabelle Konan, William Busselle, Finola Kiter

[World Fish Migration Day is sponsored by the World Wildlife Foundation, NOAA, U.S. Forest Service, The Nature Conservancy, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, World Wildlife Fund, and others. The day promotes stewardship for migratory fishes, connecting fish to rivers to people. Tom Lake]

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

White perch

White perch – courtesy of Bill Hubick

6/1 – Piermont, HRM 25: We had a very diverse fish count for our Science Saturday. Today’s program was also the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory Hudson River Field Station’s contribution to the sixth annual World Fish Migration Day.

High count in our catch went to blue crab (35), mostly small “Oreo-cookie” size. Among the fishes, striped bass was most numerous (16)—well known for their migration—but also included white perch (6), and one-each summer flounder, naked goby, and a large (16-inch) channel catfish. The shallows were a warm 75 degrees F, and the salinity was 6.0 ppt.
– Connor Goranson

Summer flounder

Summer flounder – courtesy of Connor Gorenson

6/1 – Yonkers, HRM 18: Our research and education team at the Sarah Lawrence Center for the Urban River at Beczak conducted eight low tide seine hauls today for our contribution to the sixth annual World Fish Migration Day.

Invertebrates were altogether high count with 23 blue crabs (10-85 mm), 31 grass shrimp, and one soft-shell clam. Among eight fish species, Atlantic tomcod (70-90 mm), and bay anchovy (60-85 mm) led with eight each (tomcod presence continuing to surprise). Others included American eel, hogchoker, naked goby, mummichog, and both summer and winter flounder. The river was 68 degrees, salinity was 8.8 ppt, and the dissolved oxygen (DO) was 7.3 ppm.
– Jason Muller, Emily Orr – World Fish Migration Day

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

Atlantic tomcod

Atlantic tomcod – courtesy of Jackie Wu

6/1 – 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 collected one lined seahorse (110 mm) and one oyster toadfish (130 mm). We also used the opportunity to introduce our River Project Wetlab visitors to Hudson River life as our contribution to the sixth annual World Fish Migration Day.
– Toland Kister

6/1 – Staten Island, New York City: We had a wonderful “World Fish Migration Day” celebration at Staten Island’s Lemon Creek Park. We were joined by many excited members of the public and the students of St. Clare School.

We seined two locations. The first was the open beach of Princes Bay that yielded Atlantic silverside, Atlantic herring, a blue crab, a big squirming sand worm (Nereis sp.), several dozen long-clawed hermit crab (Pagurus longicarpus), and the highlight, a small but fascinating skilletfish that immediately stuck to the side of our fish tank.

In the adjacent tidal pond, the quieter vegetated shoreline was home to mummichogs, a young winter flounder, green crabs, shore shrimp, more hermit crabs, and to the delight of the students, a dozen small American eel “elvers.”  The water in both locations was about 72 degrees with a salinity of 22 ppt.

We wrapped up the day with a puppet show that was all about eels performed by the St. Clare students!
– Chris Bowser, Robert Brauman, Mary Lee, Lindsey Cooper

6/2 – Waterford, HRM 158: I found just the right angle today to see through leafed-out branches and into bald eagle nest NY485 and there they were: three nestlings. The first evidence of a hatch occurred on April 1 and then confirmation of three nestlings on May 4. A month later, they still appeared healthy.
– Howard Stoner

Fish of the Week

6/2 – Hudson River Watershed: Fish-of-the-Week for Week 272 is the weakfish (Cynoscion regalis), number 190 (of 237) on our watershed list of fishes. If you would like a copy of our list, e-mail trlake7@nullaol.com.

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

Weakfish are found along the Atlantic coast of North America from Nova Scotia to mid-peninsula Florida. Their common name is a reference to its lightly structured mouth and its predilection for tossing anglers’ fish hooks. In our watershed, weakfish are designated as a seasonally resident marine species.

In seasons past, Chris Letts and I would run school seining programs off the beaches at Alpine, Englewood, and Fort Lee (NJ). It was common to catch croakers, spot, kingfish, silver perch, and the occasional weakfish—drums all. A favorite line we offered the students was “We’ve encountered Drums Along the Hudson,” with a nod to the Walter Edmonds classic Drums Along The Mohawk.

During those years, we conducted dark-of-night seining programs in autumn to audiences of hundreds at Croton Point (river mile 35). We were replicating, as well as paying homage to, the commercial haul-seiners of the early-to-mid 20th century. Those operations used 1,000-foot-long nets and employed many strong arms to haul. Our seine was a bit more modest, a 220-footer hand-built by Henry Gourdine of Ossining who participated in the original efforts. During most night-seining program we would find young-of-year weakfish glistening in the lantern light as we beached the net. None of those weakfish moments have recurred in recent memory.

The weakfish has been known as squeteague to northeast coastal Algonquian-speaking people for millennia. The name first appeared in the historic literature in 1803. They have also long been an elite sportfish along the Mid-Atlantic coast south to the Carolinas. Their slender form and colorful spotted appearance accounts for a colloquial name of “sea trout” (they are a salmon look-a-like). In times when they were plentiful, they gained the honorable nickname of “tiderunner” from anglers, for their size and strength on rod and reel in the surf. They have also been one of the most important components of a mixed-stock commercial fishery on the Atlantic coast since the 1800s.

While weakfish can reach 38-inches and 20-lbs, their more common size is 20-inches. Legal size for recreational catch of weakfish in New York State is 16-inches total length, with no closed season, and one fish in possession. The New York State rod and reel angling record (1984) is 19.13 lbs.

In checking our Hudson River Almanac’s historical records (1994-2002) we found that the presence of weakfish in the estuary has been one of abundance and scarcity with a focus on the latter. There was a significant presence of both adult and juvenile weakfish in the lower estuary during 1994-2001, with many 22-30-inch-long fish caught by both rod-and-reel and commercial gear. C.L. Smith, in his Inland Fishes of New York State (1985), described the weakfish as a “common summer resident in the lower Hudson.” But that peak in the cycle was short-lived

Although the 2000’s looked promising at the start, the species soon lapsed toward absence with many fewer weakfish—just a few appearing each summer. By 2004, there were almost none, and that level persisted through summer 2023 with13 of those 18 years finding none. But this cycle was not new.

The New York Times reported on July 31, 1907 “Hudson Rod and Line Men Take Heart After a Four-Pounder is Landed. Charles H. Leggett of the village of Ossining captured yesterday a four-pound weakfish in his nets off Croton Point. The rod and line fishermen of Senasqua Rod and Reel Club see this as a sign that the gamy fish will be in the waters of the Hudson this season. Years ago, weakfish were very common here in the summer months but have been absent in later years.”

Research by J.R. Krause (2020) strongly suggests that the fluctuating weakfish population takes an annual hit when marine mammals (dolphins, etc.) crop their numbers in wintering locations off the Carolinas. In 1985, because of the decline of coastal weakfish populations, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) acted to create an Interstate Fishery Management Plan for weakfish. The plan required states to implement a recreational creel limit, as well as limits on commercial landings.

Despite these measures, weakfish biomass continued to decline into the late 1990s, and then reached an all-time low in 2013. The 2019 Weakfish Stock Assessment Update indicated that weakfish were continuing to be depleted. For more information on present-day weakfish population status, go to www.asmfc.org.
– Tom Lake

Weakfish

Weakfish – courtesy of Peter Park

6/3 – Yonkers, HRM 18: Our research and education team at the Sarah Lawrence Center for the Urban River at Beczak made six low tide hauls of our seine this morning with invertebrates taking high count again with 25 blue crabs (10-95 mm), 23 grass shrimp, and two soft-shell clams. Bay anchovy was high among fishes with two, that included a hogchoker and a mummichog. The river was 71 degrees F, salinity was 9.1 ppt, and the dissolved oxygen (DO) was 7.5 ppm.
– Jason Muller, Zoe Wolf, Olivia Love, Aika Lankard, Mireia Rosenblum-Martín, Amber Strumer

6/3 – 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 a slow day after a slow night, our staff collected just one oyster toadfish (210 mm).
– Avalon Daly, Zoe Kim

6/4 – Essex County (NY), HRM 257: I discovered today that all the ash trees in the parking lot of a big box store in North Creek were infected with the emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis). They all exhibited the classic exit hole that follows their boring into the trunk. I initially noticed the larval girding of the trees and recognized the pattern with white ash: some green in the lower branches with dead middle and top branches.
–  Mike Corey

Emerald ash borer

D-shaped exit hole in tree trunk made by Emerald ash borer – courtesy of Mike Corey

[The emerald ash borer (EAB) is a jewel beetle native to northeastern Asia that feeds on ash species in North America (Fraxinus sp.) including green, white, black and blue ash. EAB has developed into the most significant forest pest to hit New York State since the Chestnut blight. In its native range, it is typically found at low densities and does not cause significant damage. Outside its native range, it is an invasive species and is highly destructive. The beetle was first discovered in the U.S. in 2002 in southeastern Michigan.

The adult beetle has a shiny emerald-green body, less than an inch-long, with a coppery red or purple abdomen, and leaves distinctive D-shaped exit holes in the outer bark of the branches and the trunk. The adults may be seen from late May through early September but are most common in June and July. NYS Departments of Environmental Conservation, Agriculture & Markets]

Learn more about the signs of infestation and how you can help stop the spread of EAB by visiting DEC’s website.

Emerald ash borer

Emerald Ash Borer – courtesy of National Forest Service

6/4 – Essex County (NJ): In the last decade we have lost significant members of our eastern forests to the emerald ash borer, which has decimated mature ash trees in many areas, and the hemlock woolly adelgid that has similarly decimated hemlocks. Now beeches are under attack as well. Walking through South Mountain Reservation, I noticed that many or most of the beech saplings had darkened curled leaves. A little research showed this to be “beech leaf disease” caused by the nematode Litylenchus crenatae mccanni.

Litylenchus crenatae mccanni is native to Japan and was first observed in New Jersey only four years ago, so its spread has been remarkably quick. According to the U.S. Forest Service, the infections will kill mature trees as well as saplings. (Lynn Kay Carta, et al, 2020).
– Nelson Johnson

[The northern slopes of South Mountain Reservation drain into the Upper Bay of New York Harbor. The bulk of South Mountain Reservation is part of the Rahway River watershed that drains into the Arthur Kill, another link to the Hudson River Watershed. Tom Lake]

Learn more about Beech leaf disease at DEC’s website.

Beech Leaf Disease

Beech Leaf Disease – courtesy of Matthew Borden

6/4 – Yonkers, HRM 18: Our research and education team at the Sarah Lawrence Center for the Urban River at Beczak, with help and encouragement from a fifth-grade class from the Charter School of Educational Excellence in Yonkers, made nine hauls of our seine at mid-tide today.

Young-of-year fish dominated our catch with bay anchovy (70-90 mm) high count with 29. Others included eight Atlantic menhaden (40-50 mm) and two Atlantic tomcod (80-85 mm). Killifish were represented by three mummichog (70-95 mm). Blue crab (8) was high among invertebrates (15-85 mm). Comb jellies completed our catch. The river was 69 degrees F, salinity had risen to 10.9 ppt, and the dissolved oxygen (DO) was 6.8 ppm. 
– Emily Orr, Jason Muller, Aika Lankard, Olivia Love, Zoe Wolf

6/5 – Hudson River Watershed: If you are within traveling distance of a bog, June is the prime time to visit. Pitcher plants, orchids, and many other acidic-loving plants are in flower at this time of year. One of my very favorites is buckbean (Menyanthes trifoliata), also known as the bog bean.

Buckbean’s elaborately fringed petals are unique. The most plausible explanation for this seems to be that the intertwined, twisted fringes prevent small insects that are not functional pollinators from reaching the flower’s nectar. Larger bumble bees, flies, and butterflies, that for the most part manage to avoid becoming entangled in these fringes, do reach the nectar and are effective pollinators.
– Marry Holland

Buckbean

Buckbean – courtesy of Mary Holland

6/5 – Yonkers, HRM 18: Our research and education team at the Sarah Lawrence Center for the Urban River at Beczak took our seine to the Beczak Beach today for eight high-tide hauls. Not surprisingly, young-of-year fishes dominated. The expected upriver pulse (78) of Atlantic menhaden (40-50 mm) had begun along with bay anchovy (16). Comb jellies (16) led invertebrates along with six blue crabs (85 mm), grass shrimp, and moon jellyfish. The river was 70 degrees F, salinity was 9.0 ppt, and the dissolved oxygen (DO) was 7.2 ppm. 
– Jason Muller, Zoe Wolf, Olivia Love, Aika Lankard, Mireia Rosenblum-Martín, Amber Strumer

6/6 – Manhattan, HRM 1-2: Our Hudson River Park’s River Project staff and Seasonal Staff checked our research gear (pots and traps) that we deploy at Piers 26 and 40 as part of our fish ecology survey. While no fish were collected today, we were excited to introduce our 2024 Seasonal Staff to this ongoing survey.
– Toland Kister, Siddhartha Hayes

6/7 – Hudson River Watershed: Most dragonflies and damselflies (Odonata) live a majority of their life span as larvae in ponds, streams or swamps. At the end of their larval stage, which can last anywhere from several months to years, they emerge from the water onto rocks, emergent vegetation or other substrate, split their larval skin along their heads and backs and fall out of their skin backwards, head first, before clasping their skin or substrate and hanging on for dear life as they pump their body full of air, sending fluid into their wing veins. This process is referred to as eclosion and takes up to several hours. During this time, they are extremely vulnerable as they are unable to fly.

Within a day or so the enclosing insect’s body dries and hardens, they acquire color and take to the air. Different species of dragonflies and damselflies eclose at different times, providing a wide array of species emerging throughout the summer. In the accompanying photo, a dragonfly eclosing and a recently-enclosed damselfly perched on yellow pond lily (spatterdock).
– Mary Holland

Dragonfly

Adult dragonfly emerging from its larval stage – courtesy of Mary Holland

6/7 – Yonkers, HRM 18: Our research and education team at the Sarah Lawrence Center for the Urban River at Beczak with rapt attention from our Sarah Lawrence College Alumni, made five low-tide seine hauls. Fish dominated the catch with seven species led by bay anchovy (8), Atlantic menhaden and mummichog (7). Atlantic tomcod (4), American eel (2), and one-each summer flounder and hogchoker completed the fish catch.

High count among invertebrates went to 103 grass shrimp (Palaemon sp.). Others included blue crabs (9), moon jellyfish (2), and comb jellies. The river was 72 degrees F, salinity was 9.2 ppt, and the dissolved oxygen (DO) was 7.0 ppm.
– Emily Orr, Christina Edsall, Katie Lamboy

Grass Shrimp

Grass Shrimp – courtesy of Tom Lake

Summer 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:

NYSDEC Canoe Program: July 1, 10:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

Paddle the Hudson River estuary with our staff naturalists with free educational canoe trips. Join us to explore tidal marshes, observe birds and wildlife, and discover unique plants. 

These trips are suitable for adults and children (6+), whether you’re an experienced or beginner paddler. The trips leave from two different launch sites in the upper and mid-Hudson Valley. All gear is provided, and registration is required.

Register to attend

Animal Saturday: July 13, 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.
Join us for a fun filled Saturday and meet the animals of Norrie Point! This family friendly event will have crafts, and opportunities to explore the center.

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.