Black Bears

Project of the Hudson River Estuary Program

Compiled and edited by Tom Lake, Consulting Naturalist

Our Highlight-of-the-Week invariably focuses on a new, rare, interesting, even spectacular examples of wildlife. This week, however, we chose to applaud students, especially young students, as they marveled in the magic of interacting with and getting to know wildlife.  

Highlight of the Week

6/8 – Norrie Point, HRM 85: This was the DEC’s Get Outdoors-Get Together Day, an Open House at the Norrie Point Environmental Education Center. It was an opportunity for students of all ages to join our staff of educators and naturalists to explore the many aspects of Hudson River life. Among the many participants were our TIDES students (The Institute for Discovering Environmental Scientists).

Lee Lodge, Joshua Pinder, and Sebastian Houser hauled our seine on the rising tide through the Norrie Point south cove. Resident and native species of fish dominated our catch including dozens of banded killifish, primarily males, shining brightly in their lavender bands. Killifish are sexually dimorphic (two forms) with colorful males attracting rather drab-looking females during the breeding season.

Norrie Point students

Norrie Point students – courtesy of Tom Lake

Sunfish accounted for most of the diversity with both redbreast and pumpkinseed sunfish. The pumpkinseed sunfish was the largest caught at seven-inches-long. Some sunfish species can hybridize, and we found a few redbreast x pumpkinseed hybrids in our catch. To help appease a favorite request from students “Can we please hold a fish?”, we had the younger students line up with dip nets to try their hand at catch-and-release in our twenty-gallon tanks. They never tired in their efforts, admiration, and love of wildlife.

Perhaps the biggest attraction was a feisty five-inch carapace-width (114 mm) male “Jimmy” Blue Crab. Its dorsal surface was a greenish-brown to match the river bottom, but its claws were beautifully ornate in cerulean-blue.
– Rebecca Houser, Tom Lake, Ryan Kercado

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

Pumpkinseed sunfish

Pumpkinseed fish – courtesy of Tom Lake

Natural History Entries

6/8 – Haverstraw, HRM 36: This is a “look-back” to June 1, one week ago: During the last session of InHabit Art, a nature-based art program featuring our local waterways, Strawtown Studio led youth from the Haverstraw Center to seining at Emeline Park as our contribution to the sixth annual World Fish Migration Day.

Working at low tide, students helped us seine the shallows for river life. Our catch was varied and reflective of the season. High count went to a school of Atlantic silverside (uncounted, but impressive). The highlight was four young-of-year Atlantic tomcod (90 mm). Others in our net included striped bass, white perch, and bay anchovies. The Hudson River never disappoints!
– Joanna Dickey, Laurie Seeman and Cris Garcia

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

Atlantic tomcod

Atlantic tomcod – courtesy of Joanna Dickey

6/9 – Hudson River Watershed: Eastern box turtles can be found throughout most of the Northeast. These turtles are well-known (and named) for their hinged bottom shell (plastron) that allows them to seal themselves and be all but impenetrable to predators. Eastern box turtles, along with many other species of turtles, are currently engaged in courtship, mating and laying eggs. After climbing on top of the female and grasping her between the top (carapace) and bottom shell (which she spreads apart if sufficiently receptive) with his hind feet, the male leans back, plants his carapace on the ground and stands upright for up to an hour while they mate.

This one encounter provides the female with enough sperm to produce fertile eggs for up to four years. If the 4-8 eggs a female eastern box turtle lays survive predation (skunks, raccoons, foxes, crows), they will hatch in August or September. As in other turtle species, the temperature of the nest determines the sex of the hatchlings. Warmer nests tend to produce females, while cooler nests produce males.
– Mary Holland

Eastern box turtle

Eastern box turtle – courtesy of Mary Holland

6/10 – Little Stony Point, HRM 55: We took advantage of an extra low tide to haul our seine through the shallows off the expansive sandy beach. With the river at a delightful 74 degrees Fahrenheit (F), the “boots season” was gone until November. River traffic again produced rollers on the beach and the subsequent arrival of forging white perch.

Our most notable catch among the fishes were the native and resident spottail shiners. The gravid females we saw in April and May had now spawned and the bag of our net filled with hundreds of their tiny young-of-year (15-18 mm). Our most impressive catch among the invertebrates was a gorgeous male blue crab (95 mm). Other fishes included striped bass (80-90 mm) and Atlantic menhaden (35-40 mm),

The visual highlight was the hundreds of clusters of delicate, orchid-like, white flowers with several short burgundy stripes, and a dash of orange strewn on the beach at the tideline. At first glance, it seemed that oyster shells had turned into orchids. These were from Catawba, or northern catalpa (Catalpa speciosa) trees, an introduced ornamental. Fallen from local trees into the river, the tide and current had brought the blossoms here. 

For the first time this season we had measurable salinity, albeit at 1.0 parts-per-thousand (ppt) hardly to be classified as salty.
– Tom Lake, Seth Dinitz

Northern catalpa

Northern catalpa – courtesy of Tom Lake

6/11 – Ulster County, HRM 78: I came across a native giant leopard moth (Hypercompe scribonia) while hiking at the Mohonk Preserve’s Spring Farm Trailhead. It was behind a sign at the entrance to the Lenape Longhouse replica site. 
– Susan Livingston

[The giant leopard moth (Hypercompe scribonia) is a moth of the family Erebidae. They are distributed through North America from southern Ontario, and southern and eastern United States through New England, Mexico, and south to Colombia. They are known to be attracted to bitter, unripe vegetables and broccoli flowers (Poole and Gentili 1996).]

Giant leopard moth

Giant leopard moth – courtesy of Susan Livingston

6/11 – Yonkers, HRM 18: Our research and education team at the Sarah Lawrence Center for the Urban River at Beczak, buoyed by the enthusiasm from a fifth-grade class from the Charter School of Educational Excellence in Yonkers, set out at mid-tide with our seine hoping to discover what river life was swimming unseen in the river.

After ten hauls we had our answer. Our net glistened with 115 young-of-year Atlantic menhaden, an ocean herring, along with 268 comb jellies (Ctenophores). We also caught three more Atlantic tomcod (90-110 mm), eight bay anchovies, and two mummichogs. Other invertebrates included blue crabs, grass shrimp, and moon jellyfish. The river was 70 degrees F, the salinity was 12.7 ppt, and the dissolved oxygen was 7.0 parts-per-million (ppm).
– Emily Orr, Christina Edsall, Aika Lankard, Zoe Wolf, Olivia Love

6/11 – Piermont, HRM 25: A local blue crabber at the east end of Piermont Pier caught an adult male Chinese mitten crab (80 mm) in his crab pot. It had been awhile since we had seen a mitten crab and because we showed great interest, we ended up taking ownership of the crab.

Their white tipped front claws are covered with dense patches of dark “fur” (setae) that look like mittens. The crab was collected and will be sent to the New York State Museum for archiving.
– Margie Turrin, Marisa Annunziato

[The invasive Chinese mitten crab (Eriocheir sinensis) is native to the estuaries of China where it is highly regarded in the market. It is believed they were introduced to the U.S. in the 1980s in San Francisco Bay. Mitten crabs are catadromous, meaning that they spend much of their life in freshwater, then return to higher salinities to reproduce.

The salinity gradients of east coast estuarine systems like the Hudson River, and Chesapeake and Delaware bays, are nearly ideal for them. Adult mitten crabs have a carapace width of about three-inches, but six of its eight legs are almost twice as long, giving them an almost “spider crab” look. Unlike the native blue crab, a swimming crab, mitten crabs are “burrowing crabs,” much like our mud crabs only many times larger. They have a generalist diet, varied in prey, and their potential ecological impact on east coast estuaries is still unknown. Tom Lake]

Mitten crab

Mitten crab – courtesy of Chris Bowser

6/12 – 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 replicating our recent success. High count went to 365 young-of-year Atlantic menhaden (50-60 mm), Other fishes included bay anchovies (75-90 mm), Atlantic tomcod (75-85), Atlantic silverside, two hogchokers, and our first spot of the season, a juvenile (150 mm). High count for invertebrates was comb jelly (129). Blue crab (130 mm), grass shrimp, and moon jellyfish each had 17.

The river was 71 degrees. the salinity was 8.2 ppt, and the dissolved oxygen was 7.3 ppm.
– Jason Muller, Zoe Wolf, Olivia Love, Aika Lankard, Mireia Rosenblum-Martín, Amber Strumer

[Spot, a panfish-size saltwater drum (Sciaenidae), is also known as Lafayette, a name that pays homage to the Marquis de Lafayette, a French Revolutionary War hero. Tom Lake].

Spot

Spot – courtesy of National Marine Fisheries Service

6/13 – Warren County, HRM 263: It was an auspicious date to canoe 13th Lake in North River at the edge of Siamese Ponds Wilderness Area. This is a north/south oriented lake and it is always a surprise to me that the wind usually blows either up or down, but rarely across. The result is a fine “surf paddle” in one direction, and a challenge in the other. A bald eagle was wheeling over the lake today, alternately perched on the top of a dead white pine. A couple of great egrets were also flying high over the water. I’m in awe of both birds’ eyesight that they scan the water for a meal from that height. Common loons on the lake appeared undeterred in their diving quest for fish. 
– Walt Nelson

6/13 – 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 fish (five species) dominating our catch. High count (65) went to young-of-year Atlantic menhaden (50-60 mm). Other fishes included Atlantic silverside, hogchoker, summer flounder (60 mm), and three more Atlantic tomcod (80 mm). Invertebrate included comb jellies, grass shrimp, sand shrimp, moon jellyfish, and 18 blue crabs (80 mm). The river was 72 degrees F, the salinity was 8.0 ppt, and the dissolved oxygen was 7.7 ppm. 
– Jason Muller, Zoe Wolf, Olivia Love, Aika Lankard, Amber Strumer

[We had now caught 35 Atlantic tomcod this season, our most since 2012. Jason Muller]

Moonfish

Moonfish – courtesy of Steven VanNoort

Fish of the Week

6/14 – Hudson River Watershed: Fish-of-the-Week for Week 273 is the golden shiner (Notemigonus crysoleucas) number 52 (of 237), on our Hudson River Watershed List of Fishes. If you would like a copy of our list, e-mail: trlake7@nullaol.com

Golden shiner is a member of the True Minnows family of fishes (Leuciscidae), the largest family of fishes (30) documented for our watershed. As a result of recent taxonomic fine-tuning, five former members of Cyprinidae (Carps & Minnows) have been reclassified as Acheilognathidae (Bitterlings), Xenocyprididae (East Asian Minnows), with three species remaining in Cyprinidae.

Although golden shiners can get up to a foot-long, they are more commonly found at half that size. They have long been a prime commercially-sold live-bait species for anglers. In many quarters, its reputation has been one of a “bait-stealer,” particularly to anglers targeting gamefish. They are largely omnivorous, feeding primarily on zooplankton, insects, mollusks, and filamentous algae.

As a native species, their legacy in the greater Hudson River Watershed is known from the prehistory of the Haudenosaunee and Mohican people. One of my favorite tales, however, comes from historic times from Dr. Caleb Rea, the regimental surgeon for the English garrison at always contentious Fort William Henry (1755-1757). Dr. Rea, when not practicing surgery on soldiers, wrote in his journal of “roach” being caught by himself and other anglers in Lake George (Warren County). While roach was a common name for “look-alike” fishes in England, Europeans had never seen a genuine golden shiner. Historians widely surmise that these roach were golden shiners (The Journal of Dr. Caleb Rea, Essex Institute,1881).

Golden shiners favor lakes, ponds, and creeks where they can tolerate low dissolved oxygen levels, high turbidity, and high water temperatures. That adaptability has resulted in them being one of the widest raging fish species across North America. They are native to the Atlantic and Gulf Slope drainages from Nova Scotia in Canada to southern Texas, and from the Great Lakes to western Canada. In the Hudson River watershed, the golden shiner is classified as “a native freshwater fish.”

The Type Site for the golden shiner (where it was first described to science by Samuel Latham Mitchill in 1814) is “NY,” and that translates to somewhere in New York State, likely the Hudson River Watershed (Bob Schmidt).

Mitchell’s original description from On the Fishes of New York (1814) “Cyprinus crysoleucas [Notemigonus crysoleucas] lives in freshwater ponds; their head small and smooth; being rather depressed on the upper side; mouth small, even and toothless; eyes large in proportion to the head; body deep in proportion to its length. Color blackish, with shining white scales; eyes and gill-covers golden, with a tinge of the same along the belly: lateral line bends downward, to correspond with the curve of the abdomen; pectoral and ventral fins, especially the later, yellowish brown; tail forked; belly whitish, with ruddy rays.” 
– Tom Lake

Golden shiner

Golden shiner – 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.