Black Bears

Project of the Hudson River Estuary Program

Compiled and edited by Tom Lake, Consulting Naturalist

This week we have a blend of cultural and ecological highlights including prehistoric archaeology (Hudson Valley heritage), marine mollusks, and an extraordinary heat wave surrounding the Summer Solstice.

Highlight of the Week

6/17 – Upper Bay, New York Harbor. We deployed our Hudson River Sloop Clearwater otter trawl in the Upper Bay of New York Harbor and were both surprised and delighted to find a squid in the net’s cod end. With a little research we determined it was an inshore longfin squid, Doryteuthis (Amerigo) pealeii (NOAA), the first we had ever encountered.
– Chloe Smith, Jen Benson, Eli Schloss

[Taxonomically, the Inshore longfin squid is in Phylum Mollusca, Class Cephalopoda (see octopus), and can get to be about eight-inches-long (200 millimeters). They are found throughout the Western Atlantic from Newfoundland to the Gulf of Venezuela but are, most abundant between Georges Bank and Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, and winter along the continental shelf in offshore canyons as far south as Cape Hatteras. Adults and juveniles migrate vertically in the water column, remaining near the seabed during the day and moving toward the surface at night. Tom Lake]

Inshore longfin squid

Inshore longfin squid – courtesy of Chloe Smith

Natural History Entries

6/15 – Greene County: I have enjoyed observing an active pileated woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) nest here in the Catskills. They are the largest woodpecker in North America, the size of a crow. The deep drumming notes of their pecking reverberates through the woodlands audible at over half a mile. I heard one that must have enjoyed creating different deep-sound frequencies on a hollow tree.

Pileated woodpeckers drum slowly accelerating to a rate of 17 beats per second and then trailing off at the end, distinguishing them from most other woodpeckers that drum at a steady rate. Drumming helps them defend territories of several hundred acres of woodland and to attract mates.

Black shouldered with striped necks, both males and females sport a distinctive red crest, but the male’s extends further toward their bill. Their loud cackling shriek is unmistakable, and they make a cuk-cuk-cuk sound when landing.

This pileated pair had pecked out a deep cavity 25 feet up in a dead maple with a six-inch-high oval entrance hole. This nest cavity only gets one year occupation with a new location bored out annually.

Patient watching allowed observation of both parents delivering a gullet full of grubs which they stuffed down the eager outstretched beaks of the young. More than half their diet is carpenter ants, but they love large grubs and prey on the invasive emerald ash borer as well. This large woodpecker never ceases to make me marvel.
– Mario Meier

Pileated woodpecker

Pileated woodpecker – courtesy of Mario Meier

6/15 – Orange County, HRM 61: I walked six-mile loop in Stewart State Forest today. The terrain was very flat and that made for easy walking and birding. Several of the trails were overgrown and very wet that conversely made for some uncomfortable hiking and birding — my pants were absolutely soaked through. One of my goals was to walk through the Great Swamp Boardwalk and Trail. It was nice there because it opens a bit, and the gentle breeze kept the insects at bay, for at least a little while.

Non-avian highlights included an eastern box turtle and a black crayfish (a first for me) walking across the trail. Because the crayfish was quite aware of my presence, as I approached it immediately backed up off the trail. I did some research and learned just enough to know I cannot identify the species. If anyone knows crayfish, particularly a black crayfish, please let me know by e-mailing the Almanac editor.
– Matt Zeitler

Black crayfish

Black crayfish – courtesy of Matt Zeitler

6/15 – Little Stony Point, HRM 55: Our crew set our 35-foot seine in the shallows today under a sun so bright it mimicked mid-summer. We were spared rollers on the beach by serendipitous circumstances including wind with tide (stiff north wind in concert with the down tide), and very little river traffic. Still, the white perch arrived in numbers expecting a buffet. The river was a mild 74 degrees Fahrenheit (F) with a salinity just a bit over 1.0 parts-per-thousand (ppt).

Young-of-year fishes upriver from the sea dominated our catch: Atlantic menhaden ranging 33-42 millimeters (mm) and two cohorts of bay anchovy (70-72 mm and 24-29 mm). Along with the resident spottail shiners, we found a young-of-year channel catfish (64 mm).
– Tom Lake, Benjamin Jackson

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

6/16 – Wallkill River, HRM 77:  As I walked along the edge of a fallow cornfield, twenty-four years ago today (1999), and twenty feet from the Wallkill River, I listened to the exhilarating “witchity-witchity-witchity” song of the common yellowthroat. I was on an archaeology reconnaissance, a site assessment, so my eyes were following the contours of the harrowed soil when I spotted the thin edge of a small piece of gray “worked” chert (altered by human hands). The chert (stone) was a hard, fine-grained sedimentary cryptocrystalline rock protruding from a crack in the dry earth.

It was an Indigenous artifact, a stone projectile point (47 x 25 mm) that had eroded from the soil with the spring rains. I had come upon a very old spear point that we stylistically-date to about 12,500 calendar years ago. The implications reconfirmed our sense of the incredible time-depth for humans in our Hudson River Valley.
– Tom Lake

[Archaeologists have classified this stone artifact as a Barnes-type fluted spear point, a tool that predated “arrowheads” by ten thousand years (Meltzer 1999, Funk 1999, Ellis 2004). The Barnes Point’s Type Site (where it was first identified and named) is the Barnes Site, Parkhill, Ontario, Canada (Wright and Roosa 1966). Fluted points are a temporally-diagnostic tool used by indigenous people called Paleoindian during the Late Pleistocene period of North America.

There was a triangular social aspect to this artifact: The point style originated in southwestern Ontario, Canada. The very light gray lithic (stone) material of Big Springs chert (Munsell value N8) came from a bedrock quarry in Sussex County, NJ. (Munsell Soil Color Charts,1998).

The third element was the role of the Wallkill River Valley as a seasonal passageway, a conduit, for these hunter-gatherers from southwestern Ontario, through the Mohawk River Valley, then south along the Hudson River stopping at stone quarries along the way and following game herds into northern New Jersey. Tom Lake]

6/16 – Hudson River Estuary: We have compiled the results from our contribution to the sixth annual World Fish Migration Day held June 1, 2024. We had 12 sites throughout the lower Hudson estuary ranging from Lemon Creek in Staten Island to Little Stony Point in Cold Spring, Putnam County. The 518 participants engaged across the 12 sites caught 25 different species of fish; 24 were native species plus an introduced channel catfish. Overall, our catch of 526 total fish was down yet our diversity remained strong.
– Marisa Lynn Annunziato, Margie Turrin, Chris Bowser

6/16 – Greene County, HRM 127: I secured my kayak at mid-tide on a rocky Hudson River beach (the sand table is so high you can only approach at mid-to-high tide. Then I went for a walk, a walk I had made many times over the years. This one was different, however, as I came upon a narrow palm-sized piece of reddish stone among the rocks at the very edge of a washout—it looked unique. As soon as I picked it up, my first thought was “Indian artifact.”
– Kelly Halloran

[It was a thin and well-made artifact (stone, altered by human hands), reddish-brown (5R 3/4), Munsell Soil Color Charts (1998), possibly Mount Merino chert. The artifact measured 3.5-inches long x 1.5-inches wide x 0.35 inches thick and had been finely pressure-flaked to create a lanceolate shape with sharp bilateral edges and a sharp point. The base had been thinned by flaking to create a hafting element where the point might have been attached to a spear or dart. Despite the point’s apparent antiquity, it did not look very “water-worn.” Given its provenience, it had likely eroded out from a deeper level by storm tides.

Our assessment concluded that it was a Greene Point (later confirmed by the New York State Museum).

Archaeologists have classified this style artifact as a lanceolate point, a spear or dart point, used with an atlatl dart-thrower. The Greene Point’s Type Site (where it was first identified and named) is Greene Township, Chenango County, New York (Funk and Ritchie 1971). Where Greene Points have been recovered at Hudson Valley archaeological sites, associated organics have been radio-carbon dated to AD 300-800 (Fogelman 1992), This period is known as the Late Middle Woodland cultural phase, possibly ancestral Munsee.

At that point in prehistory, ancestrally-related Munsee, or other Algonkian-speakers, would have been organized as mobile patrilineal bands, families, and extended families (clans).

Their lives would have featured a broad-spectrum economy of hunting, gathering, foraging, collecting, fishing and shellfishing in seasonal rounds across broad geographic areas. Their seasonal rounds would have taken them to rock quarries in the Hudson Valley where they mined the necessary materials for their stone tool industry. To Indigenous peoples, quarries were holy places, not unlike the Cathedrals of historic times.

Greene Points were not arrowheads. However, by AD 800, as the Greene Point style was “vanishing” from the archaeological record (Funk 1971), a newly arriving bow-and-arrow technology from the Midwest and Southwest was beginning to replace the atlatl and popularize smaller projectile points, or arrowheads (Justice 1987).

Holding a moment in your hand from long ago, a stone tool carefully crafted by a native artisan, you can almost sense the warmth of their hand and imagine their expression of satisfaction. Tom Lake]

Greene point

Greene point – courtesy of Kelly Halloran

6/17 – Yonkers, HRM 18: Our research and education team at the Sarah Lawrence Center for the Urban River at Beczak conducted seven low tide seine hauls this morning. Invertebrates again numerically dominated the catch led by sand shrimp and grass shrimp (both 32). Others included moon jellyfish (21), grass shrimp (16), and blue crab (13), the latter up to 110 mm, and two moon jellyfish.

Young-of-year fishes showed well with Atlantic silverside (12), bay anchovies, spot (160 mm), naked goby, and Atlantic menhaden. Hogchokers (8) continued their strong showing. The water temperature was 73 degrees, the salinity was 6.6 ppt, and the dissolved oxygen (DO) was 8.6 parts-per-million (ppm).
– Jason Muller, Aika Lankard, Zoe Wolf, Olivia Love, Amber Strumer, Ronan Selbi

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

6/18 – Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 76: There were three fledgling barred owls (Strix varia) in our yard yesterday, one of which was cooling off in our stone-lined “pond,” a small water feature that my husband built for me many years ago in the hopes of attracting wildlife. Today, I was able to get a photo of the other two barred owls.
– Doreen Tignanelli

Barred owls

Barred owls – courtesy of Doreen Tignanelli

6/18 – Yonkers, HRM 18: The river finally reached 74 degree F today, but the real story was the air temperature that reached 91 degrees. Our research and education team at the Sarah Lawrence Center for the Urban River at Beczak conducted six low tide seine haul in the heat. Invertebrates again dominated the catch numerically led by sand shrimp (55). Others included moon jellyfish (21), grass shrimp (16), and blue crabs (14).

Hogchokers led among fishes (8). For the young season, we had now totaled 22, the most for us in a season since 2011 when we had 25. Other fishes included young-of-year Atlantic menhaden and bay anchovies, as well as two small (55 mm) American eels (“elvers”).

The water temperature had finally reached 74 degrees F, the salinity was 7.6 ppt, and the dissolved oxygen (DO) was 8.4 ppm.
– Jason Muller, Zoe Wolf, Mireia Rosenblum-Martín, Amber Strumer

Hogchoker

Hogchoker – courtesy of Tom Lake

6/19 – Poughkeepsie and Albany, HRM 75-145: Amid what would become six days with air temperatures at 90 degrees Fahrenheit or greater, today’s air temperature reached 94 degrees F, setting a record high for the date for both cities.
– National Weather Service

6/19 – Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: My birding partner, Henry Kanlong, spotted and then photographed two high-altitude soaring fledglings from bald eagle nest NY459, a nest we have dubbed “The Bridge Nest,” named for a nearby bridge over the tidal Wappinger Creek. Beginning in 2019, the pair has now produced a dozen nestlings in six years.
– Judy Winter

6/19 – Hudson River Watershed: There are two dominant species of wild cranberries, large (Vaccinium macrocarpon) and small (V. oxycoccos), that can be found in acidic northern bogs.  Large cranberry has been cultivated in the U.S. and is the source of the store-bought juice, sauce and berries that we drink and eat.  (In Europe and Russia, small cranberry is cultivated.)

The structure of the flower, with recurved petals and single style (longer, female part) and stamens (shorter male parts) exposed and pointed forward, bears a resemblance to the neck, head, and bill of a crane (hence, the name cranberry). Related to blueberries and huckleberries, cranberries are high in nutrients and antioxidants. They are associated with the treatment of ailments including urinary tract infections, high blood pressure, and certain forms of cancer.
– Mary Holland

Cranberries

Cranberries – courtesy of Mary Holland

6/20 – Warren County, HRM 240-245: On the longest day of the year, the sky and the air, began to brighten at 4:30 a.m., a time of day best described by poets. Following a month with almost no rain, the river flow between Warrensburg and The Glen was low and slow, barely moving. In the forest, the most noticeable bird call was Roger Tory Peterson’s “ank ank” of the red-breasted nuthatch—a “tiny tin horn.” The cobbles along the way were wet from the condensed and suffocating humidity.

The trail along the Ice Meadows, where the Hudson River begins its climb up to the High Peaks of the Adirondacks, has been our favorite for decades, bringing family, friends, and students in all seasons to witness the transformation from an ice-bound Arctic landscape in winter to a flourishing garden in summer. In the first snow of last autumn, there were black bear tracks—forest friends.

On the periphery, balsam fir was still displaying some of their new spring growth, light green downy tips on each branch. Aldo Leopold coined the name “candle” to describe the terminal bud of conifers where “at its tip burns the eternal flame that lights a path into the future” (1949). The unseen intensity of the bud is very Hindu—“A candle burning in a windless place” (Bhagavad Gita). At the tip of the flame, at the tip of the bud, intense energy, but to the eye, total serenity.

In mid-afternoon as the Summer Solstice arrived, the air temperature reached 99 degrees F—the forest was steaming.
– Tom Lake

Balsam fir

Balsam fir – courtesy of Tom Lake

6/20 – Yonkers, HRM 18: The air temperature was the story again today on the Summer Solstice, Our research and education team at the Sarah Lawrence Center for the Urban River at Beczak conducted seven low tide seine hauls in sweltering 94 degree F heat.

Apart from the heat, the highlight, albeit a small one (70 mm), was our first young-of-year bluefish of the season. Their prime target, for the next five months, was also in our net: young-of-year Atlantic menhaden (50 mm). Atlantic silverside (19) and mummichogs (17) were high count among the fishes, along with two yellow perch. Blue crabs, grass shrimp, and moon jellyfish completed our diverse catch.

The water temperature was 73 degrees F, the salinity has risen to 10.3, and the dissolved oxygen (DO) was 7.5 ppm.
– Jason Muller, Zoe Wolf, Amber Strumer, Mireia Rosenblum-Martín, Albina Khabibullina

Bluefish

Bluefish – courtesy of Tom Lake

6/21 – 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 June full moon is known as the Strawberry moon, Otaʔeemeene Neepãuk, in the Mohican dialect. Tribal translations of full moons pre-date colonization and generally reflect the seasonality of the lunar phase. Moon phases, in fact, were used by indigenous people as measurements of time.
– Larry Madden, Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians

6/21 – Hudson River Watershed: It’s quite likely you will hear a common gallinule before you see one (they make a variety of loud, harsh squawks and whinnies), but once you see one, you’ll not forget the bright reddish/orange shield over its bill. This bird looks like a duck when it’s swimming, but should you chance to see it walking on floating vegetation, such as lily pads, and see its strong legs and long toes, you will know why it’s classified as a rail (Rallidae).

The orange “frontal shield” is a duller color and relatively small and flat during the winter. However, during the breeding season it becomes enlarged to almost twice its winter size and is used to attract a mate, threaten competitors, protect the bird’s face from dense vegetation, and to defend territory. In native Hawaiian mythology, a common gallinule brought fire to humankind, in the process of which its forehead was scorched red.
– Mary Holland

Common gallinule

Common gallinule – courtesy of Mary Holland

Fish of the Week

6/21 – Hudson River Watershed: Fish-of-the-Week for Week 274 is the houndfish (Tylosurus crocodilus) fish number 116 (of 237), on our Hudson River Watershed List of Fishes. If you would like a copy of our list, e-mail: trlake7@nullaol.com

[The houndfish belong to the needlefish family (Belonidae) along with our other family member the Atlantic needlefish (Strongylura marina). Both fishes have narrow bodies, long heads, and jaws featuring many sharp teeth—a consummate predator.  

Houndfish are classified as a temperate marine stray in the estuary. In other estuarine systems, like the Chesapeake, they are known to travel upriver into freshwater. They range from New Jersey coastal waters to Brazil, including the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean and can reach five-feet in length. Their scientific name, Tylosurus crocodilus, reflects their body type: saurus from Greek and crocodile from Latin both suggest an image of lizards and other reptiles.

Houndfish do line-of-sight hunting with their long, tooth-studded jaws. They have a ventrally-adjusted lateral line that allows them to be directly on top and still maintain an air/water interface. (The lateral line is variously described as a sense organ among fishes.)

The species was added to the Hudson River Watershed list of fishes from a single houndfish collected by the DEC in the Tappan Zee (river mile 21) on September 21, 1989.

The month before, in 1989, anglers were catching foot-long and closely related Atlantic needlefish in the warm-water outflow of the Danskammer Power Generating Facility (river mile 66). During that month I received a report from an angler of a huge and strange reptile-looking fish he caught at New Hamburg a mile upriver. He had no photo, but he did have a vivid description of a long, cylindrical but robust-bodied, fish with prominent jaws studded with teeth. He had caught many pickerel and he assured me this was not one. Impressed by the size, he had broken off a willow branch matching the total length of the fish. Even allowing for the fact that a fishermen had measured it to be 25-inches long, this one was ten-inches longer than any needlefish I had ever seen in the river. I have wondered since if that was the first houndfish in the estuary.
– Tom Lake

Houndfish

Houndfish – courtesy of Justine Schluntz

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 30, 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.

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.

Was this Newsletter Forwarded to You?

Subscribe today to DEC Delivers Hudson River Almanac topic for weekly natural history journal that covers the Hudson from the High Peaks of the Adirondacks to New York Harbor.

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.