Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Heron Hideout

I had my after school environmental club with 3-6th graders from School 25 in Yonkers. We did our marsh exploration program and as we entered the pathway to the marsh a great blue heron flew out from under the bridge feeding on our killifish in the tide pool. It was a beautiful sight as it took flight away from all the loud kids and headed north to a vacant piling.

Friday, October 28, 2011

King Tide

Author: Robbie Hothan

The photos were taken on October 27 2011 at 0958. It shows the King Tide at Beczak Environmental Education Center in Yonkers. It's part of the King Tide campaign- an effort being conducted by the National Estuary Program to raise awareness about sea level rise. The high waters are caused by an enhanced gravitational pull due to the alignment of the sun, earth, and moon. It's not caused by sea level rise, but could give us an idea of what an average high tide will be like in 20 or 30 years.

The National Estuary Program has a call out to for photos of this event, here are mine.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Subway Cars on the Hudson

A decade ago, in a moment of inspiration, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority stumbled on a way to help the environment and its own bottom line: donating retired subway trains to the little-known cause of creating artificial reefs. More than 2,500obsolete subway cars — including 1,269 of the classic ocher-hued Redbird cars — were packed up, shipped out and then, with a splash, dropped into silent graves at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, somewhere off the coasts of six states up and down the Eastern Seaboard.

Members of the Yonkers Paddling and Rowing Club, Beczak’s next-door neighbor, have seen this “subway barge” as they entered the Spuyten Duyvil from the Hudson River. Says paddler Steve, “I was surprised by the quickly moving barge jutting out in front of me from the Harlem. It was such a breath taking and gargantuan sight to see! Subway cars piled six high.”

Just this week Jack, another paddler, told us, “A few of us were paddling down near Sputen Duyvil when the barge left the Harlem River and headed out to sea.”

Here are the New York Times photos of their final resting place:

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Return of the Bald Eagle

Each winter, between December and March, Bald Eagles from Canada and northern New York and New England fly south to the lower Hudson Valley to feed on fish and waterfowl found in unfrozen waters. It’s then that we see eagles at Beczak’s Hudson River beach.

On Saturday, February 26, at 7 PM, Beczak is excited to host Hudson Valley eagle expert, Tom Lake, for a presentation called RETURN OF THE BALD EAGLE. Don’t miss it! He tells The Tidal Zone why he finds Bald Eagles so fascinating.

“Bald Eagles are one of those species, like loons and bears, that authenticate the wilderness. As wild (non-developed) areas in this country shrink, we need such symbols to keep us from getting depressed.

They mate for life and, in my experience, show tremendous fidelity to their ‘spouses.’ Their courtship displays, which are occurring even now, are like ‘aerial ballets.’ The adults are great parents tending to their nestlings.

Eagles are incredible hunters. They can find food under the most-dire climatic circumstances. They are very strong, resourceful, and from my vantage, seem very intelligent.

To the Native People of North America, they were (are) a sacred bird. While many of the attributes discussed above are of little interest to many people, to Native Americans, they define what it means to be a kindred spirit.

I have been monitoring a nest in Dutchess County (daily from March through June) for a decade and have been allowed to ‘know’ the mated pair. They tolerate me because I have been a predictable neighbor. The sights and sounds of that ten-year relationship have given me an appreciation of their place in our world.

Tom Lake is the Estuary Naturalist for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation's Hudson River Estuary Program. Besides shadowing eagles and teaching the ecology of the estuary, he edits the Hudson River Almanac, a natural history journal now in its 17th year.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Harbor Seal in Yonkers

I usually kayak back across the river from Beczak’s beach, but last Wednesday night I had my street shoes on, so to avoid getting my feet wet I left from the dock at Yonkers Paddling and Rowing Club.

There, lying on its back on the icy dock, I saw a beautiful black seal.

Under the full moon and street lamps I could see it clearly. It looked healthy, a good sized harbor seal, perhaps 70 lbs. It slid off the dock and into the water, then swam back and forth while I talked to it, observing me interestedly with the top half of its body standing straight up out of the water, before dipping around the edge of the sea wall and out of sight.

I wondered why it wasn't more afraid—perhaps the seal-like black balaclava on my head reassured it. It didn't seem to notice or care about the yellow kayak on my shoulder.

I have been checking every night since then, but haven't seen the seal again.

Richard Scott

Richard Scott is the intrepid commuter who crosses the Hudson River by kayak! Read his earlier blog here.

NOTE: Richard didn’t have a camera with him when he saw the seal in Yonkers, but two days later, on January 21, LoHud’s Vincent DiSalvio took this photo of a harbor seal near the Haverstraw Ferry launch.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Winter Solstice AND Lunar Eclipse

We’re heading to what the ancients might call a magical time. On December 21, during the longest night of the year, our round white Moon will rise and then darken into red for several hours.

This is the rare combination of a total lunar eclipse, when the Moon passes through the Earth’s shadow, and the Winter Solstice, the time at which the Sun is at its southernmost point in the sky.

“The Moon often looks blood-red during a lunar eclipse,” says Marc Taylor, Coordinator of the Andrus Planetarium at the Hudson River Museum. “It’s colored by the clarity of the atmosphere, and every earthly sunrise and sunset taking place at that moment.”

The geometry is like this, he explains.

MOON EARTH <---- [93 million miles] ---> SUN

The eclipse will become noticeable at 1:33 AM on December 21st. The darkest part will take 72 minutes. Unlike a solar eclipse, a lunar eclipse is totally safe to watch. “Through binoculars, the Moon will look brighter and you'll see more detail, but a lunar eclipse is really about the overall experience of seeing a darkened Moon hanging in the sky. It's best viewed with the unaided eye,” says Taylor.

In order for an eclipse to happen, there MUST be a full moon.

We know that the tides are caused by the gravitational pull of the moon. So does that mean that we will notice a higher tide on the Hudson River on December 21?

“Yes,” says Vicky Garufi, Beczak’s Director of Education, “although it may not be very noticeable here in Yonkers. Both the Moon and Sun cause tides on Earth’s waters. When the Earth, the Sun and the Moon are in alignment, the combined gravitational pull creates very high and very low tides. This is called a spring tide—the name has nothing to do with the season.” (Read more here.)

“There won't be another eclipse coinciding with a solstice (winter OR summer) until 2094. And that one will only briefly be visible from the East Coast,” says Marc Taylor. So stay up late or get yourself out of bed to look at the sky on December 21—you won’t have another chance for 84 years.

—Lenore Person

All around the world, the long dark night of the Winter Solstice causes people to gather around candles or bonfires to feast and “sing back the sun.” Beczak Environmental Education Center takes part in this tradition with its Winter Solstice Celebration on December 19.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Great Blue Heron

Beczak has been part of “Snapshot Day” since the DEC started this estuary-wide event eight years ago. This was my second time participating in the project with students from Saunders Technical School. What made it amazing this year was seeing one of my favorite birds in the Hudson Valley, the Great Blue Heron.

The Great Blue Heron is a fantastic water bird that grows to be about four feet tall with a wingspan that can be over six feet! It feeds mainly on fish and hangs out in shallow freshwater and seacoasts. I first saw the bird at the Kensico reservoir and always thought they looked like very laid back, interesting personalities. They never seemed too bothered by anything and took their time as they waded in the water and hunted for small animals to eat.

On Thursday, October 15, 2010, I was in charge of the seining portion of “Snapshot Day” at Beczak. I was walking down to our beach chatting with some of the students when I saw the magnificent Great Blue Heron standing in our tidal marsh. Beczak employees have seen it many times in the early morning or the late afternoon, but never at 9:30 AM. We froze and stayed silent as we watched the bird wading in the marsh. As we motioned to others and tried to find a camera, it flew off on its impressive wingspan, soaring over the marsh and upriver.

It was breathtaking to see such a big bird in Yonkers, especially for the students. Most of them have lived their whole lives in this area and have never seen anything other than a gull or a Canadian goose along the Hudson.

by Susan Juggernauth