Monday, January 26, 2009

Beczak’s Visitor

At 9 AM today, while I was opening up the Beczak Environmental Education Center, I found a small brown bird lying in a ball on the ground. Its feathers were puffed up, which is what birds do to conserve their body heat. I picked it up and checked its wings and feet to see if the bird was hurt. Everything seemed fine except one of its eyes wouldn’t open. I tried to warm the bird by rubbing it gently between my gloves. When that didn’t seem to work, I fetched a piece of felt to wrap the bird in, and brought it inside.

I put the bundle in a shoebox on my desk and took a close look. Its bill was yellow and black, and it had a rusty-colored eye line and crown. There was a small dark spot on its chest. These arks identified it as an American Tree Sparrow, or Spizella arborea, which I double-checked in National Audubon Society: The Sibley Guide to Birds. This common Hudson Valley bird winters in small flocks in brushy habitats alike the Beczak marsh.

In a few hours, the bird began to move around. I could tell it had defrosted, and I released it back to its winter home.

Dorene Sukup

Saturday, January 17, 2009

How Low Can it Go?

After several years of mild winters, the Hudson Valley has been blasted by an arctic air mass. This frigid air blew out of Alaska where temperatures fell as low as -69 degrees! While we didn’t experience those types of extremes around here, Yonkers has not seen temperatures near zero in several years. Areas up and down the Hudson saw wind-whipped snow and temperatures falling below zero. Large sheets of ice now cover the river.

Saturday’s temperature of 3 degrees begs the question, how low can it go? Well, all we have to do is take a look back into the record books. On February 9, 1934, Central Park fell to an all-time record low of -15 degrees. Moving upriver, Albany saw the temperature drop all the way to -28 degrees on January 19, 1971. Will we ever see temperatures that low again here in the Hudson Valley? I think that is a question which will be debated for some time to come.

Jason Muller
Educator/Technology Specialist

Monday, January 12, 2009

Winter Tides at Beczak

Cold weather and water bring new sights to the Hudson River. Occasionally I even spot eagles on ice floats or soaring above the Palisades! So upon my return from the holidays, I took a walk down to Beczak’s riverfront at low tide. I saw small pieces of flat ice along the shoreline, and a giant, flat piece of ice lodged in the marsh’s channel.

The stranded pancake of ice in Beczak’s marsh is a result of the Hudson River’s tides. Because the Hudson is an estuary—which means that the salty tides of the Atlantic Ocean regularly rise and flood the river—the Hudson River has a high tide and low tide. It takes about six hours to go from high tide to low tide.

As the last tide fell and water drained from Beczak’s marsh, the ice float sank to the mud and was left behind in the channel.

It was truly a beautiful scene to bring in 2009.

Vicky Garufi
Education Program Manager