Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Devil's Heads!

“Mr. Jay, what is this?” It’s a common question when a student hands me a water chestnut. The water chestnut, dark in color and full of pointy spikes, triggers the imagination like few other objects which appear on our beach at Beczak. “Could it be a sharks tooth, or maybe an egg?” “How did it get here?”

While the story of the water chestnut isn’t quite as exciting as what it generates in the minds of our students, it is still an interesting find. The species that we see in the Hudson River is the European water chestnut (Trapa natans). This invasive plant found its way into the Hudson River in 1884 possibly as an introduced source of food for waterfowl or an escaped plant from a water garden. The water chestnut grows in fresh water and may quickly overspread native plant species. This has the potential to alter the Hudson River ecosystem.

If the water chestnut grows in fresh water, how do we find the nuts here in Yonkers, where the water is brackish? The answer is simple – the tides. In fact, the tides will carry the floating chestnuts all the way to the beaches of Sandy Hook, NJ where swimmers will painfully step on them. Consequently, the locals like to refer to them as Devil’s heads!

Jason Muller
Educator/Technology Specialist

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

March Hudson Quadricentennial Countdown

This special monthly feature to The Tidal Zone blog recounts the highlights that led to Henry Hudson’s sail past the tidal marsh of what is now Yonkers’ Beczak Environmental Education Center on September 13, 1609.

Henry Hudson does not have a ship of his own. Although he has been at sea since he was a boy and has already captained two other sea expeditions, he must depend on his employers for a vessel.

In March 1609, the Dutch East India Company assigns the Halve Maen to Hudson. She is a fast sailing yacht, but lighter than usual and cramped for an eighteen-man crew. Hudson complains of the choice, saying, “she will prove difficult to handle in foul weather.” The director, Dirk Van Os, replies, “The Half Moon is the only ship at the disposal of the Dutch East India Company... We can give you no other ship. If you do not want the Half Moon, the Company will be obliged to find another Captain to carry out this assignment.”

The directors instruct Hudson to sail no later than the fifteenth day of March. But Hudson delays; still conflicted about the route he will take to the Spice Islands of the Orient.

Lenore Person
Marketing and Communications Manager

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Kayaking Begins

I took a walk to the riverfront to get some fresh air on this warmer than usual March day. Standing on the beach, I turned towards the sun and felt my face relax. A kayaker paddling upstream—we waved and smiled to each other sharing in the great moment.

Beczak Environmental Education Center is right next door to the Yonkers Paddling and Rowing Club. Seeing their kayakers on the Hudson River means spring is quickly nearing!

Vicky Garufi
Education Program Manager

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Eagle Sighting

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Many people ask me, “Do you see eagles at Beczak?” I tell them that sightings have been made, but I’m usually in the office that doesn’t face the river. As of today, however, my reply has changed.

My co-worker Jason was walking along the path to check the marsh when he spotted a bald eagle on Beczak’s beach. The eagle was feasting on a big, tasty striped bass. Jason called me at my desk from his cell phone. I grabbed the camera and my jacket and walked very quickly down to the beach. I was too late to see the eagle eat his catch, but I was thrilled to look up and see the magnificent bird gliding in circles overhead. I have seen my first eagle!

Dorene Sukup