Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Return of the Mummichogs!

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I stood on the bridge that spans Beczak’s marsh channel. Ahead of me was the low marsh—the mucky portion that leads to the sparking Hudson. Behind me was the high marsh, lush with grasses. And below me, the tidal pool rippled with dozens of little splashes. It could only mean one thing—the return of the mummichogs!

Mummichog is the Native American name for “fish that travel in schools.” These small fish, no bigger than 4 inches, travel together in and out of Hudson River marshes with the tides. At low tide they swim in circles trapped in Beczak’s tidal pool, and as the water level rises they swim out to the river. Mummichogs find their favorite foods in marshes, too—small fish, crustaceans and plant matter. But there’s another important reason for the splashes in our tidal pool.

Marshes provide a safe haven for mummichogs to lay their eggs. This process is called spawning. Mummichogs spawn from April to August. They deposit their eggs at the bottom of the shallow water. There the eggs hatch and turn to tiny fish, around 7mm long. The small mummichogs wander around the marsh on their own until they reach 15-20mm long. At this point they will start swimming in schools and venture from Beczak’s marsh into the Hudson River.

Vicky Garufi
Education Program Manager

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Glimpse of the Palisades’ Past

I walked around Beczak’s marsh this morning enjoying, as usual, the view of the Palisades across the river. But today, two patches of yellow crowning the gray cliffs caught my eye. Could that be forsythia? I was pretty sure that forsythia is not a native plant. Was I was seeing a descendant of someone's landscaped grounds… a blooming ghost of one of the estates that used to top the Palisades?

I e-mailed Eric Nelsen, Historic Interpreter at Palisades Interstate Park and asked if there were any ruins on the summit of the Palisades directly across from Beczak. (Eric is Director of the Kearney House, the two hundred year old tavern across the river from Yonkers. Beczak staff call him “our neighbor across the street.”)

Eric replied, “Cliffdale, the estate of George Zabriskie, built in 1911.” He gave me a link to an article that confirmed my forsythia hunch. It said Cliffdale’s twenty-five acres included terraced gardens on the cliff edge. The mansion was demolished in the mid-1930s: John D. Rockefeller, Jr. purchased the property in 1930 and donated it, along with other cliff top properties, to the Palisades Park Commission with the stipulation that the Palisades skyline be returned to its natural appearance.

These forsythia’s yellow branches offer a fleeting glimpse of the Palisades’ past, visible only to springtime hikers stumbling through the ruins of Cliffdale and visitors to Beczak who chance to look up at the cliffs at the right time in April.

More about Cliffdale: http://www.njpalisades.org/cn2008_01-02.htm

Lenore Person
Marketing and Communications Manager

Thursday, April 16, 2009

April 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.

Pieter Claesz Still Life

The night before the Half Moon is due to depart Amsterdam, Henry Hudson asks his wife, Katherine, to make his favorite meal. Oysters. A platter of palm sized belon, harvested from the BĂ©lon River in Brittany, that taste of the sea. Hudson eats with his wife and sons John, Richard and Oliver. This will be his third voyage in three years and he savors the food, his chair, the dishes and warm apartment.

Early the next morning, he and his son John leave for the harbor and board their boat.

On April 6, 1609, the Half Moon sets sail. Two days later, she clears the island of Texel, leaving all Dutch land behind. For the next month, Henry Hudson captains his ship in the direction of the North Cape of Norway, as per his contract with the Dutch East India Company. He has been stuck in these ice-clotted Artic waters before.

Lenore Person
Marketing and Communications Manager

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Spring has Sprung!

The temperature has risen, melting all signs of winter. Trees are budding, plants are getting greener, and new plants are sprouting from the dark rich soil of the Beczak marsh. What signs do you see that tell you spring is here?

Dorene Sukup
Educator