Archive for the ‘Water’ Category
Posted in Fresh Water, New York Harbor, Water, tagged aruba, erik baard, fracking, hudson river, hydraulic fracturing, hydrofracking, natural gas, oral history, Water, world war on July 28, 2012| Leave a Comment »
Posted in Birds, Estuary, New York Harbor, Parks, Uncategorized, Vertebrates, Water, wild eyed, tagged american bittern, bittern, caroline walker, city of water day, east river, erik baard, governors island, harbor, heron, mill rock, new york, ny, Pelham Bay Park, Prospect Park, randall's island park, randalls island, wild metro on July 17, 2012| Leave a Comment »
The East River is NYC’s premier waterway and as founder of the LIC Community Boathouse and HarborLAB, I’ve made it my paddling home. At sunset, ferry boats filled with skyline gawkers will nearly flip to the west, and East River bridges set the scene for countless films. But for a kayaker, it’s the wilderness refuges of its islands and inlets that make this tidal strait endlessly fascinating.
Returning to Randalls Island from Governors Island in the Sunday morning calm after City of Water Day, Caroline Walker and I paddled through the outskirts of Hell Gate toward Mill Rock. I was admiring Great Black-backed Gulls at rest and Double-crested Cormorants perched on the island’s rip rap skirt while drying their wings when I spied something a bit different — a bird with the shape of a heron but markings similar to an American Woodcock. Caroline described it as “brindled,” which is pretty apt.
As we drifted past, a handful of cormorants and gulls took off while most ignored us. The misfit bird, however, walked quickly and deliberately into the brush that grew down from a turf mound to the rip rap line. It seemed to almost instantly disappear among the twigs and leaves. I didn’t have a camera.
After some research yesterday, I realized how lucky Caroline and I were! We had spotted an American Bittern. This species has fantastic camouflage for its reedy habitat, and so is rarely seen. Sadly, its population is declining rapidly with diminishing wetlands (though I’m comforted that its conservation status remains “least concern“). Good places to seek them are Pelham Bay Park (join Wild Metro for a volunteer day) and Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. But they can pop up well away from salty shores. Prospect Park Lake, in the heart of Brooklyn, may have drawn this other one.
For those not lucky enough to glimpse this stealthy heron, there’s still a chance to hear its odd call, the second part of which sounds to me like someone repeatedly unstopping a PVC pipe. Strange that a creature would evolve to be invisible only to concurrently acquire a voice that earns it nicknames like “Stake Driver, Thunder Pump and Mire Drum.”
The American Bittern I observed was silent, so I have something to look (or rather, listen) forward to!
Posted in Birds, Estuary, Fish, Insects, Invertebrates, Manhattan, New York Harbor, Summer, Trees, Uncategorized, Vertebrates, volunteer, Water, wild eyed, tagged caroline walker, city of water day, david burg, erik baard, governors island, metropolitan waterfront alliance, night heron, steve sanford, vspot, wild metro on July 16, 2012| Leave a Comment »
After some puttering around the island, eating delicious Vspot vegan empanadas, and spending time with an amazing array of vendors, exhibitors, and fellow mariners, it was time to settle into camp.
Posted in Atlantic Ocean, Bronx, Brooklyn, Crustaceans, Edible Plants, Estuary, Fish, fossils, Geology, Long Island Sound, Manhattan, New York Harbor, Parks, Queens, Recreation, Vertebrates, Water, tagged arcardia, bluefish, cordgrass, east river, erik baard, gotham strait, nature, nature calendar, new york city, nyc, richard melnick, spartina, striped bass, thomas jackson, urban ecologu, urban ecology on January 10, 2009| Leave a Comment »
Posted in Atlantic Ocean, Brooklyn, Estuary, Long Island Sound, Mammals, Manhattan, New York Harbor, Parks, Queens, Staten Island, Uncategorized, Vertebrates, volunteer, Water, Weather, wild eyed, Winter, tagged Atlantic Ocean, cold stun, dolphins, ecology, environment, erik baard, Estuary, gowanus canal, injury, Julika Wocial, long island, marine mammal, nature calendar, nature community, naturecalendar, naturecommunity, neena dhamoon, new york, new york city, rehabilitation, rescue, riverhead foundation, Robert DiGiovanni, seal pox, seals, Sofia Theologitis, turtle, urban, volunteer on December 23, 2008| 1 Comment »
by Erik Baard
If a seal falls ill in the Gowanus Canal, a turtle catches an autumnal chill in Montauk, and a dolphin gets marsh bound in the Great South Bay, there’s a good chance they’ll end up as roommates at the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation.
As New York State’s only authorized marine mammal and sea turtle rescue group, the Riverhead Foundation is called upon to perform rescues and verify unusual sightings throughout the southern New York salty shorelines — the Long Island Sound, Atlantic Ocean, New York Bight and New York Harbor. The small, overstretched staff is like an aquatic A-Team housed within the Atlantis Marine World Aquarium, a well-run regional attraction where sting rays poke up to kiss you right upon entering the door. Really. Well, okay, and be fed.
(This photo and those following, unless otherwise specified, were taken by trip participant Sofia Theologitis.)
Our Nature Calendar group of five was ushered into the back rooms where the Riverhead Foundation does its work of assessing, monitoring, and healing animals held in cylindrical tanks for eventual release into the ocean or transfer to another aquarium. The most frequent guests are seals and turtles (we saw about ten of them, representing a mix of species that including harbor seals and a loggerhead turtle that had arrived an hour before us), though dolphins and porpoises are regulars too.
(I learned about the foundation eight years ago when I was with a pod of fellow winter kayakers who confirmed Harry Spitz’s sighting of the first community of seals in New York Harbor in 120 years, and wrote about it for the New York Times.)
You’ll know that turtles are in residence if upon stepping off the decontamination shoe pad you’re hit with a wave of warm, moist air. Some “cold stunned” turtles appear dead because they’ve been immobilized by temperature drops, before they could migrate to warmer waters.
“They get washed ashore like any other debris,” said rescue program supervisor Julika Wocial, who trains the public in making proper sighting and stranding reports . “Don’t assume a turtle is dead unless it’s decomposed or missing a head.”
Other turtles can’t dive well because of trapped gas pockets in their shells. This makes it hard to feed, leaves them vulnerable to predators and boat injuries, and above-surface shells sections can degrade with prolonged air exposure (as with the patient below). A bubble can be drained, but evenly distributed gas is a challenge. Sometimes weights are added, or the turtle is found unfit for release.
Flipper injuries like the one photographed below were common (suspected shark bites) among turtles, as are propeller lacerations. Even double rear amputees can survive in the wild, explained Robert DiGiovanni Jr., director and senior biologist at the foundation.
Whirl pools at the center of seal tanks mimic ocean currents and combat muscle atrophy.
Seal pox further weakened a few already struggling pinipeds. The viral disease, which isn’t transmittable to humans, runs its course with the severity and duration of our experience of chicken pox. Instead of many small pustules dotting the skin, however, seals get several larger, hard knobs near their faces and flippers.
Perhaps more surprising was how common eye injuries are among seals. Of course, those at the foundation were being rehabilitated and weren’t representative of the general population. It makes sense, however, that seals would often get bitten or poked around the eyes as they rooted around the seabed.
The staff takes special care to not bond with the animals, so that they retain natural behaviors and a healthy aversion to humans upon release. As social mammals with expressive faces, seals make this particularly difficult. Well, at least for me. The female seal I photographed below and I had some immediate chemistry. Ms. Wocial mildly reprimanded me for lingering and chatting with this pirate-eyed beauty.
Staff and highly-trained volunteers work together in both rescues and releases, with the latter being sometimes nearly ceremonial. Sponsors who “adopt” seals and turtles come out, as do reporters and other friends of the foundation. Sometimes a dolphin must be gently ushered out of its tank by a wall of staff and volunteers wearing dry suits, with arms interlocked. Slight injuries, sometimes quite painful, are common among the humans.
Costs for rescue, rehabilitation, and release range from $6500 for a seal to $120,000 for a dolphin. Medical machines are always needed, Mr. DiGiovanni said, and often come through hospital donations. One recent acquisition greatly improving the Riverhead Foundation’s field work is a portable unit to test for blood gases, electrolytes, and glucose levels.
Released patients of the rescue hospital have paid back their human tenders with unprecendented revelations. Tracking devices on their backs have mapped migration patterns, not only north-to-south, but inshore and offshore, where deeper waters have steadier temperatures, according to Mr. DiGiovanni. The foundation doesn’t necessarily deliver animals to places near their rescue locations because they usually swim hundreds or thousands of miles within weeks or months of returning to the wild.
Our own path was more predictable. As people now contaminated by seal pox, we were slipped out the back door. Our hosts apologized for the necessity, and stopped short of making us wear leper bells.
(One trip participant, Neena Dhamoon, is already raising funds from officemates, friends, and family!)
To volunteer, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
(Different skill levels are needed, ranging from basic office help to *gentle* dolphin wrestling, after much training.)
by Erik Baard
Some of the loveliest snowflakes you might see this winter glow warmly on a computer screen.
Lafayette College mathematics professor Cliff Reiter might share the joy of a kid making snowflakes with scissors and paper, but his computer simulations of crystal growth aim at deeper revelation. The sublimity of his creations attest to the beauty he sees in the elegant algorithms underneath.
“Isn’t it the juxtaposition of symmetry with complexity that makes snowflakes beautiful? With models, or mathematical arguments, simplicity plays a role similar to symmetry,” Reiter said.
More through this link.
Posted in Amphibians, Astronomy, Birds, Brooklyn, clouds, Edible Plants, Fall, Flowers, Fresh Water, Fungi, Gardens, Geology, Grasses, Insects, Invertebrates, Lakes, Mammals, Parks, Plants, Ponds, Recreation, Reptiles, Snakes, Streams, Trees, Vertebrates, volunteer, Water, tagged audubon center, Birds, children, education, environment, forests, habana outpost, meadow, nature calendar, nyc audubon, prospect park alliance, soil, teachers, urban ecology, Winter, winter warm up on October 22, 2008| Leave a Comment »
NYC’s greenest restaurant, Habana Outpost, is hosting a “Winter Warm Up” talk and happy hour. Learn about Prospect Park and the Audubon Center while mixing with fun and friendly teachers. Oh yeah, and enjoy Habana Outpost’s delicious food, party atmosphere, and ecological model before it shuts on Oct 31!
More info through this link:
And read the details below!
I hope to see you there!
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
5:00pm – 7:00pm
757 Fulton Street
The happy hour for teachers continues…with a presentation from our neighbors in Prospect Park about their Audubon Center!
Here are the details from our series calendar:
“Located in the historic Boathouse, the Prospect Park Audubon Center is a unique place where talented Park staff challenge students to actively explore the natural world around them. Audubon Center staff teach by asking questions, engaging students, and exploring Prospect Park’s 585 acres of meadows, ponds, waterfalls, and woodlands. All Programs at the Audubon Center support New York State Learning Standards and New York City Performance Standards to promote student achievement in science, math, and language arts. Our programs offer exciting learning opportunities for each season, to complement any environment- or science-based curricula. Programmatic themes for Nature and Science include: Birding, Meadow, Winter, Water, Soil, and Forest.”