Friday, December 24, 2010

Marsh Cruise

This will be my last post for 2010. Thanks to everyone for your time and muscles over the past two months. At this rate, we may have a finished project this time next year. As a parting gift, I offer this 90-second movie shot in Muskrat Vision ©. No muskrats were harnessed or otherwise inconvenienced during filming. Happy New Year, see you at the marsh in 2011.

Edited by Irene. Music by Elliott Smith.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Day 8: Moon Tides

Saturday's dry channel is now underwater.

The entire marsh was transformed by the moon tide, i.e. the spring tide, which is completely unrelated to the season. Nor does it have anything to do with the recent winter solstice/ lunar eclipse that everyone slept through. Flooding occurs twice a month: once on the full moon and once on the new moon. This just happened to be the first time I was around to see it.

Upon arrival I found the main pool filled with Canadians and black ducks. They predictably evaded the paparazzi.

Our plotting and scheming paid off. Saturday's heroic log-removal efforts allowed the incoming tide to consolidate the debris and push it up to the bank for easy raking. Some may recall one massive chunk of dock that we couldn't budge, even with ten people tugging. Today it became a floating platform and wheelbarrow ferry. Very effective, in a Huck Finn sort of way:

It's starting to look like ... a marsh.

High of 39, wind NNE @ 11 MPH, -.6 low tide @ 2:42 PM, water level at 6-inch mark. Water by culvert frozen.
Birds seen: black brant, Canadian geese, common mergansers, cardinal, black ducks
Other: raccoon and possum tracks along main path

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Day 7: Winter Marsh Day

Rocky Point enjoyed a major victory today, with 19 volunteers showing up for our first "Marsh Day." We commenced with a ceremonial releasing of peace raccoons (actually two unwanted tenants from Tony's shop.) It was perfect marshing weather: above freezing, zero wind, and the warm glow of the low December sun. Most of the coats had come off by the end of the day.

Half the group collected small debris:

The other half hauled logs, some weighing in excess of 400 lbs. After yelling 1, 2, 3, HEAVE! all day, Caspar considered a career as a Viking slave-master.

The goal was to clear the channel before the next moon tide. With the wood removed, the water will push the remaining debris onto higher ground, where it will be easier to remove. We accomplished the task in less than four hours. You can land an airplane in there now. Well... a model airplane.

Does anyone have a fireplace?

We ended the day tired but inspired. Cecilia and Kenny made another contribution by testing the strength of the ice for us. They discovered it wasn't very strong. Thanks for letting us know! Bring an extra pair of socks next time...

Many thanks to Jay, Tina, Cecilia, Kenny, Sherman, James, Tung, Stacy, Montana, John and his kids, Stu, Caspar, Cory, Brock, Don and his friend, Irene, Tony and the American Museum of Natural History for your hard, hard work. Happy Holidays.

All photos by Irene

High of 35, wind NNW @ 1 MPH, .2 low tide @11:37 AM, water level unrecorded. Pond frozen.
Birds seen: black brant, mockingbird

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Day 6: Slush

Icy slush now carpets the main pool. As the water repeatedly thawed and froze over the past week, debris from the central flats worked it's way toward the culvert. It will make for easy gathering next spring. But for now, the frozen top layer is too brutal on the shins to justify a dip.

A flotilla of around 30 common mergansers bobbed around the jetty throughout the day:

Started clearing plastic debris by tub and dolly. The rest of the day was spent organizing for Saturday's event, when we hope to have a dozen volunteers clearing the dry parts of the marsh.

High of 29, wind WNW @ 20 MPH, 4. high tide @2:48 PM, water level at 2 inch mark.
Birds seen: common merganser, mallard, Canadian geese, black brant, mockingbird

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Day 5: Ice

The marsh is frozen, with a half-inch of ice covering the pond. So Stu and I focused on clearing the dry channel using the wheelbarrow, which made light work of the smaller wood debris. This trusty vehicle should prove even handier when the pond freezes solid. It will be like ice-road trucking but with one tire and no hemi.

The passerines were bold today. Irene captured a yellow-rumped warbler, black-capped chickadee and cardinal. On the bay side we saw a flotilla of skittish American wigeon and what looked like mergansers. I failed to capture a before/after so this hero shot will have to do:

All photos by Irene

High of 32, wind from WNW @ 12 MPH, -.1 low tide @4:09 PM, water level at -.5 inch mark. Birds seen: warbler, chickadee, cardinal, wigeon, merganser, black brant, gulls
Other: 2 in. mussels seen on marsh side of dune. Large cockle clams exposed on beach. Raccoon, possum and cat tracks in sand.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Day 4: sludge-based life form discovered

Today Kip and I abandoned the main pool for one of the many log jammed channels crisscrossing the marsh. We managed to clear enough of the debris to see some water. Upon flipping over a twin sized futon, we discovered life. Check out these pythons:

They're Atlantic ribbed mussels, the only large bivalve found in salt marshes. They can breath air and live for over two decades. These were about 4 cm long, indicating they're at least 2 years old. That they survived so long sandwiched between mud and mattress bears testament to their tenacity. They bind the sediment with their supersilk, slowing erosion at the marsh edge. Their droppings feed the cordgrass, the plant that holds the entire marsh together. Encouraging to know something besides us is attempting to clean up the place. We also saw about a thousand little snails and some sand shrimp.

Here's Kip on our pile:

High of 40, wind from NNW @ 13 MPH, 4. high tide @4:28 PM, water level at 3.5-inch mark. Birds seen: robin-sized bird with greenish-yellow underwings.

Age and Growth Rate Determinations for the Atlantic Ribbed Mussel, Geukensia demissa Dillwyn (Bivalvia: Mytilidae) Diane J. Brousseau Estuaries, Vol. 7, No. 3 (Sep., 1984), pp. 233-241

Recruitment, Survivorship, and Age Structure of a New York Ribbed Mussel Population (Geukensia demissa) in Relation to Shore Level: A Nine Year Study David R. Franz Estuaries, Vol. 24, No. 3 (Jun., 2001), pp. 319-327

Ribbed Mussels and Spartina Alterniflora Production in a New England Salt Marsh Mark D. Bertness Ecology, Vol. 65, No. 6 (Dec., 1984), pp. 1794-1807