Constitution Marsh

We went to Constitution Marsh in Cold Spring today to kick off our third and final week at RiverU.  We were met by Eric Lind, an avid conservationist who is the director of the Constitution Marsh Audubon Center and Sanctuary  there.  Eric introduced himself, and the other people working at the marsh’s visitor’s center.  The center is affiliated with Audubon, http://www.audubon.org, a wildlife conservation organization.

In the Sanctuary classroom, Eric gave us a lesson on our location, the significance of Constitution Marsh, and the organisms we might encounter in the marsh.

He told us that more than 200 different kinds of birds have been sighted in the marsh, and more than 70 have been observed breeding .  In addition, there are many species of fish, mammals, such as the muskrat and beaver, snapping turtles, indigenous and invasive plant species, and even the snapping turtle.  Eric has a passion for wildlife, especially birds.  He gave us several informal homework assignments and recommended we read A Sand County Almanac, a book that captures the ethic and state of mind of the famed ecologist Aldo Leopold.

We headed out on the marsh to canoe. As we did, I saw a yellow bird, which was very pretty.  We eased out into the channel, and rammed into the canoe next to us.  This would be a reoccurring theme, as the channels of the marsh are very tight for an army of six or seven canoes in close proximity.

We stopped to observe several different wren species nesting, which Eric described. He later described the significance of muskrats to a marsh ecosystem.  We canoed over to a beaver lodge and talked about how ambitious the beaver was to try to dam the Hudson River’s tides.  Along the way, we raced in our canoes, had fun, and got sweaty.

Finally, we entered a former Superfund site on the edge of the marsh.  Eric told us about the history of the site and the problems of the cleanup operations as they enter their final several years. The site’s sediment used to be one-third cadmium and nickel compounds in volume, due to discharges by the Marathon Battery factory battery on the riverside.  The Superfund’s efforts have been largely successful.  We then turned around and paddled back.

We said thank you and good bye to Eric and headed back to the Beacon Institute. Constitution Marsh is a beautiful and fragile place.  I am glad I was able to spend a day immersed in its serenity.