Sand: The Beaches’ Hidden Treasures

Fourth of July is nearly upon us and it is time to hit the beach!  And beaches mean sand – sand to build sand castles, sand that tickles your toes during beach strolls, and sand for beach volleyball and bocce.

But what is beach sand?  According to http://www.merriam-webster.com, sand is “a loose granular material that results from the disintegration of rocks, consists of particles smaller than gravel but coarser than silt.”  These small particles are less than 1/10th of an inch in diameter.  The mineral makeup of individual sand particles depends on local and regional rocks, which are eroded by ice and rain, then carried to the ocean by rivers where they are deposited on gently sloping beaches. The size of individual sand particles is dependent on the slope of the beach, both above and below waterline. The color of beach sand is influenced by nearby landscapes and ocean bottom.

In New York, many beaches have a variety of minerals including quartz, white or clear particles; feldspar, buff-colored particles; and magnetite, black particles.  On beaches around the world you will find lava (black beaches), coral (pink beaches), garnet (purple beaches), olivine crystals (green beaches) and more. Some beaches have unique sand such as the orange Kerala coast beach sand in India.

New York State Parks have over 65 beaches on lakes, ponds, rivers, bays, and the Atlantic Ocean.  Let’s take a closer look at the sands on a few of those beaches …

Along Lake Erie

Evangola Beach Sand

The sand on the beach at Evangola State Park in southern Erie County is principally quartz, feldspar, magnetite, with smaller amounts of garnet, calcite, ilmenite, and hornblende.  All of the particles are approximately the same size.

Along Lake Ontario

Hamlin_Beach Sand

Located northwest of Rochester, Hamlin Beach State Park beach sands are mostly quartz, hypersthene (brown and gray), and augite (greenish).

On Long Island

Jones_Beach Sand A

Jones Beach State Park has 6-1/2 miles of Atlantic Ocean shoreline; different sections of beach have slightly different sands.  Some parts of the beach have sand that is mostly comprised of quartz with a little feldspar and tiny shell fragments.  Note that the clear quartz particles have different sizes.

Jones_Beach Sand B

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other sections of beach at Jones Beach State Park have quartz, garnet, and magnetite sand with a few tiny shell fragments. All of the particles are about the same size.

Robert_Moses Sand

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The beach at Robert Moses State Park, also on the Atlantic Ocean side, is mixture of quartz, garnet, magnetite, and shells. The shell in the photo is about 1/3” long; larger glass piece is about 1/6” long.

Napeague_Beach Sand

The beaches on the north side of Napeague State Park and Hither Hills State Park are along Napeague Bay. Here the sands contain magnetite and garnet which give the sand a purplish hue.

Bring your magnifying glass the next time you head to a NYS Parks beach.  You might be surprised at what you see when you take an up-close look at the sand.

Thanks for Anne McIntyre, Dave McQuay, and Megan Philips for their help with collecting sand samples for this article.

Post and sand photos by Susan Carver, OPRHP.

Learn more at:

Coastal Care: http://coastalcare.org/2010/10/dream-in-color-on-the-worlds-rainbow-beaches/

International Sand Collector’s Society: http://www.sandcollectors.org/SANDMAN/The_Hobby_of_x.html

Sand Atlas: http://www.sandatlas.org/sand-types/

Pilkey, Orrin H., William J Neal, Joseph T. Kelley, & J. Andrew G. Cooper; The World’s Beaches : A Global Guide to the Science of the Shoreline; University of California Press, Berkeley, 2011.

 

Staff Spotlight: What it means to be a “Boat Steward”

On a Monday in mid-May the 12 members of the 2015 NYS Parks Boat Steward Program piled into two minivans in the parking lot at Hamlin Beach State Park. The vans were packed to the gills with supplies, including snacks for the road, uniforms, plant rakes, 5-gallon buckets, and  folding tables. Strict instructions were given to avoid opening the trunk without someone standing by to catch any overnight bags or coolers that may tumble out. To a bystander, our situation likely seemed akin to a scene from the National Lampoon’s Family Vacation film – only we weren’t leaving for a vacation. We were bound for a multi-day training at Paul Smith’s College, where watercraft inspection began in New York State more than 15 years ago.

Watercraft inspection has become an increasingly popular way to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS) via overland transport.  During the training, Boat Stewards learn how to educate the public on AIS, conduct voluntary watercraft inspections remove and dispose of any plant or animal matter, and collect data about the boaters that they interact with.  This data helps us to understand how and where AIS are being transported, which regions of the state require enhanced outreach, and where boat washing stations would be most efficiently utilized.

mock inspect
Stewards conducted mock watercraft inspections for AIS at Paul Smith’s College in the Adirondack Park. Returning stewards from the Paul Smith’s program took on various “boater personalities” to help the new stewards prepare for any type of situation that could arise at the boat launch.
ais hands on
Paul Lord (SUNY Oneonta) held a hands-on invasive plant and animal identification session, which was an invaluable piece of the training for the stewards. After they had time to become familiar with the specimens, stewards were given a quiz!

Fast forward to five weeks later, the stewards are trained and on-site at 21 launches across the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain.

The following images were taken in the field during routine site visits.

Above left: Zebra mussels attached to a stick near the boat launch at Point Au Roche State Park on Lake Champlain. Can you imagine how many of these mussels could cover the bottom of a boat?! Banded mystery snails were also found at this location. Zebra mussels and banded mystery snails are just two of 50 known invasive species in the lake.

Above right: Melyssa Smith (OPRHP Water Quality Unit) and Ariana London (OPRHP Boat Steward) practice throwing the plant rake from a boat launch on the Great Chazy River. It is still a bit early in the season for significant plant growth; however AIS Eurasian watermilfoil and a native Elodea have been collected at this site thus far.

s poweres
“So far, the two main aquatic invasive species that I have found are curly-leaf pondweed and Eurasian watermilfoil. I keep some samples on my table to show to boaters and park visitors who come by to learn about them. I also throw my rake into the water every morning to gather new specimens. I have been learning to identify many different types of aquatic life!” – Sarah Powers, Salmon River and Lake Ontario steward.

Above left: Tara inspects a motor boat that is preparing to launch. “For me, being a Boat Steward is about patience, passion and perseverance.” –Tara Camp, St. Lawrence River steward.

Above right: A curly-leaf pondweed specimen on the boat launch at Westcott Beach State Park. Notice how the leaves resemble lasagna noodles.

If you encounter a Boat Steward this summer, be sure to ask them how you, a New York State Park visitor, can help halt the spread of aquatic invasive species by adopting a few simple practices when launching or retrieving your watercraft.

And always remember to:

  • Drain your bilge, ballast tanks, livewells, and any water-holding compartments
  • Inspect your watercraft and trailer for plant and/or animal matter, and remove and dispose of any material that is found
  • Clean your watercraft between uses or allow it to dry before visiting a new water body

For more information about the NYS Parks Boat Steward Program, please call (518) 402-5587.

Post and photos by Megan Phillips, OPRHP Water Quality Unit.

 

 

The Birds and The Bees …. Beetles, Butterflies, and Moths: A Salute To Our Native Pollinators

Everyone knows that honey bees are great pollinators, but there are so many more insects and animals that are also pollinators. In recognition of Pollinator Week (June 15 – 21), we introduce some of our native pollinators. Each day from April to mid-October, millions of bees, butterflies, moths, wasps, ants, beetles and a few other animals pollinate New York’s trees, shrubs, wild flowers, and agricultural crops while they are feeding on the plant’s pollen or nectar. By transferring the pollen from one flower to another flower, the plant can produce seeds and fruits (fruit in botanical terms includes most of what we call fruits, nuts, and vegetables). Food for us and food for all the animals in the wild depends on this. In fact, pollinators help to maintain healthy and diverse flora, fauna, and ecosystems across New York State and around the world.

Bees, like this Small Black Bee, are our premier pollinators.  New York State is home to over 475 bee species.  Bees like brightly colored blue or yellow flowers that are full of nectar and have a sweet or minty fragrance.

small black bee
By Sam Droege [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons.
Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds like tube or funnel shaped red, yellow or orange flowers that produce a lot of nectar.

ruby throat hummingbird
By Joe Schneid, Louisville, Kentucky (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons.
Look for moths like this Snowberry Clearwing Moth on white or pale flowers that open in the late afternoon or night or on dense flower heads like goldenrod. These large moths are often mistaken for hummingbirds. Both seek out plants that produce a lot of nectar deep within the flower.

snowberry clearwing moth
By Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons.
Like the Snowberry Clearwing Moth, this Question Mark Butterfly can also be found on flower clusters like goldenrod and yarrow (shown), and flowers that produce a lot of nectar deep in the flower.

q mark butterfly
I, Jmabel [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons.
Beetles like the Eastern-Eyed Click Beetle rely upon flower smell to find flowers.  Beetles especially like spicy and sweet flowers.

e eyed click beetle
By Henry Hartley (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons.
Although you might be a little wary of this insect, this Paper Wasp pollinates a variety of plants including milkweed (shown here), goldenrod, and fall asters. Many different kinds of wasps, including a group called the pollen wasps, are important pollinators.

paper wasp
By Bruce Marlin [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons.
Look for these pollinators and more during your next visit to a New York State Park!

Learn more at:

Butterflies and Moths of North American

Formicidae of the United States

New York State Biodiversity Clearinghouse

Pollinator Week

United States Department of Agriculture / Forest Service, Pollinators

Xerces Society

Post by Susan Carver (OPRHP) and Julie Lundgren (OPRHP/NYNHP).

Geology Exposed at Chimney Bluffs State Park

20150517_120933
Chimney Bluffs looking east from the shoreline. Photo by Brett Smith.

Some people are drawn to water and some are drawn to dramatic landscapes, Chimney Bluffs State Park on the shore of Lake Ontario has both. Located in Wolcott, New York the park’s namesake bluffs stretch for ½ a mile revealing its ever-changing ancient past.

20150517_123506
Chimney Bluffs looking east. Photo by Brett Smith.

During the last ice age from 2 million years ago until about 10,000 years ago there were a series of glacial advances and retreats that formed the Great Lakes that changed the landscape of the north-central part of the United States in many ways.  One of the clues that glaciers leave behind are called drumlins. We see drumlins as elliptical hills. These hills are blunt on the upglacier end and taper into and elongated tail on the downglacier end, similar in shape to a teardrop. Drumlins form parallel the direction the movement of the ice.  These hills usually form in clusters; the exposed upglacier end of the drumlin at Chimney Bluffs State Park is one of roughly 10,000 drumlins located south and east of Lake Ontario.

ChimneyBluffsParkMap
Click on map to enlarge.

The term drumlin refers to the hill’s shape, not its composition. Some drumlins are solid rock and some are composed of glacial till. Till is a mixture of different sized rock fragments and sediment deposited as glacial ice melts. The drumlin at Chimney Bluffs State Park formed when one glacier melted and deposited the till, later a south moving glacier reshaped the material into its present shape.

The north end of the drumlins has been eroded by thousands of year of wave action, wind, rain and snow. As the north end erodes the exposed material is carved into magnificent and ever changing formations. The bluffs are constantly changing source of beauty and danger.

Post by Josh Teeter, OPRHP.

Wildlife Sighting: Snapping Turtle at Fahnestock State Park

snapperWhile conducting field work in Clarence Fahnestock State Park the Environment Management Bureau’s Wildlife Unit came across this large female snapping turtle in early June. This female snapping turtle was observed digging a hole in the sandy soil to lay her eggs. This time of the year a variety of wildlife are giving birth or nesting to produce this year’s offspring. Turtles, as you may know, do not move very fast on land and tend to get hit by vehicles while attempting to cross the road. Please watch out for them on the roadways! Snapping turtles and turtles in general look for sandy soils that are easy to dig in to create their nest and lay their eggs. Nesting can take place quite a far distance from water. This is okay! Once hatched, the baby turtles will find their way back to a water source nearby. Get out in nature, experience our beautiful wilderness and all it holds, but please remember to not disturb these natural processes and give wildlife some space to be wild.

close up

 

Post by Kelly Starkweather, OPRHP Wildlife Unit.

Photos taken at Clarence Fahnestock State Park by Lilly Schelling, OPRHP Wildlife Unit.

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