Atlantic Basin Water Critters & Water Quality Tests

With Video!

Watch the super short videos below to learn about small marine life and how to test for some water conditions next to PortSide's ship the MARY A. WHALEN. Below that, info about larger animal life in, on and around the waterfront in Atlantic Basin, Red Hook, Brooklyn.

The narrator in the videos is Emma Garrison. She has a background in marine biology and is a Brooklyn native passionate about the critters who manage to live and thrive in urban environments.

While an educator at the Gowanus Canal Conservancy,  Emma participated in a PortSide program exploring this marine life with the Stuyvesant High School Environmental Club.

Water Quality tests

1.   Measuring Turbidity

2.   Measuring Oxygen in the water

3.   Measuring Nitrate

Water Critters

1.   Sea Squirt

2.   Sea Squirts and a Shrimp

3.   Pacific Shore Crab

4.   Sea Squirt: You Can See its Heart and Guts

5.   Dissecting a Sea Squirt

6.   Viewing the inside of a Sea Squirt

7.   Sexual Reproduction of Sea Squirts

8.   Sea Creatures that are Eaten

9.   Isopod Related to a Cockroach

10. Polychete Worm

11. Oyster Life Span


On Election Day, 11/6/18, we spotted a great blue heron in Atlantic Basin, Red Hook for the first time. This inspired us to start a bird list of birds we spotted here.

If you want to add to this, please send us photos of birds you see here. Bird watching is a great thing to do while you wait for the NYC Ferry!  

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has a great website to help identify birds and learn more about them. We will be adding photos and links as we grow the list below.

Waterfowl that are not ducks


  • Bufflehead Ducks, Cute, buoyant, monogamous, punctual, small!
  • Mallard Duck (A pair nested here in 2015 but did not return, maybe because their ducklings disappeared a few days after they hit the water.  We think this is duck mating behavior.)
  • Gadwall duck 
  • Read the story in Patch about ducks competing to use our DuckNYC duck dock. The dock also served an injured sea gull.

Barn swallows, though not water birds, live under Pier 12 (the cruise terminal pier) and in an now-defunct drain pipe on the MARY A. WHALEN.  They arrive sometime in April (April 9 to 22 is the range we have recorded) and leave around August 22 to 24.

Have you heard of whiffling? This is a way that geese and ducks manage aerodynamics and find a way to lower altitude rapidly.  Check out this video of whiffling.

Opossums are supposed to be nocturnal, but our crew saw one during the afternoon come out of the weed patch south of our ship, walk along the pier close to our ship, and then head in the direction of the Pier 11 shed. One of the benefits of opossums is that they are one of the few animals that eats ticks. Ticks spread Lyme disease, and Lyme-bearing ticks have arrived in NYC; so treat opossums with care and appreciation!

Raccoons. We have seen these come down the pier in a family group and singly and even found a juvenile on deck! These wiley, adaptable, nocturnal animals are very much on the rebound in Brooklyn and are very prevalent in Red Hook.


Cricket Sounds on the MARY WHALEN, 2018

The sounds of the Mary Whalen are more than just the ship moving in the water, and the NYC ferry idling at the dock.  The sounds include  the call of gulls, the quack of ducks, and on this night, the very loud trill of a cricket.

Street litter hurts water animals!

If you throw your cigarette butts onto the street (or other litter), that flows into the harbor when it rains, and fish and ducks eat the junk, and it's bad for them. Please don't litter!



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This Item is related to Item: Great Blue Heron, 2018



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