Thank You for Helping Us Protect Snowy Owls at JFK Airport
Thanks to all of you who have called to protest snowy owl cullings at JFK Airport, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has agreed to immediately implement a trap and relocate program.
Their press release last night:
“The Port Authority is working with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to move immediately toward implementing a program to trap and relocate snowy owls that pose a threat to aircraft at JFK and LaGuardia airports. The Port Authority’s goal is to strike a balance in humanely controlling bird populations at and around the agency’s airports to safeguard passengers on thousands of aircrafts each day. Over the past two weeks, five planes at JFK, Newark Liberty and LaGuardia airports were struck by snowy owls that have been migrating to our region in far higher than typical numbers this year.”
Audubon New York and NYC Audubon sent a letter to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, urging them to employ non-lethal methods of control and relocation in lieu of culling, and reached out to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation as well as the Governor. You can read the letter here.
It appears this winter may be another big one in our area for snowy owls, which wander southwards across the United States in years when food sources are scarce on their northern hunting grounds--and tend to visit similar tundra-like, open habitats such as airports. Thank you all for your efforts to encourage the Port Authority to adopt a non-lethal strategy of owl control at area airports, we couldn't have achieved this victory without the help of thousands of concerned people like you.
If you go to look for snowy owls, please be considerate of these visitors to our area and show them respect by keeping your distance and avoiding disturbing them.
Advocating for Gateway's Future: NYC Audubon and Allies Meet with the National Park Service
Since the release of the draft General Management Plan (GMP) for Gateway National Recreation Area in early August, New York City Audubon has been working to pressure the National Park Service to change elements of the plan that will be harmful to the wildlife, habitats, and other natural resources of Gateway. On Tuesday, November 26, NYC Audubon President Harry Maas and Executive Director Glenn Phillips, along with a coalition of representatives from allied organizations, met with local National Park Service leadership staff to discuss the GMP and other concerns about Gateway. Collectively, this group is known as the Birders’ Coalition for Gateway. Representing the Park Service at the meeting was Joshua Laird, Commissioner of the National Parks of New York Harbor, and Jennifer Nersesian, the Superintendent of Gateway.
The coalition opened the meeting by raising the issue of the West Pond restoration. Since its construction decades ago, the West Pond has provided valuable freshwater habitat to the wildlife of Jamaica Bay. Historically, Jamaica Bay had a great deal of peripheral freshwater wetland habitat. However, that habitat was destroyed as the area became increasingly developed, and there are now effectively no natural freshwater wetlands in Jamaica Bay. Thus, although it is a man-made feature, the West Pond has been absolutely critical in maintaining the ecological integrity of Jamaica Bay.
In recent years, the West Pond had fallen into disrepair. As the proper upkeep of vital maintenance systems was neglected by the Park Service, the water became increasingly brackish. When Hurricane Sandy ripped through the area last year, the southern shoreline of the West Pond was breached and the waters of Jamaica Bay poured in, transforming the pond into a lagoon of the bay. Since then, the Park Service has been exploring different restoration options for the West Pond, including the possibility of leaving the breach unrepaired. The Birders’ Coalition for Gateway weighed in on this issue, uniting behind the idea that it is of the utmost importance that the West Pond should be restored to a healthy freshwater ecosystem. Commissioner Laird and Superintendent Nersesian concurred, expressing their recognition of the historical importance of the West Pond and the necessity for freshwater habitat for many of the birds of the area. Although encouraging, their agreement with the Birders’ Coalition is by no means a guarantee that a desirable restoration will take place; there is some concern within the Park Service that, due to threats such as sea-level rise and hurricanes, even a restored West Pond may be vulnerable and the required investment may not be worthwhile.
The discussion then moved to the topic of the GMP. The Birders’ Coalition unanimously opposes the Park Service’s selection of Alternative B: Discovering Gateway, which the Park Service readily acknowledges will cause substantial adverse impacts to environment of Gateway. Commissioner Laird explained that the aim of Alternative B is to emphasize a rich and diverse experience for Gateway’s visitors through increased recreational and educational programming and developments. To this point, the Birders’ Coalition expressed support for the role of Gateway in providing such experiences, but stressed the fact that expanded use of the park must not come at the cost of environmental damage.
During the public comment period for the GMP, NYC Audubon provided the Park Service with three specific recommendations that will modify Alternative B, and these points were reiterated at the meeting. Adoption of these recommendations will change Alternative B in such a way as to mitigate many of the adverse impacts of the plan. Primarily, the Park Service must classify wildlife as a fundamental resource of Gateway, which would restrict or prevent any actions that might harm the wildlife of the park. In order to protect the sensitive island habitats of Jamaica Bay, NYC Audubon has also emphasized the importance of maintaining the present restriction on public access to the islands. Finally, NYC Audubon has recommended that the Park Service must staff the Jamaica Bay unit with commissioned park rangers in order to ensure that the resources of the park are offered expert protection.
NYC Audubon and the other members of the Birders’ Coalition are continuing to work to influence the GMP. Superintendent Nersesian explained that the finalized plan will be released in the next few weeks, and the final record of decision will follow 30 days later.
Top Banner Photo Credits: American flamingos © AlphaTangoBravo/Adam_Baker*; turquoise-browed motmot © Jerry Kirkhart*; group of birders © Kati Solomon; all others © Francois Portmann.
*This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License.
Christmas Bird Count - Citizen Science in Action
The 114th annual Christmas Bird Count will soon be under way nationwide. Data generated by the Count has been invaluable to scientists, allowing researchers to investigate the long-term health and status of bird populations across North America. Click here for the full history of the annual Bird Count and the compiled nationwide data.
Christmas Bird Counts are being organized throughout the five boroughs between December 12 and 22 this year, and all are welcome to participate. NYC Audubon will once again host Manhattan's Central Park compilation gathering at the Central Park Arsenal on Sunday, December 15, a festive event!
Tweet Exhibition and Bird Call Workshops
Bird Call Workshops
Sun., 12/15, 12-3pm
Sat., 1/11/14, 12-3pm
Thu., 1/23/14, 3-6pm
Instructors: Gabriel Willow, Cliff Hagen, NYC Audubon staff
With Children’s Museum of the Arts
NYC Audubon is pleased to be partnering with Children’s Museum of the Arts, offering six Bird Call Workshops in conjunction with the museum's bird art exhibit, Tweet. During the workshop, participants will discover how and why birds sing, learn to imitate bird calls and songs, and have the opportunity to create their very own bird song recording, which will be featured on the museum’s blog. Please visit www.cmany.org/tweet for more information. Limit of 6 children per session. Free with admission to Children’s Museum of the Arts