Here come the horseshoe crabs!

Volunteers spotting horseshoe crabs © NYC Audubon

What’s your idea of the best way to spend a foggy evening in early May? If your answer involves roaming a beach in Jamaica Bay looking for spawning arthropods, then join the crowd! Last night kicked off NYC Audubon’s citizen science horseshoe crab monitoring program for this year and we had crews at three beaches in Jamaica Bay surveying for spawning crabs (of course, in truth the horseshoe crab isn’t a crab, it’s more closely related to spiders and scorpions, but we still use ‘crab’ as the shortened term for them). For the fourth consecutive year we are monitoring Brooklyn’s Plumb Beach for spawning and will be collecting a second year of data at Dead Horse Bay (also in Brooklyn) and the beach at Big Egg in Queens. We are interested in the health of Jamaica Bay’s horseshoe crab population because of the reliance of migratory shorebirds on horseshoe crab eggs for food (see an earlier blog post for more information). For three nights around each new and full moon for the next couple of months, dedicated volunteers will brave any and all conditions to collect data that are showing how important Jamaica Bay is for spawning horseshoe crabs. In fact, the data indicate that Jamaica Bay supports the highest densities of spawning horseshoe crabs in the state – not bad for our favorite urban estuary. Kind of makes you want to howl at the moon!
- John Rowden

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