Archive for December 2018

Recapping the 119th Annual Central Park Audubon Christmas Bird Count

On Sunday, December 16, intrepid birders braved heavy winds and pouring rain to participate in the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count for the New Jersey-Lower Hudson (NJLH) count circle. The NJLH count circle is centered in the Hudson River, and its 15-mile radius includes Manhattan, Bergen and Hudson counties in New Jersey, and a portion of Queens.

 

Barred Owl in Central Park, November 4, 2018 © Ellen Michaels

The Barred Owl, photographed here in Central Park on November 4, 2018, was one of three owl species counted at the 2018 Central Park Audubon Christmas Bird Count. Photo © Ellen Michaels

New York City Audubon organized the 119th annual Central Park Audubon Christmas Bird Count, along with our partners NYC Parks, the Urban Park Rangers, and the Central Park Conservancy. Undaunted by the weather, 59 participants joined us in the park for this annual community science project, which welcomes birders of all skill levels. Through foggy binoculars, they recorded 5,323 birds of 57 species. Most notable were the three species of owl—Northern Saw-whet, Great Horned, and Barred—all found within fifty yards of each other. The rain also kept the hawks grounded, making it easier to ensure that we did not double-count them.

 

The much-publicized Mandarin Duck remained in the southeast sector of the park, but as an escaped captive bird, it was not included in the count totals. Only wild birds are counted during Audubon Christmas Bird Counts. Introduced species, such as the House Sparrow, only start to get counted after they have established wild populations. Despite not “counting,” the beautiful Mandarin Duck of Central Park was still a pleasure to see.

Mandarin Duck in Central Park © Ellen Michaels

The Mandarin Duck of Central Park, while beautiful to see, was not eligible to be "counted" at this year's Christmas Bird Count because it is not a wild bird. Photo © Ellen Michaels

 

 

Several species often seen at the Central Park count were absent on Sunday but did show up at the park during count week (the three days before and after the count). These birds included Red-winged Blackbird, Brown-headed Cowbird, Purple Finch, House Finch, Ovenbird, and Field Sparrow.

 

In addition to Central Park, NJLH circle counts were held Sunday at Randall’s Island, Riverside Park, Stuyvesant Town, Inwood Hill Park, John V. Lindsay East River Park, Corlear’s Hook Park, Bryant Park, Tompkins Square Park, Lower Manhattan, and throughout Hudson and Bergen counties. And for the first time ever a Christmas Bird Count was held at Governors Island! The final results for the NJLH count circle will be available on our Audubon Christmas Bird Count Page once all the count tallies have been submitted to us.

 

A huge thank you to all those who participated in NYC Counts this year, especially those who led and organized counts.

 

Central Park 119th Audubon Christmas Bird Count Tally:

 

Species

Number of Birds

Canada Goose

366

Wood Duck

7

American Black Duck

1

Mallard

289

Northern Shoveler

84

Bufflehead

20

Hooded Merganser

10

Ruddy Duck

142

Pied-billed Grebe

1

Double-crested Cormorant

2

Great Blue Heron

3

Cooper’s Hawk

5

Red-shouldered Hawk*

2

Red-tailed Hawk

13

Merlin*

1

Peregrine Falcon

1

American Coot

9

Ring-billed Gull

89

Herring Gull

104

Great Black-backed Gull

4

Rock Pigeon

635

Mourning Dove

67

Great Horned Owl*

1

Barred Owl*

1

Northern Saw-whet Owl

2

Red-bellied Woodpecker

44

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

5

Downy Woodpecker

6

Northern Flicker

3

Blue Jay

265

American Crow

10

Common Raven

2

Black-capped Chickadee

9

Tufted Titmouse

247

Red-breasted Nuthatch

2

White-breasted Nuthatch

50

Brown Creeper

2

Carolina Wren

1

Winter Wren

2

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

1

Hermit Thrush

11

American Robin

180

Gray Catbird

2

Northern Mockingbird

5

European Starling

167

Cedar Waxwing

2

Chipping Sparrow*

1

Fox Sparrow

5

Dark-eyed Junco

33

White-throated Sparrow

1017

Song Sparrow

12

Swamp Sparrow

1

Eastern Towhee

5

Northern Cardinal

59

Common Grackle

861

American Goldfinch

17

House Sparrow

437

 

 

Jamaica Bay Horseshoe Crab Population Monitoring and Tagging 2018 Recap

Conservation Biologist Kaitlyn Parkins Recording Horseshoe Crab Data at Dead Horse Bay

Conservation Biologist Kaitlyn Parkins Recording Horseshoe Crab Data at Dead Horse Bay

This summer NYC Audubon reached a milestone—10 years of Horseshoe Crab spawning surveys in Jamaica Bay! During the full and new moons in May and June, NYC Audubon conservation staff and dedicated volunteers ventured out at night to count and tag spawning Horseshoe Crabs, a critical food source for shorebirds like the threatened Red Knot. Nearly 200 community scientists braved the unpredictable weather and late nights to help with monitoring at Jamaica Bay this year, including groups from Patagonia, the Metropolitan Society of Natural Historians, P.S. 9 Teunis G Bergen, and the Trinity School. Our Horseshoe Crab monitoring and tagging efforts are part of a larger project run by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and Cornell University Cooperative Extension.

 

Horseshoe Crab Monitoring Volunteers Use Quadrat Sampling Rectangles to Collect Standardized Data at Locations Separated by Vast Distances along the Beaches. Photo © Andrew Martin

Horseshoe Crab Monitoring Volunteers Use Quadrat Sampling Rectangles to Collect Standardized Data at Locations Separated by Vast Distances along the Beaches. Photo © Andrew Martin

Our preliminary results indicate Horseshoe Crab numbers are remaining stable in Jamaica Bay. Overall spawning peaked around the full moon on May 29. Spawning activity numbers at Big Egg Marsh this year were more than double the area’s 2017 numbers, making it this year’s most active beach. Big Egg Marsh also peaked slightly earlier than the other beaches, with 326 crabs in our quadrat sampling on May 17. On June 28, despite adult crabs being scarce, Big Egg Marsh volunteers reported thousands of tiny, newly hatched Horseshoe Crabs in the surf.

 

Spawning activity declined slightly at Plumb Beach East and West. Plumb Beach East had a peak 185 crabs in quadrat sampling on May 29, while Plumb West had a high count of 30 crabs in quadrats on May 31. Dead Horse Bay’s numbers were the highest they have been in four years, with 2,200 total crabs found on the beach on the night of May 31. Dead Horse Bay is a “full count” where we count every crab on the beach instead of taking quadrat samples, so it took volunteers until 12:30am to count them all!

Horseshoe Crabs Found at Dead Horse Bay, May 17, 2018

Horseshoe Crabs Found at Dead Horse Bay, May 17, 2018

We were also able to tag 800 Horseshoe Crabs this year, bringing the total number of crabs tagged throughout the program’s 10-year history to 5,980! Of those 800, 82 crabs were resighted later in the season at the same beach. We also spotted 11 crabs that had been tagged in Jamaica Bay by NYC Audubon in previous years; six of these were tagged in 2017, two in 2016, and three in 2015. Six crabs were spotted at Jamaica Bay that had been tagged elsewhere: Fire Island, Long Island, in 2012; Breezy Point, Queens, in 2012; Pikes Beach, Long Island, in 2015; Pikes Beach, Long Island, in 2016; and two from Calvert Vaux Park, Brooklyn, in 2017. These tag resightings help us learn about the importance of Jamaica Bay to the overall New York State Horseshoe Crab population.

Horseshoe Crab Tagged "403854" at Plumb Beach West. Photo © Andrew Martin

Horseshoe Crab Tagged "403854" at Plumb Beach West. Photo © Andrew Martin

This important work would not be possible without the dedication of our site coordinators Andy Martin, Christine Nealy, Ann Seligman, and Dottie Werkmeister. We also thank Patagonia, The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act grant program, National Park Service, Elizabeth Woods and Charles Denholm, and NYC Parks for their support of this year’s monitoring.

Horseshoe Crab Monitoring Volunteers at Big Egg Marsh on June 28, 2018

Horseshoe Crab Monitoring Volunteers at Big Egg Marsh on June 28, 2018