Recapping the 2020 Tribute in Light Monitoring

On the 19th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, four beams of light shone into the sky in memorial of those whose lives were tragically lost on that day. Two of those beams were at the Tribute in Light Memorial in New York City, representing the Twin Towers. Two new Tributes also brightened the sky this year: one in Shanksville, PA, memorializing the heroes on board Flight 93, and one at the Pentagon in Washington, DC.

 

In addition to monitoring the tribute in New York City this year, NYC Audubon staff and our colleagues at the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology provided resources and advice to the organizations and individuals monitoring the other two sites. The new installations presented us with a valuable research opportunity, as the sites are each unique in terms of location, migration density, and environmental variables. Our hope is to use data collected at all three sites to learn more about the effect of artificial light on bird behavior and how these other factors play a role.

 
Like most things in 2020, our Tribute in Light monitoring on the parking garage roof in lower Manhattan looked a little different this year. This year we brought a much scaled-down team of NYC Audubon volunteers and staff and used extra safety precautions to conduct a socially distanced monitoring event. A small team of eight staff and volunteers was present, many of whom stayed up all night. We donned masks, didn’t share equipment, and counted birds from six-feet apart.

 

This year's Tribute in Light monitoring featured a scaled-down team that used extra safety precautions to conduct a socially distanced monitoring event. Photo © NYC Audubon

This year's Tribute in Light monitoring featured a scaled-down team that used extra safety precautions to conduct a socially distanced monitoring event. Photo © NYC Audubon


Bird migration, of course, has been unaffected by the pandemic. Leading up to the night of 9/11, we were regularly checking BirdCast, which predicted “medium” migration intensity. When asked if that was good or bad by a Tribute production team staffer, Dr. Andrew Farnsworth, Cornell Lab of Ornithology Senior Research Associate and NYC Audubon advisory council member, answered, “well, it’s not high, but it’s not low.” We just had to wait and see how the night would go.

 

Our agreement with partners National September 11 Memorial & Museum and Michael Ahern Production Services calls for the lights to be turned off when necessary to allow migratory birds that are disoriented in the beams to disperse. (Learn more about our Tribute in Light monitoring program and the scientific insights we have gained from the Tribute in this Sierra article here.) The Tribute in Light organizers and production team are always respectful of our requests, and we thank them for continuing to work with us to ensure the Tribute in Light is safe for our night-migrating birds.

 

Tribute in Light  2020. <a href =

Tribute in Light 2020.


Shortly after sunset, migration picked up. Birds were coming through at higher than typical densities for that early hour and we were getting concerned. Volunteers tracked the numbers of birds in the beams every 20 minutes while the Cornell Lab team checked the radar and recorded night flight calls. As birds began to concentrate in the beams between 11:30pm and midnight, the team from Michael Ahern Production Services was prepared to shut off the lights. Within minutes, however, the birds began to disperse without the lights needing to be turned out. The number of birds in the beams remained low for the remainder of the night, and for the first time in several years, the Tribute beams stayed on for the entire night.

 

In between counts, the team identified some of the birds passing through. American Redstarts, Black-and-white Warblers, and Yellow Warblers were common. A Connecticut Warbler made an appearance, as did a Hooded Warbler. Several Common Nighthawks and a hunting Peregrine Falcon were also spotted.

 

Birds weren’t the only wildlife present. Eastern Red Bats fluttered overhead, hunting the many insects trapped in the beams. Volunteer Doug Gotchfeld photographed and identified a Black Witch Moth, a species common in the Southern U.S. but uncommon in New York. You can see Doug’s iNaturalist report here. Monarch butterflies were also seen in the beams; while common in NYC, especially during migration, they are not a typical sight during the Tribute monitoring. One of them was captured and released by Doug the next day in Coney Island, to carry on with migration.

 

Check out our twitter feed and instagram stories for updates and photos from the night.

 

-Kaitlyn Parkins, Senior Conservation Biologist

What to Do If You Find an Injured Bird

© Sophie Butcher

© Sophie Butcher

During spring and fall migration, millions of birds migrate through New York City. Unfortunately many will not survive our city’s maze of concrete and glass. NYC Audubon’s Project Safe Flight estimates between 90,000-230,000 birds die each year in New York City as a result of colliding with windows. With your help, some window collision victims can survive. If you find an injured bird, please follow the steps below to help save them.

 

Injured Northern Flicker © Tristan Higginbotham

Injured Northern Flicker © Christina G, NYC Audubon Injured Bird Transporter

Assess If the Bird Is Injured

If you see an adult bird on the sidewalk with their eyes closed and/or is barely moving that is not a pigeon, the bird most likely hit a window and is stunned. Collisions with windows can cause: loss of consciousness, broken wings or legs, bleeding, and/or other blunt trauma-related injuries.

 

© Tristan Higginbotham

© Calista McRae

Where to Place an Injured Bird

Paper bags and cloth tote bags are great for securing birds and easy to bring along with you. Binder clips can also be used to keep the bags close. A box with a lid or towel placed over it can also be used but is less portable to bring with you.

 

© Sophie Butcher

© Sophie Butcher

How to Secure an Injured Bird

Approach the bird slowly and quietly from behind, pointed away from traffic, so as to not scare it. Birds are easily frightened and can end up trying to fly away, often into a structure and further injuring itself. Lightly grab the bird with one or two hands over its wings and put the bird gently into a paper a bag or box.

 

© Tristan Higginbotham

© Calista McRae

Where to Bring an Injured Bird

Once the bird is contained, place the bag in a dark, quiet place and bring it to the Wild Bird Fund as soon as possible. Do not try to force feed or give water to the bird.

 

The Wild Bird Fund is located at:

565 Columbus Avenue

New York, NY 11024 (Google Map)

 

The Wild Bird Fund is open seven days a week. There is no need to call before dropping off a bird between their office hours of 10am-6pm. You can call them at (646) 306-2862 outside of those hours and leave a voicemail if needed. The Wild Bird Fund is the only wild bird rehabilitation center in New York City and provides by far the best chance for the bird to survive. If you absolutely cannot get to the Wild Bird Fund, certain Animal Hospitals located in other parts of the city may be able to take in the bird.

 

American Woodcock at the Wild Bird Fund © Tristan Higginbotham

American Woodcock at the Wild Bird Fund © Tristan Higginbotham

If You Can’t Transport an Injured Bird to a Rehabber Yourself

If you have a bird that is contained but are unable to transport the bird to the Wild Bird Fund or an Animal Hospital, call NYC Audubon at (212) 691-7483 and leave a message. Due to the New York State ON PAUSE order, volunteer transport services are extremely limited, but we will try to do our best to connect you to someone who can help. If you’re safely able to bring the bird yourself, that will ensure it makes the journey to the clinic and has the best chance of survival. Thank you for helping wild birds in New York City!

 

 

Thank You to Our Community Scientists

February, the third and final month of winter, is often ushered by freezing wind, snow, and bitter cold. On one night this February, the NYC Audubon office was a lively refuge from the cold of February—filled with warmth, drinks, banter and hearty laughter, and spreads upon spreads of meals. But for what occasion?

 

On February 12th of this year, Charles Darwin would have turned 211 years young. In honor of him and his achievements, we invited our community scientists who continue to contribute to scientific advancements to a “Darwin Day” potluck party at our office.

 

Community Scientists Volunteers at the 2020 Darwin Day Party © NYC Audubon

Community Scientists Volunteers at the 2020 Darwin Day Party © NYC Audubon

Darwin’s curiosity, tenacity, intellect, and fearlessness clearly lives on in each and every one of our brilliant community scientists. Our conservation work would not be possible without the efforts of our community science volunteers aiding our research. Each year, we look forward to working with hundreds of volunteers from all walks of life who collect data for some of our key research programs such as Project Safe Flight, Tribute in Light Monitoring, Shorebird Blitz, and Horseshoe Crab Counts.

 

The data collected, the information analyzed, and ultimately, the scientific understanding we gain through these programs is truly a collaborative effort between our scientists and our dedicated team of community scientists. The collective knowledge these everyday New Yorkers share, the passion they bring, and the time they donate are critical to our work. We are thankful for their dedication to the pursuit of scientific insights and the conservation of the wildlife and habitats that make New York City an astoundingly unique ecosystem.

 

 

Aurora Crooks,

Conservation Program Volunteer Coordinator

 

 

 

Recapping the 120th Central Park Audubon Christmas Bird Count

Birders of all ages and skill levels were invited to participate in the Audubon Christmas Bird Count. We had 109 Community Science volunteers count birds with us this year in Central Park. Photo © NYC Audubon

Birders of all ages and skill levels were invited to participate in the Audubon Christmas Bird Count. We had 109 Community Science volunteers count birds with us this year in Central Park. Photo © NYC Audubon

Every year bird lovers around the world head out between December 14th and January 5th to count every bird they can find as part of the Audubon Christmas Bird Count. This tradition was founded on December 25th, 1900, by ornithologist Frank M. Chapman. Twenty-five counts were held on that day. The results were published in Bird Lore, the immediate predecessor to Audubon magazine that was described as the “Official Organ of the Audubon Societies” and “an illustrated bi-monthly magazine devoted to the study and protection of birds.” According to Bird Lore, the inaugural Central Park Count took place at 10 a.m. under clear skies with a light wind. Twenty individual birds of six species were counted (though White-throated Sparrows were noted to be “abundant.”)

 

This year, 109 community science volunteers took to the park on December 15th for the 120th Audubon Christmas Bird Count and recorded significantly more birds than they did during that inaugural count. They recorded 5,148 birds of 57 species in total. Despite some notable misses such as Black-capped Chickadee (this bird hasn’t been a complete miss on the Central Park Count since at least 1993), both the total number of birds and species falls well within the 20-year average for the park. Highlights included Green-winged Teal (last counted in 2013), Turkey Vulture (last counted 2009), and Red-headed Woodpecker (last counted 2011).

Central Park Audubon Christmas Bird Count 2019, The Southeast Team

Central Park Audubon Christmas Bird Count 2019, The Southeast Team

 

NYC Audubon is responsible for reporting data for the New Jersey-Lower Hudson (NJ-LH) Count Circle. Counts taking place in this circle this year included Governors Island, Randall’s Island, Riverside Park, Inwood Hill Park, Stuyvesant Town & Cove, East River and Corlears Hook Parks, Bryant Park, Tompkins Square Park, Washington Square Park, Union Square Park, Morningside Park, Lower Manhattan, and throughout Hudson and Bergen Counties (New Jersey). See full data from all of these counts by downloading this PDF.

 

Preliminary reports indicate four Nashville Warblers were seen on counts in upper Manhattan, which alone would be a record for the circle, but the New Jersey team had one as well, bringing the Nashville Warbler total to five. On Randall’s Island, a species new to the NJ-LH circle was counted: the team spotted a juvenile Yellow-crowned Night-Heron in the saltmarsh.

Juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron Counted on Randall's Island © Jennifer Adams

Juvenile Yellow-crowned Night-Heron Counted on Randall's Island © Jennifer Adams

 

New Jersey also added Surf Scoter, Long-billed Dowitcher, Tree Swallow, and Tundra Swan to the circle’s species list this year. Surf Scoter and Tree Swallow are new species for the Count, while Tundra Swan was counted once in 1995 and Long-billed Dowitcher once in 2007. The New Jersey team also counted the single Black-capped Chickadee for the circle, saving it from being missed for the first time in circle history.

 

Audubon Christmas Bird Counts took place in four other count circles that cover New York City. It was reported to us that Staten Island counted a Grasshopper Sparrow in both Freshkills Park and Mount Loretto Unique Area, while a thousand Northern Gannets were counted throughout this entire circle. Brooklyn counted a Northern Goshawk over Jamaica Bay’s West Pond. (Technically in Queens, the West Pond was officially ceded to the Brooklyn Count Circle in 1955.) Participants in Queens were treated to high counts in 10 species, including Razorbill (12 counted in total). They also found an Eastern Screech-Owl. The Bronx/Weschester teams counted two Great Horned Owls.

 

Thank you to all who participated in a New York City count this year, especially those who led and organized counts. If you are curious about how your favorite bird is doing, you can visit National Audubon’s new Christmas Bird Count Trend Viewer Tool.

 

The final results for the NJ-LH Count Circle are available to download as a PDF here. The final count tallies for the Central Park Count are listed below:

 

Canada Goose

247

Wood Duck

1

Gadwall

3

American Black Duck

2

Mallard

256

Green-winged Teal

1

Northern Shoveler

608

Bufflehead

17

Hooded Merganser

10

Ruddy Duck

77

Pied-billed Grebe

1

Great Blue Heron

3

Turkey Vulture

1

Cooper’s Hawk

9

Red-shouldered Hawk

1

Red-tailed Hawk

14

American Kestrel

1

Peregrine Falcon

1

American Coot

2

Ring-billed Gull

142

Herring Gull

245

Great Black-backed Gull

61

Rock Pigeon

609

Mourning Dove

87

Red-headed Woodpecker

1

Red-bellied Woodpecker

46

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

16

Downy Woodpecker

21

Northern Flicker

11

Blue Jay

176

Common Raven

1

American Crow

53

Fish Crow

3

Tufted Titmouse

1

White-breasted Nuthatch

4

Brown Creeper

3

Carolina Wren

4

Winter Wren

1

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

5

Hermit Thrush

9

American Robin

247

Gray Catbird

1

Northern Mockingbird

8

European Starling

216

Chipping Sparrow

2

Fox Sparrow

15

Dark-eyed Junco

34

White-throated Sparrow

924

Song Sparrow

14

Swamp Sparrow

1

Eastern Towhee

5

Northern Cardinal

93

Rusty Blackbird

1

Common Grackle

41

House Finch

27

American Goldfinch

18

House Sparrow

747

Recapping Our 2019 Tribute in Light Bird Monitoring

Tribute in Light 2019 © NYC Audubon

Tribute in Light 2019 © NYC Audubon

Each year on the evening of September 11th, New York City Audubon staff, board members, and volunteers make their way to the Battery Parking Garage in lower Manhattan, where 88 high-powered spotlights are assembled on top of its roof to create the Tribute in Light Memorial. Throughout the night our team of community science volunteers keep watch, methodically counting the number of birds in the light beams every 20 minutes from 8 p.m. on September 11th to 6 a.m. on September 12th.

 

Our agreement with partners National September 11 Memorial & Museum and Michael Ahern Production Services calls for the lights to be turned off when necessary to allow migratory birds that are disoriented in the beams to disperse. (Learn how artificial light from the Tribute in Light affects nocturnally migrating birds in this Audubon Magazine article here). As always, we were joined by Dr. Andrew Farnsworth’s BirdCast team, who kept us informed of bird migrations throughout New York City and the surrounding area.

 

Our protocol is to ask that the lights be turned off if a critical mass of birds (over 1,000) is counted circling in the beams at one time, or if birds are observed circling and calling low in the beams. The Tribute in Light organizers and production team are always respectful of our requests, and we cannot thank them enough for continuing to work with us to ensure the Tribute in Light is safe for our nocturnally migrating birds.

 

This year’s Tribute in Light monitoring began with very light bird migration. Our volunteers saw very few birds circling in the lights, with the notable exception of an opportunistic Peregrine Falcon hunting for potential easy meals, first spotted around 8:30 p.m. We remained optimistic for a light migration as the night continued. We observed a few birds, such as a Yellow-billed Cuckoo, moving quickly through the lights and continuing on its flight. We also watched Eastern Red Bats and Silver-haired Bats forage in the lights.

 

The low bird activity at the Tribute, unfortunately, did not persist as the evening wore on. Migration density quickly increased shortly after 3 a.m. Tribute in Light Volunteer Doug Gochfeld reported on eBird that he observed three Ovenbirds, six Black-and-white Warblers, and thirty American Redstarts, among other species, at the Tribute during this time. As the number of birds circling in the beams increased, our team agreed that the lights should be turned off for a brief period.

 


The lights were turned off by Michael Ahern Production Services from 3:30 a.m to nearly 4 a.m. to allow the circling birds to disperse. Upon relighting, the birds quickly returned and the lights were turned off again from 4:22 a.m to 4:55 a.m.

 

Radar map shows a high density of birds (indicated by green and yellow areas) over the Tribute in Light at 4:15 a.m., just before we asked the lights be turned off at 4:20 a.m.

Radar map shows a high density of birds (indicated by green and yellow areas) over the Tribute in Light at 4:15 a.m., just before we asked the lights be turned off at 4:20 a.m.

 

After the lights were turned back on, a new pulse of birds began to congregate in the beams, albeit in smaller numbers, until daylight broke shortly after 6 a.m. Gochfeld reported on eBird seeing Prairie Warblers, Northern Parulas, Blackburnian Warblers, and other songbirds traveling through the Tribute shortly after 5 a.m. Additionally, two Peregrine Falcons came and lingered around the beams to take advantage of the lights and pick off an easy breakfast.

 

See all the species at the Tribute this year that were reported on eBird here. To learn more about the work NYC Audubon does to protect migrating birds, visit our Project Safe Flight page. New York City Audubon’s Project Safe Flight program is made possible by the leadership support from the Leon Levy Foundation and the Robert F. Schumann Foundation.

 

Kaitlyn Parkins,

NYC Audubon Conservation Biologist

 

 

What to Do If You Find a Young or Injured Bird

From time to time, you may come across a young or injured bird that needs assistance. It is important to follow proper steps to make sure you are helping these birds and not further harming them.

 

American Robin Nestlings © kkmarais / Flickr CC BY 2.0

American Robin Nestlings © kkmarais / Flickr CC BY 2.0

If you find a bird, first determine its age. If the bird is not fully feathered, it is a nestling and needs to be returned to its nest. Contrary to popular belief, birds do not have a well-developed sense of smell, and therefore the parents won’t know if the baby has been touched by humans and will not abandon it. If the nest is intact, put the baby back in and watch from a distance to see if the parents are visiting the nest. If you cannot find or reach the nest, you can put the nestling in a box that has holes poked in the bottom for drainage and suspend the box near where the nest is located.

 

If the young bird is fully feathered, has a short tail and wings, and is able to hop or take short flights, it is a fledgling and can most likely be left alone. Young birds often leave the nest with weak flight muscles and are fed outside the nest for a few days by their parents. If the bird is in immediate danger (for example, it is on a sidewalk or road), move the bird off to a safer spot like the top of a bush or shrub nearby. Do not return the bird to the nest; it has outgrown its former home and will quickly hop back out. Despite your urge to take in the young bird, its parents are far better at feeding it and teaching it survival skills than any human, and taking in a young bird of a native species is illegal.

 

American Robin Fledgling © Denise Rosser / Flickr CC BY-ND 2.0

American Robin Fledgling © Denise Rosser / Flickr CC BY-ND 2.0

 

An adult bird on the ground unable to fly is probably injured. Slowly approach the bird, and if it doesn’t fly away when you’re within 10 feet or so, you can assume something’s wrong. Approach the bird from behind and scoop it up firmly. Carefully put it in a box with a lid or a towel over the top (or better) in an unwaxed paper bag clipped shut. Handle the bird as little as possible and do not force feed it or give it water. Birds go into shock very easily when injured, and often die from the shock. If the bird shows visible signs of injury (unable to flutter wings, bleeding, wings drooping unevenly, weak or shivering), it needs to be taken to a wildlife rehabilitator. You can find a list of rehabilitators in New York City here. If you are unable to take the bird to a rehabilitator yourself, call NYC Audubon at 212-691-7483 to see if someone from our network of volunteers can pick up the bird and transport it.

 

If a bird has hit a window and is still alive, it may just be stunned and need a little time to regain its senses, after which it may be able to fly away. If there are cats or other predators nearby, place the bird in an enclosed bag or box and keep it in a safe, quiet, dark place. In a few hours, or once you hear the bird begin to flutter around, open the bag or box and place it on the ground to give the bird a chance to fly out. If the bird doesn’t fly away on its own, it needs to be taken to a wildlife rehabilitator. Just as important as saving the bird, you can also make a valuable contribution to our Project Safe Flight research and contribute to our understanding of bird collisions in New York City by logging the injured bird on D-Bird, our crowd-sourced bird collision data collection tool, on your smartphone or computer at www.d-bird.org.

 

 

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

Tribute in Light Monitoring 2018

Tribute in Light, September 11, 2018, 8:40 p.m.

Tribute in Light, September 11, 2018, 8:40 p.m.

 

On September 11, two powerful beams of light once again projected more than four miles into the night sky from Lower Manhattan. Known as the Tribute in Light, this annual light installation beautifully honors the thousands of lives lost on September 11, 2001. The Tribute is a stirring and fitting reminder of the tragic events of 9/11, but it can also be a hazard for hundreds of thousands of migratory birds that travel through the city under the cover of darkness during their fall migrations. Birds are attracted to light, and can end up trapped in the Tribute’s powerful beams—circling, calling, and wasting precious body fat that fuels their migratory flight.

 

Since 2002, New York City Audubon has monitored the Tribute in Light to look for birds that have become caught in the beams. An agreement was put in place in 2005 with the producers of the Tribute (now the National September 11 Memorial & Museum and Michael Ahern Production Services) to turn off the lights for a brief period if need be to allow any trapped birds to disperse. The agreement allows this important Tribute to continue honoring the lives lost on 9/11 while minimizing the Tribute’s impact of night-migrating birds. We deeply thank National September 11 Memorial & Museum and Michael Ahern Production Services for their continued consideration of the birds.

 

Jennifer Hellman, Michael Ahern Production Services (left), with Dr. Susan Elbin, NYC Audubon (right)

Jennifer Hellman, Michael Ahern Production Services (left), with Dr. Susan Elbin, NYC Audubon (right)

 

Weather and migration patterns strongly influence the number of birds we see at the Tribute in Light. This year we arrived at the Tribute concerned: the weather was clearing up after a recent rash of storms, meaning migrant birds might take flight in large numbers that night. Additionally, there were low-level clouds and increasing fog, factors that can cause birds to be drawn to strong beams of artificial light at night in large numbers. NYC Audubon staff and volunteers were joined again this year by scientists from the BirdCast team at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Team members installed an automatic acoustic recording unit to record avian flight calls and also kept us apprised of bad weather and birds heading for NYC as seen on their radar maps.

 

Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Dr. Andrew Farnsworth (right), Checking with BirdCast Radar Maps on His Phone to Predict Bird Migrations through New York City

Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Dr. Andrew Farnsworth (right), Checking with BirdCast Radar Maps on His Phone to Predict Bird Migrations through New York City

 

As the sun set and the beams became visible, all eyes were on the sky. The number of birds began increasing around 10 p.m., circling high in the beams where the lights met in the sky. Eventually, birds became visible lower in the beams. Yellow Warblers, Ovenbirds, American Redstarts, and others could be clearly seen and heard calling above our heads. Another concern this year was 50 West Street, a tall building constructed in 2016 that rises directly next to the lights of the north beam. Birds could be seen fluttering dangerously close to the glass facade.

At 10:50 p.m. NYC Audubon’s Dr. Susan Elbin requested the lights be turned off for 20 minutes for the safety of the birds. Once the lights were turned back on, our team was pleased to observe that not only had the birds dispersed, but the number of migrants in the area (as seen on Cornell Lab’s radar map) had declined—possibly grounded by weather to the north of us.

 

Tribute in Light with Significantly Less Bird Activity after the Beams Were Turned Back on at 11:15 a.m

Tribute in Light with Significantly Less Bird Activity after the Beams Were Turned Back on at 11:15 p.m

 

Over the next few hours only occasional small groups of birds could be seen flying through the beams. The lights were again shut off for a brief period at 2:15 a.m., when we observed birds flying low over the lights and perilously close to the reflective glass of 50 West Street. The night went on without further incident, and as the sun rose at 6:00 a.m. our stalwart team observed the few remaining birds hunting insects as the beams faded into the sunrise.

 

Volunteers Monitoring the Tribute in Light Late into the Night

Volunteers Monitoring the Tribute in Light Late into the Night

 

In addition to bird monitoring, we once again recorded bat echolocation calls at the Tribute. This year friends from the NYC Bat Group and Bat Conservation International joined and brought the latest in bat recording technology (donated by Wildlife Acoustics) for us to try out. Using the technology we were able to detect Eastern Red Bats and Hoary Bats hunting in the beams. We were also joined for the second year in a row by Graham Montgomery, a scientist from the University of Connecticut who worked with the lighting crew to collect arthropod specimens that settled on the spotlights. We look forward to learning the results from this years’ observations as soon as the team members recover from their ‘all-nighter’ of observation and complete the analysis.

 

-Kaitlyn Parkins, NYC Audubon Conservation Biologist

 

Be sure to check out NYC Audubon’s Facebook page or our Twitter page for more photos and video from the event. To learn more about the work NYC Audubon does to protect migrating birds, visit our Project Safe Flight page. New York City Audubon’s Project Safe Flight program is made possible by the leadership support of the Leon Levy Foundation.

 

What Green Roofs Can Do for NYC’s Environment and People

First-ever forum on June 7 brings together city researchers, educators, and policymakers to explore the potential of green roofs for the City and ways to unlock it

 

New York, NY, May 17, 2018. The NYC Green Roof Researchers Alliance will hold its first annual conference, “The State of Green Roofs in New York City,” to discuss cutting-edge research on urban green roofs on Thursday, June 7, at The New School. This is the first-ever forum on the emerging fields of green roof science, policy, and education.

 

Javits K. Javits Convention Center Green Roof, One of the Largest Green Roofs in the Country

Javits K. Javits Convention Center Green Roof, One of the Largest Green Roofs in the Country

Coordinated by NYC Audubon with funding from The New York Community Trust, the NYC Green Roof Researchers Alliance is a consortium of over 50 researchers, educators, and policymakers from 17 New York City and State institutions. It is investigating the potential benefits of green roofs, developing a comprehensive overview of green roofs in New York City, and working to expand them across the cityscape.

 

New York City’s one million rooftops add up to a vast underutilized landscape that could be harnessed to make a more resilient and equitable urban environment. If effectively designed and sited, green roofs can soak up stormwater to reduce sewage overflows that pollute the city’s waterways, filter air pollution, moderate extreme heat, decrease carbon emissions, and create habitat for wild birds, bats, and pollinators.

 

The conference will open with a keynote by Alan Steel, CEO and President of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, which installed the largest and most studied green roof in the city (and one of the largest in the country) when the center was renovated in 2013. Topics to be covered at the conference include the development of a map and database of New York City green roofs, the use of green roofs by birds, bats, and insects, and the effects of green roofs on stormwater retention, energy use, and the urban heat island effect. Presenters will give an overview of policies that have expanded the use of green roofs in other cities and the ways in which New York City educators are using green roofs for science instruction.

 

Free and open to the public. Space is limited. Pre-register at bit.ly/GreenRoofsNYC.

 

Agenda:
9-9:30 am: Check in, Coffee, and Welcome

9:30-10am: Keynote Address/Q&A, Alan Steel, President and CEO, Jacob K. Javits Convention Center

10-11:15am: Mapping Green Roofs, Green Infrastructure, and Future Potential in NYC

11:30am-12pm: Green Roof Stormwater Runoff and Microclimate Research

1-2:15pm: Green Roof Biodiversity and Biological Research

2:30-4pm: Green Roof Policy, Incentives, Management, and Education

4-4:05pm: Closing Remarks

4:10-5pm: Hors d’oeuvres and Networking with Green Roof Researchers Alliance

 

 

The event is sponsored by the Urban Systems Lab at The New School and NYC Audubon, and co-sponsored by the Civic Liberal Arts Program at Eugene Lang College and the Environmental Studies Program at The New School. The NYC Green Roof Researchers Alliance is underwritten by The New York Community Trust, A.P.J. O’Connor Fund, and the LuEsther T. Mertz Fund.