Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category.

Hurricane Sandy Impacts: Rockaways Beach Clean-Up

Last weekend, NYC Audubon staff member Barbara Lysenko and her husband Tom took part in a NYC Parks post-Sandy clean-up event at Beach 30th Street in the Rockaways.  They gave us a first-hand account of  what they encountered, both at the clean-up site and along the way through Broad Channel:

 

On Sunday, November 25

 

Park sign covered in sand (up close)

All of our concerns came true as we got closer to the hard-hit areas. Passing by our beloved Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, seeing all the scattered trash and the closed signs hit me hard. Driving through Broad Channel we witnessed boats in the street, stores closed and gutted, homes destroyed and without power, boat docks wrecked and mounds of items on the street that a month ago were deemed prize possessions.

 

As we approached our destination by the beach, the devastation became worse. Sand was everywhere! The dunes that once existed were now gone. The surge had washed the sand onto the inland streets and facilities. The playground we were to clean had three to four feet of sand covering the jungle gyms.

 

Teams of volunteers were given shovels, buckets and wheelbarrows and were asked to start removing the sand. All of this had to be done by hand, as the playground equipment would have been destroyed by construction vehicles.

 

For three long hours, we excavated two areas that still needed attention. It was truly amazing to all 30 volunteers as we watched the playground equipment unearth and the flower gardens start to reappear.

 

We were all pleased with our accomplishments for the day.

 

As we left the playground that afternoon, we had smiles on our faces knowing that we helped to try to restore this beautiful park. However, our smiles seemed to fade as we approached all the other areas still in need of restoration or assistance: the soccer field, picnic tables and benches covered in several feet of sand, the residents still without power or homes to live in, the lack of wildlife in the area and the streets covered with debris.

 

As upsetting as this was, we knew that it would have to wait for another day.

 

Barbara & Tom Lysenko

 

 

Photos courtesy of Partnerships for Parks

Hurricane Sandy Impacts: Breezy Point Tip and Plumb Beach

We received another informative update from longtime volunteer and former NYC Audubon board President Ron Bourque, describing the impact Sandy has had on Plumb Beach and Breezy Point Tip.

 

Hello All,

 

Plumb Beach has been affected by the completion of the beach nourishment project that restored the sand that was lost since the 1992 nourishment. I had a conversation with a USACE project manager who told me that the 3/4-mile sand slurry pipeline would be removed in the next few weeks.  Bids for the construction of the rock groins and breakwater should be going out this week. How this part of the project will affect marine life remains to be seen.  Further east, the erosion of the dunes separating Jamaica Bay from the tidal lagoon has greatly altered the landscape.  The drainage channel from the lagoon to the bay remains open for the movement of horseshoe crabs.

 

Driving out to the 222nd Street parking lot at the base of the Breezy Point Tip is a slow trip due to the number of trucks and earth-moving machinery on Rockaway Point Boulevard. Despite some coils of plastic pipe, there was ample room at the parking lot for more than a dozen cars. The sand road to the ocean beach is impassible because of severe erosion, flooding and collapsed Surf Club fencing. The walk on the bay side of the Breezy Point Tip was easy because of the very broad dry sand beach–much of that sand came from wind-eroded dunes. The great storm also cut some water channels that force hikers to take to the rock jetty as a bridge to more dry beach.  The ocean beach front is unrecognizable by anyone familiar with the series of dunes that ran parallel to the beach–they are gone. (See comparison photos of the Breezy Point dunes, below.)

 

The vast sand flat does hold great promise for next year’s arrival of terns and plovers.  The very flatness of this area is an invitation for vehicles to roam far from the beach.  Indeed, I witnessed the incursion of two four-wheeled ATVs on those very sand flats and on the remaining dunes on the bay side.  They were operated by adults–physically adult at least–and had no license plates.  Without a significant increase in NPS staff, the symbolic fencing will not be adequate to prevent incursions into the tern and plover habitat.

 

Best regards to all, Ron

 

Hurricane Sandy Impacts: Four Sparrow Marsh

Long-time volunteer and former NYC Audubon board president Ron Bourque sent us the following email:

 

In many past letters/e-mails, I had advocated for the removal of the overburden of tons of wood jetsam that had accumulated on the Mill basin side of Four Sparrow Marsh over the past 75 years. The great concern was how to remove all the debris without tearing up the marsh. It would have been a very expensive operation.

 

Hurricane Sandy accomplished a Four Sparrow Marsh cleanup the likes of which one could only dream. Both the lagoon side and the Mill Basin side of the marsh have been swept clean of 99% of the old debris. Sandy has essentially swept it all under the rug. More like sweeping the debris behind the couch!  The tidal surge lifted all the floatable wood while the wind hurled it into the surrounding upland shrub/phragmites stands.

 

In the 35 years I have been visiting Four Sparrow Marsh, I have never seen it so clean. It’s extraordinary!  (See photos below,  taken November 18th)

 

I do hope the salt marsh sparrows respond well to their restored habitat. The great blue herons that normally find shelter in Four Sparrow Marsh through the fall and winter seem to have been driven out by the ferocity of the storm.

 

The record for number of great blues here on a Christmas Count was 11.

 

Best regards to all, Ron

 

 

International Coastal Cleanup 2012

Volunteers cleaning Plumb Beach for International Coastal Cleanup © NYC Audubon

Every year, thousands of people converge on coastal areas around the world during the last two weeks of September to raise awareness about the threats to coastlines and clean those areas of garbage. This massive effort is led by the Ocean Conservancy and NYC Audubon has participated for several years, in partnership with the American Littoral Society and National Park Service. This year we took a crew of over 50 volunteers to Brooklyn’s Plumb Beach on Saturday, September 15th to clean the beach and adjacent dunes of garbage, while collecting data on the types and amounts of garbage we found. These data go into the Ocean Conservancy’s database and show how garbage changes over time and with location. Our volunteers did an amazing job, collecting 1,837 cigarette butts, 858 food wrappers or containers, 699 caps or lids, 603 plastic bags and 536 plastic beverage bottles – and those were just the top five most commonly found items! Many thanks to all our amazing volunteers for the hard work they put in to make Plumb Beach better for humans and wildlife.

- John Rowden

Tribute in Light 2012

Specks in the Tribute in Light beams are birds © NYC Audubon

Each September 11th, two beams of light project into the sky from lower Manhattan to pay tribute to the lives lost on that day in 2001. These Tribute in Light beams are a moving tribute but may pose problems for migratory birds that can become disoriented and unable to navigate out of the strong beams. NYC Audubon has a team of volunteers on site every year to monitor the beams and, in partnership with the Municipal Art Society and National September 11 Memorial & Museum, we have a protocol in place to shut the lights off for a brief period, which allows the birds to clear out. Last night was a big night for migration and by 10:15 pm there were up to 1,000 birds circling in the lights and we initiated shut down, which lasted for twenty minutes. We needed to extinguish them again at 11:50 pm because of a similar number of birds circling. After that time the numbers dropped and the beams remained on for the rest of the night. Thanks to our volunteers and great partners, the Tribute in Light can shine into the night sky without harming birds in the process.

- John Rowden

Welcome Migrants!

Can you see the glass or just the trees? © NYC Audubon

When September rolls around, many of us think about fall migration and the countless birds flying overhead as they make their way southward. Here at NYC Audubon, we’re not only thinking about it, but working to help those migrants navigate the city more safely. Two of our major programs – Project Safe Flight and Lights Out NY – are focused on understanding how the built environment affects birds and working with buildings to clear the birds’ paths. Reflective glass and lights of buildings can both be problematic for birds. Project Safe Flight volunteers visit specific sites every morning to look for injured migrants that collide with buildings; the data they gather give us insight into problem areas and information to share with the buildings as we look for solutions. Buildings participating in Lights Out NY agree to turn their lights off during migration at certain times, saving lives and energy.  As you enjoy the spectacle of fall migration be sure to think about just how arduous the birds’ journey is and spread the word!

- John Rowden

Celebrating Shorebirds!

Shorebird Festival participants enjoy the birds on East Pond © NYC Audubon

Shorebirds were the order of the day on Saturday August 25th as over 100 shorebird enthusiasts came together at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge for the seventh annual Jamaica Bay Shorebird Festival. Thousands of shorebirds visit New York City’s largest wetland during fall migration to rest and refuel and large numbers take advantage of the refuge’s East Pond, which provides good foraging habitat on its abundant mud flats. Festival participants heard presentations from several shorebird experts but the highlights of the day were walks around the pond and excellent views of a number of shorebird species, including black-bellied plover, semi-palmated sandpiper, stilt sandpiper, greater and lesser yellowlegs, ruddy turnstone, dunlin, short-billed dowitcher and American avocet (perhaps the find of the day!). Jamaica Bay is an incredible oasis that sustains wildlife and humans alike; all New Yorkers should celebrate, enjoy, and protect it.

- John Rowden

Talking about Citizen Science in Portland

Discussing NYC Audubon's conservation work in Jamaica Bay (c) NYC Audubon

For the past two days, I’ve been participating in the Public Participation in Scientific Research (PPSR) Conference in Portland, Oregon. PPSR is another name for Citizen Science, which is one of my areas of responsibility for NYC Audubon. The conference has been really stimulating, with about 300 practitioners from all over the country convening to share ideas, create synergies and plan for the future. NYC Audubon has a very strong Citizen Science program and I presented a poster on our monitoring work in Jamaica Bay. This conference has given me new ideas about how to create stronger partnerships and include more people in our work, to ultimately improve how we learn about and protect birds in New York City.

- John Rowden

Help NYC Audubon protect the future of Gateway National Recreation Area!

Tens of thousands of birds rely on Gateway © Don Riepe

Gateway National Recreation Area, a 26,000 acre park embracing the shores of New York Harbor in both New Jersey and New York contains critical habitat for over 300 species of birds, including over 100 species of conservation concern. Many of those species have shown significant declines in recent years. Please join New York City Audubon in calling upon the National Park Service in the creation of its new General Management Plan to make protection and restoration of wildlife habitat the highest priority. Threatened by loss of habitat and climate change, these species have nowhere left to go in the region, and Gateway must be managed as a last refuge for these species. You can sign our online petition by clicking on this link: change.org. Please sign and spread the word!

- Glenn Phillips

Clay Pit Ponds

 

Volunteers spread wood chips at Clay Pit Ponds © NYC Audubon

Clay Pit Ponds State Park Preserve is a little gem of a park toward the southern end of Staten Island that takes its name from the fact huge numbers of  bricks originated in its bounteous kaolin clay pits in the 19th century. NYC Audubon, with the support of an Audubon NY TogetherGreen Innovation Grant, has been fortunate to take several groups out to Clay Pit Ponds to introduce them to the history and wildlife of the park and also work to improve the park. On Friday, July 20th a group of 20 from CBS spent several hours removing invasive plants like Japanese Stiltgrass, placing new woodchips on the park’s trails and cutting back plants encroaching on the trails. On July 23rd and 24th we took two groups of students from our Bronx borough partner Rocking the Boat to the park to walk those very same trails, learn about the history of the area and check out the abundant wildlife in the park. We’ve really taken to Clay Pit Ponds and highly recommend it as a great place for New Yorkers to visit!

- John Rowden