Posts tagged ‘Conservation’

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

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.

 

 

Recapping the 118th Central Park Audubon Christmas Bird Count

The 118th annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count for the New Jersey Lower Hudson (NJLH) count circle took place on Sunday, December 17. Our 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. We were treated to a lovely mild winter day—and many interesting sightings!

 

Northern Pintail on the Pond in Central Park

Northern Pintail on the Pond in Central Park, December 17, 2017

NYC Audubon organized the Central Park bird count with partners NYC Parks, the Urban Park Rangers, and the Central Park Conservancy. This year, 69 participants counted 5,592 birds of 58 species. Highlights included a boat-tailed grackle in Hallett Nature Sanctuary that later moved to Evodia Field, an ovenbird in the Central Park Zoo, two red-breasted mergansers in the Northwest Section, a white-crowned sparrow at the Pool, a common raven flyover in the Southwest Section, a northern pintail on the Pond (for the second year in a row), and two ring-necked ducks on the Reservoir. Red-breasted merganser was last counted in 1999, while the ovenbird and boat-tailed grackle appear to be firsts for the Central Park count! Check out our finalized tally at the end of this post for a complete list of the species found at this year’s Central Park count.

 

Central Park Bird Count 2017: The Ramble Team © Lynn Hertzog

Central Park Audubon Christmas Bird Count 2017, The Ramble Team © Lynne Hertzog

This year we had low counts for tufted titmouse (12), white-breasted nuthatch (7), and black-capped chickadee (2), down from 236, 78, and 48 respectively in 2016. Interestingly, only a single individual represented each of these three species in 2013. The Hammond’s flycatcher, which had been observed in the Ramble since late November, unfortunately did not stick around for the count. During count week (the three days before and after the count), birders in Central Park reported rusty blackbird, orange-crowned warbler, northern waterthrush, pine siskin, red-shouldered hawk, and sharp-shinned hawk.

 

In addition to Central Park, counts for our circle were held in New Jersey, Randall’s Island, Inwood Hill Park, Riverside Park, Harlem, Bryant Park, Stuyvesant Town, East River Park, Lower Manhattan, and a feeder count in Sunnyside, Queens. We also had counts during count week on Governors Island. Participants in New Jersey reported highlights such as snowy owl, American pipit, snow goose, greater yellowlegs, clay-colored sparrow, Lincoln’s sparrow, and red-shouldered hawk. Governors Island had a count week snowy owl, snow buntings, and American pipit, among others. Final results for the entire NJLH Count Circle will be available soon on our Christmas Bird Count page.

 

Thank you to those who participated in any of the New York City counts this year, especially those who led and organized counts!

 

Central Park 118th Christmas Bird Count Tally:

 

Canada Goose

283

Wood Duck

7

Gadwall

2

American Black Duck

12

Mallard

431

Northern Shoveler

235

Northern Pintail

1

Ring-necked Duck

2

Bufflehead

12

Hooded Merganser

24

Red-breasted Merganser

2

Ruddy Duck

171

Pied-billed Grebe

4

Great Blue Heron

3

Cooper’s Hawk

4

Red-tailed Hawk

13

American Kestrel

1

American Coot

7

American Woodcock

1

Ring-billed Gull

484

Herring Gull

230

Great Black-backed Gull

59

Rock Pigeon

1021

Mourning Dove

84

Red-bellied Woodpecker

20

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

33

Downy Woodpecker

15

Northern Flicker

8

Blue Jay

143

American Crow

33

Common Raven

1

Black-capped Chickadee

2

Tufted Titmouse

12

White-breasted Nuthatch

7

Brown Creeper

1

Golden-crowned Kinglet

4

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

7

Hermit Thrush

4

American Robin

57

Gray Catbird

4

Northern Mockingbird

6

European Starling

532

Common Yellowthroat

1

Ovenbird

1

Fox Sparrow

16

Dark-eyed Junco

40

White-throated Sparrow

361

Song Sparrow

12

Swamp Sparrow

1

White-crowned Sparrow

1

Northern Cardinal

70

Red-winged Blackbird

17

Common Grackle

344

Boat-tailed Grackle

1

Brown-headed Cowbird*

24

House Finch

34

American Goldfinch

36

House Sparrow

1011

 

 

Tribute in Light Monitoring 2017

Tribute in Light 2017 © Sean Sime

Tribute in Light 2017 © Sean Sime

Every year on September 11, two beams of light illuminate the sky over Manhattan, reminding New Yorkers and the nation to pause in remembrance of those who lost their lives on 9/11/2001. New York City Audubon has monitored this important and touching tribute since 2002 to ensure it is safe for migrating birds. The beams, created using 88 7,000-watt xenon spotlight bulbs, can attract large numbers of night-migrating birds in some years. Once in the powerful beams the birds can become “trapped” and circle the lights, putting them at risk of exhaustion, disorientation, and injury. If a critical mass of birds is spotted circling at any point throughout the night, NYC Audubon works in partnership with the National September 11 Memorial & Museum and Michael Ahern Production Services to turn off the lights for roughly 20 minutes, which allows the birds to disperse.

 

NYC Audubon staff, board members, and 35 volunteers worked together in small teams to count birds for the 10-hour duration of the tribute. Our volunteers logged a collective 137 hours of monitoring!

Volunteers Monitoring the Tribute in Light for Birds © Sean Sime

Volunteers Monitoring the Tribute in Light for Birds © Sean Sime

This year we were able to station additional observers adjacent to and 28 stories above the tribute monitoring site thanks to our friends at the Battery Rooftop Garden. This new vantage point allowed us to validate the counts taken at the monitoring site below and observe the birds from a different angle.

 

Peak migration activity typically occurs around midnight, so we were surprised to see the number of birds quickly grow at 9pm. By 9:40pm, the birds were flying low enough that their night-flight calls were audible.

Birds Trapped in the Tribute in Light

Birds Trapped in the Tribute in Light 2017

The lights were turned off at 9:49pm to allow the birds to disperse. When we counted over 1,000 birds at 10:55pm, the lights were shut off for a second time. The lights were switched off for a third and final time when low-flying birds became a problem at 12:30am.

 

We confirmed in each instance using radar that the birds had left the area before the lights were turned on again. All of us at the tribute breathed a sigh of relief when bird numbers dwindled after 1am and the birds that were present appeared to pass through the beams without becoming trapped. The lights remained on until 6am.

 

We observed many of the species that we have become accustomed to seeing in the beams, such as black-and-white warblers, northern parulas, Baltimore orioles, and American redstarts. There were also some more notable observations, including a hunting American kestrel, chimney swifts, yellow-billed cuckoos, a hummingbird, and a downy woodpecker that landed on the ledge of a nearby building.

 

Predaceous Diving Beetle Seen at Tribute in Light 2017

Predaceous Diving Beetle Seen at Tribute in Light 2017

In addition to monitoring birds, we monitored bats for the second year in a row. We also added an arthropod collection component. Andrew Farnsworth and his team from Cornell joined us on the roof to record night-flight calls and monitor the birds with radar. Among the insects collected this year were a praying mantid, numerous lady beetles, and predaceous diving beetles (pictured). We also saw and recorded the echolocation calls of several eastern red bats that were taking advantage of the insects congregated in the lights.

 

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.

 

-Kaitlyn Parkins, Conservation Biologist

 

Getting To Know the Birds of Greenpoint, Brooklyn

Conservation Biologist Debra Kriensky reports on our work planting an “Urban Oasis” in industrial Greenpoint to provide much-needed stopover habitat for migratory birds as well as our citizen science outreach efforts to engage the Greenpoint community and learn more about the birds in the area:

 

Beginning in 2014, NYC Audubon received a grant from the Greenpoint Community Environmental Fund (GCEF) to install a 0.25-acre native plant garden in McGolrick Park in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. The area surrounding the park is largely urban, industrial, and relatively lacking in green space, making it an important resource for migrating and breeding birds in the area. Our aim was to improve the quality of this stopover habitat by planting a host of native plants that would appeal to not just birds, but to bees, butterflies, and other pollinators as well. We called our garden the “Urban Oasis”.

 

The Urban Oasis in June, with many native plants in bloom

The Urban Oasis in June, with many native plants in bloom

While we knew it was likely that many birds were migrating through Greenpoint and possibly breeding there, there was very little information about what birds could be found in McGolrick Park when we started planting the Urban Oasis in 2014. A search on the public online database eBird showed no reported bird sightings in the park–and only a handful of sightings in the entire Greenpoint area. In 2015, eleven species were recorded in the park by NYC Audubon and others after we completed the Urban Oasis, but we knew this number did not truly represent the diversity of birds we believed were present.

 

In 2016, NYC Audubon received an additional grant from GCEF to conduct six citizen science bird surveys throughout the year. The grant’s goal: to increase knowledge about what birds could be found in the park and when, and to encourage local Greenpoint residents to look for and report sightings of birds in the park and the neighborhood in general.

 

Black-throated green warbler seen in September during fall migration

Black-throated green warbler seen in September during fall migration

We held two citizen science surveys during spring migration, two during the summer breeding season, and two during fall migration. Local residents of Greenpoint were invited to join the surveys, and all results were put on the eBird database. We also held a free nature walk in September for local residents to learn more about the native plants in the Urban Oasis and park, as well as their benefits to wildlife.

 

All in all, our volunteers observed 34 species throughout the year. 19 of these species had not previously been recorded in the park, such as blackpoll warblers, cedar waxwings, and scarlet tanagers. NYC Audubon staff also took note of any conspicuous insects in the garden and park. Observations included an eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly, five-banded tiphiid wasp, common oblique syrphid fly, many common eastern bumble bees, and more.

 

Fish crow at its McGolrick Park nest in April, 2016

Fish crow at its McGolrick Park nest in April, 2016

In addition to adding our own bird sightings to eBird, we encouraged others to record sightings as well. The eBird database now has 40 species recorded in McGolrick Park, encompassing warblers, sparrows, woodpeckers, raptors, and more–all in this four-acre park in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. The full McGolrick Park eBird checklist can be viewed here. During our surveys, we got to observe a nesting pair of fish crows in the park on numerous occasions that have apparently been nesting there for several years. We hope locals were inspired to keep birding in the park and logging what they see on eBird, as well as help maintain the Urban Oasis native plant garden for the birds, bees, and butterflies. The results of the surveys are evidence of the importance of green space in urban environments, and proof that birds are all around us if we take the time to look!

A common oblique syrphid fly on a black-eyed susan in the Urban Oasis

A common oblique syrphid fly on a black-eyed susan in the Urban Oasis

 

Greenpoint Community Environmental Fund

 

Funding for all events provided by the Office of the New York State Attorney General and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation through the Greenpoint Community Environmental Fund.

 

Horseshoe Crab Monitoring 2016 Recap and Results

NYC Audubon Conservation Biologist Debra Kriensky breaks down the horseshoe crab numbers from this year’s monitoring efforts in Jamaica Bay

 

Horseshoe Crabs Photo by NYC Audubon

Photo: NYC Audubuon

We are happy to report that 2016 was a great year for horseshoe crabs in Jamaica Bay!

 

New York City Audubon once again ventured out during the new and full moons in May and June to count and tag spawning horseshoe crabs. This was our eighth year collecting data on horseshoe crabs in Jamaica Bay, part of a larger project run by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and Cornell University Cooperative Extension.

 

In 2015, a colder than usual spring resulted in unusually low counts at some of our beaches, such as Plumb Beach East. This year, however, the shores were full of mating horseshoe crabs and our counts indicate that numbers continue to stay relatively stable in Jamaica Bay. This is great news, given how important horseshoe crab eggs are to the migratory shorebirds that come through New York City each spring on their way north.

 

With the help of 163 volunteers (a record!), we were able to count spawning horseshoe crabs at four locations: Plumb Beach East, Plumb Beach West, Big Egg Marsh, and Dead Horse Bay. Spawning activity peaked during the full moon around Memorial Day this year. The high counts were 205 crabs at Plumb Beach East, 21 crabs at Plumb Beach West, and 451 crabs at Big Egg (and that was only what we counted in our quadrat samples!). At Dead Horse Bay, where we take a total count of the horseshoe crabs, the high count was 493.

Volunteers Counting Horseshoe Crabs, Photo by Tracy Pennoyer

Volunteers Counting Horseshoe Crabs, Photo by Tracy Pennoyer

We were able to tag 797 crabs this year, making a total of 4,380 horseshoe crabs tagged since we started in 2009. We had 78 re-sightings of tagged crabs this year – 55 of which were tagged earlier in the spawning season, indicating that many of the horseshoe crabs we see stick around at the same beach for several nights and even weeks.

 

We also saw nine crabs we had tagged in 2015, two we had tagged in 2014, and one had tagged in 2013! In addition to all of these horseshoe crabs that are returning to the same beach night after night and year after year, we also saw 10 tagged crabs that were put out by other organizations. So far, we know that one was tagged last year in Cliffwood Beach, NJ and another was tagged in 2012 at Breezy Beach in the Rockaways. It will be interesting to eventually find out where and when the others were tagged.

 

If you ever spot a tagged horseshoe crab, write down the number and report where and when you found it to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service here.

Tagged Horseshoe Crab Photo by NYC Audubon

Horseshoe Crab Tagged "341401"

Thank you to all the amazing volunteers who came out to count with us this year, especially our dedicated volunteer site coordinators, who make it all possible! We’re also very thankful to Patagonia, the Williams Companies, and Investors Bank Foundation for their generous support of this year’s horseshoe crab and shorebird work.

 

We’re already excited for next year’s spawning season! We hope to have another record number of volunteers for next year’s counts. Please email volunteer@nycaudubon.org if you are interested in getting involved in this important (and fun!) citizen science study.

 

New York City’s Common Terns

Common Tern and Chick on Governors Island © Barbara Saunders

Common Tern and Chick on Governors Island © Barbara Saunders

NYC Audubon Director of Conservation and Science Susan Elbin reports on our work with the New York State threatened Common Tern:

 

The common tern (Sterna hirundo), a native North American waterbird, was nearly extirpated from North America by the millinery trade in the late 19th century, and again by habitat loss and environmental contaminants in the mid-20th century. Thanks to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and other conservation efforts and environmental regulations, this species has been brought back from the brink of extinction. But populations have not returned to historic levels. The common tern continues to be a threatened species in New York State, and maintaining current population levels requires management to protect the breeding population. The major threats to tern populations on their breeding grounds appear to be space limitation due to habitat destruction and competition with other waterbirds. Common terns are also threatened by specific consequences of climate changes such as warmer summers and severe storms that impact shoreline nesting areas.

 

Common terns have been nesting in the Jamaica Bay area for decades. Just recently, a colony has established itself on the decommissioned piers of Governors Island. Just a ferry ride from lower Manhattan, the birds can been seen plunge-diving for fish to feed their growing chicks.

 

While the majority of our conservation and monitoring efforts occurs during the breeding season, common terns spend less than one-third of the year on their breeding grounds. Threats during the other two-thirds of the year, during migration and wintering periods, are unknown. We have initiated two pilot studies using high-technology techniques: geolocators and nanotags. A geolocator is a tag that the bird wears around its leg. The tag can later be removed from the bird in order to download latitude/longitude data collected over the course of one year. Nanotags are small radio transmitters attached to a bird’s back that send a signal to stationary VHF towers installed along the eastern seaboard of the U.S. and across Canada. Results from these two projects will indicate where the birds have spent the winter and how long they stay in a given area, respectively. The goal is to determine what areas New York City common terns are using as stopover sites during migration and over the winter. We plan to expand this project in the coming years, working with partner organizations to increase the sample size and to collect more data about the trends in migratory and overwintering behavior as well as the amount of variation in this behavior within the population. Determining where these birds migrate and overwinter is the necessary first step in identifying threats to the population during these times of the year, when the majority of mortality likely takes place.

 

Join us for the “It’s Your Tern” festival on Governors Island this Saturday, July 16! Learn more here.

 

 

Terns on Governor’s Island: a Habitat Enhancement Success

NYC Audubon Director of Conservation and Science Susan Elbin and Elizabeth Craig, PhD Candidate, Cornell University, share how their recent habitat enhancement work for common terns nesting on Governor’s Island has already paid dividends

 

Common terns are colonial nesting seabirds: white with a black cap, gray back and wings, and a black-tipped red bill. In New York City, they nest in Jamaica Bay. But for about the last seven years they have also been nesting on the decommissioned piers at Governor’s Island, Manhattan. Since 2013 NYC Audubon has been monitoring that colony. In New York State they are classified as a threatened species. Conservation threats include habitat loss, disturbance, and flooding.

 

Lima Pier Before © NYC Audubon

Lima Pier Before © NYC Audubon

In 2013 we discussed doing some enhancement of the nesting sites on the piers to provide better support and protection for the eggs. This year we made our first site visit of the season to Governor’s Island on May 22. If we wanted to do any habitat enhancement work, it had to be done immediately: the terns were returning and starting to build nests!

 

We are currently only permitted on Lima Pier because the other two piers are not safe for human access, so the habitat work was to be done there. A group effort made the habitat enhancement work possible. The Harbor School generously donated oyster shell, and shell crunching was done by heavy machines under Jim Reed’s direction at Governor’s Island.

 

Lima Pier After © NYC Audubon

Lima Pier After © NYC Audubon

We spread the shells to about a 3” depth between the edge of the pier and the barriers—enough to provide a buffer between the eggs and the hard concrete. By the time we were done moving the shells and admiring the newly created habitat, the birds had already returned! A few days later, National Park Service volunteer Annie Barry spread some hay (thank you Marisa Dedominicis and Earth Matter!) on the shells for the birds to use in their nest building.

 

Banded Least Tern © Elizabeth Craig

Banded Least Tern © Elizabeth Craig

On June 22, we returned to Lima Pier to work with the terns. NYC Audubon Finance Director Barbara Lysenko and NY State DEC biologist Barbara Saunders joined our bird banding team for that day. What we found was awesome: 32 common tern nests – three times the number of nests observed at this time in 2013 before habitat enhancement! A true measure of success.

 

Our team banded four chicks with federal and field-readable color leg bands. We also banded 14 adults. Common terns have high fidelity to their nest site. We found two (out of four) birds we had banded on Lima in 2013 had returned to the pier.

 

A third previously-banded adult was not one of ours: this bird had been banded in Argentina! We are in the process of contacting the bander so we can learn when and where that bird was tagged.

 

Keep your eyes open for common terns sporting black leg bands with white digits — they could be the terns from Governor’s Island.

 

 

NYC Audubon Helps Researchers Answer Questions about Local Harbor Seal Populations

Psychologists and seal behavior researchers Dr. Kevin Woo and Dr. Kristy Biolsi and their students will be attending our Winter Seals and Waterbirds tours, starting on January 12, as part of their research on wintering harbor seals in the New York City area:

 

 

Harbor Seals © Mike Baird (Flickr Creative Commons License)

Harbor Seals © Mike Baird (Flickr Creative Commons License)

Since the European colonization of New York City, the habitat of the five boroughs has been transformed into a rather unique ecological niche. Urbanization has created local challenges to our wildlife, and some of our species have managed to adapt to these artificial changes. One species, the harbor seal (Phoca vitulina), was once seen easily along the foreshores of the northeast, which included New York City. However, populations disappeared for nearly a century before returning to the area a couple of decades ago. The shift in demographics prompts a singularly important question: Why are they back?
 

 
Three years ago, we decided to tackle this complex question. Our goals are to: 1) better understand why seals are coming back to New York City, 2) identify the ecological conditions that enable the success of returning populations, 3) discover how they are able to cope with man-made changes, and 4) consider the impacts of the urban environment on behavioral interactions, such as communication. Along with our undergraduate research students, we have watched harbor seals along the waterfront in New York City over the last three field seasons using non-invasive naturalistic observations. As harbor seals are typically found here from mid-October to early-April, we focused our efforts on select land-based locations in Brooklyn and the Bronx, while fielding reports of sightings in Jamaica Bay, and the Rockaways in Queens. Initially, we aim to capture demographic and atmospheric data to monitor relative populations at each location. Once we have a fairly decent picture of the local seal population, we will then start more comprehensive behavioral observations, such as responses to environmental noise–both visual and auditory.

 

 

Indeed, a bigger part of our research is to consider a conservation and education perspective. Marine mammal populations all over the world were affected historically by commercial hunting. Continue reading ‘NYC Audubon Helps Researchers Answer Questions about Local Harbor Seal Populations’ »

A Quick Look at Spring Migration Bird Collision Figures

Summer intern Kaitlyn Parkins presents data on spring migration bird collisions collected by Project Safe Flight volunteers

 

Every year, more than 100 species of migratory birds pass through New York City on their way between South and Central America and their northern breeding grounds   along the Atlantic Flyway. The trek through the City can be perilous for these birds because of the maze of tall buildings, bright lights, and reflective glass.

 

Since 1997, NYC Audubon has sponsored Project Safe Flight (PSF), an endeavor to study and mitigate urban bird collisions. Working with a devoted group of volunteers who patrol high-risk locations during migrations, Project Safe Flight counts and collects birds that have been injured or died in building collisions. To date, over 6,000 birds of 126 different species have been found and documented in PSF’s database.

 

PSF spring migration bird collisions chart

A breakdown of spring migration bird collisions by species. Click to enlarge

This spring, eight sites were monitored, and a total of 39 dead and five injured birds were found by volunteers. Of those, 29 were identified to the species. Just like previous years, common yellowthroats and ovenbirds were found more frequently than any other species; they were followed by white-throated sparrows, American woodcocks, and black-and-white warblers. The majority of collisions occurred at Bryant Park and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

 

We will include this year’s data with our records from 1997–2012 and analyze it to help us better understand why bird collisions occur, and what can be done to reduce their frequency. Soon, volunteers will be gearing up for the fall migration. If you’re interested in volunteering for this important project please contact our outreach manager at apalmer@nycaudubon.org.

 

-Kaitlyn Parkins