Posts tagged ‘Jamaica Bay’

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.

 

Piping Plover: Potential Beneficiaries of Sandy’s Wrath

Piping Plovers © Francois Portmann

Piping Plovers © Francois Portmann

Amid all the destruction and havoc caused by Hurricane Sandy last October, there is potentially good news for the federally threatened piping plover and other shorebirds that area beaches. The National Park Service (NPS) has found a nearly twofold increase in suitable shorebird nesting habitat at NPS’s Rockaway Beaches since Sandy impacted the area.

 

On that October night, Sandy wiped out and pushed back beach grass and other vegetation at the Rockaway beaches. The result: increased areas of dry, sandy beach habitat that shorebirds such as the piping plover need for productive nesting, according to NPS biologist Hanem Abouelezz. Looking at aerial satellite images of the area before and after the storm, Hanem found a 94.7% increase in potentially suitable shorebird nesting habitat within NPS-maintained beach areas such as Fort Tilden, Breezy Point, and Jacob Riis Park.

 

Breezy Point Tip Pre Sandy © National Park Service

Breezy Point Tip Pre Sandy © National Park Service

For years, intruding vegetation at Rockaway beaches forced piping plovers and other shorebirds to nest closer to the shore, leading to eggs being lost due to tidal flooding. New data collected by Hanem and her team suggests piping plover nesting may already be benefitting from the post-Sandy habitat changes. Whereas last year 54% of piping plover eggs monitored were lost due to tidal flooding, this year none were lost. The bird is even finding success nesting in formerly inhospitable areas. Piping plovers successful fledged at Fort Tilden this year for the first time since NPS started monitoring the area.

 

Breezy Point Tip, Post Sandy © National Park Service

Breezy Point Tip, Post Sandy © National Park Service

In addition to aiding the piping plover, post-Sandy habitat could also benefit nesting populations of least terns, common terns, American oystercatchers, and other shorebirds that similarly prefer flat, sandy beaches for nesting. However exciting the news is, it is too early to tell whether the change in habitat alone will lead to increased shorebird breeding productivity in the area. A variety of factors are involved in shorebird breeding success, including predation, interspecific competition, weather patterns, and human interference.

Natural Strength: Thoughts on the Mayor’s plan to increase the resiliency of New York City’s coastline

Summer intern Darren Klein reports.

 

In 2007, Mayor Bloomberg released PlaNYC, a broad initiative intended to strengthen the economy of New York City, address climate change, prepare for increasing population size, and generally enhance quality of life for New Yorkers. After Hurricane Sandy battered the City last year, PlaNYC was updated to include an outline for improving the resilience of the City as it faces a future in which powerful storms and other extreme weather events are likely to occur with greater frequency. A major component of the latest version of PlaNYC is called the Comprehensive Coastal Protection Plan, which has been designed to strengthen the coastline of the City and prevent the kind of storm surge and flood damage that crippled the City after Sandy.

 

The Comprehensive Coastal Protection Plan calls for the combined use of “hard” and “natural” infrastructural elements. NYC Audubon is strongly supportive of the planned use of natural elements including wetlands, oyster reefs, living shorelines (a combination of reefs, maritime forests, and tidal wetlands), sand dunes, and beach nourishment. In addition to making effective contributions to wave and floodwater attenuation and to shoreline stability, the use of these elements will also provide valuable ecosystem services and create new habitat for the birds and other wildlife of New York City.

 

There are situations, however, where the use of “hard” elements such as sea walls, tide gates, groins, and offshore breakwaters may be more appropriate than natural solutions. It is the view of NYC Audubon that these tools should only be used in coastal areas that are already highly developed. In less-developed areas, hardened elements contribute to the more rapid erosion of sand; as waves strike these relatively smooth, hard surfaces, their energy is reflected back out to sea, pulling sand away from the shore. This can lead to the destabilization of coastal areas, and puts inland areas at greater risk from storm surge and flooding. The Comprehensive Coastal Protection Plan states that solutions will be tailored to match existing patterns of geomorphology and land use, and so it seems that the inappropriate application of hard infrastructure is unlikely.

 

In the coming weeks, NYC Audubon, in collaboration with Audubon New York, will be sending a statement to Mayor Bloomberg, thanking him and expressing support for the incorporation of natural infrastructure in this vision for the future of New York City.

 

You can read more about PlaNYC here.

 

- Darren Klein

 

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: 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

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

Keep Your Eyes on the Egrets

Wing-tagged Great Egret in Morris County, NJ. @Jonathan Klizas

Great Egrets have been an important species for New York City Audubon ever since they started returning to nest in the Harbor in the 1980’s. In 2008 we joined forces with New Jersey Audubon, to figure out  where the nesting birds were finding food for themselves and their young. NYC Audubon started our banding program that same year. But leg bands on waterbirds can be hard to see – especially when the birds are standing knee-deep in water. So in June (2012) we started using wing tags on egrets. We tagged 25 birds, young of the year, with yellow tags. We’ve already gotten resighting reports from the New Jersey Meadowlands and from a wetland in Morris County, NJ. Who would have thought that Jamaica Bay birds fly 30 miles west to forage?
Please keep your eyes open for wing tags and leg bands! Let me know if you see one of our NY Harbor birds.

- Susan Elbin