Posts tagged ‘Jamaica Bay’

Horseshoe crab monitoring ends for the year

Volunteer Alison measuring a horseshoe crab © NYC Audubon

Since early May, if you visited a beach in Jamaica Bay on a night around the full or new moon at high tide, you might’ve run into an intrepid band of NYC Audubon volunteers counting horseshoe crabs in support of our citizen science project in the bay. On June 21st we completed our last surveys of the spring/summer and the data indicate that spawning peaked earlier this year than in previous years, potentially due to our mild winter and spring. In addition to counting crabs, the volunteers tagged more than 700 individuals, which help illuminate movement patterns and longevity. We are in the process of analyzing the data, as well as the information that our shorebird monitors collected on migratory shorebirds in the bay. Thanks to all our volunteers who worked so hard to collect data over these past couple of months!

- John Rowden

Banding American Oystercatchers in New York

American Oystercatcher banded 2U

For the first time, American Oystercatchers have been banded in New York State! On Tuesday, June 5th, we took a team to the Arverne area in Far Rockaway to band this beautiful and threatened shorebird. Oystercatchers nest on the beach in a scrape in the sand and at Arverne they nest in full view of the many beachgoers who enjoy the beach. The Urban Park Rangers protect their nesting sites by roping off the areas where the birds nest and patrolling the beach. Working with Shiloh Schulte from the Manomet Center for Conservation Science and Urban Park Rangers staff, we netted five American Oystercatchers, placed identifying bands on them and took some physical measurements. These data will add to the regional effort to understand and protect the species along the Atlantic Coast and we’re excited that New York is now part of this larger effort. If you’re on a beach in the Rockaways, keep an eye out for our banded birds!

- John Rowden and Susan Elbin

Oystercatchers on the Beach

American Oystercatcher Photo by Steve Nanz

The American oystercatcher is among the top ten priority species of conservation concern for New York City Audubon. This large, conspicuous beach-nesting shorebird eats mainly shellfish and can be seen walking or running along the beach. The Atlantic Coast population has decreased dramatically and New York City Audubon is part of a larger regional effort to assess oystercatcher productivity in Jamaica Bay and along the Rockaway Peninsula. Nesting is in full swing. On Friday I accompanied NYC Audubon field technician Emilio Toban as he monitored the beaches at Breezy Point for new nests or hatched eggs. One of the challenges in working with oystercatchers – they share their nesting beaches with endangered piping plovers. Aggressive encounters have been reported, and our partners from Pace and Columbia Universities are part of the team, studying the impact of these behaviors by observing both species.

- Susan Elbin

American Oystercatcher

Here come the horseshoe crabs!

Volunteers spotting horseshoe crabs © NYC Audubon

What’s your idea of the best way to spend a foggy evening in early May? If your answer involves roaming a beach in Jamaica Bay looking for spawning arthropods, then join the crowd! Last night kicked off NYC Audubon’s citizen science horseshoe crab monitoring program for this year and we had crews at three beaches in Jamaica Bay surveying for spawning crabs (of course, in truth the horseshoe crab isn’t a crab, it’s more closely related to spiders and scorpions, but we still use ‘crab’ as the shortened term for them). For the fourth consecutive year we are monitoring Brooklyn’s Plumb Beach for spawning and will be collecting a second year of data at Dead Horse Bay (also in Brooklyn) and the beach at Big Egg in Queens. We are interested in the health of Jamaica Bay’s horseshoe crab population because of the reliance of migratory shorebirds on horseshoe crab eggs for food (see an earlier blog post for more information). For three nights around each new and full moon for the next couple of months, dedicated volunteers will brave any and all conditions to collect data that are showing how important Jamaica Bay is for spawning horseshoe crabs. In fact, the data indicate that Jamaica Bay supports the highest densities of spawning horseshoe crabs in the state – not bad for our favorite urban estuary. Kind of makes you want to howl at the moon!
- John Rowden