Posts tagged ‘Project Safe Flight’

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.

 

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

 

 

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