Archive for the ‘Conservation’ Category.

NYC Audubon Welcomes Kevin R. Burgio, PhD, as New Director of Conservation and Science

The New York City Audubon Society announces the appointment of Kevin R. Burgio, PhD, as Director of Conservation and Science. Dr. Burgio is a U.S. Air Force veteran who received his PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Connecticut. Dr. Burgio served two years as a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Connecticut in Science Communication, followed by a year at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies as its undergraduate research program coordinator and research specialist. Most recently Dr. Burgio has been a postdoctoral research associate with Environment and Climate Change Canada, exploring how Climate Change has affected North American bird species.

 

Kevin Burgio, PhD

Kevin Burgio, PhD

Dr. Burgio’s conservation research has focused on using an integrative approach to understanding how Climate Change and other disturbances affect the distributions and extinction risk of birds. His research has been published in numerous scholarly journals, including Conservation Biology, Science Advances, and the Journal of Ornithology. He is a subject editor for the scientific, academic refereed journal Avian Conservation and Ecology. He has also published articles about birds and science in popular media outlets, including The Washington Post, Salon, and American Scientist, and been quoted on his research in The New York Times, Smithsonian Magazine, and Audubon. Dr. Burgio was selected as a Barry Goldwater Scholar as an undergraduate and was a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow.

 

“Kevin is joining us at an auspicious moment: the advent of a new era of urban avian conservation amid heightened public interest in birds,” says NYC Audubon Executive Director Kathryn Heintz. His arrival coincides with the launch of our new strategic plan. We are also eager to leverage Kevin’s interest in science communication. Conservation and science have always informed our community engagement and must continue to do so through an ever more inclusive lens. He is poised to lead that effort.”

 

“My goal is to bridge the divide between ecological theory and on-the-ground conservation in order to make the best possible decisions for now and the future,” says Dr. Burgio. A longtime advocate for inclusiveness in science, Dr. Burgio continues, “Given my focus on communicating with diverse groups of people, I was pleased to see that NYC Audubon is committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion. I, myself, am openly a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, in addition to being a first-generation college student who grew up on welfare in a poor inner-city neighborhood and, as such, inclusiveness, diversity, and equity are dearly important to me. I understand my privilege as a white male and try to use it to elevate those marginalized in our country whenever possible. It is vitally important to me to continue contributing to expanding the diversity of experiences, backgrounds, and ideas in conservation, all of which I believe are essential to moving forward into the future.”

 

NYC Audubon is a grassroots community that protects wild birds and habitat in the five boroughs, improving the quality of life for all New Yorkers. Founded in 1979 by an ardent group of environmentalist birders, NYC Audubon envisions a day when birds and people in the five boroughs enjoy a healthy, livable urban habitat. An independent non-profit organization, NYC Audubon affiliates with the National Audubon Society as a chapter and is a founding member of the Audubon Urban Collaborative Network and the Bird-Safe Buildings Alliance.

 

NYC Audubon’s conservation and science programs research the dangers facing the birds that live in and migrate through New York City and seek to develop and advance innovative solutions. Signature programs include: Project Safe Flight research on bird-building collisions and the influence of artificial light; Waterbirds of New York Harbor surveys of wading birds, shorebirds, and waterfowl that depend on the City’s coastal and estuary wetlands, salt marshes, and beaches; and Urban and Built Habitat Solutions involving emerging studies of and advocacy for bird-friendly building design, habitat-quality green roofs, capped and reclaimed landfill, native habitat landscape design, and urban green space resiliency and protection.

 

Dr. Burgio begins his work with NYC Audubon on March 1. He succeeds ornithologist Susan B. Elbin, PhD, who retired in 2020. Dr. Elbin led NYC Audubon’s science, research, and conservation work since creating the Director’s role in 2008.

 

For more information:

Andrew Maas Communications Manager

amaas@nycaudubon.org

 

Kevin R. Burgio, PhD, Director of Conservation and Science

kburgio@nycaudubon.org

Project Safe Flight Unwrapped: Fall 2020

Despite difficult and uncertain circumstances this past fall, Project Safe Flight continued forward in its efforts to study bird collisions throughout our city. This community science project, now in its 24th year, relies on the efforts of volunteers, who wake up at the crack of dawn from the start of September through early November to monitor select routes in our city for dead and injured birds that have collided with buildings. Using Project Safe Flight research, we estimate between 90,000 to 230,000 birds collide with buildings each year in our city.

 

The data these volunteers collect are invaluable, guiding our decisions of where to monitor next season during spring migration and informing our policy research as we delve deeper in our advocacy for bird-friendly buildings. Project Safe Flight research was instrumental in convincing the New York City Council to pass Int. 1482 (now Local Law 15), which requires all new construction and alterations that replace all of a building’s glass to use bird-friendly materials.⁠ Local Law 15 went into effect on January 10th of this year, and now we hope further collision data pinpointing the deadliest structures in our city will convince building owners to retrofit their buildings with bird-safe glass.

 

This fall, our diverse and intrepid team of 28 volunteers (13 of which were new this year) found 67 different species while monitoring six routes throughout New York City. The most common species found were the Northern Parula (34 collisions), Black-throated Blue Warbler (24), White-throated Sparrow (22), Black-and-white Warbler (19), Ovenbird (19), Common Yellowthroat (17), and Golden-crowned Kinglet (13).

 

 

Performing 277 unique site visits over the course of an 8-week monitoring period, volunteers found 403 birds in total, with 332 of them being dead and 71 being injured. Looking at the number of collisions by time of year, 141 birds were found in the month of September, while 249 were found in October. The highest concentration of birds were found in the two-week period from October 1st to October 15th, with volunteers finding 164 birds. In Fall 2019, during the course of the entire monitoring season, we found 156 birds in total. So in October of 2020, we found more birds than we did the entire fall season the previous year!

 

 

Looking at collisions by site monitored, Downtown West had the most collisions at 179 (last year’s number was 65), with Downtown East being not far behind at 137 (58). The collision victims found at the Metropolitan Museum of Art was 20 (17), while Brooklyn Bridge Park was 11 (16). Our newest routes, Long Island City and the Circa building on the Upper West Side, saw 12 and 44 collisions, respectively.

 

 

We thank all of our Project Safe Flight volunteers from the fall season for their diligence and hard work. We could not have gathered any of these valuable Project Safe Flight data without their time, energy, and most importantly, their incredibly kind hearts and deep compassion for birds of all kinds.

 

 

We are always seeking new Project Safe Flight volunteers! Please be on the lookout for upcoming announcements of Project Safe Flight orientations occurring in March, in time for spring migration. Even if you don’t volunteer for Project Safe Flight, you can still contribute to our data by reporting dead and injured birds you find to our crowd-sourced bird collision database at www.d-bird.org. It only takes a minute to record a collision to D-Bird on your phone! For ways to make your building bird-friendly, please visit American Bird Conservancy’s Glass Collisions website. Below you will find a list of all species found during the Fall 2020 season by Project Safe Flight volunteers.

 

-Aurora Crooks, Conservation Associate

 

Species Counted:
American Redstart (10)
American Robin (1)
American Woodcock (2)
Black-and-white Warbler (19)
Baltimore Oriole (1)
Bay-breasted Warbler (1)
Belted Kingfisher (1)
Black-throated Blue Warbler (24)
Black-capped Chickadee (1)
Black-throated Green Warbler (4)
Blackpoll Warbler (7)
Blue Jay (2)
Blue-headed Vireo (1)
Brown Creeper (6)
Canada Warbler (2)
Cedar Waxwing (8)
Chestnut-sided Warbler ( 1)
Chipping Sparrow (1)
Common Yellowthroat (17)
Dark-eyed Junco (1)
Eastern Wood-pewee (1)
Golden Crowned Kinglet (13)
Golden Crowned Sparrow (2)
Evening Grosbeak (1)
Falcon Sp.(1)
Field Sparrow (1)
Flycatcher (1)
Gray Catbird (1)
Gray-Cheeked Thrush (1)
Hermit Thrush (10)
House Wren (1)
Ruby-throated Hummingbird (3)
Lincoln’s Sparrow (3)
Louisiana Waterthrush (1)
Magnolia Warbler (5)
Mourning Dove ( 2)
Nashville Warbler (4)
Northern Flicker (3)
Northern Parula (34)
Northern Waterthrush (2)
Nuthatch Sp. (1)
Ovenbird (19)
Palm Warbler (2)
Passerine sp. (1)
Philadelphia Vireo (1)
Pine Warbler (7)
Red-breasted Nuthatch (5)
Red-eyed Vireo (1)
Rose-breasted Grosbeak (4)
Ruby-throated Hummingbird (3)
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (9)
Savannah Sparrow (1)
Scarlet Tanager (1)
Song Sparrow (7)
Sparrow (Unknown) (12)
Swainson’s Thrush (4)
Swamp Sparrow (6)
Tennessee Warbler (3)
Unknown Species (13)
Veery (1)
Vireo Sp.(1)
Virginia Rail (1)
Unknown Warbler (54)
White-breasted Nuthatch (1)
White-throated Sparrow (22)
Willow Flycatcher (1)
Woodpecker Sp. (3)
Yellow Warbler (5)
Yellow-rumped Warbler (6)
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (5)
Yellow-billed Cuckoo (1)
Yellow-throated Warbler (3)

 

Thank You to Our Community Scientists

February, the third and final month of winter, is often ushered by freezing wind, snow, and bitter cold. On one night this February, the NYC Audubon office was a lively refuge from the cold of February—filled with warmth, drinks, banter and hearty laughter, and spreads upon spreads of meals. But for what occasion?

 

On February 12th of this year, Charles Darwin would have turned 211 years young. In honor of him and his achievements, we invited our community scientists who continue to contribute to scientific advancements to a “Darwin Day” potluck party at our office.

 

Community Scientists Volunteers at the 2020 Darwin Day Party © NYC Audubon

Community Scientists Volunteers at the 2020 Darwin Day Party © NYC Audubon

Darwin’s curiosity, tenacity, intellect, and fearlessness clearly lives on in each and every one of our brilliant community scientists. Our conservation work would not be possible without the efforts of our community science volunteers aiding our research. Each year, we look forward to working with hundreds of volunteers from all walks of life who collect data for some of our key research programs such as Project Safe Flight, Tribute in Light Monitoring, Shorebird Blitz, and Horseshoe Crab Counts.

 

The data collected, the information analyzed, and ultimately, the scientific understanding we gain through these programs is truly a collaborative effort between our scientists and our dedicated team of community scientists. The collective knowledge these everyday New Yorkers share, the passion they bring, and the time they donate are critical to our work. We are thankful for their dedication to the pursuit of scientific insights and the conservation of the wildlife and habitats that make New York City an astoundingly unique ecosystem.

 

 

Aurora Crooks,

Conservation Program Volunteer Coordinator

 

 

 

Recapping the 120th Central Park Audubon Christmas Bird Count

Birders of all ages and skill levels were invited to participate in the Audubon Christmas Bird Count. We had 109 Community Science volunteers count birds with us this year in Central Park. Photo © NYC Audubon

Birders of all ages and skill levels were invited to participate in the Audubon Christmas Bird Count. We had 109 Community Science volunteers count birds with us this year in Central Park. Photo © NYC Audubon

Every year bird lovers around the world head out between December 14th and January 5th to count every bird they can find as part of the Audubon Christmas Bird Count. This tradition was founded on December 25th, 1900, by ornithologist Frank M. Chapman. Twenty-five counts were held on that day. The results were published in Bird Lore, the immediate predecessor to Audubon magazine that was described as the “Official Organ of the Audubon Societies” and “an illustrated bi-monthly magazine devoted to the study and protection of birds.” According to Bird Lore, the inaugural Central Park Count took place at 10 a.m. under clear skies with a light wind. Twenty individual birds of six species were counted (though White-throated Sparrows were noted to be “abundant.”)

 

This year, 109 community science volunteers took to the park on December 15th for the 120th Audubon Christmas Bird Count and recorded significantly more birds than they did during that inaugural count. They recorded 5,148 birds of 57 species in total. Despite some notable misses such as Black-capped Chickadee (this bird hasn’t been a complete miss on the Central Park Count since at least 1993), both the total number of birds and species falls well within the 20-year average for the park. Highlights included Green-winged Teal (last counted in 2013), Turkey Vulture (last counted 2009), and Red-headed Woodpecker (last counted 2011).

Central Park Audubon Christmas Bird Count 2019, The Southeast Team

Central Park Audubon Christmas Bird Count 2019, The Southeast Team

 

NYC Audubon is responsible for reporting data for the New Jersey-Lower Hudson (NJ-LH) Count Circle. Counts taking place in this circle this year included Governors Island, Randall’s Island, Riverside Park, Inwood Hill Park, Stuyvesant Town & Cove, East River and Corlears Hook Parks, Bryant Park, Tompkins Square Park, Washington Square Park, Union Square Park, Morningside Park, Lower Manhattan, and throughout Hudson and Bergen Counties (New Jersey). See full data from all of these counts by downloading this PDF.

 

Preliminary reports indicate four Nashville Warblers were seen on counts in upper Manhattan, which alone would be a record for the circle, but the New Jersey team had one as well, bringing the Nashville Warbler total to five. On Randall’s Island, a species new to the NJ-LH circle was counted: the team spotted a juvenile Yellow-crowned Night-Heron in the saltmarsh.

Juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron Counted on Randall's Island © Jennifer Adams

Juvenile Yellow-crowned Night-Heron Counted on Randall's Island © Jennifer Adams

 

New Jersey also added Surf Scoter, Long-billed Dowitcher, Tree Swallow, and Tundra Swan to the circle’s species list this year. Surf Scoter and Tree Swallow are new species for the Count, while Tundra Swan was counted once in 1995 and Long-billed Dowitcher once in 2007. The New Jersey team also counted the single Black-capped Chickadee for the circle, saving it from being missed for the first time in circle history.

 

Audubon Christmas Bird Counts took place in four other count circles that cover New York City. It was reported to us that Staten Island counted a Grasshopper Sparrow in both Freshkills Park and Mount Loretto Unique Area, while a thousand Northern Gannets were counted throughout this entire circle. Brooklyn counted a Northern Goshawk over Jamaica Bay’s West Pond. (Technically in Queens, the West Pond was officially ceded to the Brooklyn Count Circle in 1955.) Participants in Queens were treated to high counts in 10 species, including Razorbill (12 counted in total). They also found an Eastern Screech-Owl. The Bronx/Weschester teams counted two Great Horned Owls.

 

Thank you to all who participated in a New York City count this year, especially those who led and organized counts. If you are curious about how your favorite bird is doing, you can visit National Audubon’s new Christmas Bird Count Trend Viewer Tool.

 

The final results for the NJ-LH Count Circle are available to download as a PDF here. The final count tallies for the Central Park Count are listed below:

 

Canada Goose

247

Wood Duck

1

Gadwall

3

American Black Duck

2

Mallard

256

Green-winged Teal

1

Northern Shoveler

608

Bufflehead

17

Hooded Merganser

10

Ruddy Duck

77

Pied-billed Grebe

1

Great Blue Heron

3

Turkey Vulture

1

Cooper’s Hawk

9

Red-shouldered Hawk

1

Red-tailed Hawk

14

American Kestrel

1

Peregrine Falcon

1

American Coot

2

Ring-billed Gull

142

Herring Gull

245

Great Black-backed Gull

61

Rock Pigeon

609

Mourning Dove

87

Red-headed Woodpecker

1

Red-bellied Woodpecker

46

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

16

Downy Woodpecker

21

Northern Flicker

11

Blue Jay

176

Common Raven

1

American Crow

53

Fish Crow

3

Tufted Titmouse

1

White-breasted Nuthatch

4

Brown Creeper

3

Carolina Wren

4

Winter Wren

1

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

5

Hermit Thrush

9

American Robin

247

Gray Catbird

1

Northern Mockingbird

8

European Starling

216

Chipping Sparrow

2

Fox Sparrow

15

Dark-eyed Junco

34

White-throated Sparrow

924

Song Sparrow

14

Swamp Sparrow

1

Eastern Towhee

5

Northern Cardinal

93

Rusty Blackbird

1

Common Grackle

41

House Finch

27

American Goldfinch

18

House Sparrow

747

Recapping Our 2019 Tribute in Light Bird Monitoring

Tribute in Light 2019 © NYC Audubon

Tribute in Light 2019 © NYC Audubon

Each year on the evening of September 11th, New York City Audubon staff, board members, and volunteers make their way to the Battery Parking Garage in lower Manhattan, where 88 high-powered spotlights are assembled on top of its roof to create the Tribute in Light Memorial. Throughout the night our team of community science volunteers keep watch, methodically counting the number of birds in the light beams every 20 minutes from 8 p.m. on September 11th to 6 a.m. on September 12th.

 

Our agreement with partners National September 11 Memorial & Museum and Michael Ahern Production Services calls for the lights to be turned off when necessary to allow migratory birds that are disoriented in the beams to disperse. (Learn how artificial light from the Tribute in Light affects nocturnally migrating birds in this Audubon Magazine article here). As always, we were joined by Dr. Andrew Farnsworth’s BirdCast team, who kept us informed of bird migrations throughout New York City and the surrounding area.

 

Our protocol is to ask that the lights be turned off if a critical mass of birds (over 1,000) is counted circling in the beams at one time, or if birds are observed circling and calling low in the beams. The Tribute in Light organizers and production team are always respectful of our requests, and we cannot thank them enough for continuing to work with us to ensure the Tribute in Light is safe for our nocturnally migrating birds.

 

This year’s Tribute in Light monitoring began with very light bird migration. Our volunteers saw very few birds circling in the lights, with the notable exception of an opportunistic Peregrine Falcon hunting for potential easy meals, first spotted around 8:30 p.m. We remained optimistic for a light migration as the night continued. We observed a few birds, such as a Yellow-billed Cuckoo, moving quickly through the lights and continuing on its flight. We also watched Eastern Red Bats and Silver-haired Bats forage in the lights.

 

The low bird activity at the Tribute, unfortunately, did not persist as the evening wore on. Migration density quickly increased shortly after 3 a.m. Tribute in Light Volunteer Doug Gochfeld reported on eBird that he observed three Ovenbirds, six Black-and-white Warblers, and thirty American Redstarts, among other species, at the Tribute during this time. As the number of birds circling in the beams increased, our team agreed that the lights should be turned off for a brief period.

 


The lights were turned off by Michael Ahern Production Services from 3:30 a.m to nearly 4 a.m. to allow the circling birds to disperse. Upon relighting, the birds quickly returned and the lights were turned off again from 4:22 a.m to 4:55 a.m.

 

Radar map shows a high density of birds (indicated by green and yellow areas) over the Tribute in Light at 4:15 a.m., just before we asked the lights be turned off at 4:20 a.m.

Radar map shows a high density of birds (indicated by green and yellow areas) over the Tribute in Light at 4:15 a.m., just before we asked the lights be turned off at 4:20 a.m.

 

After the lights were turned back on, a new pulse of birds began to congregate in the beams, albeit in smaller numbers, until daylight broke shortly after 6 a.m. Gochfeld reported on eBird seeing Prairie Warblers, Northern Parulas, Blackburnian Warblers, and other songbirds traveling through the Tribute shortly after 5 a.m. Additionally, two Peregrine Falcons came and lingered around the beams to take advantage of the lights and pick off an easy breakfast.

 

See all the species at the Tribute this year that were reported on eBird here. 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 from the Leon Levy Foundation and the Robert F. Schumann Foundation.

 

Kaitlyn Parkins,

NYC Audubon Conservation Biologist

 

 

What to Do If You Find a Young or Injured Bird

From time to time, you may come across a young or injured bird that needs assistance. It is important to follow proper steps to make sure you are helping these birds and not further harming them.

 

American Robin Nestlings © kkmarais / Flickr CC BY 2.0

American Robin Nestlings © kkmarais / Flickr CC BY 2.0

If you find a bird, first determine its age. If the bird is not fully feathered, it is a nestling and needs to be returned to its nest. Contrary to popular belief, birds do not have a well-developed sense of smell, and therefore the parents won’t know if the baby has been touched by humans and will not abandon it. If the nest is intact, put the baby back in and watch from a distance to see if the parents are visiting the nest. If you cannot find or reach the nest, you can put the nestling in a box that has holes poked in the bottom for drainage and suspend the box near where the nest is located.

 

If the young bird is fully feathered, has a short tail and wings, and is able to hop or take short flights, it is a fledgling and can most likely be left alone. Young birds often leave the nest with weak flight muscles and are fed outside the nest for a few days by their parents. If the bird is in immediate danger (for example, it is on a sidewalk or road), move the bird off to a safer spot like the top of a bush or shrub nearby. Do not return the bird to the nest; it has outgrown its former home and will quickly hop back out. Despite your urge to take in the young bird, its parents are far better at feeding it and teaching it survival skills than any human, and taking in a young bird of a native species is illegal.

 

American Robin Fledgling © Denise Rosser / Flickr CC BY-ND 2.0

American Robin Fledgling © Denise Rosser / Flickr CC BY-ND 2.0

 

An adult bird on the ground unable to fly is probably injured. Slowly approach the bird, and if it doesn’t fly away when you’re within 10 feet or so, you can assume something’s wrong. Approach the bird from behind and scoop it up firmly. Carefully put it in a box with a lid or a towel over the top (or better) in an unwaxed paper bag clipped shut. Handle the bird as little as possible and do not force feed it or give it water. Birds go into shock very easily when injured, and often die from the shock. If the bird shows visible signs of injury (unable to flutter wings, bleeding, wings drooping unevenly, weak or shivering), it needs to be taken to a wildlife rehabilitator. You can find a list of rehabilitators in New York City here. If you are unable to take the bird to a rehabilitator yourself, call NYC Audubon at 212-691-7483 to see if someone from our network of volunteers can pick up the bird and transport it.

 

If a bird has hit a window and is still alive, it may just be stunned and need a little time to regain its senses, after which it may be able to fly away. If there are cats or other predators nearby, place the bird in an enclosed bag or box and keep it in a safe, quiet, dark place. In a few hours, or once you hear the bird begin to flutter around, open the bag or box and place it on the ground to give the bird a chance to fly out. If the bird doesn’t fly away on its own, it needs to be taken to a wildlife rehabilitator. Just as important as saving the bird, you can also make a valuable contribution to our Project Safe Flight research and contribute to our understanding of bird collisions in New York City by logging the injured bird on D-Bird, our crowd-sourced bird collision data collection tool, on your smartphone or computer at www.d-bird.org.

 

 

Recapping the 119th Annual Central Park Audubon Christmas Bird Count

On Sunday, December 16, intrepid birders braved heavy winds and pouring rain to participate in the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count for the New Jersey-Lower Hudson (NJLH) count circle. The NJLH 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.

 

Barred Owl in Central Park, November 4, 2018 © Ellen Michaels

The Barred Owl, photographed here in Central Park on November 4, 2018, was one of three owl species counted at the 2018 Central Park Audubon Christmas Bird Count. Photo © Ellen Michaels

New York City Audubon organized the 119th annual Central Park Audubon Christmas Bird Count, along with our partners NYC Parks, the Urban Park Rangers, and the Central Park Conservancy. Undaunted by the weather, 59 participants joined us in the park for this annual community science project, which welcomes birders of all skill levels. Through foggy binoculars, they recorded 5,323 birds of 57 species. Most notable were the three species of owl—Northern Saw-whet, Great Horned, and Barred—all found within fifty yards of each other. The rain also kept the hawks grounded, making it easier to ensure that we did not double-count them.

 

The much-publicized Mandarin Duck remained in the southeast sector of the park, but as an escaped captive bird, it was not included in the count totals. Only wild birds are counted during Audubon Christmas Bird Counts. Introduced species, such as the House Sparrow, only start to get counted after they have established wild populations. Despite not “counting,” the beautiful Mandarin Duck of Central Park was still a pleasure to see.

Mandarin Duck in Central Park © Ellen Michaels

The Mandarin Duck of Central Park, while beautiful to see, was not eligible to be "counted" at this year's Christmas Bird Count because it is not a wild bird. Photo © Ellen Michaels

 

 

Several species often seen at the Central Park count were absent on Sunday but did show up at the park during count week (the three days before and after the count). These birds included Red-winged Blackbird, Brown-headed Cowbird, Purple Finch, House Finch, Ovenbird, and Field Sparrow.

 

In addition to Central Park, NJLH circle counts were held Sunday at Randall’s Island, Riverside Park, Stuyvesant Town, Inwood Hill Park, John V. Lindsay East River Park, Corlear’s Hook Park, Bryant Park, Tompkins Square Park, Lower Manhattan, and throughout Hudson and Bergen counties. And for the first time ever a Christmas Bird Count was held at Governors Island! The final results for the NJLH count circle will be available on our Audubon Christmas Bird Count Page once all the count tallies have been submitted to us.

 

A huge thank you to all those who participated in NYC Counts this year, especially those who led and organized counts.

 

Central Park 119th Audubon Christmas Bird Count Tally:

 

Species

Number of Birds

Canada Goose

366

Wood Duck

7

American Black Duck

1

Mallard

289

Northern Shoveler

84

Bufflehead

20

Hooded Merganser

10

Ruddy Duck

142

Pied-billed Grebe

1

Double-crested Cormorant

2

Great Blue Heron

3

Cooper’s Hawk

5

Red-shouldered Hawk*

2

Red-tailed Hawk

13

Merlin*

1

Peregrine Falcon

1

American Coot

9

Ring-billed Gull

89

Herring Gull

104

Great Black-backed Gull

4

Rock Pigeon

635

Mourning Dove

67

Great Horned Owl*

1

Barred Owl*

1

Northern Saw-whet Owl

2

Red-bellied Woodpecker

44

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

5

Downy Woodpecker

6

Northern Flicker

3

Blue Jay

265

American Crow

10

Common Raven

2

Black-capped Chickadee

9

Tufted Titmouse

247

Red-breasted Nuthatch

2

White-breasted Nuthatch

50

Brown Creeper

2

Carolina Wren

1

Winter Wren

2

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

1

Hermit Thrush

11

American Robin

180

Gray Catbird

2

Northern Mockingbird

5

European Starling

167

Cedar Waxwing

2

Chipping Sparrow*

1

Fox Sparrow

5

Dark-eyed Junco

33

White-throated Sparrow

1017

Song Sparrow

12

Swamp Sparrow

1

Eastern Towhee

5

Northern Cardinal

59

Common Grackle

861

American Goldfinch

17

House Sparrow

437

 

 

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

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