Archive for the ‘Volunteer’ Category.

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

 

 

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

 

2017 Horseshoe Crab Monitoring and Tagging Recap

Horseshoe Crabs Spawning at Plumb Beach © Jennifer Kepler

Horseshoe Crabs Spawning at Plumb Beach © Jennifer Kepler

Another great horseshoe crab monitoring season has come and gone. It was quite an incredible year for horseshoe crabs in Jamaica Bay, with huge numbers of spawning horseshoe crabs at our four sites: Plumb Beach East and West, Big Egg Marsh, and Dead Horse Bay. While numbers are still preliminary, peak spawning appears to have taken place in the beginning of June. On June 11, we had 351 crabs at Plumb Beach East (in our quadrat samples), 59 at Plumb Beach West (in quadrat samples), and 1,313 at Dead Horse Bay (total count). Big Egg peaked slightly earlier, with 284 crabs in quadrat samples on May 27. While Big Egg’s numbers were down slightly from last year, overall numbers and spawning densities increased at all the other sites.

 

This was our ninth year collecting data on horseshoe crabs, an important food source for shorebirds like the threatened red knot, in Jamaica Bay. 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.

 

Our friends from National Park Service, who monitor horseshoe crabs at Great Kills in Staten Island, had an amazing year as well. They reported finding over a thousand crabs in just one night­—more than they’d seen in an entire season in some previous years.

 

With the help of a record 206 volunteers, including groups from Patagonia, Metropolitan Society of Natural Historians, Atlas Obscura, and the Trinity School, we tagged 800 horseshoe crabs in Jamaica Bay over the course of 12 nights this summer. We learned that 70 of those tagged crabs were resighted later in the season, almost always at the same beach where they were originally tagged. Every year shows us how important these locations are for spawning crabs that use the same beach repeatedly over the course of two months—and continue to come back year after year.

 

Of the 17 horseshoe crabs tagged at Plumb Beach West that were seen again, seven of them were resighted at Plumb Beach East. While this is still technically the same beach, it is interesting to learn that the crabs moved within this site during spawning season from the less populated west end to the more populated east end. No crabs tagged at the Plumb Beach East moved to Plumb Beach West.

 

Horseshoe Crab with Tag # 366741 © Debra Kriensky

Horseshoe Crab with Tag # 366741 © Debra Kriensky

We also resighted 20 horseshoe crabs tagged by our program in earlier years. Eight of them were tagged by us in 2016, seven in 2015, four in 2014, and one in 2013. There were also a handful of tags resighted in Jamaica Bay that were not part of our program; we’re anxiously waiting to hear where and when they were deployed.

 

Thank you to all of our volunteers who came out and helped with monitoring efforts this year. We of course couldn’t do this without the help of our outstanding site coordinators: Phil Cusimano, Christine Nealy, Ann Seligman, and Dottie Werkmeister. These dedicated individuals put a tremendous amount of time into making each survey go smoothly. We also want to thank National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Five Star and Urban Waters restoration program, Bank of America, FedEx, Patagonia, Williams Companies, and Investors Bank for their support of this year’s monitoring.

 

We are already looking forward to next year, which will be our 10th year tracking these amazing and important creatures!

 

-Debra Kriensky, Conservation Biologist

 

Recapping the 117th Central Park Christmas Bird Count

Central Park Morning Fog, 12/18/16 © Meryl Greenblatt

Central Park Morning Fog, 12/18/16 © Meryl Greenblatt

The 2016 New Jersey Lower Hudson (NJLH) annual Christmas Bird Count took place on Sunday, December 18, and results are flying in! Although the morning’s forecast called for heavy rain, we only experienced a light drizzle and some morning fog before it settled into a nice, mild winter day. The NJLH Count Circle is centered right in the Hudson River and includes Manhattan, Bergen and Hudson counties in New Jersey, and parts of Queens.

 

 

Hairy Woodpecker at 2016 Central Park Christmas Bird Count © Elaine Silber

Hairy Woodpecker at 2016 Central Park Christmas Bird Count © Elaine Silber

New York City Audubon organized the 117th annual Count in Central Park along with our partners from NYC Parks, Urban Park Rangers, and Central Park Conservancy. Altogether, 6,342 birds of 59 species were counted throughout the Park by over 75 participants. Highlights (bolded below) were American wigeon and Iceland gull on the Reservoir, a common yellowthroat east of the Pond, a killdeer in the North Meadow (possibly a new bird for the count!), and a northern pintail on the Pond. Some misses were red-breasted nuthatch, cedar waxwing, and brown thrasher, though some excellent birders did report brown thrasher and red-breasted nuthatches during Count Week, which includes the three days prior and three days following the official Count. Also reported in Central Park during Count Week were snow goose (flying over), red-shouldered hawk, long-eared owl, black-throated blue warbler, hermit thrush, and green-winged teal.

 

 

Canada goose – 125
mute swan – 1
wood duck – 6
gadwall – 2
American wigeon – 1
American black duck – 4
mallard – 445
northern shoveler – 113
northern pintail – 1
bufflehead – 9
hooded merganser – 8
ruddy duck – 156
pied-billed grebe – 2
double-crested cormorant – 1
great blue heron – 1
sharp-shinned hawk – 2
Cooper’s hawk – 7
red-tailed hawk – 16
American kestrel – 1
peregrine falcon – 1
American coot – 10
killdeer – 1
ring-billed gull – 512
Iceland gull – 1
herring gull – 149
great black-backed gull – 54
rock pigeon – 406
mourning dove – 85
belted kingfisher – 1
red-bellied woodpecker – 44
yellow-bellied sapsucker – 20
downy woodpecker – 22
hairy woodpecker – 2
northern flicker – 4
blue jay – 204
American crow – 19
black-capped chickadee – 48
tufted titmouse – 236
white-breasted nuthatch – 78
brown creeper – 3
Carolina wren – 3
golden-crowned kinglet – 1
ruby-crowned kinglet – 2
American robin – 239
gray catbird – 1
northern mockingbird – 13
European starling – 544
common yellowthroat – 1
fox sparrow – 17
dark-eyed junco – 73
white-throated sparrow – 1301
song sparrow – 13
swamp sparrow – 2
eastern towhee – 1
northern cardinal – 87
common grackle – 119
house finch – 3
American goldfinch – 20
house sparrow – 1099

In addition to the Central Park Count, there were also Counts in New Jersey, Randall’s Island, Inwood Hill, Riverside Park, Harlem, Bryant Park, Madison Square Park, Stuyvesant Town, East River Park, lower Manhattan, and for the first time, a feeder in Sunnyside, Queens! There was also a Count that took place on Governors Island to see if any additional species could be added to the Island’s list.

 

 

So far we’ve heard word of Baltimore orioles in various locations, a Lincoln’s sparrow in Bryant Park, and several exciting finds in New Jersey like a glaucous gull, red-headed woodpecker, Lapland longspur, seaside sparrow, and many more. Unfortunately, it seems the western tanager of City Hall Park departed just before the start of Count Week (perhaps to Queens, where one was counted during their count!). Final results for the entire NJLH Count Circle will be available soon on our website.

 

 

A huge thank you to those who participated in any of the NYC Counts this year, especially those who led and organized counts throughout the City!

CBC 2016 Central Park Southeast Team © Lynn Hertzog

CBC 2016 Central Park Southeast Team © Lynn Hertzog

-Debra Kriensky, Conservation Biologist

 

 

Tribute in Light Monitoring 2016 Recap

Birds 'trapped' in the Tribute in Light Memorial's Beams

Birds 'trapped' in the Tribute in Light Memorial's Beams

The Tribute in Light memorial once again shone bright over Lower Manhattan on September 11, projecting two beams of light into the night sky to pay tribute to the lives lost on that day in 2001. NYC Audubon has monitored the memorial since 2002 to ensure that night-migrating songbirds, which in some years are attracted in huge numbers to the Tribute’s powerful light beams, are not exhausted and injured during the all-night event.

 

 

NYC Audubon staff, board members, and volunteers monitored this year’s memorial from 8pm Sunday night to 6am Monday morning. At around 11pm on Sunday night, migration activity began to increase and many birds were observed ‘trapped’ in the light, circling and calling to one another. Thank you to Michael Ahern Production Services, Inc. and the National September 11 Memorial and Museum for letting us turn the lights off three times for a brief period during the early morning hours, allowing birds to continue on their migration.

 

Here is a video taken by our monitoring staff of the lights being turned off at one point in the evening because of too much bird activity:

 

 

There were many species observed throughout the night, including American redstarts, black-and-white warblers, Baltimore orioles, and cuckoos. We even saw a peregrine falcon that was taking advantage of the congregation of small birds.

 

A Praying Mantis Joined Us!

A Praying Mantis Joined Us at One Point during Our Long Night of Monitoring!

Birds weren’t the only things we were watching though; we brought along a bat detector that was able to detect six different species of bat flying overhead! We even had a visit from a praying mantis around 3:30am. Be sure to check out NYC Audubon’s Facebook page or our Twitter page for more photos and video from the event.

 

Also, check out this wonderful video produced by NY Daily News about our Tribute in Light monitoring:

 

VIDEO: How Birds Are Saved during 9/11 Tribute in Light Memorial, produced by NY Daily News

 

 

 

To learn more about the work NYC Audubon does to protect migrating birds, visit our Project Safe Flight page.

 

-Conservation Biologist Debra Kriensky

 

Photo Gallery from This Year’s Tribute in Light Monitoring