Posts tagged ‘citizen science’

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

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

 

 

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.

 

Annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count Results Now Available

 

Great Horned Owl © Francois Portmann

Great Horned Owl © Francois Portmann

The results from the 116th Annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count are in! The 2015 Lower Hudson count took place on Sunday, December 20th, a cold but clear day. The Lower Hudson count circle (code: NJLH) includes Manhattan and parts of Hudson and Bergen counties in New Jersey.

 

With the help of 174 participants, we counted a total of 27,167 birds and 96 species this year. Though a little lower than last year’s numbers (30,641 birds and 111 species), there were still a lot of birds counted, showing that winter can be anything but boring!

 

Counts took place in Central Park, Inwood, Harlem, Riverside Park, Randall’s Island, Bryant Park, Madison Square Park, Stuyvesant Town & Cove, East River Park, Lower Manhattan, and many locations throughout New Jersey (see map below). We thank all of the count leaders who made this year’s count possible, including a count during “count-week” on Governor’s Island.

 

For detailed results on this year’s count and results from previous year’s counts, please visit our Audubon Christmas Bird Count page

 
-Debra Kriensky, Conservation Biologist