Posts tagged ‘Field Notes’

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

Field Notes: Horseshoe Crab Monitoring at Plumb Beach

Summer intern Debra Kriensky reports on a recent field expedition

 

Molted shells from young horseshoe crabs (approximately two-to-three years old). Photo © Susan Elbin

Molted shells from young horseshoe crabs (approximately two-to-three years old). Photo © Susan Elbin

On July 23, NYC Audubon staff and interns went out to Plumb Beach in Brooklyn to help horseshoe crab researcher Mark Botton search for baby crabs. Though we couldn’t help but stop to look at the birds—we saw several oystercatchers, plenty of gulls and terns, and a flock of juvenile barn swallows—the tiny, newly hatched horseshoe crabs stole the show.

 

Though the horseshoe crab hatchlings we were looking for were in the same shape as the adult crabs we count and tag during the spawning season, they were considerably more difficult to find. Smaller than a ladybug and the same color as the sand, the crab larvae were practically invisible in the shallow waters of the low tide. Fortunately, we were able to find a few of the baby crabs, which were promptly measured and released. During our search, we also stumbled upon the molted shells of several older horseshoe crabs that likely hatched two or three years ago.

 

In addition to searching for hatchlings, Botton’s team was also there to measure

A newly hatched horseshoe crab © Debra Kriensky

A newly hatched horseshoe crab found in the shallows being held in a shell until it could be measured. Photo © Debra Kriensky

the density of eggs at different depths of sand at several points along the shoreline. Using five-cm and 20-cm cores, the group collected a total of 120 samples of sand to analyze back at the lab. This data can be used to determine where crabs are laying their eggs on the beach, among other things. For example, since birds can only reach eggs close to the surface of the sand, looking at the egg densities in the five-cm core sample can help clarify just how much of this important food resource is available for shorebirds on Plumb Beach.

 

-Debra Kriensky