Kek-burr…. Have you seen a Clapper Rail?

Seaside Sparrow Nest - Just hatched! © Alison Kocek

NYC Audubon is part of a  multi-state marsh bird callback survey nicknamed SHARP (Saltmarsh Habitat and Avian Research Program), carried out by a network of researchers conducting marsh bird surveys along the coast from Delaware to Maine.  On June 22, NYC Audubon Intern Hilary Standish and I took part in a set of surveys on Staten Island; despite the blazing heat, we needed to complete our June survey before the end of the month. (Three surveys are needed,  in May, June, and July.)  Our team this year is led by Alison Kocek, MS student from SUNY Syracuse, and her crew (Kirsten Thoede and Kelly Long). One of Alison’s study sites is along Sawmill Creek on Staten Island; species found nesting at this site so far this season include clapper rail, saltmarsh sparrow, seaside sparrow, red-winged blackbird, marsh wren, willet, and mallard.


Saltmarsh and seaside sparrows are priority species for NYC Audubon and focal species for Alison. She started a sparrow banding program this year to identify individual birds at Sawmill Creek, and she is also tracking nest success.  According to the data, nesting on saltmarsh isn’t easy! At Sawmill Creek, only two of six sparrow nests survived the extremely high moon tides in May. A second round of nests has been successful, though, with chicks becoming mobile before well ahead of any extreme high tides.


There’s some exciting news as well:  This is the first year that saltmarsh sparrows have been observed nesting in an area recently restored for tidal flow. Alison’s study provides important feedback to New York City Parks Natural Resources Group on their restoration efforts.


You can read more about SHARP at


Saltmarsh Sparrows - 3 days old Photo by Alison Kocek

- Susan Elbin

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