The East Pond, is usually where the action is at and it requires careful management in monitoring the water level. Every summer, the water needs to be drawn down to provide mudflats for thousands of migrating shorebirds who use the pond as a critical stopover to rest and feed as they try and gain enough fat to continue the long journey to their wintering grounds. The water drainage mechanism consist of a huge pipe that is around 50+ years old that goes from the North End of the pond, runs under the dyke and out into the south side of the bay. On the pond side there is a flap that has to be opened, usually at the beginning of June, to start the draw down of the pond. Once the flap is opened water flows through the pipe out into the bay and is controlled on the bay side from high tide backflow by a contraption known as a pinch valve. The last few years, there have been some difficulty with the water level, but this year has been a total disappointment!!! According to a few veteran birders, this year was the worst they had ever encountered and we are talking about folks with well over 20 years birding Jamaica Bay.
|Shorebird aficionados will not be enjoying views like this one from the East Pond this year!|
With the annual shorebird festival at Jamaica Bay, scheduled for the 27th of August, NPS is hard pressed to at least make the the West Pond more shorebird friendly. The problem there is that the water level on that pond is also very high, which I observed for myself on Tuesday August 16th. In a telephone conversation with NPS management, I was informed that they are working to lower the water level on the West Pond and cut back the vegetation to enable better viewing. While those hard core East Pond shorebird aficionados will scoff at shore birding from the West Pond. It is better than nothing as long as there is shoreline and birds. After all, it is more about adequate feeding and resting areas for the birds that we should be concerned about.
While this shorebird season was a bust or as long time birder Bobby Kurtz put it, "catastrophic", I remain hopeful for the future. With the lessons learned from this year and the problems identified and hopefully resolved. I am optimistic, that next year, NPS will ensure that the East Pond will be primed and ready for a better shorebird season for 2012. Next year guys, make it happen - do it for the birds!
Tags: Jamaica Bay, Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, Shorebird Festival