Wednesday, April 12, 2017

A Cowboy comes to Queens

On April 10th, I found a banded Piping Plover at Breezy Point in Queens NYC. The bands were not easy to see and I had to spend some time getting close enough to be able to see the color bands well.  This bird had no flags but had the following band and color scheme. Upper Left Upper (Green), Upper Left Lower (Light Blue), Upper Right Upper (Dark Blue) and Upper Right Lower (White).

Fish and Wildlife Services listed Mchelle Stantial as the person to contact for any PIPL with color bands and no flags on the upper legs. After reaching out to her, this is what I learned. This female Piping Plover nicknamed "Cowboy" was banded as a day 1 chick at E.B. Forsythe NWR in 2016. She apparently has decided to try out new frontier by settling in Queens. Lets hope she is successful and raise a brood of her own. If you see a banded Piping Plover, please try and document it as best as you could. Researchers are eager to learn the well being of these birds and value every bit of scientific data.

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Friday, April 7, 2017

Gulling at Floyd Bennett Field Brooklyn NYC

1Cy Lesser Black-backed Gull about to take flight.
I have learned that dire weather can bring good things. I am speaking of course about birds; specifically Gulls, those maddening Laridae types that you either love or hate. The problem for someone like me in Queens, is where to look for Gulls when we have bad weather. Unlike our cousins in Brooklyn, we in Queens have little options save for the Rockaways, Fort Tilden, Riis Park and Breezy Point. There are other sites of course where the usual suspects like Ring-billed Gulls, show up and in good numbers but when we are talking about the percentages for a good return in Queens, then your money is better off betting on hitting the jackpot working the coastal sites.

4Cy Type Lesser Black-backed Gull looking quite spiffy.
As a result, I have found Brooklyn to be better for Gulling, with plenty of options including Floyd Bennett Field. A favored spot to check for Gulls whenever we get hit with a storm. Yesterday, I took a chance in thunderstorm and rain to do some birding. If I had the time, I would have fared better later in the afternoon (as later reports from other birders suggested) when the rain subsided and the light was better. Nevertheless, I can't complain too much for the return in investment of 20-25 minutes of my time, during which I managed 2 Lesser Black-backed Gulls and 1 Iceland Gull (Kumlieni). Not bad for a quick bit of birding.

1Cy Iceland Gull (Kumlieni) in flight.

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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Jamaica Bay West Pond Restoration Update - The Breach is Closed

The West Pond Breach After Hurricane Sandy
What started out as an improbable goal is almost now a reality. Finally, after 4 years and a few months, the breach on the West Pond at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, in NYC is closed. The shoring up of the breach continues and the loop trail is inaccessible to the public but the most difficult stage of the project in closing the breach is finished. The next step is the restoration of the pond to being a fresh water source. The West Pond breach closure and restoration was a hard fought quest that required patience, doggedness and skills in negotiating the many obstacles that were encountered along the way. There were many people who felt it was a waste of time and money and were all for leaving the breach as it was and letting the pond go to "waste". To quote one naturalist who, I won't name, "let it go back to what it was." Well we did (tongue firmly planted in cheek).

Shoring Up The West Pond Breach
I won't however dwell on the negatives and instead focus on the positives while thanking some of the people and organizations who deserve a shout out.  In 2012, when the breach occurred (see my 2012 report here) and the subsequent inaction set off alarm bells on whether the West Pond was lost forever. A few individuals began brainstorming on what to do. Doug Futuyma, Professor of Evolutionary at Stony Brook University and I began to discuss what were our options. Who could we get to back a West Pond restoration. We turned to New York City Audubon (NYCA) and thus began the discussions on a larger scale on what actions could be taken to get a restoration effort on track. Harry Mass, then president of the Board of Directors of NYCA, was very instrumental in securing the backing of the organization. He arranged for us to use their office at 71 West 23rd Street in NYC, where we began holding meetings and eventually formed the group "Birders Coalition for Gateway." The group included many like minded organizations, individuals and birding groups from NYC, Long Island, Queens and Brooklyn.

Finally The Breach is Closed
In any discussions, you want to negotiate from strength and we needed to show that the West Pond was utilized by many but how? The online petition to restore the West Pond that resulted in over 7,500 signatures with personal comments from people who had visited Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge (JBWR) was a huge impact in getting that message across. That petition had its detractors and sadly did not enjoy the support and championing to promote its objective by many "key" individuals. Luckily, the few that did, made an impact. It was this piece of document that got a lot of attention by the right people. This I heard directly from sources within Gateway National Recreation (folks do pay attention to numbers). My thanks to all of you who took time out to sign and submit your personal account of what the West Pond meant to you. I also want to thank those of you who championed the petition and worked hard at getting signatures. One person in particular, Anne Lazarus, who along with some of her friends called and petitioned people wherever they went in an effort to get signatures. Thank you to all of you.

West Pond Assessment
This project would not be where it is today without the hard work of the members of "The Birders Coalition for Gateway" some of whom I worked directly with like - Doug Futuyma, Harry Mass, Susan Elbin, Seth Asubel and Jennifer Nersesian are just some. We would not be here without the support of Gateway National Recreation Area Management. They took a lot of heat and blame for allowing the breach to widen post Hurricane Sandy but when it mattered in getting the breach closed, management, led by Jennifer Nersesian and her able staff, like Patricia Rafferty came through. We would not be here without the backing of organizations like the Linnean Society of NYC, Brooklyn Bird Club, Queens County Bird Club, New York State Ornithological Association, Protectors of Pine Oak Woods, Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers, American Littoral Society - North East Chapter, Great South Bay Audubon Society, Huntington-Oyster Bay Audubon Society, South Shore Audubon Society, American Birding Association and others who all supported the efforts. We were lucky to get support from unlikely quarters in Senator Chuck Schumer who went on record to support the restoration and Canadian poet, novelist, literary critic, essayist and environmental activist Margaret Atwood, who used her presence on Twitter to tweet out her support.

Advocates for a West Pond Restoration Attend one of many meetings at JBWR
Last but not least, a heartfelt thanks to all of you who in some form or another lent your support to a West Pond restoration. We would not have gotten anywhere without all of your activism in supporting a restoration. Your efforts in participating in the Jamaica Bay General Management plan all sent a clear message to the management of GNRA, that we are committed to preserving our wildlife and the habitats they use!

If you ever need my support for any of your projects, please feel free to seek me out. I hope someday soon I might run into any of you at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge where together we might enjoy marveling at the wildlife that once again occupy the West Pond.

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Sunday, March 12, 2017

Banded American Oystercatchers Are Back At Breezy Point

7 American Oystercatchers were observed at Breezy Point in Queens NYC on 3-11. Of the 7, three were banded. After getting a read on the codes, I realized that I had documented all three at the site in previous seasons. The bands read as follows: U2, YAE and YAJ. Hopefully these birds will settle in and use Breezy Point as their breeding site.

Breezy Point in Queens is a critical stopover and breeding site for many birds including, American Oystercatchers, Piping Plovers, Common, Forsters, Least and possibly Roseate Terns. Please respect the roped off areas at Breezy Point and do not disturb nesting birds.

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Monday, January 23, 2017

Townsend's Solitaire: A New State and Life Bird

This was one that had shown up in several areas in NY state. However, almost all of those reports were before I got into the game, including the 2007-8 from Oak Beach, on Long Island.

When this bird was reported in Southold Long Island, I decided this was the bird that I would make my first state and life bird of 2017. Mei Yee and Myles joined me for an early morning twitch and with the help of the Feustels, Menachem Goldstein and his mom who were on site before we arrived, I finally filled the hole on my state list while adding also adding Townsend's Solitaire as a new life bird.

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Thursday, January 19, 2017

Ross's Goose in the Bronx

When I saw an e-mail rather late in the evening on January 14th from birder Richard Aracil reporting a Ross's Goose from Pelham Bay. I was excited but also not happy. While I was happy to read that Richard had found the last Goose I needed for the borough; I was not happy that I got wind of its presence so late in the day. I decided that I would twitch the Ross's the next day and dragged along two other intrepid Goose seekers, young Myles and Mei Yee with me. They both thought it crazy to get up as early as I demanded (5:30 a.m.) but were game for the chase.

Canada Geese with Ross's Goose at Pelham Bay Lagoon, Bronx NY.
We got out on time and made it to Pelham Bay before light. Pulling into Orchard Beach, I decided to check the Gulls in the parking lot, which were mostly made up of Ring-billed Gulls. After a careful scan turned up nothing noteworthy, I then decided to check the Pelham Bay Lagoon since I had seen Canada Geese sleeping when we arrived. My hunch paid off as I spotted a lone white Goose sleeping among the many Canada Geese.

Ross's Goose at Pelham Bay Lagoon, Bronx NY.
We waited patiently and after about half an hour, the white Goose untucked its head and bingo a Ross's Goose was ID'd. I was ecstatic!!  This was the last "expected" Goose that I needed in the Bronx having already seen, Barnacle, Brandt, Greater White-fronted, Pink-footed, Cackling, Snow and Canada Geese. I was also happy for Maggie and Myles. It was Myles'2nd Ross's while it was the third for Mei Yee.  I hope the next Ross's Goose for the Bronx show up at Van Cortlandt Park, which if I got would make a sweep of all the expected Geese in one location. Now that would be worth pursuing. In the meantime, I will enjoy this one very much, thanks to Richard Aracil.

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