Sunday, May 12, 2013

Big Egg Marsh Restoration Provides Habitat for Migrating Shorebirds...

If you build it they will come.  Jamaica Bay salt marshes are invaluable to birds, fish and other wildlife. These wetlands are also critical to the health and protection of Jamaica Bay’s coastal communities, by improving water quality through the filtering of pollutants, and by buffering storm surge and reducing wave action.
Unfortunately, Jamaica Bay salt marshes have been deteriorating at an alarming rate that appears to be accelerating; experts worry that if this rate of loss continues, marsh islands in Jamaica Bay could vanish completely in the next 20 to 25 years.   In 2003-4, I participated in an experimental pilot project aimed at restoring a two-acre parcel of degraded marsh in Jamaica Bay. Sediment was applied to the marsh surface at Big Egg Marsh and then planted with over 20,000 seedlings of marsh grass. See some photos here of the planting.
Working with National Park Service Biologist George Frame, I along with many volunteers contributed to the project, putting in hundreds of hours of our time and effort to the cause.  Following the pilot program at Big Egg Marsh, a 43 -acre project was completed at Elders Point Marsh - East in 2007, and another 40 acres constructed at Elders Point Marsh - West in 2010. Another 42 acres of marsh were restored at Yellow Bar Hassock in 2012. The State of New York has contributed $5 million to these projects.  With a community based project in the works to restore 28 acres of salt marsh grasses on the recently rebuilt Rulers Bar and Black Wall Islands, I say we could expect to see more migrating birds stopping over...especially SHOREBIRDS.

It is important to note that none of this would be possible without the hard work of the Army Core of Engineers, the North East Chapter of the American Littoral Society, the Jamaica Bay Eco-Watchers (led by Dan Mundy Sr. and his son who are like local champions of the least for me), the vision of government officials and most importantly, the hundreds of volunteers who have put in thousands of hours, giving their time and effort to the restoration of the bay they love so much.

Today, as I did my shorebird survey, I was over-washed with joy as I watched in satisfaction over 2 thousand shorebirds wheeling around and resting in Big Egg Marsh in Jamaica Bay Queens NY, during high tide.    A treat was counting over 300 Red Knots roosting and sometimes feeding in the marsh as the tide came in. Other shorebirds included, Willets, Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Short-billed Dowitchers, Semi-palmated Plovers, Black-belied Plovers, Least Sandpipers, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Dunlins and Rudy Turnstones.  

Red Knots were the majority shorebirds in this image, which I cropped.

Red Knots in breeding plumage.
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tim b said...

I've been telling myself for two weeks I need to ride out there for a day of birding. This sold me: done!

Rohrerbot said...

Looks like an incredible place to bird. Glad you're doing your part to help. This has been going on all over and it's a bit overwhelming for me. All of these areas are threatened. In my area alone, we are looking at a potential loss of 3 totally pristine areas due to manmade structures being built. PLUS we have a a water area that is losing water from springs. Illegal drilling is my guess. Very very sad. We can try to do our best and glad you are doing the same over there. Chris


I hope you did make it out there Tim and saw some good birds.


Thanks Chris, it is an ongoing battle. All we could do is our part and hope for the best. The more people that get involved, the better we have at making a change for the posiive.