Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Jamaica Bay West Pond Restoration

The once annual Waterfowl scene on the West Pond at Jamaica Bay.
In Broad Channel, an island in the middle of Jamaica Bay Queens New York, a jewel exists in the form of a Wildlife Refuge. Easily accessible, even by mass transit, it is the only Wildlife Refuge that exists in New York City.  Sadly, due to years of neglect and an apathetic approach to maintenance and enhancement, this jewel lost much of its shine. On October 29th-30th, 2012 one of the refuge's main attraction, the West Pond, was severely damaged after Hurricane Sandy breached the dike surrounding the pond. After the storm waters receded, the breach was left unattended and the pond has now turned into a tidal, saltwater mudflat that is devoid of wildlife.

Diamondback Terrapin nesting on the shores of the West Pond at Jamaica Bay.
The 45-acre West Pond, situated along the Atlantic flyway, was one of the only significant freshwater habitat in the coastal ecosystem of New York City (the other being the East Pond). Listed as an international Important Bird Area (IBA) by BirdLife International and the National Audubon Society. It was an important site for thousands of migratory waterfowl and hosted many breeding birds that relied on a fresh water ecosystem. In addition, the area around the West Pond had been critical nesting habitat for the threatened Diamondback Terrapin and a great variety of butterflies and other insect life.

A rare showing of a Black-bellied Whistling Duck on the West Pond at Jamaica Bay 2010.
More than 330 species of birds have been seen in the Refuge, owing to the unusual proximity of a freshwater Pond to a saltwater bay, together with saltmarsh, tidal flats and surrounding gardens of trees. Several mega rarities were recorded at the West Pond including the first record in the lower 48 states of a Broad-billed Sandpiper. It is considered, one of the more reliable places to see rarities like White-faced Ibis in New York and just prior to Hurricane Sandy, hosted rare and uncommon birds such as American White Pelican (2010) and Black-belied Whistling Duck (2010).

Possible future birders, naturalists and photographers on the West Pond Trail 2014.
GNRA (Gateway National Recreation Area), the caretakers of the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge are looking at options on whether to restore the West Pond or not.  Several organizations and individuals concerned at the lack of action, banded together to form the "Birders Coalition" and have published an online petition calling for a restoration of the West Pond.  GNRA, recently announced that they will be hosting an open house, public meeting on July 17th from 6-8 pm at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge Visitor's Center.  The restoration of the West Pond is critical not only for the birds but for many of us who use it for recreational and educational purposes.  If you have not signed the online petition, I urge you to please do so and to share it with friends and family and encourage them to do likewise.  In addition, if you can please consider attending the open house. There is no reason not to restore the West Pond.  Funds are available from Hurricane Sandy to fix the West Pond, let us show up in numbers and show our support and a unified front for a West Pond restoration.

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Kyu said...

Andrew, what about the recent announcement by the US Gov to fund restoration projects along the coast. Is any of that going to the West Pond?

biobabbler said...

Wow--how exciting. That terrapin is BEAUTIFUL! Wow. and I LOVE the sound of whistling ducks, tho' I associate it with TX. 'Course I don't really associate anything w/NY (state), 'cause I've never been. Any place one might see white pelicans and white ibis is a treasure. =)


Kyu, We are hoping that some of that money will go towards restoring the West Pond. We shall see where discussions and the public scoping lead to. There are a lot of players looking at Hurricane Sandy funds to boost their own projects and their organizations. It is not going to be easy. Thanks for your concern and I hope you signed the petition.


biobabbler - thanks for visiting and comment. Ah the mere mention of Texas. I practically lived there but never birded while working there.