Audubon New York’s Long Island Bird Conservation program (LIBCP) began in 2007 with the goal of conducting stewardship, monitoring, outreach, and advocacy to reduce threats to, and increase productivity of, approximately 130 pairs of Piping Plovers, 70 pairs of American Oystercatchers, 540 Least Terns, 10,000 Common Terns, 1,500 Roseate Terns as well as thousands of non-breeding shorebirds.
The program continues to be a cornerstone of Audubon New York's conservation work and in 2016, the program again exceeded its goals to protect beach nesting birds by working with partners on the monitoring and stewardship of nesting Piping Plovers (NY Endangered, Federally Threatened) and Least Terns (NY Threatened) and by engaging more volunteers to help us bring the Be a Good Egg program to more beachgoers in an effort to share the shore with beach-nesting birds.
One objective of our 2016 program was to monitor and steward Piping Plovers and terns at six sites across Long Island: Centre Island, Stehli, Prospect, Half Moon, Orient Beach State Park, and Tobay, and use that data to inform management at those sites. We met that goal and for the season, our seasonal plover technician, staff, and five volunteers monitored and stewarded six sites. We had 14 pairs of breeding Piping Plovers fledge 20 chicks and approximately 90 breeding Least Tern pairs at two sites that fledged at least six chicks. One of the things that makes the Audubon network so effective is our partnerships and in 2016, Group for the East End helped us monitor Orient Beach State Park. We also participated in the 2016 winter Piping Plover and shorebird surveys in the Bahamas and were thrilled to find banded Piping Plovers on Long Island during the 2016 season. We also assisted with the monitoring and protection efforts of two nesting Piping Plover pairs on Lake Ontario. The birds have returned to the lake’s shores after a 30-year hiatus and we recruited volunteers, held a training for volunteers, and provided input on management and dredging activities. Unfortunately, neither pair was successful.
To address our goal of monitoring American Oystercatchers (AMOY) at five Long Island sites, work with partners on bird banding needs, and inform site management, we monitored 70 AMOY pairs at at Jones Beach, Point Lookout and Lido Beaches, Tobay, Plum Point, and Orient Beach State Park. Once again, the power of our partnerships helped us achieve our goals and we worked with the Town of Hempstead to monitor chicks at their beaches which are the most significant AMOY nesting site on Long Island. We also worked with New York City Audubon and Town of Hempstead staff to band AMOY and tern chicks, which was part of a regional AMOY banding effort to understand AMOY habitat use during breeding, migration and winter and we helped New York City Audubon and Town of Hempstead band Common Tern chicks.
In addition to our monitoring and stewardship work, we also conducted shorebird migration surveys at five sites in an effort to better document important stopover habitat and provided multiple opportunities for local residents to learn about our work and for volunteers to participate in projects with conservation outcomes.
Our education and outreach programs provide opportunities for local residents to learn about our work and for volunteers to participate in projects with conservation outcomes. In 2013, we developed a “Be a Good Egg” (BGE) outreach campaign, which encourages beach goers to respectfully share the beach with beach nesting birds. This effort includes BGE docent day events, during which Audubon staff and volunteers educate beach goers about birds and ask visitors to sign our BGE pledge. This work is time and staff intensive but wanted to explore expanding to additional sites with partnerships, and we were successful! In 2016, we held 12 events at nine sites including Jones Beach, Lido Beach, Point Lookout, Centre Beach, West Meadow, Sunken Meadow and Rockaway Beach, four of which were sponsored by the local chapters: NY City Audubon Society, Huntington Oyster Bay Audubon Society, and Four Harbor Audubon Society. Three additional communities and partners conducted BGE activities on their beaches including East Atlantic Beach, Amagansett, and Group for East End. Through all of our events, 2,314 people signed our BGE pledge, therefore promising to respect symbolic fencing, carry out trash, and keep dogs off nesting beaches. We recruited 28 volunteers and continued to expand our outreach through a coordinated media and online relations strategy that relied on Facebook, Twitter, and the BGE and Audubon New York websites to spread the BGE message. Our efforts paid off and from April 1st – October 5th, our the likes on our BGE New Jersey and New York Facebook page increased 136% with our top video reaching more than 170,000 people with more than 9,000 of those being engaged. More than ever, we relied on up-to-date photos, videos, and updates from our beach nesting bird monitoring work and BGE outreach events to tell our story and it worked!
Another component of our Be a Good Egg campaign is delivering a coastal education program to underserved schools. In 2016, we had 140 Drexel Avenue 4th grade students participate in a shorebird lesson and submit designs for signs to help educate beach visitors about shorebirds. 14 designs were selected and made into weather resistant signs and installed on beaches where birds nest to help communicate the importance of sharing the beach with birds. The 14 students whose designs were selected attended a joint press event held with the Town of Hempstead on the beach when the signs were installed.
We also hold volunteer stewardship days to engage people in our conservation work. In 2016, our goal was to hold three volunteer conservation action days to engage the public in shorebird stewardship but we surpassed that goal with five. Overall, 37 Audubon volunteers participated. We reduced the vegetation cover on the west side of Centre Island Beach to make the site more suitable for plovers. We held a volunteer string fencing day to post symbolic fencing at the nesting areas of Centre Island and Stehli beaches. We partnered with the Town of Oyster Bay to clean up trash from Centre Island. We built 60 wooden shelters for Common and Roseate Tern chicks on Great Gull Island. We also took the lead on Great Gull volunteer day to locate, count, and GPS nests. This is the most significant site for nesting terns in western hemisphere.
A notable component of our coastal program involves lobbying and reviewing and commenting on plans, projects and legislation that impact our conservation priorities. In 2016, we were a participant in the NYC Regional Conservation Action Plan’s Marine/Estuarine/Shoreline workgroup which is providing input on the implementation of the NY State Wildlife Action Plan in Region 2. We reviewed the Long Island Sound Dredged Material Management Plan and supported the Governor’s position on opposing that plan. We reviewed the Long Island Nitrogen Action Plan and submitted comments. We submitted comments on the Fire Island to Montauk Point Draft Reformulation Report and DEIS. We continue to be an active participant in the Long Island Sound Habitat and Restoration Group. We are an active member of the Plum Island Steering Committee, which is advocating for the protection of Plum Island (part of an IBA in Long Island Sound, owned by USDA). We also continued our efforts to increase federal funding for the Long Island Sound and pass the Long Island Sound Stewardship and Restoration Act. Finally, we joined the USFWS led process to develop a communication plan for Piping Plovers that addresses coastal engineering, predators, and human disturbance.
Thank you to PSEG Long Island and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for providing funding for our work.