The overall goal of the 2015 Long Island Bird Conservation Program was to conduct stewardship, monitoring, outreach, and advocacy to reduce threats to, and increase productivity of 55 pairs of Piping Plovers, 60 pairs of American Oystercatchers, and 175 Least Terns as well as non-breeding shorebirds while engaging 30 volunteers, including Chapter members and partners in the work.
The program actually achieved much more than planned. In 2015, Audubon New York conducted 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 while engaging 35 volunteers, including Chapter members from 7 chapters and other partners in the work.*
*2015 bird data are not yet available for all the sites our work impacted, therefore, for sites we did not monitor in 2015, we used data from 2013 to approximate the total number of birds we impacted.
Stewardship and Monitoring
This breeding season (2015), our Audubon New York staff continued efforts to protect beach nesting birds. We monitored and stewarded nesting Piping Plovers (NY Endangered, Federally Threatened) and Least Terns (NY Threatened). Stewardship involves fencing off areas where birds nest, posting signs about beach nesting birds, and protecting Piping Plover nests from predation by setting up exclosures. We monitored 7 sites and had 9 pairs of breeding Piping Plovers at 6 of the sites and approximately 40 breeding Least Tern pairs at 2 sites. We held two string fencing days with 17 volunteers. In the end, 7 of the 9 Piping Plover pairs were successful at the sites we steward, yielding a total of 21 fledges. Although the total number of Piping Plover pairs was lower than previous years (11 pairs in 2014), the productivity at our sites was 2.33 (up from 0.9 in 2014), which exceeds the Piping Plover Recovery Plan goal of 1.5 and is the highest it has been at our sites in over 5 years. This leaves us hopeful that we will see an increase in the population at our sites next year. We also conducted a shorebird workshop at which 8 volunteers built 51 tern shelters for use at Great Gull Island (the most significant site for terns in the northeast). Staff delivered the shelters to Great Gull during a workday to survey nesting terns.
We also monitored 70 pairs of breeding American Oystercatchers (AMOY) at 5 sites, which produced 55 fledges, resulting in a productivity of 0.79, which is the same as our 2014 productivity. However, this was the highest number of pairs of AMOY that we have documented at our sites since starting AMOY surveys in 2013. We worked with New York City Audubon and Town of Hempstead staff to band 5 AMOY chicks, which was part of a regional AMOY banding effort to understand AMOY habitat use during breeding, migration and winter.
Each fall and spring, Audubon New York conducts a modified version of International Shorebird Surveys, developed by the Manomet Center of Conservation Sciences, to help document migrating shorebirds. In 2015, our spring migration surveys ran from April 15th to June 15th. Three staff members and 5 volunteers visited 5 sites up to three times per month throughout the migration survey period. Surveyors performed 40 surveys and documented 12 different shorebird species - including notable flocks of Sanderling, Dunlin, Semipalmated Sandpipers, and Ruddy Turnstones. Data are entered into a regional database. We, along with volunteers, are currently conducting fall migration surveys at the same sites. These surveys have the same protocol and run from July 15th to October 25th.
Finally, we participated in 2015 winter Piping Plover and shorebird surveys in the Bahamas and had a high count of 91 Piping Plovers on Long Island, Bahamas. Piping Plovers were banded in the Bahamas this year and two of the banded individuals were observed nesting on Long Island, NY during the spring; one banded plover nested at one of our stewardship sites.
We also continued our “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 year we held 7 events at 4 sites, one of which was sponsored by a local Audubon chapter, Huntington Oyster Bay Audubon Society. At these events, 1466 visitors signed our BGE pledge, therefore promising to respect symbolic fencing, carry out trash, and keep dogs off nesting beaches. We recruited 8 new volunteers to help out with BGE events and 6 veteran volunteers continued to work with us.
We continued our school programming and had 196 Drexel Avenue 4th grade students, who participated in a shorebird lesson, conducted a research project on shorebirds, and submitted designs for signs to help educate beach visitors about shorebirds. Fourteen 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 plus an additional 6 students that received honorable mention attended a press event on the beach when the signs were installed.
We also expanded our outreach this year through our social media channels on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.