Tag Archives: long island

(The Real) Plovers of New York

Beaches, bagels, and ’burbs: the three B’s of Long Island. If you haven’t been to the island—like me, prior to this week—you probably associate the area with some of these trademarks. But do you know about one of the tiniest but most important ‘B’s on the island—birds?

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Outreach coordinator Bret Serbin’s first trip to Long Island with Long Island field biologists, USFWS.

Long Island is a crucial habitat for many birds, including a number of terns, skimmers, and even a few bald eagles. Only if you look very closely in the right places will you see one of the most important birds on Long Island: the piping plover, a tiny shorebird unique to North America that has been considered threatened since 1986.

Atlantic Coast Piping Plovers

Piping plovers are small migratory shorebirds with white and sandy coloring that nearly camouflages them in their beach surroundings. The Atlantic Coast breeding population was listed as a federally threatened species in 1986 and are considered endangered within the state of New York. Their entire Atlantic Coast New York population is concentrated on Long Island beaches, where they make their nests for the spring and summer and fortify themselves for their long journey south. As you’re reading this, hundreds of plovers are preparing for their imminent migration to their wintering grounds in far-off tropical destinations like the Bahamas and Cuba.

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Here you see an adult and chick plover blend in with their surroundings, USFWS.

Piping plovers love sandy open spaces for their summer homes and thrive on the tiny invertebrates that colonize decaying vegetation known as wrack. But due to major habitat loss and disturbance from beach recreation, plover populations have grown precarious.

Long Island is a crucial site for plover protection and recovery.

Arverne, for instance, is a community on the very western part of the island where there was once no hope for plover reproduction. Now, this site is on track to support the Service’s recovery goal of 575 breeding pairs for the New York-New Jersey area. This success comes after years of dedicated efforts by community members, legislators, and scientists to protect the birds and their environment.

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A beach in Arverne, a success story for piping plover recovery, USFWS.

Piping Plovers of the Great Lakes

 And while Long Island habitats like these have become hotspots for the plovers, the Long Island gang is not alone in the state of New York.

There is a Great Lakes piping plover population (say that 5 times fast) that is listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. The majority of Great Lakes birds nest in Michigan, but scattered pairs occur in other Great Lakes states including New York. This population went from a low of 12 pairs in 1990 to a high of 75 pairs in 2015, but it remains small enough to be vulnerable to shoreline development, public recreation, predators, human disturbance and extreme weather events.

In 2015, after a 30-year hiatus, Great Lakes piping plovers returned to nest in New York State on the eastern shore of Lake Ontario.

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Assessing the health of the piping plover chicks on Sandy Island Beach State Park, USFWS.

This year there was another documented successful breeding pair that took up residence at Sandy Island Beach State Park in Pulaski, New York. Four plover chicks were reared and fledged while being closely monitored by conservation scientists. The New York State Office of Parks Recreation and Historic Preservation (Parks) designated a protected bird nesting area which allowed these plovers to have a safe place to nest and forage for food. Parks hired full time staff to educate beach goers as well as protect the plovers out on Sandy Island Beach.

Ways to Protect Plovers

 Ways we can help protect all populations of piping plovers is to continue to protect and conserve habitat. If carefully and thoughtfully planned, development can occur on shorelines without affecting nesting plovers or landowner enjoyment or access to the shoreline.

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Keeping our distance from the chicks by walking in the water during a health survey, USFWS.

Invasive plants such as spotted knapweed, lime grass and phragmites rapidly take over and alter habitat along the shorelines and dunes, making it less desirable for nesting plovers. Removal of invasive plants each season will help maintain plover habitat.

As a beach goer there are some simple ways we can share the beach with piping plover adults and chicks and help them survive:

  • Follow the guidance on signs and respect all areas fenced or posted for protection of wildlife.
  • Watch these entertaining birds from a distance.
  • If pets are permitted on beaches, keep them leashed and away from birds.
  • Remove trash and food scraps, which attract animals that might eat piping plovers and their eggs.
  • Do not feed animals on or near the beach. Keep your cats indoors.
  • Volunteer as a piping plover monitor, ambassador, or educator on your local beach. Tell your friends and family how to help.

Starting in April, sites with proper nesting habitat are surveyed to locate nesting piping plovers. Once a nest is found it is protected by placing a wire enclosure over the nest. This provides protection from predators, while allowing the adult plovers to come and go for feeding. The entire nesting site is posted to inform people to keep their distance.

You can take initiative to help keep piping plovers safe and continue to allow this amazing migratory species to not only survive, but thrive.

This blog was written in partnership with Bret Serbin from the Long Island Field Office

 

The view from above – an aerial tour of Hurricane Sandy recovery and restoration sites: Day 1

I’m Rick Bennett, Regional Scientist for the Northeast Region. This week, I am part of a team taking to the air to tour some of the locations that were devastated by Hurricane Sandy. Each evening, I will be sharing a little about what we saw, the projects on the ground and how we are working to ensure the coastline and the surrounding communities are #StrongAfterSandy.

I’m Rick Bennett, Regional Scientist for the Northeast Region. This week, I am part of a team taking to the air to tour some of the locations that were devastated by Hurricane Sandy. Each evening, I will be sharing a little about what we saw, the projects on the ground and how we are working to ensure the coastline and the surrounding communities are #StrongAfterSandy.

Today we flew over and surveyed salt marsh restoration efforts on the Long Island coast. Long Island’s coastal wetlands were drastically affected by storm surge shortly after Hurricane Sandy made landfall in New Jersey.

Salt marsh restoration efforts throughout the Long Island National Wildlife Complex are targeted at Wertheim and Seatuck National Wildlife Refuges, and Lido Beach Wildlife Management Area.

Tree removal has already been completed and the removal of other debris will clear the way for a boardwalk that will restore access to refuge visitors and educational groups. The reinvigorated marsh will be engineered to discourage invasive vegetation and support the more than 200 species of birds that inhabit the marshes at various parts of the year, while also reducing erosion and decreasing the impact future large storm events will have on the nearby towns of Islip, Brookhaven, and Hempstead, New York – as well as neighboring communities.

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This coastal marsh restoration project restores wetlands, which provide habitat to fish and wildlife and gives protection to shorelines, buildings and coastal communities from storm surge and flooding.

Blackout: Before and after Sandy hit the NY-NJ metro region. CREDIT: NASA

Hurricane Sandy one year later: building coastal defenses to keep the lights on

Blackout: Before and after Sandy hit the NY-NJ metro region. CREDIT: NASA

Halloween Blackout: Before and after Sandy hit the NY-NJ metro region. CREDIT: NASA

This year, Halloween marks the anniversary of a dark nightmare that was all too real for the people, places and wildlife of the Atlantic Coast: Hurricane Sandy. What are we doing to prepare for the possibility of another super storm? Scientists, engineers and other experts at the at the Department of the Interior, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other agencies have put a great deal of thought into planning for such contingencies. A week ago, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced a multi-pronged plan to fund resiliency projects up and down the Atlantic coast that are specifically designed to build up natural barriers in the region, including wetlands, dunes, tidal marshes and other features of “green infrastructure,” recognizing their critical role as buffers to probable future storms and sea level rise.

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announces $162 million in Hurricane Sandy resiliency funding. CREDIT: Keth Shannon/USFWS

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announces $162 million in Hurricane Sandy resiliency funding. CREDIT: Keith Shannon/USFWS

“What we witnessed during Hurricane Sandy was that our public lands and other natural areas are often the best defense against Mother Nature,” said Jewell, at an event at E.B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey, where she announced more than $162 million of funding, more than $100 million of which will go to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for 30 projects. Many national wildlife refuges and other federal lands along the coast are recognized for their potential ability to absorb the brunt of extreme weather events, serving as natural protectors for coastal communities and infrastructure. The projects will also restore and create healthy environments for dozens of species, and ensure the integrity of major migratory bird stop-over points at places like the Forsythe refuge and the several refuges that make up the Long Island Complex (dunes at Amagansett NWR shown below).

Dunes, beaches and tidal marshes provide a natural defense against coastal flooding and storm surge. CREDIT: USFWS

Dunes, beaches and tidal marshes provide a natural defense against coastal flooding and storm surge. CREDIT: USFWS

For more information on ongoing repair, restoration and resiliency projects, visit our Hurricane Sandy home page.

Thomas Sturm is a Public Affairs Specialist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the Northeast Regional Office.