Birds Count: Winter 2016
On President’s Day weekend, millions of birds were recorded as part of the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC). According to the New York Times, this was the 19th year that both amateur and expert ornithologists worldwide have contributed bird sightings to this citizen science project, run by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the National Audubon Society and Bird Studies of Canada.
The data collected during bird counts like the GBBC can be used by researchers, conservation biologists, and wildlife organizations to document the changes in bird populations over time. Information about the Great Backyard Bird Count can be found on the GBBC website.
In honor of this event, here’s a record of recent bird activity at Freshkills Park.
Christmas Bird Count: December 2015
Two decades ago, at around the same time the Great Backyard Bird Count began, researchers from the College of Staten Island started recording the grassland birds at the Freshkills Park site as part of the National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Counts. During the most recent count in December 2015, Clay Wollney of the Staten Island Advance reported that 49 participants counted a total of 106 species in Staten Island during the December 2015 event.
The count was coordinated by the Staten Island Museum and Cliff Hagen, president of Protectors of Pine Oak Woods. Hagen said that highlights in Staten Island included a snow goose, a cackling goose, a handful of warblers, and a Virginia rail. There was also a Swainson’s hawk spotted at Freshkills Park a week before the event. Even though the 2015 count had a “less than terrific showing of birds,” Cliff said this did nothing to diminish the expectations for next year. “We are forever optimistic,” he said, “waiting to see the next, best bird in the next, big tree around the next, blazed trail.”
Winter Waterfowl Count: January 2016
The Winter Waterfowl Count at Freshkills Park was organized and led by the Staten Island Museum on January 17th. They recorded 11 different species during the count, including the Hooded Merganser, Northern Pintail, Pied-Billed Grebe, Bufflehead, and Green-Winged Teal. In total, the group counted over 400 birds that day.
Sculptures, Twitter, & More
The subject of birds has become a place where art and science meet at Freshkills Park. Two ongoing projects are exploring Freshkills’ transformation by drawing attention to the birds who call the park home.
Kirk Finkel’s NEST, a sculpture currently at the St. George Ferry Terminal, is a collaborative collection of habitats found at Freshkills Park. It represents an intersection between the diverse bird population of Staten Island and the dynamic urban environment that surrounds it. The project is presented by the Freshkills Park Alliance, NYC DOT ART, The Staten Island Foundation, and Tauck Ritzau Innovative Philanthropy.
Freshkills Park is also developing a unique digital app that will broadcast the ongoing ecological restoration of the Park. The launch of the app will highlight a research project investigating the health of the Park’s cavity nesting birds like tree swallows and house wrens. In this first phase, two bird boxes will be outfitted with sensors that detect a bird’s comings and goings. When the sensor is triggered, a message “from the bird” will be sent to Freshkills Park’s Twitter followers along with a photograph. The message will also direct to a live feed of the inside of the bird box.
NYC Audubon Tours
New York City Audubon birders now visit Freshkills Park on a regular basis. By scheduling tours each season, they get to experience the changes across the year through the birds they observe. During their winter tour, birders saw over 30 bird species, including the Great Blue Heron, Northern Flicker, Red-tailed Hawk, and Downy Woodpecker.
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