Three-toed Sloth

I've been in Panama and Costa Rica on vacation this last week.  I had a great time and got to see lots of great animals including a one in a lifetime view of a Puma. 

On the last day of the trip, we saw a few Three-toed Sloths.


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Everglades Birding

I spent Christmas week in the Everglades.  It has been unusually wet, so the birding was limited.  However, I did get to see some great birds, including this Red-shouldered Hawk, Great Egret and Barred Owl.

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Merry Christmas

It was sixty degrees in Central Park today.  The Great Horned Owl continued to be present and an Accipiter, either a Cooper's or Sharp-shinned Hawk was seen nearby.

After the fly out of the Owl, it cleaned its talons and then broke off a branch and chewed on it.  This has happened on previous nights.  I've looked for any mention of this behavior on the internet and haven't found anything that gives a clue about the reason for this interesting behavior.


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WINORR Fundraiser

Cathy St. Pierre has set up a Go Fund Me page to raise money for WINORR (Wildlife In Need of Rescue and Rehabilitation), which Cathy runs along with her husband, Bobby Horvath.

WINORR has been critical to the comeback of Red-tailed Hawks in New York City.  Not only do they provide much needed rehabilitation resources, they act as consultants to the Parks Department and participate in educational programs thought the city.

It would be great if the Hawk Watching community could help Cathy quickly get to her modest goal of raising $5,000.

Click here to donate.

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Prospect Park Weekend

Prospect Park in Brooklyn had two birds that I had never seen before, a Painted Bunting and a Black-headed Gull.  The Painted Bunting has been in the park for a week and has become a celebrity.  Unfortunately, it was very difficult to photograph.  I only got some poor back photographs, that didn't capture the wonderful bright colors of the bird.  Luckily, I did better with the Black-headed Gull. It was very cooperative!


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American Kestrel

I went to Governors Island for the afternoon, and did the typical tourist stuff.  But I did get some great view of an American Kestrel.  The ferry to the island is only $2 and runs through the last weekend in September.


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Wrestling Raccoons

On a very hot evening, I looked for the sick fledgling in Central Park without success.  But I did have some fun watching two raccoons play at dusk.


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Darien Osprey, A Month Later

The Osprey nest in Darien, CT no longer has two little ones, but two large fledglings flying on and off the nest.  They're doing great and it was fun to watch then for an afternoon.  Highlights included a number of "food fights" over fish the father brought, and watching the mother go wading and then bathing in the ocean.

The birds with rows of small dots on the wings and yellow on the back of their necks are the fledglings, and the mother has markings on her upper breast, which are much fainter on the male.


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Long Island Sound Osprey

Over the July 4th weekend, I got to watch a pair of Opsrey and their two young ones on a tiny island in Long Island Sound. So, much more fun than fireworks!


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Central and Morningside Parks 2015

I'm looking forward to the 2015 Red-tailed Hawk nest hatches in Central and Morningside Parks.  We have three confirmed nests in Central Park, a pair seen frequently in the NE section of the Central Park, and our Cathedral hawks have a new nest location exposed to the elements.

With any new season, I look forward to discovering new aspects of urban Red-tailed Hawk behavior.

Three Central Park nests is fantastic news this year.  But one has to wonder about locations and why these three nests are so close together?  Do these three Red-tailed hawk pairs benefit by having protected flanks from the other pairs?  Does this outweigh any issues over food contention, etc.?  Or did the new nest locations have nothing to do with the other nest locations?  It will be interesting to see when other raptor species fly over the park, if the Red-tailed Hawks work together to escort them away.  And which pair will tale over the Locust Grove.

The Beresford Apartment nest will have new fledglings who will have to cross Central Park West to end up in Central Park or maybe even Teddy Roosevelt Park.  Which buildings will they perch on the first few weeks?  The Museum of Natural History?  Or like many Red-tails, will they try to get as high as possible the first week and end up back on the Beresford?  Where will the parents take them to hunt?  South to the calm lawn south of The Yard?  Or up North?

How will the exposed nest do at the Cathedral of Saint John?  Will it be as productive as St. Andrew had been?

And is there a forth pair nesting near the park?  Almost all of the experienced hawk watchers in Central Park saw a pair of hawks all winter around the Conservatory Garden.  In April, many of us have seen a single hawk in the park, who flies over to Madison Avenue between 100th to 106th.  Is there a nest tucked away a block from the park or in the public housing east of Madison?

I'm looking forward to learning more about Red-tailed Hawks this season.  How fantastic is it that one of the best places to study Red-tailed Hawks is in the middle of Big Apple!  New York City truly is one hell of a town.

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Chuck Will's-widow At Night

I went down to Bryant Park to look at the Chuck Will's-widow at night to see if I could take pictures of it feeding.  I did get to see it but it was only perching while I visited.  At least it was awake!


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Harbor Seals

On winter Sunday afternoons, NYC Audubon hosts a harbor cruise in association NYC Water Taxi. I took the cruise today and had a great time watching birds and harbor seals out in the NYC harbor.

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Another Day With The Couch's Kingbird

Friday was a tougher day to see the Couch's Kingbird, than Thursday.  It was harder to find and when found didn't stay around as much. 

When I was watching it, the most reliable location was 11th and 4th Streets again.   I did find a berry tree just south of 11th Street, which could be seen from West 4th and Perry, where American Robins and the Couch's Kingbird were eating berries.  I suspect the bird is eating and then taking advantage of the sun on 11th Street to digest them.


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Couch's Kingbird

Another rare Kingbird, is in New York besides the Cassin's in Brooklyn.  It's a Couch's Kingbird and is in Greenwich Village.  I saw it as my first bird of the New Year.  (It was a life bird for me.)  The bird was discovered by Zack Winestine.

The bird which is normally in Mexico and southern Texas, is for some reason in some of the most charming blocks of the Village.  This afternoon, it was mostly at 11th and 4th Streets.  (In the Village, these two streets do meet!)

From the looks of the seeds it's regurgitating, it's surviving on a diet of mostly fruit rather than insects.


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Opossum

Today was the Christmas Bird Count for Central Park.  The count had a fairly standard variety of species and population of birds.  The highlight was three Ring-necked Ducks on the Reservoir.

But the real attraction for me was an Opossum that was found on the west side of the park.  It was a first for me in Central Park.

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Cassin's Kingbird at Floyd Bennett Field, Brooklyn

Last Saturday, Kai Sheffield found a Cassin's Kingbird out at Floyd Bennett Field. Scores of birders tried to find it last Sunday.  So, it was great to see a tweet from Rob Jett that the bird had been refound in the Community Gardens of Floyd Bennett Field this Saturday.

When I got out to Floyd Bennett Field there were about 35 birders looking for the bird.  Almost all of them got great view of the rare bird found normaly in the southwest of the United States.



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Turkey Vulture Chick

I'm still out at the Grand Canyon and found this young Turkey Vulture on a cliff face. 

It's so great to be on vacation and see the breeding locations of birds you see migrating through New York City in the spring and the fall.  I've never seen a young Turkey Vulture before!  Cute, but still with a face only a mother could love!

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South Rim, Grand Canyon

I had the good fortune to see these five California Condors arrive outside my hotel room during the World Cup Final.  Five Condors is 7% of the wild AZ/UT population!  Guess what took priority!  The tag numbers were 23, 30, J1, J4, L3.

Tag# SB# Age in 2014 Sex Bred At: Release/ Fledge Year
23 123 19 M LAZ 1997
30 530 5 M LAZ 2011
J1 521 5 F WCBP 2011
J4 541 5 F WCBP 2011
L3 593 3 F Portland 2012

 

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Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge's West Pond

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On February 24, NYC Audubon released Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge: Restoration Recommendations for the West Pond. These recommendations are intended to provide conservation science-based guidance in the National Park Service's upcoming decision on the future of Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.

In October 2012, Hurricane Sandy breached Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge's West Pond, transforming this formerly freshwater habitat into a saltwater lagoon of Jamaica Bay. Over a year later, this breach has not been repaired. A very small fraction of New York City's original freshwater habitat remains, due to overdevelopment throughout the City. As a result, the freshwater habitat of Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge is crucial for New York City's birds.

Please support this proposal by signing this petition right now.


Randall's Island

I love birding Randall's Island (a small island East of Manhattan, south of the Bronx, and west of Queens) in the winter.  I generally don't see another birder when I visit, but today because of a Barnacle Goose found by Anya Auerbach, there were lots of birders.  I also had two Snow Buntings by the water's edge east of Field 31.  Both species were life birds for me, so today was a great day.  New York City has lots of great birds in January!


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Snowy In Snow

Snowy Owls continue in the area. This afternoon, I got to photograph one in the snow.  White on White, what a delight to photograph.


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Happy New Year

My New Year's resolution is to do a little more birding and a little less photography during the non-nesting/fledgling period for hawks. (Basically the months outside of April, May, June and July.)

So today, I just went for a long walk around Central Park today with my scope and took an occasional digiscoping picture.  My bird count 39 species.  The highlight was seeing two Baltimore Orioles.

Count  Species  
81 Canada Goose
2 Wood Duck
41 Mallard
1 American Black Duck x Mallard (hybrid)
37 Northern Shoveler
1 Ring-necked Duck
8 Bufflehead
9 Hooded Merganser
10 Ruddy Duck
4 Pied-billed Grebe
1 Sharp-shinned Hawk
1 Cooper's Hawk
3 Red-tailed Hawk
5 American Coot
18 Ring-billed Gull
6 Great Black-backed Gull
23 Rock Pigeon
1 Mourning Dove
1 Red-bellied Woodpecker
2 Downy Woodpecker
1 Hairy Woodpecker
11 Blue Jay
1 American Crow
2 Black-capped Chickadee
2 White-breasted Nuthatch
1 Brown Creeper
1 Carolina Wren
2 American Robin
1 Northern Mockingbird
4 European Starling
1 Song Sparrow
28 White-throated Sparrow
8 Dark-eyed Junco
2 Northern Cardinal
1 Red-winged Blackbird
6

Common Grackle

2 Baltimore Oriole
11 House Finch
8 American Goldfinch
23 House Sparrow

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More Snowy Owls

Snowy Owls continue to be abundent in the outer boroughs of New York City.  Today, I took advantage of the warm weather to look for them yet again.  I saw three today.

Today was the first day I saw owls being harrased by photographs.  The grasslands of the park I was visiting is off limits to all visitors.  Unfortunetly, two photographers violated these rules.  The owls weren't hurt in any way, but both were moved about by the photographers. 

If you go looking for Snowy Owls, and are visiting a park for the first time, please take the time to visit  the park's ranger station or nature center.  Most of the grasslands and beaches have strict rules about where you can walk, but also don't have good signage.  Vandals, storms and budget cuts have removed many of the warning signage in the New York area.  Rather than assume there are no rules, search them out.  Every park has them!


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Battery Park

I went down to Battery Park to see if I could find the banded hawk NJ30, which had been seen and photographed by other hawk watchers earlier in the month.

I didn't find anything at first but after about half an hour, I saw a number of pigeons and gulls fly. It was a hawk alright, but not the Red-tailed Hawk NJ30.  Instead it was a Cooper's Hawk by the Coast Guard building.

Manhattan's reliable female Wild Turkey was also in her usual spot.  (She's not so wild anymore. I think she's being feed regularly.)


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Brooklyn Snowy Owl, 3rd Visit

I was out birding on Jones Beach, but swung by Brooklyn on the way home to get another glimpse of a Snowy Owl.  When I arrived a Snowy was on a shipping container, and moved to a sign, and then back to a field.  The movement wasn't because of people bothering the owl, but because a Northern Harrier was about. While I was there it started to snow, so I got some interesting footage.


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Brooklyn Snowy Owl, 2nd Visit

I went back to Brooklyn on Saturday to look for the Snowy Owls.  (There is actually more than one.)  A Snowy Owl was about 35 yards from where I had seen one last weekend in Brooklyn.  Nice to get additional looks at it.  It flew out of the grass around the same time as last week and into the same general direction.

I would encourage everyone to look at some of the discussions on the New York State Birding listserver.   Simple questions about the ethics of watching Snowy Owls and the reason they're down south has raised more questions than answers.  The discussion however is great.  There have been some great tips about how to educate other birders watchers and photographers in a constructive way, in addition to some references to some current scientific literature.


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Brooklyn Snowy Owl

A number of Snowy Owls are in the New York Area this Thaksgiving weekend.  I caught up with one in Brooklyn on Sunday afternoon. 

(Care needs to be given to not stress these owls.  If you're not familiar with the etiquette around how to observe owls, please take some time to research how to behave around them before you go looking for them.)


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Bloody Skies

Lauren Hodapp at National Geographic sent me an interesting link about a piece they just published on their Daily News Blog, Bloody Skies: The Fight to Reduce Deadly Bird-Plane Collisions by Eric Uhifelder.  It's a great piece that connects well with our NJ30 banded Red-tail Hawk that was in Washington Square ealier this year.

I'm glad that our beloved hawks in Washington Square Park, are leading to a more general understanding of the risks raptors face in their daily lives.  Be it secondary poisonings due to rat poisons or collision fatalities. These issues need as much publicity as possible.  Thanks for the article Nat Geo!


Bryant Park Sora

Bryant Park, a small city park west of the New York Library, is a magnet for migrating birds.  This week's specialty was a Sora, a bird normaly seen in reeds along water shores. 

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On Vacation

I'm watching mammals and rocks this week in Glacier National Park.  I'll be back to hawk watching early next week.

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Big Sur California Condors

I've just gotten back from a week long visit to California, which included a trip down Highway 1 from San Francisco to Los Angeles.  Along the way was a stop in Big Sur, and a chance to see some of the California Condors there.

For details about the hawk tagged 51, see www.mycondor.org.

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Windy and Cold Central Park

On Sunday, I spent most of the day in the park trying to see a Common Redpoll without success.  However, I did have a good time seeing a group of Red-winged Hawks for the first time this year, a very beautiful European Goldfinch (possibly an escapee rather than a wild bird), Owls and the Common Merganser on the Harlem Meer.  While I wasn't trying for a long species list, I did end up with a respectable 37.

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3
Wood Duck
57
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6
Bufflehead
8
Hooded Merganser
1
Common Merganser
2
Ruddy Duck
1
Pied-billed Grebe
2
Double-crested Cormorant
1
Cooper's Hawk
4
Red-tailed Hawk
2
American Coot
18
Ring-billed Gull
1
Great Black-backed Gull
4
Mourning Dove
2
Northern Saw-whet Owl
2
Red-bellied Woodpecker
1
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
6
Downy Woodpecker
1
Hairy Woodpecker
4
Blue Jay
8
Black-capped Chickadee
33
Tufted Titmouse
6
White-breasted Nuthatch
1
Brown Creeper
74
American Robin
2
European Starling
1
Song Sparrow
23
White-throated Sparrow
2
Dark-eyed Junco
4
Northern Cardinal
7
Red-winged Blackbird
20
Common Grackle
9
House Finch
11
American Goldfinch
1
European Goldfinch
15
House Sparrow

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Randalls Island Peregrine Falcons

A nice trip to Randalls Island on Sunday yeilded the two resident Peregrine Falcons atop the center building of The Manhattan Psychiatric Center.  One was on a corner and the other on a set of communications towers.  The bird on the tower was banded but it was too far away to capture any numbers.

The count for the day was fairly good.  35 species with a Common Goldeneye and a Belted Kingfisher as highlights.  The day had three raptor species, American Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon and Red-tailed Hawk.

620   Brant
406   Canada Goose
30   Gadwall
3   American Black Duck
28   Mallard
12   Bufflehead
1   Common Goldeneye
14   Red-breasted Merganser
24   Ruddy Duck
1   Red-throated Loon
1   Double-crested Cormorant
2   Great Cormorant
1   Great Blue Heron
2   Red-tailed Hawk
1   American Coot
20   Ring-billed Gull
1   Herring Gull
4   Great Black-backed Gull
45   Rock Pigeon
3   Mourning Dove
2   Belted Kingfisher
3   American Kestrel
2   Peregrine Falcon
4   American Crow
4   Black-capped Chickadee
1   White-breasted Nuthatch
14   American Robin
2   Northern Mockingbird
57   European Starling
1   American Tree Sparrow
1   Song Sparrow
2   White-throated Sparrow
1   Dark-eyed Junco
6   Northern Cardinal
15   House Sparrow

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More Florida Photos

A group of Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks were a new species for my life list seen at the Wakodahatchee Wetlands (Delray Beach, Palm Beach County).  


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Another Randalls Island Day

I realized on Saturday that I haven't spend a real day birding in a long while.  I've been going after specific birds, but not doing a real walk counting birds for a long time.

So, I birded Randalls Island from end to end on Sunday to see what I could find.  Boy, did I feel rusty.  Looks like I'm going to be spending lots of time this winter doing long walks...

Photographs are of the Red-tailed Hawk pair and their nest just north of the stadium field, an American Kestrel, Brant, Black-capped Chickadee, and Red-breasted Mergansers.


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American Pipits

Randalls Island has been discovered this winter by birders in New York City.  Easily visited by public transportation, this island between the Bronx, Manhattan and Queens offers an interesting variety of birds.

Today, I visited the island.  Thanks to the great birding skills of Ben Cacace, I got to see three American Pipits.  This is a new species for my life list.


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Florida Barred Owls

Florida has lots of great birds in areas around its water treatment/water control ponds. Close to the main entrance to Everglades National Park, are two small hammocks of trees near a Storm Control/Water Management area.  The local birders call them the Lucky Hammock and The Annex on ebird.org.

At The Annex there were a pair of Barred Owls.  One perched on a powerline just after flyout and I got to watch the owl on two separate evenings for only a minute each night. 

Who would have thought it was easier to owl watch in Central Park?


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Purple Gallinule

I spent a few days in the Everglades over the Christmas/New Year's break.  I managed to got a close up look at a Purple Gallinule, which is a new bird for my life list while on vacation.

The video is very shaky as there were high winds, but it shows the typical Purple Gallinute behavior of wading in Water Lillies.  The photographs show the Purple Gallinule climbing a small bush to eat flowers. This was a special treat as it allowed me to see the whole bird including its large feet!


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Long-eared Owl

The first rule of owl watching, is don't talk about owl watching!  So, I won't say much.  It's just really early for a Long-eared Owl in the greater New York City area.


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Corrections

Anders Peltomaa asked that I post a correction about the events surrounding the discovery of the Red Crossbills.  To quote Anders...

"Here are the 3 events as they occured:

1. Jacob had a two-three second look of large finches flying overhead early in the morning. Their calls lead him to think RECR and what he had time to see "fit the bill" for that ID. This was around 6:30-35am. I met him around 8am or so and that's when he told me of his sighting and hearing. He had looked for the Crossbills in the Pines of by Strawberry Field, but not seen them again.

2. Jacob's report and sighting encouraged me to start a search of conifer stands, Cypress Hill, South of Turtle Pond, Belvedere Castle, and when I stepped down to Shakespeare Garden I first heard the calls from the Crossbill flock. When I got visual contact they were in the air and flying south and disappearing out of sight across the 79-81st Street transverse. (Insert, "Darn, they are gone" which was my thought.) This was at 9:45am.

I called Jacob who had gone home after we met, because he needed to pack for his return to college. He re-posted to ebirdsnyc and I sent out a NYNYBIRD alert. After a few minutes the flock returned to Shakespeare Garden and I got my first photos to confirm the ID. Then I posted to ebirdsnyc and sent another text alert.

After this other birders started showing up, first was David Barett and Jeffrey Kimball.

3. I got an email from Andrew Farnsworth who asked to get audio recordings of the flock's calls so that the Crossbill Type could be decided. During a couple of their flights I got two recordings and sent the best one via email to Andrew Farnsworth. Later during the day I received an email from Matthew Young (AF had forwarded him the sound file for spectrogram analysis). The Red Crossbills that visited us matched Type 3. Jacob had mentioned he thought their calls were good for Type 3, but it was the flight-call-wizards of Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Andrew Farnsworth and Matthew Young who should be credited for the Type 3 ID.  They alone made the exact ID. I gave them the sound file, but the id down to species type I would not trust my ears. When I first heard them I knew they were Crossbills, because their call is so distinct and it's a species I got a lot of exposure to last summer in Sweden when there was a huge irruption over there."

While I'm sorry for not crediting all the right people in my earlier postings or getting the timeline correct, my sincere thanks goes out to everyone involved.  Central Park has some of the country's best birders who are extremely generous, both in sharing their observations and their expertise. 

There is something about studying any new bird species that just gets you to think "Wow".  With these Crossbills it is how incredibly well specialized their bills are for extracting seeds from cones.  It was amazing to watch them.


NYC Audubon Needs Our Help

The Gateway National Recreation Area which includes Jamaca Bay, Sandy Hook, Floyd Bennett Field are part of the National Park Service.  They contain important wetlands and grasslands habitats important to local and migrating bird species in the New York City area.

New proposals would turn the focus of these areas more towards recreation than conservation. Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn is especially under seige, with proposed expansion of recreationial facilities and a proposed gas pipeline set to disturb a critical grasslands habit.

Please visit the New York City Audubon webite for more details.  They need our community to do one or more of the following:

  • Attend one of six public information sessions in August and give your feedback about what matters for wildlife in Jamaica Bay. NYC Audubon will provide free transportation and an accompanying bird walk on two of the dates. Learn more or register.
  • Volunteer to help NYC Audubon collect 10,000 signatures in support of protecting Gateway's critical wildlife habitat. Please contact John Rowden at [email protected].