Bird life is a highly visible and accessible portal to understanding the dynamics of the natural world and the importance of open spaces. The National Parks of New York Harbor Conservancy [Harbor Conservancy] and Gateway National Recreation Area are endeavoring to learn more about some of the wildlife that can be found right outside New Yorkers’ doors. Working with consulting scientist Dr. Bob Kennedy, from the Maria Mitchell Association, our goal is to cultivate park stewardship and engage new audiences with the wildlife of Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge in Queens, NY, part of the largest open space in the city
We have outfitted an adult male Osprey from a breeding pair at Jamaica Bay with a satellite tracker. For two years, this GPS pack will allow us to follow his localized hunting trips from this past summer to his yearly migrations to the Caribbean or South America.
The one-ounce solar-powered pack was placed on the bird on May 1, 2012 and secured with a Teflon ribbon similar to a backpack. Data is collected hourly for twelve hours a day, allowing us to monitor the bird’s location, speed, and directionality. Read more about the banding effort in The New York Times.
Utilizing the many nesting platforms throughout Jamaica Bay, these birds spend the summers incubating eggs, raising their offspring, and feeding them with fish caught nearby. However, after the birds leave the nest there has been little hard data about their hunting habits and journeys south for the winter.
Jamaica Bay is a crucial natural space in New York City and provides critical habitat for a wealth of species and acts as the nursery for New York Harbor, but how does this species interact with the built human environment around them? Does the ecosystem successfully support these birds of prey or do they need to journey long distances to hunt? Because Ospreys are at the top of the food chain, what does their health tell us about our environment? These are critical questions, and we hope the project can begin to shed light on the answers.
We hope this project will capture the imaginations of people near and far and encourage all of us to become more aware of the nature that can be found outside of our windows, even in the most densely populated city in the country.
This project is supported by a generous grant from Coleman P. Burke.
A few of the team members and participants with Coley and his mate (from left): Ranger Dave Taft, Coleman P. Burke, Dr. Bob Kennedy, the American Littoral Society’s Don Riepe, and Ranger Colleen Sorbera.
Dr. Bob Kennedy is a Senior Research Fellow at the Maria Mitchell Association on Nantucket, and a Scientific Advisor to the Harbor Conservancy. He graduated from the College of William & Mary with a BA in 1970 and an MA in 1971, and from Louisiana State University with a Ph.D. in 1977. He has held academic positions at Oklahoma State University, Washington State University, Yale University, University of Cincinnati, Harvard University and University of Massachusetts Boston. He has published over 50 scientific and popular articles on birds, including the definitive A Guide to the Birds of the Philippines published in 2000 by Oxford University Press. He is an Elective Member and Fellow of the American Ornithologists’ Union. He began his studies of Ospreys in 1970 completing his Master’s Thesis on the Ospreys of Tidewater Virginia, and has continued his research interest in Ospreys particularly over the past 10 years on Nantucket. He has previously satellite tracked two Ospreys from Nantucket with colleague Dr. Rob Bierregaard.
Colleen Sorbera joined the National Park Service at Gateway National Recreation Area in June 2010, having worked previously in New York State and Town of Hempstead parks. Birds of prey are one of her first loves, and she appreciates every opportunity she gets to assist with the raptor banding program on Jamaica Bay. As a member of Gateway’s Interpretation and Education Division, Colleen spends a lot of time presenting nature programs to park visitors on topics ranging from winter waterfowl to horseshoe crabs. Colleen is also pursuing her MS in Biology at Hofstra University.
Dave Taft is currently the Coordinator of the Jamaica Bay Unit of Gateway National Recreation Area, and has in the past been the site manager at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. He is a frequent contributor to the Hudson River Almanac, and proponent of urban plant and wildlife and its value to residents of New York City as well as its visitors. His examinations of outdoor subjects in essays and illustration have been published in The New York Times, by the American Orchid Society, Stackpole Books, and several venues. Currently a resident of eastern Long Island, Mr. Taft grew up in Canarsie in Brooklyn where he explored the wetlands and woodlands of Jamaica Bay just prior to Gateway’s establishment as a National Park Service site in 1972.
Lindsay Burtchell is the Editor of Osprey’s Journey for the National Parks of New York Harbor Conservancy. She previously served as the Harbor Conservancy’s Program Manager for Gateway National Recreation Area, overseeing a variety of recreational and environmental programs. She has her BA in Biology from Boston University.