Monday, September 1, 2014

Huntington-Oyster Bay Audubon Society's Habitat Heroes Rock!

We have been super busy at Huntington-Oyster Bay Audubon this spring and summer with an assortment of events and activities, thanks to our fantastic volunteers, the Habitat Heroes:

Our Earth Day beach cleanup in April hosted our largest group ever- 93 volunteers!  A good time was had by all and we were blessed with gorgeous weather. 

On May 31st we hosted our annual garlic mustard pull at Shu Swamp in Mill Neck with 27 volunteers participating - the largest Shu Crew yet!  We are seeing nice progress in the English ivy area, with jack-in-the-pulpit, red trillium and trout lily repopulating the areas that have been pulled. In addition, after four years of yearly garlic mustard pulls, we have seen a measurable decrease in the amount of mustard in Shu.  Garlic mustard takes a few years to fully eradicate and each year we are seeing less of it.


On June 22nd and July 5th we hosted Beach Nesting Awareness Days with Audubon NY at Hobart Beach in Northport.  The wonderful signs created by kids were on display on the fencing around the nesting areas.  Next year we hope to triple the amount of signs posted so be sure to keep an eye out for our workshop, which will be held in late February or early March!

On July 12th we recognized NYS Invasive Species Awareness Week by pulling oriental bittersweet at Stillwell Woods Preserve in Syosset.  Our 23 volunteers braved the heat and filled over 20 contractor sized bags!

On August 9th 30 volunteers participated in a service day at Stillwell - pulling, whacking, digging and cutting nonnative plant species. 25 bags were hauled out.  Our neighbors in the field, the Long Island Silent Flyers, invited us over to join in their annual picnic.  The volunteers mingled, munched and some of the kids learned how to fly the model planes.  Thank you Flyers!

In addition to these “official” pulls, we have been heading into Stillwell Woods on a weekly basis with our volunteer corps, the Habitat Heroes (aka The Invasive Slayers) since May.  Being unemployed for the second time in four years, while stressful, has allowed me to dedicate a tremendous amount of time to the work we are doing in the preserve.  In May and June we pulled English ivy and garlic mustard.  Once it was past mustard pulling time, we focused our efforts on the field.  In addition to weekly bittersweet pulls we have created two pilot restoration areas.  These two 20’x10’ areas of mugwort have been pulled and covered with black plastic which will remain for 6 weeks.  One area will be seeded with milkweed in the spring, while the other area, which is in between two stands of milkweed, will be left alone.  Our hope is that the milkweed will recolonize this site on its own.  In addition, we hope to work with a consultant to create recommendations for the field…with possible ideas including continued hand pulling, renting goats, a continual mowing for a few years and full out restoration.  We hope to raise some serious funding for this in 2015! Nassau County has been tremendously supportive of our efforts in the preserve, notably Frank Camerlengo, Deputy Commissioner of Parks and Tom Shatel of the Parks Department.  By the way, we haven’t forgotten about Underhill Preserve.  The consultant we hired to map invasives and make recommendations continues his efforts.  This work is taking much longer than we anticipated, but once done, the NYSDEC will begin restoration efforts with the grant funding we obtained last year. 

I would like to take the time out to give a shout out to all of our volunteers.  A huge thank you to the volunteers that have shown up for our highway clean ups and restoration days this past year.  
In addition to the individual volunteers, two groups deserve special thanks.  Members of the Lighthouse Community Church have participated in several of our events. The wonderful members of this church support several nonprofits and we are so proud that we are one of their chosen organizations.  In addition, another group has been working with me on a weekly basis since May – the fantastic young people who are serving as missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (“LDS”).  These young men and women (ages 18 to 26) are volunteer representatives of the LDS Church and engage in church service, humanitarian aid and community service.  The members of the group I have been working with hail from various places such as Utah, Oregon, Virginia and even Haiti and are serving in New York for a two year period.  I have been incredibly lucky to work very closely with them for the last few months.  These young people are not only hard-working and dedicated to our restoration efforts; they are an absolute joy to be around and have truly made this summer one I will never forget.   As volunteer coordinator I have the task of overseeing and participating in all of our restoration efforts.  Meeting and getting to know so many of these volunteers has been a true privilege.  Our volunteers rock!

Come out and join us.  We work hard, but we have a great time (and the snacks are darn good too!). To see photos from all of these events, please check out our Facebook page!

We even rescued an injured baby woodchuck!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Spring is in the Air...and an Update on Plum Island

It's happening... the familiar calls of the red wing blackbird, “konkereee”, have just begun to fill the air!  This means spring is just around the corner and we can now begin to eagerly anticipate the arrival of St. Patrick’s Day.  No silly, not for the green beer (not that there is anything wrong with that!).  For the return of Long Island’s iconic bird, the osprey, who seem to consistently return around this holiday year after year.  This has been a cold and bitter winter, one we have not seen the likes of in many years.  But once the osprey returns, we will know that spring is within sight. Just like that, as all seasons pass, so shall winter, morphing into the bright colors and warmer days of spring.  Birds will wing their way back to our area, geared up for nesting season. Mammals will emerge from hibernation, hungry and ready to start families.  We will come out of our own hibernation as this winter becomes nothing but a memory in our minds.  Spring will be especially welcome this year!

It has been awhile since the last update on Plum Island.  As you might know, HOBAS was a founding member of the Preserve Plum Island Coalition and continues to be active in the efforts.  Below is a brief summary of some of what has occurred since our last update:

  1.  In the event of a sale of the island, zoning has been adopted the Town of Southold which will designate over 80% of the Island as a “Conservation District”.  This will exclude residential or commercial development, except as a limited accessory use to support the primary conservation use.
  2. A bill, "Save, Don't Sell Plum Island", was introduced by Congressman Tim Bishop in the House of Representatives, along with companion legislation which was introduced in the Senate by Senator Richard Blumenthal.  These bipartisan bills are aimed at protecting the Island's tremendous biodiversity and ecological value.  Future development of Plum Island would be prevented by the elimination of the current requirement to sell the Island at public auction.
  3. Commissioned by The Nature Conservancy, an appraisal report of the Island is expected to be complete sometime in March. 
  4. Better conservation stewardship of the Island is being proposed.  These measures would be in place whether or not the Island is sold or not and they include additional biological inventories conducted by the New York Natural Heritage Program (NYNHP) and management and possible reintroduction of certain plants and animals.
  5. Completion of an inventory, remediation and disclosure of all hazardous waste sites on the Island as called for by Governor Cuomo.
  6. The Plum Island Coalition intends to participate in the Coastal Zone management Compliance Review by NYS.
  7. The Coalition is considering legal challenges to the completeness and findings of the FEIS submitted by the GSA for the sale of the Island. 

Please be sure to visit the Coalition website for updates.

 And remember...once the temperatures rise and the big thaw begins, be sure to get outside, rid yourself of that winter pallor and enjoy some warm and sunny days as you embrace the arrival of spring!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Bird Feeding 101-Updated

Feeding birds in winter, while not necessary for survival (birds are equipped to survive winter weather without human assistance), can provide them with an edge during severe weather.  Furthermore, observing the antics of our feathered friends at feeders can provide hours of delight!  Let’s face it, feeding the birds in our yard is more for us than it is for them.  And in this case, as opposed to so many other instances of human “interference” when it comes to wildlife, if done properly, there is nothing wrong with providing them with that extra boost!

When feeding wild birds, make sure you feed high quality seed for maximum nutrition and energy. To attract the most species, black oil sunflower seed is best.  Peanut chips are a nice supplement to sunflower seeds, providing a great source of fat and energy.  This mix attracts nuthatches, cardinals, woodpeckers, chickadees, tufted titmice and house finches. Try not to feed the cheaper mixes, as this will attract unwanted, non-native house sparrows and starlings.  In addition, nyjer seed in a thistle feeder will be devoured by goldfinches.  Finally, birds love suet, which provides a concentrated source of fatty energy.  Suet should always be hung so that critters other than birds cannot get to it.   

In addition to these basics, you can provide your feathered friends with safflower seed (Cardinals enjoy it.  Squirrels do not!) and mixes containing seeds such as millet (juncos, Carolina wrens and mourning doves enjoy millet when sprinkled on the ground).  Try to avoid the cheap mixes that contains a lot of milo, a seed commonly used as a filler.  If you want to avoid a mess, do what I do-feed the birds sunflower hearts (I make my own mix of sunflower chips and peanut chips).  Yes, the chips are more expensive, but definitely worth it if you want to avoid shells on the ground.  I have noticed that the goldfinches at my feeders actually prefer sunflower chips to nyjer, so this is a good option all around. 

To attract a variety of birds, different types of feeders should be purchased.  Unless you want to be eaten out of house and home, squirrel proof feeders are a wise investment.  For a basic set up I suggest a hopper feeder, nyjer feeder and suet cage.  Additionally, one can add a platform feeder close to the ground to attract birds such as sparrows, doves and juncos as well as a tube feeder for smaller birds.   

It is vital that you provide a safe, hygienic feeding station for your avian guests.  Please make sure that feeders are either at least 30 feet away or within 3 feet of windows to avoid deadly collisions, and make sure that there is cover nearby for the birds to retreat into.  In addition, feeders need to be kept clean in order to prevent diseases from spreading through the local population.  Avian conjunctivitis is a deadly disease which affects finches and it can easily be prevented by good hygiene. 

At least once a month, empty and clean your feeders with a mix of water and bleach.  Please be sure to dry thoroughly before refilling.

If you follow these guidelines, you will be treated to a delightful array of bird visitors all winter long. You may even find yourself entertaining more than just the “usuals”.  Through most of last January and February a very tame pine warbler visited my feeder each day.   I also was very lucky to discover something even more special than my pine warbler.  After hearing a fuss on my deck one night, I discovered a southern flying squirrel having his way with the feeders!  This was a squirrel species I was NOT going to try to deter!  For about two months, this adorable creature came in for his nightly buffet.  He became so tame that I was able to stand within a foot or so and watch in awe as he ate the pecans I put out each night (yes, I found myself leaving extra special treats for this extra special guest).  As the weather warmed, he found a mate and alas, they moved off.  

Is there a specific time to take the feeders down?  No, not really.  I generally take my feeders down once the grackles come back, because they can empty a feeder in a day, but hang them out again in mid to late summer to attract young of the year.  This summer my feeding station was an Avian Romper Room with baby chickadees, house finches, Carolina wrens, red bellied woodpeckers and cardinals all vying for space at Stella’s All-You-Can-Eat—Birdy Buffet!
These tips are just the basics.  Feel free to research online for more in-depth information on how to welcome birds to your yard.  Don’t stop at feeders, there is so much more you can do to provide a bird friendly yard…but I am getting ahead of myself.  Let’s save that for another time!

Providing extra energy and nutrition for your feathered friends is a rewarding experience for both humans and birds alike.  I wish you a delightful holiday season and winter enjoying the delightful antics of your feathered visitors.