Evidence of suboscine song plasticity in response to traffic noise fluctuations and temporary road closures
By Katherine E. Gentry, Megan F. McKenna & David A. Luther
Published online: 17 Apr 2017
This study investigates how noise reduction (road closure) mitigates the effect of traffic noise on the acoustic communication of the Eastern wood pewee (Contopus virens) (EAWP), a suboscine passerine. Songs were passively recorded at sites where the traffic pattern of the nearest road was either relatively constant or reduced on a weekly basis during a 36 h road closure. Five song attributes, low frequency traffic noise amplitude (LAeq) measured within 20 s of each song, and full-spectrum background noise levels (LAeq) characteristic of each territory were measured and analysed in order to better understand how EAWP respond to variation in traffic noise levels. EAWP adjusted its spectral song attributes by increasing song tonality to improve transmission in immediate response to fluctuations in traffic noise. The results suggest that song adjustments are responses to traffic noise levels at the time of their song, instead of the average background noise level measured per territory. This study provides a better understanding of how suboscine communication is affected by traffic noise, as well as the potential mitigating effect of noise reduction for animal acoustic communication.
Not all plants are pleasant. The New York metropolitan region is chock full of non-native plants. What is a non-native plant you might ask? It’s any plant species that may look green and lovely, but can be quite destructive and foul. Many non-native plants come from other countries or regions of the world and have been introduced over time by people with little idea or sense to just how damaging these plants can be in a different environment.
The problem is that many non-natives plants compete with native species for habitat and food and often rapidly take over parts or whole ecosystems where indigenous plants or animals, some might be rare, need to survive. Non-native species are not natural and, as a result, often do not have natural predators, so their numbers will grow rapidly and be difficult and costly to control. Local deer and birds, for example, generally will not eat invasive non-native plants. Instead deer and birds will compete for a shrinking supply of berries or leaves from native plants, leaving the spread of non-native plants to grow uncontrollably.
Some non-native and invasive species that are the greatest threats to local biodiversity include tree of heaven, multiflora rose, porceliam berry, Norway maple, Japanese honeysuckle, and Asian bittersweet. These foul plants eliminate native plants in a variety of ways, including by blocking sunshine, sucking up water resources or climbing to the tops of trees until their hosts become top heavy and topple. These invaders disrupt what little valued habitat we have around New York Harbor.
One non-native plant species that really annoys me is garlic mustard, Alliaria petiolata. This too is an invasive and non-native plant. You can’t miss it now, the plant is flowering abundantly along roadsides, trials, and other disturbed sites.
Garlic mustard is originally from Europe. It was brought to North America in the early 1800s by famers for use as an edible herb, as it’s high in vitamins A and C. Crush a leaf in your hand and you will a notice a strong, distinctive smell similar to garlic. This is garlic mustard.
Although the plant looks nice at first, with likable white flowers and tall stalks, don’t be fooled. The looks are misleading.
Garlic mustard is dreadful. According to the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station at Rutgers University, garlic mustard poses a threat to native wildflowers like spring beauty (Claytonia virginica), trilliums (Trillium spp), bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) wild ginger (Asarum canadense), as well as other native plants. The loss of plant diversity threatens native insects, including butterflies, because egg-laying sites and food sources may no longer be available.
Research shows that garlic mustard is allelopathic, meaning that it releases chemicals which can inhibit the growth of other plant species. Some researchers believe that these compounds can also hinder beneficial soil fungi (mycorrhizal fungi), which help tree roots take up water and nutrients.
The Cornell University Cooperative Extension tell us that garlic mustard has the potential to form dense stands that choke out native plants in the understory by controlling light, water, and nutrient resources. Plants most affected by these dense stands are herbaceous species that occur in similar moist soil forest habitats and grow during the spring and early summer season.
Other aspects of the forest ecosystem may be altered as well due to the change in the vegetative community tied to garlic mustard invasion. While the impacts to wildlife are not completely understood, altering the plant diversity can cause a change in leaf litter availability, potentially impacting salamanders. Insects, including some butterflies, may be affected through the lost diversity in plants and loss of suitable egg-laying substrate. These changes could have significant long-term effects.
Sadly, it’s not easy purging your neighborhood of garlic mustard. The Nature Conservancy states the plant is very difficult to eradicate once it is established in an area. It spreads rapidly and unfortunately, displaces native or other desired plants in a relatively short period of time. Each plant can produce thousands of seeds, which can be spread by wildlife, humans, water, or other means. An average plant produces 400-500 seeds that germinate readily in both well-lit and shaded environments. In the following spring, the garlic mustard will shoot straight up into a tall, slender flower with clusters of small white, four-petal flowers. Since the plant only flowers in the second year, the plants may appear less numerous in some years. This can be misleading, since the plants are just waiting to complete their life cycle.
Perhaps one of the best ways to remove the plant is to eat it. A website entitled, Eat it to Beat it, has quite a few garlic mustard recipes. Enjoy and don’t give up trying to remove the plant!
Dead whale washes up on Jersey Shore beach
By Jeff Goldman and Rob Spahr | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
on April 26, 2017 at 10:28 AM, updated April 27, 2017 at 9:07 AM
A dead whale has washed ashore in the Chadwick Beach section of Toms River.
The massive whale appears to be resting on its side near the North Surf Road beach and officials say it was found on the beach Tuesday.
The type of whale was unclear, but it is roughly 30 feet long. A message left for the Marine Mammal Stranding Center was not immediately returned.
Township resident Kerry Frew said he watched the whale come ashore about 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday.
"It took about a half an hour for it to get up here, because it was clearly already dead and moving really slow," Frew said. "You could tell right away that it was a whale. And it looked like it had been bit by a shark, because it looks like there are shark bites all over it."
The whale sighting comes as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Marine Fisheries prepares to declare a whale "mortality event" in the region, according to DelawareOnline.com. That NOAA announcement could come as soon as Thursday, the report said.
New Yorkers and blue-claw crabs (Callinectes sapidus) just don’t seem to meet up all that much. Even though this olive color crab with sky-blue tinted claws is one of the most heavily harvested sea creatures on the planet, prized by people for their sweet, tender meat. Up close contact with a live crab for countless residents around New York Harbor is unusual.
Certainly crabbing in local waters is a popular summer activity for some, but for most urbane folks around the city interactions with a crab comes from a crustaceous meal or possibly seeing some live crabs crawling around inside a wooden basket or a cardboard box in front of a Chinatown market. Walking through the streets of Chinatown, one can see lots of food sitting outside shops, and some of it’s still alive including blue-claw crabs.
It’s difficult to say for sure where all these blue crabs originated from since each retailer or restaurant owner makes their own decision largely dependent on price and availability. It’s safe to say, though, that some measure of blue crabs you have eaten did not originate in the renowned waters of Chesapeake Bay, but are locally harvested right here in New York Harbor.
A surprise to many who believe all edible blue crabs come from the Chesapeake Bay. This swimming crustacean was made famous by author William W. Warner in his classic environmentalist book, Beautiful Swimmers: Watermen, Crabs, and the Chesapeake Bay. After the Chesapeake, maybe the Albemarle-Pamlico Sound, the second largest estuary in the United States, or the Outer Banks, both located in North Carolina and notorious for their large supply of blue crabs.
In fact, blue crab from New York Harbor have been passed off decades ago as Chesapeake Bay blue claw crabs due to greater availability and bigger size, as reported by the New York Times in 1991. Surprisingly, this was back in the bad old days of water quality.
Live blue crabs sold around here are periodically harvested commercially from the great tidal waters of either the Hudson River or New York Bay. It’s a tough way to survive nowadays, but there are still a number of baymen who make a living gathering shellfish and fish from local tidal waters for consumers to enjoy.
Its a relatively small fishery compared to Chesapeake Bay or North Carolina, but cleaner waters and increasing crab populations sustain an important harvest for local baymen to profit from gathering a couple dozen bushels in a day, especially since “a bushel of crabs can bring in $60 to $100 on the wholesale market, depending on the demand,” according to a December 10, 2016 article in the Asbury Park Press.
The primary harvest in local waters takes place during the winter, from early December to the end of March. The crabs are at their fattest then as they prepare for several cold months of inactivity in the mud and muck of the bay.
By Alex Napoliello | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
on April 17, 2017 at 2:32 PM, updated April 18, 2017 at 7:09 P
BRIGANTINE -- The calls have been pouring in from every town along the 130 miles of coastline in New Jersey.
Seals are showing up on Jersey Shore beaches at rates that have officials taking to social media to warn beach-goers to stay clear.
The Marine Mammal Stranding Center is currently at maximum capacity with 15 gray seal pups at its Brigantine-based headquarters. The seals are about 2 months old.
Center Director Bob Schoelkopf said officials are trying to get five of the seals released early to make room. Schoelkopf said the center has received an average of about three calls a day from concerned officials and residents alike.
One of those seals had to be nursed back to health after it was found March 26 in Manasquan with shark bites on its stomach.
Some seals, he said, officials can chase back into the ocean. But others are slightly undernourished and in need of care before being released.
"It takes some time," Schoelkopf said. "When we bring them in, we'll fatten them up a little bit and then turn them loose."
Injured whale washes onto Bronx beach
By Priscilla DeGregory and Daniel Prendergast
April 23, 2017 | 2:07pm
An injured whale washed up on a Bronx beach Sunday, drawing crowds of bystanders and specialists bent on saving the distressed mammal.
The minke whale was discovered stranded in the shallows at Orchard Beach around noon, authorities said.
“He was beached,” Bronx construction worker Bob Doran said, of the approximiately 15 foot-long creature. “Me and some people went in and he turned over and he was all scratched up. He had abrasions underneath his belly.”
The 48-year-old said the chances of having a whale beached in Orchard Beach were “one in a million,”
“I was stunned when I saw him,” Doran added. “How did he come in here? It’s a shallow beach.”
Believe it or not, sometimes a Blue whale swims by New York Harbor. Now and then one can be spotted at Sandy Hook, Sea Bright or Long Branch NJ. A rare but beautiful sight!
What It Looks Like When The Planet’s Biggest Creature Gets Hungry
“It’s just an amazing sequence of events.”
By Nick Visser
04/19/2017 03:33 am ET
Researchers who captured the rare moment when a blue whale decides to gobble up a patch of krill now hope their drone video will help them better understand the largest animal on Earth.
Scientists at Oregon State University observed the feeding off the coast of New Zealand and recorded the moment that a blue whale opened its maw to engulf a cloud of krill, the animals’ primary food source.
“This is something we often see from the boat ... with the drone we were able to get this remarkable new perspective,” Leigh Torres, a marine spatial ecologist at Oregon State, said in the video. “Here we see the animal recognize that there’s a big krill patch, he ... turns on his side, pumps his flukes, opens his mouth and lunges right for it. It’s just an amazing sequence of events.”
The demonstration in Washington — which started with teach-ins and a rally that packed the National Mall — was echoed by protests in hundreds of cities across the United States and around the world, including marches in Europe and Asia
WASHINGTON — Thousands of scientists and their supporters, feeling increasingly threatened by the policies of President Trump, gathered Saturday in Washington under rainy skies for what they called the March for Science, abandoning a tradition of keeping the sciences out of politics and calling on the public to stand up for scientific enterprise.
As the marchers trekked shoulder-to-shoulder toward the Capitol, the street echoed with their calls: “Save the E.P.A.” and “Save the N.I.H.” as well as their chants celebrating science, “Who run the world? Nerds,” and “If you like beer, thank yeast and scientists!” Some carried signs that showed rising oceans and polar bears in peril and faces of famous scientists like Mae Jamison, Rosalind Franklin and Marie Curie, and others touted a checklist of the diseases Americans no longer get thanks to vaccines.
Although drizzle may have washed away the words on some signs, they aimed to deliver the message that science needs the public’s support.
“Science is a very human thing,” said Ashlea Morgan, a doctoral student in neurobiology at Columbia University. “The march is allowing the public to know that this is what science is, and it’s letting our legislators know that science is vitally important.”
1. There is always plenty going on at Prospect Park in Brooklyn!! From Fishing to birding to nature walks. Join the Prospect Park Alliance at the Audubon Center for its annual Earth Day celebration.
2. Enjoy a walk around Battery Park with sweeping views of Upper New York Bay.
3. Explore the Brooklyn Bridge Park like never before during open hours in the Environmental Education Center or walk across the gangplank of a renovated coffee barge for a one-hour, family-friendly concert.
4. Help Clean up New York Harbor during Earth Day Cleanups at both Jamaica Bay and Sandy Hook
5. Take part in a beach cleanup at a neighborhood beach in New Jersey. Check out Clean Ocean Action's annual Beach Sweeps event
6. Enjoy Earth Day at a Monmouth County Park in New Jersey at one of their sites celebrating the day!
7. Volunteer at at the beautiful Conference House Park on Staten Island. Volunteer during "It's My Park" season with the Friends of Conference House Park to show some tender loving care to this beloved park. Volunteers will help with gardening preparation and beach cleanup to get the park ready for the spring/summer weather and upcoming events.
8. Have some fun enjoying the outdoors at the wonderful Hudson River Park. Hudson River Park offers a tremendous variety of exciting and unique activities throughout its 500-acre footprint. You’ll find things to do here that you can’t do anyplace else in Manhattan. From mini golf to carousel rides, and from historic walking tours to boat building, Hudson River Park has something for everyone.
9. Enjoy a relaxing walk among the tall trees and sloping hills at Cheesequake State Park in Old Bridge, NJ. Not only is it situated in the middle of the urban north and the suburban south, it lies in a transitional zone between two different ecosystems. Open fields, saltwater and freshwater marshes, a white cedar swamp, Pine Barrens, and a northeastern hardwood forest are the main characteristics of the park.
10. Celebrate Earth Day in New York City 2017 at Union Square for the annual outdoor Earth Day New York event. The event features dozens of exhibitors, including environmental non-profits, green businesses, kids' activities, and live performances. With more than 70 organizations represented, there is something for everyone. Looking to make a simple green change to your lifestyle? Bring your utility bill to the booth at E. 17th and Park Ave. to make the switch to clean energy in just minutes and also get $25 off your next bill!
MAKE EARTH DAY EVERYDAY
For winter flounder, it’s all about water temperature. For this fish loves cold water.
With water temperatures around New York Harbor still largely below 55 degrees F., conditions continue to be right for winter flounder, a flatfish species, to spawn and create the next generation. Winter flounder spawn from February to May, peaking in April, just before waters warm up.
Winter flounder spawning is sensitive to temperature. Unlike most fish that spawn in warmer waters, winter flounder are adapted to spawn in cold water. It’s a brilliant way to help protect their young from being eaten by too many predators, which are often active in late spring, summer and early fall.
Winter flounder are protected from freezing in cold water by a special anti-freeze protein in their body, which is found in most cold water fish that live in chilly Antarctic waters. Winter flounder can survive in water temperatures as low as 32 to 34 degrees F.
When local water temperatures turn cold, generally below 55 degrees F, winter flounder will move into New York Harbor from the Atlantic Ocean for spawning. When the water begins to warm up, winter flounder will migrate offshore into deeper, cooler waters for the summer.
Winter flounder typically spawn at night on sandy bottom areas in New York Harbor. Individual females produce an average of about 500,000 eggs annually.
Eggs hatch after 15-18 days depending on temperature of course. When flounders first hatch, they look like any other small fish, with an eye on both sides of its head. But as flounders grow and develop, the left eye will migrate across the top of its head to the right side. The fish then lays flat with both eyes facing upwards. Since both eyes are found on the right side of the body, the winter flounder is often called a right-eyed flatfish.
Juvenile winter flounders will remain in New York Harbor for usually two years to feed and mature. They exist mostly in coves with sandy or muddy bottoms. I often find juvenile winter flounder near the mouths of creeks, including the mouth of Many Mind Creek in Atlantic Highlands. The lower estuary seems to be an important nursery for winter flounder, including the Navesink River.
For me, winter flounder are beautiful and unique fish. A real treasure to have in New York Harbor.
Can you feel the magic! Barnacles are in the mood for love.
Barnacles are spawning in and around New York Harbor now. It usually occurs in mid- to late spring. Since barnacles are stationary or sessile aquatic creatures, they can’t really swim around looking for a mate. This is why barnacles live in groups. They mate with a neighbor.
All barnacles are hermaphrodites; both male and female at the same time. But only one individual cross-fertilizes with another individual.
A sperm tube or a penis extends from one barnacle into a neighboring barnacle to fertilize eggs. Once the eggs hatch, a barnacle releases tiny larvae into the water in the spring when there is enough food or plankton for tiny barnacles to feed. After a few days floating around and looking for a good surface to settle, tiny barnacle larvae will eventually attach themselves to a hard surface using a cement-like substance secreted from a unique internal gland. Within 12 hours of attachment, larvae develop white shell plates or cones and become a mature barnacle. A complex and pretty amazing life cycle mostly unknown to the general public.
While there are different species of barnacles, the most common in New York Harbor is most likely the Atlantic acorn barnacle (Semibalanus balanoides), also known as the Northern rock barnacle. But there are certainly others like the Little Gray barnacle.
You probably see barnacles every time you visit the edge of the estuary and didn’t even know it. They live on rocks, reefs, jetties, pilings, boat hulls and other hard surfaces, and even on other living organisms like whales and horseshoe crabs.
Barnacles are small, grayish-white crustaceans that live throughout New York Harbor. They might not look like much, but barnacles are actually related to crabs, lobsters, and shrimp.
Barnacles are an important part of the harbor’s complex aquatic food web. The main predators of barnacles are marine snails, including whelks, but also crabs, sea stars, fish, and even humans. The New York Times reported in 2001 that barnacles were becoming an increasingly familiar item on the menus of high-end restaurants. Most likely goose barnacles, which is the only real edible species of barnacle for people.
Barnacles in turn are filter feeders. During high tide, these petite crustaceans will open their shells to release feathery appendages that collect and sweep in tiny food particles such as plankton and detritus. In their own small way, barnacles help to keep bay waters healthy.
Emaciated seal pup found at Smith Point Beach, officials say
Updated April 17, 2017 4:28 PM
By Rachel Uda firstname.lastname@example.org
An emaciated seal pup was found at Smith Point Beach Monday, April 17, 2017, officials said. The seal was described as "very lethargic and emaciated," and was moved to the Riverhead Foundation facilities for treatment by a veterinarian.
A crew from the Riverhead Foundation arrived at Smith Point Beach around 11 a.m. to assess the gray seal, which is between 3 and 4 months old, according to Chuck Bowman, the organization’s president.
For the last several weeks, small pale shorebirds about the length of your hand with thin orange legs have been arriving to ocean-side beaches at the entrance to New York Harbor. Specifically, urban-suburban seashore places like Sandy Hook, Fort Tilden, and Breezy Point, all managed by the National Park Service, and Rockaway Beach in Queens, managed by New York City Parks.
The birds often arrive tired. They have migrated many miles by flapping their tiny wings, sometimes through bad storms and strong winds, from places where they spend winters along the Atlantic coast from Texas to North Carolina, or as far south as the Bahamas and Greater Antilles. It’s a tough journey and not all birds make it.
Those that do will begin courting and setting up nesting territories on sand dunes and sandy areas with sweeping views of the water. The male will dig several slight depressions into the sand for a nest, also known as a scrape. Each potential home will be lined with pebbles or bits of shells. It doesn’t look like much, but somehow these petite shorebirds find it cozy, comfortable, and safe. Probably because their feathers are the color of sand. This makes them blend in perfectly with the coastal habitat, a reason why the beach-going public does not often see the birds.
Once a male finds a mate, a female will choose where to nest within the couple’s territory. The female will lay her eggs in one of several scrapes made by the male; the average clutch is 3 to 4 eggs.
A pair will work tireless to protect their young, but the odds are often against them from intense coastal storms to predation to increased human disturbance. For example during the 2015 breeding season at Sandy Hook, on average just 1.2 chicks per pair fledged, and at Breezy Point in 2012 only about 30 chicks hatched out of 92 eggs.
Data on the breeding behavior of piping plovers shows that some adults return to the same nesting area annually. Why the birds come back to New York Harbor, the most congested coastline in America, is anyone’s guess, but they do every spring, making them the first of the shorebirds to arrive to local beaches to breed.
Piping plovers are not just one of New York Harbor’s most endangered birds, but one of its most endangered species. In total, only about 100 pairs call our beaches home during a breeding period - spring and summer. The most current population data is not always easily available to the public, so numbers could change.
Researchers have been going park to park to collect 100 canine samples, 20 from each borough. They are amassing similar citywide data sets from cats, rats, mice, pigeons and cockroaches.
The young woman with the clipboard had an unusual request.
It was a chilly Thursday morning a few weeks ago at a new dog park on the East River in Queens. The sun glinted hard on the choppy water. Off-leash dogs ran up and down little hills of concrete as the woman explained her mission to the owner of a mutt named Alice.
“Will you be willing to give us your dog’s poop?” she asked.
Alice’s owner said yes. So did a woman with an Irish terrier named Scarlet.
“I do research myself, so I’m very sympathetic to people who collect data, whatever data it is,” said Scarlet’s owner, Annie Duflo.
So, gladly, did the owner of a 120-pound Alaskan malamute, Juno. “Juno’s poop is pretty big, so everybody usually runs away from it, not toward it,” said his owner, Shaun Hostutler, who works for the Air Force.
Each dog owner filled out a form and handed it over, along with the goods, in a plastic bag. The woman with the clipboard, Aditi Naik, placed them in a plastic foam box filled with ice packs.
Ms. Naik is a graduate student at New York University. The dogs of Hunters Point South Park had just contributed to a survey of the microbial life of New York City’s pets and pests.
PLANTS HAVE BEEN HELPING TO OFFSET CLIMATE CHANGE, BUT NOW IT’S UP TO US
Carnegie Institution for Science
Wednesday, April 05, 2017
Washington, DC—Plants are currently removing more CO2 from the air than they did 200 years ago, according to new work from Carnegie’s Joe Berry and led by J. Elliott Campbell of UC Merced. The team’s findings, which are published in Nature, affirm estimates used in models from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Plants take up carbon dioxide as part of the process of photosynthesis—a series of cellular reactions through which they transform the Sun’s energy into chemical energy for food. This research from Campbell, Berry, and their colleagues constructs a new history of global changes in photosynthetic activity.
Just as plants in actual glass greenhouses grow faster and more profusely when provided with elevated levels of CO2, plants in natural ecosystems have been expected to grow faster as the concentration of CO2 in the global atmosphere increases. At the global scale, this effect could offer some stability to the climate system by countering increased human emissions of CO2.
The magnitude of this effect is currently under debate. Could it be as large at the global scale as it is in small-scale greenhouse experiments? Or are other factors limiting the global system’s response to increased greenhouse gas emissions? A long-term record, similar to what we have for CO2 and temperature, is needed to address this large uncertainty in climate change projections.
“We’ve done something new here,” Campbell said. “Reliable measurements of photosynthesis are typically made at the leaf-level. But you can’t get the big picture that way, and we need to know what the Earth as a whole is doing and how it has responded through time.”
New study links carbon pollution to extreme weather
Human activities are altering the jet stream, which leads to extreme weather patterns getting stuck in place
Friday 7 April 2017 06.00 EDT
It was only a few weeks ago that I wrote about changes to extreme weather in a warming world. That prior article dealt with the increase of extreme precipitation events as the Earth warms. I termed the relationship a thermodynamic one; it was driven by local thermodynamic processes. But extreme weather can also occur because of large-scale changes to the atmosphere and oceans. This issue is the topic of another just-published paper that makes a convincing case for a whole new type of influence of humans on extreme weather. In a certain sense, this study confirms what was previously reported here and here. With the march of science, the tools, methods, and evidence get better each year.
Before getting into the study, a little background. The jet stream(s) are high-speed rivers of air that flow in the upper atmosphere. There’s more than one jet stream; they blow west to east and they mark the separation of zones of different temperatures. A good primer on jet streams is available here.
If you were to stand at the northern pole and travel southwards, you would experience a gradual increase in temperature. However, when you reached the first jet stream (the Polar Jet), temperatures would rapidly become warmer. That is, the Polar Jet separates two different temperature air regions. Typically, if you are north of the jet stream, you are in a colder zone whereas if you are south of the stream, it is warmer. Sometimes, the jet streams undulate as they encircle the planet and these undulations move. So, sometimes you happen to be in a position north and sometimes south of the stream, even though your location is fixed.
The interface between warm and cold temperatures creates a lot of weather-pattern changes. In addition, if the undulations of the streams become fixed, it means your weather patterns will get stuck. For instance, you could find yourself in an upward undulation for weeks or longer and experience warm and potentially dry weather. Alternatively, if your location is north of a stuck jet undulation, you may experience persistent cold weather. Perhaps even more importantly, these stuck waves can become larger in their magnitude.
So, scientists really want to know what affects these undulations – both their magnitudes and their persistence. We also want to know whether these undulations will change in a warming planet. This is precisely where the new study comes in. The researchers used both weather observations and climate models to answer these questions. What they found was very interesting.
Peregrine Falcons are powerful and fast-flying birds. They were nearly wiped away from eastern North America by pesticide poisoning in the middle 20th century. After many recovery efforts, Peregrine Falcons are finally coming back, including to New York Harbor.
From the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ:
PEREGRINE FALCON PAIR FIGHTS AGAINST INTRUDER
Protecting their nest proved to be a matter of life and death for the resident falcon pair on top of the Union County Courthouse who fought a relentless female intruder throughout the month of March. A fierce battle played out for thousands of viewers who watched to see which female would prevail. Every time it appeared the intruder had been defeated, she returned to fight again as seen in the March 29 footage when the female peregrine falcons locked talons and fell from the sky.
On April 4, the intruder, 91/BA from Rochester, New York, named Cadence, was spotted again at the nest. A tangle between the two females further weakened the visibly injured and exhausted resident. ENSP Zoologist Kathy Clark watched as 91/BA hit the resident female who has not been seen since.
This live streaming video, provided in partnership with Union County, offers the unfiltered behavior of nesting peregrine falcons and natural selection at work. The resident male has continued to ensure the survival of his offspring as he begins to court his new mate. If the eggs are not kept warm, then the embryos will fail to develop. Though unlikely, the new young female could incubate these eggs or lay her own.
Visit the Union County Falcon Cam on our website to watch this story unfold. Read expert commentary and view taped footage on our Nestbox News.
And since just one wildlife webcam may not be enough, CWF is proud to feature three other cameras on our website - Osprey Cam, Bat Cam, and Jersey City Falcon Cam.
Springtime has arrived! Familiar summer birds are now returning to coastal areas around New York Harbor.
Recently, I spotted a pair of American oystercatchers near the tip of the Sandy Hook peninsula, located where the Atlantic Ocean meets the estuary. The birds have migrated back from their winter home down south, as far away as the Gulf of Mexico or as close as South Jersey, to spend the next several months raising the next generation of oystercatchers.
American Oystercatchers are unique looking stocky shorebirds. Both male and female birds have largely dark and white feathers with pink legs and yellow eyes. The bill, though, is an oystercatcher’s most striking feature. It’s long and bright. A red to orange five-inch bill that is a perfect tool for harvesting shellfish and worms, pretty much anything living along the coast.
The name “oystercatcher” comes from the bird’s lengthy, blade-like bill it uses to catch and cut open not only oysters in the harbor, but also clams, mussels, and other bivalves found while foraging in mudflats or in wet sandy areas during low tide. An oystercatcher can use its strong heavy bill to jab open a mussel shell by forcing its bill between two halves of a bivalve's exoskeleton or by hammering open a shell by pounding the crusty covering again and again.
Oystercatchers love to catch worms too! I know this from watching one hungry oystercatcher the other day. It was foraging in the wet sand during an outgoing tide in a small tidal waterway leading out to Sandy Hook Bay. The bird was searching for food. It kept plunging its long bill all the way down into the sand. Something must have been there, a clam, mussel, crab, or worm?
A few second later, out pops something long and slimy in the bird’s beak. A tasty worm was found.
I watched as the oystercatcher seized the worm before the poor slimy critter could crawl back into the wet sand. The worm tried to make a run for it, but clearly this shorebird was skilled.
The oystercatcher employed a method known as ‘digging." The bird would thrust its bill quickly into the wet sand two or three times like a trowel to dig out and pick up a wet worm. The poor critter didn’t have a chance.
Once the worm was in the bird's bill, the hungry oystercatcher could easily use its specialized tongue to move the worm inside the bill and consume the squishy critter. In this case, tasty pieces of a silky ribbon worm.
In addition to worms, oystercatchers can forage along the edge of the water for sea urchins, sea stars, crabs, and clams. Whatever tasty meal it happens to stumble upon.
Oystercatchers, though, don’t spend all their time foraging for food. According to Jon Altman from the National Park Service at Cape Lookout National Seashore in North Carolina, American oystercatchers will only spend about 10 percent of their time searching for food during the pre-laying period, which is before the laying and incubation of eggs. The birds, in part, are busy defending territories and establishing nesting sites.
As a child growing up along the Jersey Shore during the 1970s, catching sight of an Oystercatcher was rare. Decades of over-hunting for their feathers and eggs, the loss of beachfront habitat due to over-development, and contaminated shellfish from industrial toxins and human waste all combined to weaken the population. Today, the species is still considered to be in decline in New Jersey and New York. The American Oystercatcher is listed as a species of special conservation and concern in both states.
Yet, down along the Jersey Shore and in the back bays there are a few lucky areas where oystercatchers still continue to nest. Many can be found in South Jersey, around Great Bay, Egg Harbor, and the Absecon and Hereford inlets. Another prime location is surprisingly in northern Monmouth County, along the Navesink River, Sandy Hook Bay, and Raritan Bay. Breeding pairs here number in the dozens.
It’s these oystercatchers that are helping to bring back the birds to their historic range. While the birds are making some progress, certainly more needs to be done to clean up our coastline, and restore and preserve habitat. A slow resurgence in New York Harbor of the American oystercatcher, a bird with a beautiful bill.
Birding at the tip of Sandy Hook NRA, at the entrance to New York Harbor.
Pecks and the city: how to be an urban birdwatcher
Birding isn’t only for the countryside, says the Urban Birder David Lindo. City dwellers can spot fascinating species if they know where to look
By David Lindo
Friday 10 July 2015 09.00 EDT
Urban environments might seem like a challenge for birdspotters. People wonder if there’s anything worth seeing, past a few pigeons and some foxes. The urban birder needs to open their mind to possibility, because in reality there aren’t that many differences between an urban environment and the countryside. To put it in context, there have been sightings of around 600 different species of bird across Britain since the early 1900s. Of them, around 550 have been spotted in a city.
A big advantage to birding in the city is that you can often get a lot closer to certain species, because they’re used to being surrounded by people. If you know what to look for, you’ll spot fascinating species right on your doorstep.
Think like a bird
When I visit a city, I don’t see a city, I see what a bird sees: scattered woodland and cliffs (the buildings). That bramble patch in your park is exactly the same as the one in the middle of the countryside. It has food, it provides shelter. The kind of habitats you get in a city may be smaller and more fragmented, but they are still habitats. The good thing about them being smaller is that often the wildlife is more concentrated in one area.
Expect the unexpected
Anything can turn up anywhere, at any time. That’s one of the mottos I live by. If you go out birdspotting and someone tries to be helpful and tells you what birds you will see, say, “Thank you very much” then politely forget about it. People tend to look out for the things they expect to see, and that can limit your chances of spotting something surprising.
Re-evaluate the familiar
I was about five when I started watching birds. No one in my family was interested so I didn’t have anyone to teach me. I remember being captivated by pigeons, the way they flew. Although to some they are the embodiment of all that’s dirty, there is a lot to be said for them. They are wartime heroes – used as message carriers during the second world war. They have been found to recognise the human faces that feed them in a crowd. They have even allegedly learned to use the underground system in London by deliberately getting on trains and getting off at specific stops. They come in all different hues and provide hours of fun for pigeon fanciers. They are also amazing flyers and that’s not just when they are being chased by peregrine falcons.
Get to know your local patch
People often want to know about rare birds but the way to see rarer species is to focus on the more common ones first. Look at the usual, and you’ll sometimes find the unusual among them. Having a local patch is a great way of getting to know lots of types of birds. A garden is a great place to start. I have a friend who lives in Holland Park in west London. We sat in the garden one day and saw 15 or 16 different species in an hour, including a stock dove, which is a country bird (they are easily confused with feral pigeons). A nearby cemeteryis also a good spot, as is your local park – you don’t have to stray that far to see something interesting.
With Old Man Winter melting away, the wonderful summer wading birds of New York Harbor are starting to return. Longer days and warmer temperatures are attracting a variety of wading birds, including great and snowy egrets and black-crowned night herons, to nest and raise a family.
The last several weeks I’ve spotted a number of great and snowy egrets foraging for fish within tidal wetlands in either Sandy Hook Bay or Raritan Bay. The birds were among the russet colored marsh grasses near brackish waters quietly stalking for killifish and mummichogs, small schooling fish that can be found in or near muddy marshes and brackish creeks. The fish make up an important part of the diet for wading birds.
To the causal birder, egrets might be confused with cranes, but these are not cranes or even storks. Most cranes can be found living out west in prairies and open grassland. The Wood Stork is the only native stork in North America and it likes to live down south in cypress swamps. Egrets, on the other hand, are more widespread and cosmopolitan.
Warmer water temperatures around the edge of New York Harbor, generally in the lower to mid 50s, have brought back the birds from winter homes down south in places like Delaware Bay, Chesapeake Bay, Chincoteague and the Virginia barrier islands, and the Outer Banks of the Carolinas. They have arrived, as they have for many years, to raise a family within sight of the great skyscrapers of New York City.
Yet, wading birds are picky, they don’t nest everywhere. Trees have to be a certain height and a certain age with branches of a certain length in order to hold their length and weight. Nesting sites also have to have minimal human and predator intrusion so as not to stress out the birds and young. Of course there also needs to be an abundance of food nearby.
Fortunately, there are still a few places for egrets and other wading birds to nest around New York Harbor. The birds appear to prefer nesting on small islands with whimsical names around the harbor that are generally isolated and provide protection from people and predators such as raccoons and feral cats. These largely obscure islands include Shooters Island, Prall’s Island, North and South Brother Islands, Hoffman Island and Swinburne Island both located to the north and south of Staten Island, and islands in Jamaica Bay. They provide relatively safe sites for nesting and plenty of nearby places around the estuary for foraging. The islands have become a major factor in the success and return of wading birds to New York Harbor.
Wading birds like the great egret and snowy egret nest in colonies with other birds including herons and ibises on islands and wetlands found in New York Harbor. The birds like to nest in groups with other birds. The colonies can contain several species of wading birds, often with hundreds of them congregating in communities of less than an acre.
According to New York City Audubon in their yearly summer survey of nesting wading birds around New York Harbor, in 2015 there were approximately 271 Snowy Egrets, 381 Great Egrets, 79 glossy ibises, 571 black-crowned night herons, and 2 tri-colored herons nesting around New York Harbor, including Jamaica Bay. Although more work still needs to be done to protect habitat and improve water quality, it’s a great comeback for a group of birds that were nearly wiped out from New York Harbor during the bad old days of the 1950s and 1960s.
Wading birds make up a beautiful and important group of birds around New York Harbor. As their diet is made up mostly of fish and other aquatic species, these long-legged birds are considered excellent biological indicators of the health of our wetland ecosystems. The more birds the better.
Come April, all life begins to stir. Not just on land, but in the water as well; and not just for big fish, but little fish too.
Mummichogs are small fish (only about 5 to 7 inches long as adults) with a fun name. By most accounts, the word “mummichog” is an Algonquian Native American name that comes from the Narragansett people who for many thousands of years once occupied all of present-day Rhode Island. Many of the early Narragansett people were keen observes of the natural world. They came up with the word mummichog, which means “going in crowds,” after observing the fish swimming in large schools close to a shoreline. The word describes the little fish so well that we still use it today, thousands of years later.
The mummies don’t look like much, small pale fish with a tinge of olive for females and olive-yellow with some dusky bars for males. Yet, they belong to an important group of schooling fishes known as killifish. The killifish are an important food source for larger fish, such as striped bass and bluefish, and coastal birds including herons, egrets, and terns. Since killifish and mummichogs are able to withstand poor water quality conditions including low oxygen levels and variations in salinity, animals are able to find an easy and quick meal throughout the estuary and feast on these small fish no matter the environmental conditions. A perfect fish for the often muddy, messy waters of New York Harbor.
This time of year, the mummies are starting to become more active in local marshes. They have just spent the winter in a relatively sluggish state in creeks and small waterways where they buried themselves six or eight inches deep into the mud and muck.
Now as winter ends, the marshes around New York Harbor are preparing themselves as nursery areas for many species including mummichogs. It begins with the sun warming the mud and spring rains discharging nutrients into the water. This creates vast plankton populations and helps feeds small fish such as mummichogs.
Mummies are omnivores. They have been known to feed on all sorts of edible things, but seem fond of diatoms, sea lettuce, and other vegetable matter; and small shrimps and juvenile fish. They can also quickly gather around any dead fish or other bit of carrion to gobble it up quickly.
This time of year, though, the mummies have more on their mind than just food. They are becoming sexual charged in local saltwater wetlands and thinking of creating the next generation.
Spawning probably takes place from May to early August, but males are becoming brilliantly tinted now and in the process of pursuing females, who are showing off silvery bellies. Males who are the most highly colored or most excited typically spawn with the most females.
According to Henry B. Bigelow and William C. Schroeder in the Fishes of the Gulf of Maine, mummichogs “spawn in a few inches of water, seeking shady spots. At the moment of spawning the male clasps the female with his anal and dorsal fins just back of her anal and dorsal, usually forcing her against some stone or against the bottom, the bodies of both are bent into an S and their tails vibrate rapidly while the eggs and the milt are extruded. Occasionally, pairs clasp and spawn free in the water without coming in contact with any object, and sometimes a female is seen to pursue and court a male.”
When tides are highest during new and full moon evenings starting next month, female mummichogs will swim far up into tidal marshes to deposit over 400 eggs per female in clumps on the leaves of marsh grasses or in empty mollusk shells. Females deposit eggs far away from hungry males who might eat their own young.
In about two weeks, during the next highest tide, the eggs hatch. The young mummies stay in small pools in the marsh to avoid predation including adult mummichogs. It will take about two years for the young fish to reach sexual maturity.
Many mummichogs only live for three years. Certainly life is short when you are low on an aquatic food chain, providing so much food for so many animals around New York Harbor.
No doubt animal encounters in New York City can be quite unique. Taco shells and pizza have become part of the new urban food chain.
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Squirrels eat all kinds of things.
They like nuts, plants, fruits, insects and apparently — Mexican food.
Maria Bianchi spotting a squirrel in Brooklyn sitting in a tree and munching on a hard taco shell.
Using biofuels to help power jet engines reduces particle emissions in their exhaust by as much as 50 to 70 percent, in a new study conclusion that bodes well for airline economics and Earth’s environment.
The findings are the result of a cooperative international research program led by NASA and involving agencies from Germany and Canada, and are detailed in a study published in the journal Nature.
During flight tests in 2013 and 2014 near NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California, data was collected on the effects of alternative fuels on engine performance, emissions and aircraft-generated contrails at altitudes flown by commercial airliners. The test series were part of the Alternative Fuel Effects on Contrails and Cruise Emissions Study, or ACCESS.
Contrails are produced by hot aircraft engine exhaust mixing with the cold air that is typical at cruise altitudes several miles above Earth's surface, and are composed primarily of water in the form of ice crystals.
Researchers are most interested in persistent contrails because they create long-lasting, and sometimes extensive, clouds that would not normally form in the atmosphere, and are believed to be a factor in influencing Earth’s environment.
"Soot emissions also are a major driver of contrail properties and their formation," said Bruce Anderson, ACCESS project scientist at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. "As a result, the observed particle reductions we’ve measured during ACCESS should directly translate into reduced ice crystal concentrations in contrails, which in turn should help minimize their impact on Earth’s environment."
That’s important because contrails, and the cirrus clouds that evolve from them, have a larger impact on Earth’s atmosphere than all the aviation-related carbon dioxide emissions since the first powered flight by the Wright brothers.
The tests involved flying NASA's workhorse DC-8 as high as 40,000 feet while its four engines burned a 50-50 blend of aviation fuel and a renewable alternative fuel of hydro processed esters and fatty acids produced from camelina plant oil. A trio of research aircraft took turns flying behind the DC-8 at distances ranging from 300 feet to more than 20 miles to take measurements on emissions and study contrail formation as the different fuels were burned.
Increasing daylight and ever slowly warmer temperatures are starting to stimulate downy woodpeckers, the smallest of eastern woodpeckers, around New York Harbor to enter into another breeding season. The birds are busy drumming or making noise to advertise their nesting territory to rival woodpeckers. The sound of a woodpecker drumming or rapidly pecking on an object tells other nearby woodpecker to move on - this area has already been taken in the neighborhood.
But the drumming doesn’t stop here. Downys need to eat. They will peck into trees, logs, fence posts, and even utility poles to gobble up grubs, ants, and other wood-boring insects, which provide high levels of protein for breeding birds. Tree sap is also a popular food in the spring when few other foods are available.
In addition, downy woodpeckers will drum to make nest cavities in a tree. A bird will drill a hole in a dead or live tree about 5-50 feet above ground, which will eventually make a nice home for a female woodpecker to lay and incubate 4-5 white eggs.
Does all this constant motion hurt a bird’s head? At the very least does a little woodpecker get a headache from the banging?
Drumming is actually a really important activity for a woodpecker. These long-billed birds are not songbirds and don’t have a distinctive song to sing to attract a mate or advertise a nesting territory. They often must drum to communicate, especially over long distances. The strength and loudness of a drumming sound will help to advertise the health and dominance of a woodpecker who is making these exceptional woodland sounds.
If you listen carefully, each species of a woodpecker has a different and unique drumming sound. According to Sibley Guides, “the drum of a hairy woodpecker is extremely fast and buzzing, with at least 25 taps per second, but has long pauses of 20 seconds or more between drums. Downy Woodpecker drums at a slower rate, only about 15 taps per second, and drums frequently, often with pauses of only a few seconds between each drum.”
Luckily, woodpeckers do not get a headache from drumming. They have evolved nicely to deal with all the banging and battering to their heads. The birds have special physical adaptations, such as extra cushioning in their skull that allows them to peck quickly and repeatedly on hard objects without hurting themselves.
The Cornel Lab of Ornithology tells us that woodpeckers “have thickened skulls and powerful neck muscles that enable them to deliver sharp blows without damaging their organs.” A woodpecker's bill is also thick, straight and sturdy to withstand drumming impacts. It's able to drum for long periods of time without any pain.
For woodpeckers this spring, it’s all about the drumming. The louder the better.
A juvenile species of river herring found in a seine net, September 2015 in Raritan Bay near Cliffwood Beach, Aberdeen Township, NJ.
A great article as always in the New York Times from Dave Taft, a highly regarded naturalist in New York City and up the Hudson River. This time he writes about Alewife herring, a species of river herring native to New York Harbor. Every spring, large schools of these forage fish migrate from the Atlantic Ocean to inland rivers and creeks to spawn. But the journey from saltwaters where they mature to freshwaters where they spawn is increasingly perilous. Sure, the herring must deal with hungry predators from birds to larger fish, as they have for centuries, but now they must also deal with a new set of hazards. The silvery fish enter a gauntlet where commercial and recreational fisheries may exploit spawning populations of river herring as bycatch or for use as bait in the recreational striped bass fishery. Moreover, changes in water quality, water temperature and a sharp increase of micro-plastics into the water, which mimic plankton - their chief source of food, all contribute to a much smaller herring population today than it was half a century ago. But as Dave points out, people have not given up. As long as restoration and preservation efforts continue, there is always hope for this valuable aquatic species to endure, and with it the health of the harbor.
- Joe R.
The Stubborn Staying Power of the Alewife Herring
By DAVE TAFT
MARCH 16, 2017
The New York Times
Among the rich natural resources that attracted humans to New York’s harbor was a small migratory fish the colonists called the alewife or sawbelly. As these river herring crowded into spawning creeks every spring, they were noted by the earliest French Jesuits, Dutch trappers and English settlers, and were caught and consumed with abandon by Native Americans and colonists alike.
Alewives are bony, tasty, nutritious and relatively easy to preserve; and, in colonial times, they were abundant. The fish could be eaten by humans or fed to pigs or other livestock. It is highly likely that the famous agricultural mentoring between Squanto, a Patuxet native to what is now Massachusetts, and the pilgrims memorializes yet another less obvious use of herring: as fertilizer for the colonists’ inaugural crops.
Middens and hearths excavated throughout the Northeast are filled with the bones and scales of herring dinners past. But as human settlements grew, both the value and limits of this communal resource became obvious. Alewives were protected by the first known fishery regulations in North America, which date to 1623 in Plymouth Colony. Over time, net sizes, harvest schedules and set locations, as well as catch limits, were all strictly regulated in order to protect these valuable fish.
Some of the early regulations even prohibit the obstruction of rivers, which would have prevented the passage of alewives. However, as the need for energy kept pace with the human population, dams were built throughout the coastal waterways, and this rampant construction brought on the long decline of Alosa pseudoharengus and many other migratory fish species.
It is easy to love alewives. Silvery and streamlined, they can reach a foot or more in length on a diet of plankton. They are determined and stubborn, but their tireless upstream journeys increasingly ended at the dams and obstructions of human industry. Herring are tenacious and resolute; they can be surprisingly difficult to eradicate. Humans, however, have come close to finishing them off.
STOP THE WILLIAMS FRACKED GAS PIPELINE THROUGH NY HARBOR!
MY TOP 5 FAVORITE BOOKS ABOUT NY HARBOR
1. Field Guide to the Neighborhood Birds of New York City by Leslie Day
2.Heartbeats in the Muck by John Waldman
3. The Fisheries of Raritan Bay by Clyde L. MacKenzie Jr.
4. Waterfront: A Walk Around Manhattan by Phillip Lopate
5. The Bottom of the Harbor by Joseph Mitchell