Albany Pine Bush News

Audio file: Prairie Warbler–Setophaga discolor

ALBANY, NY – With growing interest in this globally-rare habitat, the Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission has joined an international effort in bird conservation that will provide important research and data on migratory songbird populations.

As part of this research effort, the Commission has initiated two breeding-season bird banding stations in the Preserve – a New York State designated Bird Conservation Area – in coordination with the MAPS (Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship), a program coordinated by the Institute for Bird Populations (IBP), the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). The findings will also contribute to a global investigation of environmental contamination by the Biodiversity Research Institute and The Nature Conservancy.

“The fact that we are participating in this international bird conservation effort speaks volumes about the importance of the Albany Pine Bush Preserve’s ecological standing and the quality of science and research coming out of our Science department,” noted the Commission’s Executive Director, Christopher Hawver.

“The scientific community is beginning to understand how important the Pine Bush is to bird conservation. Birds are not only colorful and gifted singers, but they are also great indicators of ecosystem health. They can tell us a lot about the condition of the pitch pine-scrub oak barrens and the effects of our efforts to conserve this unique shrubland habitat,” said Neil Gifford, Conservation Director and USGS Licensed Bird Bander. “Sound science has always been the keystone of Preserve management, but it’s also incredibly rewarding to know that the data that we collect contributes to our partners’ national and international efforts to conserve birds.”

One in eight bird species are at risk of extinction according to a recently released report by Birdlife International.

Carefully capturing and banding birds with uniquely-numbered lightweight USGS leg bands offers Commission scientists the opportunity to repeatedly identify individual birds and record their age, gender, reproductive status, and weight before releasing them, and it answers critical questions about bird reproduction and survival in the Preserve. According to Gifford, “Providing this demographic data to the USGS, USFWS and IBP also contributes to their efforts to understand trends in the status of these species in New York, the northeast and throughout the United States. We’ve committed to collecting this data for at least five years, but because the birds can tell us so much about our conservation, we hope to continue beyond 2017.”

Evan Adams, Migratory Bird Program Director at the Biodiversity Research Institute (BRI) said, “Birds are also useful sentinels for contaminants that can harm entire ecosystems.” In collaboration with The Nature Conservancy, BRI is monitoring birds’ mercury exposure levels in a variety of habitats around the country. “By combining these data with the productivity monitoring,” said Adams, “we hope to further understand how contaminants affect ecosystems and impact bird populations. The bird banding in the Preserve presents an opportunity to understand the long-term effects of mercury contamination on songbirds, and that is incredibly valuable for the conservation and management of the affected species.”

According to Gifford, “The numbers are compelling; in only ten mornings we’ve banded more than 300 individual birds.” The data show that the Preserve’s pine barrens support robust populations of many birds that are declining throughout the northeastern U.S., especially birds like the prairie warbler, brown thrasher, and eastern towhee that depend on what the Northeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies calls young forest habitat.

“During the last 40 years, nearly half of the young forest bird species in the Northeast have declined and become increasingly reliant on young forest habitat management,” said Randy Dettmers, migratory bird expert with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “The Albany Pine Bush Preserve makes significant contributions to these species by managing one of the largest remaining patches of young forest habitat in the Northeast. Through their participation in the MAPS program, they will help to guide conservation actions to sustain young forest birds throughout the region.”

Young forest birds are also a conservation priority for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and Audubon New York. “The Albany Pine Bush is an incredibly unique habitat that supports a number of at-risk shrubland-dependent birds, which are declining across their ranges,” said Erin Crotty, Executive Director of Audubon New York. “We applaud the efforts of the Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission to actively manage this area to maintain this amazing habitat and ensure the effectiveness of their stewardship activities. We look forward to working with them to protect this New York State Bird Conservation Area in the future and encourage more area residents to visit this outstanding community resource.”

“For 25 years, public-private partnerships have been essential to the Commission’s efforts to create and manage a viable Preserve,” said Hawver. “From our internationally-recognized controlled burn program to our work to eradicate invasive species and from our success in recovering rare and endangered wildlife to the high quality of recreational and educational opportunities available at the Preserve, our success is directly tied to the relationships we’ve built with state and federal agencies, non-profit organizations and the private sector. Our bird research is just the latest example of how these partnerships are building a strong future for the Preserve and its wildlife.”

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Located within the Capital District Region, the Albany Pine Bush’s gently rolling sand plain is home to a variety of rare plants and animals. The 3,200 acre Preserve also provides visitors with an assortment of non-motorized recreational opportunities including hiking, jogging, nature study, cross-country skiing, horseback riding, mountain biking, hunting, fishing and canoeing.

The Albany Pine Bush Discovery Center transforms this globally unique destination into an exciting adventure where learning comes naturally through hands-on activities. As the gateway to the Preserve, the Discovery Center introduces visitors to everything that makes the Pine Bush rare and adventurous. With the help of many volunteers, the Discovery Center offers numerous programs about the ecology, natural and cultural history of the Pine Bush area. Admission is free and program fees are $3 per person or $5 per family. The center is open Monday-Friday 9AM-4PM, Saturday and Sunday 10AM-4PM, and on most holidays. The Discovery Center space is also available for private events and meetings. For more information, visit www.AlbanyPineBush.org or call 518-456-0655.

 

Wendy @ 12:06 pm

Have you ever wondered what bees do when it rains? We learned the answer during Pond Monitoring this week! On sunny days, we see bees bustling about the sea of wildflowers. On this rainy morning next to the pond a bee took refuge under swamp milkweed flowers. While this was an interesting find, hopefully next week the sun will be back!

~Jeremy Collison (APBPC Volunteer Jr. Docent)

 

 

 

 

Blake @ 12:12 pm

Orchard Oriole MaleConservation science staff and volunteers have held two MAPS (Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survival) banding days since our last post.  Here’s an update on how we did on each of those days.  It got very hot so for the safety of the birds we closed early on both days , but as you can see we still did very well.

July 15, 2013: 25 birds in total – 20 new birds from 11 species including: 4 House Wren, 3 Prairie Warbler, 2 Amercian Robin, 2 Common Yellowthroat, 2 Field Sparrow, 2 Gray Catbird, 1 Baltimore Oriole, 1 Eastern Towhee, 1 Northern Mockingbird, 1 Orchard Oriole, and 1 Song Sparrow.  There were 5 recapatured birds from 3 species including: 2 Common Yellowthroat, 2 Gray Catbird, and 1 American Robin.

July 19, 2013.  36 birds in total – 31 new birds from 13 species including: 9 Gray Catbird, 6 Song Sparrow, 3 Black-capped Chickadee, 2 Baltimore Orioles, 2 Field Sparrow, 2 Prairie Warbler, 1 Brown Thrasher, 1 Chestnut-sided Warbler, 1 Eastern Towhee, 1 House Wren, 1 Red-breasted Nuthatch, 1 Veery, and 1 Red-bellied Woodpecker.  Recaptured birds included 5 individual birds from 4 species.: 2 Common Yellowthroat, 1 Chestnut-sided Warbler, 1 Eastern Towhee and 1 Gray Catbird.

As a New York State Premier Watchable Wildlife Site and a Bird Conservation Area, chances are good that if you’ve visited the Preserve, you’ve seen seen some of New York State’s rarest wildlife. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation lists 538 rare/declining species of wildlife as Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN). Thanks to federal funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service every state in the Nation has developed a plan for conserving these species and in doing do hopes to maintain their populations at levels that would preclude the need to list many of these animals as threatened or endangered.

So we recently wondered just how many SGCN wildlife species are found in the Albany Pine Bush. The Commission’s Field Ecologist & Environmental Educator, Amanda Dillon, cross checked various wildlife lists for the Pine Bush to answer this question. It turns out the Pine Bush supports 68 SGCN wildlife; that’s 13% of the the statewide SGCN and 44% of the 156 species listed for the 7 million acre Upper Hudson Basin. (The State’s wildlife plan divides the state by major watersheds.)

The good news is that while rare in the state, many of these species are relatively common to down-right abundant in the Albany Pine Bush, and you’ve likely seen some of them. Hognose snakes, prairie warblers, brown thrasher, barrens buckmoth and spadefoot toads are just a few of the species with large populations in the Preserve. The good news gets better considering that Commission science staff are documenting growing populations of some of these animals in managed habitat in the Preserve. Their presence and abundance is a good indication that we are on the right track with meeting our goal of restoring and managing a healthy pitch pine scrub oak barrens ecosystem as described in our Management Plan and in the Law that created the Preserve 25 years ago.

We hope you’ll help us celebrate that history and visit the Preserve and the Discovery Center. You can contact us for the list of Species of Greatest Conservation Need in the Pine Bush. And if you see any of these animals while visiting, please take a photo and post it on our Facebook page or send it to us, so we can continue to monitor the health of one of the best remaining world-wide examples of an inland pitch pine scrub oak barrens.

Neil A. Gifford, Conservation Director

Neil @ 5:00 pm

This is our third week out in the field and we are beginning to see patterns in the different species that we see. As we gain experience and the tasks involved with monitoring go more quickly, we have more time to see the little things that were missed weeks before. Today we found this inchworm on a black-eyed susan!

 

Your Pond Monitoring Jr. Docents.

Jeremy and Leland

 

Photo Credit: Jeremy Collison

 

Wendy @ 2:45 pm

ALBANY, NY – The Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission invites the public to the Albany Pine Bush Discovery Center for a rare opportunity to view Karner blue butterflies raised for release as part of its efforts to recover this endangered species. The butterflies will be on display at the Discovery Center, located at 195 New Karner Road in Albany, through July 20 and perhaps longer depending on the rate at which they emerge from their chrysalises.

“This is a very exciting, and very limited chance to see this federally-endangered butterfly,” says Discovery Center Director Jeffrey Folmer. “One question visitors often ask is ‘Where can I see the Karner blues?’ These beautiful, but tiny butterflies are rare, hard to spot, live only three to five days and are difficult to distinguish from other similar non-endangered butterflies. We now have 500 of them emerging from their chrysalises one by one and they’re on view until they all emerge.”

After more than 50 years of decline, the Karner blue has returned to former haunts throughout the 3,200-acre Preserve. This insect, first studied and named by zoologist and renowned author Vladimir Nabokov in 1944, can now be found at nearly 60 sites covering more than 200 acres of the Preserve.

“Releasing butterflies into newly restored habitat is an important step in getting this iconic species off state and federal endangered species lists”, says the Commission’s Conservation Director, Neil Gifford. Staff from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will visit the Preserve to observe a release of the butterflies. Gifford added, “The captive rearing program is funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service New York Field office. We are incredibly grateful for that support and for the work of the New Hampshire Department of Fish and Game, who raise the butterflies for us at their facility in Concord, New Hampshire.”

According to Gifford, “Wild adult female Karners are captured in the Preserve in June and transported to New Hampshire, where the eggs they produce are raised to chrysalises that are returned to the Commission. The resulting adults emerge at the Discovery Center and are released into the Preserve’s restored habitat”. In many cases these “new” colonies in fact represent the return of this Pine Bush animal to the very locations where it was once so abundant.

The Discovery Center offers numerous changing programs on a monthly basis all year-round. During the time the butterflies are on view, many of the programs will focus on in-depth explorations of the Karner blue targeted to audiences from pre-k to adults. Some programs will include an educator bringing butterflies out from the exhibit inside their mesh enclosures, or an even rarer close-up inspection in the wild out on the trails. Folmer adds, “Neil, his colleagues and his staff have done an amazing job. There’s more work to be done, but the story of their success to date, the interaction of the butterfly with this globally-rare, fire-dependent habitat, the role of wild blue lupine; it’s all a fascinating tale worth learning about. We invite you to visit the Discovery Center to learn more about the Karner blue butterfly and the many other remarkable wildlife species that call the Albany Pine Bush Preserve home.” For more information, or to register for a program visit www.AlbanyPineBush.org or call 518-456-0655.

Located within the Capital District Region, the Albany Pine Bush’s gently rolling sand plain is home to a variety of rare plants and animals. The Albany Pine Bush Preserve also creates a special habitat for a number of other rare and unique plants and animals, while providing visitors with an assortment of non-motorized recreational opportunities including hiking, jogging, nature study, cross-country skiing, horseback riding, mountain biking, hunting, fishing and canoeing.

The Albany Pine Bush Discovery Center transforms this globally unique destination into an exciting adventure where learning comes naturally through hands-on activities. As the gateway to the Pine Bush, the Discovery Center introduces visitors to everything that makes the Preserve rare and adventurous. With the help of many volunteers, the Discovery Center offers numerous programs about the ecology, natural and cultural history of the Pine Bush area. Admission is free and program fees are $3 per person or $5 per family. The center is open Monday-Friday 9AM-4PM, Saturday and Sunday 10AM-4PM, and on most holidays. The Discovery Center is also available for private parties and meeting rentals.

 

The Pine Bush Preserve is a NYS Bird Conservation Area and a great birding spot.  As part of a long-term habitat restoration monitoring program Commission science staff are banding breeding season birds with US Fish & Wildlife/US Geological Survey leg bands in two 20-acre sections of pitch pine scrub oak barrens.  Banding provides a unique opportunity to document the age, gender, repproductive status and survivorship of birds.  A summary of the 277 birds processed thus far in 2013 is provided below. New birds are those we banded, while Recaptures indicate captured birds banded previously by us or occasionally by other scientists beyond the Pine Bush. We’ll do our best to update this information each week.  We hope you’ll find this interesting and visit the Preserve to try and spot of some of these birds.  Higlights below include Prairie Warbler, Brown Thrasher, Black-billed Cuckoo, Indigo Bunting and Orchard Oriole.

You can help us with this work. We occasionally set nets near Preserve trails which may be temporaily closed with signs on banding days (4-11 AM), but if you do see nets up when in the Preserve, please don’t disturb them.  Please also remember to allways follow Preserve Rules and Regulations; when in the Preserve use only paths marked with Commission Trail Markers and keep pets leashed.  Dogs off leash recently ran through one of our nets, resulting in a costly and time consuming repair.

BIRDS

May 31: 36 birds from 15 Species. 31 new birds, including: 8 Gray Catbird, 4 Prairie Warbler, 3 Black-capped Chickadee, 3 Eastern Towhee, 2 American Robin, 2 Chipping Sparrow and 1 each of American Goldfinch, Baltimore Oriole, Common Yellow Throat, Downy Woodpecker, Field Sparrow, Purple Finch, Song Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, and Trails Flycatcher.  Recaptures included 2 Gray catbird, and 1 each of Common Yellowthroat, Field Sparrow, Prairie Warbler.

June 3: 29 birds from 10 species. 23 new birds including: 5 Field Sparrow, 4 Amercian Goldfinch, 4 Prairie Warbler, 3 Eastern Towhee, 2 Common Yellowthroat, 2 Chestnut-sided Warbler, and 1 each of Gray Catbird, Cedar Waxwing, and Song Sparrow.  Recaps included 1 each of: Field Sparrow, Gray Catbird, Prairie Warbler, Song Sparrow and Veery.

June 10: 31 birds of 11 species. 22 new birds including: 6 Gray Catbird, 4 Prairie Warbler, 3 Cedar Waxwing, 2 American Goldfinch, 2 American Robin, and 1 each of Black-capped Chickadee, Blue Jay, Common Yellowthroat, Northern Mockingbird, Wilson’s Warbler.  Recaps included 4 Prairie Warbler, 3 Common Yellowthroat, 1 Gray Catbird and 1 Veery.

June 18: 53 birds of 21 species.  42 new birds including: 7 Eastern Towhee, 4 Rose-breasted Grosbeak, 3 Field Sparrow, 3 Gray Catbird, 2 Baltimore Oriole, 2 Black-capped Chickadee, 2 Common Grackle, 2 Common Yellowthroat, 2 Prairie Warbler, 2 Song Sparrow, 2 Tufted Titmouse, and 1 each of American Woodcock, Black-billed Cuckoo, Brown Thrasher, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Eastern Bluebird, Indigo Bunting, Red-breasted Nuthatch, White-breasted Nuthatch, and Yellow-shafted Flicker.  Recaps included: 3 Gray Catbird, 2 Common Yellowthroat, 2 Field Sparrow, 1 Chestnut-sided Warbler, 1 Eastern Towhee, and 1 Prairie Warbler.

June 21: 34 birds of 18 species.  27 new birds including: 6 Gray Catbird, 3 Cedar Waxwing, 2 American Goldfinch, 2 Prairie Warbler, and 1 each of American Robin, Baltimore Oriole, Blue Jay, Brown Thrasher, Blue-winged Warbler, Downy Wopordpecker, Eastern Bluebird, Field Sparrow, House Wren, Orchard Oriole, Ovenbird, and Yellow-shafted Flicker.  2 Ruby-throated hummingbird were aged and released without banding.  Recaps included 2 Gray Catbird and 1 each of American Goldfinch, Cedar Waxwing, Eastern Towhee, Field Sparrow, and Northern Mockingbird.

June 25: 32 birds of 13 species. 24 new birds including: 11 Gray Catbird, 2 Blue Jay, 2 Common Yelowthroat, 2 Chestnut-sided Warbler, and 1 each of American Robin, Baltimore Oriole, Brown Thrasher, Cedar Waxwing, Eastern Towhee, Field Sparrow, and Prairie Warbler.  Recaps included 3 Song Sparrow and 1 Common Yellowthroat, Eastern Blueburd, Eastern Towhee, Field Sparrow, and Gray Catbird.

July 4: 28 birds of 12 species. 24 new birds including: 4 Prairie Warbler, 3 Baltimore Oriole, 3 Eastern Towhee, 3 Field Sparrow, 2 American Robin, 2 Gray Catbird, 2 Veery, and 1 each of Black-capped Chickadee, Brown Thrasher, Northern Mockingbird, Orchard Oriole, and Rose-breasted Gorsbeak.  Recaps included 3 Field Sparrow and a Brown Thrasher.

July 9: 34 birds of 12 species. 23 new birds including 9 Gray Catbird, 3 Baltimore Oriole, 2 Common Yellowthroat, 2 Eastern Towhee, 2 Field Sparrow, and 1 each of Black-billed Cuckoo,  Black-capped Chickadee, Blue Jay, Chestnut-sided Warbler, and Eastern Pheobe.  Recaps included 3 Common Yellowthroat, 3 Gray Catbird, 2 Field Sparrow, 2 Prairie Warbler and 1 Tufted Titmouse.

 

 

 

Neil @ 2:51 pm

Graduate student Grace Barber got some amazing footage yesterday of a colony of slave-maker ants raiding another colony in Blueberry Hill.

Click here to watch the video.

Exerpt from “A Field Guide to the Ants of New England”

“Polyergus species commonly have been called Amazon ants in reference to the mythical ancient warrior women, but they are found neither in Amazonia nor anywhere else in the tropics. . . Polyergus species enslave workers of a wide variety of Formica species. . . These ‘hard-working’ ants neither rear their own brood nor feed themselves; rather they steal brood from the nests of their hosts, which mature in the Polyergus nest under the care of Formica workers already living there and doing all the usual work that keeps a colony of ants functioning. The only time hard work is done by Polyergus is when all of the dozens to hundreds of Polyergus workers in a single colony leave the nest on a highly concerted brood-pillaging excursion to a nearby host Formica nest.” -p. 214

“Colonies of the host greatly outnumber those of the parasite, and it is not commonly collected. Most often encountered on warm, dry summer days during its late afternoon sorties to acquire F. incerta brood (mostly pupae). When the slave-makers are not outside, nests may appear as unusually large, robust nests of the enslaved host, F. incerta.” -p. 216