Osprey Nesting Platform Habitat Improvement Project: 2011 Monitoring Report

Niagara Power Project (FERC No. 2216)

January 2012

Prepared by: Kleinschmidt Associates and Gomez and Sullivan Engineers

Prepared for: New York Power Authority

TABLE OF CONTENTS

1.0        Introduction.. 1

2.0        Platform Locations. 1

3.0        Objective.. 7

4.0        Methods. 8

4.1        Osprey Use of Platforms. 8

4.2        Physical Condition of Platforms. 9

5.0        Results. 9

5.1        Platform Utilization.. 10

5.2        Physical Condition of Platforms. 11

6.0        discussion.. 11

7.0        Recommendations. 12

8.0        References. 13

LIST OF FIGURES

Figure 1.     Location of Osprey Nesting Platforms at Buckhorn Marsh. 2

Figure 2.     Location of Osprey Nesting Platform at East River Marsh. 3

Figure 3.     Location of Osprey Nesting Platform at Tifft Nature Preserve. 4

Figure 4.     Location of Osprey Nesting Platform at Adams Slip. 5

Figure 5.     Location of Osprey Nesting Platform at Little Beaver Island. 6

LIST OF TABLES

Table 1.       Summary of Osprey Nesting Platform Configurations. 7

Table 2.       Summary of 2011 Osprey Platform Monitoring Results. 9

Table 3.       Summary of Annual Osprey Platform Monitoring Results. 12

List of Appendices

Appendix A – 2011 Field Data and Photographs

Appendix B – Incidental Observation at Tifft Nature Preserve

1.0       Introduction

The New York Power Authority's (NYPA) Niagara Power Project (Project) is licensed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).  As part of the relicensing process, NYPA, state and federal resource agencies, local governments, nongovernmental organizations, and other stakeholders signed a Comprehensive Relicensing Settlement Agreement in 2005 that requires NYPA to develop several habitat improvement projects (HIPs) in the vicinity of Project lands and waters. 

One of the HIPs includes the construction of six Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) nesting platforms at suitable locations along the Niagara River.  These nesting platforms will supplement two existing platforms in Buckhorn Marsh that were installed by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) and New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) prior to the initiation of this HIP. As part of the HIP, NYPA will conduct post-construction monitoring at the six constructed platforms, as well as record utilization of the two existing platforms.

This report provides a summary of the 2011 monitoring effort, in which five NYPA Osprey nesting platforms were monitored along with the two previously installed platforms.

2.0       Platform Locations

In August 2007, NYPA installed the first nesting platform (OP-1) under this HIP in the northwest portion of Buckhorn Marsh, located in Buckhorn State Park near two previously installed platforms (OP-2 and OP-3) that are also being monitored (Figure 1).  In spring 2009, NYPA erected the HIP’s second platform (OP-4) on an offshore breakwater island in East River Marsh, located in Beaver Island State Park (Figure 2).  In March 2010, two platforms were installed, one at Tifft Nature Preserve (OP-5) on the Lake Erie shoreline south of Buffalo (Figure 3), and another at NYPA’s Adams Slip (OP-6) above Niagara Falls (Figure 4).  The fifth platform for this HIP was installed at Little Beaver Island (OP-7) in Beaver Island State Park (Figure 5) in October 2010, after the end of the 2010 nesting and monitoring season.

Figure 1.    Location of Osprey Nesting Platforms at Buckhorn Marsh

Figure 2.    Location of Osprey Nesting Platform at East River Marsh

Figure 3.    Location of Osprey Nesting Platform at Tifft Nature Preserve

Figure 4.    Location of Osprey Nesting Platform at Adams Slip

Figure 5.    Location of Osprey Nesting Platform at Little Beaver Island

The location of the last nesting platform scheduled for this HIP will be determined in the future. Table 1 summarizes the configuration of the installed Osprey Nesting Platforms.

Table 1.   Summary of Osprey Nesting Platform Configurations

ID

Platform

Installed

Installed By

Foundation/Pole/Platform Type

Platform Height/Pole Height

(above ground)

OP-1

Buckhorn Marsh – West

August 2007

NYPA & National Grid

Caisson/untreated wood pole/NYPA-designed metal platform

68 ft./73 ft.

OP-2

Buckhorn Marsh – East

pre-2007

NYSDEC & OPRHP

Utility pole/wood platform

Approx. 25 ft.

OP-3

Buckhorn Marsh – Central

pre-2007

NYSDEC & OPRHP

Utility pole/wood platform

Approx. 25 ft.

OP-4

East River Marsh

June 2009

NYPA

H-pile and steel sleeve/untreated wood pole/NYPA-designed metal platform

31 ft./ 36 ft.

OP-5

Tifft Nature Preserve

March 2010

NYPA

Concrete collar around untreated wood pole/NYPA-designed metal platform

55 ft./ 60 ft.

OP-6

Adams Slip

March 2010

NYPA

Caisson/untreated wood pole/NYPA-designed metal platform

55 ft./ 60 ft.

OP-7

Little Beaver Island

October 2010

NYPA

H-pile and steel sleeve in stone base/untreated wood pole/NYPA-designed metal platform

47 ft./ 52 ft.

1.0       Objective

Monitoring requirements for this HIP were outlined in the HIPs Report (Kleinschmidt Associates and Riveredge Associates 2005). The monitoring objectives are to determine if the platforms are being utilized by target (i.e., Osprey) or non-target (i.e., Bald Eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus) species during the 5-year period following installation and to annually inspect the structural integrity of NYPA’s platforms to identify maintenance needs. Monitoring commenced in 2009 (Kleinschmidt 2009).

2.0       Methods

 In 2011, field biologists from Gomez and Sullivan Engineers monitored seven platforms, OP-1 through OP-7, on May 10, June 16, July 14, and August 12.  Monitoring was conducted according to the Osprey Nesting Platform Monitoring Plan (Kleinschmidt Associates 2009), as summarized below.  Based on data from prior years (Kleinschmidt Associates and Gomez and Sullivan Engineers 2010 and 2011), the 2011 monitoring period was refined to focus on the most active period of nesting activity, from May through August.  Incidental observations received throughout the year were also documented.

2.1     Osprey Use of Platforms

Platforms installed by NYPA were visually monitored monthly, from May to September, 2009, from April to September, 2010 and May to August, 2011.  Observations were made with binoculars to record activity at the nests while maintaining a distance sufficient to minimize disturbance to the birds. Standardized field data sheets were used to record observations.  In addition, digital photographs were taken to document Osprey use and physical condition of platforms.  Information collected at each platform visit included:

·         date and time of observation,

·         length of observation period,

·         weather conditions,

·         observed Osprey activities (e.g., nest building activity),

·         evidence of egg incubation or young in the nest,

·         number of young observed,

·         nearby activity that may affect Osprey nesting on the platform,

·         platform condition, and

·         digital photograph file numbers and notes.

2.2     Physical Condition of Platforms

The physical condition of the NYPA-installed platforms, specifically OP-1, OP-4, OP-5, OP-6, and OP-7 was also documented during each field visit.  Overall condition and any observed structural deficiencies or other maintenance needs were noted on the data sheets.

3.0       Results

Four monthly monitoring visits were made to seven Osprey nesting platforms in 2011.  Observations and photographs from these monitoring visits are included in Appendix A, and summarized in Table 2.

Table 2.   Summary of 2011 Osprey Platform Monitoring Results.

Site

Location

Condition/Status

Activity

OP-1

Buckhorn Marsh – West

Excellent condition

Adult on nest

Nest tending

Incubation

Brooding

Feeding

2 fledglings produced from nest

OP-2

Buckhorn Marsh – East†

Not assessed

Osprey in the area

OP-3

Buckhorn Marsh – Central†

Not assessed

None observed

OP-4

East River Marsh

Excellent condition

None observed

OP-5

Tifft Nature Preserve

Excellent condition

Osprey in the area

Adult pair on nest

Nest tending

Incubation

Brooding/Shading

Chicks (1 observed, possibly 2)

Feeding

1 fledgling produced from nest

OP-6

Adams Slip

Excellent condition

Osprey on perch in June

OP-7

Little Beaver Island

Excellent condition

3 Osprey observed in the area

† - Installed by NYSDEC and OPRHP prior to NYPA’s HIP

3.1     Platform Utilization

In 2011, two platforms were used for nesting and fledged three chicks.  One other NYPA platform was visited by Osprey during the year.  Activities observed during the nesting season included:

Buckhorn Marsh – West (OP-1) – During the first visit on May 10th Osprey were observed in the area, but none were seen on the existing nest built in previous years.  Based on conversations with OPRHP staff, it was believed that Osprey were actively using the nest despite the lack of an Osprey present at the time of the first visit.  On June 16th, adult Ospreys were observed within the vicinity of the nest, and exhibited behaviors such as brooding and shading by the adult; the presence of two chicks was also documented.  The Osprey did not appear to be affected by bike activity observed along the access road near the nest.  One adult was observed on the perch and two fledglings were observed in the nest during the July 14th visit.  On August 12th no adults were observed at the nest, but a juvenile Osprey was observed at the site. 

Buckhorn Marsh – East (OP-2) – One Osprey was observed in the vicinity of the platform on August 12th.  There was no other indication of Osprey interest in the NYSDEC/OPRHP platform observed during the other monthly monitoring visits.  During the July visit, a Great Blue Heron was observed standing on the nesting platform.

Buckhorn Marsh – Central (OP-3) – No indication of Osprey interest in the NYSDEC/OPRHP platform was observed during the monthly monitoring visits.  A Great Blue Heron was standing on the nesting platform at the time of the July visit.

East River Marsh (OP-4) – In 2011, no Osprey were observed at the platform during any of the monthly monitoring visits.  A Great Blue Heron was observed near the platform during the July visit.

Tifft Nature Preserve (OP-5) – The Preserve Manager reported that Osprey were building a nest on the platform from April 18th through April 21st, prior to the start of scheduled monitoring activities (Appendix B).  On May 5th, their nest was evident and Osprey were observed utilizing the perch and platform, tending the nest and exhibiting brooding, shading and incubation behavior.  On June 16th, one adult was observed on the nest and one on the perch above the platform.  On July 14th, evidence of shading was observed and one chick was visible.  On August 12th, a single fledgling was observed and both adults were seen tending the nest and feeding.

Adams Slip (OP-6) – No Ospreys were observed at the platform during any of the monthly monitoring visits.  However, a NYSDEC employee observed a single Osprey perched on the OP-6 platform on June 28th; no other evidence of activity was observed. 

Little Beaver Island (OP-7) – On August 12th, 2011, three Osprey were observed in the vicinity of the platform.  One Osprey was observed on the perch at the top of the pole.  No other evidence of activity was observed during the year.

3.2     Physical Condition of Platforms

The NYPA platforms (OP-1, OP-4, OP-5, OP-6, and OP-7) were visually inspected during each of the four monthly monitoring visits in 2011.  All platforms appeared to be in excellent condition throughout the monitoring season, and no maintenance concerns were noted.

4.0       discussion

Early indications are that the Osprey nesting platforms installed by NYPA are functioning as intended, with six Osprey fledglings produced to date at these platforms (Kleinschmidt Associates and Gomez and Sullivan Engineers 2010 and 2011).  There were also no indications that the platforms required maintenance.  Osprey have nested at NYPA’s platform (OP-1) in Buckhorn Marsh during each of the 4 years since its installation in August 2007 (Table 3).  One chick fledged from the nest in 2009, two chicks fledged in 2010, and two chicks fledged in 2011, indicating successful reproduction at this location despite bicycle and jogger activity on the nearby access trail.  In addition and for the first time, a pair of Osprey using OP-5 (Tifft) successfully fledged a single chick in 2011.

No Osprey were observed at East River Marsh (OP-4) in 2011.  The Tonawanda Coke crane is an established nesting location that offers a much higher nesting opportunity.  The removal of the crane, originally scheduled for 2009, has been delayed, but once completed should increase the attractiveness of the nesting platform at East River Marsh.

It is also encouraging that Osprey were showing interest in the Adams Slip and Little Beaver Island  platforms, and this may be a sign of use in future breeding seasons.  The Adams Slip platform will provide key nesting opportunities as the Osprey population along the Upper Niagara River grows and expands.

Table 3.   Summary of Annual Osprey Platform Monitoring Results.

Site

Location

2008

2009‡

2010

2011

OP-1

Buckhorn Marsh - West

Osprey nested with possible egg; nest later abandoned with no fledglings produced

Osprey produced one fledgling

Osprey produced two fledglings

Osprey produced two fledglings

OP-2

Buckhorn Marsh - East†

No nesting observed

No nesting observed

No nesting observed

Osprey observed in area

OP-3

Buckhorn Marsh - Central†

No nesting observed

No nesting observed

No nesting observed

No nesting observed

OP-4

East River Marsh

- -

Installed after nesting season; Osprey observed using perch

3 Osprey observed at platform

No nesting observed

OP-5

Tifft Nature Preserve

- -

- -

1 Osprey observed at platform

Osprey produced one fledgling

OP-6

Adams Slip

- -

- -

1 Osprey observed at platform

1 Osprey observed at platform

OP-7

Little Beaver Island

- -

- -

Installed after nesting season

3 Osprey observed at platform

† - Installed by NYSDEC and OPRHP prior to NYPA’s HIP

‡ - Formal monitoring began in May 2009

5.0       Recommendations

Monitoring data from 2009 through 2011 indicate that Osprey nesting activity in the Upper Niagara River region begins in April and continues until the Osprey young fledge in July.  As such, the monitoring period was adjusted to start in early May and end in August.  Based on the results of 2011 monitoring, we recommend that in 2012 monitoring  be conducted from early May through August.

6.0       References

Kleinschmidt Associates. 2009. Osprey Nesting Platform Monitoring Plan. Niagara Power Project, FERC No. 2216. Prepared by Kleinschmidt Associates. Prepared for New York Power Authority, White Plains, NY. June.

Kleinschmidt Associates and Gomez and Sullivan Engineers. 2010. Osprey Nesting Platform Habitat Improvement Project:  2009 Monitoring Report. Niagara Power Project, FERC No. 2216. Prepared by Kleinschmidt Associates and Gomez and Sullivan Engineers. Prepared for New York Power Authority, White Plains, NY. June.

Kleinschmidt Associates and Gomez and Sullivan Engineers. 2011. Osprey Nesting Platform Habitat Improvement Project:  2010  Monitoring Report. Niagara Power Project, FERC No. 2216. Prepared by Kleinschmidt Associates and Gomez and Sullivan Engineers. Prepared for New York Power Authority, White Plains, NY. April.

Riveredge Associates. 2010. Osprey Nesting Platform Habitat Improvement Project. Results of 2009 Monitoring. St. Lawrence-FDR Power Project, FERC No. 2000. Prepared by Riveredge Associates, LLC. Prepared for New York Power Authority, White Plains, NY. May.

Kleinschmidt Associates and Riveredge Associates. 2005. Investigation of Habitat Improvement Projects for the Niagara Power Project, Niagara Power Project, FERC No. 2216 – Volume 1: Public. Prepared by Kleinschmidt Associates and Riveredge Associates. Prepared for New York Power Authority, White Plains, NY. August.

Appendix A – 2011 Field Data and Photographs

See pdf version for Appendix

Appendix B – Incidental Observation at Tifft Nature Preserve

See pdf version for Appendix