Osprey Nesting Platform Habitat Improvement Project:

2009 Monitoring Report

Niagara Power Project (FERC No. 2216)

June 2010

PREPARED BY:

Kleinschmidt Associates and

gomez and sullivan engineers

 

Prepared For:

New York Power AUTHORITY

 

©Copyright 2010.  New York Power Authority. All Rights Reserved        



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 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 and monitoring of six Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) nesting platforms at suitable locations along the Niagara River.  These nesting platforms will supplement two existing platforms 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) at Buckhorn Marsh prior to the initiation of this HIP.

In 2007, NYPA installed the first nesting platform (OP-1) under this HIP in the northwest portion of Buckhorn Marsh, located on the northern end of Grand Island.  This platform was used by a nesting pair of Osprey in spring 2008.  In spring 2009, NYPA erected the second platform (OP-4) on an offshore breakwater island at the East River Marsh on the southeastern tip of Grand Island.  The four remaining nesting platform locations scheduled for this HIP will be determined in the future.

The following sections of this report provide the 2009 results of annual monitoring of the two nesting platforms installed by NYPA under this HIP (OP-1, OP-4), as well as the two existing nesting platforms (OP-2 and OP-3) installed by NYSDEC and OPRHP. 

1.0       Objective

 

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

2.0       Methods

Monitoring was conducted according to the Osprey Nesting Platform Monitoring Plan (Kleinschmidt Associates 2009), as summarized below.

2.1     Osprey Use of Platforms

Platforms installed by NYPA were visually monitored monthly during the May to September nesting season beginning in 2009.  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 and field notes.  In addition, digital photographs were taken to record Osprey use and physical condition of platforms.  Information collected at each platform visit included the following:

·        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 and OP-4, was also documented during each field visit.  Overall condition and any observed structural deficiencies or other maintenance needs were noted on the data sheets.

           

2.3     Platforms Monitored in 2009

In 2009, field biologists from Gomez and Sullivan Engineers monitored the four platforms (Table 1) on May 28, June 17, July 16, August 17, and September 15.  Platforms OP-1, OP-2, and OP-3 are located in Buckhorn Marsh in Buckhorn State Park, and OP-4 is located at East River Marsh in Beaver Island State Park (Figures 1 and 2).

Table 1. Osprey Nesting Platforms Monitored in 2009

ID

Platform

Installation Date

Installed By

Foundation/Pole/ Platform Type

Platform Height/Pole Height

(ft above ground)

OP-1

Buckhorn Marsh - West

August 2007

NYPA & National Grid

Caisson/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 sleeve/ untreated wood pole/NYPA-designed metal platform

31 ft/36 ft

 


 

Figure 1. Osprey Platform Locations in Buckhorn Marsh


Figure 2. Osprey Nesting Platform in East River Marsh


3.0       Results

Five monthly monitoring visits were made to each of the four Osprey nesting platforms in 2009.  Observations were recorded on the field data sheets, which are included in Appendix A and summarized in Table 2.  Photographs taken in the field are included in Appendix B.  Monitoring results in 2009 documented nesting activity at one platform (OP-1) located at Buckhorn Marsh, however, the other two platforms at Buckhorn Marsh, OP-2 and OP-3, were not used.  OP-4 was installed at East River Marsh in June 2009, after the start of the breeding season.

Table 2.  Summary of 2009 Osprey Platform Monitoring Results.

Site

Location

Condition/Status

2009 Nesting Activity

OP-1

Buckhorn Marsh -west

Installed August 2007; Osprey may have laid an egg(s) in 2008, but subsequently abandoned the nest and no chicks fledged.

Excellent condition.

Nest building by Osprey

Male & female on nest

Nest tending

Incubation

Brooding

Feeding one chick

OP-2

Buckhorn Marsh-east

Not assessed

None observed

OP-3

Buckhorn Marsh -central

Not assessed

None observed

OP-4

East River Marsh

Installed June 2009 after spring nest building period; platform seeded with sticks during construction.

Excellent condition.

Osprey observed using perch

 

3.1     Platform Utilization

Two platforms were utilized during 2009.  Activities observed during the nesting season are described as follows.

OP-1 – The platform was installed in August 2007 in the western portion of Buckhorn Marsh to draw nesting Osprey off of a nearby transmission line tower.  Incidental observation of Osprey nesting at OP-1 was documented in 2008, in which the female appeared to have laid an egg(s), but subsequently abandoned the nest and no chicks fledged.  The monitoring program was initiated in 2009 and during the first visit in May 2009, a female Osprey was observed hunkered down on the nest while the foraging male returned periodically to the nest.  Neither Osprey appeared to be affected by bike activity observed along the access road near the nest.  During the June 17 visit, both the male and female were present at the nest.  The female was observed adding a stick to the nest and feeding a chick from fish brought back by the male.  When not hunting, the male guarded the nest from the perch installed above the platform.  While feeding the chick, the female was harassed by terns.  On the July 16 visit, only the male was on the nest, and one chick was observed.  On August 17, no activity was observed in the nest, although two Osprey were observed circling the area with fish in their talons.  No Osprey were observed near the nest on the September 15 visit.

 

OP-4 – Installation of OP-4 at East River Marsh occurred in June 2009 and the platform was “seeded” with a mock nest composed of twigs and branches (Appendix C).  This platform was installed well past the time that Osprey select and prepare nests.  No Osprey were observed at the nest during any of the monitoring visits (July, August or September).  In July, an Eagle Scout candidate constructed a bird observation blind in the distant tree line south of the platform.  Soon after, an Osprey was documented visiting the platform through an incidental observation by the public, which included an Osprey landing on the nesting platform and circling above the platform (Appendix D).  In another incidental observation, an Osprey was observed visiting OP-4 in early September (see Appendix D).

3.2     Physical Condition of Platforms

The NYPA platforms (OP-2 and OP-4) were visually inspected during each of the five monthly monitoring visits in 2009.  Both 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.  As previously noted, incidental observations indicated that Osprey nested at NYPA’s platform (OP-1) in Buckhorn Marsh in 2008, but no chicks were fledged.  In 2009, at least one chick was observed, indicating successful reproduction at this location despite bicycle and jogger activity on the nearby access trail.  At NYPA’s request, OPRHP closed the trail near the platform in an effort to limit nest disturbances.

 

Osprey visits to OP-4 at East River Marsh in July and September are promising indications that this platform may be used during the first full nesting season in 2010,  particularly because Osprey are known to investigate platforms in the first year after installation, before they begin nesting in subsequent years.  This behavior has been observed several times at platforms installed by NYPA’s St. Lawrence-FDR Power Project along the Lake St. Lawrence shoreline (Riveredge Associates 2009). A nesting pair of Osprey have been observed using an abandoned crane directly across the river from East River Marsh, and it is hoped that the Osprey will relocate to the nesting platform once the crane has been dismantled (reportedly scheduled for 2010). 

 

The physical condition of both platforms installed by this HIP is excellent and they do not require maintenance at this time.

 

Unlike the NYPA nesting platforms, the DEC nesting platforms (OP-3, OP-4) have not proven successful during the past three years of monitoring.  Osprey have not nested nor shown interest in the nesting platforms, although the reason for this is not clear.

 

5.0       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.

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

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
Field Data Collection Forms

See pfd version

 

Appendix B
Field Photographs From Monitoring Visits

See pfd version

 


 

Appendix C
Installation Photos for East River Marsh Platform

See pfd version

 

Appendix D
Photos from Incidental Observations
at East River Marsh


See pfd version