OSPREY NESTING PLATFORM MONITORING REPORT

Niagara Power Project (FERC No. 2216)

PREPARED BY: GOMEZ AND SULLIVAN, ENGINEERS and KLEINSCHMIDT ASSOCIATES

PREPARED FOR: NEW YORK POWER AUTHORITY

12/1/2013

© 2013. New York Power Authority. All Rights Reserved

For copies of this document, please contact:

Stephen Schoenwiesner, Liscensing Manager

New York Power Authority

123 Main Street

White Plains, NY 10601

(914) 287-3457

Steve.schoenwiesner@nypa.gov

 


TABLE OF CONTENTS

1. Introduction. 1

2. Platform Locations. 1

3. Objective. 7

4. Methods. 8

4.1. Osprey Use of Platforms. 8

4.2. Physical Condition of Platforms. 9

5. Results. 9

5.1. Platform Utilization. 9

5.2. Physical Condition of Platforms. 13

6. Discussion. 13

7. Recommendations. 15

8. References. 16

 

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 Adam’s Slip. 5

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

Figure 6. Osprey nesting platform activity observed in 2013. 12

LIST OF TABLES

Table 1.      Summary of Osprey Nesting Platform Configurations. 7

Table 2.      Summary of 2013 Observed Osprey Platform Use. 11

Table 3.      Summary of Annual Osprey Platform Monitoring Session Results. 15

List of Appendices

Appendix A. 2013 Monitoring Forms and Photographs


1        Introduction

The New York Power Authority's (NYPA) Niagara Power Project (Project) is licensed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The New York Power Authority, state and federal resource agencies, local governments, nongovernmental organizations, and other stakeholders signed a Comprehensive Relicensing Settlement Agreement in 2005 as part of the relicensing process 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. Five of the six platforms have been constructed to date. These nesting platforms 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. The New York Power Authority will conduct post-construction monitoring at the constructed platforms as part of the HIP, and will record activity observed at the two previously existing platforms. This report provides a summary of the 2013 monitoring effort, in which five NYPA Osprey nesting platforms and two previously installed platforms were monitored.

2        Platform Locations

NYPA installed the HIP’s first nesting platform (OP-1) in August 2007 in the northwest portion of Buckhorn Marsh, located in Buckhorn State Park. Two previously installed platforms within the park (OP-2 and OP-3) are also being monitored (Figure 1). NYPA erected the HIP’s second platform (OP-4) in spring 2009 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) near the Lake Erie shoreline south of Buffalo (Figure 3), and another at NYPA’s Adam’s Slip (OP-6) upstream of 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 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 Adam’s 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, feet)

OP-1

Buckhorn Marsh – West

August 2007

NYPA & National Grid

Caisson/untreated wood pole/NYPA-designed metal platform

68 ft./73 feet

OP-2

Buckhorn Marsh – East

pre-2007

NYSDEC & OPRHP

Utility pole/wood platform

Approx. 25 feet

OP-3

Buckhorn Marsh – Central

pre-2007

NYSDEC & OPRHP

Utility pole/wood platform

Approx. 25 feet

OP-4

East River Marsh

June 2009

NYPA

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

31 ft./ 36 feet

OP-5

Tifft Nature Preserve

March 2010

NYPA

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

55 ft./ 60 feet

OP-6

Adam’s Slip

March 2010

NYPA

Caisson/untreated wood pole/NYPA-designed metal platform

55 ft./ 60 feet

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 feet

3        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 spring 2009 (Kleinschmidt Associates 2009).

4        Methods

 Monitoring was conducted according to the Osprey Nesting Platform Monitoring Plan (Kleinschmidt Associates 2009), and field biologists from Gomez and Sullivan Engineers monitored seven platforms, OP-1 through OP-7, on May 1st, June 3rd, July 3rd, and August 1st of 2013. The September monitoring session was cancelled in 2013 because there had been no indication of Osprey nesting activity earlier in the nesting season. Incidental observations received throughout the year were also documented.

4.1     Osprey Use of Platforms

Initial observation of Osprey activity at OP-1 was conducted informally in 2007 and 2008. Routine monitoring of platforms installed by NYPA was conducted monthly, from May to September 2009, April to September 2010, May to August 2011, April to August 2012, and May to August 2013. 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. Digital photographs were also 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.

4.2     Physical Condition of Platforms

The physical condition of the NYPA-installed platforms, OP-1, OP-4, OP-5, OP-6, and OP-7, was also documented during each field visit. Overall condition was noted on the datasheet.

5        Results

Four monthly monitoring visits were made to the seven Osprey nesting platforms in 2013. Observations and photographs from these monitoring visits and incidental reports are included in Appendix A, and summarized in section 5.1.

5.1     Platform Utilization

In 2013, no platforms were used for nesting. No chicks were observed throughout the season. Osprey were seen in the vicinity of three poles.

Buckhorn Marsh – West (OP-1) – One Osprey was seen perching on the pole on May 1st. Three Osprey were flying overhead on June 3rd. An Osprey was seen sitting on the perch on July 3rd; it flew away within the first minute of monitoring and did not return. There were no signs that the nest material remaining on the platform from previous seasons is being used or maintained. In July, there was a nest on the nearby transmission tower where Osprey had been nesting prior to in the installation of OP-1. No Osprey were observed on the tower or nest. The owner of the tower was informed of this development. No Osprey were observed on or near the nesting platform on August 1st.

Buckhorn Marsh – East (OP-2) – No Osprey activity was observed in the vicinity of OP-2 during any of the 2013 monitoring sessions.

Buckhorn Marsh – Central (OP-3) – No Osprey activity was observed in the vicinity of OP-3 during any of the 2013 monitoring sessions.

East River Marsh (OP-4) – An Osprey was observed flying through the area of East River Marsh on July 3rd, but it did not land. No other Osprey activity was observed in the vicinity of OP-3 during any of the 2013 monitoring sessions.

Tifft Nature Preserve (OP-5) – The Preserve staff reported an Osprey pair arrived in April, and were seen frequently around the Preserve throughout the spring and summer. The pair was observed building a nest on the platform during the last week of April 2013; however, nesting was never observed by the Preserve staff or Gomez and Sullivan staff. The birds were not present during any of the monitoring sessions. No chicks were observed.

Adam’s Slip (OP-6) – There were no sightings of Osprey in the vicinity of the Adam’s Slip pole during any of the 2013 monitoring sessions.

Little Beaver Island (OP-7) – An Osprey landed on the platform perch during June 3rd monitoring and flew away after less than one minute. An individual Osprey was also observed sitting on the perch for over an hour on June 2nd and again on June 4th; however, there were no signs of nesting. No Osprey were seen using the actual nesting platform during any of the 2013 monitoring sessions.

Table 2 and Figure 6 summarize Osprey utilization of the nesting platforms.

Table 2.   Summary of 2013 Observed Osprey Platform Use

Site

Location

Condition/Status

Activity

OP-1

Buckhorn Marsh – West

Excellent condition

May-1 Osprey on perch

June- 3 Osprey flying overhead

July- 1 Osprey on perch, then flying overhead.

August- none

OP-2

Buckhorn Marsh – East

Not assessed

none

OP-3

Buckhorn Marsh – Central

Not assessed

none

OP-4

East River Marsh

Excellent condition

May- none

June- none

July- 1 Osprey flying overhead

August- none

OP-5

Tifft Nature Preserve

Excellent condition

May- none

June- none

July- none

August- none

OP-6

Adam’s Slip

Excellent condition

May- none

June- none

July- none

August- none

OP-7

Little Beaver Island

Excellent condition

May- none

June- 1 Osprey landed on perch

July- none

August- none

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

Figure 6.       Osprey nesting platform activity observed in 2013.

5.2     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 2013. These platforms appeared to be in excellent condition throughout the monitoring season, and no maintenance concerns were noted.

6        Discussion

The data thus far indicate that the Osprey nesting platforms installed by NYPA are functioning as intended by supporting foraging and nesting activities. Although no Osprey nesting occurred this year, six Osprey fledglings have been produced since 2009 at these platforms (Kleinschmidt Associates and Gomez and Sullivan Engineers 2010, 2012; Gomez and Sullivan Engineers, 2013). Osprey regularly use the platform structures as perches.

The platform at Buckhorn West was originally installed after Osprey nesting on a nearby electric transmission tower. No nesting activity was observed on this platform in 2013; however, a large nest was seen on the electric transmission tower in July 2013. NYPA informed National Grid, the tower owner, of the nest’s presence.

One Osprey was observed flying over East River Marsh in 2013. Incidental sightings of Osprey in the vicinity of Mid-River Marina and over Strawberry Island were also noted throughout the summer. The Tonawanda Coke crane is a known former nesting location that offers a higher elevation nesting opportunity, and may be a more desirable site than the nearby OP-4 site. Gomez and Sullivan observed an Osprey sitting within a protected area of the crane in June 2013. The attractiveness of the nesting platform at East River Marsh may increase if the proposed crane removal, which has been indefinitely delayed, is completed.

The staff at Tifft Nature Preserve suspect that the Osprey that regularly visit the Tifft nesting platform are nesting in a nearby abandoned grain elevator. In recent years, some of Buffalo’s grain elevators have changed owners or been slated for restoration. It is possible that Osprey may return to the Tifft nesting platform on their own, or if restoration begins on the nearby grain elevators.

Osprey continue to show interest in the Little Beaver Island platform; they have been seen using the perch, and hunting in the area. This activity may be a sign of use in future breeding seasons. These platforms provide key nesting opportunities as the Osprey population along the Upper Niagara River expands.

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

Site

Location

2008 ǂ

2009‡

2010

2011

2012

2013

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

Osprey nested and appeared to incubate eggs. No fledglings produced. Nest abandoned.

Osprey observed sitting on perch. Osprey observed flying overhead.

OP-2

Buckhorn Marsh - East

No Osprey activity observed

No Osprey activity observed

No Osprey activity observed

No Osprey activity observed

No Osprey activity observed

No Osprey activity observed

OP-3

Buckhorn Marsh - Central

No Osprey activity observed

No Osprey activity observed

No Osprey activity observed

No Osprey activity observed

No Osprey activity observed

No Osprey activity observed

OP-4

East River Marsh

- -

Installed after nesting season; Osprey observed using perch

3 Osprey observed at platform

No Osprey activity observed

No Osprey activity observed

1 Osprey observed in area

OP-5

Tifft Nature Preserve

- -

- -

1 Osprey observed at platform

Osprey produced one fledgling

Osprey nested and appeared to incubate chicks. No fledglings produced. Nest abandoned.

No Osprey activity observed

OP-6

Adam’s Slip

- -

- -

1 Osprey observed at platform

1 Osprey observed at platform

1 Osprey observed at platform. No nesting observed.

No Osprey activity observed

OP-7

Little Beaver Island

- -

- -

Installed after nesting season

3 Osprey observed at platform

1 Osprey observed in area. No nesting observed.

Osprey observed on the perch and flying overhead

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

ǂ  - Incidental monitoring

‡ - Routine monitoring began in May 2009

7        Recommendations

No structural issues with the nesting platforms were identified; therefore no repairs to the platforms are needed at this time. NYPA will conduct annual monitoring in 2014 in order to monitor Osprey activity and nesting platform and pole conditions. Incidental Osprey sighting will also continue to be documented.

8        References

Gomez and Sullivan Engineers and Kleinschmidt Associates. 2013. Osprey Nesting Platform Monitoring Report. Niagara Power Project, FERC No. 2216. Prepared by Kleinschmidt Associates. Prepared for New York Power Authority, White Plains, NY. March.

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.

Kleinschmidt Associates and Gomez and Sullivan Engineers. 2012. Osprey Nesting Platform Habitat Improvement Project:  2011  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.

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. 2013 Monitoring Forms and Photographs