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

1/7/2013

© 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

5.1Platform Utilization.. 9

5.2 Physical Condition of Platforms. 13

6 Discussion.. 13

7 Recommendations. 14

8 References. 15

 

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. Location of ALL Osprey nesting platform activity observed in 2012. 12

 

LIST OF TABLES

Table 1. Summary of Osprey Nesting Platform Configurations. 7

Table 2. Summary of 2012 Osprey Platform USE.. 11

Table 3. Summary of Annual Osprey Platform Monitoring Session Results. 14

 

List of Appendices

Appendix A 2012 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.  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. The New York Power Authority will conduct post-construction monitoring at the six constructed platforms as part of the HIP, and will record activity observed at the two existing platforms. This report provides a summary of the 2012 monitoring effort, in which five NYPA Osprey nesting platforms and two previously installed platforms were monitored.

2 Platform Locations

NYPA installed the first nesting platform (OP-1) in August 2007, under this HIP, 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) on 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 April 13th, June 11th, July 10th, and August 9th of 2012.  Based on data from prior years (Kleinschmidt Associates and Gomez and Sullivan Engineers 2010, 2011, 2012), the 2012 monitoring period was refined to focus on the most active period of nesting activity, with observations in April instead of May.  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, and April to August 2012.  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,

·         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 2012.  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 2012, two platforms were used for nesting. No chicks were observed throughout the season. Osprey were seen in the vicinity of four poles.

Buckhorn Marsh – West (OP-1) – Two Osprey were seen perching on the pole April 13th. The pair was present during monitoring on June 11th and a nest had been built on the platform; it appeared that the female was incubating eggs. An Osprey was seen sitting on the pole’s perch on July 10th, but there were no signs of incubation or of chicks.  No Osprey were observed on or near the nesting platform on August 9th.

Buckhorn Marsh – East (OP-2) – No Osprey activity was observed in the vicinity of OP-2 throughout the 2012 monitoring sessions.

Buckhorn Marsh – Central (OP-3) – No Osprey activity was observed in the vicinity of OP-3 throughout the 2012 monitoring sessions.

East River Marsh (OP-4) – There was one incidental sighting by Gomez and Sullivan Engineers (GSE) staff, during work unrelated to Osprey monitoring, of an Osprey sitting on the pole on August 20th. No other Osprey activity was observed in the vicinity of OP-3 throughout the 2012 monitoring sessions.

Tifft Nature Preserve (OP-5) – The Preserve staff reported an Osprey pair arrived in April. The pair was seen building a nest on the platform during the April 13th visit and seemed to be tending the nest during the June 11th monitoring session. No chicks were observed. The Preserve staff reported that the Osprey abandoned the nest the weekend of June 23rd, but they had still been seen in the area frequently (more than once a week). An Osprey carrying a fish was seen flying in the northeast section of the Preserve on August 9th but no activity was observed in the vicinity of the pole.

Adam’s Slip (OP-6) – In June there was one incidental sighting of an Osprey flying near the Adam’s Slip pole by Gomez and Sullivan staff. One Osprey was sitting on the pole platform on August 9th. There was no evidence of nest building present. The bird took off and flew toward Canada within 2 minutes of observation.

Little Beaver Island (OP-7) – One Osprey was seen flying and fishing in the vicinity of the pole on June 11th, but it did not land. On August 12th kayakers found an Osprey caught in the wildlife deterrence system used to protect plantings within the Little Beaver Island marsh, near the nesting platform pole. The kayakers untangled the Osprey and brought it to a local SPCA for recovery and the Osprey was subsequently released unharmed. No Osprey were seen using the pole during the 2012 monitoring sessions.

Table 2 and Figure 6 summarize Osprey utilization of poles.

Table 2. Summary of 2012 Osprey Platform USE

Site

Location

Condition/Status

Activity

OP-1

Buckhorn Marsh – West

Excellent condition

April- 2 Osprey perched on pole

June- Osprey tending nest and possibly incubating eggs.

July- 1 Osprey on perch and then pair 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

April- none

June- none

July- none

August- 1 incidental sighting of an Osprey sitting on the pole.

OP-5

Tifft Nature Preserve

Excellent condition

April- Osprey pair feeding in the area and building a nest on the pole.

June- Osprey pair tending nest on pole.

July- none

August- none

OP-6

Adam’s Slip

Excellent condition

April- none

June- none

July- none

August- Osprey sitting on pole. Flew across Niagara River during monitoring session

OP-7

Little Beaver Island

Excellent condition

April- none

June- none

July- none

August- none

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

 

Figure 6. Location of All Osprey nesting platform activity observed in 2012.

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 2012.  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, although no Osprey fledglings were produced this year, six Osprey fledglings have been produced since 2009 at these platforms (Kleinschmidt Associates and Gomez and Sullivan Engineers 2010 and 2012).  There were no indications that the platforms required maintenance.  Osprey nested at NYPA’s platform (OP-1) in Buckhorn Marsh during each of the 5 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.  Incubation of eggs may have occurred, but there was no evidence of hatched chicks at OP-1 in 2012. Although a pair of Osprey successfully fledged a single chick from OP-5 (Tifft) in 2011, it is unclear why a pair abandoned their nest in June 2012 but continued to visit the area.

No Osprey were observed at East River Marsh (OP-4) in 2012.  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.  Note however that no nesting activity was observed at the crane site in 2012.  The attractiveness of the nesting platform at East River Marsh may increase if the proposed crane removal, which has been indefinitely delayed, is completed.

Osprey continue to show interest in the Adam’s Slip and Little Beaver Island platforms, and this 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

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.

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

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

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

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.

OP-6

Adam’s Slip

- -

- -

1 Osprey observed at platform

1 Osprey observed at platform

1 Osprey observed at platform. No nesting observed.

OP-7

Little Beaver Island

- -

- -

Installed after nesting season

3 Osprey observed at platform

1 Osprey observed in area. No nesting observed.

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

ǂ  - Incidental monitoring

‡ - Routine monitoring began in May 2009

 

7 Recommendations

There were no structural issues identified, an no repairs of changes to the platforms appear to be needed at this time.  NYPA’s monitoring of the seven constructed Osprey poles will continue through 2013. Incidental sighting will also continue to be documented to inform other projects related to Osprey populations.   

8 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.

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.

2012 Monitoring Forms and Photographs