Great Backyard Bird Count at Fire Island, William Floyd Estate on February 18
Contact: Paula Valentine, 631-687-4759
Contact: Kathy Krause, 631-687-4772
Fire Island National Seashore is supporting the 15th Annual Great Backyard Bird Count with three special guided bird walks this year. On Saturday, February 18, you can join one of these special walks at either end of Fire Island, or at the William Floyd Estate. Program starting times and duration vary by site.
For the past three years, GBBC walks have been conducted at the 613-acre William Floyd Estate, property that was the home of one of New York's four signers of the Declaration of Independence, William Floyd. The Estate is now managed by the National Park Service as part of Fire Island National Seashore, and includes a variety of habitats, from fields and woods, to streams, wetlands and salt marsh, and remnants of cultural plantings left by generations of Floyd family members. As you explore the expansive historic grounds, you'll find excellent habitat for birdlife. "By mid- to late February, some of the earliest migrant birds start to show up," stated MaryLaura Lamont, who has worked at the Estate for many years. "I always like to look for the red-winged blackbirds and grackles. It's a sure sign that spring is returning."
This year's effort to expand the formal programs to Seashore properties on the barrier island should generate a list containing a few additional avian species. "Almost every year, a snowy owl can be sighted on Fire Island beaches or dunes during the winter," stated long-time Wilderness Visitor Center volunteer Mike Trotta in late January 2012. "We saw one at Old Inlet a couple weeks ago." Another snowy owl (or perhaps the same one) has been spotted near the Fire Island Lighthouse.
One bird that we don't expect to see this early, however, is the piping plover. This tiny shorebird winters far to the south, and usually starts to arrive on Fire Island by mid-March. "The first piping plovers observed by our staff on Fire Island last year were spotted on March 12," stated wildlife biologist Lindsay Ries. Due to its status as a federally threatened and New York State endangered species, this inconspicuous little bird gets a lot of attention (and protection) during the spring and summer months, but does not usually get counted during Fire Island's GBBC program.
"Our strategy behind scheduling three programs in different park locations at about the same time," said Chief of Interpretation Kathy Krause, "is to capture a snapshot of winter birdlife, and contribute to a greater understanding of the distribution of species." Results from the GBBC could contribute to a better understanding of the impacts of global climate change on neotropical migrants. "But mainly," added Krause, "this is a really fun way for the general public to contribute to real-world science."
This is also a great excuse to get out for some fresh air and exercise during an educational wintertime beach walk, or a tour of the William Floyd Estate grounds, which is otherwise closed at this time of year.
For more information about these programs, contact Fire Island National Seashore at 631-281-3010.
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Download a printable copy of the Great Backyard Bird Count February Checklist for Fire Island National Seashore.
See complete Calendar of Events and Activities or download a copy of Fire Island National Seashore's monthly programs.