Hows The Water

4.11.12 NestWatch

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is asking for assistant from citizen scientist across the continent.  Birds are nest-building now, and the researchers at Cornell need assistance in collecting data on the nesting success of bird species.  Perhaps there’s an American Robin building her mud-and-grass bowl on your porch light, or a Northern Mockingbird weaving a twiggy nest in your shrubs. If you find a nest nearby, you have a front-row seat to the daily drama of bird life.

Spring is also the perfect opportunity to become part of the NestWatch project at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. NestWatch has been tracking trends in the nesting success of hundreds of species of birds across the country for more than 40 years. “It’s only when many thousands of volunteers are collecting data over a vast area that scientists can fully measure the impacts of environmental change and land use on breeding birds,” says Jason Martin, NestWatch project leader.

NestWatch participants visit one or more nests or nest boxes every three to four days and report what they see at – including information such as when the first eggs are laid, total number of eggs and young, and when the hatchlings take their first faltering flights. Volunteers do a bit of online training to understand how best to observe nesting birds without disturbing them, and learn the best time to check nests and how to avoid accidentally leading predators to them.  Participants also get some tips on how to find nests.

“Look for birds carrying bits of grass, twigs, feathers, and other nesting material and remember where they go,” says Martin. “Males sing to mark their territories so if you see male birds singing, there’s probably a nest nearby.”

Participation in NestWatch is free and open to anyone who is interested in birds and nature. Signing up is easy via the NestWatch website There are online tutorials and a chance to share experiences with others on Facebook.  This is a wonderful opportunity to participate in valuable research.  Shifting bird populations, sudden decreases in breeding success, help to inform where conservation efforts should be directed.  Impacts on bird populations may be a symptom of a more widespread ecological threat.  This would also be a great classroom project for a school.


High winds on Monday April 2 delayed the opening of Friends of the Bay’s Our water quality monitoring season.  It will begin on April 9th and will continue until the end of October.  If you are interested in assisting in our effort to preserve and protect the waters of the Oyster Bay/Cold Spring Harbor estuary, or want to report an activity that may be threatening the estuary/watershed please visit us online at or give us a call at 516-922-6666.  Friends of the Bay’s mission is to preserve, protect and restore the ecological integrity and productivity of the Oyster Bay/Cold Spring Harbor estuary and the surrounding watershed.