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Coastal Zone Grant Aids Erie Bird Observatory
New York Ag Connection - 05/17/2022

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Northwest Regional Director Erin Wells and colleagues today visited Fry's Landing on Presque Isle State Park to get a firsthand look at how the Erie Bird Observatory utilizes a 2022 DEP Coastal Zone Grant, issued earlier this year.

The Erie Bird Observatory (EBO), a non-profit dedicated to avian research, education, and conservation in Northwest Pennsylvania, was awarded $45,886 from DEP's Coastal Zone Grant Program. A portion of these funds aids in its bird banding program. That program, which began in 1960, runs April through October, depending on the weather.

"This is the second straight year the Erie Bird Observatory has received a Coastal Zone Grant," Wells said. "The research they are providing is vital in learning what types of birds are utilizing Presque Isles shoreline habitat and just how many birds are passing through."

Bird banding is a technique for studying birds that involves attaching a very lightweight metal band with a unique number etched on it to a bird's leg, allowing researchers to identify individual birds and study their habits and lifestyles, like their lifespan and migration patterns.

"Coastal areas such as the Lake Erie shoreline are heavily used by migrating birds during their seasonal migration between their wintering and nesting ranges," said EBO Executive Director Sarah Sargent, Ph.D. "Receiving this grant from the DEP allows us to continue our research and helps us understand the stopover ecology of these birds and the importance of coastal habitats to them during migration."

The bird banding project this year is utilizing additional technology, very small VHF radio transmitters that weigh a fraction of a gram, that are attached to the backs of five species of birds. These bands transmit every 10 seconds at 434MHz, and automated listening stations on and off the peninsula enable the EBO to determine how long the birds stay and use the local habitat. It also shows whether birds are using adjacent areas on the city side of the shipping canal and provides the flight directions of the birds once they leave the area to continue the next leg of their journey.

EBO's grant was one of six projects receiving funding from this year's Coastal Zone Grants which totaled more than $250,000.

The grants aim to protect and restore the Lake Erie Coastal Zone, which is under increasing pressure from development, erosion, biodiversity loss, and pollution. Grants are awarded to projects related to fisheries, wetlands, recreation, public education, coastal hazards such as bluff recession, and other areas.


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