Protecting Common Nighthawk habitat in New York state’s urban areas
In his 14-year tenure as Director of Operations for Audubon’s New York State program, Rich Merritt has taken the lead on a multitude of conservation programs, including erecting Chimney Swift towers in state parks, coordinating Winter Raptor Surveys at the Fort Edward IBA, and conducting field surveys for Mountain Birdwatch in the high peaks of the Adirondacks. Additionally, his leadership has been pivotal to the restoration of more than 15 acres of native trees and plants in critical wading bird habitat on the East River as well as the removal of phragmites (an often invasive perennial grass) from Hudson River saltmarsh at Constitution Marsh Audubon Center and Sanctuary.
For Rich’s Fellowship project, he is eager to not build on the work listed above, but plans to challenge himself in order to achieve even greater conservation results. “This is an entirely new initiative for me and Audubon, yet is still very much aligned with our priorities.”
For Rich’s TogetherGreen Fellowship Project, the goal was to erect three Chimney Swift towers in city parks in the Capital Region (Albany and Troy). Chimney Swift populations have been declines in the eastern United States, largely because of habitat loss (eastern forests primarily and manmade chimneys secondarily). Rich executed a plan to build these artificial roosting and nesting towers, which can provide habitat for up to 150 of these birds.
The second part of Rich’s project was to involve schoolchildren in a letter-writing campaign to local decision-makers in an effort to get permission to build the towers and make a difference in their communities. The students displayed a sense of pride and excitement about their role that transcended all expectations. In Albany, Mayor Jennings gave each of the students “Heroes of Conservation” certificates in honor of their efforts to positively contribute to their community.