Thursday, October 20, 2016

NJ Meadowlands moving to stop methane bird burns

Kestrel with singed tail feathers - Jill Homcy photo

After years of complaints by environmental advocates, a state agency indicated Wednesday that it is taking steps to prevent raptors and other birds from getting singed wings and tails as they fly through a nearly invisible flame that burns off methane at a landfill in the Meadowlands.

James M. O'Neill reports for
he Record

The agency responsible for the landfill met with federal wildlife officials Wednesday and said it will start clearing vegetation around the area to remove attractive areas for birds to perch around the flame.

The New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority plans to have landscapers start the work by the end of this week. The agency, which oversees the Kingsland Landfill in Lyndhurst, has retained a consultant to inspect the flare and see whether a "spiky crown" could be installed on top of the flame to keep birds away, or whether any other alterations could be made to ensure that the flare is safer for birds.

"They’ve come a long way from where they were just a few weeks ago. It’s certainly a positive development," said Don Torino, president of the Bergen County Audubon Society, which has complained to the agency for two years about the problem. "I’m cautiously optimistic."

Torino said, however, that none of the proposed changes address the issue of birds flying through the flame.

Torino and other birders have seen a number of species with singed wing and tail feathers, including rough-legged hawks, osprey and American kestrels, a small hawk with declining populations that is considered threatened in New Jersey. One raptor was found hiding in a drainage pipe near the landfill, unable to fly, Torino said.

He said birders have also seen smaller birds, including starlings, flying through the nearly invisible flame. "They get torched, hit the ground and run into the vegetation," he said. "There are probably a lot more birds being injured than we can even tell."

In an email, Christine Sanz, the sports authority’s senior vice president, told authority President Wayne Hasenbalg that the agency met with two special agents from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the landfill Wednesday and came up with a list of initial steps.

The service will try to find an extra camera to watch the flare and see just how many birds are being affected. The federal agency will also contact the Public Service Electric and Gas Co. to discuss ways to make the utility’s poles and other infrastructure in the area less appealing as spots for birds to perch.

"We are making good progress and moving as quickly as we can to address the issues you have raised," Hasenbalg told Torino in an email Wednesday.

Read the full story here

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