News Stories

West Hill Dam team, bird watchers participate in bird counting event

USACE, New England District
Published March 8, 2019
West Hill Dam Backyard Bird Count 2019

Park Ranger Viola Bramel talks with bird watchers before their 1.5 mile hike.

Local bird watchers descended upon West Hill Dam armed with pen, paper and a few binoculars to participate in West Hill Dam’s annual Backyard Bird Count.  The event took place Feb. 17 and was co-hosted by the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology.  The organization has been hosting the count at District project for 20 years.

“The annual Backyard Bird Count is a nationwide program held every February,” said Park Ranger and event organizer Viola Bramel.  “Worldwide hikers, visitors and even seniors at home by their own feeders share their observations.”

Bramel said that the Cornell Lab plots the observations on global maps to show migration, population trends and environmental factors that impact birds.  Cornell Lab says that scientists use information from the Great Backyard Bird Count, along with observations from other citizen-science projects to get the “big picture” about what is happening to bird populations.

This year, 20 participants kept a sharp eye out for West Hill’s feathered residents during a 1.5-mile hike.  Volunteers included Scouts, Advanced Rangers and adult bird enthusiasts.   The group hiked to observe four habitats at West Hill – riparian-river, wetlands, grassland and open field with a forested edge.  “We followed protocol from Cornell, observing each habitat for 15 minutes,” said Bramel.

Patience paid off for the bird lovers – the group saw a flock of hooded Mergansers, a black-eyed Junco, an Eastern Bluebird, three ducks, a Blue Jay, a flock of Chickadees, three Canadian Geese and two Bald Eagles.

After a successful bird count, the Scouts and Advanced Junior Rangers put their campfire skills to good use and built a fire.  Volunteers and Bramel provided hot chocolate and marshmallows for the adventurers to enjoy by the fire.  “We reviewed our observations while enjoying the campfire,” said Bramel.  “It was so nice to have so many people just spending a great day outside in the park and away from electronics.”

Long-time volunteer Linda Letha assisted Bramel in running the event.

Launched in 1998 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society, the Great Backyard Bird Count was the first online citizen-science project to collect data on wild birds and to display results in near real-time.

According to their website, more than 160,000 people of all ages worldwide join the four-day count each February to create an annual snapshot of the distribution and abundance of birds.  In 2018, Great Backyard Bird Count participants in more than 100 countries counted more than 6,400 species of birds on more than 180,000 checklists.  Scientists and bird enthusiasts can learn a lot by knowing where the birds are. Bird populations are dynamic; they are constantly in flux. No single scientist or team of scientists could hope to document and understand the complex distribution and movements of so many species in such a short time.

The Backyard Bird Count is only one of many events West Hill Dam hosts.  For more information on upcoming events, visit their website at

The Pawcatuck River Coastal Storm Risk Management Feasibility Study

   This proposed plan is presented  to facilitate public involvement in the review and commenting on the remedy selection process for the Nantucket Memorial Airport (NMA) Formerly Used Defense Site (FUDS.) 
    The Army Corps of Engineers is proposing a No Action under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act for the Munitions Response Site-1, Project Number D01MA049901 at NMA located on Nantucket Island, MA.  The proposal was prepared using the Guide to Preparing Superfund Proposed Plans, Records of Decision, and Other Remedy Selection Decision Documents (USEPA, 1999).
    The final decision for NMA Site-1 site will be made after reviewing and considering all information submitted during the public comment period. The proposed decision may be modified based on new information or public comments. The public is encouraged to review and comment on the proposed plan.
    The FUDS program addresses the potential explosives safety, health, and environmental issues resulting from past munitions use at former defense sites under the Department of Defense (DoD) Military Munitions Response Program, established by the U.S. Congress under the Defense Environmental Restoration Program.  
    FUDS only applies to properties that transferred from DoD before October 17, 1986 and the first priority of USACE is the protection of human health, safety, and the environment. 
    The Army is the executive agent for the FUDS Program, and USACE is the lead agency for investigation/reporting and remedial decision-making at this munitions site with regulatory support provided by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP).

Updated: 05 December 2016