Conserve Wildlife Blog

July 30th, 2015

Lights, Camera, Action: Conserve Wildlife Foundation Releases New Video

New Video Showcases CWF’s Work to Protect the Garden State’s Wildlife

By: Lindsay McNamara, Communications Manager

Conserve Wildlife Foundation is thrilled to release a new video as an “introduction” to our work, keeping New Jersey’s wildlife in our future! We are a private, non-profit organization dedicated to the protection and preservation of New Jersey’s endangered and threatened wildlife and the habitats they depend on.

 

As the video demonstrates, we utilize science, research, wildlife management, habitat restoration, education and volunteer stewardship to help conserve and protect a variety of at-risk species of wildlife in New Jersey, the most densely populated state in the nation.

 

The video was produced by Tyler Grimm, a video intern with Conserve Wildlife Foundation.

 

Want to get involved? Learn more about Conserve Wildlife Foundation on our website.

 

Lindsay McNamara is the Communications Manager for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.

 

July 29th, 2015

First Trip to the Beach for Newark Students

50 Fifth Grade Students from Ann Street School in Newark Visit Island Beach State Park

by Lindsay McNamara, Communications Manager 

Ann Street School students taking a "shellfie" on the beach.

Ann Street School students taking a “shellfie” on the beach.

Remember the awe and wonder of your first visit to the beach? For many fifth graders from Newark, they experienced just that feeling this summer thanks to Conserve Wildlife Foundation (CWF) and PSEG.

 

Through CWF’s WILDCHILD program, over 50 fifth grade students from Ann Street School in Newark spent a day at Island Beach State Park and learned more about nature and human impact on New Jersey’s wildlife and environment.

 

The Ann Street School students were thrilled at the sight of an active osprey nest, observed through a spotting scope, as CWF’s Habitat Program Manager and osprey expert Ben Wurst detailed the amazing ongoing recovery of New Jersey’s osprey population. The students also went on guided maritime forest hikes, toured the Island Beach State Park Nature Center, and connected their everyday actions to the larger environment.

 

“There is nothing quite as evocative and inspiring for a child as spending a day at the seashore, feeling the sand under your feet with the tangy fragrances of salt marsh and surf,” said David Wheeler, CWF Executive Director. “This connection with nature, and chance to experience the abundant wildlife of Island Beach — from red foxes to horseshoe crabs to black skimmers — can help our next generation of outdoor leaders become engaged with the natural world around us.”

 

Island Beach State Park interpretive staff led enlightening programs on the beach, where many students collected shells and walked in the sand for the first time in their lives. Interpretive staff also took the Ann Street School students seining on Barnegat Bay, where they dragged a large seine net out into the bay. Students got to hold mud snails, minnows and hermit crabs, and microorganisms in learning firsthand about the marine life in Barnegat Bay.

 

“The visit to Island Beach State Park is a culminating experience for my students. They spend the year researching and learning more about wildlife for the Species on the Edge Art and Essay Contest, and then the trip brings it all together. The trip is where they can see the different ecosystems and animals that we have talked about throughout the year,” stated Sharon Cardoso, Ann Street School Teacher. “The students look forward to WILDCHILD, it is an incentive for them and they are motivated to keep their grades up so they can attend.”

 

The WILDCHILD program is made possible by generous support from PSEG.

 

“The students involved in WILDCHILD traditionally do not have the opportunity to have access to green space. PSEG works with organizations like Conserve Wildlife Foundation to help engage children in environmental education,” said Russ Furnari, Manager, Environmental policy, PSEG. “Through the support of the PSEG Foundation, we work with Conserve Wildlife Foundation to help get kids out into nature to learn about endangered species and that teach them to protect nature and protect the environment.”

 

Learn more:

 

Lindsay McNamara is the Communications Manager for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.

July 24th, 2015

Project RedBand continues on Barnegat Bay

92 Ospreys Enlisted in Citizen Science Based Re-sighting Project

by Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager

A young osprey was banded with a color auxiliary band: 76/C for future tracking at a nest on Long Beach Island.

A young osprey named “Danny” was banded with a color auxiliary band 76/C for future tracking at a nest on Long Beach Island. Photo by Northside Jim.

This is the critical time of year for monitoring our nesting ospreys. Each year biologists and specially trained volunteers, aka Osprey Banders, conduct ground surveys by boat to monitor the state population. They visit or survey the most densely populated colonies of nesting ospreys: Sandy Hook, Barnegat Bay, Great Bay, Absecon, Ventnor-Margate-Ocean City, Great Egg Harbor Watershed, Sea Isle, Avalon-Stone Harbor, Wildwood, Maurice River, and parts of the Delaware Bay. These surveys have been conducted since the early 1970s when ospreys were not so common, with only 50 pairs in 1973.

 

Their recovery has been quite remarkable. With an estimated 600 nesting pairs throughout the state, our ospreys are in a much better position today. Why put so much time and effort into monitoring a seemingly healthy population? Even though their population is much larger than it was decades ago, ospreys still face a variety of threats that jeopardize their ultimate survival. It’s commonly known that ospreys face very high mortality rates in their first year of life. Before even leaving the nest their young are so vulnerable. They can fall or be blown out of the nest, predated by raccoons, crows, or eagles, killed by their own siblings, or die from starvation. After they fledge, then they need to learn to find and catch prey and avoid power lines and wind turbines. Then they need to learn to migrate south and avoid being shot in the process. Once they find a suitable wintering site, then they remain in the same area for the next two years. Then they return to their natal areas to find a suitable nest site and start their own osprey family!

 

Today, we need your help! We cannot reach all active nests in New Jersey. There is still plenty of time to help us keep track of the state population. Citizens are encouraged to submit sightings of activity at osprey nests on Osprey Watch, a global osprey watching community. In 2013 all of the known locations for osprey nests was released on Osprey Watch’s website. As a partner with Osprey Watch, we share and use the data collected to help determine the overall health of the population, which is summarized in our annual report.

 

To help engage our Osprey Watchers, we started Project RedBand, a citizen science based osprey re-sighting project. This is year two of the project. So far we’ve deployed 92 red bands (out of 100) on young produced at nests on Barnegat Bay (62 in 2014 and 30 in 2015). The young that were banded last year will start to return to New Jersey in 2016. Usually young adults return later than older adults, so the red banded birds might not be seen until May or June. That’s when they’ll find areas with high prey availability and suitable nest sites. Usually males don’t stray far from their natal areas but females do. With these red bands, we hope to learn a little more about where our ospreys are dispersing to and at the same time engaging our coastal communities in osprey conservation.

 

Learn more:

 

Ben Wurst is the Habitat Program Manager for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.

July 23rd, 2015

Black Rails: Secretive Denizens of our Coastal Marshes

Searching for a Small, Dark Bird at Night, in the Dark

By: Alfred Breed, Field Technician

What you can see at night while listening for Black Rail. Shown are the datasheet and speaker that plays the various calls. Photo courtesy of Tom Reed.

The nighttime view while listening for black rails in the marsh. Shown are the datasheet and speaker that plays the various calls. Photo courtesy of Tom Reed.

Shhhhhhhh. Be very, very quiet. Sit perfectly still. Listen. When you are searching at night in the dark for the black rail, the rarest and MOST secretive of the secretive marsh birds, your best sense to use for detection is hearing.

 

The black rail is a small, darkly-colored marsh bird whose numbers are believed to have declined precipitously in the past few decades, primarily due to habitat loss (when their preferred high marsh habitat was filled and developed), as well as sea-level rise and the loss of salt hay farms (in New Jersey). The breeding population is likely extirpated from both Connecticut and New York, while its continued stability here in New Jersey is in question. Its conservation status varies by state, with full protection as an endangered species in New Jersey and some other states, and only the cursory protection of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 in other, mostly southern states. Even in states where they are not listed as threatened or endangered, black rails are rarely seen because of low abundance, their secretive habits, and the inaccessibility of their preferred habitat.

 

Because of both its rarity and extremely secretive nature, the detailed habits of black rails are little known. Furthermore, historic and current population numbers critical to establishing its conservation status are not well understood. It is thought that they mostly feed during daylight hours, quietly traversing the marsh mud in search of seeds and invertebrate prey, thus remaining largely undetected beneath the dense grass mat. But during the breeding season they call, quite loudly, to each other at night.

 

This habit, nocturnal vocalization, is what we hope to use to determine the continued presence of black rail here in our coastal marshes, and eventually their abundance and other critical biological information. As part of a cooperative effort by the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey, the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife, and New Jersey Audubon Society, staff and volunteers are conducting surveys at points throughout the black rail’s potential breeding range in New Jersey and other states. One purpose of such research is to collect and analyze data in order to establish sound, effective, science-based species management plans coordinated across the species’ entire range.

Underway during daylight hours to check-ride new field boat, and deploy an acoustic recording unit that also “listens” for Black Rail.

Underway during daylight hours to check-ride deploy an acoustic recording unit that also “listens” for black rails.

The current phase of the black rail project requires me to transport by boat four expert bird-by-ear surveyors, capable of identifying birds common to the coastal marsh habitat from their song alone, at night. I bring each “listener” to ten randomly selected points within suitable high marsh habitat at the proper tide and during the designated survey period between 10:30 PM and 3 AM. Each 10-point survey route is repeated three times across a six-week period from May-July. Surveyors record all of the identifiable species they hear as well as the direction and estimated distance of the calls from each survey point.

 

The survey consists of two minutes of passive listening followed by several recorded black rail vocalizations broadcast from a very loud speaker that are interspersed with short silences in order to listen for any response. The black rail calls are followed by calls from Virginia and clapper rails, as they will also sometimes elicit a response from our quarry. Surveys are conducted with winds below 12 mph and in little to no precipitation in order for the sound to carry to both human and bird ears. Absolute silence is critical in order not to miss any of the more distant calls that pierce the darkness. The scrape of a boot on the deck, the crinkle of a snack wrapper, or a sudden sneeze has the potential to drown out the sound of a distant call. Discussions about species, direction and distance are held in a quiet whisper.

 

CWF field technician Alfred Breed, the intrepid nocturnal boat pilot for the Black Rail survey project.  Photo courtesy of Tom Reed.

CWF field technician Alfred Breed, the intrepid nocturnal boat pilot for the Black Rail survey project. Photo courtesy of Tom Reed.

This season, our four survey routes encompassed appropriate habitat areas of several of the tributaries to the Great Egg Harbor Bay watershed. In our quiet and isolated marsh stream we are joined only by the birds we hear, many fireflies and less benign insects, spring peepers, croaking bullfrogs, and the occasional splash of a startled muskrat. Periodic traffic noise from the roads that encircle Great Egg Harbor Bay are a reminder that it is difficult to entirely escape civilization here in New Jersey. But listening to the marsh at night, while boating up a narrow isolated tributary that snakes its way toward the transition from marsh to upland, definitely allows for a sense of quiet communion with nature. Because of its extensive lighting, the BL England power plant in Beesley’s Point is truly a bejeweled wonder to behold at night from almost anywhere in the watershed, and the light pollution that emanates from the Atlantic City sky line can be actually quite helpful for nighttime navigation.

 

As far as this season is concerned, all of the hoped for data was successfully collected from each point during the survey periods, with only one survey transect interrupted by an un-forecast pop-up lightning storm that required a quick race back to the safety of the boat ramp. With the surveys now completed, we look forward to sharing the results when they are available for release.

 

This is the first of hopefully many seasons of data collection of this type. As each season’s final results are collected and analyzed, we hope to focus our survey efforts from geographically random points within appropriate habitat, to the areas of repeated detection, and to eventually be able to achieve our long term goal: namely a science-based understanding of the black rail population in our state that informs a viable and effective species management plan.

 

As a result of my participation in this study with four expert surveyors, for three survey nights each, at 10 points per night, and 10 minutes per point, I have had the privilege of intently listening for over 20 solid hours to our nighttime native secretive marsh bird songs in the presence of experts who can teach me what it is we’ve heard. Although I was only able to master a few of the calls with which I was not already familiar, it has truly been a pleasure and a valuable learning experience accompanying these experts into the field. I can’t wait to do it again next season!

 

The Conserve Wildlife Foundation and New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife wish to thank Alf for the excellent logistical, navigation, and boat handling skills he brought to this project. Just as we could not conduct the survey without our observer’s expert ears, we would be equally lost without Alf’s expertise on the water. Thank you, Alf!

July 20th, 2015

Bill Proposed to Encourage Homeowners to Create and Maintain Wildlife-Friendly Yards

Native Species Habitat Bill Passes in the Assembly

By: McKenzie Cloutier, Special Events and Fundraising Intern

Warbler

Golden-winged warbler. Photograph by Evan Madlinger

Of great interest to New Jersey homeowners, the Garden State’s General Assembly recently passed a native species habitat bill. This bill, pending further action in the Senate, encourages homeowners to create and maintain more wildlife-friendly yards. In hopes of creating more livable habitats for New Jersey’s wildlife, this bill includes a certificate program that promotes the growth of native plant species in landowners’ yards.

 

Under the provisions of this bill, landowners would be encouraged to grow and preserve native plant species that provide natural habitats for New Jersey’s other important species. In addition, this bill would also defend certified landowners against any municipal ordinances. For example, the bill would defend a landowner from an ordinance that calls for the removal of certain native plants or “weeds.”
The native species habitat bill not only benefits New Jersey’s wildlife, but homeowners as well, by reducing maintenance and chemical treatment costs. Under this program, yards will require less mowing and maintenance, and pesticide use is discouraged. With such changes, landowners could experience significant reductions in their usual yard maintenance costs, while helping to conserve local wildlife.

 

The native species habitat bill encourages New Jersey residents to become active participants in the preservation of wildlife. At the Conserve Wildlife Foundation, we encourage landowners to create wildlife-friendly backyards, and we are involved in helping private landowners to do so. Our wildlife biologist Kelly Triece works in partnership with United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS) to assist private landowners in managing existing cropland, forestland, and pastureland to best meet wildlife habitat needs or in establishing new wildlife habitat areas. Depending on the goal of the landowner, these programs can either help create or preserve pollinator, woodland, wetland and grassland habitats for many different wildlife species.

 
In particular, CWF biologists work with forest landowners to enhance young forest habitats on private lands. Young forest habitats are imperative for many birds, especially the Golden-winged warbler, a species of particular concern in New Jersey. The open canopy of a young forest also provides food such as berries, insects and small mammals to newly fledged birds, wild turkey, ruffed grouse, reptiles, black bears, bobcats, and butterflies.

 

Since 2008, CWF, NRCS and other partners have collaborated with landowners to create or restore over 225 acres of Golden-winged warbler habitat in New Jersey!

 
Want to get involved and help conserve wildlife on your property? Here are ten tips on how to create a wildlife-friendly habitat in your own backyard:

  • Allow native plants to grow.
  • Create a brush pile for ground nesting birds or small mammals such as chipmunks or mice.
  • Install a pond to benefit birds, frogs, salamanders, and aquatic vegetation.
  • Create a meadow for wildlife by choosing not to mow a section of your yard.
  • Plants trees and shrubs to provide food and cover for wildlife.
  • Buy a bird bath.
  • Remove invasive or non-native plants.
  • Refrain from using pesticides. Try composting!
  • Hang bird feeders.
  • Obtain a bird house.

 

Visit our website for more tips on how to create a wildlife-friendly backyard.

 

McKenzie Cloutier is the Special Events and Fundraising Intern for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.

  • Subscribe!

    Enter your email address to subscribe to the Conserve Wildlife Blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

  • Support Conserve Wildlife Foundation

    Support our efforts to protect New Jersey’s rarest animals, restore important habitat, and foster pride in New Jersey’s rich wildlife heritage.

    Join - Donate - Adopt a Species
  • Get Connected

  • Recent Comments