Conserve Wildlife Blog

October 20th, 2016

Reef dedication, seining to help celebrate Veterans Day on Delaware Bay

Oyster reef to be dedicated to New Jersey Veterans at second annual event

By Emily Hofmann, Project Coordinator


A seine net about 75 feet long is dredged in the bay and brought up on the beach to collect the species for study. Photo courtesy of Middle Township Gazette.

You and your family are “whelk-come” to join American Littoral Society and Conserve Wildlife Foundation and for our 2nd Annual Veterans Day on the Bay on Saturday, November 12 from 11:00 AM -2:00 PM at Moores Beach on the Delaware Bayshore! In April, we held our 2nd Annual Shell-A-Bration where proud volunteers braved the elements and helped build an oyster reef at Moores Beach.


The 1st Annual Veterans Day on the Bay was held on November 11, 2015 at South Reeds Beach. The oyster reef was dedicated to all veterans and highlighted veteran involvement in the effort to restore New Jersey’s Delaware Bayshore. Event attendees honored their own military veterans by inscribing that special person’s name on a shell and placing that shell on “Veterans Reef.”


This year we’d like to continue to show our appreciation and mark the progress we’ve made by dedicating another reef to a specific military branch.


Please join us for the 2nd Annual Veterans Day on the Bay, which will feature:

  • Raw oysters and fare from Spanky’s BBQ
  • Beach Clean-up
  • Seining and marine wildlife study
  • Arts and crafts for children

Photo courtesy of David Benson.

Help us study the wildlife living in this new reef with hands-on, interactive marine science activities like seining and species identification!


The highlight of the event will be the dedication of Moores Beach oyster reef in honor of our military veterans. Attendees are invited to honor their own military veterans by inscribing that special person’s name on a shell and placing that shell on the reef.


This family fun day and volunteer event will be held from 11:00 AM – 2:00 PM; with the reef dedication ceremony taking place at 12:30 PM. Veterans Day on the Bay is rain or shine. The celebration will be a picnic-style event, so please bring blankets and chairs.


Join us at Moores Beach, at the end of Moores Beach Road (which intersects with NJ Route 47 near Delmont United Methodist Church) Maurice River, New Jersey, 08314.


RSVP appreciated to Quinn Whitesall, or Emily Hofmann, by November 7.




Emily Hofmann is a Project Coordinator with Conserve Wildlife Foundation.


October 19th, 2016

Native Plants Transform Space into Rich Pollinator Habitat

By Kendall Miller, Project Coordinator


This fall, Conserve Wildlife Foundation partnered with Firmenich and GZA Environmental to provide pollinator plants to build an entirely new butterfly and rain garden on the Waldorf School campus in Princeton.


Firmenich volunteers stationed the plants around the garden and planted them on their annual global volunteer day. Plants include aromatic lavender, bright black-eyed susans and echinacea, shrubs like winterberry holly and spice bush, and trees such as common hackberry and sweet bay magnolia. These plants are all native to the local environment and provide essential nectar sources for pollinators.



From left to right, bee on lavender photo from Andrew Wilkinson through Flickr Creative Commons and eastern blue-tail visiting black-eyed susan Vicki Deloach through Flickr Creative Commons.


The space for the new garden was a previously fallow section of the school’s one acre garden. It was overgrown and somewhat sprawling until the project came about. Facilities manager Kevin Jones and gardening teacher Suzanne Cunningham both prepared the space for its transformation into a rich habitat of native plants.


Left. After planting, an unused and fallow area of the school’s garden is now home to several different types of native plants.


“Pollinators are in decline, which is very unfortunate since we rely on them as irreplaceable contributors to our health, our food, our environment, and our economy,” said David Wheeler, CWF Executive Director. “We are so thrilled to partner on this exciting and vital habitat project, particularly where the youngest generation can experience the beauty and vitality of nature first-hand.”


The native plants were provided by D&R Greenway Land Trust and Bountiful Gardens.  CWF is working to expand native pollinator habitat across the state with leading corporate sustainability partners such as Firmenich and Atlantic City Electric.


The Waldorf School of Princeton has built three butterfly gardens, which serve to create a safe environment for local pollinators, such as monarch and swallowtail butterflies, honeybees, and hummingbirds. To this end, a honeybee colony has made it’s home in one of their trees and has grown to host over 2,000 wild honeybees! The school has been honored by the National Wildlife Federation as a Certified Wildlife Habitat, as well The Bronze Award from Eco-Schools USA program. They are certified from Monarch Watch as a Monarch Waystation.


The Waldorf School of Princeton is founded on principles of sustainability, environmental stewardship, and community cooperation. The school’s major green initiatives reflect the needs of their beautiful campus and the ability of their students to participate in the greening process. The Waldorf School of Princeton has the area’s oldest school garden, over 30 years old, which houses crops, herbs, flowers, and fruit trees.




Kendall Miller is a Project Coordinator with Conserve Wildlife Foundation.


October 6th, 2016

Volunteers and biologists add the next oyster reef to Dyers Cove

Team works through threat of downpour to strengthen Delaware Bay’s resiliency and ecology

By Emily Hofmann, Project Coordinator


Although the weather was on the brink of being rainy and bleak, that did not stop a team of dedicated biologists and volunteers from building an oyster reef on the Delaware Bayshore this past Saturday. Committed volunteers and young people braved the weather to work alongside American Littoral Society and Conserve Wildlife Foundation to build a near-shore oyster reef at Dyers Cove, at the end of Dyers Creek Road in Newport, Cumberland County, New Jersey.



This reef – like the one at South Reeds Beach – was built to protect restoration work done after Hurricane Sandy and provide habitat. Constructed to prevent sand loss from wind-driven waves and create calmer water for spawning horseshoe crabs, this is the third of five such reefs that have been built by the Littoral Society and CWF. The conservation organizations will continue to monitor whether the reef breakwaters help reduce beach erosion and create calmer water for spawning horseshoe crabs.


Due to the heavy rain over the course of the week, the conditions were not ideal. Low-tide never went below waist deep, so it was hard to construct the reef accordingly. But that did not stop the team!oyster-reef-build_5


“Every oyster reef we’ve built so far on the Delaware Bay incorporated a different restoration strategy. We have had to adapt new strategies with what has worked best in the past and with what will realistically work based on site conditions. By blending the successes from the previous reefs with innovative approaches, we have been able to construct three reefs to date,” said Capt. Al Modjeski, Habitat Restoration Program Director for the American Littoral Society.


The bayshore beaches need restoration and improved resiliency so that horseshoe crabs have proper breeding grounds. Crab eggs feed migratory shorebirds, like the Red Knot, which stops in New Jersey each spring on its long journey from South America to the Arctic Circle. The Red Knot and other shorebirds help bring $11 million in tourist dollars to New Jersey’s Delaware Bayshore region each year.


“New Jersey’s Delaware Bayshore hosts an annual wildlife spectacle of global significance – the time-honored migration of Red Knots to reach the eggs of these ancient horseshoe crabs,” said David Wheeler, Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey Executive Director. “Volunteer projects like this help connect the people of New Jersey with these endangered shorebirds and the largest population of horseshoe crabs in the world.”


“Originally, this event was a bare-bones volunteer effort of placing shell bags off the Dyers Cove eastern beach,” said Capt. Al. “But thanks to a donation from Betancourt, Van Hemmen, Greco & Kenyon, we will have a ‘shell-a-bration’ that celebrates the ecology and community of the Delaware Bayshore.”


In 2015, over 130 volunteers and veterans built an oyster reef at South Reeds Beach in the first annual Shell-a-Bration. That same year, Veterans Day on the Bay dedicated the reef to all veterans and highlighted veteran involvement in the effort to restore New Jersey’s Delaware Bayshore. The second annual Shell-a-Bration, held in April 2016, saw a handful of dedicated volunteers brave a blizzard to build a reef at Moore’s Beach. The third annual Shell-Bration will be held this coming Spring 2017.


“There are many strategies to defend our Delaware Bayshore, but one of the best and most productive are these oyster reefs,” stated Dr. Larry Niles, a biologist with the American Littoral Society and Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey. “They not only replicate a lost but important habitat on Delaware Bay – reefs once covered much of the bayshore – but they provide just enough protection to make a difference in how long our beaches persist against the unrelenting forces of nature. In a way, we are fighting nature with nature.”


The projects are being funded by National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) through their Hurricane Sandy Coastal Resiliency Grants Program, and are being developed in partnership with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife.


Emily Hofmann is a project coordinator for Conserve Wildlife Foundation




October 5th, 2016

Gov. Kean, Biologists Enliven Premiere for James Fiorentino Traveling Art Exhibit at D&R Greenway Land Trust

Over 200 attend kickoff for three-year art exhibit scheduled for venues across New Jersey and New York

This weekend the nonprofit Conserve Wildlife Foundation attracted over 200 art and wildlife enthusiasts to the premiere showing of their Rare Wildlife Revealed: The James Fiorentino Traveling Art Exhibition at D&R Greenway Land Trust in Princeton.

More than 200 supporters, including Governor Tom Kean (and four of our Species on the Edge Art & Essay Contest winners), attended our Opening Reception for the premiere exhibition of Rare Wildlife Revealed: The James Fiorentino Traveling Art Exhibition at D&R Greenway Land Trust on September 30th.

More than 200 supporters, including Governor Tom Kean (and four of our Species on the Edge Art & Essay Contest winners), attended our Opening Reception for the premiere exhibition of Rare Wildlife Revealed: The James Fiorentino Traveling Art Exhibition at D&R Greenway Land Trust on September 30th.

Former Gov. Tom Kean headlined the program, along with the nationally recognized artist Mr. Fiorentino, Conserve Wildlife Foundation (CWF) executive director David Wheeler, and D&R Greenway president & CEO Linda Mead. CWF field biologists were also present to discuss their innovative work protecting and restoring the region’s vulnerable wildlife species, many species of which were featured in Mr. Fiorentino’s paintings, as well as a live peregrine falcon, the fastest animal on earth, displayed by Mercer County Wildlife.

The event also honored several 5th-grade winners of the statewide Species on the Edge Art and Essay Contest, who were congratulated by the former Governor and Mr. Fiorentino before a cheering audience to conclude the program.

Crowd gathered at the art opening reception at D&R Greenway.

Crowd gathered at the art opening reception at D&R Greenway.

Mr. Fiorentino has painted 25 stunning watercolor images of at-risk wildlife species from New Jersey for this exhibition, from the bobcat and bald eagle to the Pine Barrens tree frog and little brown bat. The exhibition will travel around New Jersey and the Northeast over the next three years.

At 15, Mr. Fiorentino became the youngest artist to be featured in the National Baseball Hall of Fame with paintings of baseball legends like Reggie Jackson, Cal Ripken Jr. and Ted Williams; his sports art has since graced national magazines and landed him in interviews with ABC World News Tonight and countless other news studios. Now 39, Fiorentino’s Conserve Wildlife Foundation exhibit is being hosted at D&R Greenway through October 14.

“Renowned as one of the best sports artists in the country, Jim’s works hang in major museums,” says Governor Kean, who met the artist while serving as president of Drew University—Fiorentino was a student there in the 1990s, when his sports figures started receiving national attention. He was featured on ABC World News and in The New York Times. “In recent years he has turned to wildlife. Jim has created an amazing body of work… Many of the creatures he paints are endangered, and Jim celebrates their uniqueness and beauty.”

Fiorentino’s realistic paintings depict some of the state’s most endangered and vulnerable species. Among other venues, the exhibition will be shown at Salmagundi Club at 47 Fifth Avenue in New York next spring.

“Mr. Fiorentino’s incredibly evocative artwork inspires viewers by reconnecting them with the natural world all around us,” says Conserve Wildlife Foundation executive director and wildlife author David Wheeler. “His watercolor paintings help to educate and engage viewers about the precipitous declines that many of these vulnerable wildlife species have suffered, and helps us bring attention to the very tangible steps that people can take to save these species.”

Gov. Kean and Wheeler wrote the foreword and introduction, respectively, for the art exhibition hardcover book accompanying the exhibition. Through October, sales of the original paintings, limited edition digital prints, the exhibition book, and wildlife merchandise will benefit Conserve Wildlife Foundation and D&R Greenway Land Trust.

“The subject of disappearing New Jersey wildlife speaks directly to the work that we do to protect habitats,” says D&R Greenway President & CEO Linda Mead. “As an admirer of James Fiorentino’s artistic talent, I am thrilled that we were selected as the premiere venue for this exhibition.”

Fiorentino started painting animals when he was 10, and he later became a trustee for the Raptor Trust in Millington, N.J.

“We rehabilitate 4,000 wild birds a year and release about half that number,” says Fiorentino. “These wild birds have had a tremendous influence on me. I enjoy getting close to birds of prey, and it brought me back to nature art.” Before going back to his studio to paint the details, Fiorentino sketches the animals up close, sometimes holding them, taking in their details.

His two young sons enjoy being in nature, the oldest son joining his father to draw wildlife, especially butterflies—proving that humans, too, benefit from having wildlife in their midst. “I am awed by what we see in our own backyard: the Eastern box turtle, great horned owl, pileated woodpeckers, foxes, hawks and butterflies,” says Fiorentino. “It’s an amazing backyard ecosystem.”

Eastern Box Turtle by James Fiorentino.

Eastern Box Turtle by James Fiorentino.

Rare Wildlife Revealed: The James Fiorentino Traveling Art Exhibition is sponsored by Omni Distribution, LLC, Flying Fish Brewing Company, Merrill G. & Emita Hastings Foundation, Studio 7 Fine Art Gallery, and Somerset Patriots.

Conserve Wildlife Foundation has been a long-time partner with D&R Greenway, exhibiting our Species on the Edge fifth-grade art and essay contest winners annually in D&R Greenway’s Olivia Rainbow Gallery. This year, the fifth graders art will be exhibited simultaneously with the Fiorentino exhibit.

For more information on James Fiorentino, please visit
To learn more about CWF, please visit

Digital photos from the event are available upon request, as are high-resolution images of the original Fiorentino artwork.

October 4th, 2016

New Jersey’s Key Role in the Monarch Migration

The Garden State annually hosts swarms of southbound Monarch Butterflies

By: Kendall Miller, Project Coordinator

Monarch butterfly refueling in Cape May as it prepares for fall migration to Mexico. Photo courtesy of Lindsey Brendel.

Monarch butterfly refueling in Cape May as it prepares for fall migration to Mexico. Photo courtesy of Lindsey Brendel.

Monarch has been a conservation buzz-word for the past decade when data revealed that the population had appeared to be on the decline. Then in 2013, the population of wintering monarch butterflies in Mexico reached an all-time low that jolted scientists, environmentalists, and enthusiasts across the nation.

Monarch abundance in wintering grounds is measured as area in hectares. They roost in large colonies in the Transvolcanic Mountains in Mexico. The 2013-2014 overwintering population experienced the lowest recorded area to date, at 0.67 ha. From

Monarch abundance in wintering grounds is measured as area in hectares. They roost in large colonies in the Transvolcanic Mountains in Mexico. The 2013-2014 overwintering population experienced the lowest recorded area to date, at 0.67 ha. From

This marvelous and iconic lepidopteran is found throughout the continental United States. Its 3,000 mile long migration is an amazing natural phenomenon. The news of population declines in Mexican wintering sites inflamed concern and incited action. Many groups have since created partnerships, implemented programs, and conducted research to understand more about this widely known yet still mysterious insect.

The location of wintering monarchs was a complete mystery until 1975 when the remote wintering sites were discovered in transvolcanic mountain ranges in Mexico. Much is still to be discovered about the migration pathways even within the United States, and doing so will answer questions which will inform conservation and management of this species which faces multiple threats during every aspect of its expansive journey.

Glider pilots have observed monarch butterflies at an altitude of 1200 meters (Gibo 1981).  Migratory flights at these altitudes can allow insects to disperse against wind directions found at lower altitudes.

But first, a little bit about biology and the annual life cycle

The monarch’s annual lifecycle is a really marvelous and multifaceted journey – it can be thought of as a multigenerational relay race.

From the Xerces Society. Map depicts the known general migration routes of monarch butterflies.

From the Xerces Society. Map depicts the known general migration routes of monarch butterflies.

Monarch butterflies, just like other lepidopterans, metamorphosis from caterpillar to butterfly. The big thing that sets them apart is the migration they make annually. (Although there are many other species of moths and butterflies, and other insects as well that migrate – the monarch is arguably the most well recognized example

Temporal cues and an innate determination drive these ambitions fliers to travel as far north as the Canadian border. In the search for milkweed and favorable temperatures – possibly to avoid disease pressures – monarchs fly north to reproduce and recolonize across North America each year.

They leave overwintering grounds in Mexico in early spring. Along their route the monarchs will mate and reproduce. Their lives are lived within a short couple weeks, and their offspring will continue the migration northwards in search of food and milkweed.

When the seasons shift in late summer and early fall, the last generation of monarchs will begin a southbound journey, instinctively traveling to wintering sites in Mexico (there are a few populations that overwinter in California and Florida – but the large majority are thought to return to Mexico). This generation will be responsible for making the longest trek of the migration to wintering grounds. These monarchs enter reproductive diapause – the state where the body will temporarily pause reproduction – until the following spring. These monarchs will spend the winter roosting in trees in Mexico until spring when they will take up the first leg of the relay north.

This last generation from the previous year now makes up the first generation of the present year – and will pass the baton on to their offspring as the cycle starts anew.

The role of the Garden State

So what part does New Jersey play in the grand scheme of this massive population?

The Atlantic coast migration was once characterized as “aberrant”, a fluke of sorts – the result of southbound monarchs being blown off course. Research and monitoring conducted in Cape May and published by Walton and Brower (1996) in The Journal of the Lepidopterist’s Society have supported the hypothesis that a migration along the Atlantic coast is part of the monarch’s normal fall migration.

What does a monarch have in common with a hawk?
Walton and Brower (1996) have proposed the idea that monarch butterflies could display similar flight patterns to that of migrating hawks. Utilizing an elliptical flight path during the fall south-bound migration, the model suggests that these birds take advantage of prevailing winds by first traveling east and then west, thus providing a quicker and more energetically-efficient route. Could monarch do the same?

New Jersey – Southern New Jersey and Cape May in particular – is historically recognized as a concentration area for southbound monarchs during the fall migration to wintering grounds. Hamilton (1885) [expressed his wonder of the] characterized the September 1885 monarch migration at Brigantine, New Jersey as “almost past belief … millions is but feebly expressive … miles of them is no exaggeration.” Reports of trees “more orange than green” is no exaggeration, as monarchs congregate en masse in prime roosting spots to warm and rest.

But why is this important? The monarchs migrating through Cape May seem to be representative of the entire North Eastern population – and therefore it offers the opportunity to collect quantitative data on populations in addition to other annual counts. The fourth of July counts focus on quantitatively monitoring the Northeastern population of monarchs as they arrive in the spring and summer. Therefore this data can be used to analyze population trends.

What part can New Jersey residents play?

Monarchs are traveling across New Jersey May through October. There are plenty of simple ways you can help protect this iconic species.

  • Plant native species of flowering plants – monarchs and other insects (like bees) rely on a healthy diversity of nectar sources. Planting a wildflower garden is a quaint, ecological-friendly way to create habitat, and not to mention, make less work watering and money spent purchasing plants. Check out the Native Plant Society or Jersey Friendly Yards to get started.
  • Share this article, talk about environmental issues, and get informed. Show your support and share your concern for the wellbeing of this (and other) species!
  • Rear monarchs. At home or in classrooms, rearing wild monarchs and releasing them is a rewarding and educational way to contribute.
  • Participate in tagging and monitoring projects. Monitoring and tagging projects take place in the summer and fall for New Jersey Monarchs. You can also contribute simply by reporting your sightings on these websites.



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