Conserve Wildlife Blog

July 19th, 2016

New Jersey’s Hidden Coast – Strengthening Bayshore Beaches


By Emily Hofmann, Assistant Communications Manager


Like all ecosystems, Delaware Bay is amazingly complex, and there’s no one way to fix it. Between climate change, sea level rise, and the growing risk of major storms, there’s a lot to consider.


We’ve learned that restoring healthy marsh habitat is a key component in rebuilding Delaware Bay beaches; however, we’re also trying to further strengthen bayshore beaches by building reefs – living underwater infrastructure. By creating some reef structures we can keep the sand where we’re putting it.


Learn more about strengthening New Jersey’s Hidden Coast – the Delaware Bayshore in our fifth episode to our series.


A new episode of our video series “New Jersey’s Hidden Coast” will air every two weeks throughout the summer! Catch a glimpse of the bay, the horseshoe crab at the center of the bay’s system, and the incredible relationship between horseshoe crabs and migratory birds, like the red knot. We will reveal the real value of horseshoe crabs, the challenges to the ecosystem, and the potential for a thriving regional economy along the Bayshore. We will show Hurricane Sandy as a catalyst for decisive action and the work being done to rebuild the area for both people and wildlife.


Over the next several weeks, we will explore the use of “living shorelines” instead of bulkheads and the central importance of marshes to the marine ecosystem. We will discover the on-the-ground, grassroots efforts of the community to build oyster reefs alongside veterans. And we will examine the future of the Bay and the work that needs to be done to preserve our conservation successes thus far.


Discover Delaware Bay:


July 18th, 2016

Beachnester Buzz: Meet Bob, Avalon’s “Famed” Piping Plover


by Todd Pover, Beach Nesting Bird Project Manager

Meet Bob, Avalon's "famed" long-time breeding piping plover, easily identifiable by his color bands. Photo courtesy of Tom Reed.

Meet Bob, Avalon’s “famed” long-time breeding piping plover, easily identifiable by his color bands. Photo courtesy of Tom Reed.

Meet Bob. He is a piping plover who received this nickname while being banded by CWF Wildlife Biologist Emily Heiser in 2012 as part of a SUNY-ESF research project in New Jersey. This past weekend was a big day for Bob. Three of his chicks reached the fledgling state – this milestone of flight is the metric for a successful breeding season.

Things have not always gone so well for Bob. In 2012 his mate was killed by a predator and he couldn’t incubate their eggs alone, so the nest was abandoned and he didn’t find a new mate. In 2013 Bob and his new mate (Kelly) were down to their last remaining chick when a ghost crab snatched and dragged it down its burrow. We dug the chick out, but it died soon after in rehab. In 2014 Bob and Kelly’s chicks died quickly at the hands of an unknown predator. In 2015 a nest camera painfully showed Bob’s chicks being eaten by a fox just after they hatched and were still lying in the nest bowl.

Flash forward to this year and Bob was part of the last piping plover pair left nesting in Avalon, once a thriving breeding site with as many as eight pairs. His long-time mate Kelly left him for another male at Stone Harbor Point, but he found a new mate and finally they have met success. Given all that has happened to Bob, you can see why we are happy for him (and Emily) today!

Sadly, this five year “drama” is not an especially unusual story for piping plovers. Their existence, especially here in New Jersey, is seemingly “against all odds”. In addition to the predators, they face a multitude of threats, direct and indirect, such as human disturbance as a result of heavy recreational use of beaches, habitat loss and degradation, and flooding, to name a few. Each year CWF and a host of partners throughout coastal New Jersey mount an extensive effort to protect piping plovers and other endangered beach nesting birds such as least terns and black skimmers. Without this active protection and management these birds would probably disappear from most of our state’s beaches.


July 13th, 2016

The Inspiring Story of Osprey 39/D

A promising outcome from a dangerous situation

by Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager

Yesterday evening, while conducting an osprey nest survey at Sedge Island Wildlife Management Area, I received a message from a local wildlife photographer about an osprey nestling that was entangled. I talked to the photographer, Rich Nicol and got detailed information about the situation, the nest, and started to formulate a plan to address the situation. After learning that the nest was on a 35-40’ high pole, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to get up there without some help. Yes – a large ladder would suffice, but it would be tricky to handle the situation (with the bird being entangled). You see, after seeing photos of the young osprey, I knew it was RTF (Ready To Fly). Ospreys fledge or take their first flight at around 7-8 weeks of age. The entangled osprey was around 7 weeks old. I knew we had to act quickly to catch the bird and untangle it before it tried to fledge. This morning I saw the photos that Rich took and it clearly showed that the young osprey had monofilament or a net around its neck… Read the rest of this entry »

July 11th, 2016

Beachnester Buzz: Piping Plovers Return to Island Beach State Park


by Todd Pover, Beach Nesting Bird Project Manager

One of four recently hatched "itty-bitty" piping plover chicks at Island Beach State Park. Photo courtesy of Kevin Knutsen.

One of four recently hatched “itty-bitty” piping plover chicks at Island Beach State Park. Photo courtesy of Kevin Knutsen.

So far our weekly beach nesting bird updates have focused on statewide trends, but this week we are going to feature one special pair of piping plovers.

The story actually starts in the summer 1989…Ronald Reagan had just left the White House and the Berlin Wall would fall a few months later. It was also the last time a piping plover nested on the miles of oceanfront beaches at Island Beach State Park. That all changed in May of this year, when a pair of plovers was observed exhibiting breeding behavior at the southern portion of the park close to the inlet jetty. Eventually they laid four eggs, a cage was erected around the nest to protect it from predators, and right on schedule over the July 4th weekend, four itty-bitty chicks emerged. A week later, three chicks have survived the daily battles with predators (i.e. fox, crows, gulls) and a heat wave. The story isn’t over yet, we won’t know for another 3 weeks or so if they survive to the stage where they can fly, which is our metric for success.

Regardless of the outcome, this pair being at Island Beach State Park symbolizes an interesting point in New Jersey’s conservation efforts to recover this federally threatened and state endangered species. 2016 marks the 30th anniversary of federal listing for the Atlantic coast population of piping plovers, and with it extensive management to aid recovery. Those management efforts have led to varying results in New Jersey; our population has swung from a low of 92 pairs to a high of 144 pairs, but mostly settling in around 120 pairs. We are currently in a slight upswing, but the bottom line is New Jersey is a tough place for piping plovers to successfully breed – it represents a convergence of all the significant threats the birds face.

Why did piping plovers suddenly show up at Island Beach State Park again this year? Well, we may never know for sure, but we do think Hurricane Sandy probably had a part in it. While it was wrecking destruction up and down the Jersey Coast, Hurricane Sandy was also creating the kind of sparse, open habitat where piping plovers prefer to nest. Some of that was created at Island Beach, and soon after Sandy, we noted some “prospecting” plovers at the park. Nothing came of that, but meanwhile piping plover action was heating up just a little bit south on LBI at the Holgate Unit of the Edwin B. Forsythe NWR and just across the inlet at Barnegat Light. The storm created especially good conditions for piping plovers in those locations, including a giant “overwash” at Holgate, which in turn attracted more and more plovers, which produced a “bumper crop” of young fledglings. Barnegat Light only had one remaining plover, but it produced well above average numbers of fledglings for several years in a row.

One of the newest "residents" of Island Beach State Park, an adult breeding piping plover. Photo courtesy of Kevin Knutsen.

One of the newest “residents” of Island Beach State Park, an adult breeding piping plover. Photo courtesy of Kevin Knutsen.

Quick biology lesson…piping plovers exhibit very strong site fidelity, so the adults tend to come back to the same site year after year, often the same patch of beach. That includes their young, but they have to forge their own territory as existing pairs fiercely defend their established territory. This year we have seen a bump from one to four pairs in the Barnegat Inlet area and one of the new breeding birds was born last year at Holgate (we know that from bands now being placed on the birds by researchers). With Holgate reaching capacity, the returning young are looking nearby for other places to nest. The Island Beach plovers are not banded, but the banding in this area is new in our state, so they might also be young from previous successful nests at Barnegat Light.

At the moment New Jersey has high concentrations of piping plovers at Sandy Hook and the Forsythe NWR, over three-quarters of the state population occurs at these federal properties. They are performing well at these sites for now, but habitat conditions change quickly along the coast and real recovery has to happen over a wider geographic area. For any significant population rebound to occur, new sites need to be colonized, so the piping plovers at Island Beach State Park this year may be a small sign of that starting to happen.




July 8th, 2016

Project RedBand Alumni Update!

Osprey 44/C re-sighted at Island Beach State Park!

by Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager

Project RedBand Osprey 44/C was re-sighted by Shayna Marchese on Island Beach State Park on July 3, 2016.

Project RedBand Osprey 44/C was re-sighted by Shayna Marchese on Island Beach State Park on July 3, 2016.

Really exciting news. For the first time this year, a (live and well) red banded osprey was re-sighted! 44/C was banded as a nestling on July 12, 2014 and photographed by Shayna Marchese on July 3, 2016 at Island Beach State Park. Young ospreys spend two years on their wintering grounds before returning to their natal areas. This is the first year that 44/C has returned to New Jersey. 44/C appears to be a male, and males have a higher level of site fidelity than females do, so they are more likely to return to the same area that they originated from. We aren’t surprised that one of our first red banded birds to be re-sighted in New Jersey was at Island Beach State Park, just outside Sedge Island Wildlife Management Area. For anyone who is not familiar with Sedge, it is the state’s most densely populated osprey colony in New Jersey. Around 30 pairs of ospreys nest at Sedge which is less than 3 square miles. Read the rest of this entry »

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