Conserve Wildlife Blog

May 2nd, 2016

Living with ospreys in New Jersey

New document provide guidance to homeowners and landowners with osprey nest issues and the use of UAVs around active nests

by Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager

As the osprey population grows, work to identify, protect and remedy problem nests is crucial to their long term survival. Photo by Kevin Knutsen

An osprey prepares to land on its nest on a chimney along the Jersey Shore. Work to identify, protect and remedy problem nests is crucial to their long term survival. Photo by Kevin Knutsen.

In New Jersey, we’ve seen the osprey population grow to an estimated 600 nesting pairs in 2015. As the population continues to grow, work to identify, protect, and remedy problem nests is crucial their long term survival. Each year many new young adults return to their natal areas to find suitable areas to construct nests. Ospreys have a high level of site fidelity and usually return to the same areas where they originated (females do tend to wander more). A suitable nest site for an osprey is a high structure near water that’s usually away from human disturbance. However, ospreys can become more tolerant of disturbance if it can be expected and not too close to their nest, especially those that nest on tall structures.

Ospreys build large nests which can weight up to 200 lbs. They use sticks, grass, muck, seaweed, eelgrass, reeds, and often trash to build up their nests.

Around 75% of the state population nests on man-made platforms that are designed specifically for them. The other 25% is a mixture of nests built on other man-made structures and a few natural nests. Yes, ospreys do still nest in trees! But, trees that are suitable for them are few and far between. A suitable tree for an osprey in is a standing dead tree (snag) or a tree with a top that has broken off. As the population continues to grow and there are fewer nest sites available on platforms and few suitable trees, more nests are being built on man-made structures where problems can arise. Ospreys are being pushed to nest in areas that are not always the best location, like on utility poles, stadium lights, emergency sirens, communication towers, boat lifts, docks, and even houses. Nests on utility poles can cause power outages and sometimes the nest might catch on fire or an adult can be electrocuted. Nests on houses, docks and boat lifts often limit use of such structures unless dealt with properly, but active nests cannot be removed without consulting with experts. 

Osprey builds nest on chimney. Photo by Kevin Knutsen.

Osprey builds nest on chimney. Photo by Kevin Knutsen.

In partnership with NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife’s Endangered and Nongame Species Program, we developed a new guidance document to help address problem nests. “Living with Ospreys in New Jersey: A guide for the removal, relocation, and placement of osprey nests” addresses the laws protecting ospreys, who are protected both federally under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 and statewide under the Endangered Species Conservation Act of 1973. Both of these laws protect the nest, adults and the contents of the nest, eggs and young. It also gives guidance on what actions can be taken to access, remove, or relocate an active or inactive osprey nest on any man-made structure, including communication towers. Also included is directions on how to build and install an osprey nesting platform.

Lastly, it also provides some clear guidance on the use of UAVs near active osprey nests. UAV pilots must follow all FAA guidelines and not fly within 1,000 feet of any active osprey nest. To an osprey, a UAV looks like a potential predator. Ospreys will defend their nests and attack any potential predator at nest sites. Simply flying near a nest can add stress to birds and cause adults to fly off nests where their young are vulnerable to predation. Any pilot who flies within this area and pursues or harms an osprey or its young is in direct violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. We ask that all UAV pilots use caution to protect the safety of our ospreys and other birds.

May 2nd, 2016

Conserve Wildlife Foundation in the Classroom

School Programs Available for Students Grades K-12

by Lindsay McNamara, Communications Manager

Director of Education Stephanie DAlessio with students from Memorial School in Cinnaminson, New Jersey.

Director of Education Stephanie DAlessio with students from Memorial School in Cinnaminson, New Jersey.

Conserve Wildlife Foundation’s Director of Education Stephanie DAlessio has been out on the road educating students throughout New Jersey about rare wildlife. Last month, Stephanie gave over ten presentations and outreach events, reaching 1,400 children and adults.

Director of Education Stephanie DAlessio with students from Memorial School in Cinnaminson, New Jersey.

Director of Education Stephanie DAlessio with students from Memorial School in Cinnaminson, New Jersey.

Director of Education Stephanie DAlessio with students from Memorial School in Cinnaminson, New Jersey.

Director of Education Stephanie DAlessio with students from Memorial School in Cinnaminson, New Jersey.

Stephanie offers specialized programs tailored for your students’ needs and interests! For more information about scheduling a classroom program with Conserve Wildlife Foundation, visit our website.

 

Learn More:

 

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

April 29th, 2016

Connecting the Life Cycle of a Golden-winged Warbler

A Closer Look at Cutting-Edge Research on the Multi-Country, Migratory Life-Cycle of GWWA

by Kelly Triece, Private Lands Biologist

Don Jose Mendoza, Honduran wildlife conservation leader, holding a Golden-winged Warbler captured on his property in Cerro Agua Buena, Olancho, Honduras. Photo by Ruth Bennett.

Don Jose Mendoza, Honduran wildlife conservation leader, holding a Golden-winged Warbler captured on his property in Cerro Agua Buena, Olancho, Honduras. Photo by Ruth Bennett.

While in Honduras this February 2016, I had the opportunity to meet researchers studying the Golden-winged Warbler (GWWA) in their wintering habitat. The GWWA is Neotropical Migrant songbird that breeds in New Jersey, but migrates south for the winter. Golden-winged Warblers migrate south in September, mainly through a corridor of states east of the Mississippi River and west of the Appalachians. Their peak return migration to the Upper Mid-west and Appalachians, including New Jersey, occurs in late April where they find a mate, breed and rear their young.

 

This neo-tropical songbird is a species of special conservation concern in the U.S. and endangered in New Jersey, experiencing population declines due to loss of young forest habitat on their breeding grounds, habitat loss on their wintering grounds and hybridization with the Blue-winged Warbler (BWWA). The GWWA has experienced one of the steepest population declines of any songbird species in North America. The population size of the GWWA has decreased by an average of 2.6% every year, according to the USGS Breeding Bird Survey, since the survey began in 1966.  In particular, the Appalachian populations are now approaching a rate of -9% per year. Due to the difficulty of tracking birds over large distances, the effects of their multi-country, migratory life-cycle are poorly understood.

Ruth Bennett and Miguel Ramirez attaching a geolocator to a GWWA in Rio Dulce, Guatemala. Photo by Liam Berigan.

Ruth Bennett and Miguel Ramirez attaching a geolocator to a GWWA in Rio Dulce, Guatemala. Photo by Liam Berigan.

 

While many songbirds, migrate thousands of miles every winter, most research has focused on their breeding habitat in North America. Recently, researchers have begun exploring and understanding the importance of conserving the entire life-cycle of migratory birds or any wildlife species. Ruth Bennett, a Ph.D student at Cornell University is one such scientist. Ruth and collaborators at the American Bird Conservancy and Indiana University of Pennsylvania are linking breeding and non-breeding Golden-winged Warbler populations through geolocator technology. Ruth is also studying how changes in land use that lead to habitat loss on the wintering grounds of the GWWA are linked to population declines, with support from the US Fish and Wildlife Service Region 3.

Miguel Ramirez releases a Golden-winged Warbler with a geolocator in Rio Dulce. Photo by Ruth Bennett.

Miguel Ramirez releases a Golden-winged Warbler with a geolocator in Rio Dulce. Photo by Ruth Bennett.

 

Ruth Bennett, P.h.D. student, aims to connect the wintering habitat of the GWWA and its breeding habitat through her research in Central America. Between November 1, 2015 and March 15, 2016, Ruth and collaborators deployed geolocators on 145 GWWA and 35 BWWA at 9 sites from Belize through Panama, including Honduras. She will then recapture the individuals next winter, 2016-2017. These geolocators supply location data for up to 12 months, giving insight into the full life-cycle of the Golden-winged Warbler and closely-related Blue-winged warblers (BWWA). Through this research she will be able to establish the migratory pathways for all recaptured individuals. She will be able to compare how habitat loss on their wintering grounds and land use changes correlate with population trends described on the breeding grounds.

 

This will be one of the first geolocator studies to establish the connectivity of a migratory species from a winter grounds origin.  This research is important, because it creates a connection between non-profit, local and state governments in the United States and those in Latin America. This may increase funding opportunities and increase the efficiency of conservation action taken on the winter grounds. This research is especially important, as it forms one of the core informational components of the Golden-winged Warbler Non-breeding Season Conservation Plan (currently in review, soon to be available at gwwa.org). The conservation plan provides a regional strategy for conserving Golden-winged Warbler wintering habitat based on the wintering ecology of this species. The plan furthermore outlines conservation projects and budgets within high priority wintering focal areas that have been developed by Latin American partners. Ongoing research will be critical to ensure that these conservation actions effectively conserve the non-breeding habitat of this declining species.

This Golden-winged Warbler is fitted with a geolocator in Honduras. Photo by Ian Gardner.

This Golden-winged Warbler is fitted with a geolocator in Honduras. Photo by Ian Gardner.

 

Ruth has a small crew of local biologists who assist in her research in Latin America. Through her research in Honduras and Central America, Ruth has been able to connect with many local biologists and conservationists. It was great to meet Ruth in Honduras and learn about her research, which so important to New Jersey, but taking place so far away.

 

Our next Honduras blog, will feature our time with Ruth at the Feria de Aves Migratorias (Migratory Bird Festival) at the Universidad de las Agricultureal (Agriculture University) in Olancho, Honduras!

 

Learn More:

 

Kelly Triece is the Private Lands Biologist for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.

April 27th, 2016

CWF’s Eagle Expert Launches New Citizen Science Project

CWF Biologist Larissa Smith Looking for Data from EagleCam Viewers

by Lindsay McNamara, Communications Manager

EagleCam Screenshot 2016

Conserve Wildlife Foundation eagle biologist Larissa Smith has launched a new citizen science project in an effort to learn more about New Jersey’s eagles. We know that many teachers, students and bird lovers watch the wildly popular Duke Farms EagleCam, and now those viewers can help Larissa gather data by participating in the Eagle Food Observation Project.

 

Larissa holding an eagle at a banding last week.

Larissa holding an eagle at a banding last week.

Jim Wright — author of the popular posts about the eagles for Duke Farms’ “Behind the Stone Walls” blog, as well as, “The Bird Watcher” column for The Record — interviewed Larissa Smith in the most recent post on Duke Farms’ blog. In this interview, Larissa explains her latest citizen science project to learn more about the Duke Farms eaglets’ diet.

 

Learn More:

 

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

April 21st, 2016

Unveiling the Nature Trail at LBIF

Enhancing public access to Barnegat Bay and its inhabitants!

by Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager

Ben Wurst describes the Nature Trail from the rooftop deck of Science Building at LBIF. Photo by Kyle Gronostajski.

Ben Wurst describes the Nature Trail from the rooftop deck of Science Building at LBIF. Photo by Kyle Gronostajski.

This past Saturday we “unveiled” the new Nature Trail at the Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts & Sciences (LBIF). At the event we also conducted our first native plant sale, with lots of wildlife friendly plants, including milkweed, goldenrod, joe pye weed, bayberry, red cedar and many others. I lead guided tours along the trail to point out key features and work that we’ve done at LBIF. Our first stop was to the roof top of the Science Building, which is one of my favorite views. It provided visitors an opportunity to see what is the core foundation for our work, Barnegat Bay and some of the wildlife that we work tirelessly to protect and monitor: ospreys and northern diamondback terrapins, in particular.

Read the rest of this entry »

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