Conserve Wildlife Blog

August 31st, 2015

Nature’s Chorus: Amphibian Calls

Conserve Wildlife Foundation Volunteers Survey For New Jersey Frog and Toads

by Larissa Smith, Wildlife Biologist/Volunteer Manager

Green Frog photo by CAMP volunteer Lorraine Catt

Green Frog photo by CAMP volunteer Lorraine Catt

Each spring, our Calling Amphibian Monitoring Project (CAMP) volunteers drive along a fifteen mile route after dusk, stopping at ten established stops along the route. They are hoping to hear the calls of some of New Jersey’s 17 species of frogs and toads. If they are lucky they’ll get to hear a chorus of several different species, sometimes so loud it’s almost deafening. Other times, they strain to hear a lone call from far away and many times they only hear the passing cars. It takes a dedicated volunteer to spend the time surveying and hearing only a few or no calls. But even the negative data is important, amphibians face many threats in New Jersey and establishing a long term database is key to learning about the population.

 

This season, twenty-one routes were surveyed and 16 of the 17 New Jersey frog and toad species were heard. The Eastern Spadefoot Frog was not heard this season. This year, the American Green Treefrog was recorded on one route in Salem County. This species of frog was first discovered in New Jersey in June 2011 in Salem County. The Northern Spring Peeper was heard on 19 out of the 21 routes, with Green Frogs heard on 15 routes and Northern Gray Treefrogs heard on 14 routes.

Gray Tree frog@ CAMP volunteer Marilyn Patterson

Gray Treefrog photo by CAMP volunteer Marilyn Patterson

There are 63 CAMP routes through out New Jersey. Currently 34 routes are available for the 2016 CAMP season. If you are interested in volunteering for the CAMP project, please contact Larissa Smith via email.

 

Learn more:

 

Larissa Smith is the Wildlife Biologist/Volunteer Manager for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.

August 27th, 2015

Providing a Safe Haven for Diamondback Terrapins

A Closer Look at Project Terrapin, a Growing Initiative that Focuses on Diamondback Terrapin Conservation

by Kiran Sinha, 2015 Project Terrapin Field Team Member and Wildlife Conservation Intern

Terrapin Hatchlings by Kiran Sinah

Terrapin Hatchlings by Kiran Sinha

Diamondback Terrapins are a species native to coastal marsh areas in New Jersey. Terrapins are an interesting species, in part because they are the only native New Jersey turtle that has adapted to marsh habitats. Diamondbacks have been spotted all over the Great Bay area, increasingly so in the Manahawkin-Long Beach Island area. Although their shells are extravagant and beautiful, sometimes it is hard to notice them in the water, especially when it is dark and murky. Terrapins can travel by water and land; neither is safer than the other in the busy water and road ways of Barnegat Bay.

 

Diamondbacks in New Jersey have had a high mortality rate due to impact from cars and boats. In fact, only one in fifty hatchlings survive to a full-grown adult. One teacher and terrapin conservationist is trying to change that. Dr. John Wnek is a teacher at M.A.T.E.S High School in Manahawkin. Dr. Wnek is an avid terrapin conservationist and he incorporates it into his schoolwork as much as possible. For the past few years he has been rescuing terrapins in the Barnegat Bay area. Whether they are hit by a boat, a car, or trapped in a net, Dr. Wnek is there to help. He has many terrapins in his classroom, mostly those that he rescues. He introduced his love for terrapins to his students and they have joined in to help with a growing initiative, Project Terrapin.

 

For this project, Dr. Wnek and his students distribute over one hundred terrapin hatchlings to coastal high schools and colleges in New Jersey. These students and teachers keep their turtles in the classroom and take care of them for almost a full school year. At the end of May every year, the students and teachers from each school join at Island Beach State Park to release the hatchlings into the Barnegat Bay. When the turtles are hatched in the wild, they sometimes do not even make it to the marsh water or bay. Predators, such as seagulls, can pick them up easily when they are so small.

 

With the help from the schools, the terrapins are well fed and kept clean from diseases so they can finally be set free in their new homes. A very important part of maintaining the hatchlings while in the classroom is keeping track of them after they are released. Since the little turtles are too small to tag, we perform a procedure called notching. This process is like filing a human finger nail; it is quick, simple and painless. To notch a turtle shell, we use a filer to leave indents in the shell. As you can see from the pictures below, turtles have keratin plates that make up the shell, called scutes. In order to mark them accordingly to the year, we correlate each scute with the letter of the alphabet. This year we used the letters N and O, you can see the scutes that are marked on the hatchling and turtle. Once this process is complete, we finally set our little buddies go to where they can thrive and reproduce. The goal of this project is to help replenish the diamondback terrapin population, with the help of Dr. Wnek and his students, the next generation of terrapin conservationists.

Photo by Kiran Sinah

Photo by Kiran Sinha

Learn more:

 

Kiran Sinha is a summer 2015 Wildlife Conservation Intern with Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey and a 2015 field team member for Project Terrapin.

August 27th, 2015

Help Pollinators: Create a Bee-Friendly Backyard

A Few Tips to Attract Bees to Your Backyard

by: McKenzie Cloutier, Special Events and Fundraising Intern

Honey_bee_on_blue_flower

Bees are essential members of our community. Some organizations estimate that we rely on pollinators to produce about 75% of the food we eat including vegetables, fruits, herbs, nuts and even coffee and chocolate! Nearly all of earth’s plants rely on bees. Conserving bees will help ensure food security.

 

Despite their importance, bees are currently threatened worldwide and as a result, their numbers are declining rapidly. The most prominent threats to bees include pesticide use, loss of habitat due to construction and human development, and an increase in invasive or nonnative plant species.

 

Thankfully, there is a lot that can be done to help bees regain their numbers, starting in your very own back yard:

  • First, reduce pesticide usage in your yard. Pesticides are harmful because they affect the nectar that bees consume. Ideally, go pesticide-free!
  • Next, create a habitat for bees in your backyard. Plant a garden with a variety of plants for bees to pollinate. Choose plants that flower at different times so that the bees will always have food accessible to them. Native plants are the most beneficial to bees. Bees will pollinate a countless number of different plant species, but they are more attracted to certain colors such as blue, purple yellow, white and violet. A few examples of their favorites include:
    • Foxglove
    • Heliotrope
    • Blueberry
    • Sunflower
    • Lavender
    • Squash
  • Next, construct homes for bees. Different structures are beneficial for different types of bees, so you can research ways to help house the various types. For example, you could purchase a mason bee house to benefit mason bees. You can also build your own bee house! Start with a milk carton or wooden box and paint it a bright color, making sure to use a zero-VOC (volatile organic compound) or low-VOC paint. Insert and layer piles of brown paper nest tubes; you can find these at a garden store or construct them yourself.
  • You can also build a bee bath. Bee baths should be shallow with landing spots available for bees. For example, use a plate or bowl and line it with rocks. Add only enough water that the rocks stay dry to serve as landing spots for the bees. Be sure to position the bath at ground level and to change the water on a daily basis.
  • A few last tips include choosing to mow meadow areas of your lawn less frequently and leaving an area of dirt in your yard for ground-nesting bees’ tunneling.

 

For more tips on how to help pollinators, visit U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s website.

 

McKenzie Cloutier is the summer 2015 Special Events and Fundraising Intern for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.

 

August 27th, 2015

Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

Wrapping up the 2015 Piping Plover Chick Mortality Study

by Emily Heiser, Biological Assistant

Look closely - a piping plover egg showing signs of hatching.

Look closely – a piping plover egg showing signs of hatching.

The tail end of the breeding season always brings a mix of unsettled emotions. There is a German word that perfectly describes this feeling, zugunhrue. It’s a compound word: ‘Zug’, describes movement or migration and ‘Unhrue’, describes anxiety or restlessness. You can almost see this feeling dripping off of the birds as they move around, fighting over the best foraging spots to bulk up and snuggling up to one another in the perfect roosting spot. They rely on weather cues and dwindling daylight to determine the best time to depart. To some extent, we find ourselves doing the same. It is a significant changing of the seasons as summer fades into fall for the beach nesting bird staff. We pack up the equipment, take down fencing, polish data and shift mindsets from breeding to migration.

Michelle Stantial of SUNY-ESF and Emily Heiser of CWF after their last successful chick capture of the 2015 field season (Photo courtesy of Northside Jim)

Michelle Stantial of SUNY-ESF and Emily Heiser of CWF after their last successful chick capture of the 2015 field season (Photo courtesy of Northside Jim)

Michelle Stantial, of the State University of New York – College of Environmental Science and Forestry departed on her own migration last week, wrapping up the 2015 piping plover chick mortality study. Michelle and I had a whirlwind summer of traversing the coast, trapping birds, collecting data and finding time to sleep somewhere in between. Ironically, New Jersey bolstered one of its better productivity seasons in years during the chick mortality study! Overall, the study was a resounding success. We worked with wonderful partners to achieve optimal results and hope to move ahead with future seasons. In total, we collected information from 29 breeding pairs of piping plovers and 62 of their chicks, deployed nine nest cameras and hiked many miles of beach looking for predator signs.

CWF beach nesting bird crew at Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge release piping plover chicks after being weighed and measured.

CWF beach nesting bird crew at Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge release piping plover chicks after being weighed and measured.

This season had all sorts of surprises waiting for us. While we took our losses hard, we celebrated our victories even harder. The information from the nest cameras was vital in our efforts to identify predators and in sourcing the issues that piping plovers face here in New Jersey. We watched fox, crow, gull and mink eat nests and it broke our hearts along the way. On the other hand, we watched how determined these birds were in sitting on their nests through downpours, lightning storms, high winds and tides. We had not one, but TWO double clutches this season. A double clutch is a rare event in a piping plover’s life cycle and has been documented sparingly over the years along the entire Atlantic Coast. The two pairs that double clutched laid their first nests, successfully reared their chicks to fledge and then laid another nest, ultimately fledging those chicks as well! It was a true delight to watch all four of these broods succeed this season.

 

As the weeks pass, the number of migrating piping plovers slowly dwindles and our seasonal staff departs for new adventures. It is always a bit sad to watch them leave, but it is reassuring to know we have made life long friendships and that the birds will undoubtedly be back next season! We only have to get through the doldrums of winter. Enjoy the fall and good luck on migration, our fine-feathered friends!

 

Learn more:

 

Emily Heiser is a Biological Assistant for the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.

August 25th, 2015

“Scout Central” at the 2015 New Jersey WILD Outdoor Expo

CWF to serve as “Scout Central” and Host Bat House and Rain Barrel Workshops at this year’s WILD Expo

by Lindsay McNamara, Communications Manager

2015 New Jersey WILD Outdoor Expo

 

The 2015 New Jersey WILD Outdoor Expoa free event designed for visitors to discover ways to appreciate and enjoy the outdoors, will be held on Saturday, September 12 and Sunday, September 13, 2015 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily at the Colliers Mills Wildlife Management Area in Jackson Township, Ocean County.

 

This year, Conserve Wildlife Foundation will be holding two exciting and worth-while workshops, “Build a Bat House” and “Make a Rain Barrel.” Help us provide safe roosting and maternity sites for bats being evicted from buildings through our “Build a Bat House” workshop! The bat houses built at the Expo will become part of an Eagle Scout Service Project benefiting Conserve Wildlife Foundation.

expo20144

Eagle Scout Dan Silvernail assists a 2014 Expo attendee in the building of a bat house.

Join us in our activity tent for Conserve Wildlife Foundation merchandise, discounts on membership and activities for Boy and Girl Scouts. The Conserve Wildlife Foundation tent will serve as “Scout Central” at this year’s event. Stop by for important scout information, handouts and activities. For a list of Boy and Girl Scout activities at this year’s Expo, visit our website.

 

expo20141

Wildlife biologist Stephanie Egger educating 2014 Expo attendees about New Jersey’s box turtles.

Learn more:

 

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

 

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