Conserve Wildlife Blog

November 26th, 2021

Shorebird Steward’s Photo is a winner

by: Larissa Smith, CWF biologist

Congratulations to Luke Tan for having his photo Semipalmated Sandpipers Feeding win Runner Up in the Student Category for NJ Monthly’s Cover Search Competition. Luke volunteers as a CWF Shorebird Steward on the Delaware Bay during the spring shorebird migration. He captured this photo while on Reed’s Beach, Cape May County.

Learn more about Luke and the contest:

https://njmonthly.com/articles/jersey-living/the-winners-of-new-jersey-monthly-and-unique-photos-2021-cover-search-contest/

November 24th, 2021

A Certified Wildlife Habitat Restoration in Progress

By Meghan Kolk, Wildlife Biologist

CWF Biologists (left to right) Sherry Tirgrath, Christine Healy, and Ethan Gilardi plant new greenery in the Trailside Nature Center Garden.

This fall CWF worked with the staff at the Trailside Nature and Science Center at Watchung Reservation in Union County, New Jersey to restore their Certified Wildlife Habitat.  A Certified Wildlife Habitat must include sources of food, water, cover and places to raise young, and must be maintained using sustainable practices.  Their garden had suffered from years of neglect and had become overgrown and choked out by weeds.

The first task was to tackle the major cleanup with the goals of opening the garden up to more sunlight, making room for new plantings, and giving the garden a fresh and clean appearance. CWF staff, interns and volunteers joined the Trailside Center’s staff and spent a day pulling weeds, digging up unwanted and overgrown plants, trimming shrubs and trees, clearing vines from trees, and raking and blowing leaves.  Dead, dying, or damaged trees and shrubs were cut down.  We left the healthy and beneficial trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants that will be the backbone of the refreshed garden.  At the end of the day, the result of cleanup was remarkable.  Sunlight can now reach the ground, and the garden became a clean slate to add new plantings that will benefit birds, bees, butterflies, and other wildlife. 

Trailside garden before and after cleanup.

The next step was to install a new deer fence around the garden.  The Trailside Center lies within a wooded area and deer are drawn to the garden to munch on the shrubs and plants.  In order to keep deer from destroying the garden, while allowing birds and other wildlife to utilize it, we installed a new eight-foot-high deer fence around the garden to replace one that had fallen down years ago.  At the same time, we planted some new trees and shrubs in the garden that will be able to grow without the pressure of deer browse.  We planted only native species that will attract birds, hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies to the garden. 

In the spring, we will return to plant native herbaceous perennial plants that will also benefit birds, hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies.  We will be sure to plant some host species for native butterflies, such as milkweed for monarchs.  We plan to make a corner of the garden that caters specifically to hummingbirds.  The garden is already home to a beautiful man-made creek flowing into a pond that draws birds and frogs.  Several types of bird feeders, squirrel feeders and nest boxes are scattered throughout the garden as well.  The restored garden will be unveiled this spring for visitors to observe through the viewing windows inside the Trailside Center.

Trailside staff install deer fencing around the garden with help from CWF staff, interns, and volunteers.

November 12th, 2021

Where’s Duke?

By Barb McKee, New Jersey Eagle Project Volunteer

August 1, 2021. It is raining and dreary out. Indoors all day wrapping up my end-of-season raptor time/mileage sheets, I have cabin fever! Tracking Duke for the last nine months has been educational and fun, and right now I know that he is nearby. For the last week he has been perching along the Raritan river–very close to my home and adjacent to his natal home, Duke Farms in Hillsborough. I have been too busy to spend as much time as I would like hiking and biking along the river nearby, while playing “hide and seek” with Duke! I check the internet link for today’s confirmation. Sure enough, Duke is perched in a wide-open field on Duke Farms land that I know well. It is only 4 miles away so I get in the car and head over there. Because it is raining, my chances of spotting him might be pretty good since eagles prefer not to fly in the rain, but rather remain on their perches without moving. He might still be there! I anticipate success. There he is! Right where I thought he would be. In a small grouping of trees in the middle of this large field there is one dead tree front and center, and Duke, fortunately, is perched on the dead tree, easily seen from the road. The photos are shot from about 100 yards away, in a light rain, but it is still a thrill to see him as it has been exactly two months since I last saw him on June 1st. blog post (Playing Hide and Seek with an Eagle)

“Duke” August 1st, 2021 by Barb McKee

On August 2, I learned that Duke had flown from that Duke Farms field back to the Delaware River and to Tohickon Creek where he spent the first week in August. As the second week began, his transmitter skipped 2 consecutive days of downloading data, but and when it finally did download, he had flown back to Duke Farms! In the coming days he seemed restless. He did not hunker down in one area, but appeared to be revisiting all of his haunts and hang-outs in central Jersey from the last nine months. He even went back to Tewksbury, flew very close to his winter “restaurant”, the game fowl pens at Flint Hill Hunting Preserve, and did a huge circle over Bedminster! He checked out Round Valley, the Black/Lamington River, Eagle Bend on the North Branch, and explored that river from Far Hills all the way to route 22. Then on August 30, a travel day again, he flew back to the Delaware! Again his transmitter did not connect with the satellite on the last day in August, but when it finally did connect, it was clear that his restlessness continued.

During the torrential rains of hurricane Ida, Duke finally hunkered down in PA on Neshaminy creek west of Washington Crossing in a rural area of woods and fields. He remained there until Sept. 6 when he flew back to the Delaware River and perched right near my Bulls Island nest. That is where he was on Sept 7. Then….his transmitter skipped three days of downloading! Finally, on Sept. 10, 72 hours of data downloaded and it showed he had been back on Tohickon Creek. This is a wild stream in a wooded gorge. There are some roads and houses here and there, but it is mostly rural–a good place for a young eagle. There would be plenty of places to perch and roost, and fish and small animals in and by the river to eat. But then, after 3:03:08 pm Eastern Daylight Time on September 10, his transmitter went dark!

Duke_Hillsborough November 24, 2020 by Barb McKee


My adventures with Duke started exactly a year ago today! blog post (Duke’s Homecoming) I learned he can hold his own against competition for food, aggressively steal from lesser raptors, find small rodents, reptiles and other prey in the smallest of creeks and valleys, fly beautifully and roost safely during rain, wind and snow. I have watched him thrive as an independent eagle in the wild, and although I sometimes worried about his choice of perches and food sources, I believe he has a great chance of reaching maturity and, in about 2 years, with his head and tail feathers mostly white, find a territory he likes and a mate with whom to build a nest. I miss knowing where he has been and miss our games of hide and seek. It has been 57 days since his last data download. I trust from the information on the site that his solar battery has failed and that Duke himself has not failed! During the coming winter I will be searching all the places I know he preferred. I believe eagles are creatures of habit. As I watched him travel around, sometimes all the way to the Chesapeake and back, I am sure that he used his eagle eyes to spot landmarks which are his “road maps” when he travels. I have plenty of reason to believe that he will return to his favorite roosts and hang out and I will have my eyes open, still searching for him. My sincere hope is that I, or someone else, will someday catch a photo of him with his E/88 band easily readable!

In the meantime, soar safely Duke, fly high and free.

November 9th, 2021

Coastal Barn Owl Project Update

By Meghan Kolk, CWF Wildlife Biologist

The Coastal Barn Owl Project team is gearing up for another round of nest box installations in coastal southern New Jersey.  After a successful fundraising appeal, we can now thank our donors by adding more potential nesting opportunities for barn owls, a species in population decline. 

Our fourth and most recent box was just installed on October 22 in the saltmarshes of Cape May County.  With each install, the team is becoming more efficient, and we hope to get several more boxes up in key locations before early spring when the owls begin their search for suitable nesting sites. 

The newest barn owl nest box with volunteers Kevin Knutsen, Steve Eisenhauer and Mike Lanzone on left.  Team leaders Tricia Miller and Meghan Kolk on right.  Photo by Lisa Ferguson.

November 8th, 2021

Uncovering Urban Reptile and Amphibian Diversity

by Christine Healy, Wildlife Biologist

Coverboards are typically placed along ecotones, where species diversity is expected to be greatest. The corrugated tin board, pictured above, was positioned along a forest edge where larger deciduous trees meet a more open, sandy landscape.

How do you survey for animals that spend most of their time hidden under leaf litter or wedged between fallen tree limbs and rocks?

In the case of reptiles and amphibians, the answer is to use coverboards!

Coverboards are materials that are intentionally placed within a potential habitat, often along ecotones (where different habitat types- e.g., wetland and forest, field and forest, etc. come together) that trap moisture and retain heat, creating favorable conditions for our “cold-blooded” (ectothermic) friends. Researchers often arrange coverboards in long transects or arrays and collect data on the diversity of the community underneath the boards as compared to the surrounding environment. This technique was used by NJDEP Division of Fish and Wildlife to survey for herptiles in 17 wildlife management areas in the early 2000s (Golden, 2004). A total of 30 species were recorded during the first year of the study, including long-tailed salamanders, pine barrens tree frogs, and northern pine snakes, all of which are listed as threatened in New Jersey.   

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