Conserve Wildlife Blog

Unveiling the Nature Trail at LBIF

April 21st, 2016

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.

Mike, beekeeper with Uriah Creeks talks about his bees and the importance of planting native in the landscape.

Mike, beekeeper with Uriah Creek talks about his bees and the importance of planting native in the landscape.

After a brief introduction, we began our short hike along the trail, which meanders through a small coastal maritime forest of red cedars, Japanese pines, and winged sumac to the coastal saltmarsh. Our first stop was to identify a few very common and highly invasive plants to the site: common reed (Phragmites australis) and Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica). Our next stop was identify some native species, like winged sumac, black cherry, Virginia creeper, and bayberry along the trail. All of these species are great for wildlife since the plants produce flowers and fruit for nectar feeding insects and migratory birds. Our third stop was at the working beehives. Mike Long, with Uriah Creek explains his beehives and attendees watched as the bees flew overhead to and from the hives. Our fourth stop was to point out the poison ivy that thrives along the edges of the trail. The ivy had not yet leafed out, so many were not familiar with identifying it. Many of us who helped to blaze the original trail may still be feeling the effects of the ivy… We are working on a plan to remove it completely from the edges of the trail before the busy summer season begins.

This is the largest privately owned and preserved section of saltmarsh on Long Beach Island!

Our last stop was at the new Osprey Viewing Blind that we built and installed along their existing marsh walkway. The blind, was placed along the trail to gives viewers a secluded place to view the ospreys while giving the birds the space they need to thrive. This is one of only a small handful of active osprey nests that can be viewed along the length of LBI. Ben Wurst explained the history of the nest and how he originally thought that the pair was being disturbed too frequently at the site. But, after learning more about the pair through observations of his friend, LBI’s Northside Jim, he learned that the male, named Jack, was a “teenage” osprey and that he did not know his full role in his mated bond with the female. Last year was his first year at successfully producing young. So far we have learned that the pair is straight to business this year. Visitors on Saturday saw the pair on the nest (no eggs yet) and Jack performing the courtship display, called the “skydance” over LBIF’s marsh, which drew OOOooo’s and Ahhhh’s from the crowd. We were setting boundaries with the ospreys there so they know that we will never go further than the location of the blind to their nest. It’s important for everyone who uses the blind to follow the “Osprey Blind Etiquette” guidelines that are posted in the blind.

In addition to the Nature Trail, we are also helping LBIF to enhance its existing wildlife habitat on site by planting native, flowering and fruit bearing perennials, grasses and shrubs, and to identify and control the non-native and invasive vegetation there. We are working with their buildings and grounds staff to help make sure LBIF is a “wildlife friendly” establishment. One of the final components that we are working on is a series of interpretive signs that will highlight features/issues along the trail using paintings by a local artist.

Some “wildlife (and bay) friendly” practices they will begin to practice includes:

  • NOT using harmful pesticides, fertilizers, or herbicides on site
  • Planting native perennials and annual wildflowers that are not “pre-treated” with harmful insecticides
  • NOT using dyed mulch in landscaping

We hope that the next time you visit the north end of Long Beach Island you stop by LBIF to check out the Nature Trail. Please visit LBIFs website for more information about the nature trail, landscaping for wildlife on barrier island, and more information about the Barnegat Bay ecosystem.

We’d like to thank all the volunteer who helped to create the trail, our partners and donors including, the Osprey Foundation, ReClam the Bay, Alliance for a Living Ocean, the LBI Garden Club, and Long Beach Township.

Photos from the Unveiling:

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