Conserve Wildlife Blog

Archive for the ‘American oystercatcher’ Category

Beach Nesting Bird Monitoring is Underway at the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge

Wednesday, May 4th, 2022

by Todd Pover

CWFNJ’s 2022 Edwin B. Forsythe NWR Beach Nesting Bird Field Crew. L to R: Jacob Miranda, Lexie Lawson, Amy Kopec, Erin Foley, (missing Dakota Bell).

For the past eight years, CWF has been contracted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service through a cooperative agreement to provide monitoring and management of beach nesting birds at the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge. The Refuge nesting sites – both the Holgate and Little Beach Island Units – provide some of the only habitat in the state closed to the public and free of human disturbance and detrimental beach management practices. The habitat at the sites is especially suitable for the state endangered piping plover as a result of optimal nesting conditions created by Superstorm Sandy and largely sustained since then through winter storms. As of the 2021 season, the Refuge sites had the highest concentration of piping plovers in the state, with Holgate having by far the most pairs (46). Furthermore, on average in recent years, Holgate has produced a higher fledgling rate than many sites in the state.

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CWF Assists the State with Wintering American Oystercatcher Survey

Saturday, January 8th, 2022

by Todd Pover, Senior Wildlife Biologist

American oystercatcher winter flock.

Most people are surprised to hear that American oystercatchers are present in New Jersey in the winter. They usually associate the charismatic shorebird as a breeding species here. Our state’s wintering oystercatchers, a combination of breeders from further north and our own, are at the northern extent of the Atlantic coast wintering range.

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The Mysterious Oystercatchers of the Delaware Bay: Results of the 2021 Bay-Wide Survey

Friday, October 1st, 2021

By: Meghan Kolk, CWF Wildlife Biologist

American oystercatcher foraging for oysters along the Delaware Bay. Photo credit: Meghan Kolk.

The Delaware Bay is well known for the spectacular phenomenon of spawning horseshoe crabs and migrating red knots every May, but in recent years the American oystercatchers (Haematopus palliatus) have also discovered the allure of the Bayshore and made it their home.  American oystercatchers, a State Species of Special Concern, have been monitored and managed by CWF and the NJDFW’s Endangered and Non-game Species Program along the Atlantic coast beaches for nearly two decades, resulting in a steady population increase.  However, the population that breeds along the Bayshore, first documented in 2016, has not received the same attention and had never been fully surveyed until this year. 

CWF’s interest in this newly discovered population led to a small pilot study of a few known breeding pairs in 2018.  Then this past May, we launched a bay-wide survey of the sandy beaches of the New Jersey side of the Bay from Cape May Point up to Seabreeze, the northernmost beach in Cumberland County.  The purpose of the bay-wide survey is to determine a baseline of the number and distribution of breeding pairs along the Bayshore.  The data gathered from this survey will add to the Statewide population estimate and help determine the amount of time and funding needed to fully monitor and manage the Bay’s population.  More monitoring will be necessary to assess risk factors and reproductive success.  Reproductive success can then be maximized by managing for risk factors such human disturbance, predation and tidal flooding.

This survey was made possible due to the efforts of dedicated volunteers and could not have been completed without their help.  Unlike the Atlantic coast, the Bayshore beaches are often difficult to access, and many can only be reached by boat, making this survey more challenging.  In fact, two sites that we planned to survey proved to be too difficult to reach and were skipped for this year.  Each of the 33 remaining sites were surveyed just once within a specific timeframe, giving only a snapshot of the breeding season.  We hope to be able to collect much more information in the future when more funding for this project is available.  Based on the survey that was conducted, 13 pairs were documented at 8 different sites and 8 nests were documented at 5 different sites.

In addition to the formal survey, I was able to collect some observations as I spent every day in May on the Bay working with red knots.  I took notice of the prey items that the oystercatchers were choosing.  I often observed them feasting on oysters, which were plucked off exposed rubble at low tide.  They also spent time at the man-made oyster reefs that were constructed at several beaches to act as breakwaters to slow the erosion of beaches.  They also favored ribbed mussel beds, which become exposed as the tide recedes.  The most interesting foraging behavior I witnessed was an oystercatcher plucking a fresh slipper shell off a horseshoe crab as it came to shore to spawn.  It seems the Bay offers a variety of good food sources for a bird that mainly preys on bivalve mollusks. 

I also noticed that flocks of up to 11 oystercatchers were traveling together up and down the Bayshore.  This is a peculiar behavior since oystercatchers are highly territorial during the breeding season and are typically only seen in flocks once the breeding season is over.  Could it be that the Bayshore is a popular spot for non-breeding young adults to hang out? 

So much more research is needed to answer the many questions we have about the mysterious Bayshore oystercatchers. 

Asbury Park Students learn firsthand from CWF Biologists

Tuesday, August 10th, 2021

by Ethan Gilardi, Wildlife Biologist

CWF biologists Todd Pover, Meghan Kolk, Ben Wurst, and Erin Foley have delivered a series of hands-on lessons – on the beach and in the classroom – in Asbury Park this summer. So far, students have learned about owls, beach nesting birds, and ospreys.

Conserve Wildlife Foundation is proud to partner with Asbury Park School District and New Jersey Natural Gas to teach students about Asbury Park’s rare wildlife, and how to protect and preserve the environment the kids – and the wildlife – call home.

Check out photos of this summer’s fun!

Students took to the beach to learn about beach nesting birds with Todd Pover and Erin Foley:
Meghan Kolk dissected barn owl pellets with students to learn more about their diet:
And Ben Wurst met students at the local football field to view an active osprey nest atop a light pole:

HOW YOU CAN HELP: SHOREBIRDS AND SEABIRDS

Friday, May 24th, 2019

By Alison Levine

Update May 30, 2019: Another example of the dangers of fishing (or this time crabbing) line unfolded in dramatic fashion in Tuckahoe Wildlife Management Area. CWF biologist Ben Wurst was called upon to put his climbing skills to the test to help an osprey dangling high above the ground. Thankfully Ben was able to get to the bird in time, and our friends at Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research nursed the osprey back to health and were able to re-release him near where he was found. Read more about the daring rescue on our Facebook page.

Ben Wurst puts his climbing skills to the test
to rescue and entangled osprey

As thousands of people plan their trips to the Jersey shore for Memorial Day weekend, it is a good time think about how to help out shore and sea birds. Enjoy the holiday weekend!

The 141 miles of seashore in New Jersey are home – or at least part-time host – to many of the birds Conserve Wildlife Foundation protects and nurtures. Osprey, oystercatchers, black skimmers, piping plovers, red knots, and many others rely on a healthy coast to thrive.

Piping plovers on the beach
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