Conserve Wildlife Blog

Archive for the ‘Birds’ Category

Save Your Seeds This Halloween!

Monday, October 12th, 2020

by Meaghan Lyon

Halloween is right around the corner and of course that means preparing for the age-old tradition of carving pumpkins into jack-o-lanterns. An event that brings joy to your household and trick or treaters on Halloween night can also be beneficial to wildlife! Instead of tossing the seeds and guts of your pumpkins into the trash, save the seeds to feed wildlife in your own backyard.

As the weather gets cooler and food becomes scarcer, wildlife species like migrating songbirds and small mammals seek out fall nuts and berries to help get them through the cold weather months. Migrating songbirds need energy to fuel their long migration south and molt into their winter plumage. Songbirds also need to store more fat to help resist the cold. Pumpkin seeds are full of essential nutrients and trace minerals that could be hard to come by in the winter.

Small mammals like squirrels and chipmunks can also benefit from pumpkin seeds. Although you may not see as many squirrels and chipmunks in the winter, they do not hibernate. Their activity slows down considerably in the winter and they rely on the food they stored in the fall. Food caching is a common practice among small mammals which allows them access to food when the ground is frozen or covered in snow. Additionally, pumpkin seeds are a healthy snack to help store fat for the winter.

There are many ways you could provide these seeds to wildlife. The pumpkin seeds can be added to a bird seed mix or just sprinkled on the ground. They do not need to be baked or dried, just left in a small bowl accessible to your backyard critters. If carving pumpkins is not your aesthetic, wildlife will also enjoy the pumpkin or squash in its entirety.

This is a great way to use every part of your Halloween pumpkins and be left with no waste! After Halloween, the pumpkins can also be composted at a local facility to help benefit the environment. Let’s make this year a Happy Halloween for communities and for wildlife!

Meaghan Lyon is a biologist with Conserve Wildlife Foundation. 

Survey of Beach Litter Finds Many Threats to Nesting Birds

Thursday, October 1st, 2020

by Mary Emich

Plover chick next to a seabeach amaranth plant. Photo by Alice Brennan.

Despite hundreds of trash bins conveniently located on the beach, litter is still found in the sand every day. Many people enjoy their summer days at a key beach nesting bird site in Sea Girt. Beach goers leave behind trash that litters the crucial environment. These include plastic bottles, bags, cans, wrappers, straws, fishing line, etc. Plastic pollution effects the surrounding environment and wildlife that inhabits it.

At the Sea Girt beach, piping plovers (Charadrius melodus), an endangered beach nesting bird species, travels hundreds of miles to breed and nest during the summertime. This species is directly affected by the amount of litter that pollutes the beach. Every year shore birds, and many other species, ingest plastic or get entangled in fishing line which lessens their chance of survival.

Seabeach Amaranth. Photo by Meghan Kolk.

Another significant endangered species located at Sea Girt beach is seabeach amaranth (Amaranthus pumilus). This annual plant needs a healthy ecosystem free of debris to thrive every season. It is important to maintain a strong coastal habit for reproduction and population growth.

Twenty weeks of litter was collected at the Sea Girt beach with approximately 200 plastic straws, 50 plastic bags, 75 bottles, and 25 pieces of fishing line. Pollution on the beach can be prevented if patrons are mindful of properly disposing their trash at the end of their trip.

20 weeks worth of beach trash recovered from the Sea Girt beach.

Mary Emich is an assistant biologist with Conserve Wildlife Foundation.

Help Us Continue the Inspiring Recovery of New Jersey’s Bald Eagles: The first $5,000 donated will be matched dollar for dollar!

Thursday, September 24th, 2020

by Larissa Smith, CWF Biologist

Photo by Barb McKee

None of us could have predicted what would happen in 2020, and that’s certainly true for New Jersey’s bald eagles.

When our eagle volunteers joined me at our kick-off training in February, we prepared as usual to monitor known nests and educate landowners and the public about the importance of minimizing disturbance to our breeding pairs.

We never imagined how important eagles would become to so many people during the COVID-19 pandemic. Dozens of you shared the wonder you felt in seeing eagles fly overhead, some for the first time. Eagles became a sign of strength and resilience for those staying at home, as well as those venturing out to do essential work.

And New Jersey’s eagle population soared – both literally and figuratively – breaking records with more than 200 active nests (with eggs) and 300 young fledged – up from just one pair in the early 1980’s.

We can thank our devoted eagle volunteers for this year’s success, as well as the individual, foundation, and corporate supporters who came through with funding to support our tireless efforts.

Unfortunately, not everyone who gave in the past, or who expected to give this year, donated as planned. And we recently learned that we’re losing our largest project funder for the coming season.

That is why I’m asking you to donate today to help CWF raise $10,000 to help cover the shortfall. Two generous donors have each put up a $2,500 match, which means that the first $5,000 donated will be matched dollar for dollar.

While having the best season on record is exciting news for all of us, important work remains to be done. Eagles still face serious threats of habitat loss and disturbance. The increasing population will require an even larger team of trained volunteers to observe nesting behavior and determine egg laying, hatching, and fledging dates. It also means an increase in the number of injured eagles which will need help. All of this takes time and resources.

For my part, I’m happiest when I’m outside working with bald eagles as I have for 20 years. After all, I’m a biologist, not a fundraiser! But in this case, I’m reaching out to ask for your support for the Eagle Project. We have overcome financial challenges in the past with the help of people like you. Whether you have always supported this project, or have newfound appreciation for these majestic raptors, please help us to ensure that this incredible success story continues to inspire all of us!

Thank you and stay safe.


Learn more about CWF’s Bald Eagle Project here.

Learn more about New Jersey EagleTrax here.

Watch the CWF/Duke Farms Eagle Cam here.

Three Vultures get a second chance

Monday, August 24th, 2020

by: Larissa Smith, CWF Biologist

Juvenile Black vulture at release@Kathy Clark

Three juvenile Black Vultures were released back into the wild at at site in Cumberland County.

This location is the site where several other juvenile eagles were released recently after recovering from various injuries. A feeding station has been set up and stocked every other day with fresh fish to supplement their diet until they are able to hunt on their own. Game cameras set up by ENSP, Kathy Clark show that both eagles and vultures have been visiting the site. One of the first juvenile eagles to be released and banded E/96, makes almost daily visits to the site.

Diane Nickerson Director of the Mercer County Wildlife Center was caring for three Black Vulture juveniles 3.5 to 4 months old, that were ready for release. It was decided to release them at the feeding station in Cumberland County where they could be around other vultures.

Black vulture nestlings at Mercer Co. Wildlife@ Diane Nickerson

Black vultures do not build nests, they lay their eggs in tree cavities, hollow logs, caves and on the floor of abandoned buildings. Two of the vulture nestlings had been removed from a barn during renovation and dumped in the woods. Luckily a neighbor found them and they arrived at Mercer County Wildlife Center on May 28, 2020. The third nestling came from the Raptor Trust in June.

Vultures are social, they roost, eat and soar in groups. The three juveniles needed to be released where there were other vultures. The nest cams at the feeding site showed that there were plenty of both Turkey and Black vultures, at the feeding site.

Juvenile Black vultures at release@ Kathy Clark

Thank you to Mercer County Wildlife Center and everyone who made this release possible, including the Eagle Project volunteers who have been dropping fish off at the feeding station.



Photos from the Field

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2020

Grounded: Resurgence of natural osprey nests

by Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager

A ground nest with three young. photo by Ben Wurst

It’s not very common to see ospreys, a large predatory bird, nest on the ground. Despite the rarity of these sightings, it has become more common and acts as a glimpse into the past (and future), before humans dominated the landscape. Today, more and more ospreys are building nests on the ground and snags over water.

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