Conserve Wildlife Blog

Archive for the ‘Birds’ Category

Piping Plover Chicks Hatch at National Guard Training Center

Monday, June 13th, 2022

by Sherry Tirgrath

Piping Plover Joey and his chick. Photo by Sherry Tirgrath

It’s officially chick season for the beach-nesting birds of New Jersey, and some of the first, fuzzy babies of the year were hatched at National Guard Training Center in Sea Girt. Piping plovers, Joey and Hamlet, laid their third nest together after first nesting at NGTC in 2019. The pair both had different partners that year, but got together in 2020 and fledged three chicks together for two years in a row. This year, the pair had the first confirmed nest in the state and diligently incubated their eggs during the entire month of May. The nest was anticipated to hatch over Memorial Day Weekend.

Just a couple days before the chicks made their appearance, tragedy struck. Hamlet was not seen for a couple days, and fear started growing that something had happened to her or she abandoned the nest, which would be very unlikely for such a devoted and successful veteran mother. When the chicks finally hatched from their eggs on May 29th and only Joey was seen tending to them, some investigating was done into Hamlet’s disappearance. Her body was found at the edge of NGTC property, likely predated by an owl or other bird of prey, as evidenced by the condition of her body. As tragic and sad as her death was, it’s a wonder that her body was found at all. In many cases, there’s no closure for piping plover disappearances. Joey was left to raise his chicks as a single father, receiving praise and encouragement from everyone following his story. 

The chicks have reached the 10-day mark as of June 8th, and appear healthy and strong. Only two have made it this far, but Joey is doing an excellent job on his own protecting them from threats and keeping them in line. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that both chicks make it to fledging, and Joey can keep up his excellent fatherhood record. It’s unknown if Joey will seek a new mate next year or retire from parenthood, but for now, we are saddened by the end of the era of Joey and Hamlet. 

Monitoring of beach-nesting birds takes time and commitment from our team of biologists and seasonal technicians. The largest piping plover breeding population in New Jersey resides at our Holgate site, where pairs, nests and hatched chicks are observed and tracked nearly every day during the nesting season. Nests north of that site are sparser and face many threats from human disturbance and high predator presence. While the coastal piping plover population is still struggling, CWF continues to fight to protect our state’s rare species and educate the public about the importance of respecting wildlife.

Empty Nest Syndrome: NJ Eagle Chicks Fledge

Monday, June 6th, 2022

by: Larissa Smith, CWF biologist

Clinton nest, nine week old chick stretching it’s wings: photo by Linda Rapacki
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Shorebird Stewards Make A Difference

Sunday, May 29th, 2022

by: Larissa Smith, CWF biologist

Since 2003 Conserve Wildlife Foundation has been coordinating the Delaware Bay Shorebird Stewards. Shorebird Stewards are posted at the beaches with restricted access during the shorebird season. This is done so that the shorebirds can feed undisturbed on horseshoe crab eggs. The beach restrictions are from May 7th to June 7th. The Delaware Bay is an important stopover for these birds on their way north to their breeding grounds. Stewards educate the public about the need for the beach restrictions. Once most people learn about the connection between the horseshoe crabs and shorebirds, they are more than happy to accept the restrictions. This season there were thirty-one stewards on 10 beaches in Cape May and Cumberland Counties. They are dedicated and on the beaches despite the weather, bugs and sometimes lack of shorebirds. Stewards are on beaches through Monday, so stop by and say “hello”.

Thank you Shorebird Stewards

Shorebirds on Thompson’s Beach, photo by: Matt Tribulski

Grassland Bird Survey Yields Promising Results

Friday, May 20th, 2022

by Meaghan Lyon

Earlier this week CWF and USFWS biologists joined forces to start off the season with a grassland bird survey in Burlington County, New Jersey. The vast grassland habitat, doubling as an airfield, is home to the state endangered upland sandpiper, state threatened grasshopper sparrow, savannah sparrow, and bobolink, as well as the eastern meadowlark, a species of concern. These bird species, among many others, can all be found nesting at this site in the clumps of grass during the months of May, June, and July. Many of the management practices at the airfield, like consistent mowing, help maintain this grassland habitat and keep it an early successional state for grassland birds to nest in year after year.

For the survey, biologist met on site just before sunrise with binoculars hanging from their necks and clipboards with data sheets in hand. Male birds were already perching on tall blades of grass and singing to attract mates and defend territory as we dispersed to our survey points. At each point it was our job to distinguish what bird song and calls we were hearing and record any focal species activity onto our data sheets.

Between the three surveyors and 25 survey points, all of the target species were identified as well as hundreds of red-winged black birds, two great egrets, and a few mallard ducks. Of particular note, one upland sandpiper pair was sighted in its usual nesting area.

Three more surveys will follow between now and the end of the grassland bird nesting season. Follow along for updates throughout the season!

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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