Conserve Wildlife Blog

Archive for the ‘Birds’ Category

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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Piping Plovers (Joey and Hamlet) Return!

Friday, April 1st, 2022

by Sherry Tirgrath, Wildlife Biologist

As the piping plovers of New Jersey return to their coastal breeding grounds from their wintering range, a familiar pair has been spotted at the National Guard Training Center (NGTC) in Sea Girt. The pair, dubbed “Joey” and “Hamlet”, have nested at NGTC for 3 consecutive years and are back for their 4th nesting season in 2022. The first of the pair was noticed on site on March 22nd, seemingly resting after a long journey. The second plover was spotted the morning of March 25th and the two have been foraging and roosting together since. The same day that the second plover of the pair arrived, 7 more piping plovers were found roosting near the south boundary of NGTC’s beach. That group has moved on, but Joey and Hamlet have remained to reclaim their territory.

Joey and Hamlet were both banded as chicks in 2018 at Sea Bright, NJ. They have successfully raised chicks at NGTC since they began nesting there in 2019. Prior to their initial arrival, piping plovers had not nested at that site for over a decade. Upon their first arrival at NGTC’s beach in 2019, Joey and Hamlet were paired with different mates. Joey nested with an unbanded female and fledged 2 chicks, while Hamlet nested with a male plover named “Bo”. However, the chicks from their nest did not survive to fledging. Joey and Hamlet paired up in 2020 and fledged 3 chicks together that year and 3 again in 2021. Overall, the pair is highly productive at this site, which signifies that piping plovers will continue to nest here in the future.

Other beach-nesting birds also frequent the site. Least terns, a state-endangered species, and American oystercatchers, a species of special concern, have both nested on site in the past. However, in 2019, predation by red fox resulted in a least tern colony losing 14 nests and 5 chicks, with only one chick surviving to fledge. Since then, the terns have roosted on site but have not attempted to nest. American oystercatchers also roost on site each year but have not had any successful nest attempts in the last few years. Red fox caused nest failures in 2019 and 2020, with no attempt made to nest last year in 2021.

To encourage beach-nesting birds to return and nest at NGTC, a variety of management strategies have been carried out to provide a more optimal nesting habitat. Vegetation thinning was performed in an established protection area to create more space for shorebirds to choose from with plenty of vegetation left to provide shelter and camouflage from people and predators. Shell fragments were deposited in the habitat for use by the shorebirds for lining their nests. The fragments are used to disguise nests as the eggs blend in well with the sand and broken shell pieces. Least tern decoys were also placed around the protection area to encourage the terns to roost and hopefully nest on site again. Although plovers are territorial and won’t nest together, least terns prefer to roost and nest in colonies to maximize protection and defense. The decoys may draw them to investigate the site and stick around.

Fingers are crossed for another productive season for Joey and Hamlet at NGTC, and there’s hope for other beach-nesting birds to return to utilize the site for raising chicks, as well.