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Archive for the ‘Get Involved’ Category

Early days on Delaware Bay – Horseshoe Crabs Just Beginning To Breed as Shorebirds Arrive

Saturday, May 19th, 2018

by Larry Niles

Horseshoe Crabs Just Beginning To Breed as Shorebirds Arrive

 

Delaware Bay horseshoe crab eggs reach sufficient levels to give red knots and other shorebirds a good start on the fat they need to fuel the last leg of their yearly journey in the first week of the stopover ( May 12-19).  Knots need at least 180 grams to fly to the Arctic and breed successfully.  This week we caught birds that weighed 93 grams which is 30 grams below fat-free weight.  These birds had just arrived from a long flight, probably from Tierra del Fuego, Chile or Maranhão, Brazil.  In the same catch, we weighed red knots as high as 176 grams or only 5 grams from the 180-gram threshold.  These birds are probably from Florida or the Caribbean wintering areas and so arrive earlier,  resulting in them having more time to gain weight.  All together it looks like a normal early migration and a modest horseshoe crab spawn, just barely enough for the birds in the bay.

shorebirds in a net

Our team prepares a catch of knots turnstones and semipalmated sandpipers for extraction to keeping cages. The birds will be covered to prevent feather abrasion before extraction (Photo by Stephanie Feigin)

However, we are still short of about half the population.  Our bay wide count won’t take place until next week on May 22 and 26. At this point it looks like we have about 14,000 knots in the bay, of which 8,000 are in New Jersey. In the last 5 years we have had a bay wide population of about 24,000 red knots.  The situation is similar for ruddy turnstones and sanderlings.  The southernly winds of the next few days will almost certainly bring in the rest of the flock by mid-week.

The Stopover Habitat is Growing

 

The condition of the stopover is mixed.

The work of Niles & Smith Conservation Services, Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ, and American Littoral Society continues to supply high-quality habitat for horseshoe crabs. We have developed an efficient system for maintaining the essential requirements of a good spawning beach, deep and large grain sand with berm heights that prevent over washing in a way that keeps cost down. First, by creating low oyster reefs to break waves in lower tides, thus protecting beaches from wind waves at low and mid tides.  Second, by placing sand on beaches that typically erode fast losing sands to adjacent creek inlets and the next beach south.  This way we can use one restoration to restore three different places.  For example, Cooks Beach loses sand to South Reeds.

 

restored beach in Delaware Bay

Thompsons beach before and after restoration by American Littoral Society and partners. (Photo by Larry Niles)

Oddly these successes may be contributing to the next big problem for the birds. The state of Delaware has been carrying out much larger scale beach replenishment projects that have added significant new sandy beach for crabs spawning.  At the same time the Atlantic States Marine Fish Commission has failed to deliver on its promise to increase the number of crabs.  The population is still 1/3 below carrying capacity or the number that existed 20 years ago.  The same number of crab divided by more beach equals decreasing crab densities.  Decreasing densities means fewer eggs reaching the surface because crabs are not digging up existing eggs to lay their own.

In other words, we need more crabs.

The Industry Finds New Ways around the ARM Quota

 

But the resource agencies seem perfectly happy to keep killing adult crabs for both bait and bleeding at near historically high numbers. Bait harvests recorded as coming from the bay have stayed the same, however other states such as NY are still taking and landing large numbers of crabs despite having no known crab historic population of their own. Additionally, Virginia states that a crab population still exists in the state, even though most field biologists consider them lost.  The truth is they are very likely taking Delaware Bay crabs and landing them as their own.

The Conservation groups are no longer satisfied with this loose regulation and are calling for regulations similar to those used for Striped Bass.  The Delaware Bay harvest should be restricted to just the quota agreed upon by everyone through the Adaptive Resource Management system.  All other landed crabs should be genetically linked to a source population, and if they do in fact come from Delaware Bay they should be taken out of the ARM quota. No one should be allowed to get away with killing our crabs outside the quota.

Or just stop the senseless killing of these valuable animals as bait for the dying couch fishery.

 

crab eggs graph on Delaware Bay

This graph compares the finding of Botton et al 1994 from horsesoe crab egg surveys done in 1990 and recent counts done in 2017

 

The same goes for the killing of crabs by the companies bleeding crabs.  The industry makes untold millions (the numbers are hidden from the public) but does virtually nothing to conserve the crabs while killing thousands. Their own estimate is well over 65,000 a year, but independent estimates double that.  This killing could also stop because a new synthetic lysate is available and can be used now, potentially cutting the need for natural lysate by 90%.

An Ecosystem Collapse and the Need for More Crabs

 

Why kill such a valuable animal?  It all started because the fishing industries saw little value and figured why not destroy the population until they are no longer economically viable.  Its called economic extinction and sadly it’s a tradition amongst Delaware Bay fishers still carried out this to this day on eels, conch, and other species.  But they didn’t know back in the early 90’s they would wrecking the entire ecosystem.

In 1991, we counted an average of 80,000 horseshoe crabs/meter squared.  Now we count 8,000.  Then the eggs stayed at that level for all of May and June then hatched young at similar densities. In other words, the horseshoe crab was a keystone producer of an abundant resource that maintained the bay ecosystem.  It was not just chance that at the same time the bay has one of the most productive weakfish and blue claw crab fisheries in the Atlantic coast.  Fish populations blossomed with the flush of horseshoe crab eggs and hatched young each year.

Now we must bring it back.  For the birds, for the fish, and for the people who love to bird and fish.

 

storm delaware bay horseshoe crabs

A storm looms over Delaware Bay. The last 4 days have been rain, some intense and cold. The water temperature needs to be 59 degrees or so for Crabs to spawn. On Saturday the 19th the water temperature fell below and the spawn virtually stopped in many places. It should resume with the warmer temperatures of Saturday and Sunday.

We are grateful to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and other donors who make this project possible.

Dr. Larry Niles has led efforts to protect red knots and horseshoe crabs for over 30 years.

Salamanders already on the move

Sunday, February 18th, 2018

by David Wheeler

Photo by David Moskowitz

The salamanders and frogs in East Brunswick got an early start to their migration season by crossing this week on February 15. David Moskowitz found spotted salamanders, wood frogs, dozens of spring peepers, and one wood frog crossing the temporarily closed section of Beekman Road in the early evening rain.

“This is the earliest they’ve ever moved – by about a week – in the 12 years I’ve been closing the road,” said Moskowitz.

East Brunswick has closed the road for a few nights each late winter/early spring when conditions are just right. While all amphibian species are vulnerable, spotted salamanders are a species of special concern in New Jersey.

 

Photo by David Moskowitz

Conserve Wildlife Foundation partners with certain municipalities and the Division of Fish and Wildlife’s Endangered and Nongame Species Program on salamander crossings in northern New Jersey. This is a key initiative among CWF’s amphibian projects.

The East Brunswick crossing offers the best opportunity for the public to take part and see these salamanders and frogs up close. Check their website for the next expected crossing and share the road with a salamander!

New Year brings a new amphibian!

Thursday, February 15th, 2018

by Allegra Mitchell, Wildlife Biologist

 

Each New Year promises an exciting year ahead, and conservation science is no exception! As biologists gear up for the field season, CWF’s amphibian programs are particularly noteworthy.

 

Our Amphibian Crossing Project has made major strides in protecting the frogs, toads, and salamanders migrating to breeding areas, and we’re launching a new program this year to better document the newly discovered mid-Atlantic coast leopard frog. You can help CWF biologists collect data and save these fragile creatures.

 

Read below for more details about each program. In the meantime, if you would like to support CWF’s amphibian programs, please visit our YouCaring page here: https://www.youcaring.com/conservewildlifefoundationofnewjersey-1091698 . Your contribution will help us develop training materials and cover research expenses to protect our most vulnerable frogs and salamanders!

 

Amphibian Crossing: A New Twist on an Old Program

The long-standing Amphibian Crossing Project, established in partnership with the New Jersey Endangered and Nongame Species Program (ENSP) in 2002, has been organizing dedicated volunteers each spring to chauffer migrating amphibians across roads as they trek from their upland hibernation sites to their breeding ponds. This program has saved thousands of frogs, toads, and salamanders from vehicle strikes so that local amphibian population sizes can be maintained, which is especially important for species of concern, such as the Jefferson and spotted salamanders.

 

Seeking a more long-term solution to the amphibian road mortality problem at the Amphibian Crossing Project’s top site, ENSP has finally secured funding to construct crossing structure system for amphibians to move safely across Waterloo Road in Byram Township, Sussex County. This system, including under-road tunnels and guide fencing, will help amphibians avoid problems on the road all season long. CWF is preparing its second year of monitoring along Waterloo Road to track the changes in amphibian vehicle-caused mortality before and after this system is installed.

 

Leopard Frogs: A New Program for a New Species

This year marks the launch of CWF’s Kauffeld’s Calling Frogs program. Similar to New Jersey’s Calling Amphibian Monitoring Program (CAMP), volunteers will listen and document frog calls during the breeding season. Kauffeld’s Calling Frogs, however, will focus specifically on the newly discovered mid-Atlantic coast leopard frog. This frog, named after the late avid herpetologist Carl Kauffeld, had been mistaken as a member of the southern leopard frog species for decades. Only recently was it determined to be a separate species with unique habitat requirements.

 

Despite only being an official species since 2014, it is already considered a Species of Greatest Conservation Need in New York, and may be declining from other portions of its range. CWF biologists are eager to document the current extent of this frog’s range within New Jersey in order to monitor the population for possible declines. Knowing where this species is found is the foundation for future research into its habitat needs and threats.

 

Getting the Public Involved

These amphibian programs cannot move forward without the dedication of CWF volunteers. Over 100 volunteers have been involved with the Amphibian Crossing Project, and a dozen more dedicated at least a day a week for months to monitor Waterloo Road amphibian mortality. With the success of CAMP in mind, this first year of Kauffeld’s Calling Frogs promises to be full of new frog population discoveries.

 

Make sure to follow CWF on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for the latest updates on our amphibian programs as the season progresses!

 

And consider supporting our YouCaring amphibian campaign here: https://www.youcaring.com/conservewildlifefoundationofnewjersey-1091698 .

The (Bergen) Record spotlights a backyard birding favorite

Monday, February 12th, 2018

 

Just in time for next week’s Great Backyard Bird Count, The (Bergen) Record’s Jim Wright takes a look at the hairy woodpecker with help from CWF Executive Director David Wheeler. This backyard birdwatching favorite is still a common sight on many New Jersey feeders and tree trunks, but remains vulnerable nationally due to its nesting reliance on old tree snags.

Read the article here:

https://www.northjersey.com/story/entertainment/2018/02/07/bird-watcher-wonderful-world-hairy-woodpecker/1047289001/

Piping Plovers in the Bahamas

Monday, January 29th, 2018

Our Work isn’t Done – the Ongoing Importance of Band Resighting

 By Todd Pover, Senior Wildlife Biologist

Earlier in January, I attended the Abaco Science Alliance Conference to make a presentation about recent conservation and research developments for piping plovers in the Bahamas. This marks the eighth year, starting in 2011, either solo or with CWF staff and other colleagues, that I have been able to follow piping plovers to their wintering grounds in the Bahamas to conduct work to better understand and help recover this at-risk species. And in another sense, to be an international ambassador for piping plovers.

Todd Pover, CWF Senior Biologist, busy searching for piping plovers on the flats in the Bahamas

Over that time, the focus of those trips has varied widely, including conducting surveys for the International Piping Plover Census in 2011 and 2016, improving our understanding of how piping plovers use the various habitats, engaging students with our Shorebird Sister School Network from 2014-17, helping Friends of the Environment, our primary partner there, integrate piping plovers into their educational/school programs, building conservation partnerships, and even producing a video. Tremendous positive changes have occurred in that time with regard to awareness of and attitudes towards piping plovers in the Bahamas and some significant conservation progress has been made, most notably the establishment of several new national parks by the Bahamian government that help protect piping plovers and other shorebirds.

(more…)

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