Conserve Wildlife Blog

Archive for the ‘Get Involved’ Category

New video highlights Barnegat Bay wildlife programs

Wednesday, August 15th, 2018

by Jasmine Lee

Conserve Wildlife Foundation today released a video featuring the range of nature programs available at Sedge Island Marine Conservation Zone and Island Beach State Park, from kayaking and fishing to birdwatching and diamondback terrapin releases. Edited by CWF videography intern Melinda Tibbitts and written by Executive Director David Wheeler, “Get Wild This Summer at the Jersey Shore” explores these unique ecosystems along the Barnegat Bay – with a special focus on the Sedge Islands Celebration Day earlier this summer!

Watch the video here.

Learn more about Sedge Island activities by clicking here.

Consider signing up for near-daily programs at Island Beach State Park by visiting here.

2018 Osprey Outlook

Monday, July 30th, 2018
Insight Into Important (Bio)Indicators: Ospreys

by Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager

CWF Osprey Banding Apprentice Northside Jim holds a young osprey, 13/K, after banding.

Mid-summer marks the nestling period of nesting ospreys, a coastal raptor, whose diet consists mainly of fish. As a state that’s heavily influenced by its location along the Atlantic Ocean, they play a critical role in our coastal ecosystem. Ospreys are important bioindicators of the health of our coastal waters, through the lens of their prey, where pollutants are biomagnified through the food chain. As we consume many of the same fish, they show the effects of these pollutants long before humans, so the health of their population has implications for our coastal waters and us! (more…)

Barnegat Bay Cleanup!

Tuesday, June 5th, 2018

NJDEP’s 9th BARNEGAT BAY BLITZ SET FOR FRIDAY, JUNE 8, 2018

by Erin Conversano, CWF Intern

Would you like to help restore the health of Barnegat Bay’s ecosystem? You can participate in a day of action for the Bay! The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will be hosting its next Barnegat Bay Blitz clean-up day on Friday, June 8.

Join Conserve Wildlife Foundation and hundreds of other volunteers across the watershed, which includes all of Ocean County and parts of Monmouth County, in helping to clean up the Barnegat Bay Watershed and spread awareness about pollution that impacts the Bay. Clean-up events are happening all throughout the watershed!

To register for a clean-up, visit the DEP’s website.

Barnegat Blitz highlights include:

  • 31,582 volunteers
  • 4,579 cubic yards of trash and recyclables cleaned up
  • 37 municipal partners
  • 20 corporate and nonprofit partners
  • 2 llamas that help haul out the trash collected by volunteers

In the middle of Barnegat Bay, there are many small islands called Sedges. These islands are home to a number of species of plants and animals, but unfortunately are impacted by litter that the tide washes in. Volunteers by boat, kayak and standup paddle board will make their way out to many of these islands, including Island Beach State Park, Seaside Heights and Brick to sweep them clean of debris. Get involved!

It’s not just the bayfront communities that impact Barnegat Bay. Communities miles and miles inland also play a role. After all, we are all downstream! That is why at the Barnegat Bay Blitz, volunteers will work to clean up all over the watershed, from inland areas of Plumsted to the barrier islands. In Plumsted, a farming community, volunteers include more than just people! Llamas will also join the crew to help haul out trash and debris that volunteers collect from the Colliers Mills Wildlife Management area. To make friends with llamas, register for the Plumsted clean-up on DEP’s website.

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!

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