Conserve Wildlife Blog

Archive for the ‘Get Involved’ Category

A Certified Wildlife Habitat Restoration in Progress

Wednesday, November 24th, 2021

By Meghan Kolk, Wildlife Biologist

CWF Biologists (left to right) Sherry Tirgrath, Christine Healy, and Ethan Gilardi plant new greenery in the Trailside Nature Center Garden.

This fall CWF worked with the staff at the Trailside Nature and Science Center at Watchung Reservation in Union County, New Jersey to restore their Certified Wildlife Habitat.  A Certified Wildlife Habitat must include sources of food, water, cover and places to raise young, and must be maintained using sustainable practices.  Their garden had suffered from years of neglect and had become overgrown and choked out by weeds.

The first task was to tackle the major cleanup with the goals of opening the garden up to more sunlight, making room for new plantings, and giving the garden a fresh and clean appearance. CWF staff, interns and volunteers joined the Trailside Center’s staff and spent a day pulling weeds, digging up unwanted and overgrown plants, trimming shrubs and trees, clearing vines from trees, and raking and blowing leaves.  Dead, dying, or damaged trees and shrubs were cut down.  We left the healthy and beneficial trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants that will be the backbone of the refreshed garden.  At the end of the day, the result of cleanup was remarkable.  Sunlight can now reach the ground, and the garden became a clean slate to add new plantings that will benefit birds, bees, butterflies, and other wildlife. 

Trailside garden before and after cleanup.

The next step was to install a new deer fence around the garden.  The Trailside Center lies within a wooded area and deer are drawn to the garden to munch on the shrubs and plants.  In order to keep deer from destroying the garden, while allowing birds and other wildlife to utilize it, we installed a new eight-foot-high deer fence around the garden to replace one that had fallen down years ago.  At the same time, we planted some new trees and shrubs in the garden that will be able to grow without the pressure of deer browse.  We planted only native species that will attract birds, hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies to the garden. 

In the spring, we will return to plant native herbaceous perennial plants that will also benefit birds, hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies.  We will be sure to plant some host species for native butterflies, such as milkweed for monarchs.  We plan to make a corner of the garden that caters specifically to hummingbirds.  The garden is already home to a beautiful man-made creek flowing into a pond that draws birds and frogs.  Several types of bird feeders, squirrel feeders and nest boxes are scattered throughout the garden as well.  The restored garden will be unveiled this spring for visitors to observe through the viewing windows inside the Trailside Center.

Trailside staff install deer fencing around the garden with help from CWF staff, interns, and volunteers.

Own Your Land and Help Wildlife, Too: Exploring NRCS Partner Programs

Monday, October 4th, 2021

by Christine Healy, Wildlife Biologist

Healthy New Jersey wetlands feature a gorgeous explosion of colors each summer as wildflowers, including the Ironweed (purple), Joe Pye weed (pink), and Jewelweed (gold), displayed here, come into bloom. Photo by Kristen Meistrell, NJ Audubon.

We’ve all heard the expression “you can’t have your cake and eat it too”. For example, as a wildlife biologist, I can’t be promoted and still expect to spend most of my time in the field playing with turtles and salamanders- that would simply be too good to be true! The same phrase could probably be applicable to land; your property can’t simultaneously be profitable to you, the landowner, and beneficial to rare wildlife… right?

Well, in this case, I would have to disagree with the proverbial wisdom.

For many years, CWF biologists have worked with private landowners, other nonprofits, and the state and federal government to spread the word on programs that make wildlife conservation not only accessible, but economical. Why? Because >80% of New Jersey is privately owned. This gives residents a unique opportunity to be a part of the success story for every endangered, threatened, and at-risk species that, like us, call the garden state home. In the words of everyone’s favorite ‘90s superhero, Captain Planet, “The power is yours” – truly.

Prescribed grazing by livestock, like the cows pictured above or water buffalo below, can help improve hydrology in certain types of wetlands. If your property fits the criteria, NRCS can assist with the maintenance or installation of fencing as part of your restoration plan. Photo by Kristen Meistrell, NJ Audubon.
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Help us to create a new website before time runs out! – Donate today and your gift will be matched dollar for dollar!

Wednesday, October 28th, 2020

by David Wheeler, Executive Director

Our website offers a unique look into the lives of at-risk wildlife species that
our viewers may otherwise never see, like watching the birth of the season’s
first baby osprey in real time on the Barnegat Light Osprey Cam.

Connecting people to nature through our website is a vital part of Conserve Wildlife Foundation’s mission. 

That’s why we have been thrilled by the record numbers of scientists, students, educators, and wildlife enthusiasts of all ages who have used this resource, especially since the start of the pandemic. Hundreds of thousands of people like you are inspired and enlightened by viewing our species guide, our wildlife webcams, and our conservation project pages each year.

Now, however, our website needs a complete overhaul.

Our custom management system was ‘cutting edge’ when it was launched over 10 years ago, but it relies upon software that will be unsupported by the end of this year.


This fall, we must redesign our website and finally make it mobile-friendly! Viewers like you will benefit in many ways.  

  • Whether you are at home or on the go, more people than ever are accessing our website on your hand-held devices.
  • You have asked us to make it easier and quicker to report rare species, to access wildlife lesson plans, to register for events, to enter our contests, and to easily access our timely updates.
  • People of all ages can be inspired and educated by our compelling new videos, thought-provoking podcasts, vibrant photography, and insightful blog stories.

Generous supporters have offered to match the first $10,000 in gifts received, dollar for dollar, which means we need to raise $10,000 to reach our $20,000 goal.

Any amount you can give will help!

Our new custom-designed website is a major, long-term investment, and one we don’t take lightly. Even though $20,000 is a very fair market price, it’s still a huge outlay for a nonprofit like ours! But it’s a step we need to take.

Our website offers a great wealth of information to visitors like you – webcams, videos, podcasts, photos, field guides, and blog posts. But those expansive contents also demand an ample “back end” – the portion of the website that programmers code and manage. These thousands of files and countless lines of code make transforming our website especially challenging.

We can’t wait to better showcase our incredible wildlife photography and video to tell the stories of our work protecting species like bald eagles, diamondback terrapins, ospreys, bobcats, pollinators, and beach nesting birds.   

Thank you for all you do to help protect at-risk wildlife and spread the word about our natural world. I hope you will support our matching gift campaign to build a new website before time runs out.

Stay safe and healthy, and be sure to make time to enjoy nature this fall!



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. 

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.