Conserve Wildlife Blog

Archive for the ‘Habitat Restoration’ Category

Celebrating Earth Day with “Boots Not Suits” in Union County

Friday, April 29th, 2022

by Christine Healy, CWF Wildlife Biologist

CWF biologist Sherry Tirgrath prepares a river birch sapling for planting

As the coordinator for CWF’s Amphibian Crossing Project, I think it’s safe to say I spend more time than the average person hoping for rain to pop up in springtime forecasts. April 22, however, is always an exception. What could be better than warm and sunny conditions to inspire folks to get outside and celebrate Earth Day by giving back to the planet that gives us, well, everything? Mother Nature certainly came through with the weather last week, handing us one of the most glorious days of the season thus far, while the Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage, Union County Board of County Commissioners, Groundwork Elizabeth, and their partners offered a destination for all the aspiring wildlife warriors: Phil Rizzuto Park.


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Habitat Enhancements for Rare Species at the Sea Girt National Guard Training Center

Thursday, March 3rd, 2022

by Meaghan Lyon, Wildlife Biologist

Although the Sea Girt National Guard Training Center (NGTC) has just a small section of beach to manage, their efforts there with threatened and endangered species has been big. Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey has been a partner in these efforts, monitoring the piping plovers that nest on this beach during the breeding season and assisting in the planning of habitat enhancements. The protection area at the NGTC has been the nesting site of a piping plover pair for the past three breeding seasons and it is likely they will return again this spring, all while supporting the military and recreational missions of the New Jersey Army National Guard.

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Salt Marsh Restoration Project to Benefit Imperiled Marsh Birds

Monday, February 7th, 2022

by Meghan Kolk, Wildlife Biologist

Photo credit: KJ Knutsen Photography

The Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey is working on a new project starting this winter to restore habitat for two species of imperiled marsh birds, the eastern black rail (Laterallus jamaicensis jamaicensis) and the saltmarsh sparrow (Ammospiza caudacuta).  CWFNJ has partnered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) on a three-year project to identify potential habitat restoration sites, conduct outreach to landowners, and implement conservation practices recommended for the target species.  Outcomes of the project will include at least three habitat management plans and restoration of at least twenty-five acres of wetland and/or salt marsh habitat utilizing techniques in the Black Rail and/or Saltmarsh Sparrow Conservation Plans developed by the USFWS.

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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.

New Jersey Piping Plover Breeding Population Rises Sharply in 2021

Monday, November 8th, 2021

By Todd Pover, Senior Wildlife Biologist

Pair of Piping Plovers Tending Nest. Courtesy of Northside Jim

The 2021 New Jersey piping plover breeding season was a classic “good news, bad news” result. According to the annual report released by the state’s Endangered and Nongame Species Program earlier this month, the breeding population increased to 137 pairs in 2021, third highest since federal listing in 1986. That is an unprecedented 33% rise over the previous year and just short of the record high of 144 pairs in 2003. On the downside, the number of chicks fledged statewide was just 0.85 chicks per pair, the lowest since 2013 and about half of the 1.50 federal recovery goal. The low productivity was largely the result of a severe Memorial Day weekend nor’easter and persistent predator activity throughout the season.

Holgate, a unit of the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, hosted 46 pairs, the most in the state. This site, which is monitored and managed by CWF through a cooperative agreement with the Refuge, has seen an astounding increase in piping plover pairs in recent years, up about 2.5 times from the 18 pairs it had in 2018. CWF also monitors Little Beach, the adjacent Refuge-owned site, where another 13 pairs nested in 2021. Combined the two sites had 59 nesting pairs, a new record, by far, for the Refuge. Unfortunately, like the statewide results, productivity was very low this year at both Refuge sites, combined only 0.80 chicks fledged per pair, about half the rate just a year ago. The Memorial Day weekend nor’easter flooded those sites, wiping out most nests, and although most of the pairs nested again afterwards, many of those renests (or hatched chicks) were lost to predators, especially coyotes at Holgate.

CWF also oversaw piping plover breeding at the National Guard Training Center, which had just one pair in 2021, but that nest successfully hatched and fledged three chicks, helping boost the state average. Overall, CWF was responsible for monitoring 44% of the statewide population, giving it a significant role in helping guide conservation of this highly vulnerable state endangered (and federally threatened) species.

Although CWF does not conduct the daily on-the-ground monitoring and management of piping plovers at the Barnegat Inlet nesting site, it was a co-leader of the habitat restoration that was completed there two winters ago, and as such has had a big role in the nesting outcomes at the site. The number of pairs using the site has noticeably grown, up to five pairs in 2021 from just one pair when the project began. Productivity has also been consistently high at the restoration site and 2021 was no different with the pairs exceeding the federal recovery goal and statewide average with 1.6 chicks fledged per pair this year.

With the breeding results for 2021 now “in the books”, we are already looking forward to next year. The biggest question will be whether the state can sustain the progress towards recovery it made this year, especially given the big drop in productivity, which typically drives population. But for now, all we can do is wait until next spring to learn the answer to that question.

To read the state’s entire 2021 piping plover report: