Conserve Wildlife Blog

Archive for the ‘Volunteer Programs’ Category

Eagles, Vultures and a Kitten

Wednesday, September 15th, 2021

By: CWF biologist Larissa Smith

This is the second year that the NJ Endangered & Nongame Species program along with the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ have set up a “soft release” area for juvenile eagles that were found grounded and cared for at Rehabilitation centers. The site is in a remote area of Cumberland County where staff and volunteers provide supplemental food (fish and road-killed mammals) in a safe place, and where other juvenile and sub-adult eagles would provide the social learning they needed. Trail cameras were installed to document eagle use. 

The site had attracted juveniles, sub-adults, and adult eagles on a regular basis, as well as black and turkey vultures on a daily basis. At the end of August a tiny kitten showed up on the game cam. The kitten was hanging out with the vultures, eating frozen bunker and road kill.

Other stray cats have shown up on the game cam before but this kitten was making regular appearances. When a volunteer dropped off frozen bunker the kitten came out to eat while the volunteer was still at the site.

photo by: John King

With the help of a local woman we trapped the kitten. The kitten is a female and she had to be feisty and tough to survive, but to my surprise she was also super sweet. She was covered in fleas, hundreds of tiny ticks and full of worms from eating road kill. She was just under 3lbs and 3 months old. We named her Maple and she was adopted by Eagle Project volunteers Sharon & Wade Wander. They report that she is doing well and is a playful and happy girl.

Maple in her new home September 8th, 2021

It is a miracle that she survived out there with all the predators, (she would have been an easy meal for an eagle) . Maple is a lucky kitten. Thanks to everyone who made it possible for Maple to go from being a wild cat to a pampered family member.

Part 7: Three Bridges Eagle Update

Monday, August 16th, 2021

by: Larissa Smith, CWF biologist

H/05 seen on the eagle cam after his release

This eagle nesting season we have been following the story of the Three Bridges eagle pair in a blog series. A camera on the nest allowed viewers to get an up-close view of the nesting activities. The pair successfully raised two chicks, who biologists banded (green bands H/04 & H/05), and they fledged the end of June.

On July 4th, eagle H/05, was found injured near the nest. He was taken to The Raptor Trust where he was treated for a fracture of the left coracoid bone, which supports powered flight in the wing. He remained in the care of The Raptor Trust until he was fully healed and had regained some of his flight strength.

Three Bridges nest monitors continued to observe the nest area and determined that the adults and H/04 were still around the nest platform. In a very quick and quiet manner, H/05 was released back at the nest site last past week. It was necessary to have adults in the area, so he can continue his post-fledging period with them, learning to hunt and survive on his own.

H/05, August 12, 2021@ Mary Ellen Hill

Since his release, H/05 has been seen flying and perching in the nest area. It is very important for people to view the nest platform from a distance and not approach the nest tower or any eagles perched in the area. We all need to keep this nest area “eagle-safe” for the next month, giving H/05 and his family time to reacquaint and re-learn eagle skills! We thank everyone who has supported this eagle family.

Delaware Bay Shorebird Stewards: Protecting Shorebirds

Sunday, June 6th, 2021

By: Larissa Smith, CWF Wildlife Biologist

Shorebird Steward Tony Natale

There are many aspects to the Delaware Bay Shorebird Project. During the month of May researchers survey, re-sight and band shorebirds as well as conduct horseshoe crab egg counts. Nine beaches in Cape May and Cumberland Counties have restricted access during May, which allows the shorebirds to feed on the horseshoe crab eggs.

Shorebird Steward Bill Reinert@ Dom Manalo

Shorebird stewards are out on the beaches in all types of weather and insect seasons making sure that the restricted areas are respected. They do this through education and explaining to beach goers the importance of allowing shorebirds to have these undisturbed areas to feed. Stewards really make a big difference in shorebird protection on the bay and we thank them for all of their efforts this shorebird season. This season there were plenty of horseshoe crabs spawning with eggs in abundance, but unfortunately the shorebird numbers were down this season. For more details on the 2021 Shorebird season can be found in the article ,Red knot numbers plummet, pushing shorebird closer to extinction.

Monitoring New Jersey Ospreys During a Global Pandemic

Friday, February 5th, 2021
For every dark day there was always hope for a brighter future. Results from the 2020 New Jersey Osprey Project.

Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager

This was likely one of the most challenging, at least in recent years, in the history of the New Jersey Osprey Monitoring Project. From social distancing and working from home (with children) to severe wind events and dealing with the impacts of humans on ospreys, 2020 turned out to be quite the year. Overall, our work was largely unaffected by the global covid-19 pandemic. Most of our work is conducted outdoors and away from mass gatherings of people. It was important for us to ensure the safety of our volunteers and the general public safe.


“Dukes” Homecoming

Friday, January 29th, 2021

by Barbara McKee, NJ Eagle Project volunteer

As a volunteer nest observer working for New Jersey’s Bald Eagle Project under the guidance of Kathy Clark and Larissa Smith, I watch and report on six nests in central and northern NJ. When the Duke Farms eagle cam first went online in 2008, I loved watching the adult pair and their nestlings whenever I was at home on my computer! Web cams give us an intimate look into the lives of eagles. By observing close up, so much can be learned about eagle behavior, and this nest was only five miles from my home in Hillsborough. These were my eagle neighbors! In May of 2019, during the annual banding of the two eaglets at the Duke Farms nest, the younger male (banded E/88), was outfitted with a satellite transmitter and became part of the research program “Eagle Trax” to discover where fledglings go when they leave the nest.

Duke first went online Sept 17, 2019, after he had left the nest area, beginning his journey to adulthood as an independent eagle. Although Duke has made short trips over to PA and even a couple times returned briefly to NJ, to his natal nest area, he spent most of his time in Maryland on the lower Susquehanna River and upper Chesapeake Bay.

Then, early last November, I got an email from Kathy Clark. Duke had once again returned to NJ and was in Hillsborough, very close to our home on the Millstone River. I hustled right out with my scope and camera to see if I could spot him. If I was ever going to see Duke “in the wild” it would be now, with no foliage to block the views, while he was just a few miles away! As I searched the small patch of woods that corresponded to the last tracker location, I realized how challenging it would be to find this “eagle in the hay-stack”! Even with experience in spotting eagles, and having some ideas about the behavior of juveniles, where they might perch and what sorts of terrain they might be attracted to, actually seeing Duke would take a lot of patience and persistence, but most of all luck! To find him with good light in a spot where photos are possible, would take even more luck—what were the odds? Although through his transmitter he is being tracked, the data downloads only once every 24 hours, so I only knew where he had been, not where he was in real time!

“Duke” and an immature female feeding on a deer carcass 11/24/20 @ Barb McKee

I have been blessed to have seen Duke about a dozen times in the last eleven weeks. There have been many other times when I was probably looking right at him without seeing him and this is supported by the information from the tracker! A human playing “hide and seek” with an eagle is definitely at a visual disadvantage! I have learned that young eagles prefer wooded cover, small valleys with tiny streams where they might find a rodent or reptile. They tend to perch near water, not large rivers, but rather small creeks in narrow gorges or beside farm ponds. In winter, the best find for a hungry young eagle is a road-killed deer or other animal in a farm field that is fresh, but already immobile. A find like this keeps Duke perched and roosting close by until the food is consumed. I have seen many competitors for this precious winter commodity: vultures, other eagles, pesky crows, and at one site, even a coyote!

I also realized early on that Duke is just as likely to perch low and be almost invisible as he is to perch in a high tree top silhouetted against a light sky. Twice I flushed him off his perch because I was looking up not down. I learned that Duke has a favorite roosting spot where he has spent almost half of the nights he has been in central Jersey, but also discovered that he spent two nights within 100 yards of his natal nest in a small wooded area at Duke Farms!

I have taken hundreds of photos of Duke. The light isn’t always the best, and Duke is usually quite far away, but my photos and videos have shown a healthy and thriving almost-two-year-old who has learned to hunt and to defend his prey! He has also learned to be patient and careful, and to wait his turn, most notably when “sharing” a meal with much larger and thus more assertive young female juveniles!
I have seen him scatter and chase the competition off his food on fields. I saw him try to “steal” something from a hawk in the air. I have seen him in flight, a sight I never tire of! I even saw him perched over the Millstone River in my own back yard, probably searching for fish! That was truly memorable!

“Duke” in flight 1/19/21 @ Barb McKee

Will Duke decide to stay here in central NJ? Will he eventually mate, build a nest, and have nestlings of his own here? I hope so! Evidence suggests that eagles do return to an area not that far from the area where they fledged and began the challenging journey from fledging to maturity. I hope to share Duke’s adventures for many years to come.