Conserve Wildlife Blog

Archive for the ‘Wildlife News’ Category

Photo from the Field: Failed

Monday, June 27th, 2022

by Ben Wurst / Habitat Program Manager

An empty osprey nest on a sandbar located on Barnegat Bay.

In the coming weeks CWF staff, NJDEP Biologists, and a handful of dedicated volunteers will descend onto the coastal saltmarshes of New Jersey to conduct a census of nesting ospreys. The last census was conducted in 2017 when 668 nesting pairs was recorded. They will survey remote areas of back bays by boat. Nests are surveyed in a variety of methods, with ladders being the traditional method, which allow for closer inspection of nests and banding of young for future tracking. Other nests are surveyed from a distance using optics or cameras with telephoto lenses, a mirror, smartphone or GoPro on an extension pole and a sUAS (when operated by a FAA licensed unmanned pilot). The goal is to recorded the total number of nesting pairs throughout the State.

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Union County Falcons Thrive in Urban Ecosystem

Wednesday, June 8th, 2022

by Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager

Kathy Clark carefully places a young falcon in a reusable shopping bag.

On May 23, NJDEP Fish & Wildlife Supervisory Zoologist Kathy Clark and myself visited the Union County Courthouse in Elizabeth, NJ to band the three eyases that were produced by the nesting pair of peregrine falcons. We were joined by Union County staff and guests, who assisted with the banding. The nest is located on the roof of the building. As soon as the hatch made a sound, the adults took off and started to defend their nest and flightless young. As we enter their turf, we are dive bombed by the adults — it is clear that the female has become more aggressive — as she flies very close to us on the roof in sweeping dive bomb attacks. As Kathy goes to the nest to grab each young who are placed in reusable shopping bags, I use her trusty feather duster to ward off the adult female. All who enter the roof wear fall arrest harnesses and hard hats. Kathy and I know that the hard hats are not just worn for fall protection, but also from attacks from above. Both of us received bumps from the adult female to our helmets!

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Photos from the Field: Giving LBIF’s Terrapins a Boost!

Tuesday, June 7th, 2022

by Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager

Over the past several years, I have worked with LBIF to help guide their efforts to provide habitat for wildlife on their property in Loveladies. We have always wanted to establish another, larger “turtle garden” for nesting female N. diamondback terrapins, since they are a common visitor during summer months. This spring we received a small grant from the Garden Club of Long Beach Island to establish a new turtle garden at LBIF. Late last month we ordered 15 tons of mason sand from a local supplier, which provides excellent nesting habitat, with small grain size and little organic matter. Myself and Jeff Ruemeli, who is the new Director of Sciences at LBIF, worked to install coir logs to hold the sand before spreading it out by hand. I followed up with planting around 30 seaside goldenrod plants at the site to help stabilize sand and provide foraging habitat for pollinators.

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A New Island for Birds Emerges Along the New Jersey Coast

Friday, April 15th, 2022

By Todd Pover, Senior Wildlife Biologist

Photo Courtesy of NJ Fish and Wildlife

Something unusual and exciting has happened just off the coast of New Jersey; a new island that has become a haven for birds has formed. Located on the southern edge of the Little Egg Inlet, the island is about 1000 feet offshore of Little Beach Island, a Unit of the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge (Refuge). Of course, it didn’t form overnight, an emergent shoal has been noted in that location since about 2018, and it has slowly been growing, likely as a result of the longshore drift of sand from Long Beach Island. The island, dubbed Horseshoe Island because of its distinctive shape, provides incredibly valuable habitat for nesting and migratory birds, including many at-risk species.

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2022 Amphibian Crossing Season Update

Thursday, April 7th, 2022

by Christine Healy, Wildlife Biologist

Jefferson Salamander (Ambystoma jeffersonianum)

Rainy nights with evening temperatures edging into the mid-40s or above. Seems easy to plan for rescue nights, doesn’t it? Certainly not this year!

CWF’s Amphibian Crossing Project targets the earliest breeders in northern New Jersey, including wood frogs, spotted salamanders, and Jefferson salamanders. These vernal pool obligates must find their way from forested winter habitat to ephemeral wetlands each spring in order to successfully reproduce. Snowmelt and warm, moist air signal individuals to resume activity after a long winter’s brumation (hibernation for ectothermic “cold-blooded” animals) underground. As soon as they emerge, they head to the pools which, in our increasingly fragmented world, often means entering into a real-world game of Frogger. The stakes are incredibly high and many do not make it out alive.

Spotted Salamander (Ambystoma maculatum)

To combat this problem, our team of devoted volunteers has been braving the elements for the last 20 years, ferrying slow moving amphibians across busy roadways during the earliest wave of the annual migration. Their efforts not only increase survivorship and breeding potential, but also raises awareness and contributes valuable data to justify the construction of long-term solutions. This season, 103 participants were involved in the project, working across three CWF managed roads in Byram, Liberty, and Hampton Twps. and one site in Hardwick Twp. organized by Blaine Rothauser, a senior ecologist for GZA GeoEnvironmental and Dennis Briede, stewardship manager at the Land Conservancy of New Jersey. All together, we assisted with the movement of 2,456 amphibians of 9 species, 26% of which represented species of concern.

Without a doubt, these numbers are impressive, however, I can’t help but reflect on this season with agitation. Late February and March featured dramatic temperature swings, characterized by sunny days in the 70s followed by cold snaps with snow and ice. Freezing conditions can damage amphibian egg masses and fluctuating weather may punctuate and elongate the migration, making movement difficult to predict. Lightning storms and heavy wind kept us off the roads during a few of the seasons peak nights, though based on the results of morning mortality surveys, the same cannot be said for drivers…

While amphibian rescue events do localized communities a lot of good, seasons like this one really highlight the need to remove a dependence on humans from the survival equation, especially as global climate change continues to cause deviations from “normal”. We’re anticipating the first frog/salamander-specific wildlife passage in NJ to break ground at our Byram Twp. site in the summer of 2023, after years of planning by the Endangered and Nongame Species program and many partners.

We can’t wait to see the impact this project has on the population of amphibians reliant on New Jersey’s largest vernal pool and how it inspires similar projects in the future.  

Spring Peeper (Pseudacris crucifer)