Conserve Wildlife Blog

June 21st, 2017

Newsworks: Why the Red Knot lives and dies by what happens in NJ

NewsWorks ran a feature story on red knots and the incredible team of international volunteers who make Conserve Wildlife Foundation’s past two decades of scientific surveys possible.

Read the full story here.

Firing the net so that the shorebirds can be tagged and released. Photo by Bill Barlow.

 

Dick Veitch (left) and Dr. Larry Niles (right)

 

June 19th, 2017

“Jersey Girl” Update

B/64 and mate have a successful 2017 nesting season.

CWF Biologist: Larissa Smith

B/64 & mate@ L. Oughton

In 2014 I first heard from Linda Oughton who watches an eagles in nest near Montgomery, PA. The female in the pair is a NJ banded bird, B/64, nick named “Jersey Girl”. She was banded in 2004 at the Hopewell West nest along the Cohansey River in Cumberland County.

This season Jersey Girl and her mate raised and fledged three chicks. Linda reports that they have fledged a total of 14 chicks since they first started nesting in 2010. It isn’t often that we know what happens to one of NJ eagles and we can only know if they were banded as chicks.  Unfortunately many of the NJ banded eagles that are reported to us are either injured or dead. But in recent years re-sightings of green banded NJ birds are more common and we are aware of NJ banded eagles nesting in NJ as well as NY and CT.

B/64’s 3 chicks in nest 6/1/17 @L. Oughton

To Learn More:

June 10th, 2017

Fallen Eagle Nest, Leads To Eagle Rescue

and one lucky eagle chick.

Larissa Smith, CWF Biologist

Friday afternoon before Memorial Day weekend I received a call from one of the Eagle Project volunteers, Heiki Poolake. A nest which him and his wife Donna monitor, had fallen out of the tree and the chick was on the ground. The chick was approximately 9 weeks old so still several weeks away from fledging (leaving the nest). On the ground the chick was susceptible to predators. While the adults were in the area and keeping an eye on the chick they most likely weren’t feeding the chick on the ground.  One option would be to build some type of “nest” back up in the nest tree. That option would require a climber and their weren’t any available. The next option was to install an osprey platform at the site and place the chick in the platform. We have done this successfully in the past when an eagle nest had fallen.

Eagle chick on ground 5/26/17@ D. Poolake

ENSP Principal biologist Kathy Clark, CWF volunteer Matt Tribulski , the Poolakes and myself all met out at the site.  The platform was installed close to the original nest tree with extended perches to allow the chick to “branch”.  It was determined that the chick was in good health, no broken bones or other issues from the fall. The chick was banded with a silver federal band and a green NJ Band E/50. Measurements were taken which helped to determine that the chick was a female and almost 9 weeks of age. She was fed some fish since we were unsure when she was last fed and placed in the nest platform along with more fish.

The Poolakes went out the next day and found her once again down on the ground and placed her back in the nest.  The fish we had left were gone which was a good sign she was eating. She remained in the nest until  June 8th when she was perched on the branch of a near by tree.  Both adults were also perched close by, keeping an eye on her.  At this point she was approximately 11 weeks old around the time when chicks her age start to branch and practice flying. She’ll stay in the area for the next few weeks with the adults as she learns to hunt on her own and strengthen her wings.  The first year is tough for eagles as they learn to survive on their own. We wish E/50 luck and hope to see her nesting in NJ someday.

June 8th, 2017

Shorebirds lift off to an uncertain end from Delaware Bay

By Dr. Larry Niles, LJ Niles Associates, LLC

Red knot by James Fiorentino.

I am reviewing a new paper by Sjoerd Duijns, a student working on the benefits of being a fat shorebird. Still, a draft, the paper analyses data from radio-tagged red knots leaving the Bay in good condition (i.e. fat) and finds they may leave later from Delaware Bay than lighter birds but arrive earlier in the breeding grounds because they can pick the best time to leave. They are also more likely to breed successfully and survive the Arctic breeding season to the following fall. In other words, being a fat knot on Delaware Bay makes life good.

So, in light of this new information, how did the red knots and other shorebirds fare in this year’s Delaware Bay Stopover?  One must not be firm, with so many unknowns, but here’s a working biologist’s best guess.

By all accounts it was one of the worst years in recent memory, but with a twist that offers a glimmer of hope.

First, the Bay’s water reflected an unusually cool May and never really warmed to the levels necessary for a really good horseshoe crab spawn until the very end. This caused odd occurrences of crab spawning. For example, crabs bred in greater densities at the southern beaches this year, more than in previous years. The spawn at Norburys Landing, just south of the commercial oyster aquaculture development zone (ADZ), was one of the best this year, and knots and other shorebirds used the area in great number. One can only guess the water temperatures warmed over the wide inter-tidal flats provided just enough to elicit spawning. The same process was true of all the creeks on the Bay.

Laughing Gulls and shorebirds feast on horseshoe crab eggs at Norbury’s Landing just south of the Aquaculture Development Zone. (below)The southern portion of the bay was much more important this year because waters warmed faster on the large inter tidal shelf of this portion of the bay.

Second, the knot numbers never really climbed to the levels of the last three years. I’m guessing this was illusory, a consequence of the count being done on two days at the peak. It’s likely many more birds came to the Bay and seeing many birds for too few eggs, left for better resources elsewhere. Those that left were probably short distance winterers – those from relatively close in Florida and other nearby areas. The Bay’s horseshoe crab eggs would help them too, but they can get by on Atlantic Coast clams and mussels. The long-distance birds are the ones that need the Bay’s resources.

Third, when finally, the spawn got underway, a freak concurrence of wind and tide killed many thousands of crabs, potentially damaging the population and very likely ending any possibility of a really great spawn. The cobblestone road of crabs on the water’s edge. We saw none of that this year. Not once.

 

 

The upper graph compares predicted high tides ( in blue) with the actual high tide (in Red). On the night of 26 May. This occurred during the lunar spring tide, the highest in May. Finally, a brief burst of NW wind pushed the abnormally high tide into waves breaking across the beach berm, carrying with it tens of thousands of horseshoe crabs.

In a freak concurrence of wind and tide, waves pushed horseshoe crab over the beach into the marsh by the thousands.

Grim results, but here’s the twist. In good years, knots leave near the 27th of May. One day they jam the beach gobbling up eggs, the next day there gone. In bad years, they linger. In 2003, we caught birds on the June 10th.  There’s a cost to this of course, in lower survival and failing production. This year was a new in between. By the time of departure on May 27th, less than a quarter of the knots were prepared to leave. But they hung on until the 30th, blessed with a new flush of horseshoe crab eggs created by a middling spawn and a northwesterly wind churning up the beaches and exposing deeply buried eggs. Did the birds gain enough weight?

It’s hard to say, our last catch of just 33 knots suggests they might have, but an end-of-the-season catch makes a poor assessment. Once birds start leaving, the ones behind could be the light birds not ready to leave, or the heavy birds waiting for better weather. We won’t really know until the fall counts in the southbound stopover or the winter count in Tierra del Fuego.

This, our 21st season of intense research and conservation on Delaware Bay by all accounts will be like no other. Throughout all of it, the team of scientists and volunteers remained inspired, energetic and resourceful. In this one month, we conducted more scientific investigation and conservation than most projects do in an entire year. Whatever the outcome of this year’s stopover season, our team can look hopefully to the north and know that all that could be done for the birds was done.

Those of us that were paid for our time sincerely thank those who volunteered their time including; the stewards that manned the closed beaches helping hundreds of people understand why closures were needed; the volunteers in the banding team who endured long hours of preparing equipment, making bands, sewing nets and keeping cages and of course counting, catching and processing birds; the volunteers who doggedly pursue opportunities to resight flagged birds to estimate numbers and yearly survival; the volunteers that provided meals every single night, a welcome relief from a hard day’s work; and finally, the volunteers that went out all over the Bay to save horseshoe crabs in weather both good and bad. We all did our best. God help the birds and horseshoe crabs.

Our banding team on a catch at South Reeds.

Dr. Larry Niles has led efforts to protect red knots and horseshoe crabs for over 30 years.


LEARN MORE


June 6th, 2017

2017 SPECIES ON THE EDGE ART & ESSAY CONTEST AWARD CEREMONY

Fifth graders from across New Jersey recognized for their talent and conservation advocacy

On Thursday, June 1, Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey and sponsors PSEG, New Jersey Education Association, Church & Dwight, GAF, and ShopRite celebrated and recognized the winners of the 2017 Species on the Edge Art & Essay Contest at the NJEA building in Trenton, New Jersey.

Read the rest of this entry »

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