Conserve Wildlife Blog

Posts Tagged ‘american oystercatcher’

How to Advocate for Beach-nesting Birds During the Holiday Weekends

Friday, May 26th, 2023

By Sherry Tirgrath, Wildlife Biologist

As we approach the official, and unofficial, beginning of summer, many warm-weather loving citizens of New Jersey are pulling out their swimwear, purchasing their SPF and preparing to flock to the Jersey Shore and contribute to some of the worst traffic seen around the country. It’s important, however, to take a step back and remind oneself to be certain that their beach activities will not affect the livelihood of other creatures that are just trying to survive in the only habitat that can support them. Both Memorial Day Weekend and July 4th holidays occur during the season that beach-nesting birds are incubating eggs and raising chicks. This makes for some conflict between beachgoers and coastal wildlife, so it’s necessary to bring more awareness to the presence of the birds and the importance of giving them space.

Beach-nesting birds are called just that because they depend on undisturbed, sparsely vegetated, and stabile coastline to breed, lay eggs, and raise their young. They nest directly in the sand and their eggs are sand-colored and camouflaged against predators. This also makes them difficult for people to see, and without proper monitoring and protection measures, they can wind up being run over or stepped on. Small chicks, like those of the piping plover, are tiny and very mobile shortly after hatching. While the parents do their best at corralling their chicks and keeping them away from people, sometimes the chicks wind up under a beachgoer’s umbrella seeking shade or wandering too close to potential danger. Anyone with small children would understand the difficulty in keeping their kids from running off somewhere they’re not supposed to go, especially when they can have up to four of them at once. The chicks must forage to feed themselves, so being very mobile increases the likelihood of them finding small invertebrates to eat.

Piping plover chicks are small but very mobile, allowing them to begin foraging shortly after hatching.

Book Club: Spring Reading List

Thursday, April 6th, 2023

by Emmy Casper, Wildlife Biologist

Emmy’s Recommendations

Spring is in the air! With the days getting warmer and longer, now is the perfect time to pick a sunny spot outside and read a book. Here are some of my all time favorites that I hope will inspire you to get out in nature. Happy reading! 

In honor of Earth Day, which is just a couple weeks away, I’d like to recommend the beautifully written Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. As a botanist, university professor, and member of Citizen Potawatomi Nation, Kimmerer intertwines her scientific knowledge of plants with an indigenous worldview, culminating in a powerful collection of reflections and teachings about our relationship with nature. Science is often considered an objective field (a scientist observes an object), but Kimmerer offers a more holistic perspective where the objects (in this case, plants) can be teachers, offering wisdom instead of just scientific knowledge. Her stories share a central theme of reciprocity and a reminder that we are responsible to protect the natural world in exchange for its many gifts. In a time when humans have become so disconnected with nature, Braiding Sweetgrass is an important and inspiring book I think everyone could benefit from.  

One of my graduate school professors assigned The Invention of Nature by Andrea Wulf as reading material for our Conservation Biology class. Up until that point, I had never heard of Alexander von Humboldt, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that there are so many things named after him! Humboldt County, Humboldt squid, Humboldt Current…the list goes on. Although Humboldt was a widely famous naturalist and geographer during his lifetime, he remains largely forgotten today. If you aren’t familiar with Alexander von Humboldt, I highly recommend this engaging biography about his life and contributions to science. You’ll follow Humboldt throughout his many explorations and learn how his writings shaped ecology as we know it today. You may be surprised to learn how much his work inspired well known historical figures including Charles Darwin, Henry David Thoreau, Thomas Jefferson, and John Muir! I still think about this biography regularly, and those who know me know I’m a bit passionate about Humboldt – I even named a piping plover chick after him! If you also enjoy the biography, definitely check out the companion illustrated book, The Adventures of Alexander von Humboldt featuring beautiful original artwork by Lillian Melcher interlaced with Humboldt’s original notes and drawings from his journeys in the Americas.

And now a field guide recommendation. Since spring migration is upon us, a bird field guide seems appropriate. I know many birders are die hard fans of Sibley guides. Don’t get me wrong, I also love his illustrations and keep a portable copy of his guide on my phone. That said, The Crossley ID Guide by Richard Crossley is one of my all-time favorite reference resources for birds. Instead of illustrations, this guide features photographs (taken by the author!) depicting each species in various plumages and behaviors. Crossley even layers the photographs on backgrounds depicting the birds’ natural habitats so that the reader can learn what the birds may look like in different behaviors and from various distances (see the American oystercatcher plate above). It’s a very approachable field guide that can be helpful to any birder regardless of skill level.     

Announcing New NFWF Funded Project to Study and Monitor American Oystercatchers along the Delaware Bay

Wednesday, February 15th, 2023

by Emmy Casper, Wildlife Biologist

CWF is excited to announce a new project funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Delaware Watershed Conservation Fund designed to develop and execute management strategies for American oystercatchers along the Delaware Bay. Breeding populations of American oystercatchers (State Species of Special Concern) have been well studied and monitored along New Jersey’s Atlantic Coast since 2003, but very little is known about the oystercatchers that nest on the sandy beaches along the Delaware Bay. In 2021, CWF conducted a near bay-wide window census survey to establish a baseline estimate of the Bayshore population. Thirteen oystercatcher pairs were documented across approximately 35 sites from Cape May Point to Sea Breeze, prompting a need for further research and management. This new project seeks to shed light on this understudied population and add to our scientific understanding of their management needs.

American oystercatcher. Photo courtesy of Daniel Irons

Beach Nesting Bird Monitoring is Underway at the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge

Wednesday, May 4th, 2022

by Todd Pover

CWFNJ’s 2022 Edwin B. Forsythe NWR Beach Nesting Bird Field Crew. L to R: Jacob Miranda, Lexie Lawson, Amy Kopec, Erin Foley, (missing Dakota Bell).

For the past eight years, CWF has been contracted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service through a cooperative agreement to provide monitoring and management of beach nesting birds at the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge. The Refuge nesting sites – both the Holgate and Little Beach Island Units – provide some of the only habitat in the state closed to the public and free of human disturbance and detrimental beach management practices. The habitat at the sites is especially suitable for the state endangered piping plover as a result of optimal nesting conditions created by Superstorm Sandy and largely sustained since then through winter storms. As of the 2021 season, the Refuge sites had the highest concentration of piping plovers in the state, with Holgate having by far the most pairs (46). Furthermore, on average in recent years, Holgate has produced a higher fledgling rate than many sites in the state.


CWF Assists the State with Wintering American Oystercatcher Survey

Saturday, January 8th, 2022

by Todd Pover, Senior Wildlife Biologist

American oystercatcher winter flock.

Most people are surprised to hear that American oystercatchers are present in New Jersey in the winter. They usually associate the charismatic shorebird as a breeding species here. Our state’s wintering oystercatchers, a combination of breeders from further north and our own, are at the northern extent of the Atlantic coast wintering range.