Conserve Wildlife Blog

Posts Tagged ‘american oystercatcher’

Story Map Brings Oystercatchers to Life Online

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

CWF Celebrates World Shorebirds Day With Release of Our First Story Map: “American Oystercatchers Through the Seasons”

By Michael Davenport, GIS Program Manager

Conserve Wildlife Foundation (CWF), today released a new interactive “Wildlife Story Map” in support of this Saturday’s first annual World Shorebirds Day! The Story Map can be viewed here!


A Story Map is a web-based interactive GIS map embedded with multimedia content, such as text, photographs, and video. CWF, working with GIS software developer ESRI and with financial assistance provided by a grant from the New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife, plans to make this Story Map the first of many, helping engage the public about New Jersey’s rare wildlife in a dynamic and interactive way.

 “American Oystercatchers Through the Seasons” tells the story about a species of migratory bird, the American Oystercatcher, which spends the summer breeding season along the New Jersey coast, but is present year-round along the southern New Jersey coast. Our state represents the northern limit of the species’ winter range. While some New Jersey birds migrate during the winter to Florida, those that breed in New England during the summer may end up spending their winter here in New Jersey.

This Story Map also provides stories about individual banded birds, which have been tracked on journeys between New Jersey and southern states such as Florida, as well as between New Jersey and more northern states, such as Massachusetts.

Make a donation today to support additional Story Maps!

How to Use the Story Map:

On the left side of the Story Map page are several “buttons” which will allow you to flip through the different seasons in an oystercatcher’s life: Breeding, Migration, and Wintering.  Each page provides information and photos and a map specific to that portion of the bird’s life cycle. By clicking on an individual point within the map, a box containing more specific information, and a photo in some cases, will pop-up. The map also provides the ability to zoom-in and out in order to see areas of interest in more detail.

This Story Map is especially exciting since it helps celebrate the first annual World Shorebirds Day. This event seeks to “…raise global public awareness about the conservation of, and research about, shorebirds. About half of the world’s shorebird populations are in decline, and the rate of habitat loss is worse than ever before” (World Shorebirds Day 2014).

World Shorebirds Day hopes to accomplish the following:

  • To raise public awareness about the need to protect shorebirds and their habitats throughout their life cycles;
  • To raise public awareness about the need for ongoing shorebird research;
  • To connect people with shorebirds through important shorebird sites around the world;
  • To get shorebird enthusiasts to introduce shorebirds to more birdwatchers;
  • To raise awareness about the need for increased funding for shorebird research, monitoring and conservation.

CWF’s shorebird leadership ranges from the American Oystercatcher celebrated in this Story Map, to the beach nesting birds along the Atlantic Coast, to the red knots and ruddy turnstones along the Delaware Bay.

Your support can help CWF develop additional Story Maps on other rare wildlife. Support our work on Story Maps on the American Oystercatcher and other important shorebirds in honor of World Shorebirds Day by supporting research, education, and public awareness efforts carried out by CWF:

We hope that this will be the first of many Story Maps that CWF will use in order to communicate the many fascinating stories that New Jersey’s wildlife have to tell.

Make a donation today to support shorebirds today!

Oystercatcher Project in Flight

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013
Surveying American Oystercatchers from the Sky

By Stephanie Egger, Wildlife Biologist

Stephanie Egger of CWFNJ, before take off.

Stephanie Egger of CWFNJ before take off.

If you happened to be taking a stroll on a chilly February afternoon on the beaches of New Jersey and you saw a blue and white Cessna in the sky flying in a not-so-straight pattern, well that was me in the back of the teeny 4-seater plane.  Last Tuesday I helped complete the New Jersey segment of the American oystercatcher winter survey, which is being directed by Shiloh Schulte from the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences, in partnership with the American Oystercatcher Working Group. Other staff from the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey and the State’s Endangered and Nongame Species Program were on the beach (or in a boat) “ground-truthing” the survey in order to verify the data that were collected during the flight.

Flight Path

Flight path during one portion of the New Jersey survey for American oystercatchers.

After swallowing a motion sickness pill as a precautionary measure (thanks Shiloh!) our four hour flight took off early afternoon from the Cape May County Airport, starting with a survey of Cape May Inlet.  We continued our flight north, surveying Hereford, Townsend’s, Corson’s, Great Egg Harbor, Absecon, Brigantine, Little Egg, Barnegat, and Manasquan Inlets and finally Sandy Hook Gateway National Recreation Area.  We saw flocks of wintering oystercatchers, from a handful to up to 140 birds, using sand and marsh habitats.  It was quite the first-time experience for me. Surveying from the air is NOT the easiest, but especially if a flock is seen at the last second and the plane has to bank hard. I admit I even glanced around for a sick bag a few times, but stayed strong! I don’t get seasick or airsick, but flying in a Cessna and doing numerous turns and banking was a whole new feeling.  There were many times all I could see from the backseat was water with no horizon to focus on, all while attempting to take good photographs of the flocks for the count. Try doing that when you are sideways!  In the end I managed to do really well at both, taking photos of the flocks and not getting sick during my aerial survey. Go me! (more…)


Sunday, December 9th, 2012

By Todd Pover, Beach Nesting Bird Project Manager

When cold weather settles in, as it recently did, our thoughts often turn to the south and warmer temperatures. Many of our long-distance migrant bird species are one step ahead of us, having already flown south for the winter.  Stephanie Egger and I, CWFNJ’s Beach Nesting Bird Project team, recently had the chance to join some of them in Florida.

The purpose of our trip was to attend the American Oystercatcher Working Group annual meeting to learn what our colleagues all along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts are doing to protect and study oystercatchers, and to share what we are doing in New Jersey as well. This year’s meeting was held in Cedar Key, Florida, a small town about two hours north of Tampa that is a very special place for oystercatchers. It is not unusual to find flocks of 500-1000 oystercatchers roosting on oyster shell rakes just offshore from this quiet gulf town, making it one of the most important wintering sites for this species in the U.S.

“New Jersey” oystercatchers are typically found in the Cedar Key flocks – birds that bred in New Jersey and were marked with orange color bands that have unique two-digit codes.  These bands and similar bands or flags used by other states, help researchers track movements and learn about the long-term survival of this species.  (more…)


Wednesday, November 7th, 2012
Assessing the damage to coastal wildlife and their habitat

By Stephanie Egger, Wildlife Biologist

CWFNJ Wildlife Biologist, Stephanie Egger, surveying American Oystercatchers post Hurricane Sandy.

As we all know Hurricane Sandy caused severe damage and devastation to New Jersey residents, homes, and their businesses, but we must not forget that wildlife can also suffer from the impacts of a hurricane.  CWFNJ’s Beach Nesting Bird Project Manager, Todd Pover, Alfred Breed, CWFNJ Field Technician, and myself, conducted wildlife/habitat assessments on beaches from Brigantine to Cape May after the storm.  Our nesting sites further north in Ocean and Monmouth Counties were still not accessible at that time to evaluate.  We assessed nesting habitat for beach nesting bird species, especially Piping Plover as well beach/inlet habitat used by migratory shorebirds, particularly American Oystercatchers.

A view of the severe erosion at Strathmere Natural Area, Cape May County, NJ.

As expected, many of our nesting sites and sites that are also used by migratory shorebirds for roosting were hit hard by Hurricane Sandy, losing a great deal of sand and suitable habitat.  However, in some locations such as Stone Harbor Point and North Brigantine Natural Area, the storm scoured out areas with too much vegetation which is good for beach nesters as they prefer sparsely vegetated areas. Sand was also pushed back into the dunes to create blowouts and overwash areas that may serve as additional habitat.  Many of the areas seem to be very low lying now from the loss of sand and might be more flood prone which could impact the beach nesters in the spring.

We also observed migratory songbirds, golden-crowned kinglets, which were taking shelter and flittering through the back dune/bayberry habitat right after the storm.  This was a good reminder of the value of New Jersey coastal habitat for songbirds as they migrate down the coast.

American Oystercatchers roosting with juvenile Black Skimmers at Strathmere Natural Area, Cape May County, NJ

As part of our assessment, we conducted American Oystercatcher surveys as a significant number use New Jersey beaches for roosting during the fall and winter.  Luckily, approximately 900-1,000 American Oystercatchers were still using our southern coastal inlets after Sandy, about the same number of birds observed the week before the storm.  Thanks to funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation we were already conducting fall surveys for American Oystercatchers and in the position to compare their numbers before and after the storm.

Only time will tell if the habitat will build back up enough in time for the spring as the birds begin to arrive for the nesting season or if it will have lasting impacts on migratory bird species. We hope to conduct further assessments to gain a better understanding of the short- and long-term impacts to wildlife from Hurricane Sandy and how that may affect conservation and recovery effort for these species moving forward.





For CWFNJ’s videos of wildlife and habitat assessments click on the links below:

Wildlife Assessment Post Hurricane Sandy at North Brigantine Natural Area, NJ

Wildlife Assessment Post Hurricane Sandy at Stone Harbor Point, NJ

Wildlife Assessment Post Hurricane Sandy at Strathmere Natural Area, NJ


Thursday, October 18th, 2012
American Oystercatchers in our Sights

By Todd Pover, Beach Nesting Bird Project Manager

Roost Flock of American Oystercatchers with New Jersey (Orange) Bands
Photo courtesy of Pat Leary

Did you know that American oystercatchers don’t just nest in New Jersey, but that we also have the northernmost wintering population on the Atlantic Coast? Our state’s coastal inlets are also important as stopover sites for migratory oystercatchers. Yesterday, we counted a flock of over 300 oystercatchers on Champagne Island in Hereford Inlet and this morning we surveyed a smaller flock of about 75 birds in Corson’s Inlet. In addition to counting the birds, we also look for (i.e. resight) color bands during the surveys. Most of the bands are from birds that nested here, but a number of bands from other states, such as Massachusetts, are also currently being seen.  New Jersey bands are orange colored – you can see two of “ours” in the photo above.