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Posts Tagged ‘black skimmer’

Beachnester Buzz: Drum roll please, the 2016 breeding results for beachnesters are…

Monday, August 15th, 2016
NEW, WEEKLY UPDATES FROM NEW JERSEY’S BEACH NESTING BIRD PROJECT TEAM

by Todd Pover, Beach Nesting Bird Project Manager

There are many ways to gauge success for our beachnesting bird project. We look at how well our management tools work, the effectiveness of our partnerships, and how well our educational efforts work, to name a few qualitative measures we use. At some point, however, it comes down to cold hard numbers, how well did the birds do in a particular season and over the long-term. We are at that point in the season, and for the most part, I am happy to report it has been an excellent breeding year. I will caution that these are still preliminary figures, some quality checking of the data needs to be done before they are final, but the trends are clear.

One of a "bumper crop" of piping plover fledglings produced in New Jersey in 2016. Photo courtesy of Kevin Knutsen.

One of a “bumper crop” of piping plover fledglings produced in New Jersey in 2016. Photo courtesy of Kevin Knutsen.

First up are piping plovers. We will come in at ~115 pairs statewide, up modestly from the 108 pairs in 2015, and the second consecutive year of an increase after hitting our historic low of just 92 pairs in 2014. So, we have climbed back closer to our long-term average, but there is still room to improve. The really good news is our productivity this year – close to a statewide record at 1.37 chicks fledged per pairs – puts us in the position to continue our population increase. If trends hold, because piping plovers demonstrate high site (or region) fidelity, when we produce a lot of fledglings, our breeding population rises in the next year or two. With three straight years of well above average fledgling rates for New Jersey now in the books, our prospects look good in the short term for our breeding population levels.

Least terns and black skimmers, which nest in colonies, sometimes numbering hundreds (or even thousands), are more challenging to count and assess, but we had at least modest success this year for both species. As is typical, our least tern colonies were variable, with some completely failing and others being highly productive. The Monmouth County region, one of our strongholds for least terns in New Jersey, didn’t have one colony that was a standout but most of them had at least some success. In South Jersey, our two largest colonies at Holgate (EB Forsythe NWR) and Seaview Harbor were very successful and helped make up for losses and failures at other colonies. The majority of our state’s black skimmers are concentrated in one large colony at Seaview Harbor, and although skimmers are our latest nesters (so the season isn’t quite over for them), they appear to have been very successful there, which means a good season overall for the state.

We also track American oystercatchers, although only for the portion that nest on the barrier beaches and spits. Because the biggest percentage of oystercatchers in the state nest on back bay and marsh islands, we cannot determine true statewide population or productivity levels, but the population on the beach habitat appears to be rising in recent years. Typically breeding success is lower for oystercatchers on the beach habitat due to high levels of human disturbance and predators, but productivity has been relative high the past two years. Of particular note this year was Stone Harbor Point, where a record number of 27 pairs nested and produced over 30 fledglings.

The reality is our beachnester staff works just as hard in years when the birds do poorly, as when they do well like this year, but it is SO much more rewarding when we have a good season. So as we wrap up the season, we are all feeling in a bit of a celebratory mode now!


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Beachnester Buzz: A Day in the Life of a Beachnester

Monday, August 8th, 2016

NEW, WEEKLY UPDATES FROM NEW JERSEY’S BEACH NESTING BIRD PROJECT TEAM

by Todd Pover, Beach Nesting Bird Project Manager

 

For this week’s installment, I thought it would be fun to have you tag along with me on a day in the field, so you can get a sampling of what goes into our beach nesting bird program. Let’s call it, “A Day in the Life of a Beachnester.”

 

skimmer

Black skimmer and chicks at our Belmar colony where we recently banded the young before they could fly. Photo courtesy of Jersey Shore Photography.

Today it is an early 4 am rise to beat the beach crowds and heat, as we are banding black skimmers at our Belmar colony. This is the first time our program has banded skimmers –  it is a collaborative effort with other organizations/agencies in both New York and New Jersey – we hope to find out more about their survival, longevity, and movement, both local and long distance. Everything goes well, we are able to corral and band about 35 chicks in less than an hour. This part of the day represents the science portion of the beach nesting bird project, science for the sake of study and a better understanding of our birds, but more importantly to gather information to help us manage and recover endangered species.

 

With no time to spare, it is now off to Leonardo along Sandy Hook Bay where CWF is hosting a summer wildlife experience for kids. No surprise, I am the guest today to teach the kids about beach nesting birds. I explain why piping plovers and American oystercatchers are at risk, and then give them a chance to use a high powered birding scope to try to read bands I have placed on decoy birds. We definitely have some budding biologists in the mix. Education is key to our project, unlike other endangered species that mostly live out of sight or reach, beachnesters spend the breeding season on the same beaches visited by millions of tourists and residents. If they are going to learn to “share the shore” with our endangered birds, outreach is essential.

 

beachnester buzz plant

Sea beach amaranth, a rare plant, that shares the beach with our nesting shorebirds and also is protected.

Next up is a stop at Seven Presidents Oceanfront Park, one of our important nesting areas in Monmouth County. For most of the season we are erecting and adjusting fence to protect nesting areas, but today we are working with the park to reduce the fence, as many of our birds have successfully nested and started to leave the area. First we count and locate any remaining least terns – these surveys are the base of our project – we need this data to track population trends and seasonal productivity as metrics of progress towards recovery. Before we remove any fence at this site, we also conduct surveys of sea beach amaranth, an endangered plant that shares the beach with our nesting birds. We locate a few plants and that dictates how we readjust the fence, the plants need protection from trampling by beachgoers or vehicles used by the park to maintain their beach.

 

 

Coordination with municipalities or other land owners that host beach nesting birds is a critical part of our project, as their activities can impact nesting success as much as beachgoer’s recreational use of the beach. So there is one more stop today to assess whether a maintenance request can be granted in a way that won’t put birds at risk. That done, it is time to start the two hour drive back to our office in Cape May County. I am ready for a nap, but no luck, as the truck becomes a mobile office to take care of other unattended business (while someone else drives of course). There are calls with several other towns, check-ins with our seasonal staff members that are spread out all along the coast, and finally dealing with a broken down vehicle (not ours fortunately) and a person who refused to take their dog off a nesting site.

 

Back at the office, it is one last check of email, entering a little bit of the data we collected today, and finally time to head home. Every day is a little different, but this day has been a good cross-section of the range of things we do on the project. It is tempting to think we just pop up fence and signs and hope the birds do well, but protection and recovery of our endangered beach nesting birds requires a comprehensive strategy addressing all the factors that impact nesting success.

 

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“For the Love of Wildlife” Photo Contest: First Place Winners

Monday, June 27th, 2016
CONGRATULATIONS, FRANCESCA BUCHALSKI AND BILL DALTON!

by Lindsay McNamara, Communications Manager

Earlier in 2016, Conserve Wildlife Foundation launched the “For the Love of Wildlife” Photo Contest. Our photography contest was meant to showcase the love for and need to protect the endangered and threatened wildlife that call New Jersey home. We encouraged youth and adult photographers across the Garden State to submit photographs in the following categories:

  • New Jersey’s Rarest Residents: Endangered, Threatened, and Special Concern Wildlife Species Only
  • The Garden State: New Jersey Landscapes
  • Experiencing Nature: People Enjoying the Outdoors
  • Wild New Jersey: All Animals in the Garden State

We were blown away by the amount of submissions we received! Over 1,470 entries were counted! New Jersey wildlife photographers, CWF board members and staff poured over the entries to choose our winners. Today, we are thrilled to announce both first place winners.


First Place: Francesca Buchalski
Allentown, New Jersey
Praying Mantis

Praying Mantis on Lens

Praying Mantis on Lens, youth first place winner Francesca Buchalski

Francesca was so happy to have won our contest! She shared more about the image and her passion for photography with CWF: “I took that photo at the Cape May Meadow during last year’s fall hawk migration festival. My mom and I are avid birders, and we love going to the migrations in Cape May! We were bringing up the rear on a guided walk, and just as we started walking down the path through the reeds, I heard ‘Wows!’ and ‘Cools!’ up ahead. As we caught up, we saw that everyone was looking at a praying mantis perched on a man’s telephoto lens! I had my camera with me to photograph birds, but that was an opportunity that couldn’t be missed! I thought it was pretty interesting and ironic that the man couldn’t photograph the praying mantis, even though it was on his camera (he couldn’t stop laughing), and it posed there for a long time. It was a great way to start the walk!

 

“I’ve only been photographing wildlife for about 3 years, just for fun. I started off by taking pictures of the birds that came to our feeders, and now I bring my camera on all of my birding adventures. As for my favorite New Jersey species…that’s a tough one! I think I would have to go with the osprey; they’re so charismatic in their coloring, hunting habits, and cool ‘opposable’ talon. I also really enjoy how easy it is to observe them by boat; whenever I think about the wetlands or the back bays of New Jersey, I automatically think ‘osprey.’ They also have such a great comeback story, its almost impossible not to love them!

 

“A close second would be the horseshoe crab; I find it simply incredible that they have remained unchanged for millions of years, and that so many migrating shorebirds depend on them. And who can forget their incredible immune system and blue blood! I also love how you can learn about and help horseshoe crabs by participating in hands on counting, tagging, and flipping walks (my mom and I have done some of those, and they’re such great experiences!)

 

“New Jersey has such an amazing array of wildlife, and sadly, so many people miss it amid all of the big cities; big thanks to everyone at Conserve Wildlife [Foundation] for helping to promote New Jersey’s wildlife and keep them around for years to come!”


First Place: Bill Dalton
Interlaken, New Jersey
Black Skimmer

Sky Skimmer Bill Dalton

Sky Skimmer, adult first place winner Bill Dalton

Bill was so pleased to have won our contest. He said he is “truly honored to have [his] ‘Sky Skimmer’ photo selected as the grand prize winner from such a prestigious organization.”

 

Bill explained to CWF, “I once read that a photographer’s definition of luck is: Preparedness over opportunity = LUCK! That was certainly the case when I photographed the skimmers at Forsythe on a early spring morning. On a previous visit, I saw a mature peregrine falcon perched at sunrise not far from the observation tower. I returned a day or two later with the proper equipment for low light, high speed photography, with hopes to get early light shots of the peregrine. The falcon was there but I noticed 6 to 10 black skimmers feeding about 50 yards from my location. The light from the predawn sky and clouds reflected perfectly on the windless water’s surface. I took about 50 shots but one shot caught the skimmer in exactly the right position. The line between sky and water vanished! The camera should get all the credit, I just pushed a button! I’ve been a nature photographer (hobby) for decades. My first camera back in the 70’s was a Minolta SRT 101. Boy has photography come a long way since the days of only film!

 

“I love to kid people by telling them I’m an endangered species. By that, I mean, I was born and raised in Monmouth County. One of the most important goals in [CWF]’s mission statement is, ‘educating everyone who lives in New Jersey about our shared wild heritage and our shared responsibility to protect it.’ We’ve come a long way in accomplishing those goals but so much more has to be done.

 

“I must admit being a born and raised Jersey Shore boy that my favorite species is the osprey. I vividly remember back in the 1950’s asking my dad while driving down a shore road in Monmouth County, why the power company men were knocking down bird’s nests that were atop of the poles! Those nests were ospreys and the nests on the poles were considered a nuisance! Years later I am proud to have been partly responsible for one of the first osprey nesting programs in Monmouth County. I convinced the company I worked for to enter into an agreement with the NJDEP to relocate a nest from the Keansburg pier to our location in Union Beach. At that time ospreys were on the threatened and endangered species list.

 

“The transfer of the nest was successful and at that time (1987) it was the most northern osprey nest in Monmouth County. Now I see nests in dozens of locations throughout the county! The osprey is truly an example (along with many other species) on how educating the public about our wildlife heritage worked!

 

“My work has been wildly published over the years including leading magazines, books and educational publications. National Geographic has published my work several times, most recently in their book, ‘Sublime Nature: Photographs That Awe and Inspire.’ Once again, thanks to the judges and staff of the Foundation for this wonderful award.”


Lindsay McNamara is the Communications Manager for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.

Researching Beach Nesting Birds at Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge

Thursday, July 2nd, 2015
Conserve Wildlife Foundation Partners with National Wildlife Refuge to Collect Data on Beach Nesting Birds

Posted by: Lindsay McNamara, Communications Manager

 

Piping Plover Nest

Piping Plover Nest

Did you know barrier island beach makes up approximately 2% of the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge? This area is the most productive for beach nesting birds. The federally threatened piping plover and other species such as least tern, black skimmer, and a species of special concern, the American oystercatcher, nest on Holgate Beach. The refuge closes the Holgate unit from April 1st to September 1st every year to provide undisturbed nesting habitat for these important species.

 

Not only is it important to protect nesting habitat for the birds, but it is also important to provide education opportunities to the public. Each summer, the refuge relies on volunteers during the summer months to talk to the public about the beach closure and bird management, and answer any general questions about Forsythe Refuge.

 

This year, Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey partnered with the refuge to assist in the collection of nesting data. “In the past, refuge staff has done all the beach nesting bird monitoring,” said Refuge Manager Virginia Rettig. “This year we are very excited to be working with our partners to monitor the population status of these birds. The work they are doing, combined with the data they collect, will improve our understanding of beach nesting birds on Forsythe Refuge.”

 

CWF Field Technician Jesse Amesbury tracking piping plovers at Holgate with his scope.

CWF Field Technician Jesse Amesbury tracking piping plovers at Holgate with his scope.

“Holgate provides highly suitable undisturbed natural habitat for at-risk beach nesting birds, especially piping plover – a rarity along the otherwise highly developed and recreated New Jersey Coast,” said Todd Pover, CWF Beach Nesting Bird Project Manager. “Maximizing productivity at this site is a high priority for regional and range-wide recovery efforts.”

 

Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge protects more than 47,000 acres of sensitive wetlands, marshes, and coastal habitats along the New Jersey shore. It is one of the most important habitats for migrating waterfowl and shorebirds east of the Mississippi River.

Learn more:

Conserve Wildlife Foundation’s Beach Nesting Bird Project
Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge

 

 

 

 

Lindsay McNamara is the Communications Manager for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.

HURRICANE SANDY STORM REPORT

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