Conserve Wildlife Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Butterflies’

Planting For Pollinators

Tuesday, November 7th, 2017

A new pollinator habitat is created in Middle Township

By: Larissa Smith; CWF Wildlife Biologist

The Middle Township Environmental Commission in cooperation with the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ worked to create a pollinator habitat at a recreation site in the township which is located in Cape May County. Commission members had been working to obtain permission to plant a pollinator garden on a township site. The Ockie Wisting Recreation Complex was just officially opened in the end of October. This recreation site will have playing fields, a playground and a wooded trail that leads to a lake and fishing pier.

With funding from Atlantic City Electric volunteers with the Middle Township Environmental Commission and Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ  planted 138 native perennials . While it doesn’t look like much right now, come next spring and summer there will be plants for bees, butterflies and birds to use for food and habitat.  Not only will this pollinator meadow be great for wildlife, it won’t have to be mowed.  The Environmental Commission will be in charge of  maintenance and plans another work day in the spring to remove any non-native plants and trees in the area. We also plan to use this site as a demonstration garden for others interested in planting for pollinators.


  • Ockie Wisting Pollinator Habitat: List of Plantings – Fall 2017
    • Common Name             Scientific name
      Yellow Giant Hyssop       Agastache nepetoides
      Prairie Onion                   Allium stellatum
      Common Milkweed        Asclepias syriaca
      Butterflyweed                 Asclepias tuberosa
      Whorled Milkweed         Asclepias verticillata
      Boltonia                          Boltonia asteroides
      Maryland Golden Aster  Chrysopsis mariana
      Purple Mistflower           Conoclinium coelestinum
      Pink Coreopsis                Coreopsis rosea
      Purple Coneflower          Echinacea purpurea
      Rattlesnake Master         Eryngium yuccifolium
      Hyssop-leaved Thoroughwort Eupatorium hyssopifolium
      Showy Aster                    Eurybia spectabilis
      Coastal Joe-Pye Weed    Eutrochium dubium
      Ten-petal Sunflower       Helianthus decapetalus
      Meadow Blazingstar       Liatris ligulistylis
      Cardinal Flower               Lobelia cardinalis
      Scarlet Bee balm             Monarda didyma
      Wild Bergamot                Monarda fistulosa
      Spotted Horsemint         Monarda punctata
      Pink Muhly Grass            Muhlenbergia capillaris
      Calico Beardtongue        Penstemon calycosus
      Hairy Beardtongue         Penstemon hirsutus
      Garden Phlox                  Phlox paniculata
      Obedient Plant               Physostegia virginiana
      Lyre-leaf Sage                Salvia lyrata
      Fire Pink                         Silene virginica
      Compass Plant               Silphium laciniatum
      Seaside Goldenrod        Solidago sempervirens
      Aromatic Aster              Symph. oblongifolium
      Heath Aster                   Symphyotrichum ericoides
      New York Aster             Symphyotrichum novi-belgii
      Upland Ironweed          Vernonia glauca
      Culver’s Root                 Veronicastrum virg.
      Golden Alexanders        Zizia aurea


  • CMC Herald: Shovel’s in Hand: Pollinator Garden Planted at Wisting Rec. Complex:
  • CWF Pollinator Conservation Project

New Jersey’s Key Role in the Monarch Migration

Tuesday, October 4th, 2016
The Garden State annually hosts swarms of southbound Monarch Butterflies

By: Kendall Miller, Project Coordinator

Monarch butterfly refueling in Cape May as it prepares for fall migration to Mexico. Photo courtesy of Lindsey Brendel.

Monarch butterfly refueling in Cape May as it prepares for fall migration to Mexico. Photo courtesy of Lindsey Brendel.

Monarch has been a conservation buzz-word for the past decade when data revealed that the population had appeared to be on the decline. Then in 2013, the population of wintering monarch butterflies in Mexico reached an all-time low that jolted scientists, environmentalists, and enthusiasts across the nation.

Monarch abundance in wintering grounds is measured as area in hectares. They roost in large colonies in the Transvolcanic Mountains in Mexico. The 2013-2014 overwintering population experienced the lowest recorded area to date, at 0.67 ha. From MonarchWatch.org.

Monarch abundance in wintering grounds is measured as area in hectares. They roost in large colonies in the Transvolcanic Mountains in Mexico. The 2013-2014 overwintering population experienced the lowest recorded area to date, at 0.67 ha. From MonarchWatch.org.

This marvelous and iconic lepidopteran is found throughout the continental United States. Its 3,000 mile long migration is an amazing natural phenomenon. The news of population declines in Mexican wintering sites inflamed concern and incited action. Many groups have since created partnerships, implemented programs, and conducted research to understand more about this widely known yet still mysterious insect.

The location of wintering monarchs was a complete mystery until 1975 when the remote wintering sites were discovered in transvolcanic mountain ranges in Mexico. Much is still to be discovered about the migration pathways even within the United States, and doing so will answer questions which will inform conservation and management of this species which faces multiple threats during every aspect of its expansive journey.

Glider pilots have observed monarch butterflies at an altitude of 1200 meters (Gibo 1981).  Migratory flights at these altitudes can allow insects to disperse against wind directions found at lower altitudes.


But first, a little bit about biology and the annual life cycle

The monarch’s annual lifecycle is a really marvelous and multifaceted journey – it can be thought of as a multigenerational relay race.

From the Xerces Society. Map depicts the known general migration routes of monarch butterflies.

From the Xerces Society. Map depicts the known general migration routes of monarch butterflies.

Monarch butterflies, just like other lepidopterans, metamorphosis from caterpillar to butterfly. The big thing that sets them apart is the migration they make annually. (Although there are many other species of moths and butterflies, and other insects as well that migrate – the monarch is arguably the most well recognized example http://texasento.net/migration.htm).

Temporal cues and an innate determination drive these ambitions fliers to travel as far north as the Canadian border. In the search for milkweed and favorable temperatures – possibly to avoid disease pressures – monarchs fly north to reproduce and recolonize across North America each year.

They leave overwintering grounds in Mexico in early spring. Along their route the monarchs will mate and reproduce. Their lives are lived within a short couple weeks, and their offspring will continue the migration northwards in search of food and milkweed.

When the seasons shift in late summer and early fall, the last generation of monarchs will begin a southbound journey, instinctively traveling to wintering sites in Mexico (there are a few populations that overwinter in California and Florida – but the large majority are thought to return to Mexico). This generation will be responsible for making the longest trek of the migration to wintering grounds. These monarchs enter reproductive diapause – the state where the body will temporarily pause reproduction – until the following spring. These monarchs will spend the winter roosting in trees in Mexico until spring when they will take up the first leg of the relay north.

This last generation from the previous year now makes up the first generation of the present year – and will pass the baton on to their offspring as the cycle starts anew.


The role of the Garden State

So what part does New Jersey play in the grand scheme of this massive population?

The Atlantic coast migration was once characterized as “aberrant”, a fluke of sorts – the result of southbound monarchs being blown off course. Research and monitoring conducted in Cape May and published by Walton and Brower (1996) in The Journal of the Lepidopterist’s Society have supported the hypothesis that a migration along the Atlantic coast is part of the monarch’s normal fall migration.

What does a monarch have in common with a hawk?
Walton and Brower (1996) have proposed the idea that monarch butterflies could display similar flight patterns to that of migrating hawks. Utilizing an elliptical flight path during the fall south-bound migration, the model suggests that these birds take advantage of prevailing winds by first traveling east and then west, thus providing a quicker and more energetically-efficient route. Could monarch do the same?

New Jersey – Southern New Jersey and Cape May in particular – is historically recognized as a concentration area for southbound monarchs during the fall migration to wintering grounds. Hamilton (1885) [expressed his wonder of the] characterized the September 1885 monarch migration at Brigantine, New Jersey as “almost past belief … millions is but feebly expressive … miles of them is no exaggeration.” Reports of trees “more orange than green” is no exaggeration, as monarchs congregate en masse in prime roosting spots to warm and rest.

But why is this important? The monarchs migrating through Cape May seem to be representative of the entire North Eastern population – and therefore it offers the opportunity to collect quantitative data on populations in addition to other annual counts. The fourth of July counts focus on quantitatively monitoring the Northeastern population of monarchs as they arrive in the spring and summer. Therefore this data can be used to analyze population trends.


What part can New Jersey residents play?

Monarchs are traveling across New Jersey May through October. There are plenty of simple ways you can help protect this iconic species.

  • Plant native species of flowering plants – monarchs and other insects (like bees) rely on a healthy diversity of nectar sources. Planting a wildflower garden is a quaint, ecological-friendly way to create habitat, and not to mention, make less work watering and money spent purchasing plants. Check out the Native Plant Society or Jersey Friendly Yards to get started. http://npsnj.org/ http://www.jerseyyards.org/
  • Share this article, talk about environmental issues, and get informed. Show your support and share your concern for the wellbeing of this (and other) species!
  • Rear monarchs. At home or in classrooms, rearing wild monarchs and releasing them is a rewarding and educational way to contribute.
  • Participate in tagging and monitoring projects. Monitoring and tagging projects take place in the summer and fall for New Jersey Monarchs. You can also contribute simply by reporting your sightings on these websites.

LEARN MORE


 

How You Can Help Fill-in Data Gaps

Friday, January 29th, 2016
YOUR WILDLIFE SIGHTINGS CAN HELP INFORM NEW JERSEY’S BIOLOGISTS

By Michael Davenport, GIS Program Manager

Compared with most of the states within the United States, New Jersey is relatively small in area. However, it is still too large for biologists within New Jersey’s Endangered and Nongame Species Program (ENSP) to survey every inch of the state for rare species at all times. Therefore, ENSP has created a Rare Wildlife Sighting Report Form with which any bird watcher, hiker, fisherman, and anyone else with knowledge on how to identify New Jersey’s rare wildlife, may submit information on rare species which they may have come across in their travels. This information assists ENSP biologists in monitoring their species’ numbers and whereabouts and may aid in targeting areas for future surveys. Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey (CWF) staff work very closely with ENSP to encourage the public to submit their observational data and then process the information which gets submitted.

A spotted salamander, photographed during a quiet moment along the road shoulder. © Brett Klaproth

A spotted salamander, photographed during a quiet moment along the road shoulder. © Brett Klaproth

The first step in reporting rare species sightings is to first determine whether the species you observed is a species which is tracked. Tracked species are those listed in New Jersey as endangered, threatened, or special concern. The lists of these species can be found on these ENSP’s websites:  endangered & threatened species and special concern species.

The greatest need for data is for those species which are new to the proposed list of endangered, threatened, or special concern species. Because they did NOT previously have an imperiled status, they have largely been ignored in terms of survey effort and/or data acquisition. At the current time, there is a great need for data regarding observations of the following species:

Reptiles

Amphibians

Butterflies

Once you have determined that you observed a rare species, the next step is to complete a Rare Wildlife Sighting Report Form. You may complete one of these forms if you made the observation yourself – second-hand observations or information whose source was a report, letter, conversation, or other document will not be accepted. Also, one form must be completed per species. Thus, if you observe a heron rookery comprised of great blue herons, tricolor herons, and snowy egrets, then three sighting report forms may be submitted.

Rare Wildlife Sighting Report Forms are available for download and/or printing here. Part of the process of completing the form is to submit a map of the location where the animal was observed. This is critically important for reasons to be discussed later. The preferred map to submit is an aerial image of the area which you have marked with the animal’s location; however, a topographic map is also acceptable. Aerial images may be accessed via Google maps. Topographic maps can be accessed here. In addition to the form and map, it is also extremely helpful if you can submit at least one photograph of the animal in order for an ENSP biologist to verify the identification of the species.

In 2016, the NJ Endangered & Nongame Advisory Committee approved that the rough green snake be added to the state's list of Special Concern species. © Keara R. Giannotti

In 2016, the NJ Endangered & Nongame Advisory Committee approved that the rough green snake be added to the state’s list of Special Concern species. © Keara R. Giannotti

After you mail in your form and map to ENSP, CWF or ENSP staff will enter it into their tracking database at which point it will receive an Observation ID number. You will then receive an e-mail acknowledging receipt of your form and providing you with your Observation ID number in the event you wish to follow-up with additional information or inquire as to whether the biologist has reviewed your form.

The form then goes to a CWF or ENSP biologist who will evaluate it to determine whether it is a valid sighting and whether it should be integrated into the next version of ENSP’s Landscape Project. This is why receiving accurate locational information along with the sighting report form is crucial. The Landscape Project is a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) product whereby critical areas are identified for imperiled species based upon species locations as well as land-use classifications. The resulting maps enable state, county, municipal, and private agencies to identify important habitats and protect them in a variety of ways. This information is even utilized to regulate land-use in the state and attempt to preserve whatever endangered and threatened species habitat remains in New Jersey.

A common misperception many New Jersey nature watchers have is, if they happen to report their rare species sightings to institutions such as Audubon or Cornell (e-bird), that information will make its way to the state’s Endangered and Nongame Species Program. That is not the case. ENSP needs you to submit your data directly to them. So, please, become a Citizen Scientist and assist both CWF and ENSP in tracking New Jersey’s rare species, in the hopes that our work can prevent them from becoming rarer.

If you have collected a large amount of data and submitting it via multiple Sighting Report Forms may be too time consuming, please contact Mike Davenport, CWF’s GIS Program Manager, at Michael.davenport@dep.nj.gov Other options exist for data submittal (Excel spreadsheets for example) so long as all of the required information is included.

Providing Young Forest Habitat for the Golden-winged Warbler

Friday, December 11th, 2015
CWF and partners have created or restored over 225 acres of Golden-winged warbler habitat in New Jersey since 2012

 by Kelly Triece, Private Lands Biologist

Golden Winged Warbler. Photo by D. Kenny.

Golden Winged Warbler. Photo by D. Kenny.

Take a look at this Golden-winged warbler — a Neotropical Migrant songbird that breeds in New Jersey. This songbird is a species of special conservation concern in the United States and endangered in New Jersey, experiencing population declines due to loss of young forest habitat.

 
Did you know? In the past 30 years, over 11,000 acres of upland shrub and emergent wetland habitat have been lost to succession in New Jersey. This habitat is important for Golden-winged warblers because it is their primary breeding habitat. Fortunately, their secondary habitat, upland forests, have remained stable in the state.

 

Therefore, it has been the goal of many wildlife management agencies to continue to create young forest habitat, while protecting upland forests as well.

 
Conserve Wildlife Foundation and our partners (Natural Resources Conservation Service, New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife and New Jersey Audubon Society), have worked with private landowners to create or restore over 225 acres of Golden-winged warbler habitat since 2012 in New Jersey.

 

Our managed forests have a statistically significant higher diversity of birds than unmanaged sites!

Young forest habitat managed for Golden-winged Warbler. Photo by Kelly Triece.

Young forest habitat managed for Golden-winged warbler. Photo by Kelly Triece.

Young forest habitat, also known as scrub-shrub habitat, is new or regenerating forest that is less than 20 years old. Young forest habitat is important for many birds, especially the Golden-winged warbler. The open canopy of a young forest also helps provide food such as berries and insects to newly fledged birds, wild turkey, ruffed grouse, reptiles, black bears, bobcats, and butterflies.

 

Golden-winged warbler home range

Golden-winged warbler home range

The breeding range of the Golden-winged warbler extends along the Appalachians from the northern portion of Georgia in the south to Vermont in the north. The winter range for this species is southern Mexico and Central and South America.

 

Follow us in February 2016 when biologist Kelly Triece travels to Honduras to see the Golden-winged Warbler in its winter habitat!

 

Learn more and get involved:

 

 

Kelly Triece is the Private Lands Biologist for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.

From Birds to Butterflies

Tuesday, September 1st, 2015
Why Should We Care About Endangered Species?

by Lindsey Brendel, Technician

Piping plover sheds its breeding plumage as it readies for migration to wintering grounds. Photo courtesy of Northside Jim.

Piping plover sheds its breeding plumage as it readies for migration to wintering grounds. Photo courtesy of Northside Jim.

As summer melds into early autumn, migration comes underway.  The nesting season for beach nesting birds is drawing to a close, and shorebirds can be seen feasting along the beaches as they fuel their bodies for their journey south. This was my first season working with endangered beach nesting birds.  Watching territory disputes and courtship displays early in the spring transitioned into nest searching and anxiously awaiting the hatch dates of our incubating pairs.

 

I feel an incredible sense of pride in the birds that have survived to fledge. It is impossible not to become attached when you spend weeks closely watching tiny chicks who take a tumble, are then brooded under their parents’ bodies, and finally mature into independent, fully feathered young birds, preparing for their first migration.

 

The start of fall migration also marks the reason I originally came to New Jersey one year ago, that being to study the monarch butterflies’ southward migration along the Atlantic coast. Last year was my first season as a field technician with the NJAS Monarch Monitoring Project, a research and education program that performs daily censuses of migrating monarchs, public tagging demos, and educational outreach. The project runs from September 1 through the end of October, and I will be back and working with the team again this fall.

Monarch butterfly refueling in Cape May as it prepares for fall migration to Mexico. Photo courtesy of Lindsey Brendel.

Monarch butterfly refueling in Cape May as it prepares for fall migration to Mexico. Photo courtesy of Lindsey Brendel.

For me, I see the monarch butterfly as the perfect gateway animal into the larger world of conservation.  Their widespread range in North America, and easy recognition means that many people are already familiar with this royal insect. Many school age children have learned about their life cycle in school, and may have even raised caterpillars and been witnesses to metamorphosis. Even if you have never learned about monarchs, their bright and bold appearance, sporting the warning coloration of orange and black, make them hard to miss.

 

That is one of the big differences I see between the beach nesting birds I have grown to love this summer and monarch butterfly. Cryptic and camouflaged are words that describe our beach nesters, specifically the endangered piping plover, who, when standing still, blends in perfectly with the sandy beach landscape. When I talk to people who have gone inside the fenced areas we have on the beaches for the nesting birds, a common response that serves as their rebuttal is that they “didn’t see” any birds, so they thought it would be okay. Situations like this happen frequently, and I have found that teaching, rather than scolding, is a better use of time. I love being able to show people the birds and highlight the fenced off areas as a family zone for our feathered friends; removing any mystery as to why these spaces are off limits.

 

Coming from a background in the arts, outreach is the arena I feel best suited for. I have had the pleasure of leading the beach nesting bird walks at Cape May Point State Park this summer. I love being able to share with others the life of a beach nesting bird, emphasizing that it really is a family affair, and a difficult one at that. The State Park will serve as a major hub for my work this fall, as that is where the Monarch Monitoring Project holds its butterfly tagging demos, and where we teach the public about the 2500-mile migratory journey the monarch butterfly undertakes to reach its wintering grounds in the mountains of Mexico.

 

The beach nesting birds I have worked with this summer are endangered. Currently, the monarch butterfly is also under consideration to be listed as an endangered species. One question that comes up at both the bird walks and the butterfly tagging demos is, “Why would it matter if this species was gone?”

 

Sometimes it is asked with genuine curiosity, and other times it is said as a jab. Either way, it is a difficult question for me to answer, and I have to evaluate why I care. I think and worry a lot about the loss of milkweed, lack of nectar sources, and loss of wintering habitat for the monarchs all the time.  After working with beach nesting birds, I will never be able to enjoy a summer thunderstorm the same way again because I will always be picturing a tiny least tern or plover hunkered down on their nest trying to protect their eggs through the wind and the rain.

 

We protect things of value, but what value do these birds or this butterfly have? Why should we care about endangered species? One argument often made about rainforest deforestation is that there are possible undiscovered medicinal properties that could be cures for diseases. It is unlikely that piping plovers or monarch butterflies hold untapped medical value. So, why should we worry about their declining numbers?

 

Lindsey Brendel getting up close and personal with American oystercatcher chick, one of several beach nesting bird species she monitored this summer.

Lindsey Brendel getting up close and personal with American oystercatcher chick, one of several beach nesting bird species she monitored this summer.

For me, my fear is less about losing individual species, and more about the dangers of a widespread ideology where everything is treated as a commodity. I see this as the reason these two species have been pushed to dangerously low numbers and one of the hardest challenges conservation efforts have to face.  We live in a very “me centered” culture, and conservation asks us to acknowledge our place as just one of the many functioning pieces in the world around us. If we are going to be on the beach with our family, we need to understand that the least tern flying with a fish in its mouth is bringing food back for his family on that same beach. If we are going to invest in monoculture farms that heavily rely on herbicide use for our food, then we need to realize that we are taking away the food source for monarchs, and many other insect species.

 

Do I think compromise between humans and critical habitat for endangered species can be achieved? Absolutely. Indeed, one of my favorite parts about working with endangered species is letting go of my role as Supreme Being, and acknowledging that an insect or bird is doing something that I never could.  When a monarch butterfly emerges in the fall, regardless of the fact that it has never taken a long flight before, it starts off on more than a 2,000 mile journey to a place it has never been, but knows instinctively to navigate to. When an intruder gets too close to a plover’s nest, the adult will flop around pretending to have a broken wing, making himself look like the vulnerable and easy target, all in an effort to protect its eggs. Some of the best examples of determination and selflessness are happening right around us in the natural word, and we all have the invitation to expand, and learn, and watch it take place. That is the marvel. That is the mystery. That is where I feel the real value of protecting endangered species comes from.

 

Learn more:

 

Lindsey Brendel is a Technician with the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife, who worked with Todd Pover on our Beach Nesting Bird Project.