Conserve Wildlife Blog

Posts Tagged ‘citizen science’

CWF Celebrates American Eagle Day

Monday, June 20th, 2016
Spotlight on the Bald Eagle’s All-American Comeback in New Jersey

by Lindsay McNamara, Communications Manager

Photo by Northside Jim.

Photo by Northside Jim.

In 1985 — just 31 years ago — a single bald eagle nest remained in the state of New Jersey. In 2015, CWF and partners monitored 161 nests throughout the Garden State. Just this year (as of June 20, 2016), over 50 young eagles have already fledged from their nests! What sparked this All-American comeback of the United States’ National Bird?

 

DDT use was banned in the United States in 1972. That ban combined with restoration efforts by biologists within the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife’s Endangered and Nongame Species Program (ENSP) resulted in 25 bald eagle pairs by 2000.

 

Since then, CWF and ENSP biologists have worked together to not only conserve New Jersey’s existing bald eagle population, but help young eaglets in the state thrive. We manage the New Jersey Bald Eagle Project, a network of passionate, dedicated volunteers that monitor bald eagle nests and help reduce human disturbance in eagle habitats. These incredible volunteers, like the late Elmer Clegg, have been an integral part in the recovery of bald eagles throughout the Garden State.

 

CWF and ENSP have even begun tracking bald eagles to see where they travel and to learn more about their behavior! During the summer of 2014, two juvenile bald eagles were fitted with a GPS tracking device (a wearable backpack). Our team of biologists chose one eagle from Atlantic County (a male) and one from Cumberland County (a female) to be tagged in this telemetry study. Then in May 2015, a juvenile male from a nest in Cumberland County was fitted with another GPS transmitter. You can follow the journey of “Nacote” and “Oran” on our website.

 

CWF also partners with Duke Farms on a webcam that provides a live look at a bald eagle nest in Hillsborough, New Jersey. During the eagle nesting season (late January-July), the EagleCam allows viewers an up close and personal view into the lives of a pair of bald eagles as they breed, incubate, and raise young. Between the general public and classrooms up and down the east coast, the EagleCam has many fans – over 11 million viewers and growing! This year, CWF’s eagle expert Larissa Smith launched a new citizen science program to engage these viewers in gathering scientific data on the eagles’ diet.

 

Today, American Eagle Day, we celebrate the hard work of the biologists, volunteers and concerned citizens throughout New Jersey that have made a difference for the birds and contributed to their comeback.

 

The bald eagle was selected as the central image of the Great Seal of the United States by the Second Continental Congress on this day, June 20, in the year 1782. For 234 years, the bald eagle has served as the living symbol of freedom, courage, strength, spirit, democracy, independence, and excellence. Today, we celebrate the recovery of the bird and the All-American comeback the population has made in the Garden State.

 

Throughout the entire country, there are an estimated 14-15,000 bald eagle pairs! Though the bald eagle was removed from Endangered Species Act protection in 2007, it is still protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act of 1940 and Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

 

The 501(c)(3), not-for-profit American Eagle Foundation (AEF) of Tennessee has been a major proponent and organizer in establishing and promoting “American Eagle Day.” The AEF is celebrating its 30th year of protecting and caring for bald eagles and other birds of prey. CWF thanks AEF for their support of our work in New Jersey!

 

“On American Eagle Day, and every day, let us continue to treasure and protect the Bald Eagle all across this great land for future generations to enjoy,” says AEF Founder and President Al Cecere, who has been spearheading the American Eagle Day effort for two decades.

Learn More:

 

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

CWF’s Eagle Expert Launches New Citizen Science Project

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016
CWF Biologist Larissa Smith Looking for Data from EagleCam Viewers

by Lindsay McNamara, Communications Manager

EagleCam Screenshot 2016

Conserve Wildlife Foundation eagle biologist Larissa Smith has launched a new citizen science project in an effort to learn more about New Jersey’s eagles. We know that many teachers, students and bird lovers watch the wildly popular Duke Farms EagleCam, and now those viewers can help Larissa gather data by participating in the Eagle Food Observation Project.

 

Larissa holding an eagle at a banding last week.

Larissa holding an eagle at a banding last week.

Jim Wright — author of the popular posts about the eagles for Duke Farms’ “Behind the Stone Walls” blog, as well as, “The Bird Watcher” column for The Record — interviewed Larissa Smith in the most recent post on Duke Farms’ blog. In this interview, Larissa explains her latest citizen science project to learn more about the Duke Farms eaglets’ diet.

 

Learn More:

 

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

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.

New Jersey Eagle Project Volunteers: Priceless

Friday, January 30th, 2015

January 2015 is the Month of the Eagle! CWF is kicking off the new year by celebrating all things eagle. Follow us on social media and be sure to check your email (sign up for our list) for weekly stories on these amazing raptors from our own eagle biologist Larissa Smith. Larissa, a wildlife biologist who has been working for Conserve Wildlife Foundation since 2000, coordinates the New Jersey Bald Eagle Monitoring Project.

By: Larissa Smith, Wildlife Biologist and Volunteer Manager


During the Month of the Eagle, we have thanked the dedicated Bald Eagle Project volunteers, the backbone of the New Jersey Eagle Project.

 

Our volunteers get an incredible, intimate look into the lives of eagle pairs. Read their stories:

 

My best eagle memory comes from May 15, 1996 — my second visit to the first eagle nest I ever monitored. Eric Stiles had called a week earlier to tell me a nest had been found in Smithville and asked if I’d like to become involved in the project. I said “Of course!” and we arranged to get together the next day.

Back then there were only about a dozen nest sites known in the state and he wanted me to keep secret the locale and everything I observed. We drove his truck into the woods out of sight, then walked in through a white cedar forest, whispering as we got close. “It’s two young birds,” he told me, “in a small nest, probably a red-tailed nest they pirated.” Both had flecks of black and brown in the feathering on their heads, especially the male, whose head and tail showed lots of brown. “They may be too young to breed this year,” he explained. “It may be just a housekeeping year.”

“Brownie” flew off soon after we arrived; his mate sat in her pine tree for the full half-hour we watched, looking over-sized for her nest. “We need to keep disturbance to a minimum,” Eric told me as we left. “You shouldn’t come back here more than once a week.”One week later, when I returned to the hiding place in the cedars, I could see the female in the nest with my bins. I unfurled my tripod as quietly as I could, focused my scope — and my heart leaped: a fuzzy blue-gray chick with big black eyes was looking back at me! Soon after, his mother stood up and called into the sky. “Brownie” was coming back.

He landed in the nest, and after more screaming, let his mate take the fish he’d carried in. She carefully pulled it apart, feeding tiny bits to the chick and the larger pieces to herself. I had never seen eagles in action at a nest and was thoroughly enchanted – but there was another surprise to come. As the female turned in the nest ripping at the fish, something flashed. I focused the scope again and saw first a silver band gleaming on one leg and next a green band on the other. She was a New Jersey bird — hatched herself probably in 1991 or 1992, from one of the handful of nests in the state in those years. That was a sweet thrill!

That was the start of a long relationship between “Brownie,” “Greenie,” and me – and the eagles that have come along in the two decades since (the nest has moved two times over those years). I am very grateful to Eric Stiles for involving me originally and to Larissa Smith, Kathy Clark, Larry Niles and all the many hard-working, dedicated folks who have allowed me to participate in this wonderful project. Thanks largely to them, our state now has an order of magnitude more nests than we had in 1996: 150+! Wow!
— Jack Connor

 

Karin Buynie monitors the Crosswicks Creek nest @ Kevin Buynie

Karin Buynie monitors the Crosswicks Creek nest @ Kevin Buynie

We have a lot of good memories through the years of eagle volunteering. None that stand out more than just being able to talk to the many people that stumble upon you trying to figure out what all the gear is for and then seeing the surprise on their face when you tell them you are watching a bald eagle pair raise their young. Being able to pass on all the knowledge you learned from our many conversations with the biologist is very fulfilling. It is nice to see people walk away knowing how far our nation’s symbol has rebounded in our state. We have been able to help 16 eaglets fledge in our seven years of volunteering.
— Kevin & Karin Buynie

 

My best memory was to see the eagle stand up in the nest and the egg pop out.

–Ed Sheppard

 

Last year was my first year monitoring an eagle’s nest. I guess the best experience was watching the pair behavior, moving sticks around on the nest and then seeing them mating, which was interrupted when an immature eagle came flying by. It was pretty cool.
— Karyn Cichocki

 

Lake Barnegat@Paul Lenzo

Lake Barnegat@Paul Lenzo

My best local sighting was in March of 2009 on Lake Barnegat in Forked River. From the road, as I was driving home, I saw an eagle attacking a cormorant and pulled over. After numerous attempts in the air and on the water, the eagle finally killed the cormorant. After watching for about 15 minute., I drove home to get my cameras (about a ten minute round trip), hoping the eagle would still be there when I returned. To my surprise when I returned a pair of birds was feeding on and fighting over the carcass.                            
— Paul Lenzo

 

My most awesome experience was participating in the banding of a young male bald eagle chick from the Supawna Meadows nest. How awesome to actually hold the chick while blood was drawn and measurements taken. I will never forget that great experience.
— Cheryl Leonard

Donna Poolake monitoring a nest

Donna Poolake monitoring nest

“Busy day at Turkey Point: Upon arrival, one adult was in the nest housekeeping and three juveniles were in a snag about 100 feet to the right of the nest. We think these are most likely last year’s fledglings since the adult was not concerned they were so close. There was an adult that flew over the nest towards open water and out of sight. There were another four juveniles in the trees to the right of the meadow across the creek. Across the street from the crabbing business were six more juveniles perched in the trees.

Another adult flew to the nest and perched just above it. Then it jumped to a different branch in the nest tree. That’s when the adult that was housekeeping in the nest jumped up and bit the tail of the adult that just approached and was perched above the nest. Fluffy feathers floated down from that adult while he flew away towards where the three juveniles were perched and landed in a snag. The housekeeping adult that had just gone after tail feathers flew to the same snag as the adult she just “bit” and perched about 10 feet above him.

All of this caused the three juveniles that were perched there to fly off. So, she was telling him to get home and help while the three youngsters said ‘We’re out of here!'”   

This is from several years ago at Turkey Point. We were observing a nest with three chicks in it that were about six weeks old. An adult was perched on a snag not far from the nest. We suddenly got a good view of a chick and noticed that he was much larger than the others. Then we realized this was not a chick but most likely a fledgling from last year. Mom was not too upset but once the fledgling started to eat the fish that was in the nest she flew over, landed in the nest, and chased the juvenile away. It seems she didn’t mind him visiting but he better go get his own meals. The chicks didn’t seem to mind the visitor but became much more active after he left!
— Donna & Heiki Poolake

 

I was astonished to see a pair of eagles take over an osprey nest in the rear of my home several years ago. This is what started me in the eagle program. The eagles did not stay long as the red-tailed hawks and osprey were too annoying. I then started to observe nest in Brick, New Jersey and let Kim Korth know whatever I saw. One day Kim called me and asked if I would like to go and be part of a eagle banding project. I was overjoyed to go. The banding took place in Brick, New Jersey on a private piece of property. I held an eagle for about 15 minutes and it was one of the best things I have ever experenced in my entire life. To actually hold an eagle. WOW!                            
— Richard Gauer

 

Is it the thrill of the first sighting of that fuzzy little head? Is it the beauty of that majestic bird soaring above with a blue background? Maybe it’s the anticipation of a first sighting of another species? Or the beauty of the area where you are doing your observation, the breath-taking sight of thousands of Snow Geese that perhaps land near-by? For us, it is all of these things and the knowledge we have gained observing these magnificent birds (and all the information Larissa has imparted to us, bless her). We feel it has been an honor to have taken part in the program and we hope to be able to continue for years to come.
— Clare Luisi & Anne Stiles

 

Two adult eagles were perched over the waterway near their nest. But this time instead of both being on a relatively high perch, one was perched on a branch just a few feet from the water. The water level was low and the area beneath the eagle was mucky. The eagle on the low branch was studying the mucky water below. Then it floated off the branch by just opening its wings and dropping down like a parachute into the muck. It flew up from the muck with a turtle in its beak! Then as it lifted hire into the air, it banked around past us and we watched it transfer the turtle from its beak to its talon in mid flight. We are so used to seeing eagles drop their talons into the water to pick up fish, that this eagle’s retrieval of a turtle with its beak was really surprising and wonderful to watch.
— Bonnie Hart & Ted Henning

 

Learn more about Conserve Wildlife Foundation’s Bald Eagle Project.