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Posts Tagged ‘endangered species’

Early days on Delaware Bay – Horseshoe Crabs Just Beginning To Breed as Shorebirds Arrive

Saturday, May 19th, 2018

by Larry Niles

Horseshoe Crabs Just Beginning To Breed as Shorebirds Arrive

 

Delaware Bay horseshoe crab eggs reach sufficient levels to give red knots and other shorebirds a good start on the fat they need to fuel the last leg of their yearly journey in the first week of the stopover ( May 12-19).  Knots need at least 180 grams to fly to the Arctic and breed successfully.  This week we caught birds that weighed 93 grams which is 30 grams below fat-free weight.  These birds had just arrived from a long flight, probably from Tierra del Fuego, Chile or Maranhão, Brazil.  In the same catch, we weighed red knots as high as 176 grams or only 5 grams from the 180-gram threshold.  These birds are probably from Florida or the Caribbean wintering areas and so arrive earlier,  resulting in them having more time to gain weight.  All together it looks like a normal early migration and a modest horseshoe crab spawn, just barely enough for the birds in the bay.

shorebirds in a net

Our team prepares a catch of knots turnstones and semipalmated sandpipers for extraction to keeping cages. The birds will be covered to prevent feather abrasion before extraction (Photo by Stephanie Feigin)

However, we are still short of about half the population.  Our bay wide count won’t take place until next week on May 22 and 26. At this point it looks like we have about 14,000 knots in the bay, of which 8,000 are in New Jersey. In the last 5 years we have had a bay wide population of about 24,000 red knots.  The situation is similar for ruddy turnstones and sanderlings.  The southernly winds of the next few days will almost certainly bring in the rest of the flock by mid-week.

The Stopover Habitat is Growing

 

The condition of the stopover is mixed.

The work of Niles & Smith Conservation Services, Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ, and American Littoral Society continues to supply high-quality habitat for horseshoe crabs. We have developed an efficient system for maintaining the essential requirements of a good spawning beach, deep and large grain sand with berm heights that prevent over washing in a way that keeps cost down. First, by creating low oyster reefs to break waves in lower tides, thus protecting beaches from wind waves at low and mid tides.  Second, by placing sand on beaches that typically erode fast losing sands to adjacent creek inlets and the next beach south.  This way we can use one restoration to restore three different places.  For example, Cooks Beach loses sand to South Reeds.

 

restored beach in Delaware Bay

Thompsons beach before and after restoration by American Littoral Society and partners. (Photo by Larry Niles)

Oddly these successes may be contributing to the next big problem for the birds. The state of Delaware has been carrying out much larger scale beach replenishment projects that have added significant new sandy beach for crabs spawning.  At the same time the Atlantic States Marine Fish Commission has failed to deliver on its promise to increase the number of crabs.  The population is still 1/3 below carrying capacity or the number that existed 20 years ago.  The same number of crab divided by more beach equals decreasing crab densities.  Decreasing densities means fewer eggs reaching the surface because crabs are not digging up existing eggs to lay their own.

In other words, we need more crabs.

The Industry Finds New Ways around the ARM Quota

 

But the resource agencies seem perfectly happy to keep killing adult crabs for both bait and bleeding at near historically high numbers. Bait harvests recorded as coming from the bay have stayed the same, however other states such as NY are still taking and landing large numbers of crabs despite having no known crab historic population of their own. Additionally, Virginia states that a crab population still exists in the state, even though most field biologists consider them lost.  The truth is they are very likely taking Delaware Bay crabs and landing them as their own.

The Conservation groups are no longer satisfied with this loose regulation and are calling for regulations similar to those used for Striped Bass.  The Delaware Bay harvest should be restricted to just the quota agreed upon by everyone through the Adaptive Resource Management system.  All other landed crabs should be genetically linked to a source population, and if they do in fact come from Delaware Bay they should be taken out of the ARM quota. No one should be allowed to get away with killing our crabs outside the quota.

Or just stop the senseless killing of these valuable animals as bait for the dying couch fishery.

 

crab eggs graph on Delaware Bay

This graph compares the finding of Botton et al 1994 from horsesoe crab egg surveys done in 1990 and recent counts done in 2017

 

The same goes for the killing of crabs by the companies bleeding crabs.  The industry makes untold millions (the numbers are hidden from the public) but does virtually nothing to conserve the crabs while killing thousands. Their own estimate is well over 65,000 a year, but independent estimates double that.  This killing could also stop because a new synthetic lysate is available and can be used now, potentially cutting the need for natural lysate by 90%.

An Ecosystem Collapse and the Need for More Crabs

 

Why kill such a valuable animal?  It all started because the fishing industries saw little value and figured why not destroy the population until they are no longer economically viable.  Its called economic extinction and sadly it’s a tradition amongst Delaware Bay fishers still carried out this to this day on eels, conch, and other species.  But they didn’t know back in the early 90’s they would wrecking the entire ecosystem.

In 1991, we counted an average of 80,000 horseshoe crabs/meter squared.  Now we count 8,000.  Then the eggs stayed at that level for all of May and June then hatched young at similar densities. In other words, the horseshoe crab was a keystone producer of an abundant resource that maintained the bay ecosystem.  It was not just chance that at the same time the bay has one of the most productive weakfish and blue claw crab fisheries in the Atlantic coast.  Fish populations blossomed with the flush of horseshoe crab eggs and hatched young each year.

Now we must bring it back.  For the birds, for the fish, and for the people who love to bird and fish.

 

storm delaware bay horseshoe crabs

A storm looms over Delaware Bay. The last 4 days have been rain, some intense and cold. The water temperature needs to be 59 degrees or so for Crabs to spawn. On Saturday the 19th the water temperature fell below and the spawn virtually stopped in many places. It should resume with the warmer temperatures of Saturday and Sunday.

We are grateful to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and other donors who make this project possible.

Dr. Larry Niles has led efforts to protect red knots and horseshoe crabs for over 30 years.

Falcon Comeback Continues in Union County

Wednesday, May 9th, 2018

By Jasmine Lee, CWF Education Assistant

Spring has sprung, and peregrine falcon eggs have hatched! Viewers of our Union County Falcon Cam have enjoyed an exciting few days with the last of the four eyasses (baby falcons) emerging yesterday.

The adult female falcon 91/BA (“Cadence”) originally hails from Rochester, New York. She staked her claim on this nest last year and laid eggs very late last season, but the eyasses did not survive. This year, 91/BA got a timely start, with her first egg being laid on March 29, 2018. Incubation of her clutch of four eggs began on April 3.

While peregrine falcon feathers provide excellent insulation, it can be difficult for body heat to get past the feathers and to the eggs. An adaptation for this is the brood patch on the male’s and female’s chest. This patch has a high concentration of blood vessels close to the surface of their skin to allow for easier and better body heat transfer to the eggs.

After about 32 days, it is time for hatching to begin. The chicks begin by using a small “egg tooth” to peck a hole through the egg shell: this is called the external pip. After breaking the membrane, the chick can breathe some fresh air, and vigorously start the final process of hatching.

Around 8 AM on Saturday, May 5, the first eyas at Union County emerged! As we watch over the next few weeks, we will see a lot of activity in the nest as the parents work hard to feed the hungry chicks. The eyasses are completely dependent upon the adults and will eat an incredible amount, but they typically double in size in just six days! They will continue to be under constant care until they are ready to fly in approximately seven weeks.

An Inspiring Recovery

A peregrine hunts on the wing. ©Brian Kushner

In 2017 there were 34 nesting pairs of peregrine falcons were reported in all of New Jersey. Around two-thirds are known to have made their homes in buildings like the County Courthouse.

Until recent decades, the peregrine falcon population was in steep decline along with other birds of prey due to habitat loss and the pesticide DDT. By 1964, peregrine falcons had disappeared completely from New Jersey and all other states east of the Mississippi River.

Peregrine falcons were one of the first birds to be the focus of conservation efforts after the 1960’s.

In the 1980’s an intensive re-introduction effort began in the tri-state region, with biologists from the Endangered and Nongame Species Program and CWF leading the way in New Jersey. Since 2000 the New Jersey population has stabilized at approximately two dozen nesting pairs annually.

Livestreaming in Union County

2018 marks CWF’s second year partnering with Union County, providing a live stream of the action in and around the peregrine falcon nest located on the roof of the County Courthouse in midtown Elizabeth. CWF is proud to share the excitement in livestreaming the UCNJ Falcon Cam on our website and to use the webcam in our Union County school presentations, generously funded by Phillips 66.

Go to our website today to watch our new feathered friends as they continue to interact, and to learn more about the Peregrine Falcon. For more information about peregrine falcons, you can also visit the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Fish & Wildlife.

Wildlife Art Wows Guests at Hiram Blauvelt Museum Reception

Friday, June 2nd, 2017
by Andrew Mead, Communications Professional and former intern at Conserve Wildlife Foundation

(From Left) Hiram Blauvelt President James Bellis, Artist James Fiorentino, Former Governor Thomas Kean, CWF Board Member Rick Weiman, CWF Executive Director David Wheeler

“As the former governor of New Jersey, I’m surprised to say I’ve never been to Hiram Blauvelt Museum before,” said Governor Tom Kean. “But now that I have, you can bet I’ll be back.”

That sentiment was widely shared that night in Oradell, at the state’s only wildlife art museum.
Art and animal lovers gathered on May 19 at the Hiram Blauvelt Museum to celebrate “Rare Wildlife Revealed: The James Fiorentino Traveling Art Exhibit.” The exhibit came to life in the gorgeous galleries of the museum, which was formerly a carriage house, accompanied by soothing harp music.

Hiram Blauvelt Art Museum

The free reception opened with remarks by Governor Kean, who shared the reverence felt by many in attendance. A longtime champion of Fiorentino, he also wrote the foreword to the exhibition’s hardcover book. After a riveting speech, the excitement was palpable.

David Wheeler, Executive Director of Conserve Wildlife Foundation, spoke next.

“The evocative artwork of James Fiorentino helps highlight the amazing diversity of New Jersey wildlife, from the humpback whale to the little brown bat. Our partnership seeks to bring attention to the very tangible steps that people can take to save and strengthen these wildlife populations.”

After two generous introductions, James Fiorentino finally took center stage. As the youngest artist ever featured in the National Baseball Hall of Fame, he was gracious with his words.

“As I look around the room I see many familiar faces and am reminded of how many have helped me along the way.” After thanking specific members of the audience, he continued, “I want to thank all of you for coming tonight and hope that you are inspired by New Jersey’s wildlife as much as I am. This is a very special place and I feel honored to be here among such amazing work.”

Amidst a backdrop that would awe even the most seasoned art collector, it was impossible not to feel inspired. Established in 1957, the Hiram Blauvelt Museum boasts a world-famous collection of wildlife paintings, sculptures and big game trophies. Along with the 25 watercolors of Rare Wildlife Revealed: The James Fiorentino Traveling Art Exhibition, an artistic atmosphere driven by conservation is sure to inspire you as well. Pay a visit while you have a chance!

Rare Wildlife Revealed will be shown at Hiram Blauvelt Museum through July 30, 2017.

Sales of the exhibition book, original paintings, limited edition digital prints, and wildlife merchandise will benefit Conserve Wildlife Foundation.

To learn more about hosting a future showing of Rare Wildlife Revealed – whether for an extended exhibition or a single night’s event – please contact Liz Silvernail, CWF Director of Development at 609.292.3707.

Photography by Bryan Duggan

Star Ledger: The Endangered Species of NJ

Wednesday, May 24th, 2017

Image by NJ.com

NJ Advance Media reporter Michael Sol Warren highlighted 17 endangered species in an insightful story looking at what can be done to save New Jersey’s rare wildlife. Conserve Wildlife Foundation has long focused on many of these species – from the piping plover and the bobcat to the bog turtle and the Pine Barrens tree frog – through monitoring and surveys, habitat restoration, and public engagement.

Read the story at NJ.com, then learn more through our online field guide.

Video: ‘Rare Wildlife Revealed’ brings art, wildlife to audiences around region

Wednesday, May 17th, 2017

 

Conserve Wildlife Foundation’s “Rare Wildlife Revealed: The James Fiorentino Traveling Art Exhibition” can be found at the famed Hiram Blauvelt Museum in Oradell with a free reception this Friday night, May 19 from 6 to 8 PM. Former Governor Tom Kean will join nationally renowned artist James Fiorentino and CWF Executive Director David Wheeler for brief remarks, and guests will also be served refreshments.

The Hiram Blavelt Museum was established in 1957 as a natural history museum to garner support for wildlife conservation. Today, it is one of only five museums in the United States to exclusively display wildlife art. The museum is located at 705 Kinderkamack Road, Oradell, NJ 07649.

This innovative three-year exhibition is spotlighted in a nine-minute video by videographer Ed English focusing on a previous stay at the Studio 7 Fine Art Gallery in Bernardsville. The exhibition has also been featured at D&R Greenway in Princeton, the Mayo Performing Art Center in Morristown, the Flying Fish Brewing Company in Somerdale, the Salmagundi Art Museum in New York City, and the Princeton Environmental Film Festival in Princeton.

Rare Wildlife Revealed will be shown at Hiram Blauvelt Museum through July 30, 2017.

To learn more about hosting a future showing of Rare Wildlife Revealed – whether for an extended exhibition or a single night’s event – please contact Liz Silvernail, CWF Director of Development at 609.292.3707.

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