Conserve Wildlife Blog

Posts Tagged ‘grassland’

2022 Upland Sandpiper Survey Results

Tuesday, January 17th, 2023

by Meaghan Lyon, Wildlife Biologist

The results are in! It wasn’t a great year for upland sandpipers at the McGuire Airfield. Numbers of breeding pairs at this location have decreased to an estimated two pairs. Numbers can be variable from year to year so there is still hope for better news in 2023.

Upland sandpipers typically require a minimum of 100 acres for breeding habitat and so large expanses of open, grassy land is a high priority. Over the past five years, long term efforts have been ongoing to complete a large-scale grassland restoration at the McGuire Airfield. So far, roughly 500 acres have been converted to native warm season grasses with another 100 acres to be completed by next spring. Our goal is to help create and maintain grassland bird nesting habitat for Upland sandpipers and other species.


Grassland Birds of New Jersey

Thursday, December 28th, 2017
Part II: Restoring Critical Breeding Habitat

by Meghan Kolk, Wildlife Biologist

In Part I of this series, I discussed the drastic loss of grasslands in New Jersey and the importance of preserving and restoring this disappearing habitat for grassland-dependent bird species.  Due to this habitat loss, in much of the northeastern United States (including New Jersey) airports have become significant breeding grounds for many threatened and endangered grassland birds.  In fact, airports are often the only suitable habitat available for New Jersey’s rarest grassland bird, the upland sandpiper.  If these large expanses of open fields are managed properly, they can support nesting birds while still remaining safe for aircraft operation.  This is the goal of CWF’s new restoration project at one of the most critical breeding sites in New Jersey.

Restoration site at Lakehurst breeding grounds, December 2017. Photo by Meghan Kolk.

The Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst (JBMDL) in central New Jersey hosts the largest known breeding colony of the endangered upland sandpiper (Bartramia longicauda), and the second-largest known breeding colony of the threatened grasshopper sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum) in the State.  The bobolink (Dolichonyx oryzivorus), savannah sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis), horned lark (Eremophila alpestris) (all threatened) and eastern meadowlark (Sturnella magna) (special concern) all make a home here as well during the nesting season.  CWF has  partnered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to restore hundreds of acres of this vital land to increase suitability and to alter management practices to benefit both wildlife and airfield operations. (more…)

Grassland birds of New Jersey

Wednesday, August 30th, 2017
Part I: The Importance of Grassland Habitat

By Meghan Kolk, Wildlife Biologist

In this blog series, my goal is to examine the importance of grassland habitat in our state, introduce CWF’s new habitat restoration project, and highlight many of the species of grassland birds our project aims to benefit. So, first I’ll start off with a little background information about grasslands and why we need to preserve, restore and create more of this critical habitat. (more…)

This Ain’t the Midwest…

Monday, June 28th, 2010

Switchgrass seeds

Native grass and wildflower seeds are loaded into a no-till planter. Photo: M. Hall

By MacKenzie Hall, Private Lands Biologist

New Jersey isn’t a corn belt state and probably isn’t what you picture when you think “prairie.”  Fair enough.  But New Jersey is an incredible medley of ecosystems, and for the past five years we’ve been working to make sure that native grasslands remain in the mix. 

Switchgrass, big bluestem, and other native warm-season grasses provide excellent habitat for ground-nesting birds like the threatened bobolink and grasshopper sparrow (which is why we like them).  But they have many other uses, too, such as livestock forage, mulch, and even bio-energy (which is why farmers like them). 

Planting native grasses

Pat Hilton plants a prairie mix for wildlife and agriculture. Photo: M. Hall

More and more NJ farms are incorporating warm-season grasses and bird-friendly practices.  Pat Hilton just converted eighteen acres of her Readington Township farm to native grasses and is delaying the hay harvest on another thirty acres.  This will allow ground-nesting birds to fledge their young before the grass is cut. 

Pat’s rolling farm – call it “midwest-reminiscent” – is highly suitable for grassland wildlife and has already attracted eastern meadowlarks, kestrels, grasshopper sparrows, and northern harriers.

After another busy restoration season, we’re delighted to watch as the summer sun brings these grassland ecosystems to life.

Are you a farmer or farm owner?  Check out the NJ Landowner Incentive Program for a grassland grant.  Applications are due July 15, 2010!