Conserve Wildlife Blog

Posts Tagged ‘habitat restoration’

Conserving the Nature of the Northeast Blog: Restoration brings back red knots, piping plovers & saltmarsh sparrows

Thursday, December 6th, 2018
Story by Darci Palmquist, Conserving the Nature of the Northeast

A saltmarsh sparrow photographed in Delaware. Credit: Matt Tillett, creative commons.

Even if you’re not a birder, there are a lot of reasons to care about birds. There are of course their aesthetic qualities — beautiful, charming, euphonious — and their incredible feats of survival as small creatures in a big, ever-changing world.

But like the proverbial canary in the coal mine, when birds aren’t doing well it usually means their habitat is suffering in some way. And if the habitat isn’t functioning, people lose out too; on the benefits that nature provides, from clean air and water to storm defenses.

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the Fish and Wildlife Service invested in restoring and protecting natural systems up and down the East Coast that provide important habitat for wildlife while also creating natural defenses for people. A big part of building this stronger coast is making sure that wildlife like shorebirds have the habitat they need — the marshes, beaches and dunes — to nest, feed and raise their young.

Here are stories of how restoration efforts are helping ensure a brighter future for three bird species — red knotpiping plover and saltmarsh sparrow.

Click here to read more.

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.

Ghost Fishing

Tuesday, February 6th, 2018

How CWF Is Fighting This Threat to Wildlife in Barnegat Bay

by Emily Heiser, Wildlife Biologist

 

For many coastal communities in New Jersey, like the Barnegat Bay region, winter is a time for rejuvenation and the preparation of our resources for a busy summer season.  It only makes sense that we also start to prepare the coast’s most precious resource – the bay.  

 

Barnegat Bay is approximately 42 miles of brackish marsh and bay bordering Ocean County.  The bay and surrounding marshlands are rich in vital resources that directly and indirectly support over 60,000 jobs and have an economic value of $2 to $4 billion dollars annually (Barnegat Bay Partnership Economic Report 2012).   

 

Pots are often heavily encrusted with organisms and can contain several different species of bycatch. @ John Wenk

Part of that economic value is attributed to the tremendous blue claw crab fishery in the bay.  The New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife estimates that commercial and recreational crabbers harvest around 6 million crabs per year from New Jersey waters.  Barnegat Bay, along with Little Egg Harbor and the Maurice River estuary comprise approximately 65-86% of the recreational harvest that occurs annually.  Recreational crabbers use a variety of methods, but typically rely on baited pots or hand lines for crabbing.  Regulations exist for the use of pots, but their unintentional loss has created an economic and environmental problem for all portions of Barnegat Bay.

 

CWF, along with our partners, has been diligently organizing and executing what is essentially a cleanup of these pots within Barnegat Bay.  In 2015 and 2017, CWF was granted a NOAA Marine Debris Removal Program grant to support the removal of derelict crab pots, also know as ghost pots, from Barnegat Bay.  Over the course of the last three years, we have removed over 1,300 crab pots that have become a death trap for a variety of marine organisms, including diamondback terrapins and otherwise fishable blue crabs.  

 

Students from the Marine Academy of Technology and Environmental Science assist in assessing pots after they’ve been pulled from the bay. @John Wenk

All of the fieldwork on this project occurs during the chilling winter months when only the hardiest of fishermen can be found on the water.   The blue crab season is open in most parts of the state from March 15th – November 30th leaving the coldest months to head out and collect pots that are not supposed to be actively fishing.  Several partners have made this project a possibility – the Marine Academy of Technology and Environmental Science, Stockton University, Monmouth University, ReClam the Bay, American Littoral Society, and through contracts with local fishermen.  

 

Using side-scan sonar units, crews head out in early December to start looking for ghost pots.  Once a sufficient number of pots have been marked, waypoints are transferred over to retrieval crews.  Retrieving the pots sounds easy in theory, but can be time-consuming and success is dependent on many compounding factors such as substrate, weather, and tidal conditions.  Upon relocation of a surveyed pot, the captain must line the boat up to the best of their ability and with as much accuracy as they can, instructs the crew where to throw the grapple line.  Often you hear them call out, “Five feet – left center” and amazingly, the crew throws the grapple and hooks into a pot!  Depending on the substrate and how long the pot has been on the bay floor, it can be very difficult and dangerous to leverage out.  With the use of just the right amount of engine power, sunken pots can be delicately coaxed out of the water and lifted onto the boat by crews.  Once a pot is on the boat, a rapid assessment is done to look for unintended bycatch, pot design, and encrusting organisms.  Some of the various bycatch that has been found in pots include several species of crabs, lobster, flounder, tautog, and sadly, several diamondback terrapins.  One pot contained the remains of more than 17 diamondback terrapins.  

 

Ghost pots are disposed of by NFWF and Covanta’s Fishing for Energy Program where they will be recycled and turned into energy. @John Wenk

After a day of retrievals, the crew heads back to the marina where pots are placed in a disposal bin.  The bins are provided to the project through the successful Fishing for Energy Program run by National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Covanta Energy, and Schnitzer Steel.  Gear collected from our port is stripped for recyclable materials at Schnitzer Steel and then non-recyclable material is turned into energy at Covanta’s facility in Rahway, New Jersey.  The holistic nature of this project breathes life into the term, “reduce, reuse, recycle”.

 

Barnegat Bay’s ghost pots exemplify an overarching issue of our environment, human-wildlife conflicts.  The Bay’s vital resources drive the economy and addressing these issues make us better stewards of the Bay and its resources.

CWF Honors Four Inspiring Leaders at 12th Annual Women & Wildlife Awards

Wednesday, November 8th, 2017

Former Gov. Kean delivers stirring keynote speech before 200 people at Duke Farms event

 

Kelly Mooij, Jeannie Geremia, CWF Executive Director David Wheeler, Hazel England, Amy S. Greene, Honorable Kip Bateman, and Honorable Tom Kean.

Hillsborough, NJ – The nonprofit Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey (CWF) celebrated their 12th annual Women & Wildlife Awards on November 1 before over 200 people at Duke Farms in Hillsborough, New Jersey.

 

The 2017 honorees include Hazel England of the Great Swamp Watershed Association, Jeannie Geremia of the Garden Club of New Jersey, Kelly Mooij of New Jersey Audubon, and Kris Schantz of the New Jersey Endangered and Nongame Species Program.

 

CWF Development Director Liz Silvernail, The Honorable Tom Kean, Yasmine Pessar from Dewberry, and Betty Ann Kelly from Union County Dept. of Parks and Recreation.

 

“Tonight we are recognizing four great women who have accomplished wonderful things and who have worked in their own way to make this world and this state a better place,” said former New Jersey Governor Tom Kean in his keynote speech. “They have worked to do what is necessary to make sure that when we pass this planet down to our children and our grandchildren, it is not worse than what we received. These four women show us what great things an individual can do for all of us.”

 

 

Since 2006, CWF’s Women & Wildlife Awards have recognized special individuals for their achievements on behalf of New Jersey’s wildlife and the advances they have made in professions in which women have long been underrepresented.

 

“All too often, young girls are turned away from promising careers in the STEM fields – Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics,” said David Wheeler, CWF Executive Director. “Yet here in New Jersey, wildlife conservation efforts benefit from a strong and inspiring core of female scientists, educators, advocates, researchers, and rehabilitators who serve as role models for the next generation. Thanks to our Women & Wildlife honorees, today’s young girls can feel confident in pursuing science and conservation as careers with limitless and exciting possibilities.”

 

Hazel England, Great Swamp Watershed Association Director of Outreach and Education, was honored for bringing environmental education programs about our local ecosystems and habitats to students and teachers of all ages.

 

“I am honored to have received the Educator Women & Wildlife Award from Conserve Wildlife Foundation. It was truly humbling to be in the company of such inspirational women who are working in the field of conservation,” said England. “I’m thrilled that my two daughters got to experience this event with me; learning about the great work these other remarkable women are doing, and gaining some very direct political insight from Governor Tom Kean. It was a real privilege to hear him speak and a highlight of the night for me.”

 

Jeannie Geremia, Great Swamp Watershed Association Director of Outreach and Education, was honored for bringing environmental education programs about our local ecosystems and habitats to students and teachers of all ages.

Service honoree Jeannie Geremia with friends and family.

“Receiving the Conserve Wildlife Foundation’s Women in Wildlife 2017 Award for Service is one of the highlights of my life and I am humbled by the august company of outstanding women who were similarly honored,” said Geremia. “Nature is our passion and working to ensure that our imperiled wildlife species, including our pollinators, survive and thrive is the common goal.  Joining dedicated individuals and organizations in a united effort of educating and inspiring people to action will accomplish these mutual goals of a healthy environment for all living creatures.  Governor Kean said it all so eloquently as he invoked the spirits of Rachel Carson and Helen Fenske in his heartfelt keynote speech, setting the tone for this memorable event.”

 

State Senator Kip Bateman presented Jeannie Geremia with her award.

 

“Jeannie, you really have dedicated your life to making a difference, and it’s so important what you’ve done,” said Senator Bateman. “It’s a real pleasure to be here to honor four outstanding women who have truly made a difference in New Jersey. Each of you is so deserving of this award.”

 

Kelly Mooij, New Jersey Audubon Vice President of Government Relations, was honored for her strong leadership on a number of successful watershed protection, open space preservation, and wildlife funding campaigns.

 

“I’m honored to have received this recognition from the Conserve Wildlife Foundation, a wonderful partner in protecting our amazing wildlife throughout the State,” said Mooij. “Educating decision-makers and supporting science-based policy is one of the most effective and efficient ways to protect wildlife and preserve habitat and I’ve been so fortunate in my career to be able to work with amazing non-profit colleagues and to use the powerful tool of advocacy to make NJ a better place for people and wildlife.”

 

Kris Schantz, principal zoologist with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Endangered and Nongame Species Program, was honored for her work protecting the endangered timber rattlesnake and other at-risk reptiles.

Inspiration honoree Kris Schantz with NJDEP supporters with CWF Executive Director David Wheeler.

 

“I am truly honored to have received this award from the Conserve Wildlife Foundation, as there are so many deserving women doing invaluable conservation work within New Jersey,” said Schantz. “We must all – women, men, children – continue to strive to make NJ a better place for our citizens and future generations through the protection and nurturing of our natural resources.”

 

 

 

 

 

Event sponsors included PSE&G, Eric Sambol, The Danberry and DeLucia Family, Dr. Barbara Brummer, Dewberry, James Fiorentino, Amy S. Greene Environmental Consultants, Inc.,  Lackland Associates, Inc., Merrill G. & Emita E. Hastings Foundation, Dr. Kumar Patel.

 

Patrons included Bountiful Gardens, Bob and Maureen Coleman, Glenn Insurance, Inc., Elwood and Ruth Kerkeslager, Mercer County Wildlife Center, New Jersey Audubon, Renzi Bernardi Suarez & Co., Rick Weiman, Your Part-Time Controlled, and Zoological Society of New Jersey.

Conserve Wildlife Foundation staff with former New Jersey Governor Tom Kean.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more information on the 2017 Women & Wildlife Awards, please visit www.ConserveWildlifeNJ.org/getinvolved/event/women/.

To learn more about CWF, please visit www.ConserveWildlifeNJ.org.

 

 

The short biographies for the honorees follow:

 

HAZEL ENGLAND: EDUCATION

Hazel England has spent 24 years as an enthusiastic environmental educator and naturalist in New Jersey, bringing education programs about our local ecosystems and habitats to students and teachers of all ages. Since 2004, Ms. England has led educational and stewardship programs at the Great Swamp Watershed Association as the Director of Outreach and Education. She is a state-certified facilitator for many nationally acclaimed environmental education curriculums, including Project WILD, WET, WOW, PLT HWHP, and Bridges to the Natural World.

Ms. England has a Bachelor of Science in Zoology and Botany from the University of Dundee, as well as a Master’s degree in Ecology and Environmental Management from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. She sets an excellent model for other women to follow by being an accomplished natural scientist who brings her passion to life for people of all ages.

 

JEANNIE GEREMIA: SERVICE

For the past decade as the Vice President for the Garden Club of New Jersey, Jeannie Geremia has followed her passion for protecting pollinators by leading, inspiring, and educating others on the importance of pollination and wildlife habitat gardens. Ms. Geremia championed the designation of the Black Swallowtail Butterfly as the New Jersey State Butterfly. Her action earned her recognition from both the New Jersey Senate and the General Assembly.

Ms. Geremia created attractive Pollinator Education Signs that are displayed statewide at local plant nurseries, horticulture garden visitor centers, and a variety of education centers. She has also created and presented over 75 Pollinator Education programs, and has written 89 articles – and counting – for Gardener News on wildlife preservation, conservation, and growing our decimated pollinator population.

 

KELLY MOOIJ: LEADERSHIP

Since 2008, Kelly Mooij has dedicated herself to utilizing the tools of law, policy, and government affairs to protect our state’s wildlife as Vice President of Government Relations at the NJ Audubon.

Ms. Mooij helped lead the formation of the multi-state Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed to protect the watershed that provides drinking water for 16 million people and support hundreds of miles of vital fish and wildlife habitat. In coordinating the Keep It Green Coalition for open space preservation, Ms. Mooij helped lead the passage of two state-wide bond measures totaling $600 million dollars. The 2014 permanent source of open space funding will bring $1 billion to the state every ten years.

Ms. Mooij also leads the annual lobbying efforts of New Jersey’s environmental organizations for the State and Tribal Wildlife Grant Program, which provide an average of $1 million dollars in federal grant funds to state fish and wildlife agencies. Ms. Mooij earned her Juris Doctorate and Master of Studies in Environmental Law, focusing on marine biodiversity and land and water use issues.

 

KRIS SCHANTZ: INSPIRATION

Kris Schantz works with one of New Jersey’s most underappreciated and persecuted species: the timber rattlesnake. Ms. Schantz developed the Venomous Snake Response team of volunteers and professionals in law enforcement, animal control, and parks management who safely remove venomous snakes from areas where they pose a risk – while also protecting these endangered reptiles.

Her field studies have expanded to include other vulnerable snake species, such as the corn snake, northern pine snake, and scarlet snake. Ms. Schantz has also led the development of the department’s Wildlife Action Plan, transforming and bettering the wildlife conservation agency’s work. She earned her Masters of Science degree from Rutgers University. Ms. Schantz has gained the deep respect of the nearly everyone who works with imperiled snakes in New Jersey, and she serves as an example of passion, enthusiasm, and commitment in her field.

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

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