Conserve Wildlife Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Invertebrates’

Frosted Elfin: A Rare Butterfly in New Jersey.

Friday, May 12th, 2017

by: CWF Wildlife Biologist Larissa Smith

The monarch butterfly gets a lot of attention these days, it’s large, showy and easy to spot. My love of butterflies started with my Monarch internship years ago. Monarchs are a great way to get people interested in butterflies of all kinds. Unlike the monarch the Frosted elfin, isn’t all that easy to find. There are four species of butterfly listed as endangered in New Jersey and three listed as threatened in New Jersey.

The Frosted elfins are beautiful in an understated way and approximately an inch in size. They are a NJ threatened species.  It is locally rare and found in isolated populations. Their major food and host plant is (Baptisia tinctoria). Baptisia can be found in dry clearings and open areas often along power-line right of ways and roadsides.

Can you find the Frosted elfin in this photo?

Baptisia with Frosted Elfin May 3, 2017@L.Smith

I went out last week to search for the Frosted elfins. I was lucky to see six adults as it was a windy day and not the best survey conditions. The Frosted elfin is on the left side of the plant hanging upside down. You can see how well they blend in with the environment.

The below photo was taken by ENSP biologist Robert Somes in 2015 while we were out surveying. This photo gives a close up look at the butterfly which had was oviposting eggs on the leaf of the Baptisia.

Frosted Elfin with recently oviposited egg on Baptisia plant@ Robert Somes

Now is a great time of year to see all different species of butterflies. Don’t forget to plant native species  as food, nectar and host plants for butterflies as well as other invertebrate species.

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Wildlife returns to the industrial Newark Bay waterfront

Tuesday, November 1st, 2016

by David Wheeler

Under the sweltering September sun, our team discovers the earth at our fingertips. We ready the manure, topsoil, and mulch, wield the pickax and trowel, and labor the wheelbarrow through the trees and up the slope of a tidal berm.

osprey-silouette-by-blaine

 

We plant 250 native shrubs and 580 native herbaceous plugs. We hammer in nest boxes, install pollinator houses, construct mounds of brush for local and migrating wildlife, and create nesting habitat for northern diamondback terrapin, an at-risk turtle species.

We lose ourselves in nature for the day.

A migrating butterfly flits past leisurely and I look up from the soil to wipe my brow. Suddenly I remember exactly where this newly vibrant natural ecosystem is. Nearly overhead, I can watch never-ending streams of commuters and tractor trailers motor past over one of the busiest bridges in the nation – the Newark Bay Bridge. Just across the bay, I can see heavy industry. Out beyond the fence, more industry – ancient, tireless, modern progress marching forward.

firmenich-volunteers-by-blainefirmenich-by-blaine

Yet on this morning, and those that follow, we now have ecological progress here as well, in a place that was written off entirely not so long ago. The Newark Bay region has suffered a century and a half of environmental degradation at the hands of industry and unbridled development.

This active industrial site is home to Firmenich Inc., one of the largest manufactures of fragrances in the world. We have transformed the land today to invite wildlife partners to help balance the scales of the region’s damaged ecology.

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Green Darner dew laden on Echinacea.

These partners are vital to our environment, to our health, to the world around us. They are the butterflies and bees, the wasps and beetles, the flies and moths that make up an army of pollinators that in coordinated effort provide humanity with the lungs of our planet. Without these pollinators, native plants could not sink carbon dioxide and impart oxygen to our surroundings, every minute of every day. Without these pollinators, the bread baskets of the world would wither away, no longer filled with grains, fruits, and vegetables.

The natural partnerships don’t stop with the pollinators born forth from meadow creation. These partners extend to migrating songbirds and mighty raptors, small mammals and diamondback terrapins.

“If we give nature an inch, it’s going to take a yard. Give it a chance and nature will return,” says biologist Blaine Rothauser, who is directing the restoration for GZA Environmental. “Wildlife just needs an opportunity.”

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Immature night heron with crab.

Nature’s inspiring return builds upon decades of ecological recovery in the region. Thanks to President Nixon’s Clean Water Act of 1973, the water began to get cleaner. Improving the water quality reanimated the food chain from the bottom up – phyto- and zooplankton, invertebrates and crustaceans reappeared. In turn, a fishery was reborn, which ushered in the return of herons, ibis, osprey, turtles, and even harbor seals – seen sunning on the banks of tidal shores in winter!

Yet much of the land around the water’s edge is still wanting.

“The restoration site is an important buffer habitat to a large portion of undeveloped tidal bay directly adjacent to the Firmenich complex,” says Rothauser. “Today we have 60 people planting a native community of shrubs, trees and plants on a formerly sterile lawn and an unnaturalized earthen berm. It is vital work that makes a real difference.”

blaine-with-plants

The team has also created opportunities for rare species to nest. Above our heads, an osprey platform has been installed, empowering this magnificent fish-eating raptor to continue its recovery along Newark Bay and many other New Jersey waterways, industrial and remote alike.

A barn owl box offers one of our most mysterious nighttime predators the opportunity to set up shop in a beneficial area – where there is no shortage of rabbits and field mice to help control.

barn-owl-by-blaine

Close up of a barn owl.

Across the pond, a purple martin condominium-like house offers the ample space necessary for these communal swallows to reside, a home base where they can feast on flying insects.

With the first phase of the project almost complete, the second phase will seek to transform the site’s holding ponds into ecologically productive floating wetlands, bringing herons and egrets and other wading birds.

Ultimately, this project is envisioned as one that can be replicated just about anywhere along Newark Bay – or any industrial waterfront for that matter. All it takes is the willingness to look at a site’s land from a different perspective – and in so doing, to understand that the ecological benefits of bringing back many wildlife species aren’t negated by losing economic tradeoffs.

Instead they can mean parallel economic benefits. Natural pest control. Fewer landscaping and pesticide costs. Increased employee morale and productivity, with a newfound opportunity to recharge body and mind with a rejuvenating break outside, enjoying natural beauty and the engagement of your senses.

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Images above from left to right – Killdeer, 12 Spotted Skipper, and American Kestrel.

New Jersey has long served as a primary engine for America’s industry and commerce – and in return has often been derided as the “Which exit?” land of nothing but turnpike and smokestacks. The Meadowlands just to the north of here bore the brunt of that reputation, yet in recent decades has made a mind-blowing ecological recovery to become a wildlife – and ecotourism – destination.

The waters flow south from the Meadowlands along the Hackensack and Passaic Rivers, and they come together in the Newark Bay. Now, that next wave of wildlife recovery and habitat restoration has arrived just downstream – along the Newark Bay waterfront.

For wildlife, it’s where the action is.

firmenich-group-pic-by-blaine

David Wheeler is the executive director of Conserve Wildlife Foundation and author of the book, Wild New Jersey: Nature Adventures in the Garden State.

 

All photos courtesy of Blaine Rothauser.

 

New Jersey’s Field Guide to Freshwater Mussels is Here!

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015
CONSERVE WILDLIFE FOUNDATION OF NEW JERSEY RELEASE A NEW STORY MAP: “FRESHWATER MUSSELS OF NEW JERSEY

By Michael Davenport, GIS Program Manager

Freshwater mussels are distant relatives of marine mussels with a life cycle which includes a larval stage where they hitch a ride on fish as a parasite. There are a dozen species native to New Jersey and some species are known to live for over 100 years. This is an often overlooked group of species which deserves greater attention since many species are imperiled and because they are indicator species of water quality.

Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey (CWF) has partnered with the NJ Endangered and Nongame Species Program to create and release our latest Story Map, “Freshwater Mussels of New Jersey.”

Musselscreenshot

This Story Map is a web-based field guide to New Jersey’s freshwater mussel species. The field guide explores the diversity of this group of species, how to identify them, their life history, threats and conservation measures, as well as providing range maps for each species. This is the only freshwater mussel field guide specific to the state of New Jersey and developed by state biologists.

Photos and interactive range maps are available for all 12 of New Jersey’s native species as well as several non-native species found within the state. Several short videos are also included which demonstrate different methods of surveying for freshwater mussels.

Funding for the creation of this Story Map was provided in part through a New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife grant.

Freshwater Invertebrate Surveys

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011
SEARCHING FOR FRESHWATER MUSSELS & CRAYFISH AT MANASQUAN RESERVOIR

By Michael J. Davenport, Marine Species & GIS Programs Manager

Searching for freshwater mussels and crayfish using a viewing scope. © Mike Davenport

New Jersey is home to at least 16 species of freshwater bivalves (freshwater mussels and clams), half of which are listed as endangered or threatened within the state.  The presence of freshwater mussels within a water body is an indication of water quality so determining where they occur is important for protecting water resources within the state.  In fact, the NJ DEP’s “Category One” (C1) designation for some state waterways is often based on the presence of some freshwater mussel species.  C1 waters are protected from any measurable change in water quality because of their exceptional ecological significance, exceptional recreational significance, exceptional water supply significance, or exceptional fisheries resources.

Last week, I accompanied the Endangered and Nongame Species Program’s freshwater mussel biologist, Jeanette Bowers-Altman, and another survey team member to conduct a preliminary survey of the Manasquan Reservoir in Monmouth County for both freshwater mussels and crayfish.  I had visited the reservoir several times before and had confirmed the presence of at least three bivalves: the Asian clam, eastern floater, and paper pondshell.  Of those three species, only the eastern floater is native to New Jersey.

We surveyed several areas around the perimeter of the reservoir.  We took readings of the water’s temperature, pH, and dissolved oxygen as well as documenting the substrate type and GPS coodinates.  Unfortunately for our survey efforts, the water level was higher than ideal for locating mussels and the only species which we found was the paper pondshell.  However, the clarity of the water and the nature of the substrate indicate that future efforts, when the water level is lower, may be more productive.

A Chinese mystery snail (Cipangopaludina chinensis) found at Manasquan Reservoir. © Mike Davenport

One interesting find was a rather large (~2.5 inches) freshwater snail which I have never encountered previously.  Thanks the ID skills of Jay Cordeiro at the University of Massachusetts – Boston, the snail has been identified as the Chinese mystery snail (Cipangopaludina chinensis), a non-native species introduced to the U.S. via San Francisco in the late 1800’s.  It has since spread into at least 37 U.S. states and 4 Canadian provinces and was first documented in New Jersey in 1926.  According to Jay, the species has been “implicated in vegetation decline, competition with native species, and are hosts for certain parasites.  Current populations are spread through the aquarium trade or on ornamental aquatic plants.”

For more information regarding New Jersey’s rare mussel species, please visit CWF’s on-line field guide at:  http://www.conservewildlifenj.org/species/fieldguide/

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