Conserve Wildlife Blog

Posts Tagged ‘New Jersey’

Quick Action Ensures Survival of Poisoned Eagles

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2018
Bald eagle rescued, rehabilitated and released with satellite transmitter to track movements

by Kathy Clark, Endangered & Nongame Species Program, NJ Division of Fish & Wildlife

Pedro takes flight! photo by Marian Quinn.

On Sunday, April 15th, I got a call that three bald eagles were spotted in a farm field. Not too unusual in rural Salem County, but this good neighbor was rightly concerned that something was wrong.  Pedricktown resident Steve Wilson approached the eagles and not only did they not fly away from him, but two could barely sit upright and a third was stumbling away.  Steve made phone calls and, at 7:30 at night, couldn’t reach any of the wildlife centers or offices.  Persisting, he made a connection with Dr. Erica Miller, a wildlife veterinarian who for over 20 years was both clinician and surgeon at Tri-State Bird Rescue & Research in Newark, Delaware.  Erica is also a long-time partner on the NJ Bald Eagle Project, and called me about 7:45 that evening. (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.

Management of Urban Nesting Falcons in New Jersey

Wednesday, May 16th, 2018
Human Interaction and Quick Action Ensure Survival of Young Falcons in Urban Areas

by Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager

Yesterday NJ Fish & Wildlife Zoologist Kathy Clark and I visited 101 Hudson St. after watching the Jersey City Falcon Cam for several days since the first and only egg hatched on Wednesday evening, we became more and more concerned for the health of the 5 day old eyas. We also came upon a brood of three young (and healthy) falcons who were displaced (we’ve called them orphans) from the old Goethals Bridge, which is currently being deconstructed. Knowing that the orphans needed a home, we decided to visit JC and assess the health of the lone eyas, collect the unhatched eggs, and possibly foster in the orphans here. (more…)

Identifying “Bandit” at Pete McLain Osprey Cam Nest

Friday, May 4th, 2018
The Amazing History of a Breeding Adult Male Osprey at Island Beach State Park

by Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager

Bandit in flight while carrying nesting material. He has been nesting at the Pete McLain Osprey Cam nest since 2013. photo by Karl Soehnlein.

Around 3% of ospreys who were banded with USGS aluminum bird bands as nestlings in New Jersey are re-sighted after fledging or leaving their nest. Most of those recoveries or resightings are centered around mortality based events where a bird is injured or killed and the band is then close enough to read. Since the numbers on the leg bands are so small, it is often hard to read when they are still alive. However, when enough photos are obtained or a camera is installed on a nest then the likelihood of reading the band on a live bird increases.  (more…)

Osprey 04/D Back in Jersey!

Thursday, April 26th, 2018

Barnegat Bay Osprey Returns to New Jersey After Two Year Vacation

by Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager

04/D was photographed in Allendale at the Celery Farm by Barbara Dilger on Monday, April 23.

North American ospreys migrate long distances to and from their breeding and wintering grounds in the southern U.S., Central America, Caribbean Islands, and N. South America. For the past four years we have been banding young ospreys who originate from nests on Barnegat Bay with an auxiliary band to help determine their movements after fledging. Project RedBand was designed to help track the migration, dispersal, life span, and foraging habits of ospreys from Barnegat Bay, a unique estuary along the Atlantic Coast of New Jersey. The project was also designed to help engage the public in osprey management and conservation. Since the red bands are highly visible and readable with optics, it allows the public the ability to identify the individual and then learn about their past. Lastly, we now rely heavily on citizen scientists who report nesting activity on Osprey Watch(more…)

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