Conserve Wildlife Blog

Posts Tagged ‘owls’

Guest Post: Re-nesting Baby Screech Owls

Monday, May 11th, 2020

by: Sam Galick

World Series of Birding 2020- after seeing snowflakes in Woodbine, I decided to check for nightjars in Belleplain State Forest. I drove along all of the roads, poking my head out of the car… nothing. Not really unexpected with the 20-25 mph winds gusting to 30-35 mph and 36 degrees at 4:30 in the morning.

I was stopped in my tracks by a recently fallen tree that blocked the road. I took a photo with my phone and decided what I should do next. I looked up briefly from my car window and noticed what I thought was a mushroom that had fallen off the tree turned it’s head and looked at me. I knew I was tired, but I shouldn’t be hallucinating already.

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Support rare wildlife in New Jersey and make twice the difference!

Tuesday, May 5th, 2020

by Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager

You may have seen that a generous group of supporters has stepped forward to provide $20,000 to match any gift Conserve Wildlife Foundation receives to protect New Jersey’s wildlife this season. Your donation – whether $10 or $1,000 – will be worth double the amount you give.

Please consider making a gift today to keep CWF wildlife biologists in the field, protecting our at-risk wildlife when they need us most.

Despite the hundreds of thousands of people sheltering in place over the past six weeks, life outside goes on. Wildflowers are in bloom, bees are buzzing, and hummingbirds are back. Bald eagle nestlings are getting ready to fledge and ospreys are incubating eggs. Wildlife and the environment are thriving in the absence of human activity outside. With your help, Conserve Wildlife Foundation biologists can monitor and manage imperiled wildlife species to ensure they remain in good health.

For those of us who work outdoors in the environmental field, our office is the great outdoors – where social distancing is the norm. Over the past six weeks, I feel privileged to work for an organization with donors who support our wildlife conservation and habitat enhancement projects. While also homeschooling my two kids and supporting my wife working on the front lines in healthcare, I am leading several projects that directly benefit wildlife in this critical period.

Your support will help ensure that we can continue to fulfill our mission to protect New Jersey’s rare wildlife.

Spring marks the beginning of the busy season, where more time is spent in the field monitoring and managing wildlife than behind a computer at a desk writing reports and responding to emails. For me, it is often multifaceted and changes widely from day to day. One day I may be planting dunegrass in the rain. The next day I’m climbing a tower to survey a falcon nest.

Over the past several weeks, I’ve worked on some exciting projects, even getting help from my kids for some.

I’ve successfully repaired several osprey nest platforms which had fallen into disrepair. Had I not been able to repair these platforms, these birds would not have had a home to raise a family.

I’ve monitored several peregrine falcon nests to identify the adults and confirm that they are incubating eggs. Without our role, we would not know if there has been a turnover in the nesting pair and when their eggs might hatch.

And I have led the enhancement of an innovative half-acre terrapin habitat enhancement site in Little Egg Harbor. A big component of the success of this “turtle garden” is making sure we keep the sand in place – and to help with that, I’ve planted 600+ native plants.

As many of our members, fans, and donors know, a big focus of my work with Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey has been aiding injured wildlife. My father was a veterinarian who also cared for wildlife, especially birds of prey, in his spare time, so his philanthropic efforts are in my blood.

A couple weeks ago I accepted a challenge to climb a large tree to re-nest a pair of great horned owl nestlings whose nest was destroyed in a windstorm. After a couple of hours of tree climbing and nest building, the two fuzzy owls were placed in their new nest. Although I was at first concerned that the adults might not return, I was delighted to hear that they were seen in the nest tree a couple days later.

Just the other day, I joined my New Jersey Fish & Wildlife colleague, Kathy Clark, on Barnegat Bay to save an entangled adult osprey that had been dangling from its nest platform for hours before it managed to get free.

Fortunately, I was able to safely trap the bird and remove the ball of monofilament wrapped around her wing. Her injuries were treated, and she was set free.

Like my fellow CWF colleagues, I’m determined to carry out our mission to preserve at-risk wildlife in New Jersey this season. That’s why, even during this pandemic, I must ask for your financial support.

Please donate now, when your gift will be matched dollar for dollar, to support our essential work, if you can. Thank you to everyone for helping me to protect our wildlife in whatever way you can.

Be safe, stay healthy, and enjoy the outdoors where possible.

Conserving Barn Owls in the Garden State

Monday, February 1st, 2016
Insight into a Nocturnal and Enigmatic New Jersey Raptor

by Melanie Mason, Assistant Biologist

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Barn Owls (Tyto alba) are one of the most widespread avian species in the world. Despite this impressive distribution, their numbers have been decreasing in parts of their range, and New Jersey is no exception. The extent of their decline isn’t fully known since barn owls are nocturnal and enigmatic, so it’s difficult to estimate their numbers. Although barn owls can travel great distances to disperse after fledging and to find prey, they don’t truly migrate. Therefore, there isn’t a breadth of migration data to sift through in order to triage their downward trend either.

 

The first step in species conservation is to understand its biology. Because barn owls aren’t migratory, they don’t have the intense energy requirements needed to fuel long distance treks to warmer climates, but the trade-off is they are at the mercy of their local prey abundance and availability. If you look at a distribution map of North American barn owls, you’ll see that New Jersey is close to the northernmost extent of their range. In fact, the majority of their subspecies/races are found in lower latitudes. Unlike their tropical kin, however, northern owls have to frequently survive freezing conditions and in order to do so, need food and lots of it!

 

Catching enough prey through New Jersey winters can be a challenge in and of itself, but if owls lack sufficient fat stores because of an unfavorable prey year (think hurricanes, floods, droughts, etc), they can easily succumb to cold conditions and die from exposure. The reality is that many young owls do not survive their first winter — a very steep learning curve.

 

Their preferred prey is meadow vole which are close relatives of lemmings — made famous for their explosive populations during favorable years. In order to respond to sweeping changes in prey availability, the reproductive strategy of barn owls is atypical for most raptors. Where small clutches and high parental investment are the norm, instead, barn owls are capable of breeding year round in favorable conditions (generally fall/spring here in New Jersey) and can have large clutches in order to respond quickly to prey availability. Another uncommon and well-documented strategy is polygyny — where one male sires and provides for multiple nests.

 

These reproductive strategies are important since barn owls are not a long lived species and typically do not survive much longer than five years. Their saving grace is their ability to “bounce back” and quickly repopulate local areas. This is where we can help!

 

Barn owls get their name from their close association with humans. They hunt in marshes, fields and grasslands typically favored for agriculture. They frequently nest in structures like old barns, buildings and silos. Constructed structures such as barns and nest boxes are generally preferred over natural cavities (dead or hollow trees for example) because they are safer from predators, more protected from the elements and have a vast supply of mice and voles at their doorstep. As silos and old barns fall down or are torn down in favor of newer, longer lasting metal structures, these nest boxes are even more critical to provide nesting opportunities.

 

The goal of our barn owl project is to provide safe nesting structures for barn owls in suitable habitat throughout the state. We also hope to gain insight into owl occupancy and nesting success in previously un-monitored areas of New Jersey.

 

Four ways to help barn owls:

  • Report any sightings, any time of year. While we are most interested in bolstering the breeding population, identifying winter habitat is critical as well.
  • Barn owls are better for the environment than barn cats since they are native and don’t kill songbirds, so consider housing barn owl instead! They’ll alleviate your rodent problem without the cost of feeding and risk of unwanted litters.
  • Don’t use rodenticides! They can harm or kill barn owls (and many other species too), plus owls often do a better job than poisons and are safer for everyone.
  • Know a potential location or just want to learn more? Email me at melanie.mason@conservewildlifenj.org. I want to hear from you!

 

The generous support of Washington Crossing Audubon Society provided quite literally the nuts and bolts of the fledgling nest box project by facilitating purchase of supplies for nest box construction — a million times thank you!

 

Learn More:

 

Melanie Mason is the Assistant Biologist for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.