Conserve Wildlife Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Stone Harbor’


Saturday, April 27th, 2013
A new window into our plover world

By Todd Pover, Beach Nesting Bird Project Manager

Banded Piping Plover at Stone Harbor Point, NJ. Courtesy of Tom Reed

Banded Piping Plover at Stone Harbor Point, NJ.
Courtesy of Tom Reed

On the beach nesting bird project we are normally busy this time of the year locating nests, putting up fence to protect nesting areas, and placing special predator cages around piping plover nests. This year we have added a new wrinkle – we are also conducting intensive piping plover band re-sighting surveys.

Those surveys are possible as a result of a research project being conducted in New Jersey (and Massachusetts) by the State University of New York – College of Environmental Science and Forestry on piping plover flight behaviors and patterns. About 30 plovers were colored banded here last year with more planned this season as part of the study. This has provided an exciting opportunity for us to answer some questions of our own that are not part of the research project itself, so the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey and the state’s Endangered and Nongame Species Program have teamed up to do near daily band re-sightings this spring and last fall. (more…)

Piping Plover Dreams

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012
How to Make a Plover Biologist’s Day!

By Todd Pover, Beach Nesting Bird Project Manager

Group of Post-breedingl Piping Plovers Roosting at
Stone Harbor Point
Photo courtesy of Sam Galick

We spend a lot of time on the beach nesting bird project discussing the love/hate relationship the public has with piping plovers. For every person that supports our conservation efforts for this highly vulnerable shorebird, there seems to be at least two people that complain the plovers take up too much of the beach or prevent dogs from being allowed on the beach.

But every once in awhile, you have one of those perfect encounters that makes all the work worthwhile, so I thought I’d share a recent one with you.

Last week I was conducting a piping plover migration and band resighting survey at Stone Harbor Point. The fact that it was an extremely warm and sunny October day – extending the illusion of summer for just a wee bit longer – alone should have been enough to make me content. Then there was the very cooperative flock of 13 piping plovers, including three with color bands that I recognized as our summer breeders. All and all, it was shaping up as a good day in the field!

As I was almost wrapping up my survey I noticed a birdwatching couple a little further down the beach gazing off into the distance through a scope. On the off-chance they had noticed some plovers I had missed I approached them to see what they were looking at.

“Seeing anything interesting?” I inquired.

“A flock of royal and caspian terns, but no, nothing much really,” the man replied. And then out of the blue he added, “No piping plovers.”

This was a surprising comment since I hadn’t prompted him and October isn’t exactly prime time for piping plover viewing in New Jersey (or anywhere on the breeding grounds for that matter). I proceeded to strike up a conversation with the couple. It turned out they were from Holland, this was their first trip to the U.S., and they were on a birding/nature trip that was starting in the Cape May area.

We talked a little about the work I did and then, naturally, I mentioned to them that there actually was a group of piping plovers just 50 yards away from them on the beach. Given their pale sand color, even more so in non-breeding plumage, I wasn’t surprised the couple had walked right past the plovers.

The man’s eyes widened and he said, “Really?”

Of course, I led them back to the plovers. As we approached the plovers and they came into clear view, the man stopped and turned to me and said, “I have been dreaming of seeing a piping plover for years.”

It isn’t too often you get to make someone’s dream come true. And it is nice to know someone else is dreaming of plovers other than me.

Increasing our piping plover knowledge for greater protection measures

Monday, September 10th, 2012
Determining flight movements and patterns of piping plovers

By Sarah Scheffer, CWFNJ Seasonal Field Technician

This year’s chapter of the Beach Nesting Bird Project brought with it many unique opportunities, particularly with the placement of color bands on nearly 30 of our piping plovers at two locations along the New Jersey coastline. Nesting adults and four chicks from Stone Harbor Point and Avalon were given bands, which we have been using to conduct resight surveys to understand how adults and juveniles move about before migrating. In the long term, these bands can be used to determine if birds return to the same breeding grounds or natal sites, and where they overwinter. The banding was carried out by two researchers from the State University of New York, Emily Heiser and Christy Weaver, as part of a project to determine flight movements and patterns of piping plovers in order to be able to minimize risks to these threatened shorebirds when assessing the placement of wind turbines. Luckily, some of the CWFNJ team, including myself, was able to provide assistance and help with the banding!

Placing the funnel trap around Piping Plover nest to capture the birds for banding.

Being able to band the piping plovers was a truly special experience. Nesting adults were captured by manipulating the predator exclosures (wire cages) placed over their nests to create only one entrance and one exit into a netted tunnel. Once captured the plovers were then carefully measured and weighed to determine crucial information such as body mass, wing length, and beak size. Using a small specialized tool, brightly colored plastic bands were placed on the legs of each bird to give them their own unique combination. Banding schemes can vary depending on who performs the banding and can include small flags and metal or plastic bands placed on the legs. At our two New Jersey sites, birds were given four bands, two on the upper portion of each leg. Piping plovers at Stone Harbor Point sport a green band on the top of each leg, while those at Avalon wear blue bands.

Piping Plover from Avalon NJ dubbed Whitney Houston (aka blue/grey blue/green) in hand for color banding.
Courtesy of Emily Heiser.


These bands have made it much easier to identify individual birds and to observe their habits. Along with the band combinations, we decided to give the plovers nicknames as well! Although the nicknames are definitely something that adds a little bit of fun to identification, they are actually quite practical as well. The nicknames helped to streamline communication about what was happening at each nesting site. For example, it is much easier to say that Bruce (Springsteen) was observed incubating his nest, than to say the bird with green gray, green yellow (band combinations are read from top to bottom, from left to right) was seen incubating.

During the summer piping plover breeding season, our duties included checking the breeding sites and the individual nests or broods every day. As the season progressed, resight surveys were also performed. A section of beach was regularly traversed and the number, location, and activities of the banded piping plovers were noted. These surveys give us crucial information about the site and the movements of the plovers, as well as when they depart to migrate. After her nest was lost in a flood tide, a banded female nicknamed Ivana was observed to have begun her migration and was spotted soon after in Virginia! As most staff check on the same sites every day, we became well acquainted with each bird and their particular idiosyncrasies. The increased ease of identification of these birds has helped turn up some surprising information. The banding project has resulted in a wealth of knowledge and the possibility to further understand the New Jersey population.

Rare sea turtle nesting!

Saturday, December 24th, 2011

By Stephanie Egger, CWFNJ Wildlife Biologist

Atlantic loggerhead sea turtle. © A.J. Haverkamp

Last summer both New Jersey and Delaware had rare occurrences of sea turtles nesting or attempting to nest on their beaches.  In Stone Harbor, New Jersey this past August, a sea turtle crawled onto the beach and dug two holes in an attempt to nest in an area fenced off for beach nesting birds. Unfortunately, the sea turtle did not lay any eggs and eventually crawled back into the ocean.  Although no one witnessed the event, the turtle left strong evidence behind – its tracks! CWFNJ’s Beach Nesting Bird Program Manager along with other agency biologists was at the scene to evaluate the tracks.  Each sea turtle species has a different track pattern and leaves behind a different shape at their nesting site (their body pit).  It was determined that it was likely a state endangered loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) that attempted to nest. (more…)


Tuesday, October 18th, 2011


By Allison Anholt, Field Technician, (NJDFW) and Emily Heiser, Field Technician, (CWFNJ)

Color band being placed on oystercatcher.

Color band being placed on oystercatcher chick at Stone Harbor, N.J.

Throughout the fall, there is a remarkable sight to see along New Jersey’s coastline.  Thousands of shorebirds group together in huge flocks, using our state’s coastline as a migration stopover point to rest and feed.  One particularly interesting shorebird is the American oystercatcher, which is listed as a species of special concern in New Jersey.   At the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey, we work with biologists from the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife to survey these birds throughout the fall season.

The oystercatcher is an especially easy bird to survey during fall migration due to its distinct features. Not only do they stand apart from other shorebird species with their unique orange bill and striking coloration, but color bands help us determine individuals as well.  Banding efforts have been underway in New Jersey since 2004 in order to give insight to researchers regarding the
oystercatcher’s breeding habits, pair behavior, and migration patterns. About 300 oystercatchers have been banded in New Jersey to date, including a significant percentage of the state’s estimated 400 breeding pairs. (more…)