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Impacts from Severe Weather minimal

Friday, June 26th, 2015
Nesting ospreys fared well from June 23rd storms on B. Bay

by Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager

We had some pretty insane weather blow through on Tuesday evening. I saw it first hand while driving to Long Beach Island to visit some relatives in town. The storm front brought high winds and driving rain to the area. The National Weather Service has even declared that there was even a water spout in Brant Beach (which was right where I was driving on the LBI Blvd. southward). Winds gusted to 70-80mph blowing all sorts of debris (and lawn furniture) across the road. I immediately pulled over to where I was protected from the wind. While I sat there I thought of all the osprey nests out on the bay with young in them…

Photo by Ben Wurst

One is better than none! Photo by Ben Wurst

At this time of year almost all nests have young. They range in age from only hatchlings to 4 week old nestlings. Some can be easily blown from shallow or weakly built nests and can be easily blown from the top of nesting platforms. This has happened in the past (in 2012 when we had a “derecho” blow through the area in late June) and almost half the young present were blown from their nests (in Absecon).

To get a better idea of what we experienced, I asked Jonathan Carr, with Weather NJ, what we saw. This would also give me a better idea of what to expect when conducted post-storm surveys. “What we saw in SNJ on Tuesday was a bow echo as evident by radar signature. A macroburst hit SWNJ which generated substantial straight line winds that fueled the system all the way to the coast. In addition, multiple rotation signatures were picked up via velocity analysis which sparked the tornado warnings in perfect alignment from PA through SWNJ and ultimately the Jersey Shore. The NWS officially ruled the incident near Brant Beach a waterspout but little damage was done from such. All damage across SNJ was again, from straight line wind gusts which reached 80mph in several locations. Harvey Cedars actually clocked a 92mph wind gust. I wasn’t surprised given that instability and wind parameters were screaming for this to happen in the prior 24 hours, especially with the cold front trigger moving through. These type of winds are disastrous for any coastal wildlife or nesting grounds with open exposures.”

With that news on the weather front, I knew we’d have young ospreys on the ground. On Wednesday I got my first report from Osprey watchers Ray and Leslee on Cedar Run Dock Rd. They noticed the adults acting funny, who were now on the ground and not on the nest (where they were before the storm). I gave Leslee permission to walk out to the nest. She found two 3 week old young on the ground. I had plans that day so I couldn’t make it there until 9pm. But when I met Leslee and Ray the nestlings were still on the ground. We picked them up and put them back into the nest (and we also fed a good amount of mosquitoes!!)

Four stripes!! Photo by Ben Wurst

Four stripes!! Photo by Ben Wurst

The following day we rallied to get out on our boat to conduct some more “post-storm surveys,” the first of the season. We checked nests from Bonnet Island to Loveladies and Barnegat. A total of 18 active nests were surveyed. At the first nest we checked we found four young (this nest has failed to produce young for the past two years, amazing!)!! The second had two nestlings in the nest and none were found on the ground. GREAT! But, as the clouds moved in the survey took a darker turn… The next nest we checked was empty but had the remains of a very young osprey. Then the next one had two alive in the nest and one dead on the ground (a 14 day old). The next two nests had 2 and 3 young in them and they all looked very healthy. Then at the next nest we saw the whole nest down on the marsh. When we dug through it we found the bodies of two young. They were instantly crushed under the weight of the nest. So sad. The adult female was still sitting on the nest, surely hoping they were found alive. :( It is now too late to get out to other areas to rescue young. I have learned that young are NOT fed when they are grounded. So there is little chance that any young would still be alive if found on the ground. Future surveys will determine how many other areas were affected by the strong storms.

Despite the gloomy outcome, nests in this severely impacted area had overall good results. We counted a total of 27 young from 18 active nests which gives us an average productivity rate of 1.5 young (per active-known-outcome nest). This is almost twice the level needed to sustain the population. Most young were around 17 days old. Only five were banded for future tracking.

It’s too early to tell how the entire population will fare this year. It could be a down year, with reports of no large schools of menhaden that are close to shore. Menhaden (bunker) are one of the most crucial food sources for many coastal species, including osprey.

Photos from the Survey:
Photo by Ben Wurst

Remains of a young osprey. Photo by Ben Wurst

Photo by Ben Wurst

One. Two. Three. All in the nest! Photo by Ben Wurst

Female on her nest. Photo by Ben Wurst

Female on her nest. Photo by Ben Wurst

Photo by Ben Wurst

The oldest in this historic nest got a little feisty. Photo by Ben Wurst

Female hovers over her nest to check on her young (3) after we surveyed her nest. This is one of the oldest nests in NJ. Photo by Ben Wurst.

Female hovers over her nest to check on her young (3) after we surveyed her nest. This is one of the oldest nests in NJ. Photo by Ben Wurst.

Photo by Ben Wurst

Young that were found on the ground were decomposing very quickly. We moved them out of sight from the adults. Photo by Ben Wurst

Photo by Ben Wurst

An empty nest off Loveladies. Last year this nest was productive. Photo by Ben Wurst

Photo by Ben Wurst

A week old chick and an egg on a channel marker nest of LBI. Photo by Ben Wurst

Photo by Ben Wurst

A four week old nestling that was banded with a red auxiliary band for future tracking. Photo by Ben Wurst

Nominate an Exceptional Woman for 2015 Women & Wildlife Awards

Friday, June 19th, 2015
Women & Wildlife Awards 2015 Nominations Open Until July 24, 2015

By: Liz Silvernail, Development Director

In founding Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey, past Women & Wildlife honoree Linda Tesauro helped to ensure the protection of eagles and other rare wildlife.

In founding Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey, past Women & Wildlife honoree Linda Tesauro helped to ensure the protection of eagles and other rare wildlife.

For the 10th year, Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey will present Women & Wildlife Awards to special individuals for their achievements, the advances they have made for women in their professions, their efforts to increase awareness of rare species and the habitats they depend on, and their contributions to New Jersey’s wildlife.

 
By acknowledging these special individuals, CWF hopes to encourage more young women to strive to make a positive impact on species and habitat protection, especially through the biological sciences. Conserve Wildlife Foundation encourages you to take this opportunity to nominate a woman who has distinguished herself in the service of New Jersey’s wildlife.

 

Nominations will be accepted in three categories:

  • Leadership
  • Inspiration
  • Education

 

The nomination form will be accepted through Friday, July 24, 2015. Nominations submitted last year will automatically be reconsidered this year.


Save the Date: Tenth Annual Women & Wildlife Awards
Wednesday, October 28, 2015
Duke Farms, Hillsborough, New Jersey

 

Join us for this year’s very special event with keynote speaker Governor Christine Todd Whitman. We will be honoring outstanding women for their contributions to wildlife conservation at a wonderful cocktail party and silent auction on Wednesday, October 28, 2015, from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

 
Please Save the Date and join us to celebrate New Jersey’s wildlife and the women who protect our unique biodiversity.

 
Tickets will be on sale in August 2015. Proceeds benefit Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey’s work to protect our rare and imperiled wildlife.

 

Learn more:

 

Liz Silvernail is the Development Director for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.

Photos from the Field: Successful Year for Bayside State Prison Falcons

Thursday, June 11th, 2015
Endangered Falcons are Doing Well this Year!

by Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager

So far this has been a good year for peregrine falcons. Almost all known nest sites have produced young, even the natural nests on the New Jersey Palisades, which are prone to failure from strong winds and driving rain associated with Nor’easters in early spring. One successful site is at Bayside State Prison. The nest there is on top of a 120′ water tower. The pair of falcons nests in a nestbox that was installed several years ago after a old hacking tower was decommissioned on the coastal saltmarshes along the Delaware Bay. For the past two years the site has been active and productive. This year two young eyases were produced (one was produced in 2014). Last week we joined Kathy Clark and John Heilferty with the NJ Fish and Wildlife’s Endangered Species Program to band the two young falcons.

We climbed the 120′ tower to access the nest and band the young. As we climbed the tower the adult female was calm but as we got to the half way point she became aggressive towards us to defend her nest and young. We were wary of her the whole time and spent as little time as possible on the tower while banding the young to minimize the stress to her from constantly flying and dive bombing us, which she did. We were lucky to have a steel railing to protect us (and helmets), as she came very close to us. At times she would perch behind me or John on the railing. Once we were done banding we climbed down and she returned to her nest to find that her young were not harmed.

Banding is a critical tool for avian biologists to learn a lot about birds. For New Jersey falcons we tag them with a black USGS federal band and a bi-color / alpha-numeric band, which allows us to be able to identify each individual bird. It also provides more valuable information including nest success, age, site fidelity, and the turnover rate in the population. At all nest sites in New Jersey, after we have successfully identified the breeding pair, we continually monitor each nest or eyrie until the young are old enough to band (approximately 3-4 weeks old). In 2014 there were 29 active nests in New Jersey (up from 26 in 2013). The core of the population continues to nest on towers and buildings throughout the state.

KEC_7594

Ben W. and John H. climbing the 120′ tower. Photo By Kathy Clark/ENSP

Banding

Ben prepares to band a nestling that John holds. Photo by Kathy Clark/ENSP

Dive bombed!

Dive bombed! Yes, the female came very close to us! Photo by Kathy Clark/ENSP

Two 3.5 week old young. One male; one female. Photo by Ben Wurst

Two 3.5 week old young. One male; one female. Photo by Ben Wurst

John Heilferty holds a 3.5 week old peregrine falcon as it was banded for future tracking.

John Heilferty, ENSP Biologist holds a 3.5 week old peregrine falcon as it was banded for future tracking.

Ben Wurst climbs down the 150' water tower. Photo by John Heilferty/ENSP.

Ben Wurst climbs down the 120′ water tower. Photo by John Heilferty/ENSP.

Learn more:

Be Terrapin Aware!

Wednesday, June 10th, 2015
Public urged to use caution while driving in shore areas this summer

By: Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager and Stephanie Egger, Wildlife Biologist

A adult female northern diamondback terrapin searches for a suitable nest site along Great Bay Blvd. Photo by Ben Wurst

An adult female northern diamondback terrapin searches for a suitable nest site along Great Bay Blvd. Photo by Ben Wurst

Each year in late May and early June the annual nesting season for northern diamondback terrapins begins. This unique species of turtle is the only one to inhabit our coastal estuaries year round. They live exclusively in brackish water.

During this time of year, adult females emerge from the protection of their aquatic habitat to find suitable areas to lay eggs. They seek nesting areas with a sandy gravel type substrate that’s above the high tide line.

Throughout their range along the coast, terrapins face a variety of threats to their survival. Terrapin nesting habitat has been lost due to commercial and residential development, shoreline hardening and flooding which poses a greater threat to these limited nesting areas. Loss of terrapin nesting habitat along marsh systems put terrapins at greater risk of mortality as a result of increased time searching for adequate nesting areas (Winters 2013). Terrapins will utilize roadsides for nesting which increases the threat of being hit by motor vehicles. Roads are essential to our daily life but they often are barriers to wildlife, especially small critters like terrapins. Studies have shown that adult females have become less abundant and smaller from road mortality. (Avissar, 2006).

You can help terrapins several ways during the nesting season. Driving more cautiously from now until mid-July is a simple way to be more aware of terrapins crossing the roads. Nesting peaks during the full and new moon cycles and they’re more active during the high tide (less distance to travel on land to nest sites). We ask drivers in coastal areas to “Be Terrapin Aware” while driving in these areas. If you find a terrapin crossing the road use these steps to help it cross safely:

  • Stay safe. Never put yourself at risk. Make sure that you do not endanger yourself, or others, by walking into traffic.
  • When safe to do so, pull your car over and onto the shoulder. Turn on your hazard signals.
  • When safe to enter the roadway, approach the turtle and pick it up by grabbing its shell with both hands between its front and hind legs. HOLD ON – Terrapins have strong legs!
  • It is important that you move the turtle in the direction that it is heading. They are not always headed directly towards water. They will turn around if you put them in the wrong direction, so work with their instincts.
  • Place the terrapin off the road onto the soft shoulder (dirt or grass).
  • If you have a GPS or a smartphone then record your location and submit your sighting on our website.
  • Please to not move a terrapin long distances to “somewhere safe!” They have very small home ranges and moving them will only hurt them.

Rescuing a live terrapin (or any other turtle) from the road is a rewarding experience. It’s a great way to engage future generations in caring for our terrapins.

You can also help terrapins during the nesting season by supporting our new “Turtle Gardens” project. CWF, in partnership with the Marine Academy of Technology of Environmental Sciencewill develop and implement an educational initiative to promote terrapin nesting habitat enhancement. These “Turtle Gardens” will raise awareness of the benefit of living shorelines to terrapins and other coastal wildlife, as it relates to sea level rise and coastal flooding within the Barnegat Bay Watershed. Turtle Gardens for terrapins are patches of sandy nesting habitat above the high water line that are less susceptible to flooding. They also reduce the risk of road mortality. We will be having informational training sessions for those that would like to volunteer for monitoring Turtle Gardens or have property that would support a Turtle Garden. Information on these sessions will be announced in mid-June.

In addition, we will also be looking for terrapin sighting information with Project Terrapin in Berkeley and Lacey Townships in Ocean County as part of an initiative to fill in data gaps for this species on the mainland. If you see terrapins in these locations please report your sightings online.

Learn more:

 

Ben Wurst is the Habitat Program Manager for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey and Stephanie Egger is a Wildlife Biologist with Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.

 

2015 Delaware Bay Shorebird Banding Season Comes to a Close

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015
Delaware Bay Shorebird Project Team Finishes 2015 Banding Season

By: Dr. Larry Niles, LJ Niles Associates LLC

All our efforts to help shorebirds on Delaware Bay this year couldn’t have been better rewarded – nearly every red knot left the bay in good condition and in one of the earliest departures in the 19 years of the Project. We counted just over 24,000 knots in our aerial count of the entire Bayshore on May 26th. Just two days later, most had left and we could find only a few hundred, feeding on eggs like human shoppers feed on bargains at a half-price sale. By May 31st, virtually all were gone, along with the ruddy turnstones, sanderlings and semipalmated sandpipers. The beaches had an odd, deserted feel after the frenzy of the preceding days.

Photo by Jan van der Kam from Life on Delaware Bay

Photo by Jan van der Kam from Life on Delaware Bay

A good thing for birds and all those who love birds. The end of the shorebird stopover season also means the end of our shorebird team – at least for another year. All through the week, we lost team members—the North Americans left by car, those from other continents by air. Those who stayed shifted from research to manual labor: cleaning and storing equipment, closing up the rental houses, and reconnecting lost items to their owners.

Photo by Kevin Karlson

Photo by Kevin Karlson

Will our project continue? Now in our 19th year of work on the bay, one must recognize the realities of time’s passage. Clive Minton just cleared 80, and the rest of the original team will soon follow. This author, who started at relatively young 44, is now pushing his mid-sixties. Death visited our team this year with the passing of Allan Baker. Surely the rest of us will start “falling off the perch” as Clive is fond of saying.

Allan Baker, the Senior Curator of Ornithology and Head of the Department of Natural History at Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum suddenly and unexpectedly died in 2014.  His career included many significant achievements including early work that helped build a scientific case that overharvested horseshoe crabs caused the decline of red knot numbers. Photo from Wader Study.

Allan Baker, the Senior Curator of Ornithology and Head of the Department of Natural History at Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum suddenly and unexpectedly died in 2014. His career included many significant achievements including early work that helped build a scientific case that overharvested horseshoe crabs caused the decline of red knot numbers. Photo from Wader Study.

And yet, all committed to return for a 20th year. I worry over the fundamentals: our funding remains uncertain, the listing of knots as Threatened in the U.S. creates new regulatory hurdles, and N.J. politics seem to get more fractious every minute. Will there be a 20th year of this project?

 

The answer starts and ends with the willingness of our team to do it again. It starts there because good ideas and projects always seem to find support; I know we will find a way. It ends there because this team provides the best chance of a strong scientific underpinning for protection. Our team includes some of the most important shorebird scientists in the world. At our dinner soirees (generously provided by Jane Galetto’s Citizens United team), Ph.D.’s are as common as empty beer bottles. It’s no surprise that conversation drills deep into conservation biology, behavioral ecology, migration physiology, stopover ecology, virology and many other subjects of interest to all our team, both scientists, old and young, and lovers of good science.

 

In many ways, the lives of our team members revolve around birds. The Delaware Bay Shorebird Project provides us a meaningful excuse to pull together once more. Our team members love birds, and do everything they can to help them. It’s been that way for 19 years, and it is this commitment that has led to this year’s results.

p180 red knots

This graph plots the percentage of red knots caught between May 26th and May 28th that have achieved at least 180 grams against the year of the catch. The 2015 result is still an estimate.

For the first time in 19 years, red knots left in a condition similar to the lucky ones migrating through before the fishing industry decimated horseshoe crabs in 1997. After that year, the populations of knots, turnstones, semipalmated sandpipers, and sanderlings fell off a cliff. For the last four years, however, the terribly reduced populations of shorebirds have been in rough balance with equally reduced number of horseshoe crabs breeding on the Bay. Consequently, the percentage of knots reaching the threshold weight of 180 g has climbed. (Knots need at least this weight to reach the Arctic and breed successfully.) From a low of just 5% making weight in 2003, they’ve clawed their way upward 30% in 2010, 50% in 2013 and now this year’s 90%.

Fat knot on the scale by Philippe Sitters

Fat knot on the scale by Philippe Sitters

One must be cautious about the interpretation of this number but the catch of red knots on which it was based were truly fat birds! One weighed 226 grams, nearly 100 grams higher than its fat free weight. Whatever the figure it was a good season for both birds and the people who love them.

Learn more:

Dr. Larry Niles has led efforts to protect red knots and horseshoe crabs for over 30 years.

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