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Piping Plover Population Rebounds from Historic Low in New Jersey

Thursday, November 19th, 2015
Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey releases 2015 report

by Todd Pover, Beach Nesting Bird Project Manager

Photo by Northside Jim

Photo by Northside Jim

Conserve Wildlife Foundation today released the 2015 Piping Plover Breeding Report, highlighting the number of nesting pairs, pair productivity, and coast-wide distribution for this endangered shorebird, from data collected by New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife (NJDFW) biologists, CWF biologists, and other partners.


“The rebound in New Jersey’s piping plover breeding population and a second consecutive year of robust chick productivity was a much needed outcome,” said Conserve Wildlife Foundation Beach Nesting Bird Project Manager Todd Pover. “We need to continue our intensive management for a number of years to sustain any recovery, but we were very pleased to have finally broken the recent cycle of low nesting success and the record low number of nesting pairs in 2014.”


The piping plover – a small sand-colored shorebird that nests in New Jersey as part of its Atlantic Coast range from North Carolina up to Eastern Canada – face a number of threats, including intensive human recreational activity on beaches where they nest, high density of predators, and a shortage of highly suitable habitat due to development and extreme habitat alteration.


Federally listed as a threatened species in 1986, piping plovers have since recovered in some areas of the breeding range. Yet piping plovers continue to struggle in New Jersey, where they are listed by the state as endangered.


“As a species dependent on natural beach habitat, piping plovers face a particularly daunting challenge along New Jersey’s heavily developed and dynamic coast,” said Conserve Wildlife Foundation Executive Director David Wheeler. “Our dedicated scientists, partners, and volunteers are working tirelessly to ensure piping plovers remain a beloved and healthy presence along the Jersey Shore and beyond.”


CWF, in close coordination with NJDFW’s Endangered and Nongame Species Program, oversees piping plover conservation throughout New Jersey. Staff and volunteers help erect fence and signage to protect nesting sites, monitor breeding pairs frequently throughout the entire nesting season from March to August, and work with public and municipalities to educate them on ways to minimize impacts. Although conservation efforts on the breeding ground remain the primary focus, in recent years, CWF has also begun to work with partners all along the flyway, in particular on the winter grounds in the Bahamas, to better protect the at-risk species during its entire life-cycle.


2015 Report Highlights:


  • The population of breeding piping plovers increased 17% to 108 pairs in 2015, as compared to 2014. Despite the increase, the population still remains below the long-term average (118 pairs) since federal listing in 1986 and well below the peak.
  • The statewide fledgling rate, which includes data collected by partners at 19 active nesting sites throughout the state, was 1.29 fledglings per pair, down slightly from 2014 (1.36 fledglings/pair), but still one of the highest statewide levels since federal listing. Furthermore, both years were above the 1.25 fledgling rate believed necessary to maintain the range-wide Atlantic Coast population of piping plovers.
  • Statewide pair-nest success, the percentage of pairs that successfully hatch at least one nest, was high at 79%, well above the average since federal listing. Although population and productivity are ultimately the most important measures of recovery success, hatch success is an important metric to demonstrate the effectiveness of on-the-ground management.
  • Northern Monmouth County, as a region, continued to account for the largest percentage of pairs in the state (55 pairs or 51%), with Gateway National Recreation Area – Sandy Hook Unit accounting for most of those pairs.
  • The region comprised of North Brigantine Natural Area and the Holgate and Little Beach Units of the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge accounted for the other significant concentration of breeding pairs in the state (43 pairs or 40% of the statewide total).
  • Holgate had the largest jump in abundance for any individual site, doubling its breeding pairs to 24 in 2015 (up from 12 in 2014). This increase was the result of highly suitable overwash habitat created at the site by Hurricane Sandy and the high breeding success that helped spur.
  • Cape May County, the southernmost region of the state, consisting of Ocean City to Cape May Point, continued its long-term downward trend, accounting for just 8 pairs in 2015, compared to 11 pairs in 2014 and 43 pairs in 2004 at its peak.


Learn More:


Todd Pover is the Beach Nesting Bird Project Manager for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.



Osprey Pair Get A New Home

Thursday, November 12th, 2015
Students install a new nesting platform for Avalon ospreys

by: Larissa Smith, Wildlife Biologist/Volunteer Manager

Volunteers and Students from Cape May County Technical School

Volunteers and Students from Cape May County Technical School

One lucky pair of ospreys received a brand new nesting platform due to the effort of volunteers and students from the Cape May County Technical School! Dedicated osprey project volunteer Matt Tribulski reached out to CMC Tech Natural Science teacher Hanna Toft, regarding replacement of an aging platform in the Avalon back bay. Hanna is an osprey project volunteer and bander and incorporates the osprey project into her curriculum. The nest that was replaced was an old four poster that was unstable and not predator proof. The nest was located at the edge of the water causing the birds to get off the nest every time a boat or jet ski went by (which in the summer is quite frequently).


Hanna had a platform available that her students had built last year. We couldn’t have picked a better day for the install, the weather was gorgeous and warm for November. We met Hanna and eight of her students out on the water. The new platform was placed further back from the water and has a predator guard. The students removed the old platform, leaving some posts for the ospreys to perch.


We hope that the birds like their new home when they return in the spring.


Thank you to Matt, Hanna and her students for all of their help!

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Learn More:


Larissa Smith is the Volunteer Manager/Wildlife Biologist for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.



Oyster Reef in Delaware Bay Dedicated to New Jersey Veterans

Thursday, November 12th, 2015
“Veterans Day on the Bay” brings families, volunteers and veterans to South Reeds Beach on New Jersey’s Delaware Bayshore

by: Lindsay McNamara, Communications Manager

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Conservation organizations leading the efforts to restore New Jersey’s Delaware Bay beaches today organized “Veterans Day on the Bay,” a celebration to dedicate the oyster reef at South Reeds Beach in honor of military veterans’ service to our country.


“We want to dedicate this work to our nation’s armed forces veterans to give them well deserved recognition for their service to all Americans,” stated Dr. Larry Niles, a biologist with American Littoral Society and Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey who has studied federally-listed Red Knots for three decades. “We also hope to give them an intimate experience of successful wildlife conservation to spark their interest and encourage them and their families to take part in future work.”


Veterans Day on the Bay dedicated the South Reeds Beach oyster reef to all veterans and highlighted veteran involvement in the effort to restore New Jersey’s Delaware Bayshore. Event attendees honored their own military veterans by inscribing that special person’s name on a shell and placing that shell on “Veterans Reef.” Guests also helped study the wildlife living in this new reef with hands-on, interactive marine science activities like seining, trapping, trawling, and species identification.


“Delaware Bay has been so vital to this community for generations, and through this project we hope to strengthen the connections that young and old feel to this incredible natural resource that is home to wildlife of global importance,” said David Wheeler, Executive Director for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey. “The living construction of Veterans Reef is a small but meaningful embodiment of all that our military veterans have done in building a strong American defense to give us security and protect the many freedoms we hold dear.”


Volunteers and veterans worked alongside American Littoral Society and Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey to establish a near-shore oyster reef at South Reeds Beach in Cape May Court House on the Delaware Bayshore in April 2015. The reef was built to prevent sand loss from wind-driven waves. Conservation groups will continue to monitor whether the reef bars help reduce beach erosion and create calmer water for spawning horseshoe crabs.


The South Reeds Beach Oyster Reef is one of the many projects that American Littoral Society and Conserve Wildlife Foundation are working on to restore the ecology and economy of the Delaware Bayshore.


“We are rebuilding habitats along Delaware Bay in order to strengthen the ecology, communities and economy of that area. Grants for the project enabled hiring several military veterans, and they continue to play a valuable role in the work. It is in recognition of the service veterans provide to their country and communities, that we are dedicating the reef at Reeds Beach to them,” said Tim Dillingham, Executive Director for American Littoral Society.


“Congratulations to the American Littoral Society, the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey, and the veterans who helped build this oyster reef,” said Amanda Bassow, Northeastern Regional Director for the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, which helped fund the project in partnership with the Department of Interior. “This project will help Reeds Beach be more resilient to the impact of future storms, while also providing important habitat in Delaware Bay.”


Shorebirds, like the federally listed Red Knot, depend on an uninterrupted supply of horseshoe crab eggs when they stopover in Delaware Bay during their migration. In recent years, countless horseshoe crab eggs have been lost because of the devastating storms that swept away the beach habitat they depend on.


“Restoring beach habitat on the Delaware Bay benefits Red Knots because it provides important feeding habitat for a bird threatened with extinction. The restored beach and oyster reef also protects the local community by providing increased resilience to future storms. Projects like these that help fish and wildlife, in addition to supporting local communities, are a priority for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” explained Eric Schrading, Field Supervisor for the New Jersey Field Office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.


The new oyster reef will attenuate waves but still allow for horseshoe crab breeding. In existing areas where crabs can breed without interruption, egg densities can exceed ten times the egg densities on unprotected beaches.


Projects like the South Reeds Beach oyster reef are being funded by National Fish and Wildlife Foundation through their Hurricane Sandy Coastal Resiliency Grants Program, and are being developed in partnership with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife.


Learn More:


Lindsay McNamara is the Communications Manager for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.

Three New Jersey Women Recognized at Tenth Annual Women & Wildlife Awards

Friday, October 30th, 2015
MacKenzie Hall, Pat Hamilton, Tanya Oznowich honored at Conserve Wildlife Foundation’s 10th Annual Women & Wildlife Awards

by Lindsay McNamara, Communications Manager

The Honorable Christine Todd Whitman with past and present Women & Wildlife Award winners, representing a decade of strong female leaders in wildlife conservation. From left to right: Dr. Erica Miller, Edith Wallace, Linda Tesauro, Kathy Clark, Amy S. Greene, the Honorable Christine Todd Whitman, Pat Hamilton, MacKenzie Hall, Tanya Oznowich, and Diane Nickerson.

The Honorable Christine Todd Whitman with past and present Women & Wildlife Award winners, representing a decade of strong female leaders in wildlife conservation. From left to right: Dr. Erica Miller, Edith Wallace, Linda Tesauro, Kathy Clark, Amy S. Greene, the Honorable Christine Todd Whitman, Pat Hamilton, MacKenzie Hall, Tanya Oznowich, and Diane Nickerson.


Our Tenth Annual Women & Wildlife Awards, held at Duke Farms, recognized three women – MacKenzie Hall, Pat Hamilton, and Tanya Oznowich – for their leadership in protecting wildlife in New Jersey. The Honorable Christine Todd Whitman served as the keynote speaker.


The Women & Wildlife Awards celebrated Conserve Wildlife Foundation’s past decade of honoring women for their success in protecting, managing, restoring, and raising awareness for the Garden State’s endangered and imperiled wildlife species.


“The inspiring leadership of MacKenzie Hall, Pat Hamilton, and Tanya Oznowich not only benefits New Jersey’s wildlife and the countless people who care strongly for our outdoors – it provides successful role models for the next generation of girls in scientific fields that have for too long held a glass ceiling for young women,” said CWF Executive Director David Wheeler. “Their unparalleled dedication and hard work – like that of the Women & Wildlife honorees over the past decade – has helped make New Jersey a national leader in wildlife conservation.”


The three honorees were recognized individually with awards in Inspiration, Leadership, and Education:

MacKenzie Hall, a powerful force behind the conservation of wildlife in New Jersey, who began working as a wildlife biologist for Conserve Wildlife Foundation in 2004 before joining the Endangered and Nongame Species Program in 2014, is the recipient of the Women & Wildlife Inspiration Award. She has been involved in a number of projects spanning bat colonies, migrating amphibians, and grassland birds.

In her work to implement conservation programs such as the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program, Ms. Hall’s keen understanding of the process and positive attitude turned many farmers and landowners into dedicated environmental stewards. What may be most remarkable about Ms. Hall is her ability to motivate the public and inspire non-scientists of all ages to become passionate conservationists.


Women & Wildlife Leadership Award Winner Pat Hamilton has worked for the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife Bureau of Freshwater Fisheries since 1980. She is considered to be the champion for Eastern brook trout, the state’s only native salmonid, and a species once extirpated from over 50% of its historical habitat due to human impacts.

Ms. Hamilton is one of three fisheries biologists in New Jersey endeavoring to strengthen the state regulations to further conserve native brook trout streams. Thanks to her efforts, more than 200 northern New Jersey streams have been designated as Trout Production Streams, which afford the streams higher levels of state protection.


The recipient of the Women & Wildlife Education Award is Tanya Oznowich, Environmental Education Supervisor of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, who has championed environmental education for over three decades.

Schools across New Jersey are incorporating environmental education into their curriculum, a new movement inspired by a growing awareness of environmental issues and our shared role in understanding and resolving them. To a large degree, this growing prominence is thanks to Tanya Oznowich. She has been engaging the public in natural resources since 1979. Since beginning her tenure with the NJDEP in 1988, she has dedicated herself to integrating environmental science into New Jersey’s classrooms, from kindergarten to college.


The Tenth Annual Women & Wildlife Awards, held on Wednesday, October 28 at Duke Farms in Hillsborough, New Jersey, included a presentation of the awards to the recipients, hors d’oeuvres, cash bar and a silent auction.


Learn More:


We gratefully thank our generous Eagle Sponsors who made the Women & Wildlife Awards possible: PSEG, Atlantic City Electric, Janice King and Bill Masonheimer, and Eric Sambol.



Lindsay McNamara is the Communications Manager for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.


Gone Batty: The Creature Show Halloween Special

Monday, October 26th, 2015
Conserve Wildlife Foundation Biologist and 2015 Women & Wildlife Inspiration Award Winner Featured in Halloween Special of The Creature Show

by Lindsay McNamara, Communications Manager



Just in time for Halloween, learn more about New Jersey’s bat population in the latest episode of The Creature Show! In this episode, join Conserve Wildlife Foundation’s wildlife ecologist Stephanie Feigin and 2015 Women & Wildlife Inspiration Award Winner MacKenzie Hall on their journey to track the federally listed Northern long-eared bat, hear from a young bat advocate and learn more about current threats to bat populations.


The Creature Show Halloween Special offers a glimpse into the work by New Jersey’s bat biologists to protect the remaining population of these misunderstood creatures of the night. Learn how to radio track a bat, see the joy in our biologists’ faces when all of their effort in the field pays off, and listen as common myths about bats are de-bunked.


The episode is running through Halloween in the small theater downstairs at Duke Farms‘ Orientation Center (Hillsborough, New Jersey) on a continuous loop in their “bat cave.”


The Creature Show is a documentary webseries dedicated to conservation storytelling. Their stage: the wilds of New Jersey, within the nation’s most crowded state. Here they find represented all the villains of global extinction, including habitat destruction, climate change, invasive species and wildlife disease. They also find wildlife biologists and regular citizens who have devoted themselves to protecting the region’s biodiversity, no matter what the challenges may be.


Learn more:



Creature Show Halloween Special from The Creature Show on Vimeo.


Lindsay McNamara is the Communications Manager for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.

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