Conserve Wildlife Blog

Posts Tagged ‘wildlife’

Connecting the Life Cycle of a Golden-winged Warbler

Friday, April 29th, 2016
A Closer Look at Cutting-Edge Research on the Multi-Country, Migratory Life-Cycle of GWWA

by Kelly Triece, Private Lands Biologist

Don Jose Mendoza, Honduran wildlife conservation leader, holding a Golden-winged Warbler captured on his property in Cerro Agua Buena, Olancho, Honduras. Photo by Ruth Bennett.

Don Jose Mendoza, Honduran wildlife conservation leader, holding a Golden-winged Warbler captured on his property in Cerro Agua Buena, Olancho, Honduras. Photo by Ruth Bennett.

While in Honduras this February 2016, I had the opportunity to meet researchers studying the Golden-winged Warbler (GWWA) in their wintering habitat. The GWWA is Neotropical Migrant songbird that breeds in New Jersey, but migrates south for the winter. Golden-winged Warblers migrate south in September, mainly through a corridor of states east of the Mississippi River and west of the Appalachians. Their peak return migration to the Upper Mid-west and Appalachians, including New Jersey, occurs in late April where they find a mate, breed and rear their young.

 

This neo-tropical songbird is a species of special conservation concern in the U.S. and endangered in New Jersey, experiencing population declines due to loss of young forest habitat on their breeding grounds, habitat loss on their wintering grounds and hybridization with the Blue-winged Warbler (BWWA). The GWWA has experienced one of the steepest population declines of any songbird species in North America. The population size of the GWWA has decreased by an average of 2.6% every year, according to the USGS Breeding Bird Survey, since the survey began in 1966.  In particular, the Appalachian populations are now approaching a rate of -9% per year. Due to the difficulty of tracking birds over large distances, the effects of their multi-country, migratory life-cycle are poorly understood.

Ruth Bennett and Miguel Ramirez attaching a geolocator to a GWWA in Rio Dulce, Guatemala. Photo by Liam Berigan.

Ruth Bennett and Miguel Ramirez attaching a geolocator to a GWWA in Rio Dulce, Guatemala. Photo by Liam Berigan.

 

While many songbirds, migrate thousands of miles every winter, most research has focused on their breeding habitat in North America. Recently, researchers have begun exploring and understanding the importance of conserving the entire life-cycle of migratory birds or any wildlife species. Ruth Bennett, a Ph.D student at Cornell University is one such scientist. Ruth and collaborators at the American Bird Conservancy and Indiana University of Pennsylvania are linking breeding and non-breeding Golden-winged Warbler populations through geolocator technology. Ruth is also studying how changes in land use that lead to habitat loss on the wintering grounds of the GWWA are linked to population declines, with support from the US Fish and Wildlife Service Region 3.

Miguel Ramirez releases a Golden-winged Warbler with a geolocator in Rio Dulce. Photo by Ruth Bennett.

Miguel Ramirez releases a Golden-winged Warbler with a geolocator in Rio Dulce. Photo by Ruth Bennett.

 

Ruth Bennett, P.h.D. student, aims to connect the wintering habitat of the GWWA and its breeding habitat through her research in Central America. Between November 1, 2015 and March 15, 2016, Ruth and collaborators deployed geolocators on 145 GWWA and 35 BWWA at 9 sites from Belize through Panama, including Honduras. She will then recapture the individuals next winter, 2016-2017. These geolocators supply location data for up to 12 months, giving insight into the full life-cycle of the Golden-winged Warbler and closely-related Blue-winged warblers (BWWA). Through this research she will be able to establish the migratory pathways for all recaptured individuals. She will be able to compare how habitat loss on their wintering grounds and land use changes correlate with population trends described on the breeding grounds.

 

This will be one of the first geolocator studies to establish the connectivity of a migratory species from a winter grounds origin.  This research is important, because it creates a connection between non-profit, local and state governments in the United States and those in Latin America. This may increase funding opportunities and increase the efficiency of conservation action taken on the winter grounds. This research is especially important, as it forms one of the core informational components of the Golden-winged Warbler Non-breeding Season Conservation Plan (currently in review, soon to be available at gwwa.org). The conservation plan provides a regional strategy for conserving Golden-winged Warbler wintering habitat based on the wintering ecology of this species. The plan furthermore outlines conservation projects and budgets within high priority wintering focal areas that have been developed by Latin American partners. Ongoing research will be critical to ensure that these conservation actions effectively conserve the non-breeding habitat of this declining species.

This Golden-winged Warbler is fitted with a geolocator in Honduras. Photo by Ian Gardner.

This Golden-winged Warbler is fitted with a geolocator in Honduras. Photo by Ian Gardner.

 

Ruth has a small crew of local biologists who assist in her research in Latin America. Through her research in Honduras and Central America, Ruth has been able to connect with many local biologists and conservationists. It was great to meet Ruth in Honduras and learn about her research, which so important to New Jersey, but taking place so far away.

 

Our next Honduras blog, will feature our time with Ruth at the Feria de Aves Migratorias (Migratory Bird Festival) at the Universidad de las Agricultureal (Agriculture University) in Olancho, Honduras!

 

Learn More:

 

Kelly Triece is the Private Lands Biologist for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.

Unveiling the Nature Trail at LBIF

Thursday, April 21st, 2016
Enhancing public access to Barnegat Bay and its inhabitants!

by Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager

Ben Wurst describes the Nature Trail from the rooftop deck of Science Building at LBIF. Photo by Kyle Gronostajski.

Ben Wurst describes the Nature Trail from the rooftop deck of Science Building at LBIF. Photo by Kyle Gronostajski.

This past Saturday we “unveiled” the new Nature Trail at the Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts & Sciences (LBIF). At the event we also conducted our first native plant sale, with lots of wildlife friendly plants, including milkweed, goldenrod, joe pye weed, bayberry, red cedar and many others. I lead guided tours along the trail to point out key features and work that we’ve done at LBIF. Our first stop was to the roof top of the Science Building, which is one of my favorite views. It provided visitors an opportunity to see what is the core foundation for our work, Barnegat Bay and some of the wildlife that we work tirelessly to protect and monitor: ospreys and northern diamondback terrapins, in particular.

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New Jersey Bald Eagle “Nacote” Sighted at Forsythe NWR

Thursday, April 14th, 2016
Tracking Young Bald Eagle “Nacote” throughout the Garden State

by Larissa Smith, wildlife biologist

Nacote 4/8/2016@Kelly Hunt

Nacote 4/8/2016 Photo by Kelly Hunt

On April 8th, Kelly Hunt was photographing four bald eagles at Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), two adult birds and two immature birds. When she got home and looked at the photos she realized that one of the young birds was banded and had a transmitter. It was “Nacote” back in his home area. “Nacote” was banded and outfitted with a transmitter on May 6, 2014 at the Galloway nest. Since then we have been tracking his movements on the CWF website. These photos give a great look at what the plumage of a bald eagle going into its third year looks like. You’ll also notice that the eyes and bill haven’t yet turned yellow.

Nacote 4/8/2016@Kelly Hunt

Nacote 4/8/2016 Photo by Kelly Hunt

 

Forsythe NWF@ Kelly Hunt

Forsythe NWF Photo by Kelly Hunt

 

Learn More:

 

Larissa Smith is a wildlife biologist for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.

Update On “Jersey Girl:” A Jersey Eagle Nesting In Pennsylvania

Tuesday, April 12th, 2016

‘Jersey Girl’ and Her Mate Rebuild Nest for the 2016 Nesting Season

by Larissa Smith, wildlife biologist

Jersey Girl, B-64, New nest 2016@ L. Oughton

‘Jersey Girl,’ B-64, New nest 2016 Photo by L. Oughton.

We continue to follow the story of “Jersey Girl” B-64. She was banded in Hopewell, Cumberland County, New Jersey in 2004 and this is the fifth season her and her mate have nested in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. In 2015 after successfully raising three chicks, their nest collapsed due to rain and wind at the end of June, but luckily the three chicks had already fledged.

 

Nest observer Lind Oughton reported, “Well our great ‘Jersey Girl’ and mate have done it again. They built a brand new nest in the same tree but about 15 feet lower that the first nest. It is much more secure where it is now.” She reported incubation on February 12th and hatching around March 18th. On April 1st, she saw one chick in the nest. We will continue to follow “Jersey Girl’s” story and keep you updated.

"Jersey Girl", B-64, 2016 new nest@L. Oughton

“Jersey Girl”, B-64, 2016 new nest. Photo by L. Oughton

 

Learn More:

 

Larissa Smith is a wildlife biologist for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.

 

Restoration Work Continues Along New Jersey’s Delaware Bayshore, New Oyster Reef Built at Moores Beach

Saturday, April 9th, 2016
Second Annual “Shell-a-Bration” brings volunteers to strengthen coast’s resiliency and habitat

by Lindsay McNamara, Communications Manager

MooresBeachOysterReef1

Today, conservation organizations leading the efforts to restore New Jersey’s Delaware Bay beaches today organized the Second Annual “Shell-a-Bration” oyster reef building volunteer event.

 

Dedicated volunteers braved the elements and worked alongside American Littoral Society and Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey to establish a near-shore whelk shell bar at Moores Beach in Maurice River Township along New Jersey’s Delaware Bayshore. The shell bar was built to prevent sand loss from wind-driven waves. An approximately 200-foot oyster reef was constructed offshore to test whether the reef bars help reduce beach erosion and create calmer water for spawning horseshoe crabs.

 

“The Second Annual Shell-a-Bration truly celebrates the ecology, community, and culture of the Delaware Bayshore,” stated Captain Al Modjeski, Habitat Restoration Program Director, American Littoral Society. “It reinforces the connectivity between the natural and human-built bayshore communities through reef building and celebrates the significance of the Bay’s resources through restoration.”

MooresBeachOysterReef3

“There are many strategies to defend our Delaware Bayshore, but one of the best and most productive are these oyster reefs,” stated Dr. Larry Niles, a biologist with American Littoral Society and Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey. “They not only replicate a lost but important habitat on Delaware Bay — reefs once covered much of the bayshore — but they provide just enough protection to make a difference in how long our beaches persist against the unrelenting forces of nature. In a way, we are fighting nature with nature.”

 

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 beaches they depend on.

MooresBeachOysterReef2

The new oyster reef will attenuate waves but still allow for horseshoe crab breeding. In existing areas where crabs can breed without interruption, like creek mouths protected by sand shoals or rock jetties, egg densities can exceed ten times the egg densities on unprotected beaches.

 

“New Jersey’s Delaware Bayshore hosts an annual wildlife spectacle of global significance – the time-honored migration of Red Knots to reach the eggs of these ancient horseshoe crabs,” said David Wheeler, Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey Executive Director. “Red Knots fly to New Jersey’s Delaware Bay from as far away as Tierra del Fuego in South America to feed on horseshoe crab eggs. Volunteer projects like the Shell-a-bration help connect the people of New Jersey with these endangered shorebirds and the largest population of horseshoe crabs in the world.”

 

Last year, over 130 volunteers and veterans built the South Reeds Beach oyster at the First Annual Shell-a-Bration. Veterans Day on the Bay 2015 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.

Our "assembly line" of volunteers all working together to build the reef.

Our “assembly line” of volunteers all working together to build the reef.

Veterans Reef and the Moores Beach Oyster Reef are two 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.

 

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, American Littoral Society and Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife and the New Jersey Recovery Fund to remove 8,000 tons of debris and added 45,000 tons of sand to the beaches just before the annual spring arrival of the red knot in 2013.

 

Additional work after 2012 restored another mile of shoreline, including two new beaches of poor quality even before Sandy. To date, the groups have placed 85,000 cubic yards of sand and restored seven beaches along New Jersey’s Delaware Bayshore. In early 2016, groups began another phase of restoration work at Cook’s Beach and Kimble’s Beach in anticipation of the return of the horseshoe crabs and red knots in May.

 

The projects 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.

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