Conserve Wildlife Blog

Archive for the ‘Birds’ Category

Shorebird Stewards: A season in photos

Tuesday, June 4th, 2024

by: Larissa Smith, Senior Wildlife Biologist

Twenty-nine Shorebirds Stewards were posted at Delaware Bay beaches in Cumberland and Cape May Counties during the annual shorebird migration in May. Stewards help to protect the feeding shorebirds by keeping disturbance to a minimum. Shorebirds birds need to feed and fatten up on horseshoe crab eggs for their journey north to their breeding grounds. Stewards educate the public about this phenomenon and the reasons for the restricted beaches. The 2024 shorebird season went smoothly, the crabs spawned throughout May, so there were plenty of eggs on the beaches. This season the shorebirds were using many of the beaches with restricted access to the public. These beaches had stewards present and viewing areas, allowing people to witness the multitudes of shorebirds, especially the Red-knot, a federally listed species. Thank you to all the stewards for making this a successful shorebird season.

photos by Shorebird Stewards

Birds and Powerlines

Tuesday, November 14th, 2023

Larissa Smith: CWF Senior Biologist,

Nesting pair of eagles near Atlantic City@ Bill Reinert

Last week I attended the APLIC (Avian Powerline Interaction Committee) workshop hosted by PSE&G. APLIC is a group that leads the electric utility industry in protecting avian resources while enhancing reliable energy delivery. We all use electricity and power lines are needed to distribute the power to where it’s needed. Powerlines and transmission towers have become a normal part of the landscape and we don’t pay much attention until our power goes out. All different species of birds, from bald eagles to starlings, interact with powerlines, poles and towers daily, including perching and nesting on them.

With these interactions come issues, birds can be injured or die from electrocution and collisions which can cause power outages. Nests on poles and transmission towers can create problems with outages and fires as well as risk to chicks or adults. One part of my job is keep track of all reported injured or dead bald eagles in New Jersey. In 2023 there have been fifteen confirmed eagle electrocutions. Any recoveries that are a suspected electrocution or collision with a powerline are reported to the appropriate utility company. CWF and the NJ ENSP have a good relationship with the Utility companies in New Jersey. Each utility company has biologists that work on environmental issues including avian. There are a whole set of issues that they need to be taken into consideration when deciding how best to minimize negative avian interactions. The solutions require time, money and often scheduled power outages. When an area of lines or poles are identified as a risk for bird electrocution/collision, they are made as avian safe as possible. When new distribution lines are rebuilt, avian issues are taken into consideration and the appropriate measures are implemented.

There are quite a few bald eagles and ospreys that nest on poles and transmission towers throughout New Jersey. Most of these nests don’t cause problems, but if they need to be removed, the utility company works to obtain the proper permits and replace the nest with a new nesting structure in close vicinity. One example is the Three Bridges eagle nest. PSE&G needed to replace the entire distribution line where an eagle pair had been nesting on one of the towers for years. After much planning and coordination the nest was removed and placed on a nest platform installed on one of the new towers.

I certainly learned a lot at the workshop and gained a new appreciation for everything that goes into keeping our electricity flowing at the flick of a switch and making sure that avian species stay safe at the same time.

To learn more:

A Day in the Life of a Shorebird Steward

Thursday, June 1st, 2023

By: Cara Franceschini, CWF Summer 2023 Intern

In the May 16th blog, Shorebird Stewards On the Bay in May, it’s mentioned that some beaches along the Delaware Bay have restricted access every year from May 7th to June 7th. This is due to the migratory shorebirds that travel thousands of miles and need a place to stop to feed. Our beaches contain excellent food sources to help birds gain weight to continue their journey- horseshoe crab eggs. They are filled
with fat and protein. The Delaware Bay is the largest spawning area for horseshoe crabs in the world!

Now what do the Shorebird Stewards, such as myself, do all day? We monitor our assigned
beaches and educate the public about this incredible phenomenon! My favorite beaches are
Roosevelt Blvd. beach and Cook’s Beach because I see the most active flocks of shorebirds at
these locations.


A group of the infamous Red Knots: Calidris canutus, Semipalmated Sandpipers: Calidrus pusilla,
and Ruddy Turnstones: Arenaria interpres, at the beach on Roosevelt Blvd., photo: C. Franceschini

On a quiet day with not many people to educate, there are many things for us Stewards to do.
Some Stewards read their books, watch movies, listen to music/podcasts, color/paint, take
walks, research, etc. I do all of the above! Since we have a love for these special shorebirds,
most Stewards also birdwatch! It’s a must to bring your binoculars or scope to observe these
beautiful birds. Sometimes, you observe other interesting animals, too!

Another activity to do in the down-time is to flip the spawning Atlantic Horseshoe crabs, Limulus
polyphemus
, back onto their legs so they can crawl back into the bay. When the tide rise, these
crabs get overturned by the waves and have no way of returning back to their feet! Personally,
this is my favorite activity to do. When you return after your “crab walk”, you get to see the
tracks of their feet traveling back into the bay where they belong. Below on the left is a picture of
flipped and rescued crabs: the one on the left is a male who decided to bury himself in the sand
to preserve water until the tide comes back in, and the one on the right is a male who decided to
make the trek back into the bay. When the tide comes in, the horseshoe crabs come up
and begin spawning. Pictured below in the middle is an example of how crowded the beaches
get with these creatures! On the right, is a photo of a tagged crab I found, and reported it to
the US Fish and Wildlife Service so that they can collect data on the tagged crabs.

You can also get involved with helping these critters! “Return the Favor” is an organization
dedicated to conducting beach walks to flip overturned horseshoe crabs on the NJ beaches of the Delaware Bay. You can join public walks that are held by walk leaders or sign up to be a volunteer
and conduct your own walk (until July 15th, 2023 or next year). I am a volunteer and walk leader
and it is one of my favorite things to do. Flipping horseshoe crabs is such a special event
because that means you’re saving those crabs so they can continue to spawn and produce eggs
for the shorebirds. With your help, you could help save hundreds of crabs just by flipping
them over! Of course I had to capture this special moment of me flipping a crab (picture below)!

On these walks, you experience much more than just crabs. You get to see other wildlife that
emerges during dusk or dawn. You can also go on the closed beaches to save the crabs that
can’t be rescued during the day. During my walk, I got to see thousands of horseshoe crab
eggs!

History of The Duke Farms Eagle Pair

Thursday, March 2nd, 2023

by Larissa Smith, Senior Biologist

The Duke Farms eagle cam is extremely popular and just this week viewers watched as two chicks hatched. These two chicks will be watched by a multitude of viewers over the next few months as they grow to become juveniles and leave the nest. As with anything in Nature, this pair has had it’s ups and downs. I wanted to summarize the history of this pair and nest. The male is a NJ banded bird (A/59) and has been in the pair from the beginning, he is 23 years old. Interestingly, there have been several females in the pair over the years. Thank you to Duke Farms for hosting the cam and their tech team that keeps it running smoothly when issues arise. The cam location has changed as well as the cam itself over the years and the quality of the picture has improved.

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Winter Bird Watching in New Jersey

Tuesday, January 31st, 2023

by Sherry Tirgrath, Wildlife Biologist

While many residents of New Jersey prefer to spend winter days indoors and away from the cold, there are those dedicated birdwatchers that view the wintertime as an opportunity to get outside and observe species they normally wouldn’t see during the rest of the year. New Jersey hosts a variety of migratory birds, some escaping the freezing temperatures of their Arctic breeding grounds during the harsh northern winters. There are many species that both breed and winter in the Garden State and are easier to locate and observe while trees are bare.  Located on the Atlantic Flyway, New Jersey is also a prime spot for coastal bird watching during the fall and spring migration, with Cape May being one of the most active bird watching hotspots in the country.

A black-capped chickadee on a snowy day. Photo by Blaine Rothauser.
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