Conserve Wildlife Blog

Posts Tagged ‘birding’

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.

The (Bergen) Record spotlights a backyard birding favorite

Monday, February 12th, 2018


Just in time for next week’s Great Backyard Bird Count, The (Bergen) Record’s Jim Wright takes a look at the hairy woodpecker with help from CWF Executive Director David Wheeler. This backyard birdwatching favorite is still a common sight on many New Jersey feeders and tree trunks, but remains vulnerable nationally due to its nesting reliance on old tree snags.

Read the article here:

Help Ensure Ospreys Have a Future in New Jersey

Tuesday, September 26th, 2017

ACTION ALERT: Support ecological management of the most valuable public resource for our coastal ecosystem and economy

by Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager

Menhaden is a common food source for ospreys during their nesting season in New Jersey. Photo by Northside Jim.

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is accepting public comment on the establishment of ecological management of Atlantic menhaden (Brevoortia tyrannus), which is a keystone species. Basically, a keystone species is one that plays a large role in the ecosystem where it lives. If a keystone species is lost then the ecosystem would dramatically change or cease to function, causing widespread effects to other species that benefit. In New Jersey, ospreys have largely benefited from a healthy menhaden population as we’ve had relatively high reproductive rates (more than double what’s needed to sustain population) over the past decade. From 2006 to 2016, the population has grown by 30% and above the pre-DDT, historic milestone of over 500 nesting pairs. Around 82% of the state population of ospreys nests along the Atlantic Coast and we observe menhaden at a huge number of nests during our mid-summer surveys. If menhaden numbers drop, then we will likely see osprey numbers follow suite, as reproductive rates will decline, as they are in the Chesapeake Bay.


Have You Seen This Bird?

Monday, October 1st, 2012

By Michael Davenport, Marine Species & GIS Programs Manager

Young barn owls. Photo by MacKenzie Hall.

Conserve Wildlife Foundation staff work with the New Jersey Endangered and Nongame Species Program (ENSP) to manage and populate the state’s official database of rare wildlife, known as Biotics.  Currently, this database contains over 35,000 animal and plant records within New Jersey.  ENSP and CWF currently collect and enter data for the state’s 173 endangered, threatened, and special concern species.

There are several species of birds for which more observation data would be useful; and it’s likely that birdwatchers or other nature watchers may have the data needed.  Most good birdwatchers keep logs of what they’ve observed, when, and where.  It would be helpful if anyone with detailed observation data for the species listed at the end of this blog could submit their data for potential inclusion in the Biotics database.

To submit your observation data, please complete a Rare Wildlife Sighting Report Form.  The form is available on ENSP’s website for download as well as instructions for completing the form (a map must be attached when submitted).  In addition to the species listed below, please feel free to submit one or more forms for any of the state’s endangered, threatened, or special concern species.  A complete list of all of the species tracked by the state can be downloaded here.

If you have a large amount of data to submit, please contact Mike Davenport of Conserve Wildlife Foundation at (609) 292-3795 – alternative data submission options may be available (such as submitting Excel spreadsheets or GIS files).

Barn Owl (Tyto alba)
Nashville Warbler (Oreothlypis ruficapilla)
Saltmarsh Sparrow (Ammodramus caudacutus)
Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus)
Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularius)
Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus)
Winter Wren (Troglodytes hiemalis)

Cheesequake State Park: Winter Bird Photography…with Climate Control

Monday, January 9th, 2012

by Brett Klaproth, CWF volunteer photographer & wildlife advocate

Forested habitat at Cheesequake State Park. © Brett Klaproth

What does Middlesex County’s Cheesequake State Park have over Cape May, Forsythe, Sandy Hook, the Great Swamp, and other more notable New Jersey birding sites?  Reliably abundant and nearly effortlessly managed (Talkin’ to you there, Barnegat Light…) stellar winter photo ops.  Plus heat.

Cheesequake is just 5 minutes off Garden State Parkway exit 120 and a 5 minute walk through the hardwood forest off its first parking lot reveals the park’s nature center. The building’s raised and roofed entrance deck sits before a small, lightly wooded area designated as a wildlife sanctuary and serves as a near ideal (Shadow issues (See wooded…).) shooting platform.

The center is operated and the sanctuary maintained by naturalist Jim Faczak, who has installed (soon to be upgraded) platform, jar, and commercial seed and suet feeders–the most active a mere 3 or so yards from the deck’s edge. Protected from hikers by split rail fencing and a steep decline across its far end, the location attracts a roster of favorite species, at times in dizzying (Almost fell once…) numbers, with most taking little issue (Aaand…there’s a titmouse on my lens…) with human observers.

Red-bellied woodpecker. © Brett Klaproth

The most prevalent–the aforementioned tufted titmouse and the Carolina chickadee and white-breasted nuthatch–frequently alternate positions on the platforms (Focus on the one on the right (Ha ha–focus (Never mind…).).), with the latter assuming dominance in the pecking order by virtue of its, well, yes, pecking. Red-bellied and downy woodpecker compete similarly at the suet cages with their
hairy cousins sometimes entering the rotation.

Dark-eyed junco scavenge below, and several resident Carolina wren (One lives in that house hanging off the corner of the building…) maneuver in intermittent shifts through low lying branches. Blue jay make their presence known vocally before venturing in, and a small group of more reserved mourning dove typically makes its way closer as afternoons progress.

Song sparrow. © Brett Klaproth

Northern cardinal, song sparrow, and brown creeper are occasional visitors, with others including American crow, American goldfinch, American robin, hermit thrush, American tree sparrow, and fox sparrow observed during more brief and isolated periods. Though rarities are aptly uncommon, there are also no invasives with which to contend, unless we define the term differently and include the occasional hawk.

Red-tailed, Cooper’s, and sharp-shinned all check for status updates, mostly via flyover. Strikes occur extremely rarely. The raptors’ mere appearances though, elicit an instant freezing (as in assuming a motionless position–not in an it’s 30 degrees in the shade and I forgot the Under Armour kind of way) among the smaller birds, creating a silent and somewhat surreal spectacle.

On the plus side of contending with 30 degree temperatures, though choosing a sunny day is most advantageous, shooting here after or even during (See roofed…) a snowfall makes for a sublime photographic experience. The forest itself provides a kind of magical (That’s right, going with magical.) setting when coated in white. And the ground being blanketed not only encourages increased activity at manmade food stations but provides images with added beauty and character as well as enhanced lighting (See shadow issues (Maybe see wooded again if necessary…)…).

With a slight increase in temperature, titmouse and chickadee cling to icicles, drinking droplets as they form. And for those without prejudice, deer can often be easily spotted under these conditions throughout the park. This might be of worthwhile if secondary interest as the sanctuary of course loses the light before do Cheesequake’s many fields.

Carolina wren. © Brett Klaproth

The nature center is typically open from 8-4 Wednesday through Sunday. Calling in advance is advisable if one wants to be assured of immediate access to bathroom facilities and escapes from the cold (and a hand dryer which, okay, odd, but for the warmth provided a photographer would likely eventually share my appreciation).

Food might not be present at all times but Jim is giving readers permission to bring and distribute seed (Be sure there’s sunflower in the mix.) and suet to insure activity. Results are typically swift and satisfying.

And oh yeah, nuts. Offering peanuts will garner immediate popularity with certain (upwards of two dozen) bushy-tailed residents. If not looking to make friends nor prone to begging-induced guilt (Just me?), indulging the squirrels will also help keep feeders clear for the more typically welcome feathered patrons.  And dispensing on the previously recommended platform in particular will optimize results by bringing the most discriminating (blue jay, wren) and timid (red-bellied woodpecker) subjects closer.

Throw in lunch for yourself and a rewarding and unusually comfortable cold weather day at Cheesequake is virtually guaranteed.  Just remember the Under Armour.

All photos were taken last winter with a handheld Canon 40D and 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS. That’d be the author on deck with a tripod-mounted Canon 500mm f/4L IS this winter.