Conserve Wildlife Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Sandy Hook’

Wild New Jersey: Savoring springtime at Sandy Hook

Friday, March 27th, 2020

by David Wheeler

Wild New Jersey and the COVID-19 pandemic: During these stressful times of social distancing and isolation, taking solace in the natural world is more valuable than ever. I want to share some of my favorite outdoor oases with you. My hope is that by visiting on your own, with your family, or in some cases with your beloved dog, that you too will find the peace and happiness I feel when spending time in the wildest parts of our state.

In a time like this, it’s reassuring to find a place where you can admire the New York City skyline across the great New York Harbor – while being surrounded not by people, but by dune grasses, spring migrants, and overhead ospreys carrying fish.

Sandy Hook, New Jersey. Photo by: Tomwsulcer / CC0

“For the Love of Wildlife” Photo Contest: Second Place Winners

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

by Lindsay McNamara, Communications Manager

Earlier in 2016, Conserve Wildlife Foundation launched the “For the Love of Wildlife” Photo Contest. Our photography contest was meant to showcase the love for and need to protect the endangered and threatened wildlife that call New Jersey home. We encouraged youth and adult photographers across the Garden State to submit photographs in the following categories:

  • New Jersey’s Rarest Residents: Endangered, Threatened, and Special Concern Wildlife Species Only
  • The Garden State: New Jersey Landscapes
  • Experiencing Nature: People Enjoying the Outdoors
  • Wild New Jersey: All Animals in the Garden State

We were blown away by the amount of submissions we received! Over 1,470 entries were counted! New Jersey wildlife photographers, CWF board members and staff poured over the entries to choose our winners. Today, we are thrilled to announce both second place winners.

Youth Photographer: Kayleigh Young
Cresskill, New Jersey
Golden-crowned kinglet

Youth second place winner Kayleigh Young.

Golden-crowned kinglet, youth second place winner Kayleigh Young.

Kayleigh was happy to share more about her image with us! She said, “after placing third in CWF’s 2015 Species on the Edge 2.0 Multimedia Contest, I was invited to join a birding trip on which I took this picture. I’ve always loved photographing wildlife, because I absolutely love nature, hiking, and the outdoors. I don’t think I can choose a single favorite species because I truly do love all animals; if I had to, I would say a fox maybe.”

Howie Williams: Adult Photographer
Oceanville, New Jersey
Mobbed Eagle

Mobbed eagle, adult second place winner Howie Williams.

Mobbed eagle, adult second place winner Howie Williams.

Howie Williams has been photographing nature, especially raptors, for over 8 years. Peregrine falcons are his favorite bird (because of their raw speed), followed by ospreys, and eagles are a close third. Howie was hooked on photography after watching an osprey family at Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) several years ago. He watched the chicks grow from when they were two weeks old to their first flight!


Howie frequents Forsythe NWR, which is where his winning photograph was taken. A juvenile eagle was sitting on an osprey nest platform. Howie heard a screech and a yell, looked up and saw another juvenile eagle fly in and land on the platform too. He took the above photograph at that moment! Howie couldn’t get both eagles in the frame. In the original shot, you can see just the talons from the other eagle, but he cropped them out for the image he submitted for our contest.


Howie is retired and spends five days a week photographing raptors. He often posts his photographs in the “visitor post” section of our Facebook page. Howie told CWF, “what’s the point of taking pictures without sharing them with people? Where’s the fun in that?”


Stay tuned as we announce the second place winners of the “For the Love of Wildlife” Photo Contest over the next few days!


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

Rare White Pelicans Seen in Monmouth County, New Jersey

Thursday, December 31st, 2015
Sandy Hook Christmas Bird Counters Delighted by White Pelicans

by Lindsay McNamara, Communications Manager

"American White Pelican" by Manjith Kainickara - originally posted to Flickr as American White Pelican. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Commons -

“American White Pelican” by Manjith Kainickara – originally posted to Flickr as American White Pelican.

My alarm was set for 4:00 AM on December 20, a Sunday morning. I woke up excited and eager to start the day. My phone started going off with text messages from friends about our meeting location. As any birder will tell you, this scenario is far from uncommon we love our birds! and will likely wake up at any time on any day for a chance to add another species to our life list.


I woke up early to look for owls to tally in the Sandy Hook Christmas Bird Count (Highlands and Atlantic Highlands territories are included in the Sandy Hook count). Our team drove through Hartshorne Woods Park in Highlands, New Jersey, in search of the nocturnal raptors. I thought the highlight of my day would be hearing two great horned owls calling to each other as first light came over the woods. While this was exciting (and definitely worth getting up at 4:00 AM for), I was in for another treat.


By 7:00 AM, our team grew into a group of six “bird nerds.” We were surveying the Navesink River, counting waterfowl, herons, songbirds and gulls, when Monmouth County Audubon Society‘s Rob Fanning yelled “three white pelicans”and sure enough, the pelicans were flying around the Oceanic Bridge in Rumson! I missed them the first time, but luckily the birds came back around and we were all able to watch them fly and swim through the scope. We shouted, laughed, smiled and high fived each other. One of my favorite aspects about birding is how quickly wildlife brings people together. Suddenly, we were the dream team.


Three White Pelicans. Photo by Lisa Fanning

Three White Pelicans. Photo by Lisa Fanning

According to Cornell Lab of Ornithology, American white pelicans are one of the largest North American birds considerably larger than a bald eagle, but smaller than a California condor. They feed from the water’s surface, dipping their beaks into the water to catch fish, such as minnows, carp and suckers. White pelicans often upend, like a large dabbling duck, in this process. They do not plunge-dive the way Brown Pelicans do.


They are superb soarers (they are among the heaviest flying birds in the world) and often travel long distances in large flocks by soaring. Adult American White Pelicans are snowy white with black flight feathers visible only when the wings are spread.


Northern breeding populations migrate to southern California, the Gulf States, Mexico, and Central America. White pelican populations breeding in Texas and Mexico are resident populations.


White Pelicans in Flight. Photo by Lisa Fanning.

White Pelicans in Flight. Photo by Lisa Fanning

The pelicans, first spotted by Rob, were the first Sandy Hook Christmas Bird Count (CBC) record in the 39-year count history! We saw the “three amigos” again later in the day at Many Mind Creek in Atlantic Highlands flying towards Staten Island.


Incidentally, three white pelicans were reported on December 27 in Connecticut. Our team wonders if those are our buddies. Monmouth County Audubon Society’s Lisa Fanning also stated that there have been up to five in Maryland, but she believes a small population may winter there. There are a number of winter records in eBird, mostly of a handful of birds (one report of up to 21 on January 1, 2012) at Blackwater NWR in Maryland.


During the 39th Sandy Hook CBC, 101 species were tallied. Each year, from December 14 through January 5, tens of thousands of volunteers throughout the Americas collect data used by scientists to study the long-term health and status of bird populations across North America. CBC informs strategies to protect birds and their habitat, and helps identify environmental issues with implications for people too. Find a count near you on Audubon’s website.


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

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.



Piping Plovers Plunge to Record Low in NJ

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

By: Lindsay McNamara, Communications Coordinator

Photo Credit: Asbury Park Press/Nancy A. Smith

Photo Credit: Asbury Park Press/Nancy A. Smith

Pairs of piping plovers — small, critically endangered shorebirds that dart along the sand in search for food — dropped to a record low in New Jersey this year. Just 92 pairs nested in the Garden State, down from 108 last year, BUT the beach-nesting birds spawned a high number of fledged chicks — 1.36 per pair, the third-highest figure since 1986 and above what’s needed to grow and maintain their population in the long-run.

Last week, Asbury Park Press Reporter Todd B. Bates discussed the issue with Conserve Wildlife Foundation’s Beach Nesting Bird Project Manager Todd Pover.

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