Stewardship Blog

JCP&L Environmental Conservation Partnership Helps Boost American Kestrel Population

2014 Kestrel Banding at South Branch Wildlife Management AreaRepresentatives from Jersey Central Power & Light (JCP&L), New Jersey Audubon and the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife recently banded four American Kestrel chicks at a nest box located at the South Branch Wildlife Management Area in Hillsborough, New Jersey. This marks the second consecutive year the three organizations have partnered to help boost the population of this threatened species.

“American Kestrel populations are experiencing long-term declines in North America and in 2012 they were added to the list of threatened species in New Jersey,” said John Parke, Stewardship Project Director of New Jersey Audubon. “With the help of JCP&L and the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife, these nest boxes provide a critical part in the recovery of North America’s smallest falcon.” 

The American Kestrel population has declined primarily due to lack of suitable habitat and the scarcity of nesting sites. Last year, JCP&L worked with NJ Audubon and the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife to install the nest boxes where two chicks ultimately were born.  “We are hopeful that our efforts at the South Branch Wildlife Management Area will contribute to American Kestrels being removed from the threatened species list.” said Jim Fakult, JCP&L President. “Placing nest boxes and helping support the wildlife area are just a few of the ways JCP&L employees contribute to the communities we serve.” 2014 Kestrel Banding Jpg 5

The kestrel banding is part of an ongoing conservation program designed to study breeding patterns at the South Branch Wildlife Management Area. Created in 2006, the 422-acre location has been identified as a critical site for protecting nesting populations of threatened and endangered grassland birds. JCP&L helped restore the area by removing and recycling old electric wire, transformers and utility poles left by a former owner. 

As an active member of the New Jersey Audubon’s Corporate Stewardship Council (CSC), JCP&L continues to work together with its partners to help improve ecosystems in the communities it serves. New Jersey Audubon established the CSC with participation from corporate landowners who have expressed a commitment to environmental sustainability through their stewardship of the natural resources within and beyond their property boundaries. The CSC emphasizes voluntary stewardship and promotes conservation partnerships.

NJ Audubon CSC Member Johnson & Johnson Promotes Critical Wildlife Habitat and Water Quality Improvement on Skillman Campus

NJ Audubon and J&J statf planting naive trees at Skillman project site (PARKE)The Skillman property of Johnson & Johnson Consumer Products Company in Montgomery Township, Somerset County, New Jersey recently completed Phase I of a 10-year habitat restoration project focusing on migratory birds and water quality improvement. As an active member of New Jersey Audubon’s Corporate Stewardship Council (CSC), Johnson & Johnson enrolled into the US Fish and Wildlife Services’ Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program to implement the project. Paul Romberger, Johnson & Johnson Site Manager, explains “by implementing projects such as this, we fulfill our Credo commitment to respect the communities in which we live and work, as well as to preserve the environment.”

“The Skillman site offers a unique opportunity to create important wildlife habitat, be a model for corporate land management, and demonstrate the value of native plant landscaping,” said Brain Mash, USFWS Program Coordinator for Partners for Fish and Wildlife. “The Skillman property lies within a mostly rural part of the Millstone River watershed in an area important to migratory birds and other wildlife. A variety of restoration and habitat enhancement measures are being employed at the Skillman property to create attractive, low maintenance but high quality wildlife habitat.”

Over several hundred native trees and shrubs were planted by USFWS, NJ Audubon and Johnson & Johnson staff this past spring around site ponds and streams in an effort to enhance the riparian buffer for migratory bird species such as: American Woodcock, Common Yellowthroat, Willow Flycatcher, Brown Thrasher, Orioles and Eastern Kingbird. Additionally many bird nest boxes have be erected on the site for Eastern Bluebird, Tree Swallow and the State Threatened American Kegreat blue heron and tree swallows at J&J Skillman site (PARKE)strel as part of the habitat enhancement.

BUttonbush (PARKE)“Johnson & Johnson continues to show exceptional commitment for making New Jersey a better place for people and wildlife through its actions as a member of the CSC,” said John Parke, Stewardship Project Director of NJ Audubon. “This project in the Central Piedmont Plains of New Jersey has overarching conservation goals to not only improve habitat for birds but to help improve water quality and watershed health.”

Native trees and shrubs including buttonbush, arrowwood viburnum, pin oak, American sycamore, silky dogwood and elderberry were planted to create buffers around the open waters areas on the property that will help water quality by shading the water to regulate thermal pollution (e.g. warm water is less capable of holding dissolved oxygen) as well as making the areas less attractive to Canada geese, but more attractive to beneficial pollinators and song birds.

Habitat Enhancements Continue at Trump National

2014 Wild Flower and native grass seeding with USFWS seed drill at TrumpAs part of its participation in the New Jersey Audubon’s Corporate Stewardship Council (CSC), Trump National Golf Club has completed its second phase of habitat restoration at its Bedminster, NJ property with additional native grass seeding and riparian plantings to benefit migratory bird and pollinators.

In May and June 2014 an additional 320 native trees and shrubs were installed by Trump staff, US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and NJ Audubon as part of Trump’s enrollment into the USFWS Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program through the CSC. These plantings bring the total of native trees and shrubs installed through the program up to over 650 plants at the site.

“Native plants have certain characteristics that make them uniquely adapted to local conditions,” said John Parke, Stewardship Director of New Jersey Audubon. “They are not only atheistically beautiful and provide habitat, but they arenative milkweed at Trump habitat rea (PARKE) a practical and ecologically valuable alternative for landscaping. With the incorporation of more native plants at the Trump property, Trump National is helping to showcase a growing and positive trend across the nation that using native plants in landscaping is not just for residential properties, but for commercial businesses as well. Basically, using native plants can get great-looking landscapes that fit in naturally with the local area, while saving or improving natural resources.”

Because they are so well adapted to regional fluctuation in temperature and rainfall typically native plants use less water, are more drought tolerant and resistant to disease and pests so they are used to ‘taking care of themselves’. So additional irrigation, pesticide use or fertilization needs are less likely needed or a concern at all. As far as habitat value, native vegetation is one of the most important features of an animal's habitat because it often provides most, if not all of an animal's habitat needs (i.e. food, cover and raising young). The wildlife in-turn helps those plants to reproduce through the dispersal of the plants’ pollen or seeds. Therefore, plants and animals are interdependent and certain plants and animals are often found together because they have evolved together.

green heron at Trump bedminster at water hazard 2014 (PARKE)Through the installation of native plants at the Trump property, a variety of bird, amphibian and butterfly species have been documented to be actively utilizing the property as breeding grounds.

“Our partnership with the USFWS and NJ Audubon has been a tremendous success on many levels. They have consulted on transforming vast acres of our property with native plant species which has enhanced the beauty of the course and increased wildlife habitat. The process has been both fun and educational for staff and membership.” said David Schutzenhofer, General Manager of Trump National Golf Club.

New Jersey American Water Restores Critical Amphibian Breeding and Migratory Bird Habitat at its Canoe Brook Facility

female mallard (PARKE)With the success of New Jersey American Water’s Environmental Quality Award Winning Hunterdon County project under its belt, New Jersey American Water completed its second Corporate Stewardship Council (CSC) project at its Canoe Brook Facility in Millburn, Essex County, NJ with NJ Audubon (NJA) and US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) as its partners. Through the USFWS Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, New Jersey American Water is pursuing this project as part of their goal of environmental sustainability and responsible leadership through NJA’s Corporate Stewardship Council.

Home to resident Bald Eagles, owls and numerous other bird species the location of the Canoe Brook facility offers a unique opportunity to restore and enhance habitat on a site that is also a critical stopover area for migratory birds and yet is embedded in a suburban landscape. The site provides an oasis for wildlife either making the site their home or simply a resting location on their migratory journey.

The project encompasses a 30-acre wetland restoration to restore and/ or enhance breeding and foraging habitat for amphibians, and birds including dabbling ducks and wading birds, such as herons and egrets. Specifically NJ American Water with the help of the USFWS and NJ Audubon completed 2 years of large scale invasive non-native vegetation controls, creation of shallow water depressions (vernal pools), and planting of native grasses and several hundred native woody plants that are beneficial for wildlife, especially migratory birds. Additionally, nest boxes for Eastern Bluebird, Tree Swallow, Wood Duck, American Kestrel and Eastern Screech Owl have also wood frog egg masses in vernal poolbeen installed at the property.

“As opposed to the adjacent reservoir or river, the creation of these vernal pools are very important at the Canoe Brook site because the wet-dry cycle of these pools prevents fish from becoming established, allowing critical breeding and rearing habitat for amphibians (frogs, salamanders), crustaceans, and insects,” said John Parke, Stewardship Project Director of New Jersey Audubon. “In North America, approximately one-half of all frogs and one-third of all salamander species rely on seasonal or temporary wetlands for development. So these vernal pools provide a critical window of necessity for these species to function and fulfill their role in the ecosystem, which includes being part of the food web.”

Snowy Egret (PARKE)Secretive wading birds like herons, bitterns, and egrets are attracted to the pools as a foraging area feeding on amphibians and their larvae in the pools. Reptiles such as the eastern painted turtle, snapping turtle and the eastern garter snake also use vernal ponds, as feeding stations as they move from one area to another. Waterfowl such as the wood duck, black duck and mallard use vernal ponds extensively during migration, consuming insects, crustaceans, and seeds for energy during their long flights. Shorebirds, such as the spotted sandpiper, solitary sandpiper, Wilson’s snipe, and yellowlegs search out and feed on exposed mud flats that are created as water levels drop in the pools. Mammals, such as raccoons, opossum, and bats will use vernal ponds too as a water source and foraging areas as well as migratory avian insectivores such as swallows and fly catchers that are attracted to them to feast on the insects that fly over the water.

“Vernal pools also help protect watersheds,” said Gary A. Matthews, retired Environmental Manager of New Jersey American Water who spearheaded the project. “They capture and hold water, allowing time for it to seep into the surface and recharge groundwater supplies. This reduces the amount of water runoff and lessening erosion. Vernal pools also capture sediment, thereby protecting water quality in streams, rivers and our reservoirs. ”

NJ Audubon Stewardship Dept. Receives Funding for Habitat and Water Quality Enhancement in Delaware River Watershed

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation has also funded two exciting NJ Audubon Stewardship projects.  The first, Synergistic Conservation Strategies 100_4176in the Highlands, aims to achieve water quality enhancement by improving riverine and headwaters habitat.  Funded at $132,000, the project will focus on riparian restoration and implementation of agricultural and forest Best Management Practices.  The second project, Agricultural BMPs for K-C Cluster Focal Areas, aims to increase use of agricultural and forest Best Management Practices to protect water resources in the Kirkwood-Cohansey Aquifer system and associated waterways. Funded at $140,000, this project will reduce agricultural impacts to streams, wetlands, and groundwater resources.  Both projects are two-year initiatives.

The NFWF funding will be used in conjunction with funding received earlier in the year from the William Penn Foundation for work to improve, enhance and restore land, especially along water bodies, that provides both habitat and natural resource protection opportunities. These areas of the Delaware River watershed not only are important for drinking water and fish species, but are habitat for numerous wildlife species that are dependent on high water quality for their survival.

Blackducks (PARKE)Healthy landscapes with working farms and forests in the Delaware River watershed produce abundant food and fiber and support vibrant rural economies. They also provide clean water, clean air, and valuable wildlife habitat that benefit their own communities and urban neighbors,” said Jason Weller, Chief of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. 

If you are a farmer or rural landowner in the Lower Musconetcong River, Upper Paulin’s Kill River and Lopatcong River Sub-Watersheds in the Highlands region contact John Parke at john.parke@njaudubon.org for more information about the project and to see if you are eligible to receive funds or technical assistance.  For farmers and rural landowners in the Kirkwood-Cohansey Aquifer region of southern  NJ please contact Jean Lynch at jean.lynch@njaudubon.org .

Photos by John Parke

Uncommon Oak Defoliator in Warren County

While doing some work in front of my barn I noticed small caterpillars falling onto my project from an overhead chestnut oak. I didn’t recognize what type of insect they were, but since they didn’t appear to be causing too much damage to the tree, I went back to my work and forgot about them. Then later that same day, I headed back into my woodlot to check on something and noticed that quite a few of my white and chestnut oaks were almost completely defoliated.

 My first thought was gypsy moth, but I also noted that the red and black oaks appeared untouched, which didn’t seem to make sense. I looked around for a while and could find no evidence of gypsy moth. After returning to the house, I gathered a few of the caterpillars and started looking for them in reference materials – then on the internet. It turns out that the caterpillars damaging my white oaks are a relatively little known species native to the eastern half of the country from Ontario to Georgia, called the Black–dotted Brown Moth Cissusa spadix. This particular caterpillar is relatively unknown because it is almost never considered a pest. However, according to articles on the internet, there has been an unexplained population explosion of the insect in several southern states, which occurred last month. Given the seasonal difference between here and Georgia, an outbreak occurring in New Jersey a month later makes sense. It might be good for landowners to be aware that oak defoliations this year may be caused by something else in addition to Gypsy Moth. 

Community Cleanup Helps Wildlife and Brings Attention to a Camden Jewel

As part of their participation in New Jersey Audubon's Corporate Stewardship Council (CSC), Covanta Energy (Covanta), partnered with the Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority (CCMUA) to perform a community cleanup at the mainland section of the Petty’s Island Preserve. This area, currently owned by the CCMUA, will ultimately be turned over to the New Jersey Natural Lands Trust, which was granted a conservation easement for the Petty’s Island Property, to be Bald Eagle along Delaware River (John Parke)part of Petty’s Island Preserve. A true habitat jewel in a highly developed urban area, the preserve property (both mainland and the island) provides an oasis for breeding, foraging and resting habitat for an amazing array of wildlife. In addition to a pair of Bald Eagles that nest there, the mix of wooded wetlands and tidal mudflats provides critical habitat for songbirds, waterfowl and raptors that migrate along the river corridor during the spring and fall. The area is also home to Boy scouts and CCMUA workers helping with cleanup (Victor Camporine)turtles, snakes, frogs, deer, beaver, fox and many other species of wildlife.

With the help of Pennsauken Boy Scout Troup 118, NJ Audubon staff, neighborhood residents, CCMUA staff and Covanta staff, garbage and large debris were collected along the Farragut Avenue section of the CCMUA property between 36th and 32nd streets. Covanta provided two 30-yard roll-off containers and by the end of the cleanup these containers were filled to the rim with garbage and debris. The material was then taken to the Covanta Camden Energy Recovery Center, a waste to energy facility that has been serving Camden County since 1991. The facility runs three boilers and process approximately 1,050 tons of solid waste each day, producing a net output of 21 megawatts. Covanta acquired the Camden facility in August 2013 from Foster Wheeler, which was the designer, builder, owner and operator of the facility.

“As a vocal advocate for environmental conservation and sustainability, and an active member of the Camden community, Covanta is proud to partner with such esteemed, like-minded organizations as New Jersey Audubon, CCMUA and the Boy Scouts of America,” said Covanta Environmental Compliance Specialist Victor Camporine. “We are proud of our community and pleased that our combined commitment is making a difference.”

Scouts and NJ Audubon helping with Cleaup at Camden Site (John Parke)In addition to the mainland cleanup, the Partners for Petty’s Island, consisting of staff from NJ Audubon, Delaware River Keeper, Cooper River Watershed Association, US Fish and Wildlife Service, CITGO, CCMUA and Natural Lands Trust, coordinated the on-island Petty’s Island cleanup the same day. More than 30 participants turned out to help, collecting over 30 yards of garbage, debris and tires!

“Although at times it may seem that cleaning these areas only removes a tiny fraction of what is there, community cleanups like these are very important,” said John Parke, Project Stewardship Director for NJ Audubon. “As garbage degrades it releases chemicals into the environment. Those chemicals can take many years to break down and can impact our natural resources. Secondly, garbage in general is very harmful to wildlife. From becoming trapped or entangled in discarded materials to consuming objects perceived as food, garbage possesses both direct and indirect threat to wildlife and their environment. Animals that consume garbage are often malnourished simply because they're not eating the diet nature intends for them to eat,” added Parke. “Having clean open space builds community pride and we certainly hope that these cleanups here at the preserve inspired others in Camden and Pennsauken including the municipal government, schoolchildren, youth groups, neighborhood associations, local environmental groups, and individuals to come out, get involved and make this area a better place for people and wildlife.”

Enhancing Habitat Through Prescribed Fire


CRE RxB (1)As New Jersey Audubon’s Optics Sale settled down on Saturday, March 15th, the New Jersey Forest Fire Service (NJFFS) geared up to give the Center for Research and Education (CRE) a little tender loving care. With favorable weather conditions and winds in the right direction, the NJFFS set a controlled fire, or prescribed burn, to the meadow behind the CRE building. As an effective and efficient management tool, a prescribed burn will provide several benefits to this small 1-acre field. Not only will this help maintain the area as an open habitat, it will also help reduce the risk of future wildfires, prevent the spread of plant disease and pests, recycle nutrients back into the soil, and promote plant CRE RxB (3)growth.

One of the biggest benefit prescribed fire can have to an ecosystem is its ability to set back natural succession and recycle nutrients back into the soil. This small oasis provides valuable resources to many plant and animal species that thrive in open habitats, including butterflies, birds, reptiles, and wildflowers. As the years pass, woody vegetation begins to creep in, altering the structure of the habitat. With a prescribed burn, we can help maintain the meadow and allow it to continue to provide resources to those unique species. This young forest habitat is currently very limited in New Jersey as the forests throughout the state are mostly middle-aged. Young forest habitat is essential for many rare and declining species and provides resources for species that might typically be found in more mature forests. The open conditions will also allow stewardship staff to get ahead of any pesky invasive plants that take advantage of the newly available resources created by the fire. As plants begin to emerge from the ground, the stewardship team will be hard at work, removing any non-native, invasive plants before they get a chance to establish themselves.

CRE RxBThe use of prescribed burning can also help reduce the amount of fuel (e.g. grasses, shrubs, and woody debris) that accumulates in a wild area, preventing the outbreak of larger, more destructive wildfire in the hot summer months. In order to perform a safe and controlled burn, the fire crew wet the edge of the field and set the grasses ablaze in such a way that it would essentially keep itself in check. By creating a barrier around the field and setting the outer edge of the meadow on fire, the flames would begin to move towards the field interior. Once the flames met in the middle, there was nothing left to fuel the fire, so the flames ceased. BecCRE RxB (2)ause the fuel was rapidly used up in this fire, the meadow will be safer and healthier come summer. 

As March comes to a close, many different plants will rise from the ashes with vigor and strength due to the increased sunlight and resources reaching to soil. The grasses and flowers will arrive just in time for spring and by summer’s end, the meadow will be lush and full of life. The staff at the CRE hopes to keep track of the progress the meadow makes with regular photos and we encourage anyone stopping by to explore, observe the birds and butterflies and even submit your bird sightings to eBird (http://ebird.org/content/nj/)!

NJ Audubon Receives Land Ethics Awards

On February 20, 2014 the New Jersey Audubon Stewardship Department received the Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve’s Land Ethics Award, P3120001as well as the first ever, Lifetime Achievement Award. New Jersey Audubon’s Stewardship Department was DSC_0302recognized for the restoration and stewardship of habitat throughout New Jersey. The Land Ethics Award recognizes individuals, organizations, government agencies, community groups and business professionals who have made significant contributions to the promotion of native plants and have exhibited a strong land ethic while promoting sustainable designs that protect the environment. NJ Audubon Stewardship Project Director of GIS, and resident herptile expert, Gylla MacGregor as well as NJ Audubon’s Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations Linda Haan accepted the award at Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve’s Annual Land Ethics Symposium in Langhorne, PA.

One of many things we admire about the Stewardship Department is the synergy developed by its link with other organizations, especially large corporations that have the assets to make things happen.” said the 2014 Land Ethics Award Jury Committee.  “Their link to the NJ Audubon’s Corporate Stewardship Council (CSC), an organization of 18 NJ companies promoting a common goal of environmental sustainability and responsibility, has been incredibly productive and resulted in major habitat restoration projects throughout the state. The effects of their work is far reaching and long lasting,” the Committee added.

New Jersey Audubon would like to express sincere gratitude and appreciation to Bowman’s Hill and the Land Ethics Award Jury for these awards. Recognition by the Bowman’s Hill Preserve is an honor especially given Bowman’s Hill’s leadership, and excellence in the conservation, promotion, and education of the use of native plants to provide the keystone elements for ecosystem restoration.

wild meadow wild bergamot and goldenrodUsing native plants to restore the landscape, or as a substitute for exotic ornamental plantings can help to reverse the trend of species loss. Because native plants are adapted to a local region, they tend to resist damage from freezing, drought, and common diseases, if planted in that same local area. Plating native vegetation also help to increase the local population of native plant species, helps diversify species genetics, and also provides numerous benefits such as specific associations of mycorrhizae with plants, invertebrates with woody debris, pollinators with flowers, and birds with structural and forage habitat that can only be rebuilt by planting native plants.

To learn more about the Land Ethics Award and other recipients visit - http://www.bhwp.org/education/Land-Ethics-Award.htm

NJA Helps with Creation of the Stahl Natural Area Friends Group and Call for Volunteers to Help Bedminster’s Herpetofauna

In anticipation of the habitat restoration work to be performed this year at the Stahl Natural Area section of River Road Park, New Jersey Audubon and the Township of Bedminster is pleased to announce the formation of the Friends of the Stahl Natural Area.  This Friends Group will provide support to the Township in order to implement projects based on input from Township officials and experts including, New Jersey Audubon, the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife and Montclair State University.

What is the Stahl Natural Area Friends Group?stahl poster

The Stahl Natural Area Friends Group will support, assist, and promote the mission or activities of the Stahl Natural Area section of River Road Park.  We are looking for motivated people, business and local organizations that understand, or want to understand, the value and benefits of the Stahl Natural Area as open space and the ecosystems therein  and share the common goal of improving and enhancing the value of the Stahl Area for both the public and wildlife. This group is not a government advisory group, but will be an important source of support and public comments.

What will The Stahl Natural Area Friends Group do?

The Stahl Natural Area Friends Group will be a constituency to promote the park to visitors through publications and special events.  It can lending expertise and knowledge to educational and interpretive programs and in some cases, the Stahl Natural Area Friends Group can provide volunteers to help improve, maintain and enhance the park experience for visitors and the species that live there.

Friends First Meeting and a Call for Volunteers to Help with Herpetofauna Road Crossing Survey – Saturday, March 15, 2014 @ 10 am- 12 PM   at Bedminster Town Hall located at 1 Miller Lane, Bedminster Township, NJ 07921

wood frog (PARKE  )The first order of business for the Friends Group is to solicit volunteers to assist with a herpetofauna Wood turtle April 2013(Parke)road crossing survey at the Stahl Natural Area.  What are herpetofauna? Herpetofauna is reptiles and amphibians, and the Stahl Natural Area has a lot of them!

As part of the habitat restoration work mandated by NJDEP at River Road park, Bedminster Township will be installing four amphibian and reptile tunnels along River Road to assist with herpetofauna migration to and from breeding areas at the Stahl Area.  In conjunction with Montclair State University, the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife (NJDFW)  and New Jersey Audubon, the Friends Group is seeking volunteers to assist in the collection of data (i.e. identify and count species) as part of a pre-construction survey to estimate herpetofauna populations during spring and early summer migration (March 2014 to June 30, 2014).

As part of the March 15, 2014 training day, a presentation about the project will be given by NJDFW and Montclair University, survey protocols will be explained and herpetofauna identification will be provided.  No survey or species identification experience is needed. You do not need to be a resident of Bedminster –but you should live close by.  Please note that survey work will involve the handling of animals, may involve adverse weather conditions, walking on uneven terrain and through brush, and some work will involve crossing River Road which does have active traffic.  Therefore, we are looking volunteers 18 or older OR high school students/scout groups under the supervision of a parent or guardian or teacher/scout master.

You must pre-register for this training BEFORE March 13 by emailing or calling John Parke of New Jersey Audubon at john.parke@njaudubon.org  or 908-813-8325

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