Stewardship Blog

NJ Audubon, More than just Birds – Fish, Invertebrates and Water Quality Benefit from Partner Restoration Project in Musconetcong River

Through a partnership between Trout Unlimited (TU) and New Jersey Audubon (NJA) a restoration project on 4,807 linear Urbani excavatingpool in Muskyfeet of the Musconetcong River in Warren County, NJ was implemented in July 2015. Funding for this restoration was obtained by NJA through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) from the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service and private donations obtained by TU.

The project involved enhancement and stabilization of the river channel with the intention of creating or enhancing existing fish habitat as well as improved water quality. The design included excavating and/or deepening several pools, to provide fish with optimal feeding, holding and spawning habitat. Between several pools, the ‘thalweg’ was enhanced by reorganizing the stream-bed material into pocket pools associated with small point bares; that will concentrate the flow during low water periods, producing improved invertebrate habitat and reduced water temperatures. (NOTE: In hydrological and fluvial landforms, the ‘thalweg’ is a line electroschock survey at Muskydrawn to join the lowest points along the entire length of a stream bed or valley in its downward slope, defining its deepest channel. The thalweg thus marks the natural direction (the profile) of a watercourse.)

A few weeks after restoration was complete, staff from the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife,sorting fish from surveyat Musky along with staff from Urbani Fisheries, LLC (the firm used to design and perform the in-stream work) and NJ Audubon, performed electroshock surveying of the restored area to determine fish species diversity and abundance. Electroshock surveying is a common scientific survey method that uses electricity to temporarily stun fish before they are caught. The stunned fish are netted and transferred to live-wells and results in no permanent harm to fish, which return to their natural state after being stunned in as little as two minutes. They are then removed from the live-well, identified, counted, checked for general health, measured by the biologists and returned to the river.

trout caught in surevy at MuskyResults of the survey determined the presence of the following species in the restoration area: wild Brook Trout, Brown Trout, Madtom, White Sucker, American Eels, Rock Bass, Redbreasted Sunfish, Smallmouth Bass, Cutlip Minnow, Blacknose Dace, Longnose Dace, Chubs, Shiners and Darters.

“NJA is especially happy to have been a partner on this project with Trout Unlimited, NRCS and NJDFW,” said John Parke, Project Stewardship Director of NJA. “The expertise of NRCS and NJDFW biologists and Urbani Fisheries were critical in accomplishing this project,” Parke added. “Not only did the project enhance habitat for fish and other aquatic species significantly, but work like this also has an enormous impact on improving water quality for all who live in the Musconetcong Watershed.”

Photos by John Cecil and John Parke

CSC Member Covanta Partners with NJ Audubon to Restore Bird Nesting Habitats on Rooftops

As part of their involvement as a NJ Audubon Corporate Stewardship Council (CSC) member, Covanta partnered with New Jersey Audubon to restore nesting habitats for Chimney Swifts and Common Nighthawks. NJA and Covanta are working to install substitute habitats for these birds on the roofs oCovata staff raking out gravel gravel nest patch for Nighthawks at Covanta Essex County facility (PARKE)f Covanta Energy-from-Waste facilities throughout the state.

The first phase of the project involved installing nests for the Common Nighthawk at Covanta Essex in Newark, NJ and Covanta Warren in Oxford, NJ. The nests consist of natural-colored pea stone gravel and are placed in the southern area of the roofs.

With the assistance of Boy Scout Troop 175 of Port Murray and other community organizations, the second phase of the project will see the construction and installation on Covanta’s rooftops of artificial chimney structures made of wood. The structures will resemble chimneys and will make suitable nesting habitats for the Chimney Swift.

“This is Covanta’s third conservation project in the state since becoming a CSC member. NJ Audubon commends Covanta for their enthusiasm and commitment to this important restoration project that will help provide critical nesting habitat for two species of special concern,” said John Parke, New Jersey Audubon Project Stewardship Director - North Region. “The concept of creating breeding areas on roof-tops for wildlife is important for the survival of species such as these, especially in New Jersey where so much land has been developed.”

Both Chimney Swifts and Common Nighthawks face a consistent, long-term decline in population numbers due to habitat loss.nighthawk guarding a nest field in wild(PARKE)

Common Nighthawk populations have declined by 2 percent per year between 1966 and 2010, amounting to a cumulative decline of 59 percent according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS). Across North America, Common Nighthawk threats include a reduction in mosquitoes and other aerial insects due to pesticides, and habitat loss of flat gravel rooftops in urban areas and open woods in rural locations. Chimney Swifts

Chimney Swifts reside in chimney structures but face a decrease in population due to traditional brick chimneys now deteriorating and modern chimneys typically unsuitable for nest sites. Historically Chimney Swifts nested in older hollowed out trees, many of which have been lost to development, disturbance or forest succession. Similar to Nighthawks, the BBS states Chimney Swifts’ populations have declined about 2.2 percent per year since 1966. This is a decrease in 35 of 43 states and provinces Chimney Swifts migrate to and through.

According to the New Jersey State Wildlife Action Plan, both species have been identified as a “species of conservation concern” with regional priority conservation status throughout New Jersey. New Jersey’s goal is to stabilize or increase populations throughout the state. The placement of nesting patches and the construction of the chimney swift towers can help address this goal as well as provide a secondary benefit by educating landowners on the importance of providing alternative nesting structures not only to Chimney Swifts, but other species that utilize man-made structures for nesting/roosts such as bats and the Common Nighthawk.

“Covanta is proud to partner with New Jersey Audubon on this critical project. By utilizing ‘wasted space’ on our rooftops we can provide nesting habitats that will increase the chances of survival for these birds,” said Kenneth E. Armellino, Director, Environmental Science and Community Affairs. “We look forward to the results of this project and hope it can be a model to be used across the region and the state.” To see a video on the project see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=syw35CjTY7I&feature=youtu.be

Installation of the artificial chimneys for the Chimney Swifts is scheduled for Fall 2015. For updates on the project, please visit Covanta.com or njaudubon.org.

Covanta Nest installation and Common Nighthawk photos by John Parke

First Confirmed Hatching of Wild Bobwhite Quail in Pinelands in over 3 Decades


NJ Bobwhite Quail Restoration Initiative update - We are very excited to share a picture of the hatched bobwhite quail equail in grass (Parke)ggs, 13 of 14 eggs at one of the 6 active nests hatched at the Pine Island Cranberry study site, the first wild hatched quail in the NJ Pinelands in nearly 3 decades!  A total of 8 nests have been found on site, however 2 failed due to predation.  NJ Audubon project researcher, Kaili Stevens, a graduate student from the University of Delaware, who have been monitoring survival and movement of the released wild quail through radio-telemetry discovered the hatched eggs on June 22nd.  Chicks were confirmed hiding in the vegetation near the nest!!  Stay tuned for more updates on this exciting project to restore a much beloved species to the Pinelands though translocation and active forest management and stewardship!

To find out how you can help support this project to bring back this iconic species of NJ’s natural heritage please see bobwhite.njaudubon.org

Old Farm Sanctuary

New Jersey Audubon’s Old Farm Sanctuary is a 151-acre wildlife sanctuary located in Independence Township, NJ.  The site is comprised of forested hillsides containing a mix of oak, red cedar and Norway spruce changing to sugar maple and red maple in the wet areas.  The property is home to a number of unique wildlife species including Cooper’s Hawk, Barred Owl, Red-shouldered Hawk, box turtle, coyote, fox, Jefferson salamander, and Fowler’s toad to name a few. A relatively new resident is a beaver whose hard efforts to slow down Bacon Run Creek, have resulted in a transition of our moderately wet meadow into a mixed wet meadow/pond such that a former trail will be re-routed later this year.  NJA has a forest stewardship plan for the site and is actively managing the forest along with the non-native invasive plants.  Thanks to a local Eagle Scout we have a new kiosk and park benches along the trail. Please visit Charlie Fineran’s Flickr site, https://www.flickr.com/photos/charliefineran/sets/72157626104947130 for more about this dynamic and beautiful site.  If you wish to visit the property a trail map and directions may be found following this link SectionConservation/NJAUnstaffedWildlifeSanctuaries/OldFarmSanctuary.aspx 

Northern Bobwhite Restoration Initiative Confirms Nesting Quail In New Jersey Pinelands: First known nesting since the 1980’s!

1st quail nest at study site NJ (Will MASCALUSO)Chatsworth, NJ - Two wild quail nests have been found at the study site where two months earlier wild Northern Bobwhite quail from Georgia were released into the Pinelands as part of Northern Bobwhite Restoration Initiative. This restoration initiative led by NJ Audubon is seeking to re-establish Northern Bobwhite to the Pinelands and also to demonstrate that stewardship of Pinelands forests is essential to their health and support of native wildlife. “We are thrilled about this news of confirmed nests”, said John Parke, Stewardship Project Director of NJ Audubon. “Wild quail had been extirpated from Pinelands since at least the late 1980’s, so knowing that the translocated quail are adapting to the site and are breeding demonstrates that forest stewardship, coupled with translocation, can help restore quail to the NJ Pinelands.”

Northern bobwhite quail have experienced a long-term, 100-year decline throughout most of their range; New Jersey's declines have been among the most precipitous. As part of a project to restore Northern Bobwhite to the Pinelands of NJ, bobwhite by dr christopher williams (courtesy of Univer of Delaware)on April 1, 2015 New Jersey Audubon along with project collaborators, Tall Timbers Research Station & Land Conservancy, and project partners the Pine Island Cranberry Company, Pine Creek Forestry, the University of Delaware, and the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife (NJDFW), released wild Northern Bobwhite at the Pine Island Cranberry site. The birds had been caught in the wild in Georgia, tested disease free, then translocated to the Pine Island property located in Chatsworth, NJ. The birds, each fitted with a radio collar transmitter are being tracked to determine movements, predation, site fidelity and nesting.

"The efficacy of translocation toward population recovery is contingent on successful reproduction. Finding these first nests is exciting as this confirms that those individuals released are indeed reproducing giving us great hope going forward" said project collaborator Dr. Theron Terhune of Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy.

Project researcher and graduate student Will Macaluso of the University of Delaware found the nests tucked away in tall grass while radio tracking the released birds at the study site. “There are fourteen eggs in the first nest and one of the radio collared males was incubating them when I found it.” said Macaluso. “We have not been able to confirm the number of eggs in the second nest, as one of the females is on the nest incubating them.”

Typically Northern Bobwhite incubate their eggs for 23 days, leaving the nest for only brief times to feed. After the eggs hatch, the female, or hen, broods the young briefly and then leads them away from the nest for rearing. Hens do not feed the young. Instead the hen will lead the chicks to places where they can find insects (not seeds) which will form the bulk of their diet as they grow. Often both parents accompany the young.

Prior to the translocation of the birds to the study site, New Jersey Audubon in 2014 had conducted a study to determine the abundance and diversity of insects, specifically arthropods, within several forest patches targeted for the reintroduction of Northern Bobwhite. Arthropods, a diverse group of invertebrates that includes insects, spiders and centipedes, are an important source of essential amino acids and protein for growth, feather development, and maintenance in the quail chicks.

The results of the study indicated that overall arthropod abundance appeared to peak site-wide in early July. Further, patches where the forest was thinned and had experienced prescribed burning exhibited greater diversity and abundance of arthropods as compared to areas of forest where no management had been performed.

habitat at one of the release areas at the NJ Pinelands site(parke)“We know that the quantity and quality of habitat directly affects annual quail survival rates, making habitat the ultimate determinant of bobwhite population status,” said NJDFW Director Dave Chanda. “The Division’s goal” he continued, “is to restore and enhance early successional habitat to provide sufficient habitat to sustain a quail covey for their entire life cycle throughout the year. With the habitat in place, the restoration project has a much better chance of succeeding. This news about reproduction in the Pinelands is certainly key.”

“We’re also thrilled with this latest news and are extremely grateful for the continuing hard work of everyone involved with this project,” said Stefanie Haines of Pine Island Cranberry Company. “If the quail are nesting, this means we’re taking care of the land exactly the way we’re supposed to!”

 To find out how to make a donation to the Quail project go to bobwhite.njaudubon.org.   

Photos by Will Macaluso, Chris Williams, Ph.D, and John Parke

Restoring Habitat and Re-Establishing Northern Bobwhite in the Pinelands of New Jersey -UPDATE

It was no joke that on April 1st 80 Northern Bobwhite quail were released in the New Jersey Pinelands on the Pine Island Cranberry Quail Release at Pine Island (PARKE)Company’s property.  Spread across seven treatment areas we welcomed the Northern Bobwhite back to the New Jersey Pine Barrens as we released the birds in sets of ten throughout areas of forest and grassland. Two groups of ten were released at one location given the availability of optimal habitat. 

The quail were captured in the wild in Georgia and traveled nearly 1,000 miles north to arrive at the release site.  Joining us for the release were project partners including Pine Island Cranberry, project collaborators Tall Timbers Research Station, the University of Delaware, Pine Creek Forestry and the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife.

New Jersey Audubon has contracted the University of Delaware to provide research and monitoring support in the kaili at Pine islandform of two graduate students. Will Macaluso is working on the project in pursuit of his Ph.D and Kaili Stevens was brought onto the project as she works towards her Master’s Degree.

Since the release Will and Kaili along with their major Professor Chris Williams, Ph.D. have been on site almost daily tracking the quail. Each quail was outfitted with a radio transmitter fitted around their neck. The birds arrived in NJ with the transmitters attached, each broadcasting a unique radio frequency. Using a radio receiver and antenna each bird can be located and through the signal their location and status (alive or dead) can be determined. Tracking began immediately following the release and revealed the birds were sticking together in coveys and they remained within the general area of where they were released.

In the days and weeks following the release we did lose birds. Most of the mortality occurred within the first 20 days and has largely been attributed to avian predators. We believe one bird was taken by a weasel and a few birds had their collars come off. We also found that several birds appear to have died from stress. This was expected and the mortality that we have experienced overall is within the anticipated range that has been observed in other successful projects. The surviving number of birds is holding at 53 (25 males, 28 females). No mortality has been experienced since April 29th.

With the weather warming up and the vegetation cover filling in, we are now seeing birds shuffle around, individuals have been found to move between groups and a few birds appear to have paired up. Male birds have even been heard calling. We are anxiously awaiting evidence of nesting!

 To find out how to make a donation to the Quail project go to bobwhite.njaudubon.org.  

 Photos by John Parke

Please Support the NJ Audubon Stewardship Department Fight'n Femelschlagers

With only a few days to go till the big day on May 9, 2015 we are reaching out to you wondering if you would consider making a small pledge/donation to fund our Department’s work by supporting our NJ Audubon Stewardship Department’s 2015 World Series of Birding team.  You can make your donation/pledge on line at:   


stewardship deptThe World Series of Birding is an important fundraiser for the NJ Audubon Stewardship Department, raising funds vital to support our Department’s conservation work on behalf of declining wildlife species and habitat in NJ.  Please note that your pledge/donation to our team goes directly to funding our Department’s work here at NJ Audubon, specifically for habitat restoration in NJ such as: the quail reintroduction project in the Pinelands, sustainable forestry projects through the state, native grassland restoration projects, bog turtle projects, vegetation management projects for early successional species, invasive species control projects, the S.A.V.E.™ program and working with NJ farmers to create and restore habitat that also benefits the agricultural community.  On behalf of the New Jersey Audubon Stewardship Department, we thank you for the chance to present this opportunity for your consideration and please know that every little bit helps!!logos

Thank you so much for supporting our work!!


Yours in Conservation,

The NJ Audubon Stewardship Department Fight'n Femelschlagers

P.S.    So what is a Femelschlager?  “Femelschlag”, is a German term for a forest management practice that is designed to emulate natural disturbance patterns and encourage tree species diversity in multiple-age classes, thereby enhancing ecosystem services and complexity.  (A lot of our sustainable forestry work for various rare species involves this management practice here in NJ)

NJ Audubon Initiates Large Scale Riparian Restorations in Highlands Region

Great Blue Heron on Musconetcong(PARKE)The Highlands region of New Jersey provides drinking water for 5.4 million New Jersey residents, and while many forests and freshwater systems in this watershed are in relatively good condition, substantial water quality impairments associated with non-point source pollution--such as increased nutrients, fecal coliform, and elevated water temperatures, do exist and could worsen over time.

Additionally not only are sub-watershed focal regions of the Highlands extremely important for drinkingLong-tal Sal Johnsonburg (PARKE) (2) water and fish species (including trout and diadromous fish), but they are habitat for numerous wildlife species including state listed species such as long-tail salamander, wood turtle, several dragonfly and freshwater mussel species that are dependent on high water quality for their survival. 

Beginning this past April, through a grant from the William Penn Foundation and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), NJ Audubon kicked off a series of large scale riparian restoration efforts associated with native vegetative plantings in two sub-watersheds of the Highlands, specifically the Lower Musconetcong and Lopatcong watersheds.

018Providing native plant materials at no cost to eligible landowners in the sub-watershed, the focus of the native plantings is to stabilize the stream banks, prevent soil erosion into the stream, provide shade to the water to address thermo pollution and increase stream ecosystem and processing capacity for habitat for wildlife. This was done using live-willow stakes and/or plantings of large caliber streamside shade vegetation buffers (ball/burlap native trees between 9-14 feet tall). All willow stakes were obtain from Ernst Conservation Seed and all native trees were obtained from Diaz Nursery, which is a local nursery in the region.

Additionally the project addresses nutrient removal via implementation of alternative technologies that are being used elsewhere in the U.S., specifically, phytoremediation. At some sites, vegetation cover using plants such as green bulrush, cattail and warm-season grasses were provide free of charge by NJ Audubon and were installed as part of phytoremediation measures. These particular plant species exhibit phosphorus removal on the order of 80%.

Although NJ Audubon was able to provide all plant materials to eligible landowners in the watershed for no cost to the landowner, landowners receiving the trees had to be able to plant all large caliber trees at their own expense.

Other plantings, such as live willow stakes installation and phytoremediation work, planting labor was provided free of charge by NJ Audubon staff, along withwillow stake planting at Hawk Pointe(Neff) volunteer help from other organizations such as Musconetcong Watershed Association, North Jersey Resource Conservation & Development and the NJ Youth Corps of Phillipsburg.

Over 2,500 willows stakes were planted in the region to address over 5,700 linear feet (1.07 miles) of Category One trout production water along the Musconetcong River and over 280 large native trees have been planted throughout the region along the banks of the main rivers corridors and their tributaries. Coming this May, over 30 acres of native warm season grass will be established by a local farmer at Merrill Creek Reservoir as part of NJ Audubon’s regional restoration efforts to help improve water quality and critical habitat in the Highlands.

NJ Audubon is looking to engage more landowners for enrollment into the various federal conservation cost share programs for forestry/agricultural Best Management Practices, as well as distribute more free native plant materials. However to be eligible to receive free pant materials properties must be located in the following sub-watersheds of the Highlands region (the Lower Musconetcong, Lopatcong and the Upper Paulins kill sub-watersheds) and must exhibit a degree of ecological impairment. For more information please contact NJA Stewardship Project Director, John Parke at john.parke@njaudubon.org

Photos by John Parke & Chris Neff

Ethos Farm Partners with N.J. Audubon and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to Restore Native Species and Make Humans and the Landscape Healthier

fritillary on bonesetStarting on Earth Day, Ethos Farm, believed to be the first farm in the nation which is home to a primary care medical practice will embark on a large-scale habitat restoration program. Forty acres of the 275-year-old preserved working farm are to be restored using native plants that will provide critical habitat for birds, pollinators and other native wildlife.

Farm owner and board certified internist, Dr. Ron Weiss, is the founder of Ethos Health which joins sustainable agriculture practices and natural resource conservation to his primary care practice to create a healthcare environment optimized to reverse and prevent illness. The practice offers farm-based mindful living health programs and focuses on utilizing plant-based whole foods which according to Weiss, are the most powerful disease-modifying tools available to the medical practitioner.

Ethos Health’s patients and the farm’s Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) members will take part in the restoration efforts, that are supported jointly by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, New Jersey Audubon and the US Department of Agriculture. The restoration work underscores Dr. Weiss’ core belief that it is crucial to know where your food comes from, linking the food to the land. “This link creates better educational opportunities for the public to recognize how conservation efforts play into protecting the natural resources (like soil, water, wildlife) on a regional scale, as well as food systems and their impact on our heath and even the taste of our food,” said Weiss.

highbush blueberry flowers“What many people overlook or take for granted when they buy food, cook food, or even pick food from either their gardens in their own yard or in nature is what goes into having the plant produce,” said John Parke, Stewardship Project Director of NJ Audubon. “Food doesn't just show up, it is grown, thus you need good soil, you need clean water, you need places for it to grow, you need pollinators, you need soil microbes, you need wildlife, you need to keep invasive non-native vegetation in check,” added Parke. “But unless you perform conservation on the land and practice natural resource protection and steward these habitats, these essential building blocks of our food system break down and have a direct impact on food availability, as well as keeping ecological balance in the landscape. Sustainable management of natural resources is essential to make food systems sustainable and that’s what Dr. Weiss and Ethos Health are doing and NJ Audubon commends Ethos Heath for the efforts and commitment to the project!”

Ethos Health initiated the project in 2013 with the removal of acres of non-native invasive vegetationHighbush blueberry species such as multiflora rose, autumn olive and Japanese honeysuckle. Now these areas will be planted with native species such as elderberry, high-bush blueberry, willows, dogwoods, oaks, and others that will provide numerous ecological benefits to the landscape. “Restoring important natural ecosystems on the 342 acre farm’s forests, wetlands, former pastures and production fields, has a profound effect on our landscapes, our health, our wildlife and the communities where we live,” added Weiss. “And how we care for our landscape through conservation is the key to a meaningful, healthy, and enjoyable existence.”

The project is being partially funded through several federal agencies, specifically the USFWS Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, the USDA’s Environmental Quality Incentive Program and the USDA’ State Acres for Wildlife Program. New Jersey Audubon is providing technical assistance for the project, as well as their no-till seeding drill and some labor.

photos by John Parke

Wild Bobwhite Quail Return to the Pinelands

Pine island release -in this covey is the 4000 quail translocated by Tall Timbers(photo by John Parke)On April 1, 2015, beginning just after sunrise, we began releasing the first of 80 wild Northern Bobwhite quail into New Jersey’s Pinelands. Led by New Jersey Audubon and in partnership with the Pine Island Cranberry Company and the Haines Family, project co-collaborators Tall Timbers Research Station, the University of Delaware, Pine Creek Forestry, and the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife, we have truly begun the process of re-establishing Northern Bobwhite to the state!

The quail, all bearing radio collars, will be tracked by graduate students from the University of Delaware. With the first goal of just survival we ultimately will be looking for these birds to nest and successfully fledge young

In the coming days and weeks we will be sharing more photos and videos. For now the New Jersey Audubon Stewardship Department would like to share photos with you of this historic day in NJ Wildlife Conservation fantastic moment!

To all of the Project Supporters  - thank you so much for helping to make this project possible!!  To make a donation to the quail project please go to bobwhite.njaudubon.org

Press coverage of this historic day in NJ Wildlife Conservation can be found at: A Quail Comeback in the Barrens

holly Haines release 2015(bill Dalton)

quail with transmitterCecil-quail-parke (jean Lynch)last quail out of the box(Bill dalton)photos by Bill Dalton, Jean Lynch and John Parke

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