On September 11, 2014, New Jersey Audubon was presented with the Rutgers Gardens 2014 Distinguished Achievement in Horticulture Award. This award recognizes an individual or group who has made noteworthy contributions in the promotion and stewardship of public horticulture.
“Horticulture plays an important part of connecting people with the natural world,” said John Parke, Stewardship Project Director of NJ Audubon. “Gardening is a great way to engage and empower people to become better stewards of the land and allows them to become intimately familiar with how plants play a vital role in the health and well-being of our society.”
New Jersey Audubon would like to express sincere gratitude and appreciation to Rutgers Gardens and its Director, Bruce Crawford, for the award. Recognition by the Rutgers Gardens is truly an honor especially given Rutgers Gardens leadership and excellence in the art of horticulture that emphasis the relationship between plants, human health and nutrition in the designed, as well as in the natural landscape.
Each year New Jersey Audubon presents its Richard Kane Conservation Award, (named after NJ Audubon’s retired VP of Conservation) to a person(s) that has made a significant contribution to the conservation of birds, wildlife, natural resources and habitat in New Jersey.
On September 13, 2014 the award was presented to Dan and Barbara Todd who exemplify exceptional land management practices and stewardship.
Dan and his wife Barbara own the 132 acre Dardan Farm in Tewksbury, NJ. In 2009 they began partnering with NJ Audubon when they enrolled in NJ Audubon’s Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program Partnership Grant. The goal was to establish grassland habitat for rare and declining birds, but also to establish a biofuel market for the grass. In total Dan planted 66 acres of native warm season grass, 11 acres of cool season grass under a delayed mow regime, and 11 acres of brush management and hedge row removal, optimizing the farm for grassland birds.
Dardan Farm was a pivotal property towards reestablishing native warm-season grass in the region given the site’s adjacency to the Cold Brook Preserve. Comprised of 287 acres, Cold Brook, once a working farm, was acquired by Hunterdon County in 1982 and is the only county parkland in Tewksbury Township. Today Cold Brook consists of fallow and cultivated fields that are important to a variety grassland birds. The habitat creation and enhancement that Dan undertook extended the available habitat from the core patch found at the Cold Brook preserve, providing critical nesting \habitat for Bobolink, Savannah Sparrow, Grasshopper Sparrow, American Kestrel, Field Sparrow, Eastern Meadowlark and Indigo Bunting, among others. These grasslands also provide wintering habitat for birds and other wildlife, including Northern Harrier.
Dan and Barbara’s farm is also a model property for agriculture given the best management practices he has implemented. Dan has worked closely with NJ Audubon, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to optimize the farm for wildlife, soil health, and agricultural production. Further, Dan has been a champion of using prescribed fire for habitat management - he accomplished his own burn in 2013 and has been a strong advocate and vocal community leader promoting the benefits of burning for both fuel reduction as well as habitat management.
Dan has also been an early supporter of biofuel and worked with NJ Audubon to try and identify and create a market for the grassland slash as a biofuel. While those efforts have yet to reach the scale we hope for, Dan has continued to look for outlets for the grass. This has included selling grass to the mushroom industry for use as a medium, and promoting it for forage to livestock and horse owners. Dan has had success promoting grass as forage where others have not.
The fields that Dan and Barbara have tended, the grass he has grown and his farm overall reflect their deep commitment to the land. Anyone that meets or talks with Dan will quickly recognize his commitment and passion for habitat and stewardship. The native warm season grasses he has established on his farm are providing some of the best grassland bird habitat in Hunterdon County. They have served as a model for other farms, farmers and landowners.
New Jersey Audubon congratulates Dan and Barbara Todd and thanks them for their outstanding commitment to conservation!
South Jersey Gas, in cooperation with New Jersey Audubon’s Corporate Stewardship Council, announced today that it has received NJ Forest Service approval for a Forest Stewardship Plan on 13 acres of forest adjacent to its Cape May divisional office along Route 9 in Swainton. This property has also received Forest Stewardship Council® certification, which is an internationally recognized standard for responsible forest management.
Based on the details of the 10 year plan, forest stewardship at this site will focus on enhancing forest health, diversity and integrity. Specifically, steps will be taken to create an enhanced structure to provide varied food sources, nesting and escape cover for birds. In addition, to create a better habitat for reptiles and amphibians, the plan includes the creation of small canopy openings for basking and nesting reptiles; retaining woody debris on the ground for amphibians; and establishing several breeding ponds or vernal pools for amphibians.
“We’re excited to begin this work in conjunction with New Jersey Audubon and improve the natural areas for both plant and animal life,” said Jeffrey E. DuBois, president of South Jersey Gas. “By implementing this plan, we will create a much more ideal habitat for numerous plants and animals, both common and rare.”
“The property’s location in eastern Cape May County makes it a critical forested habitat for breeding and migrating songbirds and rare frogs and salamanders,” according to John Cecil, New Jersey Audubon’s Vice President for Stewardship. “We are delighted to work with South Jersey Gas on this worthwhile project.”
Both organizations hope to begin plan implementation at the site this Fall.
Managing A Stubborn Invasive Vine
By Jean Lynch, Stewardship Project Director, South Region
For several years New Jersey Audubon’s Stewardship staff has been working with a landowner in southern New Jersey to improve wildlife habitat. One of the striking problems on this property is a large kudzu infestation affecting the forest edge and the border between forest and field.
Kudzu is a non-native invasive vine with large compound leaves of three, purple flowers, and long hairy seed pods. Native to Asia, this vigorous vine was originally brought to the United States in the late 1800s as an ornamental plant. The vine was later promoted to help reduce soil erosion and increase livestock feed; however, the fast growing vine had quickly escaped into natural areas, blanketing entire landscapes. In the right conditions, kudzu can grow up to a foot per day by sending out roots wherever the vine touches the ground. As many as 30 vines can then grow from a single root crown, allowing it to easily out-compete native plants. Although primarily found in the southeast, kudzu has been detected as far north as Ontario and is found in several areas throughout New Jersey.
Although tackling an invasive vine like kudzu might appear intimidating to many, we hope you will be inspired by the tremendous progress that we’ve seen in just the two years since the summer of 2012 when the first “before” photos below were taken. At that time, kudzu completely covered many of the trees along the forest edge, and blanketed the field edge. Several of the trees had already died under the blanket of kudzu.
With a willing and determined landowner and our partners at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, we decided to take on the challenge of eradicating Kudzu from the property. Getting a handle on this vine has taken planning, the right equipment, and consistent attention, and while our work here isn’t done, the results in just two years are remarkable.
In this and other efforts with invasive vines, we have used a combination of winter work and summer work to good effect. For kudzu, an herbicide mixed with oil (such as triclopyr ester) has been applied directly to the bark or to cut stems during the winter and summer months. Once the vine began to leaf out, the area with lower growing plants is mowed, followed by a foliar application of herbicide mixed with water (such as triclopyr amine). For the higher climbing vines in the tree tops, herbicide is then applied using a high pressure sprayer, curtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In this instance, the dead vines are left to decompose on site, minimizing its spread into other areas.
On average, with a group of two to four people, it has only required about a day of work each winter and two or three half-days of work each summer to achieve the results pictured thus far. With the right equipment and the knowledge of how to effectively combine chemical control (herbicides) and mechanical control (cutting), you can make tremendous progress on even the toughest invasives problems.
You have to be at least as stubborn as the vines!
Representatives 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.”
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.
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 Kestrel as part of the habitat enhancement.
“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.
As 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 are 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.
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.
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 been 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.”
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. ”
The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation has also funded two exciting NJ Audubon Stewardship projects. The first, Synergistic Conservation Strategies in 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.
“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 firstname.lastname@example.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 email@example.com .
Photos by John Parke
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.