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Cape May Residential Community Rallies Together to Improve Wildlife Habitat

The Meadows at Cape Island condominium development is located right next to Cape Island Creek – a tidal creek and marsh that provides important habitat for our migratory and resident birds and other wildlife. Occupying about 13 acres within the Cape Island Important Bird Area, this development has several natural areas on the property, including important buffers between the condos and the marsh. These buffers, made up of a variety of grasses, shrubs, and trees, serve a key function to the marsh and creek by helping to filter water runoff that may contain pollutants.

While residents here enjoy the natural surroundings of this development, they were concerned with the growing number of non-native invasive plant species that were smothering the native plants. Invasive plants at the Meadows include privet species, porcelain berry, Japanese honeysuckle, English ivy, multiflora rose, Norway maple, and Phragmites. Cape Island Habitat Restoration Task Force volunteers plant native shrubs and grasses to create habitat for wildife on Cape Island

Concerned with what might happen to the diverse mix of native plants that provide great habitat for wildlife, the residents at the Meadows decided to take action by contacting NJ Audubon’s Cape Island Habitat Restoration Task Force (CIHRTF) for technical assistance. After a site visit or two we decided to focus invasive plant control efforts in two key locations and saw an opportunity to create wildlife habitat at another location – a drainage basin that holds standing water throughout much of the year. This drainage basin can support a number of native wetland plants and can provide valuable wildlife habitat. This site can also be considered a rain garden or a wet meadow, and provides an additional buffer between homes and the marsh.

CIHRTF and the residents at the Meadows partnered with the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, who generously supported these habitat projects by providing native grasses and shrubs for the wet meadow planting and will also provide technical assistance and additional native plants for future plantings. A large volunteer planting day was held in fall 2011 in the wet meadow habitat site with many residents from the Meadows coming out to help. In addition to planting native grasses and shrubs within the wet meadow, volunteers also planted beach plum plants in upland areas in the development and helped to remove invasive vines from native shrubs and trees.

Cape Island Habitat Restoration Task Force volunteers planting native grasses to create wildlife habitat

Besides planting native species and removing invasive plants at the Meadows, residents have also put up a bat house and a kestrel box near the Cape Island Creek marsh, hoping to entice some new wildlife occupants. Residents at the Meadows hope to eventually certify their property as wildlife habitat by the National Wildlife Federation. This year we are planning several more volunteer days aimed at reducing invasive plants and providing better habitat for wildlife.