It was no joke that on April 1st 80 Northern Bobwhite quail were released in the New Jersey Pinelands on the Pine Island Cranberry 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 form 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
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:
The 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!!
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)
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 drinking 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.
Providing 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 with 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos by John Parke & Chris Neff