Through a partnership between Trout Unlimited (TU) and New Jersey Audubon (NJA) a restoration project on 4,807 linear feet 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 drawn 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, 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.
Results 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
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 of 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.
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 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
Covanta Nest installation and Common Nighthawk photos by John Parke