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Chimney swifts get a new home

New Jersey Audubon’s Wattles Stewardship Center is poised to welcome Chimney Swifts back to Warren County this spring with a new home. Since 2010 (when NJA acquired the property), we have witnessed Chimney Swifts returning annually to nest in the chimney of the roughly 190 year-old Wattles Stewardship Center. While realizing that the old chimneys need to be capped and cared for, we didn’t want to evict the Chimney Swifts without first ensuring they had a new chimney to go to. With support from the New Jersey Conserve Wildlife Foundation, material donations from the James Hardie Corporation and technical guidance from Scott Burnet and Peter Saegner of the Lehigh Valley Audubon Society, we set out to build a tower on sight for the Chimney Swifts. During the last few months of 2015 a foundation was set and the tower constructed.

IMG_3433IMG_3794Capping our chimneys is needed to ensure the long-term maintenance of the building, including preventing water and animal intrusions. It is our expectation, that when the birds return in the spring to their traditional nesting site they will find and adopt the new tower. Towers, such as the one at the Wattles Stewardship Center, have been proven successful in providing alternative nesting habitat. To facilitate a smooth transition, our chimneys will remain uncapped during the 2016 nesting period.

Chimney swifts (Chaetura pelagic) are among several species of birds that breed in highly urbanized areas and utilize man-made structures for nesting habitat. Specifically, Chimney Swifts nest primarily in chimneys and other artificial sites with vertical surfaces and low light (including air vents, old wells, abandoned cisterns, outhouses, boathouses, garages, silos, barns, lighthouses, and firewood sheds). Changes and modifications to building structures, such as new chimneys with a more narrow flue and the capping of older chimneys, has reduced nesting sites thereby threatening the success of this species. Capping on older buildings may be done for a variety of reasons including: containing sparks and embers, blocking downdrafts, reducing moisture, preventing debris build-up, and keeping wildlife from entering the chimney and potentially becoming trapped.

We will be installing a display board at the site of the tower, with details about Chimney Swifts and Chimney Swift towers. Thanks to Judith Bland for assisting in creating signage. Next time you are out near Washington or Hackettstown, stop by and check out the new tower; come in the spring and watch the birds circle above the entrance as they check it out!

NJ Audubon Wins Ecological Excellence Award for Second Year in a Row

For the second consecutive year the New Jersey Audubon Stewardship Department was awarded the Firman E. Bear Chapter of the2015 SWCS Award addressing Stormwater Soil & Water Conservation Society’s Ecological Excellence Award.  The award is given annually to an individual or organization that displays excellence in an ecological restoration project, unique soil and water conservation project, or innovative habitat development or enhancement project.

The NJA project that was selected this year was the design and construction of several rain gardens at a community center in East Orange utilizing former abandoned dry wells planted with native vegetation. Each rain garden utilized native plants that were representative of regions around the state (i.e. Highlands Region, Piedmont, Pinelands, etc). Each rain garden was then outfitted with an interpretive sign that outlines the region/habitat of NJ it represents and its purpose and water quality benefit. Ultimately the rain gardens collect water from the roof of the facility whereupon rather then discharge directly onto the city streets, the water is allowed to seep slowly into the soil via the vegetation planted in each garden which acts as filtering mechanism.

NJA Stormwater Interpretive signAlthough many cities are required to mark storm drains inlets with messages reminding people that they are connected to local water bodies, it is always a uphill battle to create awareness of how runoff impacts a community's ecological health. With these rain gardens in place they will act as models for visitors to learn how they can divert their roof leader downspouts to create a beautiful garden that would improve local water quality while creating a beautiful natural area that can attract wildlife and help make our cities more attractive places to live.

These gardens help solve water resource challenges in a friendly and comfortable atmosphere and teaches the community about the importance of protecting and creating green spaces in their urban cities and hopefully create a sense of wonder and appreciation for wildlife and natural systems. The project provides the physical visual experience in the five concept categories for conservation education: Habitat; natural communities; ecosystems; human ecological impact; and stewardship, all the while reinforcing the concept that rain gardens are an important way to make our cities more attractive places to live and will build urban ecological health through multidisciplinary water resources education and management.

We received several excellent applications for the award,” said Stephanie Murphy, Ph.D., Chapter President of the Soil and Water Conservation Society. “But the review committee felt NJA’s project stood out because of the high impact of conservation in the urban neighborhood. The outreach efforts, educational value and relative beauty of the project certainly will encourage other individuals and groups to follow their example and have beneficial results for people and the environment,” added Murphy.

New Jersey Audubon would like to express sincere gratitude and appreciation to the Firman E. Bear Chapter of the Soil & Water Conservation Society, as well as, Pinelands Nursery and the committee for selecting our project for the award and the Chapter for continuing to support and encourage science-based conservation practice, programs, and policy. We also would like to thank the US Fish and Wildlife Service Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, the NJ Corporate Wetlands Restoration Program and the Metro YMCA for their support and assistance with the project.

Addressing stormwater runoff is just one of the many environmental issues that New Jersey Audubon is working on to make NJ a better place for people and wildlife. Be it in urban/suburban areas, agricultural regions, or NJ’s wild lands, clean water is under attack from numerous stressors and we need your help. Through funding received from the William Penn Foundation and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, NJ Audubon is currently seeking landowners and farmers in the Lower Musconetcong River, Upper Paulin’s Kill River and Lopatcong River Sub-Watersheds of the Highlands region of New Jersey, as well as in the Kirkwood-Cohansey Aquifer region of Southern NJ, who are interested in potentially receiving funding and technical expertise focused on water quality improvement practices and implementation of agricultural and forest Best Management Practices. For more information please contact john.parke@njaudubon.org for the Highlands region and jean.lynch@njaudubon.org for the Kirkwood-Cohansey region.

Corporate Stewardship Council Members Team Up for Critical Wildlife Habitat Restoration

Jersey Central Power & Light (JCP&L) and NJ Audubon’s (NJA) newest Corporate Stewardship Council (CSC) member, Crystal Springs Resort, have become the first CSC members to “team up” and work collaboratively on a habitat restoration project in northwestern NJ. Specifically the two will be working with NJA and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) on a long-term project that involves restoring a section of a JCP&L transmission line Row-of-Way (ROW) that traverses through the Black Bear Golf Club located in Franklin, NJ which is part of the Crystal Springs Resort.blue-wing warbler(PARKE)

The project will involve incorporating JCP&L’s ROW integrated vegetation management requirements with the aim of encouraging low-growth vegetation, native warm season grasses and native wildflowers and thus, promoting early successional habitat for native wildlife. Specific target species will be various pollinators, including wild bees and butterflies, as well as, several avian species that depend on early successional habitat types, such as Field Sparrow, Prairie Warbler, Blue-winged Warbler and Indigo Bunting.

“JCP&L is pleased to collaborate with Crystal Springs Resort, New Jersey Audubon and USFWS in this unique and important habitat project,” said Jim Fakult, JCP&L President. “It demonstrates JCP&L’s on-going commitment to protect the environment, remain good stewards of our green bee on boneset in ROW (PARKE)natural resources, promote public health and safety and create lasting value in the communities we serve.”

Current research from the U.S. Geological Survey’s Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland is showing that the open, grassy or scrubby habitat under some transmission lines are already the best place to find wild native bees and that potential habitat associated with ROW management will inevitably become more important as the United States becomes more urbanized. Additionally, other studies are showing that as regions become more urbanized, golf courses too have the potential for creating significant wildlife benefits, especially in recent conservation efforts for the Eastern Bluebird, Tree Swallow, and even American Kestrel.

The beauty of this project is that given Black Bear Golf Club’s position in the landscape, it literately falls in the middle of five (5) recognized New Jersey Important Bird and Birding Areas (IBBA), so any habitat management work associated with the project that removes invasive non-native vegetation and encourages more native vegetation that will be consistently maintained will havePollinators at Crystal Springs(PARKE) a profound impact on long-term viability of native avian populations in the region.

“Crystal Springs will have an important impact on wildlife habitat in the region through their interest in, and commitment to, land stewardship. The extensive properties of Crystal Springs have a lot of value to wildlife species of concern, including species that are listed under the Endangered Species Act,” said Brian Marsh Program Coordinator for the USFWS Partners for Fish and Wildlife program. “With good land stewardship and working with other CSC members and partners, habitat values can be enhanced for rare pollinator insects and migratory birds on their properties.

This work between JCP&L and Crystal Springs will increase biodiversity and benefits not only wildlife and other natural resources, such as improved soil health and water and air quality, but will also provide educational opportunities. Specifically, interpretative signage will be placed strategically around the course to offer to all that visit the property a chance to learn about the importance of native plants, habitat, wildlife and the ecological services that they provide.

“The Crystal Springs Resort possesses incredibly beautiful and important habitat and we are thrilled to be partnering with New Jersey Audubon in pursuit of ongoing environmental stewardship,” said Art Walton, Vice President of Crystal Springs Resort. “As a destination resort and community hub, we have a unique opportunity to protect, preserve and promote all of our region’s natural assets for the benefit and enlightenment of many,” added Walton. “Working with NJ Audubon, USFWS and fellow CSC member JCP&L has been greatly educational and we look forward to launching many more stewardship initiatives across our diverse array of properties.”

All photos by John Parke