Stewardship Blog

Northern Bobwhite Restoration Initiative Has Second Release of Wild Quail to the NJ Pinelands

Chatsworth, NJThe Northern Bobwhite Restoration Initiative, lead by New Jersey Audubon (NJA), had the second of three scheduled releases of wild Northern Bobwhite quail in early April. Eighty-one Northern Bobwhite that were captured in Georgia, by project collaborator Tall Timbers Research Station & Land Conservancy, were successfully translocated to, and released, at the Pine Island Cranberry study site.John Parke of NJA and Jimmy Sloan of NJDFW release the translocated wild Bobwhites at Pine ISland (Kristen Meistrell)

After receiving health screening testing and attaching leg ID bands and radio-signal transmitting collars to each bird, a total of eighty-one birds, (37 females and 44 males) were released in groups at the Pine Island Cranberry study site by NJ Audubon and initiative partners, Pine Island Cranberry, the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife and the University of Delaware.

We are very excited about this second release of wild Northern Bobwhite. These new quail were released into areas where Northern Bobwhite were released last year, supplementing the newly developing population.” said, John Parke, NJA Stewardship Project Director. “Having those birds from last year at the site only increases the likelihood of survival of these new birds in the wild since the new birds will integrate with them and thus be influenced in their cover and foraging choices, nesting area selection and predator avoidance response in their new surroundings. We did not have that luxury last year.” added Parke.

In New Jersey the Northern Bobwhite quail is believed to be functionally extinct with the possibility of some birds still existing in southwestern NJ. As part of the project to restore Northern Bobwhite to NJ, New Jersey Audubon along with project collaborators, Tall Timbers Research Station & Land Conservancy, and project partners the Pine Island Cranberry Company, Pine Creek Forestry, the University of Delaware, and New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife, released 80 wild Northern Bobwhite at the Pine Island Cranberry site last year (2015). Through the use of radio telemetry, University of Delaware graduate students, contracted by NJ Audubon for the project, monitored the birds and were able to confirm 15 nests, 127 eggs laid; and 66 chicks hatched in 2015. The birds were tracked throughout the winter by the students and were confirmed to have over-wintered successfully at the study site. It was noted that the quail were utilizing the young pine regeneration growth areas for cover throughout the entire winter season. These young pine areas were the result of vegetation regeneration in areas that had been harvested previously as part of forest stewardship activities performed by Pine Island Cranberry to improve overall watershed and forest Jimmy Sloan of NJDFW with male Bobwhite for release at Pine Isand Cranberry (JOHN PARKE)health.

With the lack of quality habitat being the most important limiting factor for quail survival, the Pine Island Cranberry study site provides proof that active management is the key to species recovery,” said, Jimmy Sloan, Upland Habitat and Wildlife Biologist with NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife.

The newly released birds, as well as last year’s quail, will be tracked via radio telemetry in the field to determine movements, predation, site fidelity, habitat use and nesting by the graduate students from the University of Delaware. "I have always been rooting for the quail and the overall success of the project, but year one turned out even better than I expected. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work with these hearty, little, birds. Last year's juvenile recruitment into this year's breeding season, paired with low site mortality, adds to the support of this project being successful as years progress. The second release of translocated individuals brings another round of excitement for the quail crew here at the University of Delaware. We are eager to see what the birds have to teach us this season," said Kaili Stevens, University of Delaware Researcher on the project.

2016 Quail Release at Pine Island (John Parke)The Pine Island site in New Jersey is part of a multi-state initiative to re-establish Northern Bobwhite in the Mid-Atlantic States. New Jersey will have the unique focus of releasing wild quail (translocation) to the Pine Island Cranberry Property. Other aspects of the multi-state project include testing methods of raising and rearing captive bred parent reared quail in other states participating in the initiative, however no captive bred quail will be release at the NJ study.

We’re pleased with how this project has progressed; the first year went very well. We enjoy working with NJ Audubon and the other partners, and are looking forward to another great year,” said Bill Haines Jr., Owner and CEO of Pine Island Cranberry.

For more on the Quail Project and how you can support the initiative see NJ Audubon's Quail webpage http://www.njaudubon.org/SectionConservation/StewardshipInAction/NorthernBobwhiteRestorationInitiative.aspx

Photos by Kristen Meistrell & John Parke

Lopatcong Watershed Enhanced Through Teamwork and Creative Partnership

With financial support from the William Penn Foundation and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, New Jersey Audubon has partnered with the NJ Youth Corps of Phillipsburg to be an “on-call” work force to perform river bank and wetland restoration and other stewardship activities associated with the Delaware River Watershed Initiative (DRWI).

IMG_7918The NJ Youth Corps is a year-round program administered by the NJ Department of Labor & Workforce Development that helps young adults (ages 16-25) earn a high school diploma while developing employment skills through community service projects. The New Jersey Youth Corps arranges for each member to participate in Service Learning Projects that provide supervised work situations, allowing Corps members to develop skill sets that will support their future employment. For projects associated with NJ Audubon, the Corps participants are being trained in work skills associated with ecological restoration and environmental science.

Through our outreach and conservation planning in the region, NJ Audubon is providing the Corps with Service Learning projects in support of the Delaware Watershed Restoration Initiative. These are projects conducted in partnership with landowners and farmers in three sub-watersheds of the Highlands region: the Lower Musconetcong, Lopatcong and Upper Paulin’s Kill. These projects will help the overall watershed initiative, increasing the pace of project implementation in the field, and the projects will also provide Corps members with valuable employment skills.

Youth Corps members work in a team or "crew" that is led by an experienced Crew Supervisor. NJ Audubon will train Corp members on the specifics of each project and supply materials to implement the work. Each crew works on a project that benefits the community. NJ Audubon’s Delaware Watershed Restoration Initiative projects are focused on improving water quality and wildlife habitat through riparian restoration work. This includes, native plant plantings and invasive species removal among other activities. This partnership will also support the ongoing stewardship aspect of maintaining the functionality of the restoration, a long-term landowner commitment that can be hard to keep up with. Not only will these projects help the overall watershed initiative and get projects implemented faster in the field, but the projects will provide Corps members with valuable employment skills. Working as a sub-contractor for NJ Audubon provides much needed funding to support the Corps training programs, including Waders in The Water training, all while developing relationships with the public to help provide another level of outreach and education about the DRWI.

“The strong partnership NJ Youth Corps has established with NJ Audubon over the past year has been instrumental in our ability to participate in these types of projects, specifically riparian plantings, which is an essential component of a new training initiative called Waders in the Water – a training program in which students receive classroom instruction on ecological restoration projects, and then get to put them to use in the field,” said NJ Youth Corps of Phillipsburg Director, Michael Muckle. “Furthermore, this partnership dovetails nicely with our designation as a 21st Century Conservation Service Corps – part of a bold national effort to put thousands of America’s young people and veterans to work protecting, restoring and enhancing America’s great outdoors,” added Muckle.IMG_7977

During the week of April 7, 2016, NJ Audubon and NJ Youth Corps complemented two stream bank stabilization projects in the Lopatcong Watershed totaling over 1,331 linear feet of bank (installing over 4,000 live stakes). Specifically, NJ Audubon and the Youth Corp performed soil bioengineering practices, which is the use of plant material to arrest and prevent slope and stream bank failure and erosion. The roots and stems of the plants (in this case native willows and button bush ) serve as structural and mechanical elements in a slope protection system.

0008_live-stake-cross-section-diagram-lgLive cuttings and rooted plants are embedded in the ground in various arrays to serve as soil reinforcements, hydraulic drains and barriers to earth movement. Once established, this living material effectively controls a number of stabilization and erosion control problems by binding the soil with its root system and creating a natural, vegetative cover. Bioengineered sites are self-repairing and have the advantage of blending with natural surroundings. All live bioengineering materials for the project were obtained from Ernst Conservation Seeds.

“NJ Audubon is excited to partner with the NJ Youth Corps. This is a key step in promoting and implementing the goals of the Delaware Watershed Restoration Initiative, engaging another conservation partner in water protection activities while providing education and training to a younger generation that will live and work in the region for years to come,” said John Parke, NJ Audubon Stewardship Project Director. “To have trained Youth Corp members come to a work site with the knowledge and skills needed to do the job and do the job right the first time made for an extremely productive use of time and resources. This ensured we were able to install more plants and in a quicker period of time to meet the planting deadlines,” added Parke. “This service that NJ Youth Corps brings to the NJ Audubon work clearly builds capacity in the region for restorationIMG_7901 and stewardship implementation, and embodies what community outreach, education and sustainability for the initiative in the Highlands is all about.  We are so happy to be working with NJ Youth Corps to make NJ a better place for people and wildlife!”

Check out some of the work on a recent project in this video!

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 Paulin's kill sub-watersheds) and must exhibit a degree of ecological impairment. For more information please contact NJA Stewardship Project Director, John Parke at john.parke@njaudubon.org

Photos by Michael Muckle

Diagram courtesy of Ernst Conservation Seeds

Managing a Meadow with Prescribed Fire

Recently, New Jersey Audubon’s stewardship staff partnered with the New Jersey Forest Fire Service to conduct a prescribed burn at the Center for Research and Education in Goshen. This burn is part of a management plan to maintain one acre of native meadow and scrub-shrub habitat that provides critical resources for a number of birds, native pollinators, and other wildlife, including eastern box turtles and North American river otters, which visit from the adjacent marshland.

In Southern New Jersey, fires occurred with some regularity before European settlement and well into the nineteenth century, whether sparked by lightning; set by Native Americans as a management tool; or started accidentally as a result of the regionally important iron, glass, and charcoal industries. As the population and industries changed, fire occurrences became less frequent, and as development increased and fire suppression tools improved, fire suppression efforts became stronger and more successful. Throughout most of the twentieth century, suppression was the dominant policy relating to forest fires. 

In recent decades, however, planned fires, or prescribed fires, have been recognized as a beneficial tool to reduce fuel loads in the forest and to reduce the danger to human life and property caused by wildfires. From October through March, the New Jersey Forest Fire Service works to burn parcels of land throughout the state to reduce the fuel load on the ground. Leaf litter and debris can serve as the perfect kindling leading up to a more intense blaze, particularly during the warmer and drier summer months. By periodically burning off this material in a controlled setting, prescribed fire protects against more intense fires and allows personnel to more easily control any wildfires that may occur.

In addition to contributing to public safety, there are several ecological benefits of prescribed fire that improve habitat for plants and wildlife. One of the biggest benefits prescribed fire can have to an ecosystem is its ability to set back natural succession. As the years pass, woody vegetation begins to grow up in a meadow or grassland, altering the structure of the habitat. Managers can use a prescribed burn to help maintain a meadow and allow it to continue supporting the unique species that require meadow habitat. This young habitat is rapidly shrinking in New Jersey, as the forests throughout the state are mostly middle-aged and grassland habitats tend to be easy targets for development. Prescribed burning allows for the regeneration of plants by opening up areas to more sunlight, naturally fertilizing the soil, and helping seeds to come out of dormancy. 

Careful consideration and thought go into the timing of any prescribed burn, as favorable weather conditions are necessary for the success and safety of an activity like this. Temperature, relative humidity, wind speed, and wind direction are all important factors to consider before beginning a prescribed burn. To assess how a fire will burn and ensure the safety of others, fire wardens must be aware of each condition by communicating with weather stations and several fire towers stationed throughout the southern region. 

This is the second time the CRE has been burned since 2014, and we anticipate using fire here every few years. As the season progresses we expect to see great regeneration of our native warm season grasses and wildflowers, as well as an abundance of wildlife on the property.






 Written by Brittany Dobrzynski and Jean Lynch

Photographs by Don Freiday