For the second year in a row researchers associated with the Northern Bobwhite Restoration Initiative, lead by New Jersey Audubon (NJA), have confirmed active Northern Bobwhite quail nests in the New Jersey Pine Barrens!
University of Delaware graduate students, Phillip Coppola and Evan Drake, contracted by NJA, discovered six active nests at the Pine Island Cranberry Bobwhite Quail translocation study site while conducting their weekly radio telemetry surveys on the quail.
“The nests are surprisingly hard to find,” said Quail Initiative Researcher Evan Drake. “Even when the telemetry equipment leads you right to them, the nests themselves are remarkably well camouflaged.” The nests consisted of a small bowl-shaped depression on the ground covered with grasses and pine needles to form a “dome”. Bobwhite quail lay an average of one egg a day and the average clutch size is between 12-14 eggs. Once all the eggs have been laid, either adult will incubate the nest.
“Not only is it very exciting to find these nests, but one nest is occupied by a collared bird from this year’s release that has paired up with an un-collared bird which means that bird is from last year’s offspring,” said Quail Initiative researcher Phil Coppola. “Nesting by individuals that were translocated only months ago reaffirms the effectiveness of this tool for augmenting Bobwhite breeding populations. This is a major step in the overall reintroduction effort for this species here in the New Jersey Pinelands.”
Earlier this year a total eighty one birds, (37 females and 44 males) were release at the Pine Island Cranberry study site by NJ Audubon and initiative partners, Pine Island Cranberry Company, the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife and the University of Delaware. This was the second of three scheduled translocations of wild Bobwhite Quail captured in Georgia by project collaborator, Tall Timbers Research Station & Land Conservancy, and released at the Pine Island Cranberry study site. In 2015, 80 wild birds were also released on site and through the use of telemetry; researchers were able to confirm 15 nests, 127 eggs laid; and 66 chicks hatched in 2015. Many of which were confirmed to have overwintered at the property and were onsite when the second release of new wild birds occurred.
“We were very excited about this second release because the new birds were released into areas that already have Bobwhite from last year’s release, as well as, the young that were born here last year,” said John Parke, NJA Stewardship Project Director. “Having those birds successfully nest, raise young that overwintered from last year and are still present and are now mating with the new birds this spring only helps increases the likelihood of survival of the new birds in the wild, as well as, adds genetic diversity to this year’s mating season.” 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. The decline of Bobwhite, not just in New Jersey but across its entire range, is attributed to the shortage of quality habitat. “With the lack of quality habitat being the most important limiting factor for Bobwhite 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. “Recruitment is important to the long term sustainability of a Bobwhite population so these new nests are a great sign that the Bobwhites on the property are thriving and continue to benefit from the forest management being performed on the property,” added Sloan.
The Pine Island Cranberry site in New Jersey was selected to be part of a multi-state initiative to re-establish Northern Bobwhite in the Mid-Atlantic States because of several factors, however it was a State Approved Forest Stewardship Plan outlining long-term management goals and the extent of existing quality habitat already onsite from years of active forestry work, prescribed burning and agricultural best management practices that made it stand out above other sites in the region. As part of the project, New Jersey has the unique focus of releasing (translocation) wild quail to the Pine Island Cranberry Property for study. Other aspects of the multi-state initiative include evaluating methods of raising captive bred wild parent reared quail; however no captive bred quail will be release in the NJ study.
“This is great news; if the quail are thriving, then we’re taking care of the land just like we’re supposed to,” said Bill Haines Jr. owner and CEO of Pine Island Cranberry Company. “Thanks to the hard work from NJ Audubon and everyone else involved with this project, we’re seeing some real progress on bringing the Bobwhite quail back to New Jersey, and I couldn’t be more pleased.”
For more on the Quail Project and how you can support the initiative see NJ Audubon's Quail webpage
Photos by Phil Coppola, Evan Drake and John Parke
Colleagues from Pfizer, a member of the New Jersey Audubon's Corporate Stewardship Council (CSC), recently volunteered their time – working with the New Jersey Audubon (NJA) – to plant several species of native trees including Sugar Maple, White Pine, American Sycamore and Red Oak at Pfizer’s Peapack campus. These trees are all native to the region and support a multitude of local wildlife species.
Pfizer has been working in support of a forest management plan, written by local professional forestry firm Gracie & Harrigan, since 2014. It is focused on improving the quality, health, diversity and vigor of the local forest. To accomplish this, the plan addresses reducing the quantity and colonization of non-native and invasive plants, as well as improving native plant re-generation. Pfizer and its colleagues are committed to sustainability. Active conservation management, including the native tree planting, is part of a larger environmental sustainability initiative Pfizer is integrating into its business and supplier network.
“New Jersey’s forests are facing many threats that are outpacing the ecosystem’s natural ability to adapt to them,” said John Parke, NJA Stewardship Project Director. “The state of New Jersey’s forests, as shown in numerous scientific reports by the US Forest Service and others, indicates our forests lack diverse age class distribution. This means that because the majority of New Jersey’s forests are the same age, they are more susceptible to disease, pest infestations, invasive species, natural disturbance events, like a hurricane, and are no longer providing habitat for many wildlife species that had previously thrived. Pfizer taking a proactive approach to managing its forest shows their commitment to improving the forest’s future and the wildlife that depends upon it.”
The recent work at the Pfizer campus will provide important habitat to a variety of wildlife including at-risk migratory birds and other species. Work done to date has included large-scale removal of invasive non-native vegetation, timber stand improvement by selective thinning, as well as native tree planting.
All photos by John Parke
The Wattles Stewardship Center, owned and operated by New Jersey Audubon, has been certified as a River-Friendly Farm; recognized for following best management practices that focus on protecting water quality.
The River-Friendly Farm Certification Program is a voluntary program designed to recognize farms that protect our shared natural resources through responsible land management. River-Friendly Certified Farms have demonstrated a commitment to reduce soil loss, decrease pesticide run-off, and prevent manure and fertilizer pollution by implementing practices such as vegetative stream buffers to slow and absorb water before it reaches waterways, reducing bare soil areas on the farm through use of a cover crop, and managing livestock and reducing their access to ponds and streams.
Nestled along the Musconetcong River, the NJ Audubon Wattles Stewardship Center is a 51-acre farm that produces corn, beans, and sunflowers with forested land and a native warm-season grass meadow habitat sprinkled throughout the landscape. “The Wattles property was designed to be a working conservation model farm,” said John Parke, NJ Audubon Stewardship Project Director. “Working with our farmer, Roger Woolf, and the staff of the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) to utilize a multitude of their conservation programs at the property certainly made it easy to meet the criteria to become a River Friendly Farm,” Parke added. “I highly recommend others in the region take advantage of the free technical assistance and USDA conservation services that are out there and apply for this fine recognition program offered by North Jersey RC&D.”
The cropland at the Wattles Center is farmed by lifetime Warren County resident, Roger Woolf who was very proud to have the property certified after all his hard work stewarding the production land over the years. He said, “We want to maintain soil health. Without good soil we won’t be farming. Healthy soil means healthy plants, healthy streams, and healthy wildlife. [Conservation] is part of the farmer’s job and working with good partners, like NJ Audubon, to achieve shared goals is important.”
For more information on River-Friendly Farm Certification, please contact Kara Hasko at North Jersey Resource Conservation and Development (NJRC&D), (908)852-2576 ext. 126. North Jersey RC&D is seeking more River-Friendly Farm applicants and is available to speak with any interested group or individual about the program.
As part of the Delaware River Watershed Initiative, NJRC&D and NJ Audubon are also looking to engage more landowners/farmers for enrollment into the various federal conservation cost share programs for conducting conservation practices on their land; in some cases free plant material may be available. For more information please contact NJRC&D at (908) 574-5368 or NJA Stewardship Project Director, John Parke at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo: Kara Hasko of North Jersey RC&D presented the River Friendly Certified Farm sign to (From Left to Right): NJA Wattles Staff: Lindsay Gafford, John Parke, Roger Woolf (Farmer), John Cecil, Gylla MacGregor, and Don Donnelly