Stewardship Blog

Category: Important Bird Areas

Cape May Residential Community Rallies Together to Improve Wildlife Habitat

The Meadows at Cape Island condominium development is located right next to Cape Island Creek – a tidal creek and marsh that provides important habitat for our migratory and resident birds and other wildlife. Occupying about 13 acres within the Cape Island Important Bird Area, this development has several natural areas on the property, including important buffers between the condos and the marsh. These buffers, made up of a variety of grasses, shrubs, and trees, serve a key function to the marsh and creek by helping to filter water runoff that may contain pollutants.

While residents here enjoy the natural surroundings of this development, they were concerned with the growing number of non-native invasive plant species that were smothering the native plants. Invasive plants at the Meadows include privet species, porcelain berry, Japanese honeysuckle, English ivy, multiflora rose, Norway maple, and Phragmites. Cape Island Habitat Restoration Task Force volunteers plant native shrubs and grasses to create habitat for wildife on Cape Island

Concerned with what might happen to the diverse mix of native plants that provide great habitat for wildlife, the residents at the Meadows decided to take action by contacting NJ Audubon’s Cape Island Habitat Restoration Task Force (CIHRTF) for technical assistance. After a site visit or two we decided to focus invasive plant control efforts in two key locations and saw an opportunity to create wildlife habitat at another location – a drainage basin that holds standing water throughout much of the year. This drainage basin can support a number of native wetland plants and can provide valuable wildlife habitat. This site can also be considered a rain garden or a wet meadow, and provides an additional buffer between homes and the marsh.

CIHRTF and the residents at the Meadows partnered with the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, who generously supported these habitat projects by providing native grasses and shrubs for the wet meadow planting and will also provide technical assistance and additional native plants for future plantings. A large volunteer planting day was held in fall 2011 in the wet meadow habitat site with many residents from the Meadows coming out to help. In addition to planting native grasses and shrubs within the wet meadow, volunteers also planted beach plum plants in upland areas in the development and helped to remove invasive vines from native shrubs and trees.

Cape Island Habitat Restoration Task Force volunteers planting native grasses to create wildlife habitat

Besides planting native species and removing invasive plants at the Meadows, residents have also put up a bat house and a kestrel box near the Cape Island Creek marsh, hoping to entice some new wildlife occupants. Residents at the Meadows hope to eventually certify their property as wildlife habitat by the National Wildlife Federation. This year we are planning several more volunteer days aimed at reducing invasive plants and providing better habitat for wildlife.

Volunteers Help Remove Invasive Plants at the Cape Island Important Bird Area

Two volunteer workdays took place last week at the Cape Island Important Bird Area (IBA) - both aimed at reducing invasive plants that are overtaking habitat. Located at the very tip of NJ, the Cape Island IBA is about 15,000 acres in size and includes a variety of habitat types. This IBA serves as a major migratory stopover site- millions of birds utilize Cape Island during spring and fall migration. Controlling invasive plants to increase and enhance suitable habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife on Cape Island is a stewardship priority for NJ Audubon.

On Thursday, volunteers removed invasive vines like porcelain berry (Ampelopsis brevipedunculata), sweet-autumn clematis (Clematis terniflora) and field bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis) from young, native trees at a maritime forest restoration site at Cape May Point State Park. This restoration project is a cooperative effort led by NJ Audubon and NJ DEP Division of Parks and Forestry to control invasive plants and support the growth and regeneration of native vegetation.

The focus for Friday: purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) and mile-a-minute (Persicaria perfoliata) at the Nature Conservancy’s South Cape May Meadows. Volunteers carefully snipped and bagged the flower heads of purple loosestrife plants before they develop seeds and spread further, while folks with thicker gloves snipped and pulled mile-a-minute, which has a prickly, thorny stem. Mile-a-minute is an emerging invasive plant in Cape Island, which means it is not yet established and widespread, and is found in small patches in the area. In addition to mile-a-minute, kudzu (Pueraria montana var. lobata) is another emerging invasive plant found on Cape Island. We employ an Early Detection and Rapid Response (EDRR) strategy to eliminate the emerging plants immediately to lessen the likelihood that they will become widespread and established.

Cape Island has its fair share of both emerging and widespread invasive plants, and Cape May County has the highest number of reported invasive species in the state- 365 total. To address this growing threat to migratory bird habitat, NJ Audubon organized the Cape Island Habitat Restoration Task Force (CIHRTF). CIHRTF is a newly formed Coordinated Weed Management Area (CWMA), and our partners include NJ state chapter of the Nature Conservancy (TNC), NJ DEP Bureau of Land Management, the NJ DEP Division of Parks and Forestry, and the NJ Invasive Species Strike Team (NJISST). The mission of CIHRTF is to identify, control and monitor invasive plants, restore and improve wildlife habitat, and provide outreach and education to the community of Cape Island. CIHRTF will be hosting more volunteer events and educational workshops throughout the year- please check our webpage for the latest information!

These projects are made possible through the support from: the William Penn Foundation, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and Atlantic City Electric.