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Category: Stewardship in Action

Current projects and activies for land stewardship

First Bobwhite Quail Nests of 2017 Discovered at Pine Barrens Study Site

New Jersey Audubon has been steadfastly working, with its project collaborators (Tall Timbers Research Station, the University of Delaware, Pine Island Cranberry Company, Pine Creek Forestry and the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife) over the past three years to study translocation as a viable method of creating a sustainable wild population of Bobwhite Quail back in New Jersey.  In wildlife conservation,  the term ‘Translocation’ means the capture, transport and release/introduce a species from one area to another with the ultimate goals of species population persistence and resilience at the release area.  In New Jersey the Northern Bobwhite Quail was once a common species, however it is now believed to be functionally extinct in the state, thus translocation offers an option to “jump-start” the species on the road to recovery in its former home in NJ.

1st hatched quail nest of 2017Today, with researchers at the Pine Island Cranberry Bobwhite Quail Translocation Study Site in Chatsworth, New Jersey Audubon has confirmed the hatching of two Bobwhite Quail nests.  

Twenty chicks were confirmed to have left the nest and were seen with adults. bobwhite quail chicks 

More exciting news came from the field today, as three more active nests (i.e. quail incubating eggs) were discovered at the study site, bringing the total nests for the season to 11.  

One of the hatchings was a milestone for the project; it marked the first double clutch of a translocated bird in New Jersey over the three-year project. 

Answer the callIt also marked the first time for the project in which a male successfully incubated the clutch to fruition. This particular nest had an unfortunate situation where the female was depredated during her second clutch egg laying – hence only 9 eggs were laid (typically Bobwhite typically lay between 12 and 16 eggs).  However the male finished out the incubation and successfully hatched 8 of the 9 eggs. 

Reproductive success is a critical component of the translocation project,” said John Parke, NJA Stewardship Project Director. “We are very excited to confirm the successful hatching of a double clutch nest, and a male successfully incubating to completion, because it reflects the quality of habitat on site that was achieved through the management.  By performing active management on the land a balance of different cover types for nesting, brood rearing, and foraging allows for the translocated Bobwhite to take advantage of their naturally high reproductive potential.”

Click here to support the NJ Audubon Bobwhite Quail Restoration Initiative 

Photos by Phil Coppola and Gylla MacGregor 

Tour of Hortulus Farm & Garden Connects People with Nature

“Inspiration” was the word of the day as NJ Audubon lead a special outing with friends and members to the much celebrated Hortulus Farm and Garden. clip_image001Set amongst the diverse habitat and rolling hills of Bucks County, PA, Hortulus Farm and Garden is a Master Gardener and horticulture enthusiast’s dream! This 100-acre historic 18th Century farmstead, located just across the Delaware River from Lambertville, NJ, offered a unique experience of floral discovery that provided the stimulus to engage with nature!

The group was accompanied by the owners and designers of Hortulus Garden, world-famous garden designer Renny Reynolds and noted garden writer and author Jack Staub. Together, Renny and Jack, provided background on the property, its preservation and how various plant species were selected to complement the native plants and habitats. Renny and Jack’s eye and talent for horticulture are revealed and dramatically on display as their plantings mix with the native meadows, woodlands ponds and streams that are intertwined among twenty separate formal gardens, creating a bucolic landscape with dramatic vistas.

“What many people do not realize is that horticulture is so much more than a branch of agriculture and goes beyond the gardening, plant propagation and landscaping,” said John Parke, NJA Project Stewardship Director. “Horticulture is a great way to empower people to become stewards of the land because it clip_image002connects people with the world around them.”

Although several species of birds were encountered during the tour of Hortulus, the group was more focused on the diverse, interesting and unique vegetation and habitat and how it played into the landscape and delighted one’s senses. Amongst the fragrant aroma of magnolia trees in bloom and the magnificent striking plots of perennials, such as blue-bells, wood anemone, and violets, the group was also educated on the planning and upkeep practices performed at Hortulus that are also used by NJA in habitat restorations and natural resource planning. Important aspects include considering light regimes, soil types, position on the landscape, water considerations and companion vegetation when planning for species selection, essential factors to implementing stewardship maintenance options and to promote plant resiliency. clip_image003

Considered the father of modern horticulture, Liberty Hyde Bailey once said, “A garden requires patient labor and attention. Plants do not grow merely to satisfy ambitions or to fulfill good intentions. They thrive because someone expended effort on them.” Hortulus Farm & Garden and the hard and diligent work of Renny Reynolds and Jack Staub clip_image004personifies Bailey’s quote. Hortulus Farm & Garden is a must see!

NJ Audubon would again like to express our sincere thanks to Renny and Jack for taking the time to let us tour the gardens and making the day so relaxing, educational and extremely enjoyable!

Bird species encountered during the tour: Wood Thrush, Red-tail Hawk, Song Sparrow, Common Yellowthroat, Eastern Phoebe, Pileated Woodpecker, Great Crested Flycatcher,  Eastern Wood Peewee, Yellow Warbler, Carolina Wren, Tufted Titmouse, Blue Jay, Northern Cardinal, Mallard, Canada Goose.

All photos by Erica Parke and John Parke

FIGHTN’ FEMELSCHLAGERS ENCOUNTER LITTLE EGRET AND MORE AT WSB

littleegret(PARKE)

The NJA Stewardship Department World Series of Birding team, The Fightn’ Femelschlagers, had a great day out in South Jersey participating in the 34th Annual World Series of Birding racking up 114 species of birds!  Bald Eagle, Whip-poor Will, Savannah Sparrow, Prothonotary Warbler, American Widgeon, and Black Skimmer were just some of the species we came across on our trek though different habitat types searching for birds. The highlight by far was a Little Egret encountered at Heislerville Wildlife Management Area in Cumberland County. According to information on the National Audubon website,Little Egret is an Old World counterpart to our Snowy Egret and was formerly only an accidental visitor to North America, with only one record before 1980. Since 1980 it has been recorded several times along our Atlantic Coast during the warmer months. These strays probably make the crossing from West Africa to the Caribbean, and then migrate north on our side of the Atlantic.

shorebirds in cumberland countyThe birding was great, but we also encountered other species of wildlife throughout the day, such as Eastern Box Turtle, Fowlers Toad, and Muskrat, which just goes to show how important it is to remember that it’s not just about the birds when we think conservation. Habitat restoration and stewardship of those lands are important for a variety of species. What makes the NJ Stewardship Department so unique in how we get significant meaningful conservation work done is, although our work is grounded in science, the professional staff at the Stewardship Department consider other factors then just a single target species or resource concern. Meaning, impacts for other species and numerous ecological resources, as well as social, cultural and economic factors are looked at and planned for to make a project, and the resource, we are focusing on a sustainable project with lasting results.

The World Series of Birding (WSB) is an important fundraiser for the NJ Audubon Stewardship Department, raising funds vital to support our Department’s cormorant rookeryconservation work on behalf of declining wildlife species and habitat in NJ.  Please note that your pledge/donation to our team goes directly to funding our Department’s work here at NJ Audubon, specifically for conservation projects in NJ such as, but not limited to: the Bobwhite Quail reintroduction project in the Pinelands, conservation innovation projects with agricultural producers, sustainable forestry projects throughout the State, native grassland restoration projects, bog turtle habitat restoration projects, snake fungal disease survey projects, Ruffed Grouse restoration and population recovery projects, vegetation management projects for early successional species, water quality and habitat improvement projects in the Highlands and Kirkwood-Cohansey aquifer regions, invasive species control projects, the S.A.V.E.™ program and working with NJ farmers and rural landowners to create and restore habitat that also benefits the agricultural community.

On behalf of the New Jersey Audubon Stewardship Department, we thank all of you that supported our team and our work!!

teamfemelschag2017The NJA Stewardship Department Team would also like to thank our team sponsors, Hudson Farm, Ernst Conservation Seeds, South Jersey Gas, Ingenuity Sun Media and Eagle Optics for their generous support for our work to restore, enhance and maintain critical wildlife habitat and our natural heritage!

So what is a Femelschlag?  “Femelschlag”, is a German term for a forest management practice that is designed to emulate natural disturbance patterns and encourage tree species diversity in multiple-age classes, thereby enhancing ecosystem services and complexity. (A lot of our sustainable forestry work for various rare species involves this management practice here in NJ)  #Femelschlag

All photos by John Parke and Dale Rosselet

Pastures Can Provide Habitat for Grassland Birds!

Grasslands in the eastern United States rank as one of the country’s most endangered ecosystems. Populations of many grassland birds eastern meadowlark at WSGWMA(parke)in North America have declined significantly during the last 30 years. Although population trends of many groups of breeding birds vary across geographic regions, the declining trend for grassland birds is consistent across much of North America, including the Northeast.

Since remaining grasslands in NJ are almost entirely embedded within agricultural landscapes, they are also one of the only habitats in New Jersey, that face an almost immediate threat of disappearing from the State.  This is primarily due to the fluctuating market demand for commodity crops thereby hay land and pasture are, in some years, converted to row crops (corn, soybean, etc.).  As expected, wildlife dependent upon grassland habitat has declined dramatically. In New Jersey, this is readily evident from severe population declines experienced by savannah sparrow at RC field(PARKE)grassland birds who make up 25 percent of the state’s endangered bird species, 55 percent of its threatened birds, and 16 percent of its birds listed as special concern.

Pastures can serve as habitat for these birds and possibly stabilize or even increase their declining populations, while still meeting farm needs for profitability, forage quality, and overall productivity. To achieve all these goals, producers with livestock will need to modify some activities, learn how active pastures provide a surrogate habitat for long-gone native grasslands, and work birds into their overall pasture plans.

Several common pasture management practices that are incompatible with grassland bird conservation include:

  • Mowing or clipping pastures during the peak breeding season (early-May through early July).
  • Overgrazed pastures are similarly unfavorable for most grassland bird species by eliminating the taller grass structure these birds require.
  • Stocking rates, the number of animals, in the pasture must be closely managed to protect from overgrazing and to ensure that sufficient grass cover is available during the breeding period.

P4190075Pasture management goals can be compatible with grassland bird habitat goals, and, if planned carefully, can help improve soil health and water quality.

Several key aspects to grassland bird conservation in pastures includes the size of pasture, use of rotational grazing, the stocking density, and by maintaining a variety of perennial grasses along with minimizing woody vegetation.

NJ Audubon staff started grassland bird surveys last week in conjunction with a William Penn Foundation funded, sustainable grazing project that includes the Musconetcong Watershed Association and North Jersey RC&D and a private livestock producer (Cotton Cattle Company of Asbury, NJ). Many State Threatened species as well as State Species of Special Concern have been detected on the surveys, including Grasshopper Sparrow, grasshopper sparrow at RC field (PARKE)Savannah Sparrow, Eastern Meadowlark and Field Sparrow.

NJ Audubon is looking to engage more landowners and producers for enrollment into the various federal conservation cost share programs for conducting conservation practices on their land, including pasture management. For more information please contact NJA Stewardship Project Director, John Parke at john.parke@njaudubon.org or your local USDA-NRCS Service center.

To support NJA Stewardship work on habitat restoration, species recovery and natural resource protection throughout NJ, including work associated with riparian restorations, you can donate to their team participating in the 2017 World Series of Birding at: http://worldseriesofbirding.org/teampage.asp?fundid=1067#.WN-8j9LDHIU

All photos by John Parke taken at 2017 pasture study sites

References

  • KNOPF, F. L. 1994. Avian assemblages on altered grasslands. Studies in Avian Biology 15:247–257.
  • PETERJOHN, B. G., AND J. R. SAUER. 1999. Population status of North American grassland birds from the North American Breeding Bird Survey, 1966–1996. Studies in Avian Biology 19:27–44.
  • JAMES, F. C., D. A. WIEDENFIELD, AND C. E. MCCULLOCH. 1992. Trends in breeding populations of warblers: Declines in the southern highlands and increases in the lowlands. Pages 43–56 in Ecology and Conservation of Neotropical Migrant Landbirds (J. M. Hagan III and D.W. Johnston, Eds.). Smithsonian Institution Press,Washington, D.C.
  • HERKERT, J. R. 1995. An analysis of Midwestern breeding bird population trends: 1966–1993. American Midland Naturalist 134:41–50.
  • SAUER, J. R., J. E. HINES, G. GOUGH, I. THOMAS, AND B. J. PETERJOHN. 1997. The North American Breeding Bird Survey, version 96.1. [Online.] Pautuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, Maryland. Available at http://www.mbr.nbs. gov/bbs/bbs.html.
  • BOLLINGER, E. K., AND T. A. GAVIN. 1992. Eastern Bobolink populations: Ecology and conservation in an agricultural landscape. Pages 497–506 in Ecology and Conservation of Neotropical Migrant Landbirds (J. M. Hagan III and D.W. Johnston, Eds.). Smithsonian Institution Press,Washington, D.C.
  • ASKINS, R. A. 1993. Population trends in grassland, shrubland, and forest birds in eastern North America. Current Ornithology 11:1–34.
  • http://www.state.nj.us/dep/fgw/tandespp.htm
  • Ochterski, J., 2005, Enhancing Pastures for Grassland Bird Habitat, Cornell Cooperative extension of Schuyler County, NJ

DRWI Riparian Buffer Restorations Instrumental in Clean Water in Highlands Region

As part of the Delaware River Watershed Initiative (DRWI) New Jersey Audubon (NJA) supplied, and provided labor to install,Wood Turtle sussex county(PARKE) over 1,900 native trees and shrubs to five different riparian restoration projects in the NJ Highlands Region. Used in the restoration were 12 different native species that have exceptional habitat value, including, arrowwood viburnum, pin oak, silky dogwood, willows, American sycamore and buttonbush. These five restoration projects in total accounted for over 1 mile of stream bank stabilization and buffer areas to two major water courses in the region, the Paulin’s Kill River and the Musconetcong River. Ultimately the plantings will benefit water quality, soil health and floodplain function, as well as significantly enhance habitats for bird species, trout and other aquatic species, as well as threatened and endangered species, including the Wood Turtle and Brook Snaketail dragonfly.

With funding from the William Penn Foundation and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) for the DRWI, NJA aligns conservation efforts of multiple partners to accelerate protection and restoration efforts of the water quality in the Delaware Basin. The five restoration sites that received the NJA plant materials for buffers were properties that other conservation organizations, agencies, contractors and fishing clubs were the lead organization in implementing the projects as part of the DRWI. These entities included, the Wallkill Watershed Management Group, Musconetcong Watershed Association, North Jersey RC&D, Trout Unlimited, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Trout Scapes River Restoration LLC, Warren County Rod & Gun Club and the Musconetcong Trout Club.

“Conservation is a collaborate effort,” said John Parke, Stewardship Project Director for NJA. “Projects of this size and scope are possible because of a multitude of partners working together for a common goal – conservation of New Jersey’s natural resources. Buffer plantings along water courses such as these are instrumental to water quality, biodiversity, and ecological health of freshwater systems and the ecosystem services they provide to a community.”

One of the many benefits of a vegetated buffer is the filtration of sediment. By filtering sediment from runoff, the buffer is removing pollutants that bind to soil. buffer planting at Warren county Rod and gun on musky (Parke)The vegetation in the buffer removes these pollutants from runoff through plant uptake and by helping bacterial degradation of the contaminants. An example of this is, excess phosphorus from fertilizer binds to soil and is normally found in the top few inches of the soil, which can be susceptible to erosion. Trapping and filtering out these sediments from runoff in the buffer vegetation is a very effective way to reduce pollution entering the water body. The minimum width needed for an effective riparian buffer depends on the purpose you want the buffer to serve. However, the general rule for buffer width is, “wider is better”.

“It was very important to significantly increase the riparian buffer at these farms to prevent chicken manure which is used to fertilize the adjacent crops, as well as any herbicides sprayed on the crops, from entering these important water bodies that supply drinking water and provide critical habitat to trout and other species,” said Brian Cowden, NJ Trout Unlimited Conservation Chair and Co-Owner Trout Scapes River Restoration.

Although buffer plantings are essential to the protection of water, with the demand for land for other uses, the importance of buffers are sometimes forgotten and in some cases buffers are reduced significantly to accommodate other land use activities. Compounding the problem of buffer use on the landscape is that for the average landowner or farmer finding the money, time and most especially the labor, to restore buffer areas correctly.

NJYC buffer on Musky (Parke)To address the labor and time issue with correctly installing buffer plantings, NJA secured additional funding in 2016 to contract 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 DRWI. The NJ Youth Corps is a year-round program that helps young adults (ages 16-25) earn a high school diploma while developing employment skills through community service projects. For projects associated with NJ Audubon, the Corps participants have been trained through the Waders in the Water program, which students receive classroom instruction on developing work skills in ecological restoration projects and environmental science. Specifically, through NJA’s outreach and conservation planning in the region, NJA provides the Corps with Service Learning projects in support of the DRWI which increases the pace of project implementation in the field, and the projects also provide Corps njyc-live stakes (Muckle)members with valuable employment skills associated with their training.

When asked her thoughts about the work performed by NJ Youth Corps at the five restoration projects in the Highlands region, NJ Youth Corp student, Ciara Ecchevaria (17) said, “This was awesome.  I didn't think it was possible for me to participate in something like this.  I would love to do this for a career!'

Although water is an essential resource and we obviously need it to survive, unfortunately its availability and quality are often taken for granted. By engaging our youth in opportunities regarding water and science and having them become more informed can help create a future generation of stewards.

"I realized and learned from participating in the restoration work that there's a lot of things in this world that we don't see and we can do more to help the community.....but doing small things can help the world out a lot more than we think,” said NJ Youth Corp student Austin Tigar (17) about participating in the riparian restoration work at the Paulin’s Kill and the Musconetcong Rivers. “It was fun and it made me feel better to make something in this world a little better."

 NJ Audubon is looking to engage more landowners for enrollment into the various federal conservation cost share programs for conducting conservation practices on their land, 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.

To support NJA Stewardship Department’s work for overall habitat restoration, species recovery and natural resource protection throughout NJ, including work associated with riparian restorations, you can donate to their team participating in the 2017 World Series of Birding at: http://worldseriesofbirding.org/teampage.asp?fundid=1067#.WN-8j9LDHIU

All photos by John Parke & Mike Muckle

Wild Northern Bobwhite Released in Pine Barrens

Northern Bobwhite quail were released for the third consecutive year at the Pine Island Cranberry property as part of the multi-state male bobwhite at PIC (PIC)initiative to re-establish Northern Bobwhite in the Mid-Atlantic States. Lead by New Jersey Audubon, with project collaborators Tall Timbers Research Station & Land Conservancy , Pine Island Cranberry, the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife and the University of Delaware, 80 wild birds (40 males and 40 females) were captured in Georgia, translocated, and released, at the Pine Island Cranberry study site. The New Jersey portion of this project has the unique role of releasing only wild quail (translocation). Other partners to the multi-state project are evaluating methods of raising captive bred and parent reared quail, however no captive bred quail will be released in New Jersey. Ultimately, the results of the NJ study will be compared to findings from the other participating states in the initiative.

“The research we are embarking on in the New Jersey Pine Barrens is pivotal to understanding the limits of translocation as a population recovery tool for Bobwhites in the northern fringe of their range. If we are to truly ‘hold the line’ for this pint-sized bird that so many have come to know and love, we must be willing to attempt the impossible, think the unimaginable, and be prepared for a moonshot in Bobwhite history,” said Project Collaborator Dr. Theron M. Terhune of Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy.

P3260006After receiving health screenings and testing and attaching leg ID bands along with radio-signal transmitting collars to each wild bird, the quail were released in groups across the study site. This is the 3rd release of wild Bobwhite at the study site since 2015.

“We're looking forward to another great year and there are already some indications that it will be. P3270047The birds released last year that still have functioning radio collars have already joined up with this year's released birds,” said Phil Coppola, Project Research Assistant. “The translocation went smoothly and now we can just let them pair up and progress into the breeding season. There are few things more exciting than finding the first nest of the season!”

In the previous two years of the project, a total of 18 nests were confirmed by the project researchers on site, as well as, successful hatching and overwintering by the quail that were translocated to the study site.

"These Bobwhite translocations have provided valuable information on the habitat quality and forest management practices implemented thus far on Pine Island. We are looking forward to seeing what we can learn from this year's release of Northern Bobwhites to aid in future habitat management, as well as, forest health in the New Jersey Pine Barrens," said Project Researcher Kaili Stevens of the University of Delaware.

Active forest management, implemented under a State approved Forest Stewardship Plan written and directed by Pine Creek Forestry , has been the key element in creating high quality habitat conditions for the Bobwhite. Although the intent of the forestry work at the site is focused on forest and watershed health, these same forestry practices also create critically needed habitat for wildlife and have been instrumental in the translocation efforts.

PARKE QUAIL 2017“Opening those boxes and seeing the quail flush out and take flight back into the wild is a feeling that never gets old,” said John Parke, NJA Project Stewardship Director. “In reviewing the data collected over the last few years and seeing these wild birds adapt to their new surroundings is a testament to how important active management is to maintain forest health and wildlife diversity. The Northern Bobwhite Restoration Initiative has implications for quail recovery in the Mid-Atlantic, is providing information on other species that use these same managed forest habitat, and is motivating others to implement forest management,” Parke added.

The success of the project at Pine Island, combined with years of habitat restoration work lead by NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife in Cumberland County has, for the first time ever in New Jersey, lead to the allocation of federal funding through the USDA-NRCS Working Lands for Wildlife Program specifically for quail habitat restoration. “This is a major opportunity for private landowners and farmers to be part of the recovery of this iconic species. Landowners and farmers that take advantage of this cost share program will help establish habitat for quail and other species, while also helping to address forest health issues such as fuel load reduction, control of forest diseases and pests, and ultimately successful regeneration and forest function,” said Parke.

“This has been a great chance for Pine Island Cranberry to work with so many organizations who love the pines as much as we do, and it’s wonderful seeing the Bobwhite quail making themselves at home here once again,” said Stefanie Haines of Pine Island Cranberry.

To learn how you can support the Bobwhite Recovery Initiative go to NJ Audubon's Quail webpage http://www.njaudubon.org/SectionConservation/StewardshipInAction/NorthernBobwhiteRestorationInitiative.aspx

To support NJA Stewardship Department’s work for overall habitat restoration and species recovery throughout NJ such of Bobwhite Quail, you can donate to their team participating in the 2017 World Series of Birding at: http://worldseriesofbirding.org/teampage.asp?fundid=1067#.WN-8j9LDHIU

NJ Audubon and USDA Staff Participate in Northeast Organic Farming Association’s Winter Conference

Written by Brittany Dobrzynski*

NRCS Booth at the NOFA Winter ConferenceDuring the last weekend of January, NJ Audubon and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Services staff participated in the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Jersey’s Winter Conference at Rutgers University. The conference spanned two days and offered a wide array of workshops for organic producers throughout the Garden state. Whether attendees were looking to learn more about the history of organic farming, carbon soil sequestration, small scale farm tools or soap making, there was a workshop to fit everyone’s interest.

The lounge at the Douglas Student Center was packed with additional information, vendors and book sales to provide conference participants with many references to take with them. Keynote speaker Jean Martin Fortier amped up the crowd with his secrets to making a six figure income on a one-and-a-half-acre organic vegetable farm in Quebec, ALL WITHOUT THE USE OF A TRACTOR! You could feel the love in the room as he shared his stories of traveling the world to learn his adopted techniques, and tales of the two years he and his wife spent living on the land in a tee-pee when first starting out. I was fortunate enough to follow up with Jean Martin one-on-one and received a personal pep-talk after leaving a workshop titled “Starting the Farm from Scratch” on the last session of the first day. I even got an autographed copy of his book “The Market Gardener” which I am already halfway through reading. 

IBrittany Dobrzynski details NJ Audubons' Healthy Land and Waters Grants focal areas within South Jersey was joined by a number of familiar faces throughout the day; my colleagues with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) manned a table in the lounge, spreading the good word on programs offered to benefit these local organic producers. Organic champion and NRCS District Conservationist Nicole Ciccaglione attended as I joined NRCS District Conservationist John Kluthe in two sessions of panel discussions on USDA funding. These panels included representatives from the Farm Service Agency and Rural Development as well. John described NRCS’ history, originating from the Soil Conservation Service in the Dust Bowl days to today. He shared one of my favorite tales of founder Hugh Hammond Bennett’s impeccable timing appealing to Congress for continued funding for the Soil Conservation Service as a dust storm entered the windows of the Congress. While the dust settled in, covering desks and paperwork in a fine silt, they unanimously agreed to continue funding the Service. Kluthe detailed the conservation planning process that begins with identifying problems and opportunities and results in implementation of a well-formulated Conservation Plan, all with the help of experts on staff.

Farm Service Agency staff presented on the many loan programs available to producers. From business start-up costs to cold storage facilities, the Farm Service Agency has a low interest loan program for just about any materials, equipment and facilities aiding in operations on a farm.

Rural Development program staff offered details on their loans and grant services. These are available to farmers, non-profits, businesses and individuals, not just ag producers. They offer loans for things like expanding small businesses, mortgages, and expanding use of renewable energy.

Rural Development funding opportunities featured in the panel discussion New Jersey Audubon staff presented on programs available through the Delaware River Watershed Initiative. In southern New Jersey, agricultural best management practices for soil and water conservation are subsidized through New Jersey Audubon’s Healthy Land and Waters Grant program. Producers farming within certain focal areas of the Kirkwood Cohansey Aquifer are eligible to participate. Those areas include residents in the Upper Salem Watershed, Maurice and Upper Cohansey, Greater Hammonton area and West Cape May Penninsula.

In the northern New Jersey, Audubon offers assistance by technical assistance and materials for restoration projects within the Northern Lopatcong, Lower Musconetcong and Paulinskill watersheds. Materials include, but are not limited to, seed, live stakes, whips, tree and shrub seedlings, even ball and burlap trees. The NJ Audubon programs are made possible thanks to financial support from the William Penn Foundation and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

For more information on these New Jersey Audubon programs through the Delaware River Watershed Initiative, please contact Brittany Dobrzynski at 609-400-3826 or Brittany.dobrzynski@njaudubon.org.

I would like to extend a big thanks to the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Jersey for putting on such a wonderful conference. It is always truly inspiring to meet with so many partner agencies from throughout the state all in one spot and makes me proud to be a member of this agricultural community. Until next year!

* Brittany Dobrzynski is Stewardship Specialist with New Jersey Audubon and is currently working through a cooperative agreement as a Natural Resources Conservation Service Partner Employee.

Photos by Nicole Ciccaglione, District Conservationist

Mannington Mills Improves Water Quality & Soil Health on Working Lands

Volunteers plant trees and shrubs between a spinach field and a wetlandDuring a cold and wintery weekend in early December 2016, over 80 volunteers put on their hats and gloves and came out to help New Jersey Audubon’s Stewardship staff plant 1,320 native trees and shrubs on a working farm in Salem County. The property is owned by Mannington Mills, a member of New Jersey Audubon’s Corporate Stewardship Council. The agricultural land that Mannington Mills owns is managed by a local farmer, who grows peppers, corn, soybeans, and spinach on site. The volunteers helped plant the bare root trees and shrubs along an irrigation pond that eventually connects with Fenwick Creek. This newly planted area will help to proVolunteers place tree guards around trees and shrubstect the waterway by filtering out runoff while providing food and cover for wildlife.

Students from the Salem County Vo-Tech School and Mannington Township School, along with staff from Mannington Mills and Chemours, came out and planted hundreds of trees and shrubs on just the first day. On the following day, the Quinton Boy Scouts, Alloway Daisy Girl Scouts, Salem County 4-H Club, and the Adventure Aquarium’s Community & Urban Science Enrichment Program (CAUSE) came out to finish planting the remaining trees and shrubs.

The project is a part of the Delaware River Watershed Initiative (http://www.drwi.net/), a multi-state effort designed to improve water quality and quantity throughout the watershed. In support of the DRWI, at this Volunteers plant over 1,320 trees and shrubssame site in Salem County, earlier this year warm season grasses were installed between the field and the wetlands and pollinator habitat was planted along the roadside. Like the trees and shrubs, these strips of vegetation will help protect the waterways by catching eroding soil or nutrients that may runoff from the fields.

The work done on this property is supported by Mannington Mills, the local farmer, and the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and Farm Service Agency. Work within the Delaware River Watershed is supported by the William Penn Foundation and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

Bald Eagle Saved at Quail Project Site

An injured immature Bald Eagle had luck on its side yesterday, when employees at Pine Island Cranberry Company (PICC) found it on the ground by chance while working to winterize cranberry bogs at their Chatsworth, NJ site.  After placing one of the worker’s jackets over the distressed bird to keep it calm, PICC staff contacted New Jersey Audubon who coincidently happened to be on site yesterday implementing work associated with PC070009the Bobwhite Quail Translocation Project.

Staff from New Jersey Audubon then transported the bird to the Woodford Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge and Rehabilitation Center in Medford, NJ for evaluation and treatment.

“After an examination by our rehab hospital staff, no obvious major injuries were detected, aside from a little dried blood on its beak.  Externally, the wings, legs and body appeared to be fine and the bird was alert.” said Kathy Cantafio of Woodford Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge.  “The bird has been transferred as of this morning to Mercer County Wildlife Center in Lambertville, NJ for additional evaluation and testing.” 

PC070010In the end, one should remember that it was the unconditional caring efforts of many people that came to the aid of this injured bird.  All for nothing more than to do the right thing. The story is a great example of how collaborative efforts, getting involved and taking action can have not just a positive impact in our personal lives, but also for other species that live with us and the world we live in.

We encourage the public to share in our passion for wildlife, expand your conservation vision, get more involved, take action, volunteer, get familiar with conservation initiatives and issues, support our conservation efforts, become a NJ Audubon member, take advantage of our many education and conservation programs and help us make New Jersey a better place for people and wildlife!  For more information on how you can be a part of New Jersey Audubon click here.

NJ Audubon, sends a warm heart filled thank you to the great staff at Pine Island Cranberry Company and the dedicated folks at Woodford Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge and Rehabilitation Center for their concerned efforts to come to the aid of this special NJ resident and national emblem of our great Country!

Photos by Kathy Cantafio

Bobwhite Quail Still Going Strong at Pine Island Cranberry Study Site

While performing mammalian predator abundance surveys at the Pine Island Cranberry Bobwhite Quail Translocation Study Site this past week, John Parke of NJ Audubon joined University of Delaware Quail Project Researcher Kaili Stevens to assist with macrohabitat vegetation surveys and also got to tag along on radio telemetry tracking.

Currently, the Northern Bobwhite Quail are beginning to group together into coveys at the study site. However, during telemetry work, an exciting pine snake in Pine barrens with cone (PARKE)discovery took place. Quail without radio collars were observed with collared birds released this past Spring, indicating we still have surviving individuals from 2015 and/or some nests and hatchlings went undetected during this year’s breeding season!   (Note: of the 13 active nests we did find in 2016, all eggs were eaten by Northern Pine Snakes (this was confirmed with the use of trail cameras on the nests – also note that the Northern Pine Snake is a NJ State Threatened species that also benefits from the quality habitat produced by the active forest management at the site).

The methodology used to detect these additional uncollared birds is to first locate a collared bird via radio telemetry and then use a dog to flush it. Since Bobwhite are forming coveys at this time, any additional birds gathered round a collared bird would also flush. “Pointing and flushing dogs are valuable to wildlife scientists as tools for detecting abundance, different sex and age classes of various birds (e.g., Wight 1930, Bergerud and Mercer 1966, Ratti et al. 1984, Jamieson 1985, Hines 1986, Stinnett and Klebenow 1986). By reducing human biases and increasing sample sizes, dogs (Canis familiaris) can improve the quality of research (Zwickel 1980).”

quail in grass (Parke)With the help of Kaili’s Springer Spaniel, “Watson”, quail are flushed after a collared bird is located and then the observers are able to get a count of individuals in the covey. (click here for link to video). Last week alone, 9 additional uncollared Bobwhite quail were confirmed with collared individuals on site!   

To see a video of a Bobwhite covey being flushed on October 14, 2016 at the Pine Island Cranberry study site by researchers click here.

“This is very exciting and encouraging to find these additional birds,” said John Parke, NJA Stewardship Project Director. “Finding these uncollared Bobwhite on the study site is a testament to how active management and stewardship to produce quality habitat is ultimately the key to species recovery.”

Telemetry work, surveys and counts of the Bobwhite Quail will continue at the study site through the fall and into the winter; preparations are also underway for the 2017 release.

All photos and video by John Parke

References:

BERGERUD, A. T., AND W. E. MERCER. 1966. Census of the willow ptarmigan in Newfoundland. J. Wildl. Manage. 30:101-113.

HINES, J. E. 1986. Social organization, movements, and home ranges of blue grouse in fall and winter. Wilson Bull. 98:419-432.

H.M. WIGHT, 1930. Michigan's game dog. Am. For. 36:620-623, 637.

JAMIESON, I. G. 1985. Behavior of yearling male blue grouse and its relation to delayed breeding. Wilson Bull. 97:71-77.

RATTI, J. T., D. L. MACKEY, AND J. R. ALLDREDGE. 1984. Analysis of spruce grouse habitat in north-central Washington. J. Wildl. Manage. 48:1188-1196

STINNETF, D. P., AND D. A. KLEBENOW. 1986. Habitat use of irrigated lands by California quail in Nevada. J. Wildl. Manage. 50:368

ZWICKEL, F. C. 1980. Use of dogs in wildlife biology. Pages 531-536 in S. D. Schemnitz, ed. Wildlife management techniques manual. Fourth ed. The Wildl. Soc., Inc., Washington, D.C. 686pp.