Category: News from the Sanctuaries
NJA Unstaffed Property News
For the third time in four years, the New Jersey Audubon Stewardship Department has won the prestigious “Firman E. Bear Ecological Excellence Award,” given by the New Jersey chapter of the Soil and Water Conservation Society in partnership with Pinelands Nursery. The award recognizes excellence in an ecological restoration project that implements unique soil and water conservation practices with innovative habitat enhancements.
In addition, the same project has been awarded the “Excellence Water Resources Award” given by the New Jersey Section of the American Water Resources Association (NJ-AWRA). The Excellence Award recognizes projects that advance water resources research, planning, development, management and education.
New Jersey Audubon’s use of bulrush on the project to address both a water resource concern and a critical habitat concern is a great example of efficient collaborative conservation intervention that is part of the Delaware River Watershed Initiative, an unprecedented collaboration supported by the William Penn Foundation and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
Working together, New Jersey Audubon, the Sussex County Municipal Utilities Authority/Wallkill River Watershed Management Group (SCMUA-WRWMG) and the New Jersey Youth Corps of Phillipsburg planted more than 10,000 native plants along a tributary of the Paulin’s Kill River that runs through an active farm pasture in the Delaware River Watershed.
The choice of plants is a careful balance. The plantings must help improve water quality and control soil erosion, but also must be compatible with the needs of native species and their habitats. For example, the use of trees and other woody vegetation, which would typically be used for bank stabilization, are not always compatible with some native species habitats, such as that of the federally-listed bog turtle.
“Trees and other woody vegetation are not always the answer for riparian restorations, you have to consider the habitat needs of the species living there, so for this project the type of plant we used at the site was dark green bulrush,” explained John Parke, Stewardship Project Director of New Jersey Audubon. “Bulrush is a native plant that is commonly found in bog turtle habitat in this region. By planting it along the banks of the stream it not only helps stabilize the stream banks and prevent soil erosion but it also provides important food and cover for wildlife. Although bulrush can be grazed and is not harmful for livestock, it is not preferred by livestock. Thus livestock tend to leave it alone and in doing so, the area that was planted with bulrush allowed the native seed bank to grow which improved biodiversity, habitat and general wetland function on site. Additionally, bulrush naturally removes excess phosphorus from water, through its root system. This use of a plant to remove the excess nutrient pollution is termed phytoremediation.”
Excess phosphorus is a major part of nutrient pollution, which according to the US EPA, is “one of America's most widespread, costly and challenging environmental problems.” Although, phosphorous is a natural and essential part of ecosystems, too much can pollute the water by leading algae to grow faster than ecosystems can handle. Excess algae can harm water quality by decreasing the oxygen that fish and other aquatic life need to survive. Additionally, significant increases of algae in our water can also impact human health, food resources, and thus impact a region’s economy.
“New Jersey Audubon has a long history of doing good ecological work, in partnership with other organizations, that encourages similar projects elsewhere,” added Tom Drewes, retired former State Conservationist of New Jersey for U.S. Department of Agriculture’s, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and coordinator of the Firman award judging. “Our Soil and Water Conservation Society Chapter, in collaboration with Pinelands Nursery, is happy to provide this award in recognition of their accomplishment.”
“Not only did NJ Audubon’s project address phosphorous loading in the bog turtle habitat, which in itself is an important water quality improvement,” says Rebecca Traylor, Secretary of the NJ-AWRA and an award judge, “it exposed young adults to water resources careers and practical science with hands-on experience by engaging the New Jersey Youth Corps. The project truly epitomizes our mission.”
New Jersey Audubon would like to express sincere gratitude and appreciation to the New Jersey chapter of the Soil and Water Conservation Society and NJ Section of the American Water Resources Association and their respective committees for selecting the project for the awards and their support to encourage science-based conservation practices, programs, and policy.
NJA also would like to thank the project property owner the Joritsma family and the other organizations and agencies, that also played an important role on implementing various conservation practices on the project site to improve water quality and critical habitat for a rare species, they include the New Jersey Youth Corps of Phillipsburg, the Wallkill River Watershed Management Group, US Fish and Wildlife Service Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, and USDA-NRCS. Finally we would like to thank our grant funders the William Penn Foundation and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for their financial support for the project as part of the Delaware River Watershed Initiative.”
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 Musconetcong, Lopatcong and the 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos by John Parke
Project Site during bulrush install spring 2016 (top photo)
Project Site now in summer 2017 (bottom photo)
Bill Haines, Jr. owner and CEO of Pine Island Cranberry Company (PICC) of Chatsworth, NJ was the recipient of New Jersey’s first ever National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative’s (NBCI) National Fire Bird Conservation Award. The award, presented at the NJ Fish and Game Council Meeting by James Sloan, New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife (NJDFW) Upland Habitat/Game Biologist and NJ Coordinator of NBCI, recognizes entities and/or an individual’s contributions to that state’s efforts toward habitat-based restoration of wild bobwhite.
“The work done at Pine Island Cranberry Company over the years through active forest stewardship, combined with their participation in the national Bobwhite Quail recovery initiative could very well change the reintroduction effort in the Mid-Atlantic region for the species,” said Sloan.
According to NBCI, the award’s name, “Fire Bird”, symbolizes the historic reliance of Bobwhites on fire in much of its range to maintain the landscape in an “early successional” stage, that is, in the native grasses, wildflowers and young forest providing bobwhites with suitable habitat. The term “Fire Bird” in relation to Bobwhites was first coined by naturalist Herbert Stoddard, who researched bobwhites and worked to restore bobwhite habitat in the early 20th Century.
“PICC’s landscape characteristics, achieved by meticulously performing the conservation practices and prescriptions in their NJDEP approved Forest Stewardship Plan, are a natural match for the Bobwhite. The actions that Bill Haines Jr. and the PICC have taken will continue to create and enhance high quality habitat for the species in the years ahead as plan implementation progresses,” said John Parke, NJ Audubon Stewardship Project Director. “NJ Audubon congratulates Bill Haines, Jr and the staff at Pine Island Cranberry Company, on receiving this well-deserved award and commends PICC and PICC’s forester Bob Williams of Pine Creek Forestry, for their efforts to establish quality 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,” Parke added.
Beginning in 2015, PICC, along with project partners NJ Audubon, Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy, NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife, the University of Delaware and Pine Creek Forestry conducted the first release of wild Northern Bobwhite translocated from Georgia to the PICC study site. To date, a total of 240 wild birds have been released and radio tracked via telemetry at the PICC site. This has resulted in 39 nests (1st confirmed nesting of wild Northern Bobwhite in the Pinelands since the 1980s), and 117 confirmed chicks. The project also demonstrated that translocated quail can over-winter from year to year. Additionally, researchers documented double-clutching nesting, where the male bird incubates while the female goes on to lay a second nest. These successes reflect the quality of habitat on the PICC site brought about through thoughtful and active land management and stewardship. By performing active management on the land, a balance of different cover types for nesting, brood rearing, and foraging were created, allowing for the translocated Bobwhite to take advantage of their naturally high reproductive potential.
“We are honored to receive this recognition, but it is an even greater honor to participate in the project with partners like NJ Audubon, the University of Delaware, Tall Timbers, and the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife,” said Stefanie Haines of Pine Island Cranberry, receiving the award on behalf of her father. “We are proud that our stewardship practices benefit not only our business and our home, but the wildlife which surrounds us as well,” added Haines.
Click here to support the NJ Audubon Bobwhite Quail Restoration Initiative
Photos Courtesy of NJ Audubon
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.
Today, 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.
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.
It 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
The first quail nest of 2017 was discovered by NJA’s researchers at the Pine Island Cranberry Study Site in Chatsworth, Burlington County. The nest, as well as three more discovered in June, marks the third consecutive year of successful breeding by the translocated birds; further evidence of a turning tide in Bobwhite Quail recovery in New Jersey.
“We have seen a substantial decline in quail and yet, with proper habitat management, we believe we can bring them back, which is why we are bringing them in to reestablish their population,” explained John Cecil, Vice President for Stewardship, NJA.
2017 marks the third year of release of wild Bobwhite captured from Georgia and translocated to the Pine Island Cranberry study site in Chatsworth, NJ. Since the spring release, the birds have been tracked via radio telemetry by researchers from the University of Delaware contracted by NJA. One exciting element to the radio tracking this season is that four 2016 released quail (that still have working radio collars) have been confirmed to have paired up with this year’s released birds! Additionally, one uncollared bird, which indicates an offspring from previous years, has also paired up with a 2017 released bird!
“We are working to create permanence with Northern Bobwhite in New Jersey,” said John Parke, Stewardship Project Director - North Region, NJA. “In reviewing the data collected over the last few years and seeing these wild birds adapt to their new surroundings and successfully nest is a testament to how important active management is to maintain forest health and wildlife diversity,” Parke said. “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. We are excited by the progress of the project, the hard work of the project partners and collaborators and eager to see Bobwhite thrive again in New Jersey,” he added.
ANSWER THE CALL and be part of this historic reintroduction and recovery of this beloved iconic species and support the Bobwhite Recovery Initiative! Go to NJ Audubon's Bobwhite Quail webpage: https://community.njaudubon.org/pages/quail-restoration-initiative-donation-page
Photos by Phil Coppola and John Parke
The first Snow Geese of the season arrived yesterday (November 29, 2016) at the Wattles Stewardship Center in Port Murray, Warren County, NJ. The ten radiantly white birds stood out, almost regal-like, among a flock of Canada Geese, as they grazed in the corn stubble of a recently harvested farm field along the Musconetcong River.
For several years now Snow Geese have been descending upon Warren County’s farm fields each winter, particularly around the areas of Merrill Creek Reservoir, the Musconetcong River valley, Lopatcong Creek, and the Alpha Grasslands, choosing to utilize the region as wintering grounds. Sometimes numbers of these geese are in the 10’s of thousands.
For some “non-birder” types, you may not know that “other” geese species, like the Snow Goose visit New Jersey. According to the official New Jersey Bird Records Committee, eight different species of goose have been sighted in NJ. They include: Pink-footed Goose, Greater White-fronted Goose, Snow Goose, Ross’s Goose, Brant, Barnacle Goose, Cackling Goose and Canada Goose. (To see the official accepted list of not just the goose species but all bird species in NJ see: http://www.njbrc.net/)
But for the most part, many New Jerseyans are very familiar with only the Canada Goose since this bird can be found throughout the year in New Jersey in every possible landscape available – from backyards to urban parks and corporate lawns to coastal areas, farm fields, rivers, ponds and lakes. Canada Geese are everywhere, in fact there are so many, that in some areas of the state they have been implicated as the cause for impaired water quality, human health concerns, airline safety issues and severe crop and natural resource damage. Water quality however has become the biggest issue associated with high goose populations because of there droppings. A goose can produce up to ¾ of a pound of droppings per day and depending on sizes of local flocks and waterways, environmental impacts can be quite severe, especially if concentrated in an area. These stressors to water quality from large geese populations include increased nutrient levels and sedimentation and erosion (because of removal of vegetation at the edge of bank on water bodies due to grazing). Goose manure has also been linked to rising E. coli levels in the water, but the most notable ingredient in goose manure is phosphorous. Excess phosphorus can lead to algae blooms and low oxygen levels in water bodies.
What is fascinating about our resident Canadian Geese is that about 40 years ago, Canada Geese were considered, more or less, only a spring and fall migrant in NJ. Although some Canadian Geese were purposely released in areas in NJ in the early and mid 1900’s, many wildlife experts believe that with the large expanses of lawn areas created by suburban sprawl and corporate development of the post-1970’s NJ landscape and changes in weather / temperature patterns over the years is what turned NJ into perfect goose habitat and created a situation where Canada Geese became a common winter resident and then transitioned to reside, nest and thrive here year long. Because of these changes to NJ’s landscape, many Canada Geese no longer need to undergo the risky process of migration when they can stay here year-round and have all of their life-cycle needs met with ease. According to the most recent available records (2014) the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife has estimated that there are around 75,000 resident Canada Geese in NJ (this does not count migrants that may winter here or pass through).
Now enter the Snow Goose, which is a medium-sized white goose with black wing tips and a pink bill, that nests in the Arctic tundra but is considered a common migrant in NJ and winters here. Snow geese although usually white in color can sometimes have dark plumage which is known as the “Blue Goose”. This color variant in a Snow Goose creates gray-blue body feathers and a white head (sometimes white belly feathers are also exhibited). This color phase is controlled by a single gene that makes dark colors partially dominant over white.
In the past, Snow Geese wintered on the salt marshes and farm fields of southern NJ along the Atlantic coast and Delaware Bay shores. But over the last 20 years or so they have become increasingly common throughout the state in winter, including large flocks spending time on various inland reservoirs, freshwater lakes, agricultural fields and park or corporate lawn areas in Central and North Jersey.
A strong flyer and swimmer, Snow Geese are also strong “long-distance” walkers. At home in the tundra, Snow Goose goslings have been known to walk up to 50 miles with their parents to look for more suitable rearing areas within the first three weeks of hatching! In the arctic it is mostly the Snow Goose goslings that have a plethora of predators to contend with, from raptors, gulls and jaegers to bears, wolves and arctic foxes. Here on their NJ wintering grounds its foxes, coyotes and eagles that are the main predatory concerns for the adults. However Snow Geese have a defense in which they call out to the rest of the flock when a predator is sighted, whereupon the entire flock takes flight causing a “whiteout” of sorts to confuse the predator from concentrating on attacking a single individual.
Snow Geese are voracious eaters, with females being noted to forage up to eighteen hours a day. They are vegetarians that eat grasses, rushes, sedges, forbs, small shrubs and even small willows. Studies show that a Snow Goose will eat almost any part of a plant including its seeds, stems, leaves, tubers and roots. They do this either by grazing the tops of new growth, shearing off plants flush to the ground or ripping the entire plant from the ground. They are also known to eat grains, berries and young stems of farm crops (such as winter wheat) in winter and during migration. As one would expect, with this high fiber diet of plant material, food passes through a Snow Goose’s system in only about an hour or two. According to research this equates to a Snow Goose generating six to fifteen droppings per hour. The same study indicates that its defecation rate increases when a Snow Goose is searching for roots with its bill because it inevitably swallows mud.
Because of their insatiable appetite in many areas of the arctic, the increased numbers of snow geese now surpass the ability of the arctic grass/sedge habitat there to support them. As the more productive forage areas are overgrazed and ruined, snow geese move on to find new areas that most likely are less productive and more prone to being destroyed. This habitat destruction impacts not only the Snow Goose, but other bird and wildlife species that depend on that type of vegetation for breeding, foraging and nesting. Also by overgrazing and removing the ground cover from the arctic soils, the soil is then more exposed and prone to evaporation. Thus with less moisture in the arctic soils, salinization (salt build-up) takes place in the soil. With increased salt build up in the arctic soils, scientists have documented numerous native arctic plants not growing back to these areas destroyed by Snow Geese overgrazing.
When you consider that Snow Goose numbers have grown quickly since the mid-twentieth century on their nesting grounds (in some cases by a factor of 25), and that they now have caused serious vegetation destruction to their historical nesting grounds (over grazing and denuded soils) causing them to expand their range in search of new suitable breeding/foraging areas and that they learned to exploit human-created food sources along their migration and wintering areas, is it possible that like its cousin, the Canada Goose, it too will ultimately take up permanent residence in the Garden State? Only time will tell.
A common solution to help deter geese from congregating in and around water bodies is habitat modification. By reducing low open areas such as lawns and/or maintaining or installing trees, shrubs or tall grasses (such as native warm-season grass) along water bodies, geese are more likely to avoid these areas because the taller vegetation can conceal predators and encumber a goose’s ability to fly for a quick escape. Not only does maintaining a dense vegetative buffer between a goose's “food” source (i.e. a lawn, crop fields, etc.) and a water body (an escape route) effectively help reduce and/or eliminate large flocks of geese from gathering around water bodies, these buffer areas provide habitat for many other native species of wildlife, as well as, provide water quality benefits by absorbing excess nutrient run-off and help control soil erosion and sedimentation. NJ Audubon is currently working in the NJ Highlands Region as part of the Delaware River Watershed Initiative (DRWI) to help improve water quality, while also seeking balance for habitat needs for numerous wildlife species. Through funding from the William Penn Foundation and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, 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 free native plant materials (trees, grass, etc.), especially for riparian and wetland restorations. 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 Creek and the Upper Paulin's Kill sub-watersheds) and must exhibit a degree of ecological impairment, this includes impairment linked to geese. For more information please contact NJA Stewardship Project Director, John Parke at email@example.com
All photos by John Parke
Fleming, R, Eng, P., Fraser, H. 2001, The Impact of Waterfowl on Water Quality, University of Guelph
Ridgetown, Ontario, Canada
NJDFW 2014-2015 Migratory Bird Season Information and Population report
Unckless, R., Makarewicz, J. 207, The Impact of Nutrient Loading from Canada Geese (Branta
canadensis) on Water Quality, a Mesocosm Approach, Hydrobiologia (2007) 586:393–401
USFWS, US Waterfowl Population Status Report 2016
University of Delaware graduate research students, Kaili Stevens (MS research assistant) and Philip Coppola (Ph.D. research assistant), who are working with NJ Audubon at the Pine Island Cranberry Bobwhite Quail translocation study site, recently presented project overviews and related studies associated with the project at two national conferences.
In October 2016, Kaili presented information on the study: “Winter Survival and Habitat Selection of Translocated Northern Bobwhite in the Mid-Atlantic” at The Wildlife Society’s 23rd Annual Conference in Raleigh, North Carolina. This study, in relation to the overall translocation project initiative, will help identify the viability of translocating bobwhite into northern managed pine systems versus managed agricultural areas, as well as, aid in identifying the effect of pine management on wintering (Oct-March) northern bobwhite survival and habitat use.
In November, Kaili and Phil will be both presenting at the 2016 Longleaf Alliance Biannual Regional Conference in Savannah, Georgia on “Evaluating the Efficacy of Using Translocation to Recover Bobwhite Populations in the New Jersey Pine Barrens”.
Congratulations to Kaili and Phil, and to our project partners, Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy, the University of Delaware, Pine Island Cranberry Company and the NJDFW.
For more information on the overall Bobwhite Quail translocation project and how you can help support the project click here.
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
The NJA Stewardship Department World Series of Birding team, The Fight'n Femelschlagers, had a great day out in North Jersey racking in 105 species of birds! Bald Eagle, Eastern Screech Owl, Whip-poor Will, Bobolink, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Spotted Sandpiper, Cerulean Warbler, Indigo Bunting, Prairie Warbler 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 Ruffed Grouse encountered in Stokes State Forest that hung around for 10 minutes while we took photos of it from the car!
The birding was great, but we also encountered many other species of wildlife throughout the day, such as Porcupine, Timber Rattlesnake, Five-lined Skink, Pickerel Frog, American Toad and Snapping Turtle, 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 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 in order 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 conservation 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 habitat restoration in NJ such as: 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.
Although the WSB is over, you can still donate to our team at Fight’n Femelschlagers
So what is a Femelschlager? “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)
On behalf of the New Jersey Audubon Stewardship Department, we thank you for the chance to present this opportunity to support our work for your consideration and please know that every little bit helps!!
We also would like to thank our Team Sponsors: Ernst Conservation Seeds, Hudson Farm, and South Jersey Gas, as well as to Vortex Optics for the use of your excellent binoculars and scopes!
All photos by John Parke and Lindsay Gafford
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.
Capping 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!
For the second consecutive year the New Jersey Audubon Stewardship Department was awarded the Firman E. Bear Chapter of the 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.
Although 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 email@example.com for the Highlands region and firstname.lastname@example.org for the Kirkwood-Cohansey region.