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Proactive Forestry to Counter Loss of Ash Trees

Forests in New Jersey have experienced the negative impacts of pathogens, pests, and diseases over the years, many of which target EAB holes in Ashspecific species or genus of trees. One pest that has arrived over the last three years in New Jersey is the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB). First identified in Somerset county in 2014, it has now spread to over ten counties throughout the state. EAB is an invasive insect that carries out its life cycle solely in ash trees, ultimately killing the tree within four to five years. One of the most recently documented occurrences of EAB was identified by New Jersey Audubon staff in the spring of 2017 at Merrill Creek Reservoir in Warren county.

This occurrence only helps to remind land managers of the inevitable: EAB is here and will continue to have significant impacts on our forested landscapes. Realizing the potential for widespread loss of ash stands on its own properties as well as others, NJ Audubon staff have begun utilizing forestry practices to proactively prepare for the impending forest changes.

merrill creek forestry cutNJ Audubon currently utilizes forestry practices on a variety of its lands to mimic now-limited natural disturbances (i.e. fire, beaver impact, storm damage, flooding), which creates a mosaic of different sized and aged forest stands over time. These variations in species, age composition, and size classes helps create the necessary diversity and structure to support a multitude of wildlife that utilize various stages of a forest’s life-cycle.

Recently, NJ Audubon staff completed forestry work on a forest stand at the Wattles Stewardship Center property and two stands at Merrill Creek Reservoir. Both sites were prepped by mowing existing woody invasive plant species throughout the stands. Future herbicide treatments of invasive plant regrowth will promote the successful reestablishment of native vegetation.

After completion of invasive plant species control, harvesting of ash trees was completed at Merrill Creek, which was already confirmed to be in the beginning stages of an EAB infestation. Select walnut trees were also harvested to open the canopy and because of their allelopathic characteristic. This is a trait where a plant can release biochemicals into the soil which hinders growth or germination of other plants; including desirable species. Ash and walnut were also selected against at the Wattles site, although no timber was harvested. At the Wattles Stewardship Center, the IMG_1051technique of girdling was used to kill unwanted walnuts and most ash were left with the expectation of die-off within 5-7 years.

With the forestry work completed, NJ Audubon staff recognized that future regeneration, if left to naturally occur, would be a high percentage of ash and walnut returning from an existing seed bank. To ensure forest regeneration of more diverse species, NJA staff, Merrill Creek staff, and the New Jersey Youth Corps planted over 4,000 seedlings between both sites which were nj youth corp tree planting at Merril Creek Resprovided by The New Jersey Tree Foundation. This reforestation effort with NJ Youth Corp is also part of the Delaware River Watershed Initiative, which works to maintain or improve water quality through the implementation of best management practices and other natural resource protection measures.

Each site was planted with a mixture of oak, pine, black gum, and black cherry trees. To further ensure the successful reestablishment of the young forest, low voltage electric fence was installed around each work area to discourage deer browse until the trees and other vegetation has fully established.

With the use of successful forestry practices, thoughtful foresight, and unique partnerships, NJ Audubon has successfully continued its work to improve the health and management of our forests. Through science-based, responsible land management we can all continue to enhance and strengthen the habitats throughout New Jersey.

Text by Ryan Hasko.  Photos by Ryan Hasko and John Parke

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

Keeping Common Species Common

When thinking of what is “common”, it suggests things that one perceives as being familiar or ordinary or perhaps even not special common yellowthroat in treament area(PARKE)in any kind of way. Sometimes these things that are considered common are taken for granted or overlooked because of their perceived abundance. Sometimes even how they are named implies that they occur frequently and are “seen all the time”. Take for instance, birds species, such as the Common Yellowthroat, the Common Nighthawk and the Common Grackle. All species that if you check their conservation status, as designated by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), are listed as species of “Least Concern” and common because of their current population status. However, the same report also indicates steady declines in all 3 species since 1966 as corroborated by the North American Breeding Bird Survey (i.e., Common Yellowthroat populations have declined cumulatively since 1966 in the US by 38%, Common Grackle have declined 58% and Common Nighthawk 61%).

While Federal, and then state listed, Endangered and threatened species typically receive the most attention and focus when it comes to conservation efforts, “common” species do factor into conservation objectives and management. Perceived abundance of these “common” species and the idea that “generalist” species can always adapt, does not guarantee invulnerability from significant population declines over time.

Many factors contribute to species population declines, and yet the loss and degradation of suitable habitat continues to be a primary and driving factor. There is hope though as landscape level conservation and stewardship practices can make a difference and help to halt if not reverse these declines. Keeping common species common in areas where they are abundant through active stewardship serves as a preventative measure to retain those species at levels that allow for sustainability and suitable ecological function of a habitat.

gray cat bird(PARKE)For instance, a “common” bird in NJ that arrives each spring, breeds and spends the summer is the Gray Catbird. According to a 2013 report by the Partners in Flight Science Committee, the Gray Catbird is the 2nd most abundant bird breeding in the NJ (American Robins are #1). Additionally, NJ has the 3rd highest density of breeding Gray Catbirds in the US and Canada combined (24.56 birds per breeding bird survey route). Compared to all other species breeding in NJ, Gray Catbirds have the highest percent of their overall (global) population in the State. (Partners in Flight estimates that 620,000 individuals make NJ their home in the spring, which represents 2.3% of the overall (global) population). While that number seems low, it is the bird that has the highest percent of its breeding population in NJ, as compared to all other breeding bird species in NJ (Prairie Warblers are 2nd at 1.5%, American Robins only 0.3% - robins have the largest estimated population of any North American bird species and are broadly distributed across the continent).

Although Gray Catbirds are typically considered a generalist when it comes to their spring and summer habitats, they do favor dense tangles of shrubs, vines, and thickets of young trees, indicative of early successional young forest landscapes. Thus, specific habitat management for other young forest habitat species, such as the Golden-winged Warbler, American Woodcock, Rose-breasted Grosbeak and others, ultimately have a positive impact on Gray Catbird by providing suitable breeding habitat to maintain and/or improve their population.

As indicated by the Partners in Flight (PIF) Landbird Conservation Plan (2016) and the Appalachian Mountain Joint Venture, the Northeast does have many stressors that have now resulted in a majority of forest lacking structural and age-class diversity which are required for the survival of many species, including some of the more “common” ones (see also New Jersey Forests 2013) . To revive a dynamic forest landscape and create a mosaic of forest types that supports suites of species (rare and common) requires a long-term process of active management and stewardship. Without action that will help to prevent further declines, more species ultimately will be listed or simply lost, and as indicated by PIF, “their recovery will come at a greater cost to society.”

As part of the Delaware River Watershed Initiative (DRWI), and through funding from the William Penn Foundation and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, NJ Audubon is seeking more landowners and farmers in the Highlands Region and the Kirkwood-Cohansey Aquifer Region of the State for enrollment into the various federal conservation cost share programs for forestry/agricultural Best Management Practices (BMPs).  These BMPs when implemented can help provide critical habitat for these species, as well as, contribute to improving water quality in the region.  Additionally, depending on your property’s location within those regions, you may be eligible for additional funding or free restoration related materials, especially for riparian and wetland restorations. For more information on the NJA DRWI related funding opportunities contact John Parke at john.parke@njaudubon.org in the Highlands Region and Kristen Meistrell at kristen.meistrell@njaudubon.org in the Kirkwood-Cohansey Aquifer Region.

All photos by 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

Clean Water Essential to US All

bald eagle on Musky(PARKE)

A magnificent sight caught my eye this morning on my drive into work. There, perched high above the mighty Musconetcong River in all its glory, a Bald Eagle, sat motionless as the light from the morning sun shone down on its regal head. I pulled over to take in the scene of this wonderful creature as it scanned the clear icy cold flowing water of the Musky for its next meal. A fish, a duck, a muskrat perhaps. They too were all there in the river unaware of the powerful predator watching their every move. Other wildlife also made itself known as I stood on the bank of the river. Tacks in the snow covering the river’s edge reveled that a mink had been here too. A group of Canada Geese swam by and flushed a Hooded Merganser that had been resting on a rock near the shore. It was one of those moments that brings it all together, when you step back and truly appreciate the world you live in. It was one of those moments when you want to be an active part of making sure that the world that you, and all these other residents, live in can only get better. Seeing animals in their natural habitat, living their lives, reinforces the ties we have with our natural surroundings and reminds us of what we all have in common for survival. This morning that tie was clearly one common, yet extremely important, element…the need for clean water.

DRWI mapClean fresh water is essential to all life on Earth. At New Jersey Audubon we are always working to enhance, restore and protect New Jersey's wildlife and unique natural habitats, including freshwater ecosystems. This work takes on many forms, whether its working with the agricultural community on implementing best management practices for natural resource protection; or developing and implementing forest stewardship plans; or educating the public or government officials on the importance of ecological diverse natural systems, to doing research that applies sound scientific principles and practices that focus on natural resource conservation issues associated with numerous species and their habitats.

One specific initiative that focuses on clean water that NJA has been playing a major role in for the past 3 years is working with many partners under the Delaware River Watershed Initiative (DRWI). The DRWI mission is to “strategically align conservation efforts of multiple partners in places where both significant threats and opportunities for success will accelerate protection and restoration of the water quality in the Delaware Basin”.

Through funding from the William Penn Foundation and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, NJ Audubon is looking to engage more landowners and farmers in the Highlands Region and the Kirkwood-Cohansey Aquifer Region of the State for enrollment into the various federal conservation cost share programs for forestry/agricultural Best Management Practices. Additionally, depending on your property’s location within those regions, you may be eligible for additional funding or free restoration related materials, especially for riparian and wetland restorations. For more information on the NJA DRWI related funding opportunities contact John Parke at john.parke@njaudubon.org in the Highlands Region and Kristen Meistrell at kristen.meistrell@njaudubon.org in the Kirkwood-Cohansey Aquifer Region.

Photo by John Parke

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.