Stewardship Blog

World Series of Birding Highlights for the NJA Stewardship Department

Ruffed Grouse in Stokes State Forest WSB 2016The 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!

Timber Rattlesnake WSB 2016The 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 Femelschlagers helping a Snapping Turtle cross the road WSB 2016and 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.

The 2016 Fight'n FemelschlagersAlthough 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

NJ Audubon Assisting with Snake Fugal Disease Surveys

New Jersey Audubon’s Stewardship Department is working with the New Jersey Endangered and Nongame Species Program (ENSP) in a multi-state, multi-organization survey effort to determine the distribution and extent of the Snake Fungal Disease (SFD).  SFD is an emerging disease in certain populations of wild snakes and is associated with the soil fungus, Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola (Oo) and as its name implies, is only known to afflict snakes. 

black racer with SFD in NJ(PARKE)SFD has become a point of discussion and concern among the scientific community, especially after significant declines in localized snake populations across the Midwest and Eastern United States, had been discovered as a result of infection(s) confirmed to be associated with this fungus.  In New Jersey several snake species, including Timber Rattlesnake, Corn Snake, Pine Snake, Black Rat Snake, and Black Racer, have been confirmed with SFD.

Although it remains unclear as to whether or not this fungus is native to our environment, we are certain that over the past decade throughout the northeast it has impacted native snakes forcing them to spend more time basking (and less foraging) and in some cases, one documented in New Jersey, causing mortality,” said Kris Schantz, Principal Zoologist with New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife.  “While New Jersey has documented only one SFD-related death, research in our state has been limited and therefore, we are not certain of SFD's impact on our snakes. Currently, SFD has been confirmed in snake populations within Ocean, Burlington, Passaic and Bergen Counties and is suspected to be in Warren and Sussex Counties,” added Schantz.

Researchers have identified that the fungus, O. ophiodiicola, survives by eating keratin, the substance out of which snaketimber rattlesnake with SFD (PARKE) scales, (and human fingernails) are made.  According to the USGS National Wildlife Health Center, “The most consistent clinical signs of SFD include scabs or crusty scales, subcutaneous nodules, premature separation of the outermost layer of the skin (stratum corneum) from the underlying skin (or abnormal molting), white opaque cloudiness of the eyes (not associated with molting), or localized thickening or crusting of the skin (hyperkeratosis). Skin ulcers, swelling of the face, and nodules in the deeper tissues of the head have also been documented. Clinical signs of SFD and disease severity may vary by snake species.”  In some cases it has been documented to affect the snake’s ability to obtain prey and can lead to malnutrition and die of starvation.  Additionally SFD can lead a snake to exhibit behaviors that, in the wild, could cause the snake to spend more time in open areas to bask and thus become more exposed to predation.

Aside from the symptoms, little else is known about the condition, but researchers are now investigating how snakes catch it, fight it and die from it.  Although, some snakes have died in association with SFD, it is not yet known what the population-level impacts of the disease are.  This is mainly because of the solitary and cryptic nature of snakes.  Additionally there is a lack of any long-term monitoring data.  According to USGS, while fungal infections were occasionally reported in wild snakes prior to 2006, it is only in recent years that there has been such a significant increase in infected snakes across a much wider range than was originally reported, bringing the issue to the forefront and taking immediate action.

milk snake with SFD(PARKE)In an effort to obtain better data on SFD in New Jersey, the NJ Audubon’s Stewardship Department has begun working with ENSP this year to systematically survey documented den, basking and gestation/birthing habitats in northern New Jersey, for snakes exhibiting symptoms associated with SFD, record such information and capture symptomatic snakes for testing and in some cases treatment.

Snakes are a critically important part of a healthy ecosystem basically helping to control prey items such as rodents, not to mention that they are prey items themselves for a variety of animals,” said John Parke, Project Stewardship Director of NJ Audubon.  “SFD can be devastating when you consider how other fungal infections have taken significant tolls on other species such as bats with white-nose syndrome and salamanders and frogs with the chytrid fungus. The problem here is since most snakes are secretive and some hibernate in communal dens that are not accessible, you could have a die-off and not know it.

If you should be lucky enough to come across any snake in the wild, do not approach it or attempt to handle it.   However if you do encounter a snake with signs consistent with SFD, NJA does encourage you to take a photo of the snake (from a distance) and note the location of the encounter and send it to NJDFW-ENSP Principal Zoologist Kris Schantz at Kris.Schantz@dep.nj.gov

Photos by John Parke 


Northern Bobwhite Restoration Initiative Has Second Release of Wild Quail to the NJ Pinelands

Chatsworth, NJThe Northern Bobwhite Restoration Initiative, lead by New Jersey Audubon (NJA), had the second of three scheduled releases of wild Northern Bobwhite quail in early April. Eighty-one Northern Bobwhite that were captured in Georgia, by project collaborator Tall Timbers Research Station & Land Conservancy, were successfully translocated to, and released, at the Pine Island Cranberry study site.John Parke of NJA and Jimmy Sloan of NJDFW release the translocated wild Bobwhites at Pine ISland (Kristen Meistrell)

After receiving health screening testing and attaching leg ID bands and radio-signal transmitting collars to each bird, a total of eighty-one birds, (37 females and 44 males) were released in groups at the Pine Island Cranberry study site by NJ Audubon and initiative partners, Pine Island Cranberry, the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife and the University of Delaware.

We are very excited about this second release of wild Northern Bobwhite. These new quail were released into areas where Northern Bobwhite were released last year, supplementing the newly developing population.” said, John Parke, NJA Stewardship Project Director. “Having those birds from last year at the site only increases the likelihood of survival of these new birds in the wild since the new birds will integrate with them and thus be influenced in their cover and foraging choices, nesting area selection and predator avoidance response in their new surroundings. We did not have that luxury last year.” added Parke.

In New Jersey the Northern Bobwhite quail is believed to be functionally extinct with the possibility of some birds still existing in southwestern NJ. As part of the project to restore Northern Bobwhite to NJ, New Jersey Audubon along with project collaborators, Tall Timbers Research Station & Land Conservancy, and project partners the Pine Island Cranberry Company, Pine Creek Forestry, the University of Delaware, and New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife, released 80 wild Northern Bobwhite at the Pine Island Cranberry site last year (2015). Through the use of radio telemetry, University of Delaware graduate students, contracted by NJ Audubon for the project, monitored the birds and were able to confirm 15 nests, 127 eggs laid; and 66 chicks hatched in 2015. The birds were tracked throughout the winter by the students and were confirmed to have over-wintered successfully at the study site. It was noted that the quail were utilizing the young pine regeneration growth areas for cover throughout the entire winter season. These young pine areas were the result of vegetation regeneration in areas that had been harvested previously as part of forest stewardship activities performed by Pine Island Cranberry to improve overall watershed and forest Jimmy Sloan of NJDFW with male Bobwhite for release at Pine Isand Cranberry (JOHN PARKE)health.

With the lack of quality habitat being the most important limiting factor for quail survival, the Pine Island Cranberry study site provides proof that active management is the key to species recovery,” said, Jimmy Sloan, Upland Habitat and Wildlife Biologist with NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife.

The newly released birds, as well as last year’s quail, will be tracked via radio telemetry in the field to determine movements, predation, site fidelity, habitat use and nesting by the graduate students from the University of Delaware. "I have always been rooting for the quail and the overall success of the project, but year one turned out even better than I expected. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work with these hearty, little, birds. Last year's juvenile recruitment into this year's breeding season, paired with low site mortality, adds to the support of this project being successful as years progress. The second release of translocated individuals brings another round of excitement for the quail crew here at the University of Delaware. We are eager to see what the birds have to teach us this season," said Kaili Stevens, University of Delaware Researcher on the project.

2016 Quail Release at Pine Island (John Parke)The Pine Island site in New Jersey is part of a multi-state initiative to re-establish Northern Bobwhite in the Mid-Atlantic States. New Jersey will have the unique focus of releasing wild quail (translocation) to the Pine Island Cranberry Property. Other aspects of the multi-state project include testing methods of raising and rearing captive bred parent reared quail in other states participating in the initiative, however no captive bred quail will be release at the NJ study.

We’re pleased with how this project has progressed; the first year went very well. We enjoy working with NJ Audubon and the other partners, and are looking forward to another great year,” said Bill Haines Jr., Owner and CEO of Pine Island Cranberry.

For more on the Quail Project and how you can support the initiative see NJ Audubon's Quail webpage http://www.njaudubon.org/SectionConservation/StewardshipInAction/NorthernBobwhiteRestorationInitiative.aspx

Photos by Kristen Meistrell & John Parke

Lopatcong Watershed Enhanced Through Teamwork and Creative Partnership

With financial support from the William Penn Foundation and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, New Jersey Audubon has partnered with 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 Delaware River Watershed Initiative (DRWI).

IMG_7918The NJ Youth Corps is a year-round program administered by the NJ Department of Labor & Workforce Development that helps young adults (ages 16-25) earn a high school diploma while developing employment skills through community service projects. The New Jersey Youth Corps arranges for each member to participate in Service Learning Projects that provide supervised work situations, allowing Corps members to develop skill sets that will support their future employment. For projects associated with NJ Audubon, the Corps participants are being trained in work skills associated with ecological restoration and environmental science.

Through our outreach and conservation planning in the region, NJ Audubon is providing the Corps with Service Learning projects in support of the Delaware Watershed Restoration Initiative. These are projects conducted in partnership with landowners and farmers in three sub-watersheds of the Highlands region: the Lower Musconetcong, Lopatcong and Upper Paulin’s Kill. These projects will help the overall watershed initiative, increasing the pace of project implementation in the field, and the projects will also provide Corps members with valuable employment skills.

Youth Corps members work in a team or "crew" that is led by an experienced Crew Supervisor. NJ Audubon will train Corp members on the specifics of each project and supply materials to implement the work. Each crew works on a project that benefits the community. NJ Audubon’s Delaware Watershed Restoration Initiative projects are focused on improving water quality and wildlife habitat through riparian restoration work. This includes, native plant plantings and invasive species removal among other activities. This partnership will also support the ongoing stewardship aspect of maintaining the functionality of the restoration, a long-term landowner commitment that can be hard to keep up with. Not only will these projects help the overall watershed initiative and get projects implemented faster in the field, but the projects will provide Corps members with valuable employment skills. Working as a sub-contractor for NJ Audubon provides much needed funding to support the Corps training programs, including Waders in The Water training, all while developing relationships with the public to help provide another level of outreach and education about the DRWI.

“The strong partnership NJ Youth Corps has established with NJ Audubon over the past year has been instrumental in our ability to participate in these types of projects, specifically riparian plantings, which is an essential component of a new training initiative called Waders in the Water – a training program in which students receive classroom instruction on ecological restoration projects, and then get to put them to use in the field,” said NJ Youth Corps of Phillipsburg Director, Michael Muckle. “Furthermore, this partnership dovetails nicely with our designation as a 21st Century Conservation Service Corps – part of a bold national effort to put thousands of America’s young people and veterans to work protecting, restoring and enhancing America’s great outdoors,” added Muckle.IMG_7977

During the week of April 7, 2016, NJ Audubon and NJ Youth Corps complemented two stream bank stabilization projects in the Lopatcong Watershed totaling over 1,331 linear feet of bank (installing over 4,000 live stakes). Specifically, NJ Audubon and the Youth Corp performed soil bioengineering practices, which is the use of plant material to arrest and prevent slope and stream bank failure and erosion. The roots and stems of the plants (in this case native willows and button bush ) serve as structural and mechanical elements in a slope protection system.

0008_live-stake-cross-section-diagram-lgLive cuttings and rooted plants are embedded in the ground in various arrays to serve as soil reinforcements, hydraulic drains and barriers to earth movement. Once established, this living material effectively controls a number of stabilization and erosion control problems by binding the soil with its root system and creating a natural, vegetative cover. Bioengineered sites are self-repairing and have the advantage of blending with natural surroundings. All live bioengineering materials for the project were obtained from Ernst Conservation Seeds.

“NJ Audubon is excited to partner with the NJ Youth Corps. This is a key step in promoting and implementing the goals of the Delaware Watershed Restoration Initiative, engaging another conservation partner in water protection activities while providing education and training to a younger generation that will live and work in the region for years to come,” said John Parke, NJ Audubon Stewardship Project Director. “To have trained Youth Corp members come to a work site with the knowledge and skills needed to do the job and do the job right the first time made for an extremely productive use of time and resources. This ensured we were able to install more plants and in a quicker period of time to meet the planting deadlines,” added Parke. “This service that NJ Youth Corps brings to the NJ Audubon work clearly builds capacity in the region for restorationIMG_7901 and stewardship implementation, and embodies what community outreach, education and sustainability for the initiative in the Highlands is all about.  We are so happy to be working with NJ Youth Corps to make NJ a better place for people and wildlife!”

Check out some of the work on a recent project in this video!

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 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

Photos by Michael Muckle

Diagram courtesy of Ernst Conservation Seeds

Managing a Meadow with Prescribed Fire

Recently, New Jersey Audubon’s stewardship staff partnered with the New Jersey Forest Fire Service to conduct a prescribed burn at the Center for Research and Education in Goshen. This burn is part of a management plan to maintain one acre of native meadow and scrub-shrub habitat that provides critical resources for a number of birds, native pollinators, and other wildlife, including eastern box turtles and North American river otters, which visit from the adjacent marshland.

In Southern New Jersey, fires occurred with some regularity before European settlement and well into the nineteenth century, whether sparked by lightning; set by Native Americans as a management tool; or started accidentally as a result of the regionally important iron, glass, and charcoal industries. As the population and industries changed, fire occurrences became less frequent, and as development increased and fire suppression tools improved, fire suppression efforts became stronger and more successful. Throughout most of the twentieth century, suppression was the dominant policy relating to forest fires. 

In recent decades, however, planned fires, or prescribed fires, have been recognized as a beneficial tool to reduce fuel loads in the forest and to reduce the danger to human life and property caused by wildfires. From October through March, the New Jersey Forest Fire Service works to burn parcels of land throughout the state to reduce the fuel load on the ground. Leaf litter and debris can serve as the perfect kindling leading up to a more intense blaze, particularly during the warmer and drier summer months. By periodically burning off this material in a controlled setting, prescribed fire protects against more intense fires and allows personnel to more easily control any wildfires that may occur.

In addition to contributing to public safety, there are several ecological benefits of prescribed fire that improve habitat for plants and wildlife. One of the biggest benefits prescribed fire can have to an ecosystem is its ability to set back natural succession. As the years pass, woody vegetation begins to grow up in a meadow or grassland, altering the structure of the habitat. Managers can use a prescribed burn to help maintain a meadow and allow it to continue supporting the unique species that require meadow habitat. This young habitat is rapidly shrinking in New Jersey, as the forests throughout the state are mostly middle-aged and grassland habitats tend to be easy targets for development. Prescribed burning allows for the regeneration of plants by opening up areas to more sunlight, naturally fertilizing the soil, and helping seeds to come out of dormancy. 

Careful consideration and thought go into the timing of any prescribed burn, as favorable weather conditions are necessary for the success and safety of an activity like this. Temperature, relative humidity, wind speed, and wind direction are all important factors to consider before beginning a prescribed burn. To assess how a fire will burn and ensure the safety of others, fire wardens must be aware of each condition by communicating with weather stations and several fire towers stationed throughout the southern region. 

This is the second time the CRE has been burned since 2014, and we anticipate using fire here every few years. As the season progresses we expect to see great regeneration of our native warm season grasses and wildflowers, as well as an abundance of wildlife on the property.






 Written by Brittany Dobrzynski and Jean Lynch

Photographs by Don Freiday





Cooking with Future Farmers

Last week NJA staff came in from a cold and rainy February day to enjoy not one but six hot meals at the Salem County Future Farmers of America (FFA) Jersey Fresh Cook-off! The event was just one of many FFA events taking place nationwide, as chapters across America celebrated National FFA Week with events showcasing the talents of teens planning careers in agriculture. Salem County Career and Technical High School students collected donations of locally sourced ingredients from nearby producers and teamed up with classmates to put their culinary skills to the test. NJA Stewardship Project Director Jean Lynch and Stewardship Specialist Brittany Dobrzynski served on the panel of judges. 

In addition to tasting delicious meals that the teams created on the spot from limited available ingredients, judges enjoyed hearing about the projects the students are working on and received a tour of the new greenhouse, hand-built chicken coop, and vegetable gardens. 

Congratulations to Team 5, who won the competition with their meal of black duck with rice, venison meatballs in tomato sauce, salad dressed with pickle juice vinaigrette, and blueberry smoothies. Each team did a great job coming up with creative and delicious entries. 


In recent months NJ Audubon’s Stewardship staff have begun partnering with the Salem County Chapter of the FFA. In November, FFA members worked hard on an NJA project that is enhancing a riparian buffer with tree plantings at the Salem River Wildlife Management Area. Trees were planted to protect the adjacent Mannington Meadows wetland complex from agricultural and stormwater runoff. Students viewed this opportunity as a great community service project (this state land is open to the public for year-round enjoyment), and they also learned about NJA’s land stewardship initiatives, including stewardship techniques that they can apply on their own properties.

In January, Salem County FFA invited NJA staff to present on Agricultural Best Management Practices. Students learned about several techniques to improve water and soil quality and address resource concerns on their current, future, and neighboring farms. Some of these are traditional practices that had diminished in use, such as the use of winter cover crops. Some, such as grassed waterways to stabilize eroding gullies, or upgraded irrigation equipment to save water, rely on engineering and technological advances. Students have increased their knowledge of specific tools and techniques that support sustainable farming practices and have advocated  these practices to their families and neighbors. Participants learned to look for further technical support from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and programs like NJ Audubon’s Kirkwood-Cohansey Small Grants Program, funded by the William Penn Foundation and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

With new research and technology, agriculture is constantly changing. Sharing information about sustainable agricultural practices can lead to benefits such as providing plentiful clean water and reducing our carbon footprint. These kinds of benefits are also advocated with the Jersey Fresh Cook-off. By opting for local ingredients, we support our local economies, reduce the fossil fuels that would have been used shipping foods cross-county and we can appreciate the variety of ingredients we can grow (or fish or hunt) in our own backyards.

NJ Audubon staff  work with a wide variety of landowners throughout the state. We know that the conservation work does not simply stop once a few acres of wildlife habitat are created or enhanced, or when we work with a farmer to test out cover crops. Long after a project is finished, what we hope will remain is an enhanced understanding of the needs of wildlife and natural resources and how those needs can often be integrated into a farm’s operations. Partnering with FFA is an investment with high return value. By working with our future producers we are creating a pathway for sustainable farming practices to become the new norm. By encouraging conservation-minded farming practices and accountability for conserving wildlife habitat, we support a community of land stewards who sow great benefits on the land.


Written by Brittany Dobrzynski
Photos by NJA staff

Northern Bobwhite Persist in the Snow!

On Wednesday January 27, 2016, just 4 days after the blizzard that dumped over 20” of snow in the Pinelands, NJ Audubon staff and research partners were able to verify that all radio collared Northern Bobwhite are doing well following the blizzard.

Using telemetry the radio collared birds were tracked and found to be alive and part of larger coveys that included other quail from last year’s broods. The quail were found to be utilizing cover provided by young pines in areas where forestry had occurred. The young pines were bent and bowed by the snow creating a home farm snow (PARKE)(patchwork of “lean-tos” that blocked out drifts, created pockets of bare ground and seemingly provided both shelter and areas to forage. The cover provided by the young pines appears significant as research staff found other birds, including several Mourning Doves and a Pine Warbler, frozen solid, with no signs of mortality due to predators, under deadfalls and brush piles that were exposed in open field or edges where snow drifts were able to accumulate.Quail tracks in snow 1-27-16 at home farm PIC site(PARKE)

Climatic factors such as serve weather events (snow, drought, floods, etc.) influence the Northern Bobwhite’s annual survival and can be devastating to Bobwhite populations, especially where quail habitat is of low quality. Even in areas of high quality habitat, severe climatic factors may reduce populations to a dangerously low level. However, the Bobwhite is a survivor, a resilient species that with quality cover to meet their habitat needs, the Bobwhite’s potential for reproduction allows the species to recover.

The Northern Bobwhite Restoration Initiative in NJ is dependent upon: (1) areas of high quality habitat and (2); the translocation of true wild birds, not pen raised, with both factors providing significant advantage in the face of severe storm events. The release site at Pine Island Cranberry has been stewarded through the implementation of a Forest Stewardship Plan, creating patches of young forest habitat suitable for quail and rich in cover and food resources. In addition, the wild birds are known to more quickly adapt and yield offspring that also exhibit innate survival instincts.

Fossil records show that quail-like birds existed at least a million years ago, but their appearance in most of the northern states across their range probably did not occur until sometime after retreat of the last glacier, approximately 10,000 years ago. Over the last 10,000 years serve storm events obviously have occurred and through it all the Bobwhite has persisted.

quail flush jan 27 2016While we still have a bit of winter to go, seeing that the quail have made it through this first significant weather event since their release in NJ, helps to reinforce the message that more people need to recognize, the need for more active stewardship and management of land to produce high quality wildlife habitat. Years of fire suppression and an overall lack of disturbance have left the forest of the pinelands overstocked, and devoid of resources that Northern Bobwhite and other birds and wildlife typically rely upon. With stewardship and management high quality habitat can be created, yielding a diversity of native species and providing the ecological services that these habitats historically and naturally provided. Native species, including the Northern Bobwhite, all provide ecological, historical, esthetic, recreational, scientific and educational value and are so important to maintaining a stable ecosystem for generations to come.

To see project researcher Kaili Stevens tracking the Bobwhite at Pine Island on January 27, 2016 and see one flush watch the video that is on our Quail Update Page.  Click here for Video

For more on the Quail Project see NJ Audubon's Quail webpage http://www.njaudubon.org/SectionConservation/StewardshipInAction/NorthernBobwhiteRestorationInitiative.aspx

Photos By John Parke.  Video By Kaili Stevens

Chimney swifts get a new home

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.

IMG_3433IMG_3794Capping 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!

NJ Audubon Wins Ecological Excellence Award for Second Year in a Row

For the second consecutive year the New Jersey Audubon Stewardship Department was awarded the Firman E. Bear Chapter of the2015 SWCS Award addressing Stormwater 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.

NJA Stormwater Interpretive signAlthough 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 john.parke@njaudubon.org for the Highlands region and jean.lynch@njaudubon.org for the Kirkwood-Cohansey region.

Corporate Stewardship Council Members Team Up for Critical Wildlife Habitat Restoration

Jersey Central Power & Light (JCP&L) and NJ Audubon’s (NJA) newest Corporate Stewardship Council (CSC) member, Crystal Springs Resort, have become the first CSC members to “team up” and work collaboratively on a habitat restoration project in northwestern NJ. Specifically the two will be working with NJA and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) on a long-term project that involves restoring a section of a JCP&L transmission line Row-of-Way (ROW) that traverses through the Black Bear Golf Club located in Franklin, NJ which is part of the Crystal Springs Resort.blue-wing warbler(PARKE)

The project will involve incorporating JCP&L’s ROW integrated vegetation management requirements with the aim of encouraging low-growth vegetation, native warm season grasses and native wildflowers and thus, promoting early successional habitat for native wildlife. Specific target species will be various pollinators, including wild bees and butterflies, as well as, several avian species that depend on early successional habitat types, such as Field Sparrow, Prairie Warbler, Blue-winged Warbler and Indigo Bunting.

“JCP&L is pleased to collaborate with Crystal Springs Resort, New Jersey Audubon and USFWS in this unique and important habitat project,” said Jim Fakult, JCP&L President. “It demonstrates JCP&L’s on-going commitment to protect the environment, remain good stewards of our green bee on boneset in ROW (PARKE)natural resources, promote public health and safety and create lasting value in the communities we serve.”

Current research from the U.S. Geological Survey’s Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland is showing that the open, grassy or scrubby habitat under some transmission lines are already the best place to find wild native bees and that potential habitat associated with ROW management will inevitably become more important as the United States becomes more urbanized. Additionally, other studies are showing that as regions become more urbanized, golf courses too have the potential for creating significant wildlife benefits, especially in recent conservation efforts for the Eastern Bluebird, Tree Swallow, and even American Kestrel.

The beauty of this project is that given Black Bear Golf Club’s position in the landscape, it literately falls in the middle of five (5) recognized New Jersey Important Bird and Birding Areas (IBBA), so any habitat management work associated with the project that removes invasive non-native vegetation and encourages more native vegetation that will be consistently maintained will havePollinators at Crystal Springs(PARKE) a profound impact on long-term viability of native avian populations in the region.

“Crystal Springs will have an important impact on wildlife habitat in the region through their interest in, and commitment to, land stewardship. The extensive properties of Crystal Springs have a lot of value to wildlife species of concern, including species that are listed under the Endangered Species Act,” said Brian Marsh Program Coordinator for the USFWS Partners for Fish and Wildlife program. “With good land stewardship and working with other CSC members and partners, habitat values can be enhanced for rare pollinator insects and migratory birds on their properties.

This work between JCP&L and Crystal Springs will increase biodiversity and benefits not only wildlife and other natural resources, such as improved soil health and water and air quality, but will also provide educational opportunities. Specifically, interpretative signage will be placed strategically around the course to offer to all that visit the property a chance to learn about the importance of native plants, habitat, wildlife and the ecological services that they provide.

“The Crystal Springs Resort possesses incredibly beautiful and important habitat and we are thrilled to be partnering with New Jersey Audubon in pursuit of ongoing environmental stewardship,” said Art Walton, Vice President of Crystal Springs Resort. “As a destination resort and community hub, we have a unique opportunity to protect, preserve and promote all of our region’s natural assets for the benefit and enlightenment of many,” added Walton. “Working with NJ Audubon, USFWS and fellow CSC member JCP&L has been greatly educational and we look forward to launching many more stewardship initiatives across our diverse array of properties.”

All photos by John Parke