Stewardship Blog

Old Farm Sanctuary

New Jersey Audubon’s Old Farm Sanctuary is a 151-acre wildlife sanctuary located in Independence Township, NJ.  The site is comprised of forested hillsides containing a mix of oak, red cedar and Norway spruce changing to sugar maple and red maple in the wet areas.  The property is home to a number of unique wildlife species including Cooper’s Hawk, Barred Owl, Red-shouldered Hawk, box turtle, coyote, fox, Jefferson salamander, and Fowler’s toad to name a few. A relatively new resident is a beaver whose hard efforts to slow down Bacon Run Creek, have resulted in a transition of our moderately wet meadow into a mixed wet meadow/pond such that a former trail will be re-routed later this year.  NJA has a forest stewardship plan for the site and is actively managing the forest along with the non-native invasive plants.  Thanks to a local Eagle Scout we have a new kiosk and park benches along the trail. Please visit Charlie Fineran’s Flickr site, https://www.flickr.com/photos/charliefineran/sets/72157626104947130 for more about this dynamic and beautiful site.  If you wish to visit the property a trail map and directions may be found following this link SectionConservation/NJAUnstaffedWildlifeSanctuaries/OldFarmSanctuary.aspx 

Northern Bobwhite Restoration Initiative Confirms Nesting Quail In New Jersey Pinelands: First known nesting since the 1980’s!

1st quail nest at study site NJ (Will MASCALUSO)Chatsworth, NJ - Two wild quail nests have been found at the study site where two months earlier wild Northern Bobwhite quail from Georgia were released into the Pinelands as part of Northern Bobwhite Restoration Initiative. This restoration initiative led by NJ Audubon is seeking to re-establish Northern Bobwhite to the Pinelands and also to demonstrate that stewardship of Pinelands forests is essential to their health and support of native wildlife. “We are thrilled about this news of confirmed nests”, said John Parke, Stewardship Project Director of NJ Audubon. “Wild quail had been extirpated from Pinelands since at least the late 1980’s, so knowing that the translocated quail are adapting to the site and are breeding demonstrates that forest stewardship, coupled with translocation, can help restore quail to the NJ Pinelands.”

Northern bobwhite quail have experienced a long-term, 100-year decline throughout most of their range; New Jersey's declines have been among the most precipitous. As part of a project to restore Northern Bobwhite to the Pinelands of NJ, bobwhite by dr christopher williams (courtesy of Univer of Delaware)on April 1, 2015 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 the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife (NJDFW), released wild Northern Bobwhite at the Pine Island Cranberry site. The birds had been caught in the wild in Georgia, tested disease free, then translocated to the Pine Island property located in Chatsworth, NJ. The birds, each fitted with a radio collar transmitter are being tracked to determine movements, predation, site fidelity and nesting.

"The efficacy of translocation toward population recovery is contingent on successful reproduction. Finding these first nests is exciting as this confirms that those individuals released are indeed reproducing giving us great hope going forward" said project collaborator Dr. Theron Terhune of Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy.

Project researcher and graduate student Will Macaluso of the University of Delaware found the nests tucked away in tall grass while radio tracking the released birds at the study site. “There are fourteen eggs in the first nest and one of the radio collared males was incubating them when I found it.” said Macaluso. “We have not been able to confirm the number of eggs in the second nest, as one of the females is on the nest incubating them.”

Typically Northern Bobwhite incubate their eggs for 23 days, leaving the nest for only brief times to feed. After the eggs hatch, the female, or hen, broods the young briefly and then leads them away from the nest for rearing. Hens do not feed the young. Instead the hen will lead the chicks to places where they can find insects (not seeds) which will form the bulk of their diet as they grow. Often both parents accompany the young.

Prior to the translocation of the birds to the study site, New Jersey Audubon in 2014 had conducted a study to determine the abundance and diversity of insects, specifically arthropods, within several forest patches targeted for the reintroduction of Northern Bobwhite. Arthropods, a diverse group of invertebrates that includes insects, spiders and centipedes, are an important source of essential amino acids and protein for growth, feather development, and maintenance in the quail chicks.

The results of the study indicated that overall arthropod abundance appeared to peak site-wide in early July. Further, patches where the forest was thinned and had experienced prescribed burning exhibited greater diversity and abundance of arthropods as compared to areas of forest where no management had been performed.

habitat at one of the release areas at the NJ Pinelands site(parke)“We know that the quantity and quality of habitat directly affects annual quail survival rates, making habitat the ultimate determinant of bobwhite population status,” said NJDFW Director Dave Chanda. “The Division’s goal” he continued, “is to restore and enhance early successional habitat to provide sufficient habitat to sustain a quail covey for their entire life cycle throughout the year. With the habitat in place, the restoration project has a much better chance of succeeding. This news about reproduction in the Pinelands is certainly key.”

“We’re also thrilled with this latest news and are extremely grateful for the continuing hard work of everyone involved with this project,” said Stefanie Haines of Pine Island Cranberry Company. “If the quail are nesting, this means we’re taking care of the land exactly the way we’re supposed to!”

 To find out how to make a donation to the Quail project go to bobwhite.njaudubon.org.   

Photos by Will Macaluso, Chris Williams, Ph.D, and John Parke

Restoring Habitat and Re-Establishing Northern Bobwhite in the Pinelands of New Jersey -UPDATE

It was no joke that on April 1st 80 Northern Bobwhite quail were released in the New Jersey Pinelands on the Pine Island Cranberry Quail Release at Pine Island (PARKE)Company’s property.  Spread across seven treatment areas we welcomed the Northern Bobwhite back to the New Jersey Pine Barrens as we released the birds in sets of ten throughout areas of forest and grassland. Two groups of ten were released at one location given the availability of optimal habitat. 

The quail were captured in the wild in Georgia and traveled nearly 1,000 miles north to arrive at the release site.  Joining us for the release were project partners including Pine Island Cranberry, project collaborators Tall Timbers Research Station, the University of Delaware, Pine Creek Forestry and the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife.

New Jersey Audubon has contracted the University of Delaware to provide research and monitoring support in the kaili at Pine islandform of two graduate students. Will Macaluso is working on the project in pursuit of his Ph.D and Kaili Stevens was brought onto the project as she works towards her Master’s Degree.

Since the release Will and Kaili along with their major Professor Chris Williams, Ph.D. have been on site almost daily tracking the quail. Each quail was outfitted with a radio transmitter fitted around their neck. The birds arrived in NJ with the transmitters attached, each broadcasting a unique radio frequency. Using a radio receiver and antenna each bird can be located and through the signal their location and status (alive or dead) can be determined. Tracking began immediately following the release and revealed the birds were sticking together in coveys and they remained within the general area of where they were released.

In the days and weeks following the release we did lose birds. Most of the mortality occurred within the first 20 days and has largely been attributed to avian predators. We believe one bird was taken by a weasel and a few birds had their collars come off. We also found that several birds appear to have died from stress. This was expected and the mortality that we have experienced overall is within the anticipated range that has been observed in other successful projects. The surviving number of birds is holding at 53 (25 males, 28 females). No mortality has been experienced since April 29th.

With the weather warming up and the vegetation cover filling in, we are now seeing birds shuffle around, individuals have been found to move between groups and a few birds appear to have paired up. Male birds have even been heard calling. We are anxiously awaiting evidence of nesting!

 To find out how to make a donation to the Quail project go to bobwhite.njaudubon.org.  

 Photos by John Parke

Please Support the NJ Audubon Stewardship Department Fight'n Femelschlagers

With only a few days to go till the big day on May 9, 2015 we are reaching out to you wondering if you would consider making a small pledge/donation to fund our Department’s work by supporting our NJ Audubon Stewardship Department’s 2015 World Series of Birding team.  You can make your donation/pledge on line at:   


stewardship deptThe World Series of Birding 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 quail reintroduction project in the Pinelands, sustainable forestry projects through the state, native grassland restoration projects, bog turtle projects, vegetation management projects for early successional species, invasive species control projects, the S.A.V.E.™ program and working with NJ farmers to create and restore habitat that also benefits the agricultural community.  On behalf of the New Jersey Audubon Stewardship Department, we thank you for the chance to present this opportunity for your consideration and please know that every little bit helps!!logos

Thank you so much for supporting our work!!


Yours in Conservation,

The NJ Audubon Stewardship Department Fight'n Femelschlagers

P.S.    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)

NJ Audubon Initiates Large Scale Riparian Restorations in Highlands Region

Great Blue Heron on Musconetcong(PARKE)The Highlands region of New Jersey provides drinking water for 5.4 million New Jersey residents, and while many forests and freshwater systems in this watershed are in relatively good condition, substantial water quality impairments associated with non-point source pollution--such as increased nutrients, fecal coliform, and elevated water temperatures, do exist and could worsen over time.

Additionally not only are sub-watershed focal regions of the Highlands extremely important for drinkingLong-tal Sal Johnsonburg (PARKE) (2) water and fish species (including trout and diadromous fish), but they are habitat for numerous wildlife species including state listed species such as long-tail salamander, wood turtle, several dragonfly and freshwater mussel species that are dependent on high water quality for their survival. 

Beginning this past April, through a grant from the William Penn Foundation and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), NJ Audubon kicked off a series of large scale riparian restoration efforts associated with native vegetative plantings in two sub-watersheds of the Highlands, specifically the Lower Musconetcong and Lopatcong watersheds.

018Providing native plant materials at no cost to eligible landowners in the sub-watershed, the focus of the native plantings is to stabilize the stream banks, prevent soil erosion into the stream, provide shade to the water to address thermo pollution and increase stream ecosystem and processing capacity for habitat for wildlife. This was done using live-willow stakes and/or plantings of large caliber streamside shade vegetation buffers (ball/burlap native trees between 9-14 feet tall). All willow stakes were obtain from Ernst Conservation Seed and all native trees were obtained from Diaz Nursery, which is a local nursery in the region.

Additionally the project addresses nutrient removal via implementation of alternative technologies that are being used elsewhere in the U.S., specifically, phytoremediation. At some sites, vegetation cover using plants such as green bulrush, cattail and warm-season grasses were provide free of charge by NJ Audubon and were installed as part of phytoremediation measures. These particular plant species exhibit phosphorus removal on the order of 80%.

Although NJ Audubon was able to provide all plant materials to eligible landowners in the watershed for no cost to the landowner, landowners receiving the trees had to be able to plant all large caliber trees at their own expense.

Other plantings, such as live willow stakes installation and phytoremediation work, planting labor was provided free of charge by NJ Audubon staff, along withwillow stake planting at Hawk Pointe(Neff) volunteer help from other organizations such as Musconetcong Watershed Association, North Jersey Resource Conservation & Development and the NJ Youth Corps of Phillipsburg.

Over 2,500 willows stakes were planted in the region to address over 5,700 linear feet (1.07 miles) of Category One trout production water along the Musconetcong River and over 280 large native trees have been planted throughout the region along the banks of the main rivers corridors and their tributaries. Coming this May, over 30 acres of native warm season grass will be established by a local farmer at Merrill Creek Reservoir as part of NJ Audubon’s regional restoration efforts to help improve water quality and critical habitat in the Highlands.

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 Paulins 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 John Parke & Chris Neff

Ethos Farm Partners with N.J. Audubon and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to Restore Native Species and Make Humans and the Landscape Healthier

fritillary on bonesetStarting on Earth Day, Ethos Farm, believed to be the first farm in the nation which is home to a primary care medical practice will embark on a large-scale habitat restoration program. Forty acres of the 275-year-old preserved working farm are to be restored using native plants that will provide critical habitat for birds, pollinators and other native wildlife.

Farm owner and board certified internist, Dr. Ron Weiss, is the founder of Ethos Health which joins sustainable agriculture practices and natural resource conservation to his primary care practice to create a healthcare environment optimized to reverse and prevent illness. The practice offers farm-based mindful living health programs and focuses on utilizing plant-based whole foods which according to Weiss, are the most powerful disease-modifying tools available to the medical practitioner.

Ethos Health’s patients and the farm’s Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) members will take part in the restoration efforts, that are supported jointly by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, New Jersey Audubon and the US Department of Agriculture. The restoration work underscores Dr. Weiss’ core belief that it is crucial to know where your food comes from, linking the food to the land. “This link creates better educational opportunities for the public to recognize how conservation efforts play into protecting the natural resources (like soil, water, wildlife) on a regional scale, as well as food systems and their impact on our heath and even the taste of our food,” said Weiss.

highbush blueberry flowers“What many people overlook or take for granted when they buy food, cook food, or even pick food from either their gardens in their own yard or in nature is what goes into having the plant produce,” said John Parke, Stewardship Project Director of NJ Audubon. “Food doesn't just show up, it is grown, thus you need good soil, you need clean water, you need places for it to grow, you need pollinators, you need soil microbes, you need wildlife, you need to keep invasive non-native vegetation in check,” added Parke. “But unless you perform conservation on the land and practice natural resource protection and steward these habitats, these essential building blocks of our food system break down and have a direct impact on food availability, as well as keeping ecological balance in the landscape. Sustainable management of natural resources is essential to make food systems sustainable and that’s what Dr. Weiss and Ethos Health are doing and NJ Audubon commends Ethos Heath for the efforts and commitment to the project!”

Ethos Health initiated the project in 2013 with the removal of acres of non-native invasive vegetationHighbush blueberry species such as multiflora rose, autumn olive and Japanese honeysuckle. Now these areas will be planted with native species such as elderberry, high-bush blueberry, willows, dogwoods, oaks, and others that will provide numerous ecological benefits to the landscape. “Restoring important natural ecosystems on the 342 acre farm’s forests, wetlands, former pastures and production fields, has a profound effect on our landscapes, our health, our wildlife and the communities where we live,” added Weiss. “And how we care for our landscape through conservation is the key to a meaningful, healthy, and enjoyable existence.”

The project is being partially funded through several federal agencies, specifically the USFWS Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, the USDA’s Environmental Quality Incentive Program and the USDA’ State Acres for Wildlife Program. New Jersey Audubon is providing technical assistance for the project, as well as their no-till seeding drill and some labor.

photos by John Parke

Wild Bobwhite Quail Return to the Pinelands

Pine island release -in this covey is the 4000 quail translocated by Tall Timbers(photo by John Parke)On April 1, 2015, beginning just after sunrise, we began releasing the first of 80 wild Northern Bobwhite quail into New Jersey’s Pinelands. Led by New Jersey Audubon and in partnership with the Pine Island Cranberry Company and the Haines Family, project co-collaborators Tall Timbers Research Station, the University of Delaware, Pine Creek Forestry, and the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife, we have truly begun the process of re-establishing Northern Bobwhite to the state!

The quail, all bearing radio collars, will be tracked by graduate students from the University of Delaware. With the first goal of just survival we ultimately will be looking for these birds to nest and successfully fledge young

In the coming days and weeks we will be sharing more photos and videos. For now the New Jersey Audubon Stewardship Department would like to share photos with you of this historic day in NJ Wildlife Conservation fantastic moment!

To all of the Project Supporters  - thank you so much for helping to make this project possible!!  To make a donation to the quail project please go to bobwhite.njaudubon.org

Press coverage of this historic day in NJ Wildlife Conservation can be found at: A Quail Comeback in the Barrens

holly Haines release 2015(bill Dalton)

quail with transmitterCecil-quail-parke (jean Lynch)last quail out of the box(Bill dalton)photos by Bill Dalton, Jean Lynch and John Parke

NJ Audubon Bi-annual Sanctuary Visits: Bartlett’s Branch

imageBartletts BranchJohn McPhee wrote a great book, The Pine Barrens, about the biology, history and people of the pines. He describes things like this….cars that had a purpose and sometimes left where they died. As I recall one individual had stories that, perhaps only important to the teller, went along with his cars. I pass this car on my way to visit a NJ Audubon sanctuary. This property was once privately owned so it wouldn’t surprise me that this car, in the middle of nowhere it would seem, just died and has a story to tell. Go out and experience the Pines. –at NJ Audubon Bartlett’s Branch and Bass River State Forest.

NJ Audubon Stewardship Department Wins Ecological Excellence Award

IMG_6746On January 12, 2015 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 stabilization project, or innovative habitat development or enhancement project.

The NJA project that was selected was the conversion of an existing dilapidated in-ground swimming pool IMG_1227into a functioning vernal pool. “The Ecological Excellence Award is a great way to recognize projects in NJ that are making a difference for the environment.  The NJ Soil and Water Conservation Society is proud to honor NJ Audubon with the 2014 award for their innovative restoration project at the Wattles property,”  said the SWCS Chapter’s President, Christine Hall.  “Our awards committee was impressed with this very unique project and the public awareness component that may lead to the protection of vernal pools elsewhere.”

Vernal pools are confined wetland depressions, either natural or man-made, that hold water for at least two consecutive months out of the year and are devoid of fish. These unique ecosystems provide habitat to many species of amphibians, insects, reptiles, plants, and other wildlife.

UPDATEDNJAS-sign-VernalPool-MASTER-01-03-2013The Wattles Stewardship Center site is home to several amphibian species that rely exclusively on vernal pools as breeding areas.  With the abundance of vernal pool breeders on site, an innovative proposal was made by NJ Audubon to USFWS under the Partners for Fish and Wildlife program to take the onsite in-ground swimming pool that had become non-functional and convert it into a functional vernal pool. This converted pool serves not only as prime suitable breeding habitat for amphibian species, but is also used for educational purposes to promote the importance and ecological significance of vernal pools. Additional support for the project had also been received from PSE&G, NJDFW and donated native plant materials were provided by the Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership (CWRP).

NJA believes it essential to bring public awareness to vernal pools because although the NJ Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act has been in place since 1989, many vernal pools had been filled because wetlands smaller than 1 acre were exempt from the regulatory protection prior to 2008. Fortunately, we can re-establish vernal ponds that look and function like their natural counterparts, thus, restoring an important component of the landscape.

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. We also thank the Chapter for continuing to support and encourage science-based conservation practice, programs, and policy.

Restoring Northern Bobwhite to New Jersey


CoveyFlush_withRadioTagsVisible_BudBostickNew Jersey Audubon is embarking upon an ambitious effort to restore Northern Bobwhite to New Jersey. According to the data from the Breeding Bird Survey and Christmas Bird Count, the Northern Bobwhite quail has suffered one of the most severe population declines of any North American bird (an approximately 82% decline in the last forty years). This decline, attributed to habitat loss, fragmentation and predation, has also been connected to the significant loss of the young forest habitat. Habitat that is needed for nesting, resting, escape cover, and food resources. States in the southeast, particularly Georgia and Florida, have had success rebuilding quail populations through forest stewardship, including thinning pine stands with mechanical and herbicide treatments in conjunction with prescribed burning. This not only provides the critical habitat needs for Northern Bobwhite, but also benefits other young forest species and increases overall forest health. Since 1996, Tall Timbers Research Station in Florida has shown that through forest stewardship the Bobwhite population was increased 10-fold, reaching as high as two bobwhites per acre in the fall.

Recognizing the similarity in habitat between southern pine forests and the New Jersey pinelands, New Jersey Audubon staff began investigating sites and partners for potential habitat management conducive to Northern Bobwhite restoration. Almost simultaneously, discussions began with the Pine Island Cranberry Co. focused on Corporate Stewardship Council membership. Through discussions with Pine Island NJA learned of the scale of their property and also their efforts to undertake forest stewardship. Pine Island Cranberry owns approximately 17,000 acres in the heart of the pinelands and has been implementing a forest stewardship plan for years. In 2013 NJ Audubon welcomed Pine Island Cranberry as a member of the Corporate Stewardship Council and began specific discussions with them about potential stewardship projects, a requirement of Corporate Stewardship Council membership.

Pine Island Cranberry’s Forest Stewardship Plan emphasizes long-term active forest management on a landscape scale, while enhancing a wide range of forest resources, wildlife habitat, and ecosystem service benefits (e.g., improved watershed heath). “The key to this business is water,” said Pine Island Cranberry CEO, Bill Haines. “The protection of our water supply has protected this business from the beginning. That’s how this family (the Haines family) was raised: if you have a resource, it’s your responsibility to take care of it.”

The Forest Stewardship Plan for the property, developed by distinguished NJ State Approved Forester Bob Williams (recipient of the 2013 NJMaleNOBO_Singing_TallTimbersStaff Audubon Richard Kane Conservation Award), utilizes a variety of forestry prescriptions and techniques, including prescribed burning and forest thinning. Both techniques help to promote forest regeneration and native herbaceous plant and tree regrowth.

Recognizing the outstanding forest and land management practices at the Pine Island Cranberry site, NJ Audubon initiated discussion about a Northern Bobwhite restoration effort. These discussions included engaging several partners, starting with Pine Island Cranberry Company and Forester Bob Williams, but then quickly expanding to include Dr. Chris Williams from the University of Delaware, Dr. Theron Terhune at the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy and Dave Golden with the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife. While Pine Island Cranberry and Bob Williams had been working diligently for several XICT0034years on forest stewardship, Dr. Williams had been bringing students to the site to survey birds and other wildlife and was involved in a study of captive rearing and release techniques for quail at a site outside of NJ. NJ Audubon was also aware of the research efforts and depth of knowledge on quail conservation at the Tall Timbers Research Station. Through mutual friends NJA connected all the dots and arranged for Tall Timbers leading quail biologist to come visit with us and tour the Pine Island Cranberry property. Following that site visit and discussions about projects in nearby states, the decision was made to add the Pine Island site in New Jersey to 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 to the Pine Island Cranberry Property. Other aspects of the multi-state project include testing methods of raising and rearing captive bred quail in other states participating in the initiative, however no captive bred quail will be release in the NJ study.

Beginning in 2015 wild quail will be captured on private land in Georgia, health tested, radio tagged, transferred and ultimately released on Pine Island Cranberry’s property for study. Through the capture and release of 80 wild birds per year over the next three years (total of 240 wild birds) New Jersey Audubon and partners hope to establish a self-sustaining population of wild Northern Bobwhite in the heart of New Jersey’s Pinelands.

Financial support for the project has been generously provided by the Haines Family Foundation and other anonymous donors. To make a donation to the quail project please go to bobwhite.njaudubon.org.   Photos courtesy of Tall Timbers Research Station and University of Delaware.