Restoring Thompsons Beach Salt Marsh along the Delaware Bayshore

Standard

To restore Thompsons Beach, along New Jersey’s Delaware Bayshore, in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, a team led by Conserve Wildlife Foundation and American Littoral Society removed debris from the beach, removed rubble from the road leading to the beach, and placed over 40,000 cubic yards of sand (weighing over 9 million pounds) onto the beach. We were filled with pride when we saw sanderlings and ruddy turnstones feeding this August on horseshoe crab larvae on our newly restored beach. We were delighted to learn that this spring, Thompsons Beach had the highest abundance of horseshoe crab egg clusters out of all the beaches that our team monitors on Delaware Bay.

How do we keep the momentum going? How do we ensure our restoration work at Thompsons Beach yields long-term, sustainable results? The answer is clear: we protect the backbone that the beach sits on — the salt marsh behind the beach.

Read the full post on RestoreNJBayshore.org.

Salamander Crossing: Road Closed

Standard
Yellow Spotted Salamander © Lindsay McNamara

Yellow Spotted Salamander © Lindsay McNamara

On the night of March 14, 2015, I attended the first closure of Beekman Road this season. Beekman Road, in East Brunswick, New Jersey, is closed to traffic about two or three nights for six to twelve hours each spring by Friends of the East Brunswick Environmental Commission (Friends of EBEC). Friends of EBEC organizes these road closures to maintain local biodiversity.

In the woods on either side of Beekman Road, vernal pool habitat exists. Vernal pools are temporary woodland ponds that fill with water during the winter and spring and dry out in the summer. These vernal pools are extremely important for a number of amphibians in the area. Spotted salamanders, wood frogs, green frogs, spring peepers, Fowlers toads and chorus frogs all rely on the vernal pools for breeding.

Read the full post on the Conserve Wildlife blog.

The Garden State’s Newest Frog: The “Chuckling” Atlantic Coast Leopard Frog

Standard
Photo: New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife

Photo: New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife

Remember back in late October of 2014 when word quickly spread about a new frog species in New Jersey? The Atlantic Coast leopard frog is mint-gray to light olive green with medium to dark spots. The frog has been found along the Delaware River and Bayshore, along Atlantic Ocean coastline, in the Meadowlands and on Staten Island.

Did you know this Jersey frog groans and makes cough-like sounds or “chucks” rather than typical croaking sounds? Visit Conserve Wildlife Foundation’s blog and listen closely while you watch the video to hear the Atlantic Coast leopard frog’s distinctive call.

Read the full blog post on the Conserve Wildlife Blog.

Up Close and Personal with an American Redstart

Standard

Today, I helped New Jersey Audubon Society scientists record data on the resighting of this banded American Redstart. Such a beautiful warbler and a wonderful day birding on Sandy Hook (Gateway National Recreation Area, Highlands, New Jersey)! Arguably the best way to add a bird to your life list.

American Redstart

American Redstart on Sandy Hook. Photo by Lindsay McNamara

Nature Notes: Early Spring on Sandy Hook

Standard
Birding on Sandy Hook, Highlands, New Jersey

Birding on Sandy Hook, Highlands, New Jersey

Today, I enjoyed a beautiful, warm and sunny, early spring day on Sandy Hook in Highlands, New Jersey. After the winter we had, today seemed like a long awaited miracle.

I chose to spend my morning and early afternoon birding with a friend. We joined Monmouth County Audubon Society‘s walk and saw a ton of early spring migrants!

The most exciting moment of the walk was when a large group of gulls on the Bay took off flying and cleared the sand bar they were sitting on. A few seconds later, soaring through the sky, came an immature Bald Eagle! The leaders of the walk estimated that the eagle was about three years old.

Gulls on the move before an immature Bald Eagle flew over the Bay.

Gulls on the move before an immature Bald Eagle flew over the Bay.

Today also brought three new additions to my life list! The Black-crowned Night-Herons we saw sitting in a tree above Nike Pond, the male Northern Harrier (known to birders as the “Gray Ghost”) flying over our group and the Blue-gray Gnatcatchers my friend and I saw on a later walk to North Beach were all life birds for me.

"Gray Ghost" Male Northern Harrier

“Gray Ghost” Male Northern Harrier

We estimated at least twenty ospreys have returned to Sandy Hook, many were carrying fish in their talcons and some were carrying sticks to do some “housekeeping” on their nests. We saw a number of Northern Gannets diving offshore as well.

Northern Gannet by Gavin Shand on Vimeo

Northern Gannet by Gavin Shand on Vimeo

A full list of the birds that we saw today:

Birds of Monmouth County Checklist

Birds of Monmouth County Checklist

  • American Crow
  • American Kestrel
  • American Oystercatcher
  • American Robin
  • Bald Eagle
  • Black Scoter
  • Black-crowned Night-Heron
  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  • Boat-tailed Grackle
  • Brant
  • Bufflehead
  • Cooper’s Hawk
  • Double-crested Cormorant
  • Fish Crow
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Great Egret
  • Horned Grebe
  • Laughing Gull
  • Long-tailed Duck
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Northern Flicker
  • Northern Gannet
  • Northern Harrier
  • Northern Mockingbird
  • Osprey
  • Piping Plover
  • Red-breasted Merganser
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Sanderling
  • Sharp-shinned Hawk
  • Song Sparrow
  • Surf Scoter
  • Tree Swallow
  • Turkey Vulture

Walks led by local Audubon Society chapters are great for beginning birders! I would recommend them to any 20-something environmentalist looking to learn more about birds. Find a chapter near you!

Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count on Sandy Hook

Standard
Counting birds on Spermacetti Cove, Sandy Hook in Highlands, New Jersey.

Counting birds on Spermacetti Cove, Sandy Hook in Highlands, New Jersey.

Today marks the start of National Audubon Society‘s 115th Christmas Bird Count (CBC)! From December 14 through January 5, thousands of volunteers across North America are invited to go out, count birds and contribute data to an early-winter bird census.

When looking at the CBC Map, you will see that every state offers a significant number of local counts, which cover about a 10-15 mile diameter circle each. Since every CBC is a real census, and since the 15-mile diameter circle contains a lot of area to be covered, single-observer counts are not allowed. To participate on the CBC, you need to join an existing CBC circle. You can find one near you online!

All data from the local counts across North America gets compiled, reviewed and documented. The Christmas Bird Count allows researchers, conservation biologists, and interested individuals to study the long-term health and status of bird populations across North America.

For example, in the 1980’s, CBC data was used to document the decline of wintering populations of the American Black Duck. Conservation measures were put into effect shortly after, to reduce hunting pressure on the species.

Learn more about how the CBC data has been used recently in Audubon’s Birds & Climate Change and Common Birds in Decline reports.

I joined the local Sandy Hook Count this morning, which covers a 10-mile radius around Gateway National Recreation Area – Sandy Hook Unit in Highlands, New Jersey.

White-winged Scoter. Photo: AllAboutBirds.org © Ken Phenicie Jr

White-winged Scoter. Photo: AllAboutBirds.org © Ken Phenicie Jr

The Sandy Hook Count is split up into smaller territories, since there is such a large amount of bird habitat to cover in the park. I joined members of Monmouth County Audubon Society and helped count birds in the South Sandy Hook territory. We scanned Sandy Hook Bay for waterfowl and gulls, walked to Nike Pond and looked for songbirds, and we also traveled through the ancient Holly Forest, where we saw a few raptors. Many areas of Sandy Hook that are usually closed to the public were open to us for the CBC.

In the short three hours that I joined the group, we watched a number of Harbor Seals sunning on Skeleton Hill Island (!) and saw and heard a number of great birds:

  • American Black Duck
  • American Crow
  • American Goldfinch
  • Black-capped Chickadee
  • Brant
  • Bufflehead
  • Canada Goose
  • Carolina Wren
  • Dark-eyed Junco
  • Double-crested Cormorant
  • Gray Catbird
  • Great Black-backed Gull
  • Hermit Thrush
  • Herring Gull
  • Horned Grebe
  • House Finch
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Northern Harrier
  • Northern Mockingbird
  • Peregrine Falcon
  • Red-breasted Merganser
  • Red-shouldered Hawk
  • Ring-billed Gull
  • Sanderling
  • Sharp-shinned Hawk
  • Song Sparrow
  • Swamp Sparrow
  • White-throated Sparrow
  • White-winged Scoter
Bufflehead. Photo Credit: AllAboutBirds.org © Brian L. Sullivan

Bufflehead Photo: AllAboutBirds.org © Brian L. Sullivan

Wondering how this incredible citizen science initiative all got started? The first Christmas Bird Count (CBC) was completed on Christmas Day of the year 1900 as an “alternative activity to an event called the ‘side hunt‘ where people chose sides, then went out and shot as many birds as they could.” The group that came in with the largest number of dead birds was declared the winner of the event. Frank Chapman, a famous ornithologist, recognized that over-hunting would only exacerbate declining bird populations, and proposed to count birds on Christmas Day rather than shoot them.

To get involved in this historic event, visit The National Audubon Society’s website.

Counting waterfowl on Sandy Hook Bay.

Counting waterfowl on Sandy Hook Bay.

#GivingTuesday 2014: Celebrate All Things Winged with The Raptor Trust

Standard

Scoured the shelves for deals on Black Friday? Gearing up for gadget buying on Cyber Monday? Don’t forget to honor the most important day of this week (after Thanksgiving, of course), Giving Tuesday.

Giving Tuesday is a call to action, a national day of giving around the annual shopping and spending season. The third annual #GivingTuesday will take place on this coming Tuesday December 2, 2014.

GT_Street-wall_2014#GivingTuesday is a day for giving back, to write a check to a worthwhile cause or to donate your time and expertise to charity. #GivingTuesday, where global charities, families, businesses, community centers, students and more have come together to shape a new movement. A movement so compelling that the White House has taken notice.

A day that inspires personal philanthropy and encourages bigger, better and smarter charitable giving during the holiday season. A day that proves that the holidays can be about both giving and giving back.

Show your support for Giving Tuesday by taking a photo and uploading it to Facebook, Instagram or Twitter using the hashtags #GivingTuesday and #UNselfie. For more information, check out the short YouTube video below or visit #GivingTuesday on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

On Giving Tuesday 2014, I have decided to give back to the birds in my home state. One of my favorite organizations working specifically on avian rehabilitation and education is The Raptor Trust. My sister and I visited the Trust back in May of this year and had an incredible day. Everyone on staff was extremely friendly and enthusiastically answered our questions about the birds of prey in their care. Even the volunteer working the at gift shop was proud to discuss the history of the Trust and their birds with us.  For those birds that would not survive if they were released, The Raptor Trust property has become their home. We were able to see these residents up close and personal. The birds were so beautiful that we walked through the Trust twice to be sure we didn’t miss anybody!

Vilma, The Raptor Trust's Barred Owl plays a key role in the organization's educational programs. Photo by Joy Yagid.

Vilma, The Raptor Trust’s Barred Owl plays a key role in the organization’s educational programs. Photo by Joy Yagid.

Officially founded in 1983, The Raptor Trust is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and one of the premier wild bird rehabilitation centers in the United States.

Located in Millington, NJ, the Trust property includes a hospital with state-of-the-art medical facilities, quality exterior housing for several hundred birds, and an education building. For three decades, the Trust has worked tirelessly to fulfill it’s mission:

  • To provide free care and assistance to injured, sick, or orphaned wild birds.
  • To educate people about wild birds, especially birds of prey.
  • To provide a humane example for others.
The Raptor Trust Director Chris Soucy. Photo Credit: NewJerseyHills.com.

The Raptor Trust Director Chris Soucy. Photo Credit: NewJerseyHills.com.

20-something Environmentalist sat down with Director of The Raptor Trust, Chris Soucy, and asked what continues to motivate and inspire the work that he is doing.

Chris explained, “One of the greatest rewards in our work is to be able to release a bird back into the wild after we have cared for it. The birds come to us sick, injured or orphaned bird in great numbers – as many as 4,000 each year.  It takes a huge team of dedicated volunteers, along with a medical staff, veterinarians, educators and administrative help to run the center. These caring people put their hearts and souls into the work we do. Because we are successful more often than not in releasing our patients back into the wild where they belong, the rewarding feeling that comes from it happens all the time – for our staff and volunteers, for the people who find injured birds and bring them to us, and no doubt for the birds themselves.”

Red-Tailed Hawk Release. Photo from The Raptor Trust's Facebook page.

Red-Tailed Hawk Release. Photo from The Raptor Trust’s Facebook page.

Chris went on to explain, “In our 32+ year history we have cared for over 90,000 wild birds and released more than half of them back into the wild. On site, we have a full-service medical center and a education center where we present programs to thousands of visitors each year about birds, wildlife and conservation.  Our center is open to the public year round, and visitors here can see hawks, falcons, eagles and vultures up close and learn about what amazing and ecologically important creatures they are.”

Please consider The Raptor Trust when making your year-end gifts this #GivingTuesday and throughout the holiday season. Help them help all things winged.

To learn how to get involved with The Raptor Trust, and for more amazing photographs of birds of prey, like them on Facebook.

Here are a few other excellent New Jersey organizations working on
wildlife issues:

This #GivingTuesday, Tuesday, December 2, 2014, consider making an impact on the world. Choose an issue that you are passionate and donate your time or funds to organizations that are part of the solution. Be a force for good.

GT_logo2013-final1-1024x85

Nature Notes: Birding on Sandy Hook

Standard
Fields Near an Old Tennis Court on Sandy Hook

Fields Near an Old Tennis Court on Sandy Hook

The bird nerd that I am, I decided to join a New Jersey Audubon field trip on Halloween today. It was a cold and overcast morning as we walked along the fields and trails of Sandy Hook.

New Jersey Audubon does a great job of providing every birder (regardless of skill level) with an excellent, informative program. I highly recommend their guided walks for any beginner (like me). The community of birders, in my experience, has always been extremely welcoming and energized by a new person on their walks. I learned so much about identifying different types of sparrows, warblers and other song birds from everyone in our group.

Today, we saw a wide array of species. Dark-eyed Juncos and both Golden-crowned and Ruby-crowned Kinglets were out in high numbers. The crowd favorite was a Winter Wren. Usually, Winter Wrens are heard but not seen because they hide in brush and at the base of trees. We were able to see one up-close along the wall of an abandoned building.

Winter Wren Photo Credit: AllAboutBirds.org

Winter Wren Photo Credit: AllAboutBirds.org

The Kinglets were my personal favorite. They are the second smallest type of bird (hummingbirds are the smallest) and were adorable hopping around in the fields and trees.

Golden-crowned Kinglet Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Golden-crowned Kinglet Photo Credit: Wikipedia

ruby_crowned_kinglet_1

Ruby-crowned Kinglet Photo Credit: AllAboutBirds.org

I do know all birders love making lists, so here’s one of all the birds I saw today:

  • American Kestrel
  • Black Phoebe
  • Brown Creeper
  • Canada Goose
  • Chipping Sparrow
  • Common Loon
  • Dark-eyed Junco
  • Double-crested Cormorant
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • European Starling
  • Golden-crowned Kinglet
  • Gray Catbird
  • Hermit Thrush
  • Mallard
  • Merlin
  • Mourning Dove
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Northern Gannet
  • Northern Harrier
  • Northern Mockingbird
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • Savannah Sparrow
  • Sharp-shinned Hawk
  • Song Sparrow
  • White-crowned Sparrow
  • White-throated Sparrow
  • Winter Wren
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler

The New Jersey I Want for My Kids #VoteYeson2

Standard

Last year, on the first anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, I encouraged New Jersey residents to call their State Assembly representatives and ask them to post open space funding bill ACR 205 for a vote before the end of 2013. If passed, ACR 205 would have allowed residents a chance to vote for a renewed open space funding source on the November 2014 ballot. I was hoping that voters would be given the chance to have their say in keeping the ‘garden’ in ‘Garden State.’

That day has come. Thanks to a tireless effort by Keep It Green, a coalition of over 180 New Jersey organizations, the State Senate and Assembly passed a measure to put open space on the ballot this November 4. This Election Day, New Jersey voters will have the opportunity to decide if a stable source of funding should be established for open space, farmland, and historical preservation throughout the state by voting on Public Question 2.

There is a great need for this stable source of funding, since all funds from the statewide bond that voters approved in 2009 are fully allocated. You read that right, there is currently no new money left for preservation programs in the most densely populated state in the U.S.

According to a report by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, over 650,000 acres still need to be preserved to protect land and water resources, and to provide outdoor recreational opportunities for an ever-increasing population.

“Funding for the New Jersey Farmland Preservation Program is critical to keeping the garden in the Garden State,” said New Jersey Farm Bureau Executive Director Pete Furey. “By voting yes on Public Question 2, New Jersey residents can ensure that families continue to have access to fresh, nutritious, locally grown food for generations to come.”

It is no surprise that the New Jersey Farm Bureau supports a stable source of open space funding. According to the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, more than 350,000 acres of additional farmland must be preserved to support a dynamic agricultural industry in the state.

Morris County, NJ

Morris County, NJ

But how does it work? Where is the money coming from?

Public Question 2 would ensure that long-term, dedicated funding is available to protect and preserve New Jersey’s open spaces, waterways, farms and historic sites. It dedicates a small percentage of existing state revenues, without increasing taxes, to replenish the now-depleted Green Acres, Blue Acres, farmland and historic preservation programs, and continue funding to improve water quality, remove and clean up underground storage tanks, and clean-up polluted sites.

If passed, Public Question 2, a state-wide referendum, will reallocate 4% of the Corporation Business Tax to fund open space, recreational opportunities, farmland, historic sites, polluting underground storage tanks and hazardous discharges. There will be no new taxes for corporations or residents. The 4% dedication of corporate taxes will increase to 6% in 2020. It is slated to generate over $70 million a year and will rise to $117 million dollars a year after 2020.

Where is the accountability? Who will be monitoring the effectiveness of the preservation programs?

The Garden State Preservation Trust (GSPT) will be charged with monitoring and reporting on program expenditures. GSPT is an Independent authority that includes five citizen representatives.

Have more questions? Check out Trust for Public Land’s FAQs page.

While it is not perfect, I fully support Public Question 2 and a stable source of open space funding for my home state. Though controversial, due to its reallocation of state funds, I agree with the referendum and believe it is a strong compromise. Given our current political climate, I believe it is imperative to create a long-term source of funding for open space without creating any new fees or taxes.

As mentioned in The New York Times Editorial, “once open space is gone, it is virtually impossible to get it back.” I am extremely fearful of the consequences of Public Question 2 not passing. There are no proposed alternatives. We cannot sit back and wait for years and years while another long-term funding option is proposed. I believe the time to act is now. I will be voting yes on Public Question 2 on November 4.

4openspace

Sea Bright, NJ

This Jersey Girl is #4openspace in her state! Coastal resiliency and storm surge protection in shore towns like Sea Bright depend on open space. More natural buffers, like marshlands, could help mitigate floodwater from future storm events. Increased plots of open space in North Jersey could help reduce pollution runoff into local waterways and ultimately the ocean. Less impervious surfaces could help rainwater to be absorbed back into the groundwater table and reduce local flooding from smaller storm events. Creating areas of open space that support native plants could help to filter runoff and slow down the rate of flooding events.

Did you know that New Jersey is second only to Louisiana for rate of severe repetitive flood loss in the U.S.? Preservation projects that include floodplain acquisition and flood mitigation have seen a 5:1 benefit to cost ratio in Morris County, according to Morris County Preservation Trust. The organization also found evidence to suggest that for every 1% of land preserved, there is an increase of $1.50/square foot in land values.

For more information on the economic benefits of open space, visit:

I love open space. I love experiencing all of the different types of landscapes in New Jersey. From the coastal communities of Monmouth County, to the mountains of Morris County and the woodlands of Hunterdon County, I think I live in a beautiful state. I love going hiking and bird watching in New Jersey. I love our farmland, open space and historic sites, our clean drinking water and all of the progress that has been made to clean up our polluted sites. I love the wildlife that call New Jersey home. This is the state I know and love. That is why I can’t wait to vote yes on Public Question 2. I want the same New Jersey I have for my kids.

How can you protect open space in New Jersey?

This blog explains my personal viewpoint on this issue as a 20-something Environmentalist. As always, all views are my own.

Jersey Girl Joins over 300,000 Activists at the Historic #PeoplesClimate March

Standard

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I have never seen so many people in the same place for the same cause at the same time in my twenty four years on Earth. The #PeoplesClimate March blew my mind. In the best way possible.

My good friend and fellow 20-something environmentalist, Carrie and I made plans on my birthday to travel to New York City to participate in the People’s Climate March. I had seen a ton of social media outreach with great photos and inspiring stories encouraging people to attend. I was hopeful that the march would double the Forward on Climate March from last February and bring 100,000 concerned citizens to the Big Apple.

We arrived in New York from NJ Transit on time (for once) and found ourselves in a crowd of activists waiting for the C train to Central Park West. When we watched three trains pass full of more activists, we were excited about all of the people that had shown up. When we flooded the subway station with hundreds of other people climbing up the stairs to the City, we thought this might be big.

And then. We went. Outside. I have never seen so many people in my life.

Most of the activists were in good spirits as we waited at 72nd Street and Central Park West for the march to begin. Carrie and I looked at all of the creative signs and the diverse crowd before us as we waited to move.

We started to march and chant with all kinds of people, artists, students, families, vegans, older activists, scientists, foodies, labor unions, solar activists. It was incredible to see so many people coming together to act on climate. Marching bands kept everyone in step and dancing and smiling. The music was personally one of my favorite things about the march. Carrie and I got stopped by a lot of folks who wanted to take pictures of our signs. We took a ton of photos of other people’s signs and works of art. I was proud whenever someone shouted “Hey Jersey!” or “Yeah Jersey Girl hold up your sign!” We felt like we were among friends. Carrie and I talked to activists from New Orleans, saw a woman from Alaska, even a group from Minnesota, all out because they want their world leaders to act on climate.

The most astounding aspect of the People’s Climate March for me was the sound. An avalanche of sound would gather behind me, I could feel it, building, coming towards us, louder and louder until it arrived to where we were marching and I realized it was the sound of the hundreds of thousands of people around me cheering. I shouted and cheered, pushing the tidal wave of sound in front of me, onto the group of people leading the way.

Once Carrie and I got back to my apartment in Sea Bright, we read the headlines and found out that we were two of over 310,000 (or 400,000 depending on the source) people that rose up and joined together for climate justice. What an unbelievable feeling to be included in a crowd that was over four miles long.

The People’s Climate March made such a bold statement. Even on our way into NYC, folks saw our signs and thanked us for going and explained how important a clean energy future was to them. An older female activist said to Carrie and I with stars in her eyes that was “wonderful, just wonderful” to see so many people marching for climate change as we rolled through Times Square. We felt the same way as her and we felt hopeful.

Youth contingent: Our Future Our Choice

Youth contingent: Our Future Our Choice

Oh, and climate change made national news: