New Jersey Emerging Conservation Professionals

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Hiking in the Pine Barrens. Photo by Felysse Goldman.

Interested in pursuing a career in New Jersey’s environmental field? Want to learn more about what types of jobs are out there? Or do you want to go hiking with a group of recent grads who love the outdoors and craft beer? Check out New Jersey Emerging Conservation Professionals on Facebook!

Back in March of 2015, a group of “emerging professionals” got together during a forum at an environmental conference. Everyone enjoyed their time at the event and wanted to continue hanging out and talking about career goals, challenges that young professionals face, great birding locations in the Garden State, etc. Soon, our Facebook group was formed.

We post community events, create our own  like Birds and Beers, we visit a birding spot and hit a local brewery afterwards and we recently started organizing weekend retreats. In early April 2016, a group of us spent the weekend kayaking down the Batsto River in the Pine Barrens with Pinelands Adventures and hiking in Franklin Parker Preserve.

New Jersey Emerging Conservation Professionals also participate in volunteer events, like helping out at amphibian crossing nights with the Friends of East Brunswick Environmental Commission.

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Spotted Salamander in East Brunswick, New Jersey

Check us out on Facebook and join us at our next event!

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Piping Plovers Return to the Jersey Shore!

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Piping Plover

I “digiscoped” these photos of Piping Plovers. Digiscoping is when you place your iPhone up against your binoculars to create a zoom lens and closer captures.

My favorite time of year is when all of the birds begin to return to the Jersey Shore. Osprey once again rule the sky, and the beaches are filled with small, scurrying shorebirds like Piping Plovers. I saw this pair along Fisherman’s Path on Sandy Hook North Beach on Friday, March 25.

Gone Batty in Hibernia Mine

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Little Brown Bat in Hibernia Mine

On Monday March 21, I had the privilege of tagging along with a team of biologists who were visiting Hibernia Mine in Rockaway Township, New Jersey. The purpose of our adventure was to gather data for various studies on White-nose syndrome, a fungal disease that has killed millions of bats in North America.

Some little brown bat populations in New Jersey have declined as much as 98% since the emergence of the fungus. Before White-nose syndrome, Hibernia Mine was home to hundreds of thousands of bats, today the total is near about 400. So, the studies being conducted in the mine are vital to the survival of New Jersey’s bats and the future of the species in the Garden State. I was happy to help play a small role in the protection of these beautiful creatures. Summer wouldn’t be the same without bats flying through the night sky!

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Checking the wings for White-nose syndrome scarring

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Little brown bats covered in condensation. They looked glittery!

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Northern-long eared bat modeling it’s band. Each bat safely caught by biologists in the mine receive a small, metal band on their wing with a number. Bats are then re-caught or re-sighted year after year. The data recorded helps keep track of the population.

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Hibernia Mine entrance in Rockaway Township, New Jersey

White Pelicans in New Jersey!

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“American White Pelican” by Manjith Kainickara – originally posted to Flickr as American White Pelican.

My alarm was set for 4:00 AM on December 20, a Sunday morning. I woke up excited and eager to start the day. My phone started going off with text messages from friends about our meeting location. As any birder will tell you, this scenario is far from uncommon we love our birds! and will likely wake up at any time on any day for a chance to add another species to our life list.

I woke up early to look for owls to tally in the Sandy Hook Christmas Bird Count (Highlands and Atlantic Highlands territories are included in the Sandy Hook count). Our team drove through Hartshorne Woods Park in Highlands, New Jersey, in search of the nocturnal raptors. I thought the highlight of my day would be hearing two great horned owls calling to each other as first light came over the woods. While this was exciting (and definitely worth getting up at 4:00 AM for), I was in for another treat.

Read the full story on the Conserve Wildlife blog.

World Shorebirds Day: When the Shorebird Met the Biologist

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20-something Environmentalist holding a sanderling.

20-something Environmentalist holding a sanderling.

As a bird nerd, I’d often look on enviously at photos of biologists posted online holding shorebirds in their “bander’s grip” – the bird’s head in between their index and middle finger, using their thumb and pinky to steady the bird, while allowing its feet to dangle freely.

I always wondered: I wish I could do that! Hold a bird in my hands. Yet I never once thought: Wait, how did the bird end up in their hands in the first place?

I certainly hadn’t thought biologists run all over the beach chasing after shorebirds like a farmer chasing chickens – I just never thought the process all the way through.

This past summer, I was fortunate enough to become part of that process and learned exactly how a shorebird ends up in a biologist’s bander’s grip. The system may surprise you, but the steps have been mastered over nineteen years of practice, each one with shorebird safety as the top priority.

Read the full post on the Conserve Wildlife Blog.

Salamander Crossing: Road Closed

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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

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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

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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.

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American Redstart on Sandy Hook. Photo by Lindsay McNamara

Nature Notes: Early Spring on Sandy Hook

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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!

Nature Notes: Birding on Sandy Hook

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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

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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