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!
Checking the wings for White-nose syndrome scarring
Little brown bats covered in condensation. They looked glittery!
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.
Hibernia Mine entrance in Rockaway Township, New Jersey
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.
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.
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.