Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Gateway Visitor Programs and Events for Summer 2016

View of Fort Hancock from the Sandy Hook Lighthouse at sunset.    NPS PHOTO

The National Park Service Gateway NRA includes Jamaica Bay and Staten Island, New York, and Sandy Hook, New Jersey. Sandy Hook.

This summer they are are celebrating the National Park Service Centennial and their Program Guide for June, July and August contains the activities for all three units.

The program guides are always posted on the Plan Your Visit page: nps.gov/gate/planyourvisit

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Water Trails in New Jersey

If you're one of the people who paddles along a New Jersey lake or river, you're probably not all that different from the oldest inhabitants of this area. Long before roads,  Indians and then settlers to this area traveled on our waterways across the area. These water trails became the places for towns and eventually paralleled the paths, roads and highways.

When most people think about "trails" they imagine paths through the woods. But some of those paths through wilderness are liquid and the mapping of "water trails" is happening more and more.

This mapping and designation can help protect natural areas as well as provide places for kayaking, canoeing and stand-up paddling.

In New Jersey, we have designated water trails including ones on the Delaware River, the South Branch of the Raritan River, the Egg Harbor River, the Maurice River and the Hackensack River.

But we don't have any water trails that are designated such by the National Park Service.

There are two in New York, but none in NJ or Pennsylvania. The Bronx River Blueway which passes directly through the New York Botanical gardens, the Bronx River Forest, cityscapes, and the Bronx Zoo is one.

The other NY water trail is the Hudson River Greenway Water Trail which is designed for day-users as well as long-distance paddlers. It includes 94 designated access sites, wildlife marshes, islands, historic sites, cities, downtowns, and hiking trails.

Some paddling enthusiasts in Burlington County are trying to get the Rancocas Creek to become New Jersey's first nationally-designated water trail. Certainly our Jersey waterways must have more than a few places suitable for the designation!

The National Park Service loks for sites with boat landings in protected areas, existing parkland and multi-use recreation areas along the creek, and also educational and cultural heritage opportunities along the way on the shore or nearby.

The Rancocas Creek watershed is one of the state's largest, covering 360 square miles.

The North Branch flows about 30 miles, from its headwaters in the pitch pine lowlands of the Pine Barrens in western Ocean County to the main stem in Hainesport.

The Burlington County park system maintains a 14-mile canoe trail with access points in Pemberton, historic Smithville and Mount Holly.

The South Branch of the Rancocas flows for about 22 miles to the main stem, and the Southwest Branch is about 18 miles long. The three branches join the creek's main stem, a wide, tidal waterway used by motorized boats as well as canoes and kayaks.

For more about the efforts to get the Rancocas Creek designated, go to www.rcnwt.com

Monday, May 2, 2016

Programs and Events at the Pequest Trout Hatchery

The Pequest Trout Hatchery is open seven days a week through October. Take a self-guided tour of the hatchery facility, explore the outdoors on the trails or enjoy for a FREE program! Guided trail hikes, beginner fishing classes, fly fishing classes, bird walks and talks, fish talks and amphibian programs - there's something for everyone! All programs require registration.

 Look what is scheduled so far for May.

First Saturday Hike
Saturday, May 7
9:00 a.m.
Join Wildlife Conservation Corps member and member of the NJ Woodland Stewards Program, John Hooven in a two-mile guided hike on our trail system. Explore animal tracks and evidence and immerse yourself in a variety of different habitats as you explore the Pequest Wildlife Management Area. Open to anyone able to walk 2 miles on moderate trails.

First Saturday Hike
Saturday, May 7
12:00 p.m.
Join Wildlife Conservation Corps member and member of the NJ Woodland Stewards Program, John Hooven in a two-mile guided hike on our trail system. Explore animal tracks and evidence and immerse yourself in a variety of different habitats as you explore the Pequest Wildlife Management Area. Open to anyone able to walk 2 miles on moderate trails.

Take Mom Fishing
Saturday, May 7
10:30 a.m.
Help mom learn the basics of fishing in this hands-on session. Topics will include fish biology and identification, casting techniques, equipment, knot tying and more. Discussions will be followed by an actual trout fishing experience in our Education Pond. This program is geared for ages 8 years and above. Younger children are welcome to participate with direct adult assistance. All equipment is provided for the program. You supply the nightcrawlers. We recommend that at least one adult per family has a fishing license, so come a few minutes early and buy yours at the front desk when you sign in.

Hunter Education
Saturday, May 14
8:00 a.m.
Beat the fall rush and get ready for hunting by taking your Hunter Education class at the hatchery. You must have your completed homework with you at the class and be pre-registered. To register for your class go to www.nj.wildlifelicense.com. After you pass the class, stop by the front desk and buy your hunting license. Youth hunting licenses are free!

Fly Fishing with Streamers
Saturday, May 14
10:00 a.m.
In this course, Wildlife Conservation Corps volunteers Pierre Benoist and Jim Flatley will discuss reading a trout stream, basic knots, fishing streamers and a review of streamer patterns. After the morning discussion, students will get to test their new knowledge on the Education Pond. This program is the second in a series of seven fly fishing/tying classes. Students completing all seven classes will receive a course completion certificate. Those unable to attend all sessions or not wishing to earn a certificate may pick and choose the classes to attend. Students should bring their own equipment if available. Open to anyone 10 years old and above.

All About Bluebirds
Saturday, May 21
1:00 p.m.
Join us and get the scoop on bluebirds! Volunteer Leo Hollein will present his fabulous slide show with fun facts and cool info! Program includes a walk to check out nest boxes! This presentation will cover all aspects of bluebird breeding as well as discussing their nest box competitors and predators. Open to all ages.

Leo is a long time member of NJ Audubon and The Friends of the Great Swamp. He has authored several articles on bluebirds for NJ Audubon magazine and for over 10 years he has coordinated the monitoring of the 140 box bluebird trail in the Great Swamp.

Warbler Walk
Saturday, May 28
9:30 a.m.
Wildlife Conservation Corps volunteer and member of the NJ Bluebird Society, Frank Budney, will lead this discussion and walk as you roam the grounds searching out warblers. Discussion will include why warblers migrate and where they go and where they are from. You will learn to look at distinguishing marks that will help you identify birds in the field and their habitat requirements. Please bring binoculars and a birding field guide if you have one. Open to anyone aged 10 years and above.

Saturday, May 28
1:00 p.m.
Division employee, Russ Dodge will lead this program on sturgeon. Russ will cover the unique physical and living characteristics of sturgeon and paddlefish, as well as the commercial value of sturgeon (caviar). Most sturgeon species in the US closed to commercial and recreational fishing. Open to all ages.

World of Amphibians
Sunday, May 29
2:00 p.m.
Join us as we learn about the world of amphibians. In this program for adults young and old, we will discover where amphibians came from, how they grow up, and their importance in the ecosystem. Amphibians were some of the first animals in history to move onto land, but they still rely on water for major parts of their life cycle. They are key species in their environments not only because they eat bugs and are eaten by top predators, but they also tell us how healthy their environment is. Then, once we learn all of these amazing things about amphibians, we'll go meet some in person at Pequest's own muck pond! Please bring nets if you have them and boots that can get wet.

Presented by Allegra Mitchell, Wildlife Conservation Corps. Allegra completed a Bachelor's degree in Conservation Biology and a Master's degree in Biology at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts. Her Master's degree work on amphibian locomotor performance as it relates to habitat preference is being published in the scientific journal, Functional Ecology. She has led and assisted in multiple research projects on herpetofauna and other groups of species, both domestically and abroad. Allegra also educated her fellow students in herpetology as a teaching assistant at her university. She now shares her knowledge of amphibians through symposia presentations and through volunteering with educational programs in her home state of New Jersey. She is passionate about amphibian conservation and carries this mission with her as she begins her career in wildlife biology.

For the full program schedule visit www.njfishandwildlife.com/budding.htm

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Before They Are Endangered

A recent article from the Press of Atlantic City, reminds us that protecting New Jersey's snakes, birds, frogs and other animals and plants BEFORE they are endangered is really the goal of conservationists.

In that article, the focus is on effort in the far-from-barren NJ Pinelands. The post online includes a video and follows Emile DeVito, an expert on endangered species in the 1.1-million-acre Pinelands National Reserve, who studies the rarest plants and animals.

Those species include the Pickering’s morning glory and the iconic Pine Barrens tree frog.

The Pickering's morning glory is not currently listed in NJ and so its rarity makes it the kind of species that needs attention (and will not get as much federal or state funding support) so that it is not overlooked and it moves to a threatened or endangered status.

Current limited range for the Pine Barrens treefrog

The Pine Barrens treefrog is another kind of species case study. In 1979, iy was listed as an endangered species in New Jersey due to its restricted range, declining population, habitat loss, and pollution of breeding ponds. But conservation efforts moved the treefrog population to a point that it is currently considered stable.

New Jersey serves as a stronghold for this species throughout its entire range. In areas of suitable habitat, they may seem abundant. However, protection of this species is warranted, as quality habitat is limited to specialized Pine Barrens ecosystems patchily distributed throughout its range.

 Flower of Stylisma pickeringii Pickering's Dawnflower or Pickering's Morning Glory, near Batsto, New Jersey.
via Wikimedia
Conservationists have long known that addressing species in decline before they reach the the stages of being threatened or endangered is the real goal.

As members of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, New Jersey Audubon and the NJDEP track species, they can identify important habitat for that species.

For example, the docile pine snake can be tracked using implanted transmitters that allow us to discover winter dens and nesting sites.

Pine snake moving across sandy soil

We have more than 80 species of wildlife from mammals to birds to insects in New Jersey that are considered endangered or threatened. (See list at www.state.nj.us) There are also dozens of plants that are in danger that probably get less attention than the "sexier" wildlifr.

Some habitats that need protectionare less than intuitive spaces. For example, Ryan Rebozo, director of conservation science at the Pinelands Preservation Alliance, says that the edges of roads in the Pinelands could replace some lost open areas, such as those lost by dousing fires that naturally create suitable habitat. But too often road departments are mowing these areas at inopportune times when some rare plants are flowering. He estimates that 11,000 acres of road edges could be suitable habitat for some of our rare plants, such as the the Pine Barrens gentian, which needs direct sunlight and flowers later in the fall when mowing is common.

Pine Barrens gentian in Wharton State Forest
Thomas Kornack, licensed under a Creative Commons License

As important as education and information, such as this post, can be, it alone isn’t going to save species. People, especially volunteers and the general public, need to take action.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Celebrating Earth Day in New Jersey

Earth Day - Friday, April 22 - is a great way to show appreciation for the Earth. This one special day is more important than ever because learning about the environmental dangers that face our home is ever increasingly crucial to the planet's and our own well being.

Via freeholddodge.net we get these 6 suggestions for ways to celebrate Earth Day around Monmouth County, NJ.

What's happening in your area?  Add a comment to this post!

The Bayshore Waterfront Park at Port Monmouth is a great way to learn about marine life and beach restoration. You and your family can tour the park and witness the wildlife that dwells on the beach. You can even participate in an interactive show and tell program.
Deep Cut Gardens in Middletown offers a beautiful landscape of vast gardens that you can walk through and enjoy. It's here that you can learn the tricks of the trade so that you can improve your home garden, and make your thumb a little greener. For family fun, Deep Cut Gardens offers scavenger hunts on its 54 acres.
Huber Woods Environmental Center in Locust offers a variety of activities that would be perfect for Earth Day. Your little ones can learn more about the Lenape tribe, the natives who used to dwell in the area before it was settled by European colonists. They can play Native American instruments, try basket weaving and participate in the maize game.
The Manasquan Reservoir Environmental Center, located in Howell, is hosting an event called "Celebrate Earth Hour" on March 19th at 8 p.m. This no-flashlight event offers games, night hikes, crafts and treats for you and your whole family. At the end of this event, participants are encouraged to enjoy the vast sky that will be better observed because of the lack of light pollution.
Thompson Park in Lincroft encourages getting dirty. What they mean is that children should run around outside and enjoy the flora and fauna. This 667 acre park offers various activities that are perfect for you and your family including tennis courts and winding paths that are great for hikes.
Turkey Swamp Park, located in Freehold, is a great place to take the family for the weekend. This park features a 2,261 acre wooded park that is perfect for camping. Build a fire, go fishing and enjoy the beautiful sight of nature with your family. You can even go swimming in the 17-acre lake.

Double Trouble State Park

I am a big fan of the Pinelands (AKA The Pine Barrens) and as the weather warms up, you might want to visit some of the state parks that are in that area.

The property that makes up Double Trouble State Park was purchased by New Jersey in 1964. Besides recreational opportunities, it afforded a way to help protect the Cedar Creek watershed.

The Double Trouble Historic District was placed on the State Register of Historic Places in 1977 and on the National Register in 1978.

This park, located in Lacey and Berkeley Townships, offers visitors a great place for a simple walk, bicycling and horseback riding on the easy trails and sand roads throughout the park. The Double Trouble Historic District has a self-guided, marked 1.5-mile loop nature trail and several miles of unmarked paths along sand service roads. Nature trail guides are available at the trailhead next to the cranberry packing house and at the park information building.

There is no entrance fee.

Cedar Creek offers canoeing and kayaking opportunities. Cedar Creek from Bamber Lake to Barnegat Bay runs approximately 9 miles.

There are 8,500 acres in this Pine Barrens ecosystem which was once the site of cranberry bogs. Going back to the Civil War, Atlantic white cedar swamps were cleared and converted into cranberry bogs and into the early 20th century, the Double Trouble Company ran one of our state's largest cranberry operations.

Cranberry harvest at Double Trouble State Park - photo by George Mar

You can take tours of the historic Double Trouble Village which was associated with cranberry agriculture as well as earlier Atlantic white cedar logging and milling.

The interesting name of the area supposedly comes from a time when beavers and muskrats were gnawing holes in a dam on the mill pond. On a day when two leaks were discovered simultaneously at the site, a worker is said to have exclaimed "There's double trouble."