Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Have You Sighted a NJ Endangered Species?

You can help the Endangered and Nongame Species Program (ENSP) maintain updated records of rare species within the state. I was reminded of this recently when a commenter on a post here about bobcats mentioned that "local animal control" didn't seem interested in his sighting. That might often be true, but ENSP is interested.

You should check the list of New Jersey's endangered and threatened wildlife species maintained by the Division of Fish and Wildlife's Endangered and Nongame Species Program (ENSP).

If you have information on the location of a rare animal and would like to help build the Natural Heritage inventory, you can submit a report. This data will help develop critical habitat mapping and look at habitat and population trends, and ultimately help develop conservation strategies for endangered and threatened species.

You can fill out the sighting report form available at state.nj.us/dep/fgw/ensp/rprtform.htm (There is also one online for marine wildlife.)

Reporting includes marking the location of the sighting on a map to help biologists determine if suitable habitat is present at the location.

There is also information on submitting your report by mail or email.

Each record will be reviewed by an ENSP biologist.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Atlantic Leatherback Turtle

Leatherback  - Photo: NOAA

Atlantic leatherback turtles are the largest of all sea turtles. Adults have been known to weigh up to 2,000 pounds.

A review of the species' status published in 2013, concluded that the Atlantic leatherback population is either stable or increasing overall, but the species has been listed as endangered in New Jersey since 1979.

It is easily distinguished by its black, leathery skin, huge, spindle- or barrel-shaped bodies and long flippers. Rather than the typical marine turtles horny shields, their bodies are covered with a layer of rubbery skin that has seven longitudinal ridges (keels) on the back and five underneath.

This giant of the sea was spotted trapped in a mussel farm near Cottrell's Cove, Newfoundland and was freed. 

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

You Can Only Find This Plant in New Jersey

Spring Beauty Claytonia virginica
Spring beauty is a plant found in abundance in the Eastern temperate deciduous forest of North America throughout many different habitat types including lawns, city parks, forests, roadsides, wetlands, bluffs, and ravines.

The very rare and endangered Spring Beauty variety hammondiae
But Hammond’s Yellow Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica var. hammondiae) is a very rare and endangered wildflower. Of interest here is that this variety only exists in a few patches of wet meadow in the northwest corner of New Jersey.

When we say rare, we mean this is not just the only place in NJ, or in the United States, but the only place on Earth where we know of this particular plant variety existing. That the location being in our often-misunderstood and highly developed state is another reminder that there are places of ecological and environmental importance in all parts of the planet.

Don't rush out to try to see this dime-sized gem of a flower. Thankfully, it is protected in The Nature Conservancy’s 100-acre Arctic Meadows Preserve. The Preserve itself is a rare inland acidic seep that because of the underlying geology and soils is a habitat where Hammond’s Yellow Spring Beauty can exist. (The blooms appeared in April.)

How did the plant and its habitat get discovered? I discovered in a post by Jim Wright that more than fifty years ago, naturalist Emilie K. Hammond noticed in a NJ meadow blooms which looked like Spring Beauty but were not the expected white or pinkish color but instead a deep yellow. Her discovery was reported to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, which researched the flower and categorized it as another color variation of the common Spring Beauty. Not big news.

When there was home construction near that meadow in the mid-1980s, a botanist for The Nature Conservancy, David Snyder, checked out the situation. He discovered that not only that were they that odd color, but they were growing in an unexpected kind of habitat and blooming long after the more common variety had finished. This was a new type of Spring Beauty, found only in this location.

The Nature Conservancy bought the 77-acre property in the 1990s to protect the rare flower, and has since added 23 acres of adjacent land.

Friday, June 23, 2017

American Shad Return to the Musconetcong River

It has been at least 100 years since we could say that there were American shad in the Musconetcong River in Hunterdon and Warren counties. But that is what the Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Fish and Wildlife and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced this month.

Shad is a benchmark species indicative of the overall ecological health and diversity of a waterway. This recovery of the river is the result of the removal of dams on the lower Musconetcong River several years ago, followed by the removal of the Hughesville Dam in Warren County last year. These projects – made possible by a partnership of state, federal, nonprofit and private entities – opened nearly six miles of the Musconetcong to migratory fish, such as shad, that spend much of their lives in the ocean but return to rivers and their tributaries to spawn.

“The return of shad, a benchmark species indicative of the overall ecological health and diversity of a waterway, is an exciting milestone,” said DEP Commissioner Bob Martin. “This achievement is the direct result of an ongoing partnership among state and federal agencies, nonprofit groups, and dam owners – all committed to making this beautiful waterway free-flowing again.”

As the shad population continues to rebuild, anglers are reminded that this fish may not be taken from any New Jersey freshwater area except the Delaware River.

NJDFW biologist Pat Hamilton holds a shad near the Warren Glen Dam

The return of shad to the Musconetcong was confirmed earlier this month after anglers fishing for trout reported seeing small schools of shad in the river above the site of the former Hughesville Dam. Biologists from the DEP’s Bureau of Freshwater Fisheries responded and captured shad at the base of the Warren Glen Dam in Holland Township, Hunterdon County.

American shad is the largest member of the herring family, weighing from four to eight pounds at maturity. Shad once supported important commercial and recreational fisheries along the Atlantic coast, especially the Delaware River. But dams built to generate power, for mills and for other now-obsolete purposes greatly reduced their spawning habitat.

The 48-mile-long Musconetcong flows from Lake Hopatcong in the northwestern part of the state and through the wooded and rocky hills of Morris and Warren counties. It flows into the Delaware River at a point in Hunterdon County about 10 miles south of Phillipsburg.

Long stretches of the Musconetcong are on the National Park Service National Wild and Scenic Rivers inventory. The DEP classifies much of the river as a Category 1 stream, affording it the state’s highest level of protection due to its exceptional ecological and fisheries values.

Partners in restoring the Musconetcong to a free-flowing river also include the Musconetcong Watershed Association; American Rivers, the National Park Service, the federal Natural Resource Conservation Service, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, North Jersey RC&D, Trout Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy, and International Process Plants and Equipment Corp.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Time for Jersey Summer

It is summer and that means the Jersey Shore, but there is a lot more to do in the Garden State. After you hit the beaches and boardwalks, here are more suggestions from VisitNJ.org.

You don't have to hit a boardwalk to get your thrills because other amusement parks and water parks are throughout the state. 
From our maritime heritage, historic lighthouses along the coastline are scenic and historic. Sandy Hook Lighthouse (Highlands) is the oldest working lighthouse in the country, built in 1764. Check out the lighthouses in New Jersey.
Our Garden State also has hillsides covered in grapevines, so check out our wineries and vineyards. You can enjoy wine tasting in a tasting room and take in the views.

How about cruising gently above NJ in a hot air balloon? I thought I'd be afraid of one of these rides (heights are not my thing) but it was great. No fear! You can also watch them from the ground at the July QuikChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning in Readington every July.) Watch Video!
I often write here about state parks in New Jersey. They offer swimming and boating, hiking and mountain biking and many state parks, such as Monmouth Battlefield State Park (Manalapan) and Long Pond Ironworks State Park (Hewitt), also have important American history sites.

The state parks are great for mountain bikers but there are plenty of places for mountain bikes or a beach cruising. Take an early morning boardwalk ride or an all-day excursion on the Henry Hudson Trail. Check out some places to ride bike in NJ.
And that brings us to camping. Sitting around the campfire on a cool night beneath a starry sky in one of our campgrounds and RV parks. Here are just a few of our favorite campsites with gorgeous scenery.
In New Jersey we are surrounded by history. There are many free and low cost visit a historic sites for a day trip. We have living history villages such as Fosterfields Living Historical Farm (Morristown) to experience farm life in the early 1900s, or Howell Living History Farm in Lambertville, which also has field, barn and craft programs or just explore the grounds on a self-guided tour.
We have more than 400 publicly accessible lakes, ponds and reservoirs, and many secluded rivers and streams for your fishing trip. That can be a day with the little kids fishing for little fish at a little pond, or aiming for a big, trophy fish on a charter fishing boat to go deep-sea fishing.

Start planning your NJ trip with the FREE travel guide and travel map.

View it online or get a copy mailed directly to your door, see www.visitnj.org