Friday, January 12, 2018

Eagles Across New Jersey

Bald Eagle in flight at Mountain Lakes Preserve
A bald eagle in flight at Mountain Lakes Preserve in Princeton, New Jersey.

Eagles are probably New Jersey's most successful comeback story when it comes to endangered species. But that doesn't mean that we can be complacent about that recovery.

Bald eagles have been removed from the federal endangered species list, although they are still protected by other federal laws. In New Jersey, eagles are still considered an endangered species during the breeding season, which runs from January through June. The rest of the year they fall under the threatened species category.

In Sussex County, for example, the number of chicks that fledged dropped this year from a year before. The number of known, observed, eagle nests also dropped. This information, according to the 2017 Bald Eagle Report issued by the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife, shows a slight decrease in the number of eaglets that made that first flight was down slightly across the state. There were 216 last year and only 190 this year.

That drop is not catastrophic and may not continue in 2018.

Bald Eagle Fledgling 26 June 2013 New Jersey USA from Michael Black on Vimeo.
A New Jersey fledging before it has acquired its distinctive white "bald" head.

Mortality in chicks is usually due to adverse weather at critical times in the nesting period, and predation.

Bald eagles in NJ and across the country were much more common until the late 1950s when the population plummeted. Why? The main cause was human use of the pesticide DDT which had entered the food chain and caused female eagles to lay eggs with very thin shells, which did not survive incubation.

By the time DDT was banned in the U.S. in 1972, there was only one nesting pair of eagles in New Jersey.

Twenty years later, biologists throughout the Northeast were importing young eaglets that could be artificially raised (hacked) until they could fledge. Those young eagles would range in wide areas but generally will return to the area where they fledged to find a mate.

New Jersey had 23 nesting pairs by 2000, 48 pairs by 2005, 82 pairs by 2010 and 150 pairs by 2015.

Though the monitoring program is run by staff from the Division of Fish and Wildlife, most of the observations are done by volunteers. These devoted folks check assigned nests at least weekly, note when eggs are present, how many hatch and whether or not those young fledge.

In the article "Eagle fledglings, known nests down across county, state" from the New Jersey Herald, the focus was on Sussex County where the number of young eagles dropped from 20 in 10 known nests, to 12 in only 8 observed nests this past spring.

A nest on Minisink Island in the Delaware River had nesting eagles on February 28 but it was reported that the nest failed on March 9 after a major storm moved through the area the week before. That storm brought a temperature drop from the 60s to the low 40s, along with high winds, hail and more than a half-inch of rain.

Nest mortality often takes 4 of 5 fledglings before they reach maturity.

Sometimes our Jersey eagles leave the state. One female eagle that was banded in 2009 at the Newton Reservoir site has been spotted from Maryland to New York. Another Newton eagle banded in 2011 is now nesting at a reservoir near Middletown, N.Y.  Borders don't mean anything to eagles.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Ravens in New Jersey

Statue of a raven on the grounds of the Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site in Philadelphia, PA
by Midnightdreary via Wikimedia Commons

Ravens are birds that have been a part of many mythologies. They were companions to the Norse god Odin. Native Americans thought of them as tricksters. And almost everyone knows that "Nevermore" raven in Edgar Allan Poe’s famous poem by that name.

But the real life raven is one of several larger-bodied species of the genus Corvus. There is no consistent distinction between "crows" and "ravens", and these names have been assigned to different species chiefly on the basis of their size. Crows are generally considered smaller than ravens, and the largest raven species are the common raven and the thick-billed raven.

The common raven, Corvus corax, has the widest distribution of any of the Corvidae family that includes crows, jays, nutcrackers, magpies and related birds such as rooks, jackdaws, and choughs. It is also the largest and heaviest of the passerines, or perching birds. And you may have heard that it is also one of the smartest birds.

Have you seen ravens in New Jersey?  They were once numerous in our state. They disappeared as a nesting bird in New Jersey in the 1920s. But in the early 1990s they began to breed once more in NJ and their numbers have been increasing ever since.

If you are curious about our Jersey ravens, the Wednesday, January 10 meeting of the Montclair Bird Club will feature “Return of the Raven,” presented by writer and environmental consultant Rick Radis. He will cover the historic status of the common raven in eastern North America, its return and its present status. Rick Radis is a past editor of NJ Birds, NJ Audubon Magazine and other conservation publications. His writing, editorial and photography have appeared in the New York Times, TNY, and many other national and regional publications.

The club's meeting on Jan. 10 begins at 7:30 p.m. at the Union Congregational Church in Montclair. The meeting is free and open to the public.

Common raven
By Stephencdickson - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

NJ State Park Online Campground Reservation System

I don't think many of us are thinking about camping in New Jersey in January, but on a cold winter day when you're housebound might be the best time to consider outings for the other three seasons.
Campsite in Wharton State Forest
I have very fond memories of taking my family camping in our state parks when my sons were younger. They especially enjoyed our tent and cabin vacations at Stokes and Wharton and swimming in the tea-colored Pinelands water of Atsion Lake.

This is also a opportune time to consider future trips because  the Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Parks and Forestry has launched a new online campground reservation system. This NJ Outdoors online reservations system can be accessed at

It provides flexible search capabilities for finding and reserving tent sites, cabins or shelters within the New Jersey State Park System, and is part of a broader, ongoing DEP effort to improve customer service and information services through online and mobile-device technologies.

Back when I was making reservations for campsite (and especially for the limited cabins), it was all done by snail mail with an occasional phone call. You could wait a few weeks only to find out that nothing was available.

“The New Jersey State Park System offers some of the best camping experiences found anywhere,” Commissioner Martin said. “This new reservation system will make it easier than ever to plan an affordable weekend getaway or vacation at our great state parks, forests and recreation areas to create memories that will last a lifetime.”

The system, developed in partnership with the New Jersey Division of NICUSA Inc., went live in December, and it provides updated maps and park information filters that allow users to more easily check site availability and plan visits around amenities and recreational opportunities available at each park.

Features of NJ Outdoors include:

  • The ability to easily update or cancel a campground reservation;
  • A list of current discounts available at state parks;
  • A document upload feature for pet license and vaccination documents to make check-in easier at pet-friendly campsites;
  • An optional account creation feature, which allows campers to securely store their payment and access their camping history;
  • A real-time notification system that alerts campers of events that could affect their stay or upcoming reservations.

“Whether your interest is hiking, kayaking or simply relaxing by the campfire, it is our sincerest hope that residents and visitors will find this new reservation system a convenient portal into planning their camping adventures in a park system that offers a wide range of opportunities for enjoying the outdoors,” said Division of Parks and Forestry Director Mark Texel.

The State Park Service boasts 50 state parks, forests, recreation areas, battlefields, and marinas. Camping is available at 19 sites, from Brendan Byrne State Forest in the Pinelands to Stokes State Forest near the Delaware Water Gap to Parvin State Park in Salem County.

Atsion Lake in Wharton State Forest

Want to get news and photos of what is happening in our New Jersey State Parks?  Follow them on Instagram at and on Facebook

Source: NJDEP - News Release 

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Start 2018 With a First Day Hike

How will you be ringing in the New Year? I don't mean the Eve. I mean that first day. Do you have a resolution to be better about getting out and getting some exercise?

How about joining one of New Jersey's 2018 First Day Hikes? First Day Hikes is a national effort to get people outdoors. Yes, January 1 can be tough to get outside because of the weather and because we are recovering from the night before, but this tradition has gained numbers each year.
The New Jersey State Park Service is hosting 24 guided hikes, 2 mountain bike rides and 1 horseback ride in state parks, forests and historic sites on New Year’s Day as part of America's State Parks First Day Hikes program. 
These free First Day Hikes offer a great incentive to get outside, exercise, experience history, enjoy nature, and celebrate the New Year with friends and family in one of your state parks. 
For all hikes and rides, wear sturdy footgear and bring water and snacks. Check the weather before you leave the house and wear weather-appropriate clothing. Layers are best for exercising in colder temperatures.
One South Jersey biking possibility is the Batsto First Day Mountain Bike Ride in Wharton State Forest. This will be a guided 10-mile unpaved bike trail ride through the New Jersey Pinelands to ring in the New Year. They will meet in the Batsto Village Parking Lot at 11am. Bring your own bike to participate in this event. Registration for this ride is REQUIRED. To register or for more information email Gil Mika at
Need an easier way to get into 2018? I may ease into 2018 with one that is local for me - the Grover Cleveland’s Historical Visit & Hike. You can visit the Grover Cleveland Birthplace and/or join in on an easy/moderate 1.5 walk. The route starts at the Birthplace, proceeds down to and around the Grover Cleveland County Park, then back to the Birthplace. The Birthplace will be open from 11am to 12 noon. The Hike begins at 12 noon.

And there are plenty of options across the state at different levels.
Click the link below to see the list of all the hikes to welcome the New Year!

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Our Popular Posts

Looking at your blog stats at the end of the year is a kind of tradition. It is a good way to get a sense of what people are reading the most and look for trends.

I notice that besides endangered species, the most popular posts are often about rare species - some of whom do not live in our state. Besides the occasional question or comment about seeing a moose, elk or grizzly bear, one popular species brings up the question Is That a Mountain Lion I See Wandering in NJ?  The answer is No in most cases.

Snakes are still quite misunderstood and misidentified by the general population. Since our state only has Two Venomous Snakes, the chances are that the one you saw in the backyard is not dangerous. Still, it is good to be educated about them. And certainly don't kill them! The venomous ones should be avoided, but they serve a purpose in our ecosystem.

A fisher in its full winter coat bares its teeth and looks a bit like a little bear.

The pretty rare fishers have returned to NJ and a post in April about them have probably garnered the most sighting comments in 2017.

Bobcat posts were also generally popular as we see more sightings in the state.

As our state trapping regulations and zones make clear, we have otters, mink, muskrat, coyote, red and gray foxes, raccoon, skunks, opossum and weasel and nutria in New Jersey. Some of those furbearers may be rarely sighted, but not endangered or threatened. You are likely to spot raccoons, skunks, a fox and opossum even in Jersey suburbia. But you are in a select group if you have come upon a Jersey mink. And if you really saw a nutria, that's unfortunate, because we would like to get these invaders out of our state!

Our state's beavers are just as busy as in other states.

And when was the last time you saw a porcupine in your NJ wanderings?

People often write to say they think they saw a wolf in their neighborhood, but if you are seeing wolves in NJ, they must be ones in captivity.   But Have You Seen a Coywolf in New Jersey?  That is a real possibility these days.

Though wildlife seems to get the most attention here, when it's not winter in NJ, posts about hiking and places to visit, like the Watchung Mountains, get more traffic.

And please follow us on Twitter @Endangered_NJ  (You can see our daily posts online even if you don't belong to the Twitter community.)  We post many articles there that have been written elsewhere pertaining to NJ and beyond about endangered species, conservation, management and the environment.