Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Species on the Edge Multimedia Contest for New Jersey High School Students

The Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey announced its new Species on the Edge 2.0 Multimedia Contest, an educational multimedia contest with a S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) focus for New Jersey high school students.

The Species on the Edge 2.0 Multimedia Contest invites all New Jersey high school students to submit an original video, application, podcast, digital graphic design, webpage, or other multimedia project showing why wildlife protection is important in New Jersey. The Multimedia Contest showcases high school students' interest in new media technologies, and provides them with the opportunity to showcase their talent, creativity, and love of nature. It also helps develop students’ experience in S.T.E.M. education and project management skills.

“Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey is thrilled to announce our new Species on the Edge 2.0 High School Multimedia Contest,” explained Conserve Wildlife Foundation wildlife ecologist Stephanie Feigin. “We hope that this S.T.E.M. education focus will engage and teach high school students about science and New Jersey’s rare wildlife, while also capitalizing on high school students' fast-growing expertise with technology.”

Species on the Edge 2.0 is free to enter. All contestants will be eligible to win scholarships. The first prize winner will be awarded $1,000, $500 will be awarded to the second prize winner and the third prize winner will receive $250. These scholarships are made possible by Species on the Edge 2.0 Multimedia Contest sponsor PSE&G. All entries will also be eligible to win a drawing to spend a day in the field with a wildlife biologist.

The Species on the Edge 2.0 Multimedia Contest expands on the success of Conserve Wildlife Foundation’s existing Species on the Edge Art & Essay Contest for fifth graders. Since 2003, over 10,000 children from across New Jersey have entered the Species on the Edge Art & Essay Contest. The Contest is a great way to engage and excite fifth graders into learning about New Jersey’s over 80 endangered and threatened wildlife species.

The contest is:
  • Free to enter
  • Open to all New Jersey high school students
  • 1st prize: $1,000 in scholarship money
  • 2nd prize: $500 in scholarship money
  • 3rd prize: $250 in scholarship money

All Species on the Edge 2.0 Multimedia Contest entries are due before April 30, 2015.

For more information and to download your contest kit visit:

The Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey (CWFNJ) is a private, non-profit organization dedicated to the protection and preservation of New Jersey’s endangered and threatened wildlife and the habitats they depend on. We carry out our mission by researching and managing rare animal species, restoring habitat, educating New Jersey’s residents, and engaging volunteers in our conservation projects. Since the early 1990’s, CWFNJ scientists and educators have helped conserve and protect a variety of at-risk species of wildlife in New Jersey, the most densely populated state in the nation.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

NJ Bill to Ban Micro-beads Turned Back by Governor Christie

AP Photo/NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center
NJ Governor Chris Christie conditionally vetoed a bill that would ban micro-beads. They are tiny polyethylene particles found in cosmetics and personal care products. Christie sent the bill back to the Assembly with a request to lower fines to a maximum of $500 per violation, and to remove language concerning offenses that are “continuing in nature” saying that the bill’s penalties would have unintended consequences on small businesses. He also recommended that it be made clear that the penalties “may be pursued only by the Commissioner of Environmental Protection, and not private parties.”

Micro-beads cannot be filtered from household waste water by sewage treatment plants. Eventually, they end up in the ocean. As with the Pacific garbage patch (photo above), the North Atlantic trash vortex is made up of trash fragments ranging from a millimeter to the size of a pencil’s eraser. The size of the Atlantic trash vortex compares in size to the area of France. The fine trash, like micro-beads, poison fish and kill seabirds whose guts become clogged with the beads making them unable to eat and so they starve to death.

The five major ocean gyres.
The North Atlantic garbage patch is an area of man-made marine debris found floating within the North Atlantic Gyre, originally documented in 1972. The patch is estimated to be hundreds of kilometers across in size with a density of over 200,000 pieces of debris per square kilometer. The debris zone shifts by as much as 1,600 km (990 mi) north and south seasonally, and drifts even farther south during the El Niño-Southern Oscillation, according to the NOAA.

The NJ Legislature will now decide whether to make the changes, attempt to override Christie's veto, or let the bill die.

A new study estimates nearly 270,000 tons of plastic is floating in the world's oceans. That's enough to fill more than 38,500 garbage trucks if each truck carries 7 tons of plastic. The figure appears in a study published, Dec. 10, 2014, in the scientific journal PLOS ONE. Researchers say the plastic is broken up into more than 5 trillion pieces.

Microbeads pollution - a drop in the ocean for the beauty industry

Source: Christie vetoes N.J. ban on micro-beads feeding Atlantic Ocean garbage patch the size of France |

Sunday, December 7, 2014

NJ Audubon Says Red Knot Will Be Listed As Threatened

Red Knot - Bob William
The Red Knot, a shorebird which has undergone a drastic decline in recent years, will be listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, according to the New Jersey Audubon.

The action, which is expected to be announced next week, is a critical step toward the long-term protection and recovery of the species, said New Jersey Audubon, which has long addressed issues related to the Red Knot and other shorebirds. The listing would mean that the species meets the Endangered Species Act criteria of being likely to become in danger of extinction in the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range.

"The Red Knot utilizes the shores of the Delaware Bay extensively during its amazing bi-annual migration between its Arctic breeding grounds and South America," said New Jersey Audubon's President and CEO Eric Stiles. 

 Read more

Friday, December 5, 2014

New Jersey's Watchung Mountains

A Canada goose sits on a nest built on the edge of  I-280 highway which was
cut through the columnar-jointed basalt of First  Watchung Mountain
just west of Orange, New Jersey  - photo

Though New Jersey has many places that are called "mountains," we know that they do not compete with the western U.S. mountain ranges. Probably the best known NJ mountain area is the northwestern area where we find the Appalachian Trail.

But New Jersey also has the Watchung Mountains (once called the Blue Hills) which are actually a group of three long low ridges of volcanic origin, between 400 ft. (122 m) and 500 ft. (152 m) high, lying parallel to each other primarily in northeastern New Jersey.

All of the ridges lie to the east of the higher Appalachian Mountains, which in northern New Jersey are often referred to as the New York - New Jersey Highlands.

Together with the Appalachian Mountains to the west, the Watchungs pen in an area formerly occupied by the prehistoric Glacial Lake Passaic.

The Great Swamp, a large portion of which is designated as the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, is a remnant of this lake. The swamp area is presently retained by what we call the Third Watchung Mountain.

200 million years ago, magma intruded into the Newark Basin, then an active rift basin associated with the breakup of the supercontinent Pangaea. The magma formed large intrusions like the Palisades Sill. But the magma ultimately broke out to the surface through large, episodic eruptions and formed the Watchung Mountains.

Throughout the early Jurassic period, the Newark Basin underwent extensive dipping and folding, and at the western edge of the Newark basin along the Ramapo Fault System formed alternating synclines and anticlines warped the layers of basalt and sedimentary rock. Jurassic sedimentary rock layers between and above the ridges form the Feltville, Towaco and Boonton formations.

The Watchung Mountains are known for their numerous scenic vistas overlooking the New York City and New Jersey skylines, as well as their isolated ecosystems containing rare plants, endangered wildlife, rich minerals, and globally imperiled traprock glade communities.

If you drive on I-280 up or down the big hill in "The Oranges", you see the cliffs that consist of a single massive lava flow that cooled and cracked into columnar joints.

In some locations, the joints tend to radiate away from a central core in a pattern generated by an uneven cooling pattern in the flow. There are also complex areas in the middle of the outcrop that show a small normal fault that may have formed from seismic activity that occurred about the time that the flows were still cooling.

there are also lots of boulders (glacial erratics) scattered in the woods along the hilltop.

The ridges once held back the westward spread of urbanization, forming a significant geologic barrier beyond the piedmont west of the Hudson River. But in many places within the state, they are smaller islands of natural landscape within suburban sprawl.

Parks, preserves, and numerous historical sites dot the valleys and slopes of the mountains, providing recreational and cultural activities to one of the most densely populated regions of the nation.

From near the summit of High Mountain in Wayne - in the right foreground is the
eastern slope of Mount Cecchino (third highest peak of the Watchung Mountains)
Garret Mountain in the background (First Watchung Mountain) overlooks Paterson.

The two most prominent ridges are known as First Watchung Mountain (the southeastern ridge) and Second Watchung Mountain (the northwestern ridge). They stretch for over forty miles (64 km) from Somerville (in Somerset County) in the southwest through Morris County, Union County, Essex County, and Passaic County to Mahwah (in Bergen County) in the northeast.

The less prominent and discontinuous ridge formed by Long Hill, Riker Hill, Hook Mountain, and Packanack Mountain is sometimes referred to as Third Watchung Mountain and lies on the northwestern side of Second Watchung Mountain.

The First and Second Mountains are often erroneously referred to as Orange Mountain and Preakness Mountain. "Orange" and "Preakness" more properly applies to specific geographic sections of these ridges.

Third Watchung Mountain is sometimes referred to locally as Hook Mountain.

A smaller fourth ridge exists south of Morristown and west of Third Watchung Mountain. This ridge lacks topographic prominence, only rising to about 100 ft (30 m) above the surrounding terrain and the only named portion (at Harding Township) is known as Lees Hill.

The original inhabitants of the Watchungs were the Native American Lenape. They referred to the mountains as the Wach Unks, or ‘high hills’. Evidence of the Lenape presence in the Watchungs can be seen in numerous camps sites that have been uncovered, mainly along the rivers coursing through mountains and in the small caves abundant in the volcanic rock.

It is thought the Lenape favored the Watchungs for their profusion of natural resources, including abundant freshwater rivers and streams, a variety of forests, and plentiful fish and game. They also took advantage of the rich soils and maintained many farm areas where they raised a variety of seasonal crops.

With the arrival of Europeans, the rivers and streams of the Watchungs also supported grain, grist, and saw mills. Later, the energy of these rivers would be harnessed for industry, most notably at the Great Falls of the Passaic River, where mechanical and hydroelectric systems exploited the energy of water falling over the face of First Watchung Mountain.

During the Revolutionary War, General George Washington used the protection of the Watchung mountains to erect the first and second Middlebrook encampment. This position on the high ground also allowed him to monitor the area between Perth Amboy and New Brunswick as well as to identify and disturb British movements between Manhattan and Philadelphia.

During World War Two, an anti-aircraft gun emplacement was made in Mills Reservation (Cedar Grove & Montclair) at the lookout point on the cliffs overlooking New York City. All that remains of this today is a circular cement platform.

In the twentieth century, the Hilltop in Verona, the highest point in Essex County, served as the site of a sanatorium for tuberculosis patients. The county hospital was built there because the high elevation provided clean, mountain air away from the cities to the east.

At the height of the Cold War, Campgaw Mountain was selected to house a Nike missile base. Installed on the mountain between 1955 and 1971, the base’s missiles served to guard New York City air space, standing by to intercept nuclear armed Soviet bombers. The facility ultimately was abandoned with the advent of intercontinental ballistic missiles. Two other missile sites were nestled into the forests atop peaks in Mountainside and Morris Township, creating a triangle of redundant sites.

NYC skyline seen from Mills Reservation, First Watchung Mountain

There are many parks and recreational areas to visit along the Watchung Mountains.

Campgaw Mountain Reservation (First and Second Watchung Mountain) is the northernmost ridge of the Watchungs and its northern terminus is the Ramapo Mountains, near the New York border. A shallow gap separates its southern end from Preakness Mountain and Goffle Hill.

Preakness Mountain comprises part of the northern extent of Second Watchung Mountain between the Passaic River and Campgaw Mountain.[ Along with Packanack Mountain (part of Third Watchung Mountain) to the west, Preakness Mountain forms the Preakness Range. The three highest peaks of the Watchungs are located in this range.

Great Falls State Park in Paterson (which is under development) is on First Watchung Mountain.

Nearby Garret Mountain Reservation is 568 acre park located within the Borough of Woodland Park (formerly West Paterson), although it also extends into the cities of Paterson and Clifton. The reservation covers the northernmost part of the First Watchung Mountain and reaches over 500 feet (152 m) above sea level.

Continuing along the Watchung Mountains, popular locations include:
* Mills Reservation, First Watchung Mountain
* Hilltop Reservation, Second Watchung Mountain
* Eagle Rock Reservation, First Watchung Mountain
* Riker Hill Park, Riker Hill (Third Watchung Mountain)
* South Mountain Reservation, First and Second Watchung Mountain
* Watchung Reservation, First and Second Watchung Mountain
* Washington Rock State Park, First Watchung Mountain
* Washington Valley Park, First Watchung Mountain
* Leonard J. Buck Garden/Moggy Hollow Natural Area, Second Watchung Mountain

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Newly Identified Species Discovered in New Jersey - Atlantic Coast Leopard Frog

Atlantic Coast Leopard Frog  - NJFWS photo
The NJDEP Division of Fish and Wildlife Endangered and Nongame Species Program is currently participating in an ongoing effort to map the potential range of the Atlantic Coast leopard frog. This newly identified species is being found in places as diverse as the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, the Meadowlands, marshlands along the Delaware River and Delaware Bay, Cape May Point State Park, and along stretches of the state's coastline.

For Division of Fish and Wildlife Endangered and Nongame Species Program zoologist Brian Zarate, having a hand in helping to “discover” a new frog species in a state as populated and urbanized as New Jersey is both a “very cool” and “humbling” experience.

“It’s kind of humbling, especially as a biologist, to realize that in a place like New Jersey, there’s an opportunity to learn new things,” Zarate said. “This discovery teaches us not to give up on certain habitats that people might dismiss.”

As part of a Rutgers University research project, the frog, barely the length of one’s thumb, has made national news with the publication of a study confirming its existence on Staten Island not far from the Statue of Liberty – going about its business unnoticed.

But Zarate and Division of Fish and Wildlife have been quietly contributing to the Rutgers Research for several years and, using a federal State Wildlife Grant matched by state funds, the Endangered and Nongame Species Program is currently working on a two-year-project to further refine the species’ habitat range in New Jersey.

“New Jersey has been a leader in protecting valuable wetlands resources,” said David Jenkins, Chief of the Endangered and Nongame Species Program. “These efforts have included wetlands in urban and suburban areas that may not, on first blush, appear to be of great value to wildlife. This discovery of this frog, literally in our backyard shows that New Jersey’s swamps and marshes, even those in urban and suburban landscapes, still have tremendous value for our native wildlife and we shouldn’t discount their value.”

Zarate’s connection to the Atlantic Coast leopard frog actually goes back to 2003, when he and a group of others working with protection of reptiles and amphibians heard an unfamiliar frog call at the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Morris County. The call is now frequently described as a series of chucks and occasional groans.

At the time, Zarate was a state contract biologist with the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey. The group captured the frog and took some photos. It wasn’t the southern leopard frog, a species found widely in the Pine Barrens, so they concluded it was a northern leopard frog that someone, perhaps a high school biology teacher, had released into the wild.

Four years later, the group got the idea to return to Great Swamp to confirm whether the strange frog was still there, and perhaps if it was in other parts of the property. Not only was it where they first found it, but in several other wetlands as well.

A few months later, Zarate took a job with the Endangered and Nongame Species Program. A YouTube video of the frog that Zarate posted in 2007 connected him with Jeremy Feinberg, a doctoral student at the Rutgers University School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, who was working in the New York area to track down other reports of an unfamiliar frog call.

“Our role in the early stages was to help Feinberg’s group and explore what was going on in New Jersey,” Zarate said.

Using the state’s database of frog records and information gleaned from a wide range of professional experts, amateur frog aficionados, museum records, and the Internet, the frog was confirmed to exist in a wide range of habitats, virtually anywhere researchers went to confirm its call, actually the mating song of the male of the species.

Next spring, biologists and volunteers with the Endangered and Nongame Species Program will fan out to wetlands across the state, searching for more evidence of the Atlantic Coast leopard frog and collecting data on its habitat preferences. In addition, museum records indicate that a third leopard frog, the northern leopard frog, did, in fact, naturally occur in the northern part of the state as recent as the 1930s. Surveys will specifically target this frog at its past locations in hopes of finding them still hanging on.

“There’s still a lot we don’t know,” Zarate said. “The Atlantic Coast leopard frog is a really interesting species that somehow manages to hang on even in urban environments. It’s important we learn as much as we can about New Jersey’s wildlife and this discovery highlights the value in protecting our natural resources.”


Sunday, November 30, 2014

Jersey Wild Turkeys

Tired of turkey talk? What about wild turkeys?

They are not endangered in New Jersey. In fact, nationwide there were only 100,000 turkeys in the wild in the 1950s, but today there are an estimated 3 million of them in the wild.

A form of our wild turkey has been on the planet in one form or another for 10 million years.

If you live in suburban New Jersey, you might view turkeys as not being terribly "wild" as they might wander in your driveway or walk up the neighborhood sidewalk. Hunters know that wild turkeys are quite elusive and clever in evading hunters. The wild turkey can see five times better than a person and hear up to eight times more accurately than humans.

Wild turkeys - not so much the suburban variety - avoid humans. They can and will take flight to avoid you and can fly at speeds up to 55 miles an hour. They can run at speeds up to 25 miles an hour.

We all know the questionable fable of the first Thanksgiving, but turkeys were game birds for the Native Americans and colonists. The early Spanish Explorers enjoyed them so much they took Mexican Turkeys back to Europe in the 1500’s.

But by the mid-1800s, turkeys had disappeared in New Jersey due to habitat changes and over-hunting.

The Division of Fish and Wildlife started a successful Turkey Restoration Project in 1977 in cooperation with the NJ Chapter of the NJ Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation and reintroduced wild turkeys starting with 22 birds. The following year, biologists and technicians began to live-trap and re-locate birds to establish populations throughout the state.

In the wild, turkeys have become widely distributed and flocks (known as rafters) are common in backyards and in the woods, parks and along roadsides. Part of that recovery during the early 20th century also occurred because abandoned farms and some saved woodlands allowed a wild turkey comeback.

Wild turkeys are very adaptable and thrive almost anywhere. They do like oak forests and patches of woods near farmlands and suburbs which provide additional food. They are present in South Jersey too, though not in as great a number.

New Jersey's turkey population had grown large enough to support a spring hunting season and a limited fall season began in 1997. Wild turkeys are now abundant throughout the New Jersey, with the Division of Fish & Wildlife estimating the population at 20,000 to 23,000 birds.

I am most likely to see them in my suburban north Jersey non-hunting area in the early morning when they are foraging in or near a wooded reservation nearby. But these omnivores venture down sidewalks in search of insects, acorns and nuts, plant buds, salamanders, snails, mosses and underground plant bulbs.

Wild turkeys don't migrate and are are in New Jersey all year round. If it's a tough, snowy winter, they can last as long as two weeks without eating. Different foods are preferred during the four seasons, so turkeys may use different areas in the winter than they do during the spring and summer and so they may seem to have "just moved in" to your neighborhood.

About turkey hunting seasons in New Jersey,
Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Friday, November 28, 2014

Red Knot May Get Federal Threatened Status

The reports that today federal regulators will decide whether to give greater protections to red knots, a shorebird that comes to and depends on South Jersey each spring to fuel its epic migration.

Scientists in New Jersey have been studying the red knot for more than 20 years, following the robin-sized bird from its winter home at the tip of South America to its high-Arctic breeding grounds.

The birds are drawn to South Jersey by the annual spawn of horseshoe crabs, which crawl onto the beaches once a year to lay their eggs in the sand in an annual wildlife spectacle that has taken place since before the age of dinosaurs. Red knots, ruddy turnstones, laughing gulls and other birds converge on Delaware Bay beaches each May to gobble up the tiny, nutritious eggs.

More NJ Info

Monday, November 24, 2014

NJ's Eagle Population Continued to Climb in 2014

Bald eagle, Cape May National Wildlife Refuge.
Photo credit: Don Freiday / USFW

New Jersey's eagle population continued to climb in 2014, to 156 pairs.  The number of young  broke the 200 mark, with 201 fledging from 145 known-outcome nests.

Eagles nest in all counties except Essex and Hudson.

The report also highlights the movements of eagles being tracked with satellite tags.  In their first years after leaving the nest, they are moving far and wide across the northeast, from Maine to Maryland.  The satellite-tracked eagles reveal new information about eagle habitat use, foraging and roosting locations.

For details about the continuing recovery of eagles in NJ, and the efforts of the NJDEP Division of Fish and Wildlife and the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ, see the 2014 Eagle Project Report linked from on the Division's website.