Birds and Wildlife

Birds and Wildlife Committee Chair 2022-2023:  Colleen Norton

The mission of this committee is to promote educational programs aimed at the preservation of birds and wildlife.


Photo credit: Tracy Sprague

Great Blue Heron

The largest of the North American herons, the Great Blue Heron is graced with long legs, a sinuous neck and a thick, daggerlike bill. Its head, chest and wing plumes give a shaggy appearance. In flight, the Great Blue Heron curls its neck into a tight “S” shape. Their wings are broad and rounded and its legs trail well beyond the tail.

Size wise, this beautiful bird is taller and much heavier than a Great Egret but much smaller and much less bulky than a Sandhill Crane. Both sexes measure in length approximately 38” – 54”. Their approximate weight is 74” – 88” with a wingspan of  about 65” – 80”.

Great Blue Herons appear blue-gray from a distance, with a wide black stripe over the eye. In flight, the upper side of the wing is two-toned: pale on the forewing and darker on the flight feathers.

Hunting Great Blue Herons wade slowly or stand statue-like, stalking fish and other prey in shallow water or open fields. Their very slow wingbeats, tucked-in neck and trailing legs create an unmistakable image in flight.

These Great Blue Herons can be found in saltwater and freshwater habitats, from open coasts, marshes, sloughs, riverbanks, and lakes to backyard goldfish ponds. They also forage in grasslands and agricultural fields. Breeding birds gather in colonies or “heronries” to build stick nests high off the ground.

Article taken from “All About Birds.”
https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Great_Blue_Heron/id


Photo & article credit:  Barnegat Light Osprey Cam – Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ

Osprey – Pandion haliatus

These large birds of prey live near water. This habitat preference is driven by their diet, which is almost entirely made up of fish that they catch live. While fishing they will concentrate on a place that looks promising and begin to circle around in the air. If they locate a fish they often hover and then suddenly make a dramatic dive straight down. They hit the water feet first, reaching for their prey and more times than not come away with a fish.

Once an Osprey has a fish, it generally keeps it. Two of their toes on each talon are reversible and this allows them to keep a good grip on a slippery meal it is trying to bring from the water to a place where it can eat. On the bottom of each toe there are also sharp spicules. These too help to hold on to whatever is being carried during flight.

Ospreys regularly will use the same nest year after year. Reusing the nest leads it to become quite large. The old structure is simply added to, rather than built anew, each year it is used. These birds also like to nest in a perch, high above their surroundings, and hence they can be sometimes be found on the top of telephone poles or similar structures.

For more information about Conserve Wildlife, Foundation of New Jersey, click the link below.

http://www.conservewildlifenj.org/education/ospreycam/


Photo: Stay Above the Weather

Common Yellowthroats

Common Yellowthroats are small songbirds with chunky, rounded heads and medium – length with slightly rounded tails. They spend much of their time skulking low to the ground in dense thickets and fields, searching for small insects and spiders.

For more information, visit the Barnegat Bay Partnership site at:

https://www.barnegatbaypartnership.org/species/common-yellowthroat/


Photo: Stay Above the Weather

Project Terrapins

A small strip of undeveloped bay front land near the end of Mill Creek Road in Manahawkin, is a sanctuary – a haven – for nesting terrapins!  Starting in early May through June terrapin leave the bay, sometimes crossing the road, to find just the right place for their eggs.  As part of the Marine Academy of Technology and Environmental Science (MATES) Project Terrapin small cages are given to locals to cover and protect the eggs from marauding wild and domesticated threats.  Signs are posted urging drivers to “Hit the Brake For Turtle’s Sake – Terrapin Crossing.” A local 4th grader created a delightful one “Turtle Xing  ~ Watch Out!”

It has become a neighborhood mission to stop and move the female, always in the direction she is travelling, safely across the road.  Gardens on the other side of the street are dotted with cages and the tranquil grassy strip has over 12 caged nests.

Several neighbors spearhead this local effort in conjunction with Stafford Township and Dr. John Wnek with the Mates Project Terrapin.

For more information on MATES Project Terrapin and Dr. Wnek, and to learn more about how you can help these gentle, fascinating and “vital to the environment” creatures, please link to the following website.

https://www.projectterrapin.org

Monarch Butterflies

Since June 2016, we have concentrated on the plight of monarch  butterflies by improving  their habitat.  In May of 2021, the Borough of Barnegat Light granted the garden club an area of the  Bay Breeze Park for a garden specifically designed as a habitat for all pollinators. Links below provide information on the plight of the monarch butterfly, host plants and attracting monarchs to your garden.

Click here to go to the Pollinator Garden page.

These efforts and others over the years have highlighted our need to support and promote native and endangered plant species and to discourage the planting of tenacious and invasive ones. Many organizations, including the native plant society New Jersey SE Chapter, spearhead this effort. A section from the core mission states, “Because native plants are adapted to local soils and conditions (especially rain and temperature), they require less maintenance. More importantly, native plants form the base of our natural food webs. They provide food for caterpillar and other insects which, are crucial to the lives of birds and other wildlife.”
The Garden Club Of LBI has always given support to this cause. This year we hope to expand that outreach through educational events for children and adults in cooperation with our own Environmental Committee and the following active organizations who support this vital effort. Please click on the following links for additional information on Native and Indigenous plants.

www.Jerseyyards.org – Provides a comprehensive native plant database and listings and descriptions of Jersey friendly and non-native plants.

www.npsnj.org – Highlights upcoming events support native plants and ways to combat tenacious and invasive species.

www.njaes.rutgers.edu – Provides guidelines for incorporating native plants in your residential landscape.

Additional information and updates on the Garden Club of LBI initiatives supporting this initiative will follow.

Monarch Butterfly links:

www.butterflyidentification.com Visual guide butterfly identification.

www.monarchbutterflygarden.net – Butterfly friendly landscaping

www.monarchjointventure.org – Agency which promotes butterfly migration.

Monarch Population 2020

The eastern monarch butterfly population is down around 53% this year.  The population of butterflies overwintering in Mexico was below levels needed to avoid extinction.  Both the fall and spring migrations had poor weather conditions and 165 acres of habitat were lost to herbicide spraying.  The monarch butterfly is currently being considered by the US government for endangered specie status.  A decision is expected by December. The garden club no longer recommends hand raising of monarchs because studies have shown that, when compared with naturally hatched butterflies, the hand raised butterflies are sometimes confused about the direction they must take to get to Mexico and they are also less physically fit for the journey. We are doing what we can to encourage planting of milkweed for the caterpillars and nectar flowers for the butterflies.
Life Cycle of the Monarch Butterfly
Butterfly Host Plants for South Jersey
Attracting Monarchs to your garden…

Here are just a few of the local plants that will draw adult monarchs to your garden. Click on a picture to enlarge.