Why are some salt marshes easier to walk on?



An aspect of New Jersey's marshes that has always puzzled me is: why are the Delaware Bay's marshes are treacherously muddy and difficult to traverse?

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The northern gannets of new jersey



Twice a year gannets make a dramatic appearance on our coastline.

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Postcard from Maranhão II


postcard II

I just returned from a conservation research expedition along the northern coast of Brazil. I was part of multi-organization, multinational team tasked with mapping habitat for around eight species of shorebirds. It is a two-year project that aims to generate habitat maps that can be used for conservation planning and the identification of current and future threats to shorebirds in the region.

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Characterizing Delaware Bay tidal marshes


small collage

To achieve a bay-wide perspective on tidal marsh attributes across the Delaware Estuary, I developed a series of maps that illustrate an array of ecological components relavent to marshes.  Taken together, the perspective offered by these maps can help reveal new approaches to the conservation and restoration of this landscape.

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‘Alalā journal



The book Seeking the Sacred Raven is the chronicle of conservation efforts for the Hawaiian Crow (or ‘Alalā) over several decades. The tale culminates in failure: the extinction of the crow in the wild.

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beach-nesting bugs



This is the dune ghost (Ellipsoptera lepida), a beautiful cream-colored tiger beetle that I have been getting to know at a few sites in New Jersey.

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Mysteries of horseshoe crab egg meiofauna revealed!



The beetle pictured above is the Histerid beetle, Baeckmanniolus dimidiatipennis. It is an important clue in an an ongoing mystery regarding the meiofauna associated with horseshoe crab eggs.

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Scenes from the Delaware Bay



I've spent the last month, tide in, tide out, on Delaware Bay beaches. With the help of a great team, I've been monitoring horseshoe crabs, their eggs and the shorebirds eating the eggs. The work continues, but here a some photo highlights so far.

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Black Rail of the Bayshore


black rail fuertes

New surveys will soon tell us how black rails have fared during a period of great change in Delaware Bay marshes.

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Where have South Jersey’s Ruffed Grouse gone?


ruffed grouse stuffed

Once upon a time in New Jersey, our piney flatlands were home to not one, but two wild chickens - the heath hen and the ruffed grouse. We lost the heath hen long ago, beyond living memory, but the ruffed grouse has disappeared right before our eyes in the last 20 years.

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postcard from Maranhão



For eleven days a little sand spit that hardly appears on maps was our whole world. It is breathtaking to comprehend that we only had a pinhole view of an immense coastal wilderness full of many more places like it.

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Ecosystem services the old fashioned way



Thinking about a nature preserve in my neighborhood has helped me come to a clearer understanding of how the ecosystem services rationale relates to the value people had for nature during previous generations.

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bennett bogs



Bennett Bogs is a legendary Cape May botany spot. It holds a unique and diverse array of plants many of which normally occur further to the South.

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This used to be a farm!


birds eye

People put farms in the strangest places.

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Tree whacking for underwings



The more you learn about nature, the more there is to look forward to.

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horseshoe crab eggs: on the menu in fall too?



There are a lot of young horseshoe crabs in the Delaware Bay right now. It's a big resource and we can pretty sure that birds, fish and other critters are exploiting it if they can.

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Understory plants & the caterpillars who love them



Searching for disappearing understory specialist moths and butterflies and the plants they depend on.

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Mysterious horseshoe crab egg meiofauna



There is much to learn about the interaction of the meiofauna with horseshoe crab eggs. It would stand to reason that the notoriously nutritious horseshoe crab egg would be capitalized on by the creatures living under the sand. Meiofauna drawing © Den Store Danske

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A good shovel is hard to find (or how I count horseshoe crab eggs)



Entrenching shovels are great for counting horseshoe crab egg clusters. They should also be in every zombie hunter's toolkit.

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a stochastic event on the Delaware Bay


broke wing

Environmental stochasticity is "unpredictable spatiotemporal fluctuation in environmental conditions".  I think I experienced such a thing when I was caught in a hail storm on the Delaware Bay last week.

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Beetle gets a 1630 mile range extension



(A tiger beetle, although this VW was also sighted on a Brazilian beach)

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The opposite of resilient


hand farm before

The practice of salt marsh diking turns a normally resilient system into a very brittle system at the edge of collapse.

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The willet’s winter world


willets crop

Finding the willet's winter world in Brazil

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Despite the huge numbers of shorebirds using the area, Maranhão, Brazil has received only limited conservation and research attention outside of Brazil.

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Finding Coxe Hall


cox hall building

This old house is one of the oldest in the county. In this post I put its original location on the map.

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Cape May Atlantis



Shoreline erosion along the Delaware Bay: same as it ever was.

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Putting Cape May’s oldest map on the map



I explore a 1726 map of Town Bank, Cape May County by using GIS to overlay it on modern maps.

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Why are there so many young birds in Cape May?



A remarkable study that was carried out here in New Jersey has helped clear up the question of why there is a higher proportion of juveniles in Cape May.

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10,000 Willet


lots of willets

An account of the return of the willet to New Jersey via ornithological literature. It turns out that the willet was never really gone.

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Bearing witness


Byron with ghost forest

Much news is made about the changes to come to coastal landscapes from sea level rise, but there is less talk about what is already happening.

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Secretive Marsh Mammals


meadow vole

Small mammals of the salt marsh. Fleeting glimpses of mysterious mice, rats, and voles.

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Scenes from the Delaware Bay



Shorebirds and Horseshoe Crabs on the Delaware Bay.

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Say no to Farmed shrimp


let them eat shrimp

When shrimp farms are constructed, the myriad services mangroves provide are reduced to one: making shrimp. The farms displace people living subsistence lifestyles and displace the many birds, fish, crabs, and shellfish that those people depend upon for their living.

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You can learn a lot from a dummy


birds fighting cover

Birds fighting! A book from 1955 that used state-of-the-art photography techniques to catch angry birds in action.

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Shorebird hunting at home and abroad


shorebird hunting season is here

There is a long tradition of shorebird hunting in North America that ended at the beginning of the 20th century when laws were passed that banned killing and selling migratory birds. But elsewhere, hunting is still happening.

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harder shores, less beach


no beach

Shoreline armoring on the Delaware Bay will result in less beach for us all.

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Sea level rise: leading indicators



As scary maps tell us about the changes to come, subtle indicators like odd combinations of plants tell us about the changes that are happening right now.

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Mad men design a museum exhibit



A vintage museum exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History also portrays vintage views on conservation and environmental issues.

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Salty livestock


salt marsh lamb copyright Hazel Hambidge

Farming of coastal wetlands - the story of salt marsh lamb in Europe and salt marsh milk in America.

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A Baymen’s road map



What old maps tell us about the economic and cultural importance of coastal wetlands.

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The snipe hunt: myth vs reality



The real bird-catching tradition of something often considered a wild goose chase.

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Book Review: Naming Nature



This book explores a profound concept: that there is a difference between reality and the human perception of reality and that this difference can explain some vexing things about human nature.

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Jersey Land



Jersey pride, circa 1913

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Eyes on the leaf litter!


BATS cover

The ecology of red bats in winter - be careful raking those leaves!

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moth baiting economics


river birch

Using molasses, beer, and bananas to lure moths into view.

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Noteworthy Trees of Cape May County


davies lake tree

Noteworthy Trees of Cape May County is a compendium of local tree lore, circa 1947.

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Mad Men go hawk trapping



I recently came across a 1952 LIFE magazine article profiling a group of falcon banders working on Assateague Island, Maryland. Along with the article is a series of striking photos of the banders and their lifestyle on the coast.

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Be the animal


big foot

Testing out a habitat connectivity map on myself!

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Bird banding highlights



Photos of some great birds and great friends.  Warblers, woodpeckers, and more.  See the gallery [link url="http://www.smithjam.com/bird-banding/"] here.[/link]

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Fish prints



I've never thought about underwater animal tracking,  but this picture tells the tale of a sturgeon foraging expedition.  The image is from a paper I recently came across about sturgeon feeding beha [...]

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Swarms of solitary bees



Last week at Cape May Point, several stretches of trail were swarming with ground-nesting solitary bees!  I think they are Ptilothrix bombiformis, known as hibiscus bees.  Fording the swarm was not [...]

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Yellow Submarine



The good luck with turtle sightings continues! On a 12 mile kayak paddle along a remote stretch of the Delaware Bay shoreline, we saw an adult loggerhead sea turtle surface ahead of us a short dist [...]

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Warbling in the flatlands



Here's a Worm-eating Warbler, one of the highlights of our last trip to band birds in the swampy woods  near Cape May.  They are a relatively common nesting species in the deep woods of south Jerse [...]

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‘whoosh’ net



A whoosh net is a bungee-powered net that launches from the ground over a capture zone.  This is a picture of our net in action today.  We managed to  lure some willets into the capture zone, along [...]

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Loggerhead on the Cohansey



The Delaware Estuary is full of life this time of year. Among the summer residents of the Bay are Loggerhead and Kemp's Ridley sea turtles. It's not clear how many are out there, but enough turtle [...]

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When Wildwood was wild


wildwood beach

Above is a view of the beach during summertime at Wildwood, NJ. Click the image below for an idea of what Wildwood, NJ was like when it was truly wild. [image_lightbox url="http://www.smithjam.c [...]

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Catch of the day



Here's a portrait of the bird from a few posts ago.  We caught him!  And recovered his geolocator.  Here's a look at the general area where he spent the winter in Brazil: [google_map maptype="terra [...]

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She’s got a gun!



  Check out my review of Girl Hunter in this month's issue of The Nature Conservancy's Science Chronicles at www.conservationgateway.org.   [link url="http://www.conservationgatewa [...]

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Fortescue Fries



Vintage oyster recipes from New Jersey's oyster capital,  Port Norris.  While we we are hard at willet work,  fishing boats motor past us every day bringing oysters and crabs in from the bay. Cl [...]

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Skippers of the salt marsh



This is an Aaron's Skipper.  I found it resting on a Spartina stem on a cool day last week.  Its one of three skipper species that are dependent on salt marshes.  The other two are [link url="http: [...]

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Mama Mudhen



I surprised this clapper rail at its nest.  Rails usually slink off quietly when a person approaches their nest, but when they have chicks or when the eggs are very close to hatching, the adult works [...]

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After the flood



The tides have been very high at night for the last several days.  The day after the full moon we checked the tide levels using this primitive tide gauge:  powdered cork in a clear plastic tube.  I [...]

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Full moon and flood tides



Full moon is tonight.  The moon brings big flood tides to the marsh, inconvenient for all coastal residents - birds and people alike.  Many of our willet nests have failed due to the high tides of r [...]

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The Home Team



Good friends and willet wrangling partners,  Byron, Wayne, and Ashley

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Lots of eggs, few customers


horseshoe crab eggs

Last night we had some tremendously high tides.  The marsh was completely flooded, with even the highest spots under 1.5 ft of water.  The horseshoe crabs love high tides for spawning and piles of t [...]

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A willet on watch



Here's a shot of a willet wearing a geolocator tracking device.  We are hoping to catch this one soon!

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Heard the evening song of the …

Heard the evening song of the ovenbird in some local woods at sunset. They save it for the end of the day. listen: http://t.co/zxoDj6X7

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Saw the possum in the backyard…

Saw the possum in the backyard heading into explore the compost pile at sundown. On the menu: Porgy bones and strawberry tops.

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Here's a horseshoe crab in a common predicament: upside down and hoping for the next high tide to help make things right.  This crab was working hard to get himself turned over, but only succeeded in [...]

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Terrapin Season



We saw our first terrapins nesting  on the road on Friday.  By Sunday, the beach was covered with turtle tracks and the nearshore waters are filled with turtles poking their heads up.  The crows an [...]

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A Baymen’s Calendar


living right

From the Barnegat Bay area

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Shifting Baselines



A great pictorial example of shifting baselines in recreational fishing

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