Sunday, October 19, 2008

Appalachian Mountain Club

Our final group for the 2008 season was the Appalachian Mountain Club. In what has become a tradition, a group of people new to Sedge joined several veterans for the four day Columbus weekend. On our first day’s paddle we decided to head into the wind by paddling north along the shore of Island Beach State Park. Progress was slow, but by noon we had made it to Tices Shoals where we pulled out and walked across the boardwalk to the beach. On the way home we stopped to clam in Johnny Allen’s cove. Here we were pleased to discover that some of the clams stocked by the Division of Fish and Wildlife were just large enough to keep for dinner.

Our Sunday paddle was more ambitious. First we headed south four miles to Viking Village. This part of the trip was made easier by the wind and the current- both of which were behind us. We walked the docks to check out the Barnegat Light fishing fleet. We then we headed north to the public launch ramp where we landed and walked to the lighthouse. We had lunch and then while waiting for the tide to change, many of us climbed to the top of the lighthouse for a beautiful view of the surrounding area- especially the Sedge Island Marine Conservation Zone. In the late afternoon we paddled back along High Bar Harbor with a stop at Gull Island to check out any remaining birds. We found that most have migrated by this time. After a delicious dinner, seven of the more ambitious members of the group launched “Baby Beluga”, our 22” white canoe, for a night paddle around the island. We were rewarded by a fantastic display of bioluminescence that was so bright that we could see the wakes of fish shooting out ahead of the boat.

After a huge breakfast on the last morning, many of the group paddled toward the western side of the bay and then circled back through the southern end of the Marine Conservation Zone. During this time, I stayed behind to get some work done. I would like to give a special thanks to AMC member Paul Dice who stayed behind to help pull up the buoys marking the northern end of the Marine Conservation Zone. This is hard, dirty work and Paul did it willingly and cheerfully.

Southern Regional High School

Catching, collecting, and then feasting on wild edibles, can best characterize the Sedge experience for the students and faculty from SRHS. Our Thursday night banquet best sums it up. We had grilled Tautog that Mr. Dorris and a student caught earlier that day off the Barnegat Inlet Jetty. We ate raw and steamed hard clams that we dug on our way home from the long kayak trip. We had steamed soft clams drenched in butter. We had both ribbed and blue mussels in marinara sauce over spaghetti. Our vegetables consisted of Salicornia and Ulva salad. Several of us even tried eating raw spider crab. I found this to be mildly flavorful and somewhat watery.

Another high point of the trip was the bioluminescence. The water lit up when the dinoflagilates were disturbed with a hand or net swished through the water. A real surprise came when Mr. Dorris dove off the dock sending an explosion of glowing water into the air.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Nutley High School

The AP Biology class was fortunate to be able to get involved in a Watershed Education Program provided by the NJ Department of Environmental Protection. Sunday evening Howie Nebling and Lynette Lurig introduced this program to the students with a talk about fishing equipment and techniques. The following morning many students got up at sunrise to fish. Some used bait including clams, mullet and squid. Some used lures. They fished deep and near the surface. They retrieved slowly or cranked as fast as they could. In the end, one student caught and released a 16 inch striped bass. He was using a Fin-s, the same kind of lure we almost always use. The following morning many students again got up to fish at sunrise. Again one student caught one small striped bass on a Fin-s. Perhaps we have trained the fish in the vicinity of Sedge fish to hit they lures we most frequently use??

On Sunday a film crew from Ocean County College came to Sedge to video of the Nutley High School water quality monitoring session at Sedge. Students used chemical and mechanical means to measure temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen and turbidity. They then did a biological inventory of the flora and fauna by examining the contents of a seine net that two of the students dragged through the shallows near the dock. Who knows- in the future we may see some of these students on TV again when they are famous marine biologists.

Monday, September 22, 2008

NJ Kayak

Bill and Carmen Stage, owners of NJ Kayak, organized a group of eight experienced kayakers for a weekend trip to the Sedge Island Natural Resource Education Center. They paddled out to Sedge late Friday morning and had lunch. They then paddled another six miles with the return trip being a strenuous journey paddling on the eastern edge of the Oyster creek Channel against a strong wind and tide. The following day they paddled past the lighthouse, along High Bar Harbor, and then landed at a beach in Barnegat Light. From here we walked to Viking Village where we had lunch and toured the fishing village and craft shops. The return trip included a stop at Gull Island where we checked out the new sand deposit created by the dredging of the Oyster Creek Channel.

On Sunday the group continued their paddling expeditions. Six people got up before sunrise to paddle together in our twenty two-foot peace canoe. After a circumnavigation of Sedge Island we returned briefly for breakfast and then set out for another paddle to the inlet via the Sea Dog Trail. We discovered that there were some gentle waves breaking in the inlet, so we carried our boats over the dike and spent the next hour kayak surfing. This was an amazing experience for two of the group since they had never paddled in salt-water before- let alone done any surfing. They handled the small waves beautifully!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Rutgers Outing Club

Diversity is the watchword of the dozen Rutgers Students who are from a variety of classes, ages, and majors. Included in the group was Shang Jen, a Rutgers Pharmacy major who had volunteered all summer as Sedge intern. The group arrived in the rain on Friday night, loaded their gear onto the pontoon boat and made their way to the island. Club advisor Rick Lathrop, who paddled his kayak to Sedge into the strong west wind, soon joined them. We were able to watch Rick’s progress through the spotting scope by following a flashing red light he had attached to his hat.

Saturday turned out to be a warmer than usual late summer day. As a result the group was able to participate in a wide variety of activities. Catching fish rewarded several of those who got up before sunrise. Unfortunately we could not keep the summer flounder because it was one inch short and also just after the season closed. The kayak trip to the inlet was easy for these strong paddlers. Many students took advantage of the warm air and water to try some body surfing in the great surf. After returning to Sedge everyone went clamming. Digging over 130 clams rewarded those who stuck with it. It should be noted that they returned many of these for the next group of Sedge Island clammers to find. In the evening the students engaged in a round game of “Electric Clam.”

Monday, August 25, 2008

Katie Delahaye Paine and Friends “Vacation” at Sedge

Katie and two friends arrived on a picture perfect day and the weather only got better while they were on the island. While she originally thought that the three of them would spend the time alone, she agreed to share her vacation spot with Jim and Judy Merritt and Roger Locandro (none of whom she had met before.) As is usual Sedge, even more visitors came and went. Our largest group of visitors was a film crew from NYC who were working on a series of educational videos for Save Barnegat Bay. Pete McLain made a cameo appearance for an interview where he sang the Barnegat Bay song and talked about changes he has seen in the bay over the years. When we were not inundated with guests, we fished (caught several short stripers and a nice bluefish), clammed (raked up enough for a meal), crabbed (trapped a small sampling), together. We hung out and watched the sunset (right over the nuclear power plant at this time of the year). We cooked and ate incredible food! Katie even found time to write.

When Katie told her friends from New England that she was going for a weekend vacation in New Jersey, some of them gave her a bad time. We hope she returned to the North Country with a new respect for our state and for the ability of the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife to host guests. We NJ folks had a ball. I hope the New England folks did too. Jim Merritt

Please take this link to view the beautiful photos taken.

Germantown Academy

This year’s sixth and seventh graders were some of the youngest students to ever come from Germantown Academy. One boy celebrated his eleventh birthday on the island. Even though they were young, they were the first group from their school to ever paddle all the way from the house to the dike in Barnegat Inlet. As they made this paddle they frequently rotated leadership of lead and sweep boats until everyone had taken a turn. In addition, they all had to take responsibility for navigation in the rather confusing channels and passages in the 1,900-acre Marine Conservation Zone with very little help from their teachers and the Sedge staff. They did a good job.

Several students fished quite a bit. One caught six sea bass ranging from four to six inches. The most unusual fish that was caught in a seine net was a Coronet Fish. This was a first for Sedge but after consulting the field guide we determined that the fish has a range from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. We credited the fact that at this time of the year eddies break off from the Gulf Stream and bring in fish that are not our typical Barnegat Bay species.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Thank you Recognition for the Raniero Family

For more than five years Jackie and Tony Raniero have been helping with Project Terrapin at Sedge Island. Because they are on the island more than anyone else they have more opportunity to see the female turtles coming up to lay their eggs than any one else. Tony is always watching as he mows the grass around the prime-nesting site. But, like all scientific research this involves more work than merely watching for the turtles to walk up on the grass. Jackie is skilled in capturing and tagging the terrapins. She even devised a method of quick visual identification of turtles that is now being used in other parts of the country. In addition, for several years, she has taught people from visiting groups about her work with Project Terrapin.

On August 21st a group of people from the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife, Drexel University, MATES, present and former Sedge staff members, joined John Wnek, Project Terrapin Coordinator, on the island to honor Tony and Jackie. Just before the group arrived, Jackie called John to report that the first hatchling of the year was emerging from the nest. Little did she know that John and the group were on their way to the island as she was on the phone. While we were enjoying cake and other refreshments, we took a break to gather outside to see several other hatchlings emerge from the nest. The day was a complete success for both humans and terrapins.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Endangered and Nongame Species Advisory Council Meeting

Members of the Council joined Conserve Wildlife staff in a brief trip to Sedge. After a long meeting at the Island Beach Interpretive Center the group boarded the Sedge Shuttle for a trip to the island. Although the tide was too low for the pontoon boat to get over the sandbar near Sedge several people eagerly jumped into the water to help pull the boat through the shallow water.

After lunch the group had a variety of activities. The Council recognized the contribution of Jan Larson who was retiring from the group by giving her a beautifully carved shore bird. Several people fished but only one small sea bass was caught. Others bird watched taking note of some of the newly fledged terns and osprey.

The highlight of the day for me was when Council member, Joanna Burger signed her “Jersey Naturalist at the Seashore” book and had her picture taken with several of the Sedge interns. Young people who are interested in conservation of natural resources are the future for helping save Barnegat Bay. Thank you Joanna and all other Council members for helping to inspire our Sedge interns pursue careers in our field.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

MARE Teachers

Twenty-five teachers spent one day out of their five-day training program at Sedge. Pete McClain was on hand to give the group a brief history of the Sedge Island Marine Conservation Zone. The teachers then got quickly to work. They divided into small groups and came up with a research question that they wanted to explore. They then planned how to develop a presentation to be shared with the others in the group when they returned to the Jacques Costeau Center in Tuckerton. Some looked at animals while others looked at plants. They snorkeled, fished, dug, and used every possible method to explore their environment. They wrote, drew, photographed and took videos to record their data.

After lunch the group gathered in the house for an art lesson that was far more than drawing. As the artist/teacher instructed them in how to draw a turtle, she taught skills of observation, how the human eye works with the brain to interpret images in nature, and much more. It was amazing to see how each teacher used pastels to create highly individualistic, beautiful art work.

Time on the island was (as usual) too short. We hope many of the MARE teachers will return with their students for a three-day experience

Conserve Wildlife Poster Contest Winners

It is always a pleasure to have elementary school students and their families visit Sedge. Although they come from all over New Jersey and don’t know each other, these students have a common bond of having researched and created art relating to an endangered species in our state. As each student describes his or her project to the others it is easy to understand how they all have a sense for the problems and issues faced by non-game wildlife in New Jersey.

The kayak trip in the marsh is always highlight for all participants, as many of them have never been in a kayak let alone paddled in a salt marsh. This trip was especially rewarding for me as one of the Sedge interns let the entire trip without my assistance. She did a beautiful job finding her way through the complicated channels and ditches. One of the biologists who has banded all the osprey in the area provided lots of information about many of the birds the group saw.

In the early afternoon an intense thunderstorm came in from the northwest. As we watched from the safety of the Sedge porch the storm blew out to sea without reaching us. Little did we know that three waterspouts formed over the bay just to our north. The threat was so severe that the park police forced the beach goers at Island Beach State Park to take shelter in the bathrooms

August Teacher Training Workshop

Due to several last minute cancellations, our open enrollment teacher workshop had as many staff as paying teacher participants. As usual Sedge supervisor Karen had made all formal arrangements including buying the food. In addition to helping to lead all the usual sessions, she also facilitated the Wonders of Wetlands training allowing all workshop participants to receive credit for that workshop. Jason and I worked together for the first time all summer. We enjoyed playing off each other’s strengths. Interns Priscilla and Madeline provided plenty of support especially when it came to catching and preparing crabs. Former Assistant Program Director Katina made a surprise visit and assisted with much of the teaching. We had fun working together and the participants had the advantage of experiencing a variety of teaching styles.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Paulsboro Earn and Learn

Two groups from the Paulsboro area spent two days at Sedge. Near perfect conditions of water and weather allowed both groups to have a wonderful kayaking experience near the Sedge House. Our paddle through the salt marsh allowed everyone to see the peregrine falcon. We were also pleased to see that the three young ospreys in the nest near John Yoder’s house are now able to fly. It’s a good thing because there is no room in the nest and these juvenile birds are almost as large as their parents.

This program is fantastic as it enables a group of high school from the other side of the state to see a unique area. I only wish it could be longer.

Jim Merritt

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Monmouth County Park System

July 23-25

Twelve 10-14 year olds and four staff members spent three days at Sedge. Although the weather was predicted to be horrible (intense thunderstorms accompanied by heavy downpours) the worst of the bad weather came at night or missed us entirely. We continued to catch lots of big crabs and our “Baltimore crab fest” dinner is becoming a regular event.

Due to the forecast of severe thunderstorms we stuck closer to home on our regular kayak trip day. Instead we chose to fish. We divided into two small groups to fish in Mud Channel. Our technique was to motor into the tide and drift back with the current. Both groups were successful in catching nice striped bass. The 22½ “ fish fought so well that the anglers thought that they had snagged the bottom. Unfortunately we did not have a camera to record the event, but both fishers will long remember holding and then releasing their trophy catch.

The campers and the staff were intrigued with the different jellyfish. When we were invited to join New Jersey Network News to talk about these animals the students readily agreed. We met Desiree Taylor at the Island Heights Yacht Club with buckets containing Ctinophores, Multi-ribbed Hydromedusae, and a large Lion’s Mane. The campers gave a wonderful explanation of how the different jellyfish live and interact with their environment. They were especially excited to describe how they all had a chance to see the jellyfish light up in their hands when the stirred the water around the Sedge dock.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Governor’s School- Matt Perdue

Matt Perdue led the fourth and final group of students from the 2008 Governor’s School for the Environment. Although he had never been to Sedge Island, Matt helped his group to an experience at Sedge that was every bit as good as those of the more experienced teachers who preceded him.

The focus of this group was political issues. Students got a first hand look at many environmental factors affecting Barnegat Bay. They viewed the results of dredging and building a dike in the inlet. They saw how the build up of algae caused by Eutrophication is having an adverse affect on the shellfish population. They learned about the efforts of volunteers from the Barnegat Bay Shellfish Restoration Project to begin rebuilding stocks of clams and oysters. They discussed the implications of building a cooling tower at the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station if the plant is relicensed for another twenty years.

The three-day experience was not all work. We had beautiful weather for our paddle to Barnegat Inlet and a lengthy dip in the pleasantly warmer waters of the ocean. We fished and crabbed and clammed. One of the highlights of the experience was our evening meal. We prepared soft and hard clams, blue mussels and blue fish. But the highlight of our dinner was our crab fest. We sat outside on the side porch cracking and eating crabs caught earlier in the day as the full moon rose over the marsh. It doesn’t get much better than this!

During their visit, two groups were fortunate to be able to observe a former Governor’s School student who is now working with Rutgers University as he conducted research on the effect of temperature on the vital eel grass beds in the shallow bay waters. They could see first hand how an experience as a high school junior can lead to an exciting career opportunity.

I was privileged to be invited to attend the Governor’s School for the Environment final banquet at Stockton College. I told the entire student body and faculty that I was proud to be associated with a group of young people who although they hold strong opinions about various environmental topics, they are willing to listen to opposing points of view. Students like these are the key to the survival of Barnegat Bay and other natural areas in New Jersey. I hope the Governor’s School programs will continue long into the future.

Jim Merritt

Monday, July 14, 2008

Governor’s School Group 2: Wild-writers

This group of bright and enthusiastic teenagers began their 3 day stay out at Sedge with a bit of snorkeling and clamming along the southern edge of the island. As the questionable weather passed, we were able to head out on our 1 mile long mosquito-ditch loop around the sedges. Along that loop, they learned about the various animal and grass species in Barnegat Bay, such as the fiddler crab, peregrine falcon, and spartina alterniflora. Here they also learned about the natural hydrology of a salt marsh, and various manmade alterations to the area, including the introduction of various invasive species such as the green crab and phragmites grass.

The next day our group was joined by Dr. Jim Merritt and his daughter on the way out to the dike along the Barnegat Inlet. Along the walk from the bay to the beach, the Wild writers learned about the various plant species that dominate the dune landscape along the barrier island, and then finally enjoying a few fun hours at the beach. The group’s activities were concluded with a series of team building activities led by Dr. Merritt, and then quiet reflection on the marsh environment and some stargazing.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Governor’s School –Mike Crowell’s Group

Although this year’s Governor’s School for the Environment had reduced numbers of students and also had cut backs on the length of the program, the first group at Sedge was better than ever. Students from all over NJ came together for the first time on Sunday night and with very little time for bonding, arrived at Sedge on Monday morning. We had to abort our first kayaking experience due to the potential of thunderstorms but we easily filled in with other activities including clamming and a session in seining led by a student from MATES who had volunteered at Sedge several years ago.

Our long kayak trip to the dike was no problem for these students because they worked together very efficiently. The ocean water was in the high 50’s but everyone went in for a dip and some stayed in for quite some time. Having limited electricity provided an additional “special experience” as the group went without lights both nights and was very conservation minded when using water. On the second night we did a series of trust activities- all in the dark!

Guest visitors added to the experience. Jamie Hayden took many photographs and also helped the students enhance their photography skills. I look forward to seeing his pictures including a special nighttime shot where the students “wrote with light.” John, an intern from the Conserve Wildlife Foundation, talked about the CWF programs and was very helpful to the Sedge staff and especially to Tony Raniero who is recovering from a medical problem.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

New Jersey Audubon Island Explorers Groups 1 and 2

Explorer Group 1 was made up of 16 middle school children from Morris County. Many in this group were eager to jump right into their favorite activities such as fishing, or kayaking out to the “Bahamas.” This five day group started with a lot of team building and group activities where they learned about different aspects of the Barnegat Bay area, which were eventually tied together in our 8 mile kayak paddle out to the dike behind Barnegat Inlet. The weather for the 5 days that this group was out there for was nothing short of spectacular. The water was crystal clear and the wind was light, picking up slightly during the afternoons. This group remained energetic and enthusiastic the entire time they remained on the island.

Explorer Group 2 consisted of 14 slightly younger middle school children from the northwest region of New Jersey. Even though it was their first time on Sedge Island, they remained open and optimistic about the entire experience. Beginning their second day, the group piled into the kayaks to paddle out the 8 miles to the dike. With a steady pace, and a keen eye, they were able to observe and learn about a huge array of organisms living within the marshes, from the horseshoe crabs, to the various types of marsh grasses, to the quick diving peregrine falcon. Again, the weather could not have been nicer for this group, with only a little rain during the night.

With both Audubon groups, all of the students were required to research one organism that they observed during their stay, and design a field guide page for that plant or critter which was added to the Audubon Island Explorer field guide. This marvelous guide has been steadily growing with each Audubon group that has come out to the Sedges over the past four years. At the end of each group session, the children’s parents were invited out for lunch, and to see what their children have learned over the week. The kids expertly taught their parents about plants, kayaking, crabbing, birding, and many of the other animals that they observed. It was truly amazing how everything came together at the end for these kids.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

American Littoral Society

For the first time ever students from Camden and Newark met at Sedge for a program of common interest- conservation of natural resources. Six students from the Urban Trekers Program in Camden paired up with six from the North Star Academy in Newark for three days of activities. For the entire time they were at Sedge they shared everything. They began by moving their gear into one of the tiny Sedge bedrooms. After a quick lunch the newly formed pairs attempted to kayak, but a fast moving cold front with winds of more than forty miles per hour limited our paddling to the area near the dock.

Later that evening we had a visit from John Wnek. To add to the excitement, his wife Patricia who is expecting a baby any day accompanied him. John demonstrated how he tags diamond backed terrapins that the students had seen laying eggs earlier in the day. The storm stranded our visitors on the island for the night and the happy couple left at 5:00am the following morning. They did not set a record for the first baby born on Sedge Island.

Despite their lack of kayaking experience our seven-mile paddle to the dike on the second day was trouble free. Toward the end of our paddle we approached the Bahamas, the large sandbar southwest of the house. We saw a boat high and dry. With less than two inches of water under the hull and a falling tide, it appeared that the owners, young couple and their two-year-old daughter, would be stranded for many hours. Our group decided to attempt a rescue mission. With all of us pushing, pulling and lifting we managed to move the boat into deeper water. Great teamwork allowed us to accomplish what Sea Tow had been unable to do.

On their last morning at Sedge students gave oral reports on topics they had studied while on the island. As they shared their feelings about their Sedge experience Chris Williams, a senior at the North Star Academy who describes himself as a philosopher, read the following poem.

An Island Like You
An island like you
Not in the rear view
Success is a journey
Not a destination
Destination never culminates
Even after decimation
A mark is left
Whether big or little
Follow your intuition
You can never fail
What is success?
If you never fail
Opposing forces clash when not in agreement

An island like you
You may never see it
Never characterize possible as impossible
Then your mind shall never be sinkable
Key to life
Life ABCDEFG of the piano
I complain because of my ability
Offspring fly 1,000 miles for free
Money is personified as mankinds motivation
Why isn’t it fighting the temptation?

An island like you
Cannot be sought through excavation
Instead contemplation, meditation, isolation
Archeologist cannot find ones passion but only you
Even in the midst of far worse struggles, its an island like you

Sunday, June 15, 2008

MATES Shared Time Students

Of the twelve Juniors who spent two days at Sedge just prior to the end of school, only one had previously visited the island and he had come many years ago as a 6th grader from Stafford Elementary School. As a result, our usual short kayak paddle past the osprey nests and peregrine falcon was a new experience for almost everyone. We stopped at the “Bahamas” to dig for clams. With a fairly low tide and exceptionally warm water (85F) we were comfortable digging by hand more than two feet deep to find several hard clams and many Stouts Taglus clams.

The following day the group paddled to Spizzle Creek to help MATES administrator, John Wnek, stage Mega-terrapin Day. This was John’s first attempt to simultaneously collect a large number of Diamond Backed Terrapins. We began by stretching a 300 ft. Tremal net across the eastern end of a cove just south of the bird blind. Twelve students, staff and visitors slowly inched the net forward attempting to corral the terrapins at the end of the cove. The knee deep soft mud that sucked off almost any footgear made this effort extremely difficult. This sweep of the net resulted in the capture of one small male. In a second attempt we strung the net across the entrance to the cove and drove the terrapins toward the net as we splashed with our kayak paddles. Although we saw many terrapins we were only able to capture a few.

Although we did not catch many terrapins, the group had a variety of other good experiences. Many students enjoyed snorkeling in the clear water in the thorofare near the Sedge House. Several people got up to watch a spectacular sunrise and one of the girls caught an eighteen-inch blue- her first fish ever. Students and MATES teacher Kelly McMillan caught dozens of comb jelly fish and placed them in a small fish tank. Later that evening we were delighted to see the bioluminescence when these ctenophores were stirred up in the tank.

Monday, June 9, 2008

June Appalachian Mt. Club

A small but hearty group of club members paddled out to Sedge on Friday afternoon. Jim accompanied by interns Kate and Dave brought their heavy gear (including lots of food) over on the pontoon boat. By 6:00pm several members of the group had arrived to set up the five-course dinner. Delicious!

On Saturday the group paddled west across the bay to the Lighthouse Camp, back east and around Gull Island, south into Little Bay, and finally north to return to Sedge. Although no one tracked the mileage on a GPS, this trip was easily twelve miles. Some paddlers were very tired when they returned but all were proud of their accomplishment.

On Sunday we went for a shorter paddle (4.5 miles) that included another visit to Gull Island. These were Dave’s first trips in a sea kayak and he certainly could not have had a better beginning experience. We all enjoyed seeing oystercatcher chick running around at the edge of the marsh but Dave was especially excited since on his last visit they we saw only eggs.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

St. Benedicts Academy

Tide and weather conditions made for a challenging experience for fourteen girls sixth grade girls and two teachers from St. Benedicts Academy. The group arrived at the Island Beach Dock when the tide so low that Tony had to use the Jon boat to tow the pontoon boat across the sand bar near the island. Later that day their first kayaking experience was made especially challenging due to a strong southwest wind that blew several boat loads of girls away from our destination in the protected waters of the salt marsh.

The wind continued to howl on the second day and rather than going paddling again we began the day with a sunrise hike around the north end of the island. After breakfast the girls wanted to do a service project on the island so they agreed to help with aquaculture maintenance. Although they were a bit squeamish at first, most of the girls spent the next two hours scrubbing bio-fouling organisms off the bags of juvenile oysters and mussels that are part of our shellfish gardening project.

Assistant Program Director Jason Kelsey and intern Shang Jen had an exciting boat ride from the Island Beach State Park dock to Sedge as they encountered a brief but severe thunderstorm that brought heavy rain and intense lightening. Undaunted by their rigorous experience they took the girls kayaking again the following morning. With a lot less wind everyone had a wonderful paddling experience

MATES May, 2008

The first two sections of Mr. Werner’s class were fortunate to experience perfect spring weather for the initial freshman experience on Sedge Island. Although it was cool and bright, the sun made it pleasant to be in the water for kayaking and clamming. Mr. Wnek was able demonstrate how to tag a diamond backed terrapin that Jackie caught earlier in the day.
Spring is in full swing on the salt marsh. The Black Brant that were so numerous several weeks ago have completely disappeared. Osprey are sitting on eggs in almost every nest. This includes the new nest on a platform put up by Project USE earlier this spring. The Peregrine falcon chicks have fledged and we watched the adults working with their young as they were learning to hunt. The Blue Mussels are still covering the bottom in the area around the island. Although they are still very small (3-5mm) they are growing very rapidly. Some small Sea Stars are around but not in any large numbers. Most evident of all is the rapid growth of the Sour Weed algae that seems to have bloomed overnight.

These groups of MATES students fished harder than any other groups to come to Sedge yet this year. They threw every kind of lure. They used clams for bait and for chum. We could see the stripers in the clear water near the dock. Unfortunately no one caught anything. The good is that they are freshmen and will return to Sedge again in later years.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Tidelands Bureau

Seventeen staff from the NJDEP Tidelands Bureau attended a one-day retreat at Sedge in Early May. Although the weather was predicted to be less that beautiful, it turned out to be a sunny day. This was appreciated by many of the group whose last visit to Sedge in the fall was on a very rainy day.

We took the opportunity to kayak in the salt marsh. In spite of the heavy rain from Monday’s strong North-Easter, the water was relatively clear. Unfortunately the high waster from the storm had flooded most of the ground nesting birds wiping out the eggs that were due to hatch this week. We stopped to talk about Pete McLain and his work with the osprey and peregrine falcon about 200 yards from the hacking tower. As we were sitting in our kayaks, we observed a red fox hunting on the marsh. This was only the second time that I have seen a fox on the marsh. The last time was several years ago when one came to Sedge and ate most of the Raniero’s chickens.

When we returned for lunch we watched four volunteers from the Barnegat Bay Shellfish Restoration Program wading in the shellfish lease to clean the predator nets above the 2007 crop of 10mm clams. Kate, one of our new interns, showed the group how we test water quality. Her lesson was so successful that she was given a standing ovation by the group.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Master Naturalists

The first Master Naturalist program in New Jersey visited Sedge for one day in early May. Twenty students in the program arrived at the Island Beach State Park dock at 9:00AM to find that the fog made it impossible to see most of the Marine Conservation Zone. Undaunted by the cold, clammy conditions, most members of the group were eager to explore the marsh by kayak. We split the group in two with Dr. Stan Hales, Director of the Barnegat Bay National Estuary Program assisted by Mr. Art Webster, Director of the Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge at Brigantine, leading half the participants in one direction and Dr. Jim Merritt leading the others in the opposite direction. Although it continued to be foggy, the mist did lift enough at times to be able to see many osprey, the peregrine falcon and a variety of other birds of the salt marsh.

When we returned to the house we ate lunch on the porch and discussed some of the things we had seen on our paddle. We talked about some teaching techniques in outdoor settings. Stan pointed out the many opportunities available to become more involved in working as naturalists in the Barnegat Bay watershed. Many people in the group realize that their time at Sedge was too short and they vowed to return.

Monday, April 21, 2008

April “Open the House”

Our “Open the House” weekend was a huge success! Family and Friends of Sedge joined six new interns, one new staff person, one old staff person and our Director of Aquatic Education to kick off the 2008 season. Many hands made light work as we cleaned the house, hooked up a rain barrel, got out the kayaks and Jon boat, scrubbed oyster bags and did a variety of other chores. We worked so efficiently that we even had a chance to spend several hours paddling in the marsh.

Eighteen people sat down to dinner Saturday night. Everyone contributed to a huge potluck meal supplemented with some local shellfish. The blue mussels that we had removed from the shellfish bags were a delicious added bonus. Later that evening we decided to go “lightless.” Even though half of the group had never been in the house before, everyone adapted very well to being completely in the dark. Although there was a cold wind blowing most of the night, several people elected to sleep out on the upper deck or on the pontoon boat.

Sunday morning former staff member Tom Virzi guided us on a bird banding expedition to Gull Island. Although we were unsuccessful in banding any American Oyster Catchers, we did get a chance to go ashore and check out eggs in nests of both Oyster Catchers and Black Backed Gulls. It got windier as we returned to Sedge but the storm clouds to our west never reached us. We cleaned up the house, had lunch and made it back to the dock without ever getting wet.

I was very pleased with the performance of the new Sedge Staff. We have a fine group of people who are very willing to help with any task. They kept good notes in their journals and I know their writing will help them to learn more quickly and begin teaching at Sedge this summer. I look forward to working with all of them.

I hope interns and Friends of Sedge who were at the Sedge “Open the House” will read and contribute to this blog.

Monday, March 31, 2008

March –Project USE

We started our 2008 season with an overnight stay of staff members from Project USE. Because they came so early in the season, the group had no running water or electricity. They also had to paddle their own boats to Sedge because our pontoon boat is not yet in the water. Unusually cold spring weather continued with below freezing temperatures the morning of their arrival. Although it warmed up somewhat on the second day, our standard uniform, both inside the house and out, was ski jackets and wool hats.

Some of the twelve participants were new staff who had only been with the group for several days. In spite of their lack of time together they worked very well as a team. After moving their things into the McLain House, they divided into work groups. Some cleaned the inside of the house. Some moved the kayaks and swept out the boathouse. But the major work project was construction of a new osprey platform.

On the morning of the second day we moved the prefabricated osprey platform across the thorofare to a salt marsh island south of the house. We dug a three and a half foot hole in one of the higher places on the marsh. Then we raised the pole into place. This requires good coordination of several teams pulling on guy ropes to make sure the top heavy tower does not fall when it is almost up. We finished the job by filling in around the pole with sand and mud. We were very pleased to see an osprey fly over to inspect our work and then land on one corner of the new nest platform as we paddled away.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

SEDGE 2008

L-R: Emily, Program Director Jim Merritt, Dave, Priscilla, Kate, Shang and Assistant Program Director Jason Kelsey.

Although winter is our slow season both Karen and I have been working on a variety of projects. We now have our staff and intern positions filled. Karen has been working on the budget and the scheduling groups. But the biggest news is that we will soon begin a major capital improvement project. Starting in April we will begin construction of a new and much larger new solar electric system. In addition we will have a twenty-five foot tall windmill. We plan to generate so much electricity that we will be able to heat all our water with the solar system. We will replace our gas-powered refrigerators with high efficiency electric models. This will greatly reduce our consumption of bottled propane gas although we will continue to have some for use in the house heaters and for the emergency back-up generator. We hope to have our new system on line by early June.

February 24 seemed like the real start of our new season because it was our first opportunity to meet with new staff and interns. We got together at the Island Beach State Park Nature Center on a beautiful sunny day. With the bay still frozen in some places and the launch date for the Sedge Shuttle and our other boats still months away, a visit to Sedge at this time of the year is difficult. We were honored to have Pete McClain join us for this initial orientation.

Jason Kelsey is our new Assistant Program Director. Jason is a science teacher at Toms River South High School. He has grown up in Ocean County and knows our part of the Jersey Shore very well. A graduate of Rowan University, Jason worked on a variety of projects including a study of submerged aquatic vegetation. He also spent time in the Galapagos where he lived with a local family.

Jason is already taking on responsibilities at Sedge by working to coordinate intern schedules. This is no small task as we are starting off this year with more volunteers than ever before. Since interns do not get paid for their work at Sedge, Jason will attempt to schedule them in a way that they may be able to work in some other position when they are not on the island.

Our next intern meeting will be on April 19 and 20. This will be the official “Opening of the House.” Friends of Sedge members will be invited to help us with spring-cleaning chores. Although we will not have electricity (and thus no running water), some of us will stay overnight. Check this site for updated information.