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