Future of Menhaden Management – Public Hearing 12.8.16

Future of Menhaden Management – Public Hearing Thursday, December 8

Guest post by Zack Greenberg, Senior Associate, Environment | The Pew Charitable Trusts

Next week the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) is holding a hearing on the future of menhaden management. While ASMFC’s Menhaden Management Board unanimously approved the Public Information Document (PID) for Draft Amendment 3 for public comment, they need to hear from you on why it is so important to manage menhaden for their role in the marine ecosystem (Issue 1, Option D).

Tell the ASMFC that menhaden management must account for the needs of predators. The public can comment at upcoming hearings, or in writing, now through January 4, 2017. Here are the details for next week’s hearing in New Jersey:

New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife

December 8, 2016; 6:30 PM

Nacote Creek Marine Law Enforcement Office

360 North New York Road, Mile Marker 51

Port Republic, New Jersey

 

We need YOU to get involved, here’s how:

  • Attend next week’s hearing on Thursday, December 8;
  • Submit written comments before 5:00pm on January 4, 2017*; and,
  • Share with family and friends to help get the word out!

*Public comments should be forwarded to Megan Ware, Fishery Management Plan Coordinator, 1050 N. Highland St, Suite A-N, Arlington, VA 22201; 703.842.0741 (FAX) or at comments@asmfc.org (Subject line: Menhaden PID).

The conservation of menhaden benefits everyone. Managing “the most important fish in the sea” to account for their role as forage fish will enable the population to continue to grow, while increasing menhaden’s value to recreational fishing, commercial seafood, and tourism businesses that all depend on this important fish and its predators. That is why we are supporting Issue 1, Option D.

If you haven’t seen it, here is footage of the amazing activity happening off New York and New Jersey, as we work together to protect hundreds of millions of menhaden and all that they provide to predators (including ourselves). It is hard not to get inspired when imagining what the Atlantic will look like when we restore this species to its historic abundance and range!

There are a lot of articles out there on the importance of menhaden, a few can be found by clicking below:

Remember: this is YOUR opportunity to provide input on the future management of this incredibly important forage fish – the ASMFC wants to hear from you – so make your voice heard!

How you helped the Raritan in 2016

Dear Friend of the Lower Raritan Watershed –

In 2016 you and your neighbors joined the LRWP for:

16 clean-ups of area streams
1 pollinator garden installation
1 rain garden installation
3 water quality monitoring trainings (visual habitat, pathogens and macroinvertebrate identification)
3 multi-week K-12 environmental education programs
9 stakeholder meetings
7 special events (dance performances, gallery openings, field trips and special lectures)
10 community meetings, environmental festivals or other outreach events
2 blessings of area streams

You also: adopted 20+ stream segments for habitat monitoring, took soil and water samples, spearheaded 30+ research/internship projects, volunteered to help shape the LRWP’s strategic and business plans, developed maps, gave presentations, created 20+ sculptures out of trash, provided counsel and advice, and so much more. For your time and commitment to a healthier Lower Raritan Watershed, we say a very sincere THANK YOU!

Now we come to you, humbly, to ask for more. We cannot advance our collective work on the path to a healthier Raritan River and Lower Raritan Watershed without your financial support. So please consider the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership in your charitable giving.

CLICK HERE TO DONATE

We know there are many good charities that will seek your help. We are truly honored when you choose to make a tax-deductible gift to the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership.

With all the best to you and your family for a wonderful holiday season and a happy, healthy 2017.

Heather Fenyk
President and Founder
Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership

Pussycat, Pussycat, Where Have You Been?

Except as noted, article and photos by Joe Mish

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A Siberian tiger, out of place in modern times in New Jersey, comfortably rests on the frozen snow in sub zero temperatures, intensified by a strong northwest wind. Conditions that would turn exposed flesh beet red in an instant, didn’t phase this big cat as it appeared oblivious to the deadly weather; as if not bound by the laws of Nature.

It was a bitter cold day as Bert and I drove the Warner Bros Jungle Habitat trails to check on the open ranging wildlife that occupied the windswept mountains and valleys of the northern New Jersey wildlife park. Inside the warm Chevrolet truck, converted into a veterinary mobile unit, the heater was turned up high, while warm coffee steamed the windshield. Most animals escaped the polar wind hiding behind natural windbreaks and temporary shelters placed around the park.

As we drove past the tiger compound, near the highest point of the park, here was this tiger, a cat we affectionately named, ‘Bobtail’, lying down exposed to the full force of the wind. Bearing an ever present grin, for which the big cats are known, Bobtail appeared content, oblivious to the deadly arctic blast. He remained motionless and stared into the brutal wind that must have escaped from the 10th circle of Dante’s frozen hell, showing no signs of discomfort. He may as well have been enjoying a cool breeze on a warm summer’s day.

This image of Bobtail lying in the snow captures for me the essence of the tiger. Well documented accounts of tigers hunting humans in India, and their magical ability to make kill after kill and avoid inescapable traps, have elevated the tiger to supernatural status.

This is an animal believed to exist in the spirit world as a cunning killer with the ability to transform into flesh and bone and back again at will. The tiger has a reputation of defying natural law that limits all other living things; Bobtail was doing nothing to dispel that myth on this cold day.

The poem, “Tyger”, by William Blake, written in 1794, so well captures the visceral reaction I had to the tigers, I memorized the poem. Here are a few lines that chill my blood.

In what distant deeps or skies Burnt the fire of thine eyes?

And what shoulder, & what art. Could twist the sinews of thy heart? 

While here is photographic proof of a tiger living in New Jersey, an anomaly for sure, it is not hard to imagine a time when big cats stalked our land. I wondered every time I passed the tiger compound, how humans ever survived these Paleolithic predators. Perhaps it was the predators’ evolved intelligence that raised the level of human creativity in a Darwinian dance played to a deadly tune.

Evidence of saber tooth cats and jaguars, among other prehistoric creatures, were found in a limestone cave in southeastern PA near Pottstown and trace back to the cretaceous period about 100 to 66 million years ago. The cave was located in a now forgotten town named Port Kennedy, which is part of Valley Forge National Park.

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Evidence of sabre-tooth cats of the late cretaceous period discussed in this 1993 article. Additionally fossil remains have been found in the Cutter Clay works near Raritan Bay and along the shore across Raritan Bay in Union Beach.

NJ was unrecognizable in terms of geography and climate with glaciers terminating at the Watchung Mountains and our rivers not yet formed. The Hudson River at one time was thought to have emptied into the lower Raritan watershed at Bound Brook.

As the sea level rose and fell over the eons, it formed clay banks along the Raritan and its bay where dinosaur fossils and tracks have been found. To date, I am not aware of any prehistoric cat trackways or fossils being discovered in NJ. Though surely, when southern NJ was above water, it would be reasonable to expect prehistoric cats, whose remains were found in the Port Kennedy Cave, to have roamed our land.

In more modern times the eastern mountain lion did stalk the shores of the Raritan and in fact a bounty was offered and the last local cat killed in the Sourland Mountains in the early 19th century. Officially, the last New Jersey mountain lions were killed in the southern most counties about that same time.

Rumors of mountain lions persist in several north east states, though no hard evidence has been uncovered in NJ. Given the fact that people have been known to illegally harbor large cats in less than secure enclosures, anything is possible.

Today, New Jersey has a healthy population of bobcats, primarily in the northwest part of the state. The retreating glaciers left a boulder strewn, mountainous landscape with plenty of nooks and crannies, ideal habitat for these elusive felines. Occasionally bobcats are captured on hunters’ trail cameras to give us evidence of their presence as they are rarely ever seen even where they are plentiful.

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This very rare photo of a bobcat was taken in Warren County, NJ. New Jersey has a healthy bobcat population along with other wildlife thought not to exist within our borders. This cat is really a sabre-tooth tiger distilled down to miniature with all the accumulated intelligence and instincts required for survival in any geologic iteration of New Jersey. Photo by Nancy Mayer

Still the thought of saber-tooth cats, tigers and jaguars ranging across the state becomes more than just imaginary when you see the gleam in your pet cat’s eye. It is as if the prehistoric felines have been distilled down to their essence in the form of modern day cats that dominate many of our homes.

“The Man-Eaters of Kumaon”, by Col Jim Corbett, published in 1944, deals with the man eating tigers of India in the early 20th century. Please read the last chapter, “Just Tigers” before you begin the book as it puts the tiger in perspective and talks about photography vs hunting and concern for their the conservation even at that time. The first hand account of the almost supernatural ability of tigers to avoid being killed or captured while hunting humans, reveals an intellectual battle where man doesn’t always dominate nature.

THE TYGER

By William Blake

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright In the forests of the night, What immortal hand or eye Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies Burnt the fire of thine eyes? On what wings dare he aspire? What the hand dare sieze the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art. Could twist the sinews of thy heart? And when thy heart began to beat, What dread hand? & what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain? In what furnace was thy brain? What the anvil? what dread grasp Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears, And watered heaven with their tears, Did he smile his work to see? Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright In the forests of the night, What immortal hand or eye Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

1794

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Author Joe Mish has been running wild in New Jersey since childhood when he found ways to escape his mother’s watchful eyes. He continues to trek the swamps, rivers and thickets seeking to share, with the residents and visitors, all of the state’s natural beauty hidden within full view. To read more of his writing and view more of his gorgeous photographs visit Winter Bear Rising, his wordpress blog. Joe’s series “Nature on the Raritan, Hidden in Plain View” runs monthly as part of the LRWP “Voices of the Watershed” series. Writing and photos used with permission from the author.

Top Issues Facing Lower Raritan Watershed communities (2016 version)

The Nature Conservancy recently asked the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership to identify the top issues facing the communities with which we work. We developed our “Top 10” list, below.

A few caveats to this list. First, the Lower Raritan Watershed is comprised of a diversity of communities facing a varied set of issues. Each community would likely identify a different set of priority issues. Second, the LRWP has not conducted a comprehensive survey of need (although it is something we would like to do). The following issues have been identified during discussions with communities, by daily culling of google for Raritan River and watershed-related news stories, reading minutes from Environmental Commission, and from general observation. Many of these issues are inter-related, but we have culled them out as they often seem to be discussed singly.

We very much welcome stakeholder comments, input and suggestions to the add to our list.

  1. Substandard quality of area waters due to toxic contamination and contamination due to disease-causing pathogens. This bears not only on fishing, swimming and secondary contact, but also on concerns with drinking water quality.
  2. Uncertainty regarding the quality of area waters: lack of readily accessible (and easily interpreted) information about water quality.
  3. Linked to, but distinct from the above: the need for restoration of historic contaminated sites and waterways to protect public health.
  4. Sea level rise, and assistance with preparedness / resiliency planning.
  5. Flooding, significant impervious surfaces, and disruption of natural / historic hydrologic flows.
  6. Stormwater runoff and the need for regional stormwater management, including assistance with meeting MS4 requirements from County/state or other regional entity.
  7. Fragmentation of habitat, including fragmentation of human scale habitat (e.g. walking and bicycling routes).
  8. Perceptions of safety around riverfront spaces and streams deters use of these spaces (e.g. significant homeless populations, poor lighting, limited access and/or limited signage).
  9. Aging rail infrastructure that could lead to devastating spills in our waterways.
  10. Threat of pipelines or other significant infrastructure that might damage habitat.

Developing a Soils Research Plan for the Lower Raritan Watershed

Article by Dorothy Lee, Rutgers University Sophomore and LRWP Summer Soils Intern

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LRWP intern Dorothy Lee, presenting at Rutgers (photo by Heather Fenyk)

This summer I had the opportunity to intern for the LRWP doing soils and civic science research. My job was to conduct initial research into how the LRWP could develop a civic science soil monitoring program to better understand soils functions for an urban watershed level. Urban areas can benefit from soil mapping exercises because urban soils are a concern for food supply, drinking water, stormwater control as well as aesthetics and recreation. Particular issues of urban soils are related to impervious surfaces, erosion, land filling and land leveling, surface removal, contamination, sedimentation and severe compaction. The benefits of working with civic scientists to aid in research means that data can be collected efficiently and in a timely manner while simultaneously connecting the community to their environment.

The LRWP’s specific interests as they relate to soil include soil enrichment for stormwater retention and for bionutrient food availability. After researching these issues, I worked with LRWP President Heather Fenyk and Professor Stephanie Murphy, Director of the Rutgers Soil Testing Lab, to identify ways that the LRWP could begin to engage the Lower Raritan Watershed community in soils research. A few of the actions we thought could orient conversation for future soil-health-oriented civic science studies include: having area civic scientists work to identify “new” bacterial phyla, linking soil health improvement goals to impervious cover remediation actions planned at the municipal level, and evaluating rain gardens as a management strategy to increase soil C, optimize soil N cycling processes, and reduce leaching and gaseous emission losses of nitrogen.

The LRWP is also beginning to develop a plan to communicate the benefits of composting for soil enrichment. This relates directly to my work at Rutgers with a new club, RU Compost. Compost is an efficient way to reduce our food waste, cycle nutrients back into our soils, and create more awareness and education opportunities to the public. At Rutgers our club is working to implement composting in our dining halls and students centers, and we are also working on building a compost demonstration for the Spring semester in the Lower Raritan Watershed. Look for us in the spring!

Rutgers Environmental Stewards Champion the LRW

Photos and article by Michele Bakacs, Environmental and Resource Management Agent, Cooperative Extension of Middlesex County, Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station

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Through a relatively new program sponsored by Rutgers University Cooperative Extension, citizens throughout the Lower Raritan Watershed are working to help people discover the hidden natural world flowing through their communities. These citizens are part of the Rutgers Environmental Steward program and their projects range from conducting stream habitat assessments to developing middle school illustration lessons highlighting the flora and fauna of the watershed.

The goal of the Rutgers Environmental Steward program is to help citizens understand the science behind pressing environmental issues and help create positive environmental change in their communities. Susan Edmunds from Highland Park is one such Environmental Steward working on assessing the health of Mill Brook, a tributary of the Lower Raritan River.

“My goal is to bring an awareness of the Mill Brook to the community so we can work to protect it and use it as an asset. I have realized the most important thing to do is just talk to people about the brook. So many people just don’t know it is there. It would be nice to be able to take a stroll along the brook in some of the already existing parks.”

One morning in September, we scramble down a steep ravine and climb down over branches to the brook. The brook is hidden behind chain link fences, railroad overpasses, and overgrown vegetation. Once you are there you can’t believe how beautiful it is. We are transported to a natural world where the gurgling stream winds its way past towering locusts and silver maple canopy trees, and through sandstone and shale outcrops. Of course we see garbage and dumping typical of every urban waterway- the stereotypical abandoned tire and shopping cart, down trees across the stream collecting trash showing you just how damaging plastic water bottles can be to our environment when not disposed of properly. But except for the occasional train coming by as a reminder, you can barely tell how close we are to houses, roads, and train tracks. There’s the sounds of birds, leaves blowing, shadows and sunlight peaking through the trees on the water. The brook is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered by anyone who makes the effort to find it.

“The Environmental Stewards program was exactly what I hoped it would be in that I gave me a way to start getting involved with environmental protection in my community.”

susan-edmunds-in-mill-brook-bakacs

Environmental Steward Susan Edmunds Assesses Mill Brook

Mapping Mill Brook is the project Susan chose for her Rutgers Environmental Steward internship. After attending about 60 hours of classes that start in January and run through June, Stewards complete an internship project of their choosing in order to become a certified Rutgers Environmental Stewards. The program welcomes non-scientists and links them with members of the academic community, government, and non-profits. The curriculum includes classes, field trips, and an internship. Once Susan is done mapping her section of Mill Brook she will summarize her findings for the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership who will use her work to prioritize sections of the Lower Raritan for monitoring, restoration, and clean up.

“Already this project has connected me with so many people who are just like me in that they want to clean up this stream. From this assessment I plan to create a presentation about the brook and its history. I am excited about the potential for a Friends of the Mill Brook group working together towards stream access. This assessment is just the beginning of my journey.”

During the assessment, Susan takes pictures of deteriorating culverts, tree snags that collect garbage and stormdrain outfalls- concrete pipes that empty the rainwater runoff from local roads into the stream. We walk into a steep ravine probably 25 feet high with sandstone and shale outcrops leading to a large culvert where the stream flows under the NJTransit’s train tracks. This ends today’s journey and we turn around to make our way back to civilization.

If you are like Susan, and looking to start your own journey helping to protect the local environment, then sign up for the 2017 Rutgers Environmental Stewards class. Classes start in January in 5 counties throughout the state including Middlesex County at the EARTH Center in South Brunswick, and Somerset County at Duke Farms. For more information contact Michele Bakacs, at 732-398-5274, mbakacs@rutgers.edu, or visit our website http://envirostewards.rutgers.edu/

Weston Mill Dam Removal Open for Public Comment

Final Approved Weston Mill Dam Removal/IFW Fish Passage Restoration Plan Open for Public Comment

PUBLIC NOTICE
ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION
OFFICE OF NATURAL RESOURCE RESTORATION
Notice to Receive Interested Party Comments on Consent Decree for Natural
Resource Damage Regarding the American Cyanamid Superfund Site in Somerset
County
United States of America and New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection v.
Wyeth Holdings, LLC.

Take notice that the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP)
hereby gives notice of a Consent Decree concerning injury to natural resources resulting from
discharges at the former American Cyanamid Company facility located in the Township of
Bridgewater and the Borough of Bound Brook, Somerset County, New Jersey (the Property).
NJDEP, and the United States of America, on behalf of the United States Department of
Commerce, acting by and through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the
United States Department of the Interior, acting by and through the United States Fish and
Wildlife Service (collectively, the “Trustees”), propose this Consent Decree with Wyeth
Holdings, LLC (the Settling Defendant), to resolve certain natural resource damage claims under
Section 107 of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act
(CERCLA), 42 U.S.C. § 9607, and the Spill Compensation and Control Act, N.J.S.A. 58:10
23.11 et seq. (Spill Act). Settling Defendant’s contact for this matter is Russell Downey, Director
Environmental Engineering, c/o Pfizer Incorporated, 100 Route 206, North Peapack, New Jersey
07977.
Under the Consent Decree, the Settling Defendant has agreed to settle its alleged liability
to the Trustees for “In-River” natural resource injuries resulting from discharges at the Property
by:
(a) Paying Past and Future Costs that have been or will be incurred by the Trustees.

(b) Performing a restoration project that includes the removal of a dam, known as the
Weston Mill Dam located on the Millstone River in Franklin Township and Manville Borough,
Somerset County, and providing funding for monitoring activities before and after the dam
removal to evaluate aquatic organisms and water quality.

(c) Performing a Trustee-approved analysis of fish passage alternatives, designing a fish
passage alternative, and developing a construction cost estimate to implement that design
alternative, for enhancing fish passage at the Island Farm Weir on the Raritan River.

The Consent Decree addresses Settling Defendant’s alleged liability for “In-River”
natural resource injury only, and does not address Settling Defendant’s alleged liability for any
other natural resources injuries resulting from discharges at the Property.
It is the intent of the Trustees and the Settling Defendant that this Consent Decree, when
entered, will constitute a judicially-approved settlement for “In-River” natural resource injury
within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 9613(f)(2) and N.J.S.A. 58:10-23.11f.a(2)(b), for the purpose
of providing protection to Settling Defendant from claims for contribution regarding matters
addressed in this Consent Decree.

Copies of the proposed Consent Decree are available for inspection at the NJDEP’s main
office at 401 East State Street, in Trenton, New Jersey, and on the NJDEP’s website at
www.nj.gov/dep/nrr/settlements. A copy of the Department’s files concerning the Property is
available for review by contacting the Office of the Records Custodian, NJDEP, PO Box 442,
Trenton, NJ 08625-0442 or via e-mail at records.custodian@dep.state.nj.us .

Letters commenting on the implementation of the Restoration Plan are due to NJDEP by December 16, 2016 and should be addressed to:

John N. Sacco, Chief
NJDEP, Office of Natural Resource Restoration
501 East State Street, Mail Code 501-01
PO Box 420
Trenton, NJ 08625-0420

The Snowy November Woods

Article and photos by Joe Mish

 

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The hiker skier and the fox

passed this way on a snowy walk

The same path was taken on that day

Though each saw things a different way

 

Dawn was hardly accomplished when the charcoal sky, stirred by a strong cold wind, began to hurl sharp ice crystals against the dry fallen leaves. The High velocity ice pellets struck the forest floor to reverberate against the dry leaves and create a mesmerizing steady hum.

The expansive old woods, now under siege by the late November weather, had a logging road cut through it sometime in the past that now resembled a linear scar threading through the trees. The thick canopy of branches blocked the sunlight to prevent the cut from healing and provided an unobstructed view and silent pathway, for at least a hundred yards. Any bird or animal travelling across the woodlot could be easily seen.

From my vantage point, where the road curved around a large boulder to the straightaway before me, I paused to take in the view. The falling ice began to accumulate; it was like watching an invisible hand weave a white rug on a rough umber tinted latticework. The ice would take turns with large snowflakes as this tandem team laid down white pavement on the road. The thick canopy of branches in the surrounding woods prevented much of the falling snow from reaching the ground. The white flakes and ice crystals that fell here resembled a light scattering of powdered sugar that stood in stark contrast to the near solid white woods road.

The woods are transformed with a light snow as hidden pathways and game trails show up as white lines and the thick woods instantly fitted with clear windows into the woodland depths. Any animal previously hidden by the labyrinth of branches in the one dimensional muted background of similar color, now are exposed as dark forms against white as they pass through these previously invisible portals. The slightest movement, even at a distance, now betrays an animal’s presence as sound becomes an irrelevant turncoat.

Feeling chilled, I was about to resume my walk when a quick movement in the woods caught my eye. Like watching a silent movie in black and white, a woodland drama was about to unfold.

Some small, fast animal was running along the ground in a straight line, on a course that would take it across the woody lane. In short order it appeared in the open and I was still questioning its identity. I could now see this was clearly a bird as it looked like a pigeon, though slightly larger. It was so odd to see a bird running instead of flying and given its speed, its health did not seem compromised. The fleet footed bird was a ruffed grouse! I recalled seeing grouse feeding in the predawn light on other occasions and thinking how they resembled pigeons.

In less than 15 seconds, another larger form appeared and was clearly running along the same track as the grouse. This was a red fox!

The fox had probably gotten a glimpse of the grouse, lost sight of the bird, then picked up its scent to begin the chase. The grouse felt confident enough it could escape on the ground as the fox was in steady but lagging pursuit.

The bird would take to the air if the fox came within striking distance and barring intervention from a hungry cooper’s hawk, the grouse would enjoy the rest of the day in peace. The fox was on a foolish pursuit chasing an alert grouse. Its hunger in full argument with its experience arrived at a compromise and the chase began in deference to hunger.

I waited another few minutes and couldn’t resist trying to call the fox in. Like magic the fox came running, sat at the edge of the lane in the white snow and stared in my direction for a good minute, stood up and trotted off.

As the fox disappeared in the distant woods I again began to walk down the canopied lane enjoying the snowy woods.

The old logging road weaving through the trees scattered with snow brought the lines from poet Robert Frost to life. From “A road not taken”:

“… and looked down one (road) as far as I could, to where it bent into the overgrowth”.

Then the line from Stopping by the woods on a snowy evening:

“…to watch his woods fill with snow”……

“The only other sound’s the sweep

Of easy wind and downy flake.”

Unwrap the gift of a light November snow and enjoy sights and sounds that have inspired the verse of American Poets.

Author Joe Mish has been running wild in New Jersey since childhood when he found ways to escape his mother’s watchful eyes. He continues to trek the swamps, rivers and thickets seeking to share, with the residents and visitors, all of the state’s natural beauty hidden within full view. To read more of his writing and view more of his gorgeous photographs visit Winter Bear Rising, his wordpress blog. Joe’s series “Nature on the Raritan, Hidden in Plain View” runs monthly as part of the LRWP “Voices of the Watershed” series. Writing and photos used with permission from the author.

Species of the Watershed – American Bittern

By Maya Fenyk (age 12), LRWP youth consultant and “Endangered & Threatened Species” series contributor

 

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American Bittern, by Maya Fenyk (age 12)

Hi! I am Botaurus Lentiginosis but you can call me Anthony, the American Bittern. I live in thick marshy areas that are dense with vegetation, such as wetlands or freshwater marshes. Unfortunately humans have destroyed and drained most of my natural habitat. This act alone almost diminished my population to 0 throughout the first half of the 20th century. Sadly my species faces even more threats to our survival, such as hunting. Even now in the 21st century where we have a lot of environmentalists looking out for us, there still aren’t enough protective measures in place to take us off the Endangered Species list. We are a shy bird, hard to research, and the amount of American Bitterns in New Jersey is still unknown. Scientists aren’t even sure if our population is increasing or decreasing!

Not much can be done by the ordinary citizen to help bring back our population. I would ask, though, that you don’t hunt my species, and if you see me report the sighting to an environmental agency pronto. I also have a favor to ask of the big development companies. Stop developing on wetlands and other habitats of animals! The act of developing on our homes alone severely destroys our species and others alike. But it’s not just for my sake I am saying this, wetlands are a natural barrier between water and other habitats (of animals and humans). And wetlands decrease flooding risk, which could potentially save lives.

If you saw my species regularly, which I doubt since our feathers camouflage us into the reeds of our marshy habitat, you would say we are kind of cute. We are a stocky medium-sized wading bird that is striped white and brown on our heads, neck and upper part of our body for the rest we are light brown. But watch out, even though we are shy and prefer the flight response instead of fight if we are corned we will use our yellow spear-like bill! At each stage of our life cycle we are pretty cute too. We hatch at about 24 days and stay in the nest for 2 weeks but even after we fledge we remain dependent on our mom for food and shelter for another two weeks.

Humans, don’t worry. Even though I have a spear-like bill I won’t eat you. But still, don’t approach me. My species eats small mammals, amphibians, reptiles, crustaceans, mollusks, fish, and insects. And even though I am the Lower Raritan Watershed’s resident American Bittern, my species can be found from Canada to Mexico! Thank you for reading about me today – and please make a pledge that you won’t damage my habitat further, right? Now excuse me I hear a great horned owl – I must hide! Kok-Kok-Kok. (that’s the sound of my call).

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