Month: September 2021

Raritan River Pathogens Results for 9.23.2021

Raritan River Pathogens Monitoring 2021 is a wrap!

HUGE gratitude to our amazing team, all our partners, and especially our volunteers. We could not do this without: Michele Bakacs & Rutgers Cooperative Extension, Jessica Bonamusa & Interstate Environmental Commission, Priscilla Oliveria & The Watershed Institute, Jason Acevedo, Frank Dahl, Dorina Cardinale, Andrew Gehman, Janet Kenny Sacklow, Julisa Collado and extra special thanks to our wonderful Spanish language outreach coordinator Jocelyn Palomino!!

Pathogens results for our final day of sampling, Thursday September 23 are as follows:

As always, if you choose to recreate on the water this weekend, stay safe, and be sure to wash your hands!  See here for more information on our pathogens monitoring program.

More flotsam/jetsam from Hurricane Ida. Here we see part of Piscatway’s runaway dock.
Other parts made it 5 miles downstream, and got lodged under the Route 1 Bridge! Photo credit: Monica Orso

We will miss our time in the field. Stay tuned for a results recap in December once we’ve had a chance to finish data entry and analysis.

Our wonderful Outreach Coordinator Jocelyn Palomino, and Rutgers CRSSA Steward Jason Acevedo were the backbone of our 2021 monitoring program. THANK YOU Jocelyn & Jason!!!

Fencing Hummers

Article and photos by Joe Mish

A small patch of red monarda grew wild in one corner of the fenced in garden, survivors of at least one deer who decided their minty flavor to be a perfect palate cleanser.  Much to the dismay of the late season hummingbirds, their over browsed food source left fewer opportunities for nourishment at a critical time, just prior to migration south.

The ownership of this last loaf of bread on the shelf, further intensified the territorial disputes that typically take place among hummers.

A young of the year male was feeding on the monarda, his dining strategy was to circle to the right, probing each scarlet tubule, then pulling back to hover for a moment, before repeating the flight pattern around the next floral head. Suddenly a second immature male appeared and the two began aerial acrobatics almost too fast to follow. Each bird disputed the property claim of the other. After close face to face sparring, they took off out of sight, separated by no more than a few inches.

It was impossible to differentiate one darting hummer from another, though the aggressor appeared to be the same bird, how many different challengers was in question.

Five minutes later another hummer appeared and began to feed with uncharacteristic speed, as if knowingly violating another’s territory, stealing as much as it could before the expected challenge from the self-proclaimed owner.

As expected, the challenge ensued. This time the interloper was inside the garden fence while the claim owner hovered outside the fence. So intense was their dispute, each floated in place commencing an aerial duel, with their needle like beaks, separated by the fence. It was a high noon showdown with unloaded weapons, as neither could be intimidated nor vanquished. The spectacle continued for a full minute until the aggressor realized the futility of his efforts and flew over the wire barrier to engage the trespasser. The two fencers immediately dropped their foils in favor of high aerial maneuvers to settle this territorial dispute.

While most hummingbird disputes consist of posturing, and aggressive aerial pursuits end harmlessly, another unexpected threat targeting hummers lurks among the flowers. The brown Asian preying mantis, an introduced species, will on occasion attempt to take and kill an unsuspecting hummer.  Having read about the relationship of mantis and hummer, it seemed a rare occurrence of low probability until one early September afternoon.

A female hummer was feeding on the blooms of native red cardinal flower. Being aware of how individual hummers have their own feeding strategy, circling always to the right or left, pulling back for a moment before going on to the next flower or just moving on to the next bloom without a slightest hesitation, I noticed something odd about this hummer. She seemed to take sideways glances diverting attention from the business at hand. Sure enough, there was the focus of her attention. A light brown Asian preying mantis whose body length exceeded that of the hummer. Likewise the mantis appeared aware of the hummer and waited to strike. As the hummer worked the flower, she always maintained awareness of the mantis and at one point faced it directly. All ended well for the hummer, though it is easy to imagine a new fledged hummer falling victim to this insect predator.

Two hummers in this image, one perched, the other making an intimidating fly by.

As delicate and diminutive as hummingbirds appear, they are tough, aggressive creatures whose late summer-early fall southward migration defies the imagination. Hummers are as close to magic and myth as anything in nature. The ability to hover and maneuver with almost invisible wings and float in the air probing brilliantly colored flowers, while robed in iridescent feathers that seem more metallic than organic and change color with movement, surely earns mythical status. As is within a hummer’s personality, it will often initiate a face face introduction as it stays suspended in mid air inches from your nose, looking directly in your eyes. It is a wild thought that the hummer has captured the image of your face as readily as you hold his image in memory, to be recalled and reviewed, perhaps in a future pleasant dream, whose memory fades upon waking, leaving only the hint of a smile on your lips.  

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. Contact

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Raritan River Pathogens Results for 9.16.2021

The Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership and Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Middlesex County run a volunteer pathogens monitoring program from May to September every Summer. On Thursdays we collect water quality samples at 6 non-bathing public access beaches along the Raritan River, and report out the results on Friday afternoons.

Monitoring results for yesterday 9.16.2021 show despite relatively little precipitation this week, our numbers (particularly our fecal coliform counts) are stubbornly high. Per EPA standards we base suitable levels for primary contact on enterococci levels, which should not exceed 104cfu/100mL which explains why sites with high fecal coliform have “green smileys”.

With huge thanks to Jocelyn Palomino, Jason Acevedo, Frank Dahl and Doreen Camardi for their tireless volunteerism this Summer! Just two more weeks!

Jocelyn, Doreen and Jason at the Edison Boat Launch site. Where are the docks? We think Hurricane Ida washed them away! Thanks to Frank Dahl for the photo!

As always, if you choose to recreate on the water this weekend, stay safe, and be sure to wash your hands!  See here for more information on our pathogens monitoring program.

Post-Ida Message from LRWP Board

It has been two weeks since Hurricane Ida dumped as much as 8.7 inches on our Lower Raritan communities. Chunks of dried brown-red river sediment still line the edges of Route 18 in New Brunswick. While most area roads function normally, traffic is detoured where rains opened sink holes, exposed failing culverts, and revealed weak spots in critical infrastructure. An abundance of trash, washed in by the deluge, remains along our streams and floodplains. Ida was a wake-up call: to improve our understanding of local hydrology, to identify locations of buried streams before culverts fail, and to respect and protect the flood management services of our floodplains.

Now that most of us have moved past tending the immediate mess of flooded homes and cars, we invite you to get involved with the LRWP to learn how hydrology works in your town, and to join in stewardship to clean up the collective mess Hurricane Ida left behind. Want to know how your town can better manage stormwater and address flooding? Register for our FREE virtual workshop on October 7: “Municipal Actions to Address Stormwater and Flooding.” Are you curious about flood gates, and the pros and cons of natural vs. engineered approaches to flood control? Join us October 3 for our second “walk in the watershed” in Bound Brook with Rutgers Professor David Tulloch, who will lead conversation about how the D&R Canal and the flood gates function in storms. Ready to roll up your sleeves to beautify our floodplains? Register for our September 26 clean-up in Highland Park! (And be sure to save the date for a multi-jurisdiction clean-up in Green Brook scheduled for October 23).

Finally, we encourage you to work with your town to make stormwater, stormwater utilities, and water infrastructure a centerpiece of municipal planning. Is your Environmental Commission or Town Council talking about flooding? Are FEMA floodmaps easy to find on your town’s website? Does your Master Plan consider minimizing upstream/downstream impacts of development on flooding in adjacent municipalities? Does your town have a stormwater education campaign? Is your engineer well versed in the latest water infrastructure best practices? Has your town developed a prioritized list of water infrastructure projects to earmark for American Rescue Plan and/or federal Infrastructure Bill funds? The LRWP website hosts a wealth of resources to help jumpstart these conversations.

See you in the watershed!

Heather Fenyk, President
Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership

9.2 & 9.9 2021 Pathogens Monitoring

The Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership and Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Middlesex County run a volunteer pathogens monitoring program from May to September every Summer. On Thursdays we collect water quality samples at 6 non-bathing public access beaches along the Raritan River, and report out the results on Friday afternoons.

9.2.2021 Due to Hurricane Ida we were completely flooded in. No way in, no way out. Absolutely no way to access any of our sites. In fact, a few of them (at least the docks) may have floated away….

View from Albany Street (Route 27) looking toward Highland Park from New Brunswick. The Hyatt Hotel is on the right, Johnson & Johnson world headquarters on the left.
New Brunswick’s Raritan Landing.

9.9.2021 Raritan River pathogens count for all sites are in the “unsafe” range. In the wake of Hurricane Ida, we struggled to access several of our sites. Water is still high, the riverbanks are a trashy mess, and a few of our docks have floated away or been removed.

As always, if you choose to recreate on the water this weekend, stay safe, and be sure to wash your hands!  See here for more information on our pathogens monitoring program.

Edison Boat Ramp and Docks after Hurricane Ida.

Habitat Connectivity Through Arts and Storytelling

By Anjali Madgula

In the midst of a public health crisis and extreme weather events, green spaces offer both refuge and reflection. During the global pandemic, we’ve embraced parks and shared areas knowing that open air environments can better protect us from airborne viruses.

At the same time, climate change asks us to question the binary narrative of natural versus built environment. Despite our long term trend of fragmenting ecosystems with roads, pavements, and developments in an attempt to separate human spheres and natural spheres, our everyday systems demand a complete infringement of that binary when our trash ends up in rivers and our pollution affects all living beings.

And what about wildlife who find their homes sectioned off by bustling traffic or fish whose travel routes are disrupted by human made barriers and culverts? Watershed volunteers across New Jersey and New York have been using data tools to determine what habitat connectivity restoration could look like to create new passageways and mitigate disrupted ones.

And fortunately, local artists and scholars have been hard at work to tell the story of the past and future within our watershed. Their projects remind us that accessing the narrative of habitat connectivity is very possible when we interrogate our coexistence via art and local knowledge of our natural world. By encouraging meaningful outdoor experiences we can challenge dominant narratives that reduce our natural world to just “scenery” and “background”.

March2RUGardens On September 25th

On September 25th, 2021 from 10 AM to 1 pm, community members will host a march from the Rutgers Cook/Douglass campus to the Rutgers Gardens. Yes, you heard that right! Locationally, Rutgers Gardens is isolated from being accessible to walkers and bikers as it requires travel via highway. The march will take unique routes to advocate for carbon neutral ways for us to reach the beautiful Gardens. As participants take this two mile walk they will be accompanied by incredible live performances of dance, music, and storytelling. Guests will learn from speakers about the history of the land that Rutgers was built on. To register for the event click here. And look out for the LRWP’s informational table at the end of the event!

#lookfortheriver FRAME in New Brunswick’s Boyd Park

The LRWP along with Colab Arts and Rubble R & D have completed our multi-year design and sculpture installation in New Brunswick’s Boyd Park. The FRAME sculpture aims to tell the story of the Raritan River over days, seasons, and years via a crowd-sourced photo database. The floodplain in Boyd Park suffers repeat flood inundation due to climate change and sea level rise. Through repeat digital photography we can understand possibilities for restoration and regeneration along our floodplains. We ask that park visitors participate as civic scientists by sharing their photos on Instagram using the hashtags #lookfortheriver and #lookfortheriverboydpark and tagging us @lookfortheriver.