It’s hard to imagine the difficulties of people living at latitude 37 degrees north when coming to the equator in northern Brazil. It challenges even the hardiest of biologists. But after three days our team has not only acclimated but accomplished surveys in two separate estuaries.
Ruddy turnstone multiyear flight recorded by a geolocator caught in Maranhoa Brazil.
By Larry Niles, LJ Niles Associates LLC
We leave a cold and dark New Jersey with mixed feelings for our destination to tropical Brazil. It will be warm and sunnyish – though forecasts predict drenching thunderstorms threatening us every day of our trip. We will explore a very new place, the ocean coast of Para, a largely unsurveyed coast known to be a wintering shorebird mecca. At the same time, we will undergo trials experienced by few biologists. Zika is prevalent in Para, but recent cases of malaria are equally alarming. Of course, one must be ever vigilant for food and water pathogens. Last year, I developed food poisoning ending me up in a rural hospital, with a room full of very sick people. On arrival, I wondered what comes next?
A small part of the sprawling city of Sao Jose de Ribamar.
The American Littoral Society needs your help to bag shell for two new intertidal reefs to be built in the Delaware Bay this spring. We have the materials in place, but need some helping hands to fill the bags on Saturday, Jan. 28 & Feb. 25 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Foul weather dates are Sunday, Jan. 29 & Feb. 26. The work will take place at 8779 Berry Ave., Port Norris, NJ.
Google maps: http://ow.ly/gopZ306DRko
The bagged shell will be used at one of the horseshoe crab beach restoration projects along the Delaware Bay. Reefs off those beaches provide calmer waters for horseshoe crab spawning, as well as habitat for juvenile fish and invertebrate species.
The work will take place on the docks of the Maurice River. It will involve cutting and tying bags, filling mesh bags with shells, and stacking the bags. The shell bags will weigh approximately 20 pounds each. The task will be dirty and a bit smelly, so be sure to dress appropriately.
Lunch will be provided for all volunteers.For more information, please contact Quinn Whitesall at Quinn@littoralsociety.org.
Quinn will also be bagging shell on the following Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays (Lunch not provided):
February 1, 2, 7-9, 21-23, 28
March 1, 2, 14-16, 21-23
Bagging will be weather dependent, so please contact Quinn if you plan on attending any of the weekday bagging days.
By Quinn Whitesall, Habitat Restoration Technician, American Littoral Society
On a blustery Saturday morning, fifteen volunteers met Captain Al and the Restoration Team amongst mountains of whelk shell along the Delaware Bay. The goal of 500 shell bags seemed daunting at first, but our crew of volunteers knocked out shell bags at record speed. Volunteers from McGuire-Dix Joint Base and previous reef builders filled the tubes with shells as the kids loaded the truck with completed bags. Truckloads were delivered to the next lot over where 10 empty pallets were waiting. Over half of the ten pallets were completed before we broke for lunch. Volunteers and staff gathered around Captain Al’s truck where cheese pizza from Dino’s awaited them. Captain Al gave a brief talk about the three reefs that have been built already and that these 500 shell bags will go towards the 5,000 bags needed to build two more reefs at Thompsons and Dyers, followed by a thank you for their hard work. As the wind began to pick up, staff and volunteers got back to bagging shells and completing the remaining two pallets, plus a little extra for the next round of shell-bagging. As volunteers finished, they expressed interest in helping to build the reefs come April.
500 bags down, only 4500 bags to go.
You and your family are “whelk-come” to join American Littoral Society and Conserve Wildlife Foundation for our 2nd Annual Veterans Day on the Bay, scheduled for Saturday, November 12 from 11:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. at Moores Beach on the Delaware Bayshore.
This Veterans Day event will dedicate the reef built in April, 2016 at the 2nd Annual Shell-A-Bration, during which volunteers braved the elements and helped build the oyster reef at Moores Beach.
The 1st Annual Veterans Day on the Bay took place on November 11, 2015 at South Reeds Beach. The reef was dedicated to all veterans and highlighted veteran involvement in the effort to restore New Jersey’s Delaware Bayshore. Event attendees honored their own military veterans by inscribing that special person's name on a shell and placing that shell on “Veterans Reef.”
This year we’d like to continue to show our appreciation and mark the progress we’ve made by dedicating another reef to a specific military branch. The 2nd Annual Veterans Day on the Bay, which will feature:
By Emily Hofmann, Project Coordinator, Conserve Wildlife Foundation
Although the weather was on the brink of being rainy and bleak, that did not stop a team of dedicated biologists and volunteers from building an oyster reef on the Delaware Bayshore this past Saturday. Committed volunteers and young people braved the weather to work alongside American Littoral Society and Conserve Wildlife Foundation to build a near-shore oyster reef at Dyers Cove, at the end of Dyers Creek Road in Newport, Cumberland County, New Jersey.
This reef – like the one at South Reeds Beach – was built to protect restoration work done after Hurricane Sandy and provide habitat. Constructed to prevent sand loss from wind-driven waves and create calmer water for spawning horseshoe crabs, this is the third of five such reefs that have been built by the Littoral Society and CWF. The conservation organizations will continue to monitor whether the reef breakwaters help reduce beach erosion and create calmer water for spawning horseshoe crabs.
Due to the heavy rain over the course of the week, the conditions were not ideal. Low-tide never went below waist deep, so it was hard to construct the reef accordingly. But that did not stop the team!
"Every oyster reef we’ve built so far on the Delaware Bay incorporated a different restoration strategy. We have had to adapt new strategies with what has worked best in the past and with what will realistically work based on site conditions. By blending the successes from the previous reefs with innovative approaches, we have been able to construct three reefs to date,” said Capt. Al Modjeski, Habitat Restoration Program Director for the American Littoral Society.
The bayshore beaches need restoration and improved resiliency so that horseshoe crabs have proper breeding grounds. Crab eggs feed migratory shorebirds, like the Red Knot, which stops in New Jersey each spring on its long journey from South America to the Arctic Circle. The Red Knot and other shorebirds help bring $11 million in tourist dollars to New Jersey’s Delaware Bayshore region each year.
"New Jersey's Delaware Bayshore hosts an annual wildlife spectacle of global significance - the time-honored migration of Red Knots to reach the eggs of these ancient horseshoe crabs," said David Wheeler, Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey Executive Director. "Volunteer projects like this help connect the people of New Jersey with these endangered shorebirds and the largest population of horseshoe crabs in the world.”
“Originally, this event was a bare-bones volunteer effort of placing shell bags off the Dyers Cove eastern beach," said Capt. Al. "But thanks to a donation from Betancourt, Van Hemmen, Greco & Kenyon, we will have a ‘shell-a-bration’ that celebrates the ecology and community of the Delaware Bayshore."
In 2015, over 130 volunteers and veterans built an oyster reef at South Reeds Beach in the first annual Shell-a-Bration. That same year, Veterans Day on the Bay dedicated the reef to all veterans and highlighted veteran involvement in the effort to restore New Jersey's Delaware Bayshore. The second annual Shell-a-Bration, held in April 2016, saw a handful of dedicated volunteers brave a blizzard to build a reef at Moore's Beach. The third annual Shell-Bration will be held this coming Spring 2017.
"There are many strategies to defend our Delaware Bayshore, but one of the best and most productive are these oyster reefs," stated Dr. Larry Niles, a biologist with the American Littoral Society and Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey. "They not only replicate a lost but important habitat on Delaware Bay - reefs once covered much of the bayshore - but they provide just enough protection to make a difference in how long our beaches persist against the unrelenting forces of nature. In a way, we are fighting nature with nature."
By: Quinn Whitesall, Habitat Restoration Technician, American Littoral Society
Wednesday, September 7th was off to a bit of a rough start. The docks at Smokey's Marina were rocking and rolling as the waves crashed on the boat ramp, leftover effects of Hermine. The DelBay Restoration team came to a quick decision that it would be best to use a different boat ramp for the day. Although it put quite a delay in our start time, launching from Matt's Landing was quite a bit easier than tackling the ramp at Smokey's. Although the water was calm down the winding Maurice River, the team was met with white caps and rolling waves as the River met the Bay. After a slow, rocking ride to the reef, traps were dropped about an hour before high tide. While the traps soaked, the team took cover in a nearby creek where the water was calm. Due to fear of low water at the boat ramp, the team had to pull the traps early and alas, only a few Atlantic blue claw crabs were recovered.
The team was greeted with calm water and the infamous double-crested cormorants at Smokey's Marina the following day. It was smooth sailing for the DelBay team as they made their way out to the reef and the remaining four traps were pulled with ease. Several feisty Atlantic blue claw crabs were retrieved from the traps, including a few juveniles and one soft shell. A lonely silver perch was identified on the outer reef block that day. As the season starts to change, we hope for a more diverse set of fish.
By: Quinn Whitesall, Habitat Restoration Technician, American Littoral Society
On Friday of Labor Day Weekend, I ventured down to the Bay to capture before photos of the restored beaches prior to Hermine. At that time, the path of Hermine was unsure and hitting the Delaware Bay was a possibility. Thankfully, the Delaware Bay area was safe as the storm took a turn out to sea and only left us with an ocean-like surf and some gusty winds. The following Tuesday, I visited those same beaches to see any possible “after” effects. Although the wind was whipping and the waves were surging, our beaches looked practically untouched.
South Reeds: Post-Hermine, the beach appears to have some cutouts in the sand, but not much in the way of erosion. There was a build up of sand in front of the bulkhead near the beach entrance. The waves at Reeds were very violent with about 1.5-2ft waves surging the length of the beach, except in front of the reef. It is rare that we get to witness these kinds of conditions at the reef (although we have a wave attenuator that tracks this data), but the waves were actually a bit calmer in front of the reef and only reached about a foot in height. Due to extra high water, I was unable to explore the conditions of the reef post-Hermine. A reef update will be posted shorlty.
Cooks: Post-Hermine, the water was extremely high even though I was there about 2 hours prior to high tide. The only damage present was in the front of the parking area, the berm had been completely washed over.
Kimbles: No evidence of erosion post-Hermine, just a very high and thick wrack line. Although I was there 2 hours prior to high tide, the water level was very high and had almost completely washed over the southern end of the beach. The berm in front of the parking area was fully intact and looked untouched.
Moores: There were no signs of erosion as a result of Hermine. The beach and parking area did not suffer any damage. Due to the extreme tide, I was unable to take any pictures of our newest reef post-Hermine. But prior to the storm, the reef seemed to be holding up well with a lot of sediment accruing around each reef block, creating small lagoons where we often find juvenile fish. An update on the condtion of the reefs post-Hermine will be posted shortly.
By: Captain Al Modjeski, Habitat Restoration Director, American Littoral Society
On Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, the Society’s Delaware Bay Restoration Team began trapping for fish on Veteran’s Reef located slightly offshore S. Reeds Beach. As one of the crew said as we headed out from Smokey’s Marina, “ the bay looks like one of the Windows 98 Screensavers. It is so beautiful”. And it truly was a beautiful site. The heat wave had finally passed for the moment, the seas were gentle, and there was enough of a breeze to keep the greenheads partially at bay. Bug spray was still a welcome commodity.
Our 19 foot skiff, the R/V Great Auk, was recently de-winterized and was handling beautifully in the semi-glass conditions. We were able to position ourselves over the reef easily as we deployed 9 fish traps on and off the reef site. Besides myself, Shane our Habitat Restoration Coordinator, and Quinn, our Habitat Restoration Technician; we had a new crew member named Jack. Jack is going to be a senior at the Marine Academy of Science and Technology located on Sandy Hook and is working with Capt. Al and others on his senior project about reef biodiversity. He will be a familiar face at many of the sampling events in Delaware Bay and is learning a lot from all of our project team about ecological relationships between bay communities.
Once the traps were set, we had about 4 hours before we could retrieve the inshore traps. We leave the offshore traps set for 24 hours but pull the inshore traps since that reef segment will be exposed during low tide. This gave us time to try a new sampling method and to determine if we include it in future sampling efforts. Tides were at 7’ so we had an idea and opportunity to try. We had borrowed a 16’ otter trawl from our Fish Tagging Program and were curious if we could successfully deploy the gear and catch fish at a control site and then between the reef. I also wanted to figure out a good tow speed. Though we did not catch anything during the first tow, we lengthened our tow lines and increased our speed for the next tow. It was good to know that two people could deploy and retrieve the net easily. As the cod end of the net neared the side of the boat during our second tow, we could feel that it had a little weight and movement to it. As we released the cod end, out fell some small striped bass, a few peanut bunker (menhaden), some blue crabs, Atlantic silversides, and bay anchovy. This tow allowed us to figure out a good towing speed and also proved that we could incorporate this method into our sampling program when able. I was curious if we would catch more than 5 different species between the reefs but would not find out this go around. Shane reminded us that there were still racks in-between the reefs and that they would need to be removed before we could attempt a reef tow. Luckily, they should be removed by the next sampling event so stay tuned to see if there is a difference in species abundance between the reef and the control site.
As we neared the time to retrieve our traps, we took a quick trip through the adjacent salt marsh along Bidwells Creek and saw terrapins, a bald eagle, numerous egrets and noisy willets, and a few great blue herons. We also saw common and royal terns on the open water as we headed back to the traps. We got mostly blue crab in our traps that soaked for 4 hours. In our traps soaked for 24 hours we caught blue crabs and one silver perch. I am still curious on what we may get if we decide to trawl there.
"Our work on the bayshore is not just about wildlife, it’s about people, and how keeping nature strong keeps us all strong in the face of disasters like hurricanes."
We want to ensure that New Jersey's Hidden Coast remains a vital part of our livelihood for generations to come.
This is the final episode to our video series, "New Jersey's Hidden Coast." Catch a glimpse of the Bay, the horseshoe crab at the center of the bay's system, and the incredible relationship between horseshoe crabs and migratory birds, like the red knot. We reveal the real value of horseshoe crabs, the challenges to the ecosystem, and the potential for thriving regional economy along the Bayshore. We will show Hurricane Sandy as a catalyst for decisive action and the work being done to rebuild the area for both people and wildlife.
Catch up on the previous episodes, here on our blog or on YouTube. Explore the use of "living shorelines" instead of bulkheads and the importance of marshes to the marine ecosystem. Discover the on-the-ground, grassroots efforts of the community to build oyster reeds alongside veterans. And examine the future of the Bay and the work that needs to be done to preserve our conservation successes year after year.