Working with Wildlife: Protecting Beach Nesting Birds In New Jersey

Written by Christopher Haxter, Seasonal Steward/Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey

Ever since I was young I knew I wanted to work with nature and wildlife.?? As I grew up I learned many species were in trouble and needed our help.?? Imagine my excitement when I got a job working for the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.?? I was hired to manage Hereford Inlet for the summer, between Stone Harbor and North Wildwood.?? This hasn???t been my first experience working with wildlife, last summer I did an internship at the Wetlands Institute in Stone Harbor.?? The focus was on Red Knots and Horseshoe Crabs; I got to be right out on the beach with them.

Piping-plover

Piping Plover returning to its nest. ?? Christopher Haxter.

My first day on the job was the day after my last college final (I just graduated from the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey).?? After I met the people I would be working with for the next few months we were off to set up a predator enclosure.?? This is when I first got to observe a Piping Plover up close.?? To put up a predator enclosure, we needed to cover the nest while we set up the fencing.?? The Piping Plover spent this time trying to draw us away from its nest; their defensive behavior is fascinating. The first thing you notice is the ???peep???, their call to distract you from the nest.?? When you get closer to the nest, the Piping Plover starts exhibiting a behavior called ???broken wing???.?? The goal is to look injured to further distract a predator from their nest.?? Ironically, looking for this behavior is one of the ways we use to find the nests.?? After working this job for a few weeks, I have had the exciting experience of finding a nest quite a few times (including finding oyster catcher nests).

Before the end of my first day I also got to see Stone Harbor Point, the location that I would be focusing on.?? This area is different every year, and this year it is quite large.?? After enough exploring and assembling an accurate map I eventually learned the area well.?? One area of concern I have for the future of the beach nesting birds in Stone Harbor Point is its history of flooding.?? Hopefully the weather and tides will cooperate this summer.?? This job has been an amazing experience so far; and when the eggs start hatching, I can only imagine things getting more exciting.

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