Annual Earth Day Cleanup and vegan lunch at the Refuge
On April 22, the Refuge will be hosting our annual Earth Day Cleanup. Rain or shine, we will start at 11 AM on Piney Hollow Road, which is a very busy, two-lane road bordering part of the Refuge. Everything you need to help us gather trash will be supplied. Afterwards, volunteers can come to headquarters for a vegan lunch outside by the main pond. Families are welcome. If you have young children, it will be safer to assign you a small section of our boundary trail, instead of the main road.
RSVP by Wednesday, April 19, either to firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling our office number: 856.697.3541. Pictured are some of last year's volunteers who remained cheerful despite the rainy weather.
Thank you to Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics for choosing Unexpected Wildlife Refuge to participate in their Charity Pot grant program for non-profit organizations who are dedicated to conservation and education. Charity Pot is an all-vegan hand and body lotion and all proceeds from the sales of Charity Pot are donated to participating organizations. With this grant, we were able to purchase new spotting scopes, new trail cameras and a new digital camera for the Refuge. The camera was much needed and we hope to increase the quality and quantity of Refuge wildlife photos we share with you, like this one of a belted kingfisher only possible because of the excellent zoom feature. For more information on Lush's Charity Pot giving program visit here.
A 'new' visitor to the Refuge
We were excited recently to see an osprey visiting the main pond. Over several days, I was able to take a few photos while he or she perched, dived and fished the pond. When I examined these photos carefully, I realized that there was distinctively different plumage on the birds in some photos, meaning there were at least two individuals here. Although I have yet to see two flying or fishing together, I am looking forward to this and will share photos if I am lucky enough to get any. This photo shows one of the birds after a successful fishing 'trip'. We, of course, feel sorry for the fish, but we can take comfort in knowing that the animals (and plants) at the Refuge live freely as nature 'intended' and that, unlike us, their dietary choices often of necessity result in one life ending so that another may continue.
Happenings about town
We were pleased to once again participate in the Pine Barrens event, Lines on the Pines, in March. Part of the theme of this year's event was involvement for young people. Apropos for the occasion, we displayed some original coloring pages designed by Refuge co-founder Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci. We also showed some items kids might expect to see during a trip to the Refuge. These included feathers from a wild turkey, a red-tailed hawk and a turkey vulture as well as a small log from a tree long-ago taken down by beavers, with its tell-tale scalloped tooth marks.
Look for us at the Atlantic County Utilities Authority (ACUA) Earth Day Festival, too, on April 23 in Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey.
Great blue heron couple
These great blue herons perched in a tree on a windy day, high above the main pond at the Refuge. They had been very social with each other. I watched them fly around the pond, landing and otherwise spending time together. I have a feeling a clutch of heron eggs is not too far off in the future, maybe even by the time you read this newsletter.
We are always grateful for our wonderful volunteers and the other Pinelands organizations with whom we work. Volunteers, led by Jason Howell of the Pinelands Protection Alliance (PPA), twice helped us with important projects at the Refuge, such as installing much-needed barriers to protect our trails from illegal off-road vehicle use. We gladly reciprocate when we can, joining them on their local projects. Recently, I teamed up with PPA and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Watershed Ambassadors on a joint effort to clean and protect from off-road vehicles a sensitive Pinelands area which is home to some rare and endangered animal and plant species endemic to the New Jersey Pine Barrens. Pictured are two PPA volunteers and me (center).
We also visited with representatives from the Piney Hollow Preserve, which has conservation land in Franklin Township, partly bordering the Refuge. We are making plans to help them protect some sensitive areas from off-road vehicles, which will in turn help protect the Refuge. It's a win-win situation.
Sure signs of spring
There are a few definitive "tells" that spring has arrived. The evenings (and most of each day) are filled with the songs of frogs, hoping to find a mate. From the bogs and wetlands, vernal pools and the main pond, the air is constantly ringing with their singing. Pictured are some of the more vocal residents, a Northern cricket frog, a spring peeper and a leopard frog, the latter hiding from me (mostly) beneath the surface of the water.
We also look forward each year to the emergence of Eastern mud turtles. Prior to winter, they dig into the substrate of their pond or in the soil on land, about three feet deep to be below the frost line, and this is where they hibernate. This one, still covered in sandy soil, had just climbed out of a den and was on her or his way to the pond about 30 feet away. The mud turtle is reputed to be the rarest indigenous turtle in New York state and is listed as endangered in New York and Indiana due to habitat destruction, especially loss and fragmentation of wetlands. We are fortunate to be able to provide a habitat in which these individuals can thrive.
Bat and full moon
Speaking of spring, I was outside recording frog songs during the first full moon of the spring season, known as the "pink moon". Just as I pointed the camera at the moon to get a photo, a bat flew into frame something I could never have planned. Although very difficult to discern, you might be able to see her or him above and to the left of the moon, wings extended, in this color-adjusted version (be sure to click on the image to view the full size). Happy spring!
A selection of favorite trail camera images
Our trail cameras give us an opportunity to get a small glimpse of the wild animals who "call" the Refuge home. Here are three of some recent favorites: a small red fox, photographed one late night by the infrared flash; a Canada goose watched her or his partner graze for food beneath the surface of the pond while a mallard couple swam by; and my all-time favorite, a female turkey in a "selfie", while two males strutted about behind her.
Taunton Lake beavers
A big thank-you to the Taunton Lake Authority in Medford, New Jersey, for being willing to explore humane ways of living peacefully with local beavers who built a small lodge in an out-of-the-way alcove on the lake and were cutting down trees in neighboring yards. We spent the day canoeing on their lake to see first hand what was going on. We then went door-to-door in the community to urge people to champion non-lethal methods of dealing with the 'problems'. In past years, the Lake Authority has trapped and killed beavers who took up residence there. But, because the habitat is suitable for beavers, beavers kept moving in every year, leading to a continuous and brutal cycle of killing. The people are now beginning to understand that not only is this an inhumane approach, it is totally ineffective. Neighbors seemed pleased to see the beavers swimming in the lake and were offered easy and affordable measures to protect trees in their yards. We will keep working with Taunton Lake Authority on humane solutions.
Lots and lots of ducks
We had numerous duck 'visitors' this year! Some just stopped by for a few days and some seem to be determined to make the pond a semi-permanent or permanent home. We have already spotted ring-necked ducks, lesser scaups, wood ducks, American black ducks, mallards and hooded mergansers. Pictured is a hooded merganser couple (you may be able to see the rusty-colored plumage on the female compared with the white-spotted "hood" on the male in front) and a lesser scaup couple who swam wing-to-wing around the pond, even turning in unison.
Continuing reminder about helping us help wildlife today
This Refuge and its nearly 800 acres of rigorously protected habitat, is home and sanctuary for hundreds of animal and plant species; many of the animal species have been here for generations. We depend entirely on the support of our donors for our day-to-day expenses! The Refuge and the wildlife living here could not exist without you. We know that you have limited resources and need to consider which of numerous worthwhile causes to support. We hope, however, that you can again find it possible to give us a donation today of any amount. We need your support right now. Our small operating costs continue to exceed our donations.
Helping wildlife and the Refuge in the future
We remind you to please remember Unexpected Wildlife Refuge when planning your will and estate. It is an easy, effective and lasting way to help the Refuge... and wildlife. When talking with your estate planner, just provide them with our name, address and tax identification number (23-7025010). This is one of the most important gifts the Refuge can receive. If you have already included us in your future plans, thank you!
Our newsletters are the result of a team effort involving people dedicated to protecting wildlife in general and furthering the Refuge in particular:
Unexpected Wildlife Refuge
Mailing address: P.O. Box 765, Newfield, NJ 08344-0765
Web site: http://unexpectedwildliferefuge.org/