In 2007 Team Habitat completed three wildlife habitat projects in New Jersey establishing areas of warm season grasses to promote habitat for ground nesting birds. Planted projects included the Willow Oak natural area for the City of Vineland, a private farm in Somerset County, and the land adjacent to the Cranbury Elementary School. These plantings are all considered successful.The Team Habitat success continued in 2008. Warm season grasses (seeds shown below left) were planted on four sites in Burlington, Mercer, and Somerset counties.
In March, we planted a warm season grass mix on a 32 acre parcel of the Pemberton township high school in Burlington County. We partnered with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, who provided seed and planting equipment.
Most warm-season grasses have small and/or fluffy seeds that require the use of a specialized seed drill. This drill is outfitted with picker wheels in the seed box that stir the seed and push it down into the large diameter drop tubes.
Rick Parenteau is using such a seeder in the photo to the right.
While in Burlington County, we also planted a 1.6 acre buffer on the Paradise Hill Farm. The buffer was planted to create a transition from a 50 acre field to a large wooded area that surrounds the Rancocas Creek.
In May, we traveled to a Somerset County farm to plant more warm season grasses. Team Habitat's success is amply demonstrated by the photo to the right.
Warm season grasses are tall grasses that grow during the heat of the summer, when cool season grasses (think lawn grasses) are going dormant. Warm season grasses contain a better habitat and food for wildlife, because they do not mat down like cool season grasses. Other important differences between warm season grasses and cool season grasses are outlined in this factsheet from the Maryland Natural Resource Conservation Service.
Warm season grasses are especially important for grassland birds as described by this publication from Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.
But more importantly, wildlife is actively using the site. Some of the denizens of this farm, enjoying improved habitat. Box turtles search for open sandy grounds for nesting, which grasslands and plowed fields provide.
The swallows are called tree swallows because they’re cavity nesters that occur in early successional habitats (like bluebirds). Habitat destruction is the biggest problem facing box turtles. Woodlands converted into farmland have reduced the turtles range in many US states. Remaining land is often fragmented with roads and housing projects, breaking up the animals' habitat. As they try to cross manmade additions, turtles are often killed by cars, animals, and other dangers.
Lastly, we planted a small field behind the Mercer County Soil Conservation District office. Besides actual plantings, members of Team Habitat have been “beating the bush” drumming up more projects. In this vein South Jersey RC&D council man, Mike Kerbowski, is spearheading a group effort to bring quail back to the garden State.
This group, called the “Quail Project” have enlisted support from wildlife groups, the New Jersey State Fish and Wildlife Service, and landowners in Salem County comprising thousands of acres. The group hopes to promote large scale quail habitat restoration projects. Already, they have completed one 63 acres project on the Waste Management property in Westville, Gloucester County.
Remember! — Planting creates grassland habitats for wildlife.
In addition, the South Jersey Resource Conservation and Development Council applied for a Delaware Estuary grant this summer to receive fund to hire a part time Team Habitat manager. With these funds, we hope to grow the program to where we plant hundreds of acres of wildlife habitat each year, and allow us to purchase additional equipment.
You may contact Team Habitat at: South Jersey RC&D, Columbus USDA Service Center, 1971 Jacksonville-Jobstown Road, Columbus, NJ 08022
Phone: 609-267-1639 x110