Eagle Egg-Laying Lowdown

Nora Wagner, Duke Farms

In a wicked lightning storm, it’s really tough being the tallest tree in an area surrounded by flat land. It’s good for Bald eagles, but not so good for video and camera equipment. Even with lightning and surge protection, the cam takes a beating whenever a bad storm rolls through Duke Farms like the one two weeks ago.  After troubleshooting and systematically replacing parts, we finally were able to get the cam back on the air. We let out a sigh of relief… and within a nanosecond, one word escaped our lips…”eggs?!”

The nest does not have eggs yet. What does this mean? We were bursting with questions, so went straight to the source of all things Bald Eagle in New Jersey: Biologist Kathy Clark from the State of New Jersey Fish and Wildlife’s Endangered and Nongame Species Program (ENSP). Here’s a summary of the exchange:

Q: Kathy, it looks like we’re pretty late on the eagle egg laying, although the latest egg in years past was laid on 3/22 in 2005. At what point does one make the observation that it looks like the eggs will not be laid this year?

A: Only time will tell, but March is definitely the deciding month.  Getting a late start, or laying a second clutch after the first fails, usually result in lower than average nest success.  If they don’t lay any eggs by the end of March, they are not likely to nest this year.  

Q: We’ve been reading the yearly NJ Bald Eagle ReportIs the technical term for this no egg situation “unsuccessful”? what’s the difference between “unsuccessful” and “failed”?

A: Both those terms refer to a nest that is active – eggs are laid.  When a pair is present at a nest but does not lay eggs, we call it territorial. That’s the category the Duke Farms nest will be in if they don’t lay eggs. 

Q: Just because they didn’t lay an egg this year does not mean that it’s going to trend this way, correct? There’s still hope for next year, right?

A: Correct.  It appears there are two things happening:  a territorial battle that has gone on longer than usual, and the time required for pair bonding between the new(?) female and the established male. 

Q: It’s pretty late this year if they continue to lay an egg. Are eagle egg laying times trending later or earlier or do they pretty much the same time each year?

A: I don’t think we have any significant trend either way.  As the population grows, we have a broader range of initiation. Picture a bell curve, with the majority of nest initiations in the first-second week of February, with the earliest in the first-second week of January and the latest in mid-March.  Established pairs tend to begin around the same date every year, but a change in mates (with or without territorial battles) will often result in a change in date. 

So, there you have it – we still have a chance for eggs this year. A chance that is decreasing by the day, but it’s still there. Let’s hope!

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Help! I Can’t Access the Eagle Cam in my Classroom!

by Nora Wagner, Director, Programs and Strategic Planning

Technology is a wonderful tool for educational purposes. Our eagle cam is a great example of the power of technology addressing a variety of research and educational objectives and is an innovative tool for learning about animal behavior.

However, schools have a responsibility to protect our children from content that is… hmmmm… let’s say “not so educational”. Anyone who works in a school, or has children in school knows that network security settings are high, blocking inappropriate content from young minds.

There seems to be a huge surge in schools using Google’s G-Suite for Education (previously known as Google Apps for Education), a cloud-based network which provides Information Services Administrators a whole slew of security tools. Set the security settings high, and this results in 95% of online videos blockedIncluding our eagle cam

Fear not! This post is to help you out.

We collected information and advice for you, which you can share with your network administrators:

  1. First – call your help desk or information technology (IT) staff. They may know exactly what to do and can quickly go into G-Suite settings and work their magic.
  2. If your IT group does not know how to address this, then share these step by step guides with them:
    1. Guide to Adding YouTube Video and Approvers 
    2. Give Unrestricted YouTube Access 
    3. Manage Approved YouTube Videos and Channels
  3. If the above links do not help, ask your IT staff to contact Google G Suite Support directly for technical assistance. They should be able to walk the IT staff through the process of unleashing the power of our Eagle Cam page or other educational YouTube videos. They can call Google at 1-877-355-5787 or email  them.

Hope this helps all of you wonderful teachers out there. Keep up the great work!


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At the Nest: Our Pair is Back Together!

Nora Wagner, Director, Programs and Strategic Planning

After yesterday’s drama with an intruder female Bald eagle on the nest, it appears that the previous Bald eagle female is still defending her nest and back to mating and nest tending with the male.


The female hovers ahead, waiting for the intruder female to leave the nest.                         Photo courtesy of Jill Brown


The intruder female left, our couple is back together!  Photo courtesy of Brett McClellan.


In other news, the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey had an update today about Duke Farms Alumni “Tiny” D/94:


Image of C/94 and new female 2/5/2017@Cyndi Pratt Didan

Zoom+ C/94 and new female 2/5/2017 @Cyndi Pratt Didan



“We have been following one of DF’s chicks banded in May 2009. He has been nesting in CT and his mate was a banded bird from MA. Cyndi Pratt Didan who reports on the pair, has now seen “Tiny” with a new female with a green band. So it appears the new female is also a Jersey bird. We haven’t yet been able to read the code on her band but hope to in the future, so we’ll know when and where she was banded. So a bit of drama up in CT also, we’ll continue to report on “Tiny” and his new mate.”


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Breaking News: New Female in the Nest!

Nora Wagner, Director, Programs and Strategic Planning

This morning we heard from a few Duke Farms eagle cam viewers that perhaps there was a new female eagle in the nest.


Our manager of stewardship, Charles Barreca emailed the state biologists to get their thoughts:

“Some of the viewers remarked that the nest has a new female. I zoomed in and she has dark spots in her tail and head, different from the “old” female. Viewers are also saying she is very dominant. I don’t recall this bird being in the nest months ago, is it possible she evicted the old female?”


A dominant female taking over the female position in the nest?! Who needs reality television when nature is so amazingly entertaining?!

The state biologist quickly returned our email. To summarize her response, YES, it appears to be a new female. She possibly won a battle (!) or the previous female got injured or died in some other way. The new female appears to be approximately 5 years old based on tail, head and beak coloring. They have been mating away for the past few days.

It looks like we are at the beginning of a very exciting season!


Beak coloring showing new female, approximately 5 years old. Note the dark spots on the head indicating a younger female is now in the nest.


The birds do it, the bees do it, even Duke Farms Eagles do it! This photo is of Female #2 and the male, not the new female. (screen shot copywrite courtesy of Jill Brown)








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New Era of Sustainable Farming at Duke Farms

As Duke Farms recently began to refocus and shift our farming operations, it was essential to determine how a “new” farming program will operate and to identify the specific strategies and actions that can be taken to develop a truly sustainable farming venture.

To best understand the direction and mission of the sustainable agricultural program at Duke Farms, it is critical that we look to historical and agricultural land use to understand the present conditions and how to move forward in the future.

Historical/Agricultural Land Use at Duke Farms

The land on which Duke Farms exists has a long history of agriculture. The precolonial landscape was not an unmanaged “Eden” as is often promulgated.  Indigenous peoples of North America “managed” the landscapes to benefit first their hunting and gathering lifestyle and later small-scale farming.  The Naraticong Tribe of the Lenni-Lenape once peopled the land.  They lived in small, semi-permanent villages and were as much farmers as hunters.  They first Europeans farmers in New Jersey were the Dutch and Walloons in New Netherland on the west bank of the Hudson and the Swedes and Finns near the Delaware River and Bay.  The Dutch migration up the Raritan River began in the late 1660’s, where they began to clear larger acreage in the floodplains and beyond.  The rich soils of the riparian clearings were prime land to produce crops on while the uplands of the Raritan Valley had much lower quality red shale soils.  Once the forests were removed, the fertility that resided in the woodland soil was quickly depleted by the middle of the eighteenth century except for in floodplains which had occasional fresh silt laid down by receding floodwaters.  By the 1840’s, the growing use of factory-made agricultural machinery increased farmer’s need for cash and encouraged commercial farming which further taxed the land.



1860 Farm Map, Courtesy of Rutgers Special Collections


First, it is important to understand the paradigm of farming at Duke Farms.   What is the current paradigm in farming and does it make sense for to follow that paradigm here at Duke Farms?  The current paradigm in the US farming is one that relies on large machinery and chemical, petroleum-based fertilizers and has been the modus operandi since the 1940’s. This style of farming is extractive and damages natural capital (soil fertility, beneficial insect populations, surface and groundwater quality, etc.).  Therefore, Duke Farms has a farming operation that produces healthy food using farming techniques that protect the environment, public health, human communities, wildlife habitat and domestic animal welfare.  This form of agriculture allows production of healthful food without compromising future generations’ ability to do the same.

Once this paradigm shift was identified, the purpose of the agricultural program at Duke Farms was created – the development and maintenance of a vigorous, economically viable farming operation that conserves and restores wildlife and natural resources while respecting ecological principles.  This is important for many reasons but is critical for Duke Farms to honor the will and instructions left by Doris Duke.  In  referring to the “agricultural lands”,  Doris Duke’s  will explicitly states, “In all events, I direct that this property be used solely for agricultural and horticultural purposes, including research, and that this property be used for the exclusive purpose of maintaining and protecting the wildlife located on the property.”  The intent of the program is to stay in keeping with our benefactor’s intent.

Which leads us to the principles/philosophies of the Duke Farms agricultural program.The major guiding principles include:

  • All farming activities at Duke Farms will build soil and not be extractive. (soil health)
  • All farming activities at DF will be wildlife-friendly and promote biodiversity
  • Transfer of Knowledge – All farming activities shall strive to be economically-viable so that the lessons may be shared with others
  • Integrated Pest, Disease and Weed Management -minimize toxics, and maximize the use of organic or biodynamic methods
  • Conserve Natural Resources (soil, water, energy, genetic resources, etc.)
  • Properly Manage Ecological Relationships
  • Diversify (agricultural practices, economics)
  • Manage Whole Systems
  • Maximize Long-Term Benefits
  • Follow Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic

What good are these principles and philosophies without a formal program that models and teaches these best management practices to our agricultural practitioners? Our mission at Duke Farms is to serve as a leader in in environmental stewardship and sustainability while inspiring people to become informed stewards of the land. In sustainable agriculture, this means that we need to educate and support our beginning sustainable farmers. One of these ways we do so is through the Sustainable Farming Enterprise. Keep reading as we explore this program the upcoming weeks.



Western grassland fields are home to both wildlife and grazing cattle




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Farm Market Recipe: Orange Hibiscus Tea and Orange Blossom Biscuits


Image result for orange tea

Winter Pick-Me-Up: Orange Hibiscus Tea


Come February, the winter can feel long and the sight of snow doesn’t quite have the same charm it did around Christmas. Although it’s not possible to pick fresh produce from outside in your garden, if you preserve different products through the year you can definitely brighten up menus with local produce. You can dry your own herbs, flowers, and fruits when they’re in season and save them for making great teas during months like these. For this tea, we are featuring a light and fruity Blueberry Blossom Honey from Wolgast Tree Farm and Apiary.  Pair this tea with Orange Blossom Butter Cookies for a tasty winter treat.

Orange Hibiscus Tea

Featuring Blueberry Blossom Honey from Wolgast Tree Farm and Apiary

1 cup water

1/4 cinnamon stick

1 TB dried hibiscus flowers

1 tsp grated orange zest (no pith)

1 tsp honey

Boil water and turn off. Pour over cinnamon stick and hibiscus. Steep 3-5 minutes and add orange zest. Strain and sweeten with honey.

Orange Blossom Butter Cookies

1 cup butter

1 cup cane sugar

1 egg

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp orange blossom water

1/4 tsp salt

Cream butter and sugar together for 3 minutes. Add egg, vanilla, orange blossom water, and salt and mix. Add flour and mix just until incorporated. Roll into logs in plastic wrap or wax paper. Chill for at least 1 hour. Chill cookie sheets and preheat oven to 400°F. Cut with knife into 1/4 thick cookies. Bake 8-10 minutes or until golden around edges. Cool on wire rack.

Recipe by: Chef Josh Falzone


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Rare Bird Alert!

By Thom Almendinger, Director, Stewardship and Agroecology

Yesterday morning, I received a text from a colleague at work that a friend was looking at a Townsend’s warbler (Setophaga townsendi) moving about in the bioswales and rain gardens in the parking lot.  I abruptly ended the meeting. I was in to rush outside to see it for myself.

Why would I be so excited over a 5-inch diminutive bird?  Because it is an extremely rare visitor to the east coast.  In fact, as of 2015, the NJ Bird Records Committee stated there are only 14 accepted records of the species ever recorded in the state.

The Townsend’s warbler breeds in coniferous forests of the Pacific Northwest from Alaska to Oregon and in the high Sierra Nevada Mountains of California and usually winters along the coast of California south through montane forests in Mexico and Central America.

Our little visitor to Duke Farms, which appears to be a hatch-year female, is the first of its kind documented in Somerset County.

The real message to me wasn’t necessarily that this wayward bird found his way to Duke Farms but that when she did, the habitat value of our parking area was high value enough that she chose to utilize the area for the past few days along with a very late Northern oriole and orange-crowned warbler.  Habitat can exist in even the most unlikely areas and if done correctly can add to a properties wildlife value.


Photo courtesy of Jeff Ellerbusch. Bruce McWhorter made the initial discovery of this rare bird at Duke Farms.




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First Frost & Farewell to the Monarchs!


This week we saw our first hard frost in New Jersey and with that an official “Goodbye” & “Adios” to our beloved Danaus plexippus, aka Monarch Butterfly. These animals go through an amazing metamorphosis and take part in one of the world’s most interesting migrations, traveling over 2,000 miles to the Oyamel Fir forests of Mexico. (Read more about their journey in our previous post about Monarch Migration)

Starting off as an egg about the size of a grain of salt, each instar of caterpillar that hatches will eat the exoskeleton of the stage that it just molted out of. Once these hungry caterpillars go through five major stages of growth they enter into a pupal stage and form into a chrysalis. These bright green and gold-accented gems are what visitors see when they check out our butterfly house inside the Farm Barn Orientation Center. If you were lucky enough to get here this year you know what I mean, and if not there is always next year.

We reared, tagged, and released over 100 Monarchs this year at the orientation center, each time educating visitors on the issues that these critters face upon leaving the sanctuary that we created for them. Working meticulously on creating time-lapse footage of the lifecycles for a few months, we eventually got some really great footage that can be seen here and here.

These incredible insects are a great way for us to educate visitors on sustainable gardening/lawn care practices that they can take back home with them. Using our butterfly garden as a demonstration as well, visitors can see the beauty and benefits that these plants will offer them at home.  Our TALON guests also had a great day learning about the Monarchs and the role that our meadows play in their lifecycle. Monarchs must stop every 20-30 minutes along their migration to feed from the nectar of flowers, so they have to beat the frost on their way down to Mexico.

So we say to all of the Monarchs that passed through here, “Adios and Goodbye”.

See you later for now, and looking forward to meeting your relatives in the years to come!

– Jon Dugan, Duke Farms


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Farm Market Recipe of the Week: Kimchi

Image result for kimchi

Kimchi is an old technique from Korea for fermenting seasonal vegetables. It is commonly done for preservation, usually with a base of Napa cabbage, ginger, and hot peppers with salt and sugar. This recipe is not actually fermented, but will still maintain some probiotic qualities by using raw apple cider vinegar. This recipe will not have the fishy yeast smell that turns some noses away either. Much to the contrast, it has very fresh flavor – from the bite of the ginger to the tingle of the hot pepper. The cabbage will still be slightly crunchy and the herbs will brighten the flavor. The fresh ginger, cabbage, and hot pepper were proudly sourced from Harvest Moon Organic Farm.

 2 heads Napa cabbage, rough chop

2 ea. hot peppers, minced

1 thumb fresh ginger, minced

2 carrots, shredded

1 bu. scallion

1 bu. cilantro

2 oz. apple cider vinegar (raw)

2 oz. rice vinegar

4 oz. sweet chili sauce

1 TB fish sauce

kosher salt

cane sugar

 Season cabbage with salt and let sit for a 1/2 hour. Pour off extra liquid. Add remaining vegetables. Chop herbs and add to vegetables. Add sauces and mix. Season to taste with salt and sugar. Will maintain freshness in the refrigerator for 1 week.

REMINDER! This THURSDAY, OCTOBER 27 will be the last day our seasonal farm market is running.

Thank you so very much for your support in 2016.

See you soon.

Recipe by: Chef Josh Falzone

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Recipe of the Week – Plus Bonus Recipe!

This week are featuring both mustard greens from Harvest Moon Organic Farm as well as handpicked apples from Alstede Farms. My goal is that you enjoy the mustard greens as much as the apple crisp!

 As the weather cools, the conditions are perfect for greens to grow. Mustard greens are naturally more tender and less bitter than collards, especially during the cooler weather. In this recipe, they are cooked briefly and cooled to maintain color and bright flavor.

When apple picking, whether from the orchard or the market, remember to pick an apple that does well for baking like Braeburn, Jonagold, or Honey Crisp.

Apple Crisp

Image result for apple crisp

Mmm, the perfect fall comfort food!



6 apples, peeled and sliced

2 oz. apple cider

1 TB corn starch

1 TB ground cinnamon

½ tsp. ground allspice

1 pinch cloves

Toss all ingredients together and set aside.


1 cup almond flour

1 cup old fashioned oats

½ cup maple syrup

1 TB cinnamon

4 TB salted butter, softened

Mix all ingredients together until crumbly. Preheat oven to 350F. Coat baking dish with cooking spray. Layer apples on bottom of dish. Sprinkle crumbs evenly over top. Bake for 30 mins or until apples are tender and crumbles are golden brown.

 Mustard Greens with Red Wine Onions and Crispy Bacon

Image result for mustard greens with bacon

Good and good for you!


 2 bunches mustard greens

2 sweet onions

2 oz. olive oil

16 oz. red wine

1 lb. thick cut bacon

Salt and pepper

Boil salted water. Pick out any thick stems from mustard greens and dispose of them. Briefly dip greens in boiling water for 15-20 seconds or until just cooked through. Remove and shock in ice-water; drain. Set aside.

Peel and julienne onions. Sweat down in olive oil until translucent. In separate sauce pan, reduce red wine to 2 oz. Add onions and reduce any remaining liquid. Set aside.

Small dice the bacon. Add a little olive oil and water and cook over medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon until bacon is crispy. Add all ingredients together and heat. Season with salt and pepper.

Recipe by consultant chef Josh Falzone. 

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