Coming Monday: A New Season of Bald Eagle Blog Posts

Screen Shot 2016-02-12 at 7.50.51 AMDuke Farms is pleased to announce that nature writer Jim Wright will again be filing weekly updates and other  informative posts on Duke Farms’ Bald Eagles for this nesting season.

Jim’s first post will appear Monday  morning– with an overview of the Duke Farms nest and the brand-new high-definition Eagle Cam.

The screenshot above was taken this morning at 7:45 a.m. Until the first egg arrives — quite possibly within the week (fingers crossed) — early morning is often the best time to see the eagles at the nest.

You can watch the new Eagle Cam here.

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Coach Barn Weathervane Restored


As part of the Coach Barn restoration project, Duke Farms has restored the weathervane on top of the clock tower to its original condition. Working with Duke University’s David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library, we were able to locate a copy of the original architectural drawing of the weathervane (below), dating from the 1890’s. We worked with Belcher Roofing and A.C. Gentry to restore as much of the existing weathervane as possible.

coach barn weather vane KTS drawing

After removing the weathervane from the tower and comparing it to the original drawing we realized that the North “N” directional indicator was missing, a small ball finial was missing from the top, and the “vane” portion of the weathervane had been modified. The bearings and the assembly where the weathervane spins were also worn out and had to be replaced. As our architect was inspecting it, she saw small specks of gold and realized that the indicators had been gilded, although there was no indication of this on the original plans.

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Belcher Roofing and A.C. Gentry then used the original drawing to re-create the distinctive “D” vane and an “N” directional indicator. They also fabricated a new durable bearing assembly and installed a ball finial at the top. Finally, they applied gold leaf to all of the directional indicators.
The weathervane was “flown” by crane and installed on the top of the clock tower where it will remain for (hopefully) the next 120 years.

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Update on Duke Farms’ Coach Barn Restoration Project


The first phase of the restoration of the Coach Barn at Duke Farms has been steadily proceeding and is set for completion early in 2016.

The Coach Barn was constructed in 1899, and was  the first structure  built at Duke Farms by James Buchanan “Buck” Duke. The Coach Barn, like other iconic structures at Duke Farms, was designed by the architecture firm Kendall Taylor and Stevens. With its distinctive clock tower and rustic walls made from locally quarried fieldstone, it set the architectural tone for many of the subsequent buildings at Duke Farms.

The first floor consists of stables, a garage, the former office of Buck Duke and the main court containing four large murals of hunting scenes from around the world. The second floor houses a hay loft and former apartment for the chauffeur. The clock tower contains the original clock mechanics that still maintain the precise time since the original installation. Adjacent to the clock tower is a porte-cochère that was used for automobiles. There is a full basement that houses many of the original “shops” that were used by the workers who built Duke Farms, many of which are still in use today.

The Duke Farms Foundation is nearing the end of the first phase restoration of this historic building. This phase has included replacement of the original slate roof and cedar-shake siding, restoring and repainting the windows, and repairing the masonry on the clock tower. The materials which are being used are historically accurate and durable   (e.g. Buckingham slate from Virginia, stainless steel fasteners, and thick gauge copper), and the new roof is expected to last even longer than the original.

During this process Duke Farms will continue to use the best historical restoration practices. The original decorative copper from finials and ridges will be re-used wherever possible, the original weather vane on the clock tower will be repaired, and the clock itself will be refurbished by the same company contracted to refurbish the clock at Independence Hall in Philadelphia. In addition, the masonry repointing of the stone tower will be accomplished after a thorough analysis of the mortar originally used.

In accordance with Duke Farms’ mission of environmental stewardship, the project will use sustainable building practices throughout the restoration. Insulation is being installed between the decking and the slate shingles to help reduce long term energy use. Old slate will be crushed and used as road base or clean fill, and the metal from nails and old flashing will be recycled.

With these practices already in place Duke Farms all future projects will be performed with the same standards for restoration and waste removal.

Duke Farms is very excited about reopening up this magnificent structure for public programs sometime in the spring of 2016. In the interim, visitors can see the progress which is being made on the project, which is clearly visible just a short walk or bike ride away from the Visitors Center.

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Duke Farms: A Different Kind of Farm

2015 posterDuke Farms’ mission is to serve as a model of environmental stewardship and inspires visitors to become informed stewards of the land. One of the ways we achieve this mission is by connecting and educating our visitors on local food systems. When you know where your food comes from and how farmers work the land to grow products, you can truly appreciate the connection between stewardship practices and healthy food.

Want to know a few ways that you can support local food production while visiting Duke Farms? Here are 3 simple ways:

  1. Support the Farm To Table Market on Saturdays from 10 am to 3 pm. The market features mostly food grown on the Duke Farms property. Have a question about the growing methods? The farmers are present themselves at the market – and love talking to customers.
  2. Eat in the Duke Farms Café. The café sources locally grown produce and features organic items. Try the organic kale smoothie; it’s good and good for you.
  3. Try to green that thumb of yours. Duke Farms’ agroecology programs range from beekeeping to root crop basics to preserving harvests, to permaculture and more.

At Duke Farms, we support local, regenerative farming practices and the farmers that use these practices. We hope you will also support them the next time you visit.

Nora Wagner is the Director of Programs and Strategic Planning at Duke Farms. 

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Coming This Winter: The Duke Farms Eagle eBook

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Keep an eye out for “The Bald Eagles of Duke Farms,” an upcoming  free eBook with everything you need to know about the celebrated nest, its occupants, and the videocam that has enabled viewers around the world to watch the eagle family.

In the meantime, Duke Farms is working diligently with a AV consultant to install a new camera during the August – December time frame.

The photo-rich eBook will be available as a download for laptops and tablets in time for the beginning of the 2016 nesting season, and will also be viewable on-line.

The author is  Jim Wright, who writes the popular posts about the eagles for Duke Farms’ “Behind the Stone Walls” blog, Continue reading

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Extra Post: Wednesday’s Kestrel Banding

IMG_0040Written By: Jim Wright for Duke Farms and Conserve Wildlife Foundation

Here are some photos from Wednesday’s American Kestrel banding at Duke Farms.

Bill Pitts and MacKenzie Hall of the state Endangered and Nongame Species Program  removed two nearly grown chicks from a nest box not far from Farm Barn Lane,  then weighed, measured and banded them.

The two nestlings — a male and a female (just like the eaglets) — were then returned promptly to their nest.

The male, above, posed for a moment for a close-up.  The new Duke Farms summer conservation interns were able to watch the banding and learn about American Kestrels, a threatened species in New Jersey and the other at-risk raptors that nest at Duke Farms.

Jim Wright writes “The Bird Watcher” columnist for The Record and the Herald-News. He is the author of four coffee-table books about wild places, and the deputy marsh warden of the Celery Farm Natural Area in Allendale, N.J.


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Celebrating the 2015 Nesting Season

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Written By: Jim Wright for Duke Farms and Conserve Wildlife Foundation

The 2015 Duke Farms Bald Eagle nesting season had bad weather for bookends — from the record cold temperature in February to the the lightning strike that recently disabled the Eagle Cam.

As the season comes to a close, what better way to salute the two young Bald Eagles in Duke Farm’s Class of 2015 than to look back at the past 20 weeks, from the snows of winter  to the boisterous eaglets of June?

It’s hard to believe that nearly five months have passed since Duke Farms posted the first dispatch about the 2015 Bald Eagle nesting season, and that the blog posts about the 2015 Bald Eagles are now coming to a close.

Being part of the extended family of Duke Farms eagle followers has been a rewarding experience — I can’t thank everyone enough for sharing their enthusiasm.

This year, this blog has had more than 52,000 page views from folks in more than 60 countries. I hope they  have enjoyed learning about America’s resilient Bald Eagles as much as I have.

Keep an eye out for the free downloadable eBook “The Bald Eagles of Duke Farms,” due next winter in time for the 2016 nesting season.

Below are 20 images —  one from each week of nesting season through mid-June, plus one of a young Duke Farms eaglet in flight. (Click on an image to enlarge.)

In closing, I wish to thank the following for generously sharing their expertise: Larissa Smith of Conserve Wildlife Foundation, Kathy Clark of N.J.’s Endangered and Nongame Species Program, Abenaki author Joseph Bruchac, Bill Streeter of the Delaware Valley Raptor Center, and Diane Cook of the Copper Hill School in Ringoes.

Finally, I’d like to thank Michael Catania, Nora Wagner, Thom Almendinger, Charles Barreca and all of the other wonderful folks at Duke Farms for their invaluable help.

Jim Wright writes “The Bird Watcher” columnist for The Record and the Herald-News. He is the author of four coffee-table books about wild places, and the deputy marsh warden of the Celery Farm Natural Area in Allendale, N.J.

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All about the Other At-risk Birds at Duke Farms

Written By: Jim Wright for Duke Farms and Conserve Wildlife Foundation

Featured above is a gallery of photos of some of the other at-risk birds supported on the property. All images were taken at Duke Farms by colleague and nature photographer Kevin Watson.

Here is the full list (click on the bird name to see Conserve Wildlife Foundation’s description):

American Kestrel  (threatened)

Barn Owl (special concern, breeding)

Bobolink  (threatened, breeding)

Brown Thrasher (special concern, breeding)

Cooper’s Hawk  (special concern)

Eastern Meadowlark (special concern, breeding)

Grasshopper Sparrow (threatened, breeding)

Henslow’s Sparrow (endangered)

Savannah Sparrow (threatened, breeding)

Spotted Sandpiper  (special concern, breeding)

Vesper Sparrow (endangered, breeding)

Wood Thrush  (special concern, breeding)

Duke Farms also attracts the following at-risk raptors  in winter:

Long-eared Owl  (threatened)

Northern Harrier  (endangered, breeding)

Short-eared Owl  (endangered, breeding)

Jim Wright writes “The Bird Watcher” columnist for The Record and the Herald-News. He is the author of four coffee-table books about wild places, and the deputy marsh warden of the Celery Farm Natural Area in Allendale, N.J.

Got a question or suggestion? E-mail Jim at

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Meet the 2015 Student Conservation Association Interns!

The busy season is upon us, and to help us out this summer, we hired six new residential interns through the Student Conservation Association.  The Student Conservation Association’s mission is to build the next generation of conservation leaders and inspire lifelong stewardship of the environment and communities by engaging young people in hands-on service to the land.

We are very thrilled to introduce these young professionals to you.  Each one of them has passion, experience, and character that fits so well with the Duke Farms mission of demonstrating environmental stewardship and inspiring visitors to be informed stewards of the land.

Please help us welcome them to the Duke Farms family!

Katie, Katie, Kaitlyn, Braedon, Sarah, and Will

Katie, Katie, Kaitlyn, Braedon, Sarah, and Will

Education Team:

Katie Engberg (NJ):  A recent graduate from Lafayette College, Katie spent over a year working on an environmental research project studying the impacts of road proximity on the movement patterns of vernal pool dependent wood frogs.  She has a passion for educating kids and spends much of her free time using art as a connection to the natural world and as a framework to find solutions.

Katie Daniels (CA): A current senior at California State University, Katie is highly interested in forest ecology, especially regarding the Pacific Northwest, and has recently discovered her love of birding.  She has an extremely creative eye, is skilled in photography and videography, and hopes to use those skills to develop interpretation materials for properties such as Duke Farms.

Sarah Miranda (NJ):  Sarah Miranda is a recent graduate from William Paterson University with a degree in Earth Science.  She has volunteered with NJ organizations such as the Great Swamp Wildlife Refuge, Earth First, and she spent her senior internship working with the education department at Duke Farms, building interpretive materials for large events and spontaneous education.  She is bilingual and hopes to broaden our reach to the Spanish-speaking community during her time here.

Natural Resources Team:

Kaitlyn Button (NY): Kaitlyn is a graduating senior at Alfred University, majoring in Biology and minoring in Environmental Studies.  She has experience working for several conservation and wildlife biology research projects that involve mist net bird trapping, vegetation sampling, and telemetry.  Kaitlyn believes it’s vital to educate the public about the escalating conservation concerns that are essential to the world we live in.

Braedon Shelton (NC): A recent Earth Science graduate from University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Braedon has experience in horticulture, tree canopy studies, and trail development in both North Carolina and Pennsylvania.  He is excited to gain more experience in conservation and to spend the summer expanding his skills and communicating the importance of conservation to the public.

William Singley (NC): William graduated from Guilford College in 2013 with a B.S. in Environmental Studies.  Will has a wide range of experience locally, as well as internationally.   He has bridged his passion for the environment with his love of mountain biking, by assisting in trail work projects and expanding tourist data collections throughout North Carolina and Australia.  He has also assisted in large-scale invasive species removal projects, and working with kids in a camp setting.

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Bald Eagle Nest Update: Encouraging News!

IMG_9745-002Written By: Jim Wright for Duke Farms and Conserve Wildlife Foundation

Duke Farms got permission from the state to visit the Bald Eagle nest tree today at noon to see how much damage was caused by Sunday’s lightning strike.

Charles, Barreca, Duke Farms’ manager of ecological stewardship, surveyed the nest tree and surrounding area, and he saw no signs whatsoever of any injured or dead eagles.

What’s more,  he was able to see one of the eaglets flying (above) — and doing quite well. After all of the concern over the eaglets and the nest, it was a sight to behold.

In addition, the nest tree did not sustain any visible damage, and the camera itself had no visible damage.  Here is a gallery of shots from the visit. (Click on a photo to enlarge.)

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