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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It’s Firefly Season!

Written by: Hannah Davelman, Duke Farms Education Staff.

Firefly

Photo By: Ashley Harrigan

Driving down River Road at night, it’s clear that summer has arrived in full force. The air is hot and humid, the insects and toads are calling at full volume, and the trees are full of tiny flashing lights- it’s firefly season! After up to two years spent underground in their carnivorous larval stage, they emerge in early to mid-May to glow and develop into pupae, then fully-grown adults! Once they develop into adults, they can be seen searching for a mate via their distinctive flashes.

Though fireflies can be found all over the world, in North America they’re almost never seen west of the Rockies. This surprises many who grew up on the east coast, to whom the little critters are synonymous with summer nights. We can also be surprised by the sheer number of names given to fireflies- Lightning Bugs and Fireflies seem to be interchangeable, but glow-worm can alternately refer to the glowing larvae, or certain species of wingless female fireflies. It’s hard to keep them all straight!

Despite being nearly ubiquitous on the east coast, most people are completely oblivious to the lives of the fireflies in their yard. For example, I had no idea that New Jersey is actually host to several different kinds of fireflies, each with their own unique flash pattern. I also had no idea that adult fireflies only live for a few weeks, making it all the more important that kids and adults handle them with care and make sure to release them after admiring their flashing lights.

As New Jersey becomes ever more densely populated, the local firefly populations have begun to dwindle as they have in many parts of the world. Nobody’s entirely sure why this is, but researchers at Boston’s Museum of Science have some ideas. They suggest that the use of certain pesticides, as well light pollution and decreasing open space can impact firefly larvae, as well as adult fireflies, and harm the population. To get involved with their efforts to track firefly populations, and learn more about these little beetles, visit the Firefly Watch homepage on the Museum of Science website- or, you can come to Duke Farms’ Firefly Festival!

The Annual Duke Farms Firefly Festival will take place on Friday, July 10 and Saturday, July 11, and will feature a night of firefly-centric education and activities for kids and adults. Bring your flashlight and your walking shoes, and learn more about the fascinating creatures in your backyard! The event is FREE, however, we do ask you to register.

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Coming This Winter: The Duke Farms Eagle eBook

Eagles 008(1)-003
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 wrightjamesb@gmail.com

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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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Helping Other Bird Species at Risk

Eastern Meadowlark, copyright Kevin Watson

Eastern Meadowlark, copyright Kevin Watson

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

Most folks know of Duke Farms as the home of nesting (and endangered) Bald Eagles, but they aren’t the only at-risk  birds that have found a home on the 2,740-acre property in Hillsborough, N.J.

In all, Duke Farms’ bird checklist contains a dozen other nesting species that are considered endangered, threatened or of special concern, ranging from  a small falcon called an American Kestrel to a quartet of rare  sparrows (Vesper, Grasshopper, Henslow’s, and Savannah Sparrow).

One of the key sites on the property is not visible to visitors — the conservation grasslands to the west, the home to several species of at-risk birds. (The photos are by  colleague Kevin Watson. You can see more of his Duke Farms photography here.)

“This guild of birds is Duke Farms’ is the most significant conservation priority on the property,” says Thom Almendinger, Duke Farms’ Director of Natural Resources.

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A Bobolink in the Duke Farms grasslands. Photo by Kevin Watson

Continue reading

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Coming This Winter: The Duke Farms Eagle eBook

Eagles 008(1)-003
Duke Farms is pleased to announce “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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