Thursday, October 12, 2006

Appalachian Mountain Club

The heavy winds of a strong Northeaster did not stop several four members of the AMC from paddling their own boats out to Sedge on Friday afternoon. Always a diverse group, AMC members on this trip included several people from the Philadelphia Rowing Program for the Disabled. Tony shuttled the heavy gear on the pontoon boat. I accompanied the group as we worked our way north along the shore of Island Beach State Park, took cover in the lee of the Buster Islands, and then blew across the last half mile of open water to the landing. It was an adventurous experience for all. The strong northeast flow continued all the next day so rather than fight wind whipped waves, we chose to stay in natural channels and mosquito ditches. As we paddled around the marsh we noticed that all of the osprey are gone. But, just as we began to think we wouldn’t see much wildlife, the peregrine falcon made a dramatic appearance on the tower.
Having less than ideal weather provided a good excuse for club members to spend even more time in the kitchen preparing gourmet food. Soups and stews, chili and chicken, we ate and ate. Potential Sedge staff member Bernie Isaacson added to the incredible variety by cooking up some halibut and lingcod that he caught in Alaska less than a week before.
On Sunday the winds moderated and we paddled north along Island Beach to Tices Shoals, back to the dock, south to the Army Corps of Engineers dike, and through the Sea Dog Trail back to the house – a trip of about sixteen miles. Monday’s weather was the complete opposite of Friday. Barnegat Bay was a calm as a millpond. In the brilliant sunshine of a fine October day we paddled to several dredge spoil islands checking for signs of bird life. What a way to spend Columbus Day weekend!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Montclair Cooperative School Oct 3-5

2006 Blog Montclair Cooperative School

Fifteen sixth graders and five adults spent three days in near perfect October weather with both air and water temperatures in the seventies. Although the wind was too strong to paddle on their first afternoon on the island, the students made good use of their time learning about the animals in and around the water. Some waded in to collect samples of sea stars and hermit crabs by hand. Others used the seine net to capture an even wider variety of bay life. By the end of the day everyone could identify at least ten animals which were previously unknown.

Early the next morning some of the students and adults circumnavigated the island in the big canoe arriving on the eastern side just in time to see the sliver of red appear on the horizon and grow into an orange ball as the sun rose. Everyone boarded kayaks several hours later and we paddled past Pete McLain’s house and then into the Horsefoot Slough where we dug clams. Many of the students frolicked in the water and several completely encased themselves in mud. Our return paddle was an exciting adventure for some and a frightening experience for others. Just as we rounded the point and began heading north along the side of the Oyster Creek Channel several large boats went by throwing up “huge” waves. No one capsized and we regrouped in a quiet cove before paddling back to the house.

I had to leave early that evening so I don’t know what took place after 6:30PM I hope some of the students and adults will contribute to the rest of the story. I do know that I felt super when as I was motoring away, the students stood on the porch cheering, GOOD JOB! GOOD, GOOD JOB!! Thanks for a great send off. Jim

RUOC Sept 29-Oct 1

2006 Blog Rutgers University Outdoors Club

It’s Fall (almost October). It’s dark (7:30PM). It’s cold (Not very). It’s the students from Rutgers making their annual appearance at Sedge. Although the officers and club members change from year to year, there are some “traditions” that persist. Always enthusiastic, always full of fun, the RUOC is a great group to have in residence- even if they do arrive late.

Club advisor, Dr. Rick Lathrop greeted us at the dock after we slowly motored through the Marine Conservation Zone under a half moon and a sky ablaze with stars. The students quickly unpacked and then began preparing supper. This first meal was an interesting combination of toasted bagels and yams that were partially baked in the Sedge oven. The remainder of the evening was spent watching stars in the sky above and bioluminescence in the water below.

A smaller group than usual (8 people), allowed everyone to get to know one another and to join in activities more quickly than usual. Saturday evening after clams and spaghetti (and baked yams) we all sat on the pontoon boat bundled up against a cold wind telling stories and laughing. Both mornings saw the entire group up before dawn. On Sunday we paddled the 22’ North canoe into the sunrise and through the narrow waterways cutting through the interior of some of the nearby salt marsh islands. We ate breakfast after we returned – oatmeal, bagels and of course, baked yams (I think it’s the start of a new tradition!)

Haddonfield HS Sept 24 + 25

Blog 2006 Haddonfield High School

One of our largest groups to spend time at Sedge this year was the AP Environmental Class from Haddonfield High School. The group of twenty-two students and two teachers spent the first part of their trip at the Island Beach Interpretive Center utilizing the exhibits to learning about barrier islands as well as the salt marsh. Then, when we took a hike to the beach, they could see first hand examples of dune structure, and how importance beach grass is in its ability to slow wind erosion.

After arriving at Sedge we launched every kayak we had and still needed the big canoe to enable everyone to explore the salt marsh by boat. Although the ospreys have gone south, we watched three peregrine falcons hanging around their high platform. We finished our journey by digging some soft and hard clams to go with out pasta dinner. We were pleased to be back in the house just as a thunderstorm rolled across the bay bringing strong winds and driving rain.

We had planned to get up at 4:00AM the next morning in order to have time to paddle to the dike, but the front which blew in brought a cold, strong NW wind forced us to delay the start of our trip. We waited until it began to get light before half the group rose and paddled several miles. As a result we were treated to a spectacular sunrise on the water. After breakfast the students split into three groups. One examined plankton and measured water quality, one surveyed macrobiotic species collected in a seine net, and one helped the Barnegat Bay Shellfish Restoration Project by cleaning and measuring the volume of oysters in four protective bags. (approximately 11,000.) Thank you for your help.

JSSKA Sept 15-17

Blog 2006 JSSKA

Some of the JSSKA members braved torrential rains in an attempt to arrive at Island Beach early enough for a pre-trip paddle. In the early afternoon the rain was so intense that many roads were underwater and closed to traffic. By late afternoon the sky cleared and everyone paddled out to the island for the start of what was to be a true environmental learning experience.

As in the past the group was composed of good paddlers with good equipment. This enabled the group to travel farther and faster than most other Sedge users. In addition, the group covered more territory because almost everyone was very EARLY risers. When I got up at 6:00 AM on Saturday, almost everyone was up and many were dressed to paddle. As a result we completed a mile long paddle before breakfast. Eager to explore more of the salt marsh in the Marine Conservation Zone, we set off again well before 8:00 AM. In less than an hour we were beaching our boats on the dike near Barnegat Inlet. On our hike to and from the beach we saw more pelicans than I have seen all summer. On our return trip we decided to explore an area northeast of Sedge along the shore of Island Beach State Park. We paddled into Spizzle Creek, a natural waterway that became more and more narrow until it ended in a series of mosquito ditches. Trying to find our way out without retracing our route we split into three groups, each in a different ditch. Two of these became so narrow and shallow that almost everyone had to haul his or her boat over the salt marsh cord grass to the open water on the bay. Our return to the house by mid-afternoon afforded time to fish (no luck), crab (several blue and several green crabs), and clam (about two dozen which we for got to eat.) Our night paddle began at sunset. We circled Sedge Island, paddled around Marsh Elder island near Pete McLain’s house, and the went around Sedge again in the opposite direction. During the entire night paddle it was so calm that our boats created the only ripples on the water.

On Sunday morning everyone rose early and again we saw the sunrise from the water. Some of the group elected to paddle in the big canoe. With me sitting in the stern calling out commands the group soon had the boat moving and maneuvering well. Others paddled their own boats and everyone enjoyed their pre-breakfast experience. As some of the group cleaned the house others volunteered to help take out the Conservation Zone buoys. This proved to be a great deal of work as many of the buoys were covered with a thick layer of sharp barnacles making them very heavy. This effort was much appreciated and members of the JSSKA have again shown how they are truly “Friends of Sedge.” Thank you Jim Merritt

Georgia Dept of Natural Resources Sept 12-14

2006 Blog Georgia Department of Natural Resources

The Georgia family of five spent three days at Sedge as a result of two family members who are Georgia DNR employees winning the trip as a prize in an auction at the Association of Conservation Interpreters National Convention.

After a quick introduction by Jim and Karen, the five were left to fend for themselves. Being capable outdoors people they adapted quickly to their new environment. They were comfortable in our salt marsh as it had many of the same species of plants and animals that are also common in Georgia. Phil, a wildlife biologist who studied Diamond Backed Terrapins with New Jersey’s Roger Wood, had his first opportunity to see three terrapins emerge from a nest. Tony Raniero took the group on a fishing trip that became a boat tour of Barnegat Inlet when the fish refused to cooperate. They did manage to catch a few fish from the dock including a short striper.

This extended family of two couples and a mom are perfect examples of southern manners and hospitality. They must have told me fifty times, “Y’al come down and visit us, and stay a while! I plan to do just that this winter.

Save Barnegat Bay Sept 9

Blog 2006 Save Barnegat Bay

Save Barnegat Bay is one of the best organizations in New Jersey as far as working to preserve open space along the Bay shore. President Willie Decamp and three other staff members work tirelessly to urge more the than 1500 volunteer members to write letters and come out to meetings to help save precious land along the bay and other open Space in Ocean County. A major fundraising event for Save Barnegat Bay is their silent auction.
Last year one of the biggest income producers at the auction was the offer of, “A day at Sedge Island for the winner and ten guests.” Several weeks ago Save Barnegat Bay Board member Joe Yewarsis brought his family and friends to Sedge to be the first to take advantage of his winning bid. From all accounts everyone enjoyed the experience. One of the highlights was kayaking in the marsh. This trip provided agreat opportunity to see some of the last ospreys before they started their southward journey. The group was also fortunate to see several of the potato chip size diamond backed terrapins emerging from their nests.
The NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife is happy to support Save Barnegat Bay in it’s effort to preserve open space and as a result, provide increased habitat for wild animals in our state. We hope this year’s winner and friends will enjoy their experience as much as the Yewarsis Family did.

Cub Scouts Aug 25-27

Blog 2006 Cub Scouts

Four Cub Scouts and five parents were the last group to visit the Sedge Island Natural Resource Education Center in August. Although some of the scouts are only ten years old, this group fit the Fish and Wildlife model perfectly as most of them hunt and fish on a regular basis. Using their own fishing rods and bait, they could have fished twenty-four hours a day if they were not involved in other activities.
As it was they caught the following:
1. A dozen small (8- 14”) blue fish that they filleted, cooked on the grill, and ate
2. Numerous small sea bass that they returned safely to the water
3. One short striped bass that they returned to the water
4. Three blowfish that, although legal, they returned to the water
5. One short fluke that they returned to the water
6. Two hard clams that they cooked on the grill and ate
7. Five blue crabs that they steamed, dissected, and ate
8. Ten green crabs that they steamed and ate
9. Did I miss anything?

In addition, the group managed to find time to kayak deep into the Marine Conservation Zone for close up views of the osprey just before they begin their southward migration. We had a glimpse of the peregrine falcon. As with so many of our observations, we did not see it attack any other birds. We took a hike across the flooded marsh jumping narrow mosquito ditches and building a make shift bridge over a wider one. After a picnic lunch we circumnavigated Sedge Island before returning to our dock.

Despite the prediction of bad weather we had only a strong easterly wind to contend with for most of the time. The predicted bad weather held off until the last day when a storm blew in as we were preparing to leave. The rain was so hard it was difficult to see the shore as we made our way to the dock at Island Beach.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

NJMSC August 18-20

This past weekend it was great to have the New Jersey marine Science Consortium and friends on Sedge Island. The diverse group participated in many activities on the island and the surrounding marsh.

The group came in Friday evening with a stellar sunset and was able to absorb some of the early evening meteor shower from the top deck.

The next morning we rose early to a beautiful sunrise over Island Beach State Park and prepared for an all day paddle. John Wnek who is doing his doctoral research on diamondback terrapins arrived on the island and gave a talk about his research. He brought over a dozen terrapins, which we later released in the beginning of our paddling adventure. The tide was super low and paddling was slow going alternating with carrying the boats over sand flats and shallow sections. The group stopped to clam and do some bird watching with the shorebird migration in full swing.

At the USACE Dike the group discussed the ecological and financial reverberations of the project. With a great diversity of work backgrounds in the group many aspects were discussed.

Back at the Sedge House the group did many different things including water quality monitoring, cleaning and looking at the clams and oysters, fishing and examining many specimens under the microscopes and in field books.

The weather was supposed to turn, but we awoke on Sunday to clearing skies after a very windy, but rain free night. The group again did many different activities, this time including seining and snorkeling around the Sedge Island dock. It was great having the group on the island and we look forward to reading your comments!

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Sunday, August 20, 2006

Teacher Training Workshop #2

This week we welcomed our second Teacher Training Workshop on Sedge Island. The adventure began in the middle of the Barnegat Bay when the extreme low tide made it difficult to get to the island and we had to literally get out of the boat and pull it across shallow sections.

The group started out with a short paddle around the marsh and stopped several times to note certain species and learn more about the history of the area Along the way we noticed a large number of naked sea butterflies, not normally abundant in the bay, but beautiful none the less.

Back at the Sedge House we looked at different lesson plans in the packet and created our own watershed ,complete with polluting chemical plant and pumpkin patch, and examined the extensions and cross curricular possibilities of the activity.

The next morning John Wnek, with Project Terrapin, arrived and the group was treated to a lesson on diamondback terrapins before we headed out in the kayaks. Once again we were battling the low tide and snaked through the marsh trying to stay in deeper channels. We stopped on a sandbar on the outside of the marsh and watched the boats in the Oyster Creek Channel. While paddling we saw a group of over 40 American Oyster Catchers on one sandbar! On some further off sand bars we were treated to the start of the bird migration season. We saw: brown pelicans, double crested cormorants, various species of gulls, semipalmated plovers, greater yellowlegs, willets, sanderlings, semipalmated sandpipers, black bellied plovers, ruddy turnstones and many many more!!

Back at the house we conducted water quality tests and went over extensions and different equipment that can be used in the classroom. We watched a beautiful sunset and prepared our dinner with many additions from the bay including, a white clam sauce made with hard clams, steamed soft shelled clams, blue claw crabs as well as some green crab claws, and one sautéed soft shell crab.

The morning the group was leaving one of the small terrapin hatchlings emerged and the group got to see the first sedge terrapin hatch out!

This group was full of firsts and everyone was happy to experience new things and leave with information to bring back to their classroom and to their life. We look forward to reading your comments about your trip and hope to see you back on sedge!

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Saturday, August 12, 2006

Sedge Island Teacher Training Workshop #1

This past week we had a wonderful mix of teachers out on Sedge Island for our annual teacher training workshop. This group was my best yet on sedge. We had retired and working teachers, history and science, high school and grade school and a whole lot more. We got to have a lot of fun, but learn about the marsh and surrounding areas in a way that the teachers can bring what they learned back into their classrooms and their lives.

The high point for me was probably when we had finished building our “Wetland in a Pan” with our clay and paint tray. When the lemonaid mix (oops I mean toxic sludge) came out of the CIBA chemical plant, and the crowd gasped and cheered, I knew that my work was done. As teachers we strive for the “wow” moment, the moment when you know a student actually gets it, and to get that reaction from teachers was priceless.

We had many more teachable moments than just playing with clay. We fished, conducted water quality sampling, clammed, snorkeled, and ate our catches. Christine, an expert birder, was able to point out many species not known to most, and Georgiana erupted with a plan when she saw and learned about the USACE Dike. Chris was our expert griller, and Hillary started the outdoor shower trend, running around in the pouring rain with a huge smile on her face.
Judy Peet, a reporter form the Star Ledger stuck out all 3 days with us on the island and was such an asset to the group. She knew so many things about the area and contributed to our discussions and teachings. Nine teachers came out to Sedge Island, and left as a unified group. The teamwork was amazing, and everyone pitched in to help wherever and whenever it was needed. The house was left more than spotless, thanks to Jill and Pat’s sneaky cleaning maneuvers. I would turn around for 5 minutes and the dishes would be cleaned, dry and put away!
This group was truly amazing and New Jersey (and Philly too) is blessed to have them. We look forward to hearing your comments about your time on Sedge! Have a great rest of your summer!!!

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Friday, August 11, 2006

Friends of Sedge Gathering

As usual, the Friends of Sedge gathering was a completely informal affair. People began arriving Friday night, some choosing to paddle out into a beautiful sunset. After dinner a small group of Friends sat on the porch enjoying the fireflys over the marsh and the stars overhead. At dawn on Saturday morning Jose Fernandez joined Tony Raniero on his dock to catch more than a dozen perfect eating size bluefish.

Just before lunch on Saturday with the bulk of the group present, Jim Merritt recognized the contributions made by Friends thus far in 2006. As always Tony and Jackie Raniero had by far the greatest the number of hours spent working at the island. With the summer nearly half over our four interns have already contributed over 1,000 hours of unpaid work. Their efforts were recognized by a contribution of $100.00 each from the Conserve Wildlife Foundation. In addition, researchers who use Sedge Island as a base of operations and always take time to educate and involve residential groups in their work were recognized for their contribution.

On Saturday afternoon twenty-five Friends were involved in a variety of work projects. Several people helped Tony Raniero erect the Sedge Island Marine Conservation Zone sign along the Oyster Creek Channel. Many others dug sand from the bay and filled in the washed out areas behind the bulkhead. But everyone worked with artist Lisa Williams as together we created a mosaic “Welcome to Sedge” sign.

Many thanks to all of you for coming and helping out. A special big thank you to intern and culinary artist Alyssa Tripler for coordinating the event and most importantly, the food. For those of you who didn’t make it – sorry you missed this opportunity to be on the island. Don’t wait too long to come back. Our next event will be on Saturday October 7th when a group the Appalachian Mountain Club will be in residence for the Columbus Day weekend.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Paulsboro’s Learn and Earn Program

The long bus ride from Paulsboro always causes groups of students from Exelon’s Learn and Earn program to compress a full day schedule into several hours of activity. But, as in previous years, the participants always rise to the challenge. Groups kayaked into the salt marsh to get close views of the peregrine falcons and the osprey. In addition they used their water testing equipment to sample and later compare water quality in the Sedge Island Marine Conservation Zone with other watersheds where they have previously taken samples. Because of their background, these students are able to build on previously acquired knowledge of wetlands to better understand the role the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife plays in managing and protecting this habitat. It is my hope that some day, the students will be able to come for at least one overnight. Jim