CU Reporter January/February/March 2008

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March is Recruit-a-Friend Month.

Updates from Citizens United to Protect the Maurice River and Its Tributaries, Inc.

Meeting March 12, 2008 –  6:30 p.m.
Gant Room, Millville Public Library

By Amanda Dey, Ph.D., Senior Biologist, Endangered and Nongame Species Program, NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife.

Mandy Dey has worked on the Delaware Bay Shorebird Project since 2000, including field research on red knots on Arctic breeding grounds and South American wintering grounds. Mandy has worked for the ENSP since 1993 and completed her dissertation on Neotropical migrant songbirds in January 2005.

Dr. Dey will discuss the work of the ENSP program from a larger perspective that encompasses both the human and natural aspects. Learn about the work of these scientists and its importance to the migratory shorebirds that pass through the Atlantic flyway.

CU Update

Recently we sent out an email summary of the Eagle Festival and Chili Bowl Dinner that included some wild and wonderful occurrences that took place in January and February and at least one horrific one.  We are including an enhanced version of this correspondence as a record of what we have been doing with and for our members.

Early in January, CU set up a Congressional summit of sorts with representatives of 13 different environmental organizations as well as representatives of wildlife resource agencies to discuss issues and projects of interest in our congressional district and along the Bayshore.  Congressman Frank LoBiondo was very informative and interactive with the various topics of interest that each group brought to the table.  In fact, the South Jersey Bayshore Coalition was very complimentary about the entire meeting.  We have just received word that CU member Congressman LoBiondo has received the endorsement of the League of Conservation Voters and the Sierra Club. Congratulations, Frank!

The Eagle Festival and Chili Bowl Dinner started off with a press conference on January 23, and many of you probably saw lots of press articles leading up to the Eagle Festival and Raptor Discovery Days.

The 23rd was also the day we were advised that an eagle’s nest had been tragically and deliberately destroyed.  Disgusting.  This has triggered a domino effect of information which we transmitted to law enforcement. The silver lining, if that’s possible, is that the culprits will be brought to justice, and their penalty should make many folks think twice about perpetrating such a malicious act in the future.  Additionally, what is believed to be the same pair of eagles has begun incubating eggs on their second nest.  The observations of this nest are assigned to our President.  The destroyed nest was also assigned to Jane.  We ask our members to continue to call their federal representatives to show their desire for a federal prosecution and their dismay about the entire sickening event.

Paradoxically, on January 29th a harbor seal decided to show up on the Russells’ dock, about 10 miles upstream of the bay.  Maybe this was to remind us of why we try to educate local people about protecting our resources.  Or maybe it was simply to add to the phone calls and commotion of the entire Festival week.  Whatever the reason (obviously having nothing to do with us), it sure was exciting.  The Russells’ little friend made at least three more appearances over the next few days.  This occurrence possibly generated more email and phone calls than any single event in the past 2 years!

Then on January 30th the busloads of area students began to arrive at the Natural Lands Trust’s Peek Preserve in Millville.  On the 31st we hiked their preserves at Turkey Point.  We think most of the children got to see an eagle; they took nature walks and learned many things about the woods and our region.  On Friday the CU-led out-of-door events were cancelled due to rain and wind. However, NJ Audubon Society held a third day of indoor programs on wildlife.  In all, 29 classes and about 600 students toured, received lessons, and enjoyed many aspects of nature.

Then came the culmination of the week: the Eagle Festival ’08. On February 2 about 1000 folks showed up for a day of lectures, wildlife viewing, clay figure-making, educational displays, lunch prepared by the Mauricetown Firehall firefighters, and vendors of all sorts.  We unveiled our new brochure and display; both seemed to be well received.

Traditionally, the last birding event of the day is the owl walk.  It had a marvelous turnout and the crowd was treated to horned and shorteared owls, night herons and a spectacular evening.  It wasn’t as cold as some years but folks nevertheless were enthusiastic about the Chili Bowl Dinner.  In fact, over 200 people participated — it was a sold-out crowd.  We had over 23 different chilis and a huge variety of auction items.  For the staff, the demands were a little like two Christmases back to back with finals thrown in. We know that over 80 volunteers were involved. We aren’t going to single anyone out because so many folks pitched in: hike leaders, display representatives, brochure designers, cooks, display creators, birding mentors, firemen, setup and teardown crews, auction donors (nearly 100 items), bartenders, etc.

If you recall we entered all early reservations into a drawing for a dinner for two at Winfield’s Restaurant in Millville’s art district. Drum roll, please… the lucky winner was Dale Schweitzer who purchased his tickets on January 5th. Thank you everyone for your early reservations. We were 2/3rds of the way booked by the January 18th deadline.

Many of you have asked, “How did we make out?”  Well, we grossed around $15,000 and netted about $11,700 toward our programming.  Our previous two chili dinners averaged $8,500. The Firehall accommodating more people made for a really successful event.  Speaking of Mauricetown Fire Co. – wow!! What a terrific group of volunteers.  Their kitchen staff/firemen were amazing in all that they did to accommodate our dinner.  Additionally, the Cumberland County Planning and Development Office was most generous in making the transition from Festival to Chili Dinner extremely smooth.  We are very pleased and want to thank each of you for your help.

We want to take an important moment to acknowledge not only our wonderful volunteers who help to make our affairs possible but also those who sponsor our events. We ask you to consider patronizing our event sponsors.  We make their names prominent at the dinner but we wish to reiterate their names here so that you might support their businesses and organizations: the Mauricetown Fire Co. (please think of them for your rental hall needs), Winfield’s Restaurant,  Noyes Museum, Lucia’s Restaurant, The Natural Lands Trust, NJ Audubon, Endangered and Nongame Species Program, South Jersey Paper Products, Clark’s Liquors, Accu• Print, Design Advertising, Steelman Photographics, Shephard’s Honey, Cumberland County College – Clay College, Wheaton Arts and Cultural Center, Manders and Merighi, La Torre Hardware, Butch’s Gun World, Frank Kammerer, Bogart’s Bookstore and Café,  Andrus Lures, The Barn Studio of Art, River Renaissance Center for the Arts, and Artists Leslie Ficcaglia, Verna McClain, Jackie Sandro, Phyllis Seidner, Kate Waltman, Gene MacMurray, Art Parkin, Terry Plasket, Hank Adams, Gordon Engel, Tricia Dufford, Jan Capaldi, Robert Huntley, Alex and Dot Alampi.

More items of interest:

We have offered testimony at the NJ Marine Fisheries Council’s hearing on extending the moratorium on the horseshoe crab harvest in order to attempt to avert the demise of the red knot population.  The Council voted not to extend the moratorium by 4-5 and the NJ Legislature and Governor have both embarked on legislation to enforce a moratorium over the Council’s objections. A new Nature special on the shorebird phenomena has appeared on various PBS “Crash: A Tale of Two Species;” its airing is extremely timely.  Emails were sent via our hotline to encourage people to watch a showing- we provided stations and show times.

Spring is right around the corner and that means soon it will be time to Host the Shorebird Scientists again.  Last year this meant a number of field trips and making dinners for some 25-30 people a night for about three weeks.  About 38 members helped out, taking either responsibility for a dinner or making some sides or desserts. Here is a sampling of some items prepared: three lasagna meals, clams and spaghetti, filet mignon, three fish dinners, eggs galore, vegetarian chili, ziti, BBQs of pork and chicken, green salads, sloppy joes, Schooner brunch, Airshow non-stop food, stuffed peppers, cake (which fortuitously arrived on one of their birthdays!), the annual game dinner, and the All American – Thanksgiving Dinner (we have to say “All USA” around the Mexicans and Canadians!).  We also had egg runs for their breakfasts and often they had leftovers for lunch.  It is huge amount of fun to meet the folks from all over the world who come to study our little winged visitors that feast on horseshoe crab eggs.  They make it very easy to prepare dinner; in fact, they sometimes share in the preparation.  We try to provide things that they simply need to heat up.  Some volunteers donate their meals and some need help from our coffers. Don’t be shy if you prefer to dedicate your time; many folks go this route.  In fact, our World Series of Birding Team expects a certain amount of the dollars they raise will go toward the hosting process. Whatever the case, helping can be as easy or as difficult as you choose.  Any combination of the following can work: a complete meal, a dessert, a side, or perhaps you can’t cook but can deliver – the scientists stay at Reeds Beach so delivery is extremely helpful. Perhaps you’d like to donate a Pizza Night delivery, music, or offer a field trip experience.  These folks are from all over the world and we want them to see what our region has to offer, be it Wheaton Arts, the Bayshore Symphony, the Air Museum, hiking spots, Washington DC, NYC, Philadelphia, the Pinebarrens, local waterways, forests and the like (tickets, trip leaders etc).  To help, please call Jane at 609-774-5853. She will soon be working on the schedule, and she is excited.

Spring will also mean our “Fish Hawks” will once again be the CU Birding Cumberland team in the World Series of Birding.  Support your team!  Pledges are being taken and the team is polishing up their binoculars for the BIG DAY. Call pledges to 609-327-1161 or email  Remember that last year we came in second in the limited geographic region category and this year we hope to win in order to highlight the marvels of Cumberland County’s wildlife diversity.

On February 21, we once again commented before the Millville Planning Board on the proposed development for the shores of Union Lake, between the lake and the Union Lake Crossing Mall in Millville.  We encouraged the Board to ask for more specific information on species usage and allowable activities within the 300-foot eagle foraging buffer area.  We echoed the report by the consultant hired by the City to review the developer’s site plan, asking that the Board make a determination whether approval should be granted in light of issues raised in the report.  As of February 21, 2008, no determination was made on the General Development plan application.

Our days are filled with many meetings and tasks. We have been attending meetings on the Scenic Byways that are hosted by the NJ Department of Transportation and the National Park Service Coastal Heritage Trail Route.  There are presently five Scenic Byway loops in NJ, sponsored by local organizations and supported by state and federal transportation agencies.  The benefits are primarily building an appreciation for the scenic qualities of a region.  Our loop is proposed to begin at the Delaware Memorial Bridge, traverse the Delaware Bayshore, and run to the Cape May Ferry where it is envisioned it might connect with Lewes, Delaware and skirt the Bay’s western shoreline to the Bridge.  The South Jersey Bayshore Coalition will vote on whether or not we wish to nominate/ sponsor the route.

Member Dave McCann prepared questions for our legal counsel Todd Heck in anticipation of updating our bylaws.  Jane, Dave and Todd met to review possible adjustments.

We are represented on numerous boards and task forces beyond those already mentioned: NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife’s Endangered and Nongames Species Council, Fish and Game Council, NJ Audubon, Bayshore Discovery Project, Partnership Wild and Scenic Rivers coalition, Millville’s State Plan Endorsement Committee, Vineland Environmental Commission, NJ Sportsmen’s Federation, SJ Bayshore Coalition, SJBC National Heritage Area, Scenic Byways Advisory Committee, and Cumberland County Eagle Festival Planning Committee, to name a few.  Trustees and officers are involved in many other Councils and Commissions on which they are not necessarily appointed as CU representatives.

CU on the River!