Thursday, August 8, 2013

Summer Sightings at the Sanctuary: Birds and Butterflies Galore!

The heatwave and then autumnal weather that followed has not kept the wildlife away this summer at the Scherman Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary. Birds, bugs, and reptiles have been all over the grounds. Tiger Swallowtails can be seen in the dozens on our property, especially on the butterfly bush near our headquarters office on the lower part of the Sanctuary. Of course, you can also find them in our fields.

By our nature store, you can be sure to see a male/female pair of Bluebirds at our feeders. We've also had male and female Rose-breasted Grosbeaks on our property, and our visitors and staff have caught glimpses of the beautiful Indigo Bunting recently.

Since our mission here at Scherman Hoffman is to connect people with nature but also to educate them, here is a quick fact sheet about our frequently-found wildlife. Come to our Sanctuary and see all of the wildlife we have flying (and swimming and walking) around!

The Bluebirds can both migratory or a have a permanent residence in certain areas of the country.  Some stay all year-round from here in New Jersey to Florida and parts of Mexico.  Others spend their summer in Canada, New Hampshire, Maine, etc. and migrate to the Texas or Northern Mexico area for winters.  The Bluebird is not all blue as the name implies, but actually has a white belly and an orange breast and neck area.  This is both the same for the males and females, but the males' colors are significantly brighter and bolder than the females'. One key difference between the male and female is also the females' wings and head are of a combination of gray and blue rather than a bright blue color of the males'.

Indigo Bunting 
Indigo Buntings live all across the country, from the East coast to the occasional in West during the summer months.  Most migrate down south to Florida, Texas, Mexico and the occasional in Georgia, Louisiana, and Alabama for the winters.  What makes the Indigo Bunting unique is the males have a very dark, royal blue color covering their entire bodies with black-tipped wings in the spring and summertime.  Meanwhile, the females are a cinnamon color all year round but have a white colored throat which contrasts the rest of its light brown head especially during the summer months.  If you see two blue-colored birds around the Sanctuary, keep in mind that the Indigo Buntings are smaller than the Bluebirds.

Photo by Joseph F. Pescatore

Tiger Swallowtail 
The Tiger Swallowtail butterfly resides in all of the East coast along with most of the Mid-West.  The males are a light yellow color with tiger-like, black stripes going down the the wing along with the edges having a thick line of black surrounding the wings.  Although, some of the females can appear to be black as well as the yellow color like the males' wings.  The stripes are still visible even if the butterfly is the black color.  The Tiger Swallowtail is a rather large butterfly with a wing span about 3.5 to 6.5 inches on average.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak 
Rose-breasted Grosbeaks are a migratory bird in the East coast and Mid-West.  They spend their summers in the most the Northern United States and their winters on the East coast, Mid-West, and the South-East.  The males have quite a color change, from a brown streaks mixed in with white, black and some rose color on their chest in the winter, to their bright, red chest, white and cinnamon belly, and dark black head and wings in the summer.  Their black wings are also sometimes speckled with a little white.  The female has a similar appearance to the male in the winter;  they have streaks brown, black, and white going down their back, wings, and belly and their uniquely striped head, covering it eye and most of its face.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

National Moth Week

New Jersey Audubon’s Scherman Hoffman Wildlife Sanctary will be among the hundreds of individuals and scores of organizations around the world participating in the second annual National Moth Week, July 20-28.

National Moth Week literally shines a much-needed spotlight on moths and their ecological significance. There are hundreds of thousands of moth species, many of them as beautiful as their colorful cousins – butterflies – and just as important to the ecosystem. Moths also can tell us a lot about our changing environment by their geographical and seasonal distribution.

The week-long event allows people of all ages and abilities to become “citizen scientists” and contribute scientific data about the moths they observe in their own communities.

The Scherman Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary in Bernardsville, New Jersey will kick-off Moth Week with a special family program, “A Morning with Moths.” Join the Sanctuary on Saturday, July 20 from 9:30 to 11:30 for a morning to view some of the moths trapped in special nets the night before. After viewing and discussing the moths, participants will let them go. Coffee, tea, and more will be provided. 

The program is $10 for members and $15 for nonmembers. Pre-registration is required by July 17 by calling 908-766-5787.  

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Praying Mantis Egg Cases

A few praying mantis egg cases were donated to the Sanctuary and after one case hatched, the tiny mantids, known as nymphs, were released into the wild. Praying mantis egg cases yield 100’s of nymphs, often with only one or two that survive to adulthood.

The word is sometimes misspelled “preying” mantis because of its preying nature. The praying mantis is instead named for its prominent front legs, which are bent and held together at an angle that suggests the position of prayer. Mantids can turn their heads 180 degrees to scan their surroundings with two large compound eyes and three other simple eyes located between them. Praying mantis feed on moths, crickets, grasshoppers, flies, and other insects. However, the insects will also eat others of their own kind. The most famous example of this is the notorious mating behavior of the adult female, who sometimes eats her mate just after—or even during—mating. Yet this behavior seems not to deter males from reproduction.
If you are interested in learning more about the praying mantis, stop by the nature center here at the Scherman Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary to have a look at the egg cases we have on display. And don't forget to look out for mantids on the trails throughout the spring and summer!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Wood Frog Tadpoles at the Nature Center

A few days ago Wood Frog eggs were rescued from the leaking vernal pool and we are excited to announce the first eggs are hatching! Spring is here!

Wood Frogs are one of the first frogs to breed in early spring. Their call, which sounds like a "quack" can be heard around water that's near woods. All Wood Frogs mate in the same area, so the eggs are often found next to each other forming a large "egg matt" on the surface water. This matt will grow algae on it, and soon be disguised as pond slime. The algae is not only a food source for the young tadpoles, but also camouflages the tadpoles against predators such as the Green Frog.
Adult Wood Frogs travel quite far from the water during summer, leaving their tadpoles to fend for themselves. The Wood Frog grows to about three inches long and its color ranges from pinkish-brown to tan to dark brown. The adults are most active during the day, but they are protected by their coloring, which camouflages them. In winter, Wood Frogs hibernate by hiding under rocks, stumps, or leaf litter. They don't have to dig far. If they freeze, they thaw out come warmer temperatures.
We are very excited to be hosting the Wood Frog eggs for the next few weeks and can’t wait to continue to watch them hatch into tadpoles! Approximately 7-10 days after they have hatched, the tadpoles will begin to swim around and feed on algae. We have recreated the eggs’ natural habitat including a shallow amount of water with plenty of leaves and algae for the tadpoles to feed on. After about 6-9 weeks, tiny legs will start to sprout. At around 9 weeks the arms will begin to bulge where they will eventually pop out, elbow first. At this point, the tadpoles will begin to look like teeny frogs with long tails. 

We will be updating our followers on Facebook at the ‘New Jersey Audubon’s Scherman Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary’ page on the status of our tadpoles. Be sure to follow along and stop by the Nature Store to watch them grow before they are released into the wild!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Taking Your Photography to the Next Level

Come to this great workshop to learn how to take your photography to the next level! This is great for anyone who is aspiring to get their work "out there." 

DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOP VIII - Taking your photography to the next level
Saturday, March 16, 2013
10:00  A.M. to 12:30 p.m. with Nick Palmieri

Workshop 8 is a geared to those photographers who want to bring their skills to the next level. The program begins by reviewing the value of competition photography, and how the skills used to create winning images can greatly improve your own creative photography. We examine the philosophy of competition, how to capture the images, how to process the images, and finally how to manipulate the images in order to make them stand out. We conclude by discussing how to use image critiques to improve your own photography and how to understand when processing stops and manipulation begins. The programs is geared to photographers at all levels.

Cost: $12 NJ Audubon members $25 nonmembers

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Pileated Woodpeckers at Scherman Hoffman

  Male Pileated Woodpecker by Stephanie Punnett, Program Director

Female Pileated Woodpecker,  photo from NJ Audubon Collection

Male Pileated Woodpecker by Stephanie Punnett, Program Director

For the past few days, a pair of Pileated Woodpeckers has been actively drilling holes into a large Sassafras tree located at the New Jersey Audubon’s Scherman Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary. Within the holes, the woodpeckers find carpenter ants and other food sources.

The pair consists of both a male and a female. The easiest way to distinguish between the genders is to look at the red feathers on the bird’s head. For males, they have a red crest at the back of the head as well as a red forehead. There is also a red streak that runs from the bill towards the back of the head and is commonly called the male’s “moustache.” Females only have the red crest at the back of the head.

Pileated Woodpeckers are the largest species of woodpecker in New Jersey and can be found in the state year-round. If the pair is drilling in the tree at the Sanctuary, they can’t be missed. The Sassafras is located on the right side of the driveway, right before the gate. They are most active in the early morning, but have been seen at other times too. Many birders and wildlife photographers have been frequenting the Sanctuary to observe and photograph the Pileated Woodpeckers.

The Scherman Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary is located at 11 Hardscrabble Road in Bernardsville. For more information about the Pileated Woodpeckers, please call 908-766-5787. More pictures of the bird can be found at the Scherman Hoffman Facebook page. To learn more about Scherman Hoffman visit