Attention South Jersey butterflyers: The Nature Conservancy needs your help in documenting the butterflies that use the habitat at our Garrett Family Preserve at Cape Island Creek.
Why, you ask?
As the Critical Lands Manager for The Nature Conservancy in New Jersey, I’m responsible for maintaining the trails and habitats at several of our preserves. That once meant mowing grass. And, let me tell you, it was a LOT of grass, so I mowed all…hot…summer…long.
One hot summer day, not too long ago, while staring at the office lawn and swatting flies, I suddenly thought, “Why should I maintain lawn grass at a nature preserve?”
It seemed wrong to be manicuring the land and breaking the peace of the great outdoors with a loud, gas-powered mower. There must be a better way, I thought. A way that would free up my time from mowing while at the same time benefiting nature.
The answer? Wildflowers! And so, in the fall of 2014, I embarked on a plan to create wildflower habitat for local and migratory pollinators.
Fast forward to 2017. The former grass fields at Eldora (the Nature Conservancy office), Garrett Family Preserve at Cape Island Creek, Maurice River Bluffs, Lizard Tail, and South Cape May Meadows Preserves are now teeming with native wildflowers. The fields blossom for many months and sustain important pollinators like bumblebees, butterflies, moths, and hummingbirds, and the blooms are spectacular for visitors to see.
After the plants have bloomed, I mostly leave them intact because they provide useful habitat for many birds, insects, and other animals through fall and winter. And I mow the fields just once every spring, prepping them for regrowth and freeing the rest of my time for more pressing conservation concerns.
Now, three years in, I am interested in documenting the species using the wildflower areas. I’ve decided to start with Garrett Family Preserve at Cape Island Creek, since it has a huge and unmistakable field of flowers with an easily-walkable trail system, just a few steps from the parking area. And, I’ve decided to start with butterflies, since they are plentiful and just plain cool to watch and identify.
The fields are filled with beautiful flowers by mid/late May and bloom all the way into October. So, I invite any visitors to Garrett Family Preserve at Cape Island Creek to note down the butterfly species they see on site and report their finds to the South Jersey Butterfly Sightings Log.
(Please include the words “Garret Family Preserve” in the Location Box, so we can easily search for the collected data at the end of the year — jc.)
The Preserve also includes a flat walk with scattered flowers throughout, as well as tidal marsh habitat, tall trees, and other interesting ecological features. Feel free to explore everywhere – and please let us know what you find.
See the link below for directions and more information about the site.
Thanks so much and see you out there!