Monday, October 26, 2020

Bat Appreciation Month!

These spectacular nocturnal creatures deserve nothing but praise all year long. Once you learn the facts and look past the myths you will understand the important ecological roles bats play in our ecosystem. 

Bat Species in New Jersey

Red Bat

We are lucky enough to have nine native bat species that make their home here in New Jersey. Six species call New Jersey home year-round: the little brown bat, big brown bat, northern long-eared bat (northern myotis), Indiana bat, eastern small-footed myotis, and tricolored bat (formally eastern pipistrelle). These species can be found living around the state in warmer months, but come early fall will start to move to caves and abandoned mines to survive the cold winter months by hibernating in their hibernacula. A hibernaculum is a shelter or place occupied by a creature during winter by a dormant animal (a hibernation site). There is one main hibernaculum in New Jersey located at the Hibernia Mine in Morris County. However, three bat species -- the silver haired bat, hoary bat, and red bat -- are tree bats that are migratory and leave New Jersey for more southern states to find milder climates to avoid the cold.

Endangered Species

Eight of the nine bat species can be encountered in Monmouth County; the only bat not found in the county is the Indiana bat, which is found in further northwest New Jersey. The Indiana bat is also the only bat listed with a conservation status as both Federally and State Endangered. However, there are some listed with a conservation status of only State Endangered, including the little brown bat, tricolored bat, northern long-eared bat, and eastern small-footed myotis. All of our remaining bats -- big brown bat, silver-haired bat, hoary bat, and red bat -- are listed as a conservation status of special concern. One of the reasons for some of these conservation concerns has much to do with a disease caused by a fungus that affects hibernating bats called White-Nose Syndrome, which has been an issue across the country. 

Time to Eat!

All New Jersey bat species are aerial insectivores, meaning they only eat insects they catch out of the sky mid-flight. Since bats are nocturnal predators, they have evolved the special adaptation of using echolocation to help locate and capture prey. Echolocation uses sound waves given off by the bats mouth or nose to reflect off objects to determine where those objects are in a space, once the reflected sound waves return to the bats ears. Most bats are thought to have poor eyesight, but this special adaptation makes up for it. 

Bats can consume more than half their body weight in insects every night, especially females when taking care of and feeding young. It is estimated bats can consume up to 3,000 insects in a single night with nursing mothers consuming even more. Common insects eaten by bats range from mosquito sized prey to beetles, moths, termites, leaf hoppers and even grass hoppers and are known to be a good natural pest control without the need for chemical pesticides. They mostly forage in flight in open areas, but can also glean insects from tree branches and leaves. They need to eat and drink nightly preferring habitats of forest edges and fields close to open bodies of water. Bats drink by gliding down to the water and drinking mid-flight without ever landing.

Taking Time to Rest

Little Brown Bat

The only time bats usually land is when they are ready to roost. During the day, a natural roost can consist of cracks in rocks, small caves, and under tree bark, but sometimes manmade roosts, such as bat boxes and awnings of buildings, are used as well. Bats need to roost during the daytime to help keep a stabilized temperature as well as to protect themselves from predators. Most daytime roosts are inconspicuous and hard to locate with the exception of those that are manmade. Bats are famous for being able to hang upside down while roosting and have a special adaptation of a tendon in their toes that locks into place for a firm grip.

Bats, like humans, are mammals! 

Bats have bodies covered with hair, are warm blooded, give birth to live young, and have mammary glands that produce milk to feed their young. The only true flying mammal, bats are actually in their own order of mammals called chiroptera, which means “hand wing” in Greek. The wings have four fingers and a thumb covered by a thin membrane of skin. They are one of the slowest reproducing mammals for their size on the planet, many only having one to two offspring per annual cycle (called pups). They engage in mating in the fall before hiberation, and give birth in the spring. The pups grow to full size within a couple of months, normally around mid-summer.

  • Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey, 
  • White-Nose Syndrome Response Team, 

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Celebrating 60: Manasquan Reservoir

For 30 years county and state officials felt a need to create a water storage facility for southern Monmouth County that would allow for "full utilization of its recreational potential." In 1988, that dream became reality as the county negotiated a lease agreement with the NJ Water Supply Authority for the first 1,051 acres of reservoir property in Howell Township for use as a park, thus establishing the Park System's highly popular Manasquan Reservoir. The park opened in 1990 with boating and fishing on the 770-acre reservoir and hiking and biking on the 282 surrounding acres. During its first full year of operation in 1991, the reservoir attracted over 128,000 visitors and recorded 2,000 boat launches. 

In 1994, the Visitor Center opened on the south shore with a fishing pier, a launching ramp for sailboats and boats with electric motors, and kayak and rowboat rentals. Today, this section of the reservoir also includes a wildlife-themed playground and during late spring through summer visitors can enjoy Naturalist-led pontoon boat tours to view the wildlife of the reservoir. 

The original planners of the reservoir designated a site on the west shore for environmental education. The Environmental Center opened in 2001, focusing its exhibits on wetland ecology and wildlife conservation. Great for all ages, there are hands-on exhibits, program spaces, and wildlife observation areas. The one-mile Cove Trail located next to the Environmental Center is a fantastic opportunity for visitors to take a troll see the nature of the wetlands, and the five-mile perimeter trail is the perfect scenic route for hikers, bicyclists, joggers and equestrians. 

As the largest freshwater lake in the area, the reservoir has become an important habitat for many bird species, most notably American bald eagles. An immature eagle was first noticed in 2001, and a nesting pair fledged two chicks in 2002 and in 2003, and three in 2004. Although workers cleared many acres of the former forest for the grading and flooding of the reservoir, they left trees in some areas that died following inundation, and these have provided excellent snag (dead tree) habitats for the eagles and for ospreys. They also provide microhabitats that protect fish and invertebrate water species from elements and predators.

The Manasquan Reservoir has continuously been the Park System's most visited site, with over 1.2 million visitors in 2019. Plan your trip to this beautiful site and learn more by visiting our website

This post comes from The Monmouth County Park System: The First Fifty Years, written by Clifford W. Zink and published and funded by the Friends of the Monmouth County Park System in 2010. Check out the book in its entirety by clicking here.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

August is National Wellness Month

National Wellness Month is about taking the time to introduce self-care into your routine in order to reduce stress and increase happiness. It's known that stress can cause or escalate conditions such as high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, heart attacks and much more. By taking time out for self-care, you can improve your health as well as your mental well-being, something we could all use during these trying times.

The parks can be a fantastic addition to your self-care routine. Here are FIVE ways to head to your local Monmouth County parks for some you-time:

  • Lace up your sneakers and hit the trails for a walk. Being surrounded by the beauty of nature relieves anxiety and improves memory. Take time on your walk to concentrate on the sights and sounds of nature. 
  • Set your blanket out on the grass and practice some relaxing meditation. Harvard studies have shown meditation can assist in lowering depression and anxiety. Never tried it? There are a variety of YouTube videos that can guide you through this practice, just pop in some earbuds, close your eyes, and relax.
  • Find a bench to sit and practice mindfulness, which helps to focus your awareness on the present moment. Put your attention on your breathing by inhaling through your nose for a count of 4, hold that breath in for a count of 7, and completely exhale for 8 seconds through your mouth as though you're blowing out candles. Mindfulness helps to clear your head by making you focus on the relaxation of your breathing and your senses. Doing this for 5-15 minutes offers a terrific sense of calm. 
  • Poetry, romance, mystery ... no matter what your favorite genre, relaxing with a good book is a simple way to unplug and unwind. Sit on a bench or bring a folding chair and find a place in the grass fields to indulge in your favorite book. 
  • Have a picnic! Self-care doesn't always have to mean being alone, it is also about taking time out from daily stressors. By having a picnic with your loved ones you can step away from the normal routine while feeling a sense of togetherness and sharing stories that will bring joy and laughter. Need help planning your picnic menu? Check out our Park Eats Pinterest board.
We hope you'll make the parks a part of your self-care routine. Need help finding the closest park to you? Visit us at for a complete list of your Monmouth County parks.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Celebrating 60: Bayshore Waterfront Park

The Park System realized a long-term goal to establish a County park on Sandy Hook Bay when it acquired eight acres in Port Monmouth from the Conservation Fund in 1988. Since then, the Park System has consolidated 90 lots into Bayshore Waterfront Park, Port Monmouth, preserving a valuable coastal landscape from intense bayshore development and providing almost a mile of public access along the bay. 

Settlers established Shoal Harbor, the historical name of the Port Monmouth area, in the late 17th century. The Seabrook-Wilson House, one of the oldest houses on the Bayshore and a local landmark rich in community and maritime history, became part of the park in 1998 in a land transfer with Middletown Township. Daniel Seabrook acquired 202 acres on the Bayshore in 1696, and his son or grandson built the oldest section of the house in the early 1700s. After five generations as a Seabrook family farm, William V. Wilson purchased the farm in 1855 and lived there with his family until the turn of the century. Several owners operated the house as an inn during the 20th century under names like the Bay Side Manor and the White House Tavern. 

Seabrook-Wilson House
By the late 1960s, the house had become dilapidated and vacant. At the urging of local residents concerned about its preservation, Middletown Township acquired the property in 1969, and a local historical association operated it as the Spy House Museum. The Park System acquired the building from Middletown Township in 1998 and it was restored in 2009. The building is now used for Park System programs, with exhibits on the history and ecology of the Bayshore. The park also includes a fishing pier, a favorite of local fishermen, and attracts kayakers, windsurfers, birders, beachcombers and other visitors who enjoy the spectacular bay views.

Bayshore Waterfront Park contains the largest intact estuarine marshes in Sandy Hook Bay and includes coastal wetland, deciduous maritime shrublands, and two tidal creeks, Compton’s Creek and Pews Creek, which drain small upland watersheds. The plant community in these estuaries is highly influenced by the level of salinity in different areas. Smooth cordgrass adapted to higher salt concentrations dominates the low salt marsh, which receives regular inundation of tidal water. Saltmeadow cordgrass adapted to lower salinity dominates the high salt marsh, which receives an occasional inundation. 

Meandering tidal creeks like these pulse with the tides in and out of the estuary, carrying nutrients and multitudes of marine organisms that interact with the grasses. Channels dug in the mid-20th century to expose mosquito populations to fish predators have increased the efficiency of the flow, but they have also reduced shallow pooled areas, called pans, that support species like sea lavender and glasswort and provide feeding areas for many bird species. Some undisturbed meandering channels can still be detected, and as the old linear channels gradually fill in, the meanders and pools are beginning to return. 

American Oystercatchers
American Oystercatchers
Estuaries such as these at Bayshore Waterfront Park are some of the most productive ecosystems on earth. With each tide, life is flushed in and out of these rich landscapes. Many notable species such as northern harrier, great blue and yellow-crowned night heron, American oystercatcher, black skimmer, and osprey feed and nest in this landscape. The marsh is filled with fiddler crabs, ribbed mussels, pulmonate snails, and dozens of other species that support the marine ecology of Sandy Hook Bay and beyond.

We hope you'll add Bayshore Waterfront Park to your list of places to visit soon. You'll love relaxing on the shore or taking photos of the gorgeous New York City skyline. Be sure to visit our website to learn about upcoming drop-in programs happening this September. 

This post comes from The Monmouth County Park System: The First Fifty Years, written by Clifford W. Zink and published and funded by the Friends of the Monmouth County Park System in 2010. 
Check out the book in its entirety by clicking here.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

From the Garden of Historic Longstreet Farm: Tomatoes

Here in New Jersey, tomatoes are a summer staple, to the point that it was named as our state vegetable. Though they actually belong to the fruit family due to their seeds, tomatoes are considered a vegetable because of how they are prepared and served. Colors vary from red to yellow to purple and the vegetable is classified into three groups: cherry, plum and slicing.

People often assume tomatoes originated in Europe, but the history of tomatoes goes back hundreds of years in Mesoamerica, noted as being consumed by the Aztecs as early as 700 AD where they were called "tomatl." It is thought that around 1493 Spanish Conquistador Hernan Cortes introduced tomato seeds to southern Europe as they returned from expeditions in Mexico and other parts of Mesoamerica. As early as the 1540s, tomatoes were grown in Spanish fields and became a common food; however, in places like Italy they were only being used as tabletop decoration until the late 17th century by Italian nobility. 

The first reference to the tomato in the British Colonies was published in Botanologia by William Salmon in 1710 which places tomatoes in the Carolinas. It was considered an edible fruit and though most knew how to grow them, no one knew how to cook them. It wasn't until the 1800s that recipes began appearing, but there were rumors that tomatoes were poisonous for two reasons. First was because the tomato plant is in the same family as nightshade, an extremely poisonous plant. And then when the "Green Tomato Worms" were discovered people feared their frightful appearance so much that many thought it would impart poisonous qualities to the fruit. It wasn't until entomologist Benjamin Walsh argued that the tomato worm "wouldn't hurt a flea" that the rumors began to fade and farmers soon began learning more about the tomato's use and experimented with different varieties in their crops.

Today, tomatoes are used around the world in many varieties. But here is a look at recipes and techniques that may have been used in the 1890s by the residents at Historic Longstreet Farm and other local areas:

Baked Tomatoes (Plain.)
Peel and slice quarter of an inch thick; place in layers in a pudding dish, seasoning each layer with salt, pepper, butter, and a very little white sugar. Cover with a lid or a large plate, and bake half an hour. Remove the lid and brown for fifteen minutes. Just before taking from the over, pour over the top three or four tablespoons of whipped cream with melted butter.
From "White House Cook Book A Selection of Choice Recipes Original and Selected, during a period of forty years" by Mrs. F.L. Gillette. R.S. Peale & Company, Chicago, 1887.

Escaloped Tomatoes.
Scald the tomatoes and pare off all the skin. Line an earthen baking dish, well buttered, with a layer of cracker crumbs and small bits of butter. Then put in a layer of tomatoes with a very little brown sugar sprinkled over them; then another layer of cracker crumbs, seasoned with butter, pepper and salt, and then another layer of tomatoes, until your dish is filled; let the last layer be cracker crumbs; put flakes of butter here and there over this. Bake half an hour. One or two tablespoons of rich cream poured over the top layer is an improvement.
From "Aunt Babette's Cook Book. Foreign and Domestic Receipts for the Household" by Aunt Babette. The Bloch Publishers and Printing Company, Cincinnati and Chicago, 1889.

Tomato Bisque.
One quart water, one quart milk, one quart can tomatoes, one teaspoonful soda, two tablespoonfuls cornstarch; cook the tomatoes in the water half an hour, then add soda, then milk which should be hot, cornstarch, a piece of butter half as large as an egg, salt and pepper to taste, strain and serve. I prefer to cook in porcelain. Mrs. B.M. Nichols.
From "The Woman Suffrage Cook Book" edited and published by Mrs. Hattie A. Burr. Copyright, 1886.

Tomato Fritters.
1 can tomatoes
6 cloves
1/4 cup sugar
3 slices onion
1 teaspoon salt
Few grains cayenne
1/4 cup butter
1/3 cup corn-starch
1 egg
Cook first four ingredients twenty minutes, rub all through a sieve except seeds, and season with salt and pepper. Melt butter, and when bubbling, add corn-starch and tomato gradually; cook two minutes,, then add egg slightly beaten. Pour into a buttered shallow tin and cool. Turn on a board, cut in squares, diamonds, or strips. Roll in crumbs, eggs, and crumbs again, fry in deep fat, and drain.
From "The Boston Cook-School Cook Book" by Fannie Merritt Farmer, Principal of the Boston Cooking-School. Little, Brown, and Company, Boston, 1896.

Historic Longstreet Farm is currently open to the public, operating on their summer schedule from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. through Labor Day. We ask that visitors continue social distancing and strongly recommend face coverings, especially when interacting with staff. We remind visitors that for both your safety and the safety of our animals, touching or feeding the animals is not permitted. We look forward to seeing you at the farm and be sure to take a walk past the garden to see what's currently growing.