Did you know that Red-Winged Blackbird symbolizes good luck, protection, and prosperity? Well, we're hoping that their presence at the American Littoral Society’s Julie Schreck Maritime Forest in Bradley Beach, NJ is a sign that the habitat restoration project is not just good for local wildlife but also for the surrounding community.
It was 13 years ago when the Society broke ground on this important ecological pocket gem and transformed an unused half-acre hardpan lot into an important stopover for migratory birds and butterflies. Today it hosts over 20 species of native grasses, shrubs, and trees (all budding right now) and several species of birds, insects, and mammals, while also enhancing local storm resilience.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, maritime forests, like all wetlands and estuaries, are essential for storm protection. They also conserve important nutrients and groundwater.
During a recent stop there, for some sprucing up of the forest's paths, we were greeted by the distinctive “chunk-a-ree” of the the blackbird. As the truck arrived with crushed shell from Cape May, the forest went silent, and the sounds of the birds were replaced by the hum of machinery and jingling-rattle of shell being dumped on the road adjacent to the forest.
The Bradley Beach Department of Public Works was at the ready in their Bobcat and began spreading the shell along the access road while other help arrived to hand-place shell along the paths.
The work is in preparation for the summer season, when thousands of visitors will walk through the forest, read our signs, and experience a slice of the ecosystem that used to cover over 90 percent of the back dune coastline in New Jersey.