“Red Knot,” James Fiorentino

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Red Knot Original Available for Sale

Red Knots begin arriving in New Jersey in early May. A medium-sized shorebird breeding in the tundra, Red Knots have one of the longest migratory patterns of any bird. In a single year it travels 9,000 miles, spanning the globe from the Artic to the tip of South America. Eating seasonally what it finds along the way, in New Jersey Red Knots time their migration to feed on horseshoe crab eggs. Locally, the Delaware Bay hosts the largest spawning population of horseshoe crabs, so one can witness concentrations of knots where the crabs are densely spawning. Along their migratory path these shorebirds can be spied along the Delaware Bay, the Atlantic side of Cape May, and down along the coastal beaches as late as August and September.

When Red Knots arrive in New Jersey they have very little fat on their bodies, and the eggs of the horseshoe crab provide an important food source that fuels their migration south. Red Knots will double their weight on the Delaware Bay during this season, with the rich food source providing the fat reserves necessary to reach their breeding grounds and lay eggs. Underweight and underfed birds can’t complete the migratory circuit and reproduce, and the Red Knot population has been in decline locally since the 1980s. Counts as high as 90,000 in the 1980s have fallen significantly; to 13,000 in 2007. That year, a moratorium was placed on harvesting horseshoe crabs to help bolster the red knots’ numbers. From May to June, the beaches along the Delaware Bay are closed to visitors to protect this vital habitat for these migratory shorebirds.

“Eastern Tiger Salamander,” James Fiorentino

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Eastern Tiger Salamander Original Available for Sale

Adults of the Eastern Tiger Salamander are rarely seen in the open, but the artist James Fiorentino has captured the vivid coloration that give these amphibians their names. Though these striped beauties are the most widely distributed salamander in North America, they have become endangered throughout much of the Northwest. State endangered in New Jersey, New York, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia, and once common along the Eastern Seaboard, the Eastern Tiger Salamander has already been extirpated from Pennsylvania, and its numbers are declining. In New Jersey, Eastern Tiger Salamanders are limited to 15 known breeding pools. Like all mole salamanders, the Eastern Tiger Salamander remains loyal to its birthplace, often traveling long distances to return home.

ex / tir / pate: 1. to remove or destroy completely 2. also known as ‘local extinction;’ the condition of a species that ceases to exist in a specific geographic area.

Like other ‘mole’ salamanders, the Eastern Tiger Salamander spends a significant amount of time underground, using their spade-like heads to dig down into burrows around 2 feet from the surface. These deeper burrows help extend their geographic range – with the ability to dig comes a better chance to find a suitable humidity underground in a wide range of habitats. Though Eastern Tiger Salamanders were once found up and down the coast, these days they are limited mostly to the Cape May area, in a delicate system of vernal pools necessary for breeding – when the conditions aren’t right, the salamanders aren’t able to breed that year.

In other parts of the country tiger salamanders are so plentiful they are sold as bait, but in New Jersey the Cape May population has been dwindling and the area is susceptible to saltwater intrusion,so over the last several years a concerted effort has been made to restore their numbers. For more information on Eastern Tiger Salamander conservation efforts, visit Conserve Wildlife.

“Fisher Cat,” James Fiorentino

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Fisher Cat Original Available for Sale

Once hunted to extirpation for their dense and silky fur, the Fisher Cat has made a remarkable comeback in its native historical range. In the not-so-distant past the Fisher Cat was thought to be restricted to the boreal forests of Canada. With closed hunting seasons, habitat recovery and reintroduction the Fishers have come to reoccupy much of its previous range, though in much smaller numbers. Following local sightings, cameras were set up in the Kittatinny Ridge of New Jersey in 2005. After a year of surveillance, three photos finally captured the elusive fisher. Since then numerous sightings have confirmed the return of the fisher to this part of the world.

Clever, carnivorous hunters, Fisher Cats are one of few predators of porcupines, employing an elaborate technique to capture its prey. Though they prefer prey like snowshoe hares, fisher cats are opportunistic omnivores and will eat mushrooms and fruit if necessary. For more on local conservation efforts visit Conserve Wildlife.

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