Delaware Bay

Early days on Delaware Bay – Horseshoe Crabs Just Beginning To Breed Just as Shorebirds Arrive

shorebirds in a net
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Horseshoe Crabs Just Beginning To Breed Just as Shorebirds Arrive   Delaware Bay horseshoe crab eggs reach sufficient levels to give red knots and other shorebirds a good start on the fat they need to fuel the last leg of their yearly journey in the first week of the stopover ( May 12-19).  Knots need at least 180 grams to fly to the Arctic and breed successfully.  This week we caught birds that weighed 93 grams which is 30 grams below fat-free weight.  These birds had just arrived from a long flight, probably from Tierra del Fuego, Chile or Maranhão,…

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conservation policy, Conserving Wildlife

A Better Way to Regulate the Protection of Wildlife Habitat

habitat conservation in Santa Clara county
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A Wild Landscape Protected The road winds, nearly spiraling downhill only to climb upward again, over and over through a vast landscape of California grassland pine and live oak.  Above golden eagles soar over a wilderness of mountain lions, burrowing owls and 15 other rare wildlife and plants. We drove through a wild place as devoid of people as any other in the US. After a series of harrowing switchbacks, the road ended and we found ourselves in one of the most economically vibrant and densely populated areas in the world.  Before us the human spectacle of the Santa Clara…

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Conserving Wildlife, Delaware Bay

The Folly of Unpreparedness

threats to horseshoe crabs
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The Folly of Unpreparedness The catastrophic storms that pounded Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico last year should have reminded the people of NJ of the destructive force of coastal storms and the folly of unpreparedness.  Sadly we have not.  While some rules have changed since Hurricane Sandy and billions of taxpayer funds have restored shoreline habitat to create a more secure coast many areas remain vulnerable. This is particularly true along the shoreline of Delaware Bay.  To start with,  little of the billion in Hurricane Sandy funds flowed to the communities of the Delaware Bay despite towns like Fortescue and Reeds…

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Delaware Bay, Science, shorebird ecology

A Case for Restoring the Horseshoe Crabs of Delaware Bay

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In 1991 Mark Botton and Bob Loveland conducted a survey of horseshoe crab eggs lying on the surface of the beaches along the lower Delaware Bay.  At the time horseshoe crabs spawned throughout the Bayshore, in great numbers in all tides.  Botton and Loveland measured egg densities as high as 100,000 eggs/square meter. One could find windrows of eggs washed in piles on beaches like Reeds Beach.   Now barely a then of that remains In 1990 Botton and Loveland measured egg densities of  100,000 eggs/square meter – now barely of tenth of that remain Large portions of 6 Arctic nesting shorebird species…

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Red Knot, Tierra del Fuego 2018

Looking Towards the Future

king penguins in Porvenir Chile
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The previous post “Choosing Extinction? From Malevolence to Farce After nearly two decades of trips to Chile, one gets the pulse of the people and community and how it changes over time. In 2001 we stayed at a small estancia on the east end of Tierra del Fuego, run by a diminutive but muscular rancher.  He had a face as craggy as a rock wall but he was generous and eager for the company.  After we finished three weeks of grueling field work, he offered to celebrate its completion with a lamb roast, or Asado. This traditional feast starts with…

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conservation

Choosing Extinction

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previous post “Tierra del Fuego an island of contrast” 83 Red Knots and A Study Begins We caught 83 red knots today along the edge of the Straits of Magellan. We did this with a house-sized net propelled by powerful cannons loaded with black powder. It happened fast. I yelled “3,2,1 fire!”, and our team of 10 biologists scrambled to the edge of the cold wind-tortured southern sea. We spent tense minutes that seemed hours extracting the birds from the net before gently tucking them into their temporary but warm burlap keeping cages. After nearly a week of preparations and…

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Expeditions and Travels, Tierra del Fuego 2018

Tierra del Fuego – An Island of Contrasts

mountains, chile
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 Seven years ago in Tierra del Fuego Seven years ago we finished our last expedition to Tierra del Fuego, Chile, the wintering area of the red knots and other Arctic nesting shorebirds. We expected to return. Instead, an 11-year-long investigation aimed at understanding and protecting an ecologically important and fragile place ended. For a field biologist, ending a long-term study is like ending a long-standing personal relationship. A good field biologist not only understands the ecology of a place but loves it by seeking more protection for its fragile parts. Once the connection ends, one longs for the beloved land,…

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Arctic, Expeditions and Travels, Tierra Del Fuego 2000

Our Expeditions to the Arctic and Chile in search of red knots – 2000-2004: An introduction written 17 years later

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Following are a series of blogs I wrote 15 years ago while leading expeditions to the Arctic tundra and the pampas of  Tierra del Fuego (TDF).. We were following the wandering life of the red knot, a shorebird that migrates 20,000 miles every year from one end of the earth to the other, just to survive.  On it’s return from wintering sites like Tierra del Fuego, Brazil’s Maranhao, or Florida’s Gulf coast, most red knots stop for a few weeks on Delaware Bay.  You’ll see blogs in this site that describe this amazing wildlife spectacle shorebirds hosing down horseshoe crabs…

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Brazil, Brazil 2017, Expeditions and Travels, Red Knot, Shorebird, Travel

On the Birds and Boats of Brazil

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Previous Post Birds and Boats I am a biologist that loves the birds and boats of northern Brazil. For good reason. In addition to the enormous bird diversity inherent in all tropical environments, the northern coast of Brazil in the states of Para and Maranhao stands out as one of the most important shorebird wintering areas in the western hemisphere.  It’s an amazingly vast area of mostly unpopulated beaches, intertidal sand and mud flats and mangrove forests. This ecological wonder also produces an abundance of fish and shellfish, on which the birds depend.  It also supports a network of traditional…

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Conserving Wildlife, Delaware Bay

Greater Expectations For Wildlife

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Hope For More Tucked away among some long forgotten and useless legal papers, I found a newspaper clipping from July 13, 1988, on NJ’s Bald Eagle restoration program. The uncredited article for the Beacon, a defunct local paper serving Cape May County,  described our efforts to bring Bald Eagles back to the Delaware Bay.  As a young wildlife biologist for the Endangered Species Program, (and still sporting a full head of hair), I piloted this effort. It was a grim time for Eagles then.  After decades of decline, the estimated original population of nearly 30 pairs, plummeted to just one…

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conservation, Conserving Wildlife, Delaware Bay, shorebird conservation

20 Years on Delaware Bay – Shorebirds lift off to an uncertain end

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  I am reviewing a new paper by Sjoerd Duijns, a student working on the benefits of being a fat shorebird.   Still, a draft, the paper analyses data from radio-tagged red knots leaving the bay in good condition (ie fat)and finds they may leave later from Delaware Bay than lighter birds but arrive earlier in the breeding grounds because they can pick the best time to leave. They are also more likely to breed successfully and survive the Arctic breeding season to the following fall.  In other words being a fat knot on Delaware Bay makes life good. So in light…

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Conserving Wildlife, Delaware Bay, Delaware Bay 2017, Red Knot, Shorebird, shorebird conservation

Abstracts from the meeting on 20 years of conservation and research on Delaware Bay

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Previous Post Program   May 10, 2017: 09:00 – 17:00   Note: the program only identifies the name of each speaker. Co-authors are indentified in the abstracts that follow.   09:00   Welcome and introduction: Larry Niles   Research and conservation of shorebirds in Delaware Bay – Chair Larry Niles 09:10   Clive Minton: Twenty years of scientific and conservation work on Delaware Bay 09:30   Humphrey Sitters: The daily rate of mass gain of Red Knots in Delaware Bay in relation to horseshoe crab egg density and from year to year 09:50   Robert A. Robinson: Mass gain in a spring-staging long distance…

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conservation

20 years on Delaware Bay: Shorebird Need More Horseshoe Crabs

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  We Need More Horseshoe Crabs The story of shorebirds on the Delaware Bay stopover this year boils down to the need for more horseshoe crabs. The population remains at only 1/3 of it’s carrying capacity, the maximum number the bay can naturally support.  There has been no sign of sustained recovery in the 15 years of a survey done by Virginia Tech and under the auspices of the Atlantic States Marine Fish Commission, the group that fell asleep at the wheel and allowing the population to be plundered.  There have been no signs of recovery for the red knot or any…

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Conserving Wildlife, Delaware Bay, Delaware Bay 2017, Red Knot, Shorebird, shorebird conservation

20 Years on Delaware Bay: Scarcity and Abundance -Shorebirds Near the Finish Line

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Previous Post Our latest catch of red knots and ruddy turnstones two days ago ( May 27)  suggests 2017 to be one of the most challenging years of our 20 years of work on Delaware Bay.  It challenged the birds for certain. For example, as of two days, ago ( May 27th) average weights of red knots remain mired in the mid 160’s when it should be in the 180-gram range.    This seems a minor difference but to red knots, it means a flight through the cold and often inhospitable north country of Canada and dropping out of the…

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conservation

20  Years on Delaware Bay: In Dangerous Territory

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Four days ago, the shorebirds of Delaware Bay could look forward to a bright future. But in the last week their chances for survival and good production have diminished.  In fact they are as dismal as the cold drizzle pockmarking the murky water in front of our house in Reed Beach. The following two graphs tell the story.  We captured red knots on May 12 and 16th  that showed a normal although not spectacular progression.  Than we made a catch of knots on the 19th and again today on the 23rd and in total they gained only 2 grams of…

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