Bird Study, conservation policy, Conserving Wildlife, Delaware Bay, habitat management, Restoring Habitat, Science, shorebird conservation, shorebird ecology, wildlife conservation, wildlife tracking

Fortescue and Thompson’s Beach: “It’s all labor”

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In the video above, Humphrey Sitters counts 16,000 red knots on Egg Island Point, just east of our new beach. The flock is the largest concentration in the hemisphere.

The construction of Fortescue Beach has finally reached that early stage known to most people in construction where they say “it’s all labor”. The early logistical problems have been ironed out and our goal is simple, to get as much sand onto the beach as fast as is possible. On Tuesday and Wednesday, H4 hauled over 4000 tons of sand.

The beach gradually takes shape. Boomer Huen and Eric Johnson use the excavator and front end loader to get the sand from the road to lay down a new sandy berm along the sea’s edge. From here, they will build out the inter tidal zone.

It’s hard to describe the importance of this berm and intertidal zone. In our other beaches constructed over the last two years, horseshoe crabs immediately used the beaches to lay eggs, quickly achieving densities high enough for shorebirds to find eggs on the surface. The number of knots and shorebirds in general in the area is staggering.

Above is an iPhone video taken by Alindi Fojtik of the University of Georgia, who was operating a boat with Humphrey Sitters of the International Wader Study Group. They were tasked with counted the shorebirds of Egg Island, just east of our new beach in May 28th 2014. They were counting shorebirds by boat while David Mizrahi and I were counting from an airplane. On that day, we counted over 16,000 red knots, the largest concentration in the hemisphere. Our new habitat will help them.

In the last two days, Thompson’s Beach moved into the beach building phase after Steve Green and Mark Zsorey moved most of the rubble and pilings out of the inter-tidal zone. The transformation in the beach is dramatic. In the last two days, Wickberg Marine and Dunrite Sand have moved over 200 truckloads carrying over 4,000 tons of sand to Thompson’s.

The rebuilding of Thompson’s will be an interesting experiment in our work. Through the work of Steve Hafner of Stockton, we are beginning to understand more about how sand moves on the Delaware Bay. Unlike the Atlantic Coast, where there is a predominate long shore drift southward, sand on the bay moves towards inlets with only a gentle assist from long shore movement. The prevailing westerly winds also guide sand movement.

At Thompson’s, there is no nearby inlet and there is not likely to be long shore movement because our beaches are bounded by two remnant homesteads protected by tons of rubble. Thus, the beaches are protected indentations into the marsh. Still, we will accommodate the wind movement of sand by placing more on the western side. Stockton University’s sediment transport study will track this and use it in developing a baywide model of sand movement.

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Boomer lifting sand onto Fortescue Beach

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A comparison of Thompson’s beach with and without rubble.

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Trucks use our newly restored roadway out to Thompson’s. The number of trucks will put it to the test.