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Shorebirds Arrive on Restored Delaware Bay Beaches


After a week of lovely spring weather, strong westerly winds blowing over a still cold sea reasserted winter’s hold on our beaches. Last week, the machine operators wore short sleeves, today they pulled out the camo down and Carhard woolen caps. I dug out my Patagonia down hoodie. The sea looked angry as wave after wave assaulted our new beach at Fortescue – three days so far. We lost sand but as Steve Hafner says, “it probably stayed in the profile” or within the beaches designed shape. Let’s hope so.

The impact of the wind today demonstrates the importance of giving the horseshoe crabs and the birds choices for which area they can respectively spawn and feed. Fortescue Beach faces the westerly wind, so no crab could even think about spawning in a full-on westerly gale. But as the pictures show, Thompson’s Beach looks almost peaceful, its orientation shielding it from the harsh westerlies.

thompsons-beachSand deliveries ended today at both beaches and each operation focuses on finishing touches. Boomer Huen of H4 will grade the beach to fit the profile today and the Wickberg crew will finish spreading stockpiled sand on Monday and finish on Tuesday. Both finished in good time for the crab spawn.


Thompson’s Beach Before and After

Water temperatures hover around 52 degrees, around the same as last year at this time. Last year, the crabs didn’t start breeding in good numbers until after May 8th.  I walk each beach fully nearly everyday and have yet to see crab one.

More shorebirds arrive each day. Willets, who left for their South America wintering areas last July, once again own the Delaware Bay marshes, fighting for territories and generally making a racket throughout the marsh. All winter long we spotted sanderling, dunlin and occasionally black bellied plovers. This week, however, one could see tight flocks of Calidrids probably least sandpipers flying low over the distant marsh. Always the first to arrive in good numbers, leasts will stick to the marshes for the most part. Next week, will almost certainty bring semipalmated sandpipers and maybe the start of turnstones and even the odd knot moving up the coast from nearby wintering areas in VA or NC.


Two willets fighting over a piece of Thompson’s marsh.

The week after we will begin the fast climb to our stopover population of knots, sanderlings, semi p’s, ruddy turnstones, shortbilled dowitchers and dunlin. Soon 300,000 shorebirds will flood bay beaches and marshes.


Photo by Jan van der Kam