Arctic, Expeditions and Travels

Expedition to the Arctic: Red Knot – July 8, 2003

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Our trip back to our homes went without too much difficulty. In not too much time we were already reflecting on the trip, our accomplishments, and findings.

First and foremost, we successfully completed another Arctic expedition without serious mishap, not a small accomplishment in an area so isolated and fraught with danger. We accomplished a great amount of work, including moving an entire team and camp to an altogether different location.

We found that the number of red knots at our Southampton Island study site continues to decline. The numbers are so low it might be more useful to survey the area every two years and switch to an alternative site in the intervening years. We did not see a concurrent decline in golden plover or most other shorebirds in the area. With the imposition of more stringent regulations on the harvest of horseshoe crabs on Delaware Bay, this site will now prove invaluable as a measure of the knots’ recovery.

Just as importantly, we successfully established a second study site on King William Island. We know that Delaware Bay red knots use the island, as determined by the location of birds instrumented with transmitters 3 years ago. The site holds great promise for the opportunity to do more extensive surveys at less cost than our previous site. We are intrigued by the lack of transmittered birds this year (especially after having learned of the location of 12 birds with transmitters in the Foxe Basin.)

We added considerable data to our database on nest characteristics and habitat. We have also begun a new database on egg size and weight change during incubation to help determine the first day of egg laying for red knots, golden plovers, ruddy turnstones, purple sandpipers, pectoral sandpipers, semipalmated sandpipers and Baird’s sandpipers.

All of these accomplishments belong to our crew of intelligent, hard working and resourceful professionals who seized the goals of this year’s work and persisted in reaching them in an environment of great uncertainty.

Our team thanks Director Marty McHugh of the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife for his unflagging support for shorebirds and the shorebird project. We also thank Linda Tesauro of the Conserve Wildlife Foundation without whom this work could not be done.

We are especially grateful for our core financial support from The Wildlife Conservation Society and the Dodge Foundation. Thanks to Bill Weber and Dawne Greene.

Our project is also supported by the Conserve Wildlife License Plate, the Tax check-off for Wildlife, and the many people who contribute to the Endangered and Nongame Species Program and the Conserve Wildlife Foundation.

The Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife supported Karen Bennett and the US Fish and Wildlife Service support Bruce Luebke. Thanks to Lloyd Alexander and Howard Schlegel.

The Royal Ontario Museum provided equipment and other logistical support…our thanks to Allan Baker.

This Arctic research is part of the Shorebird Project a part of the ENSP’s State Wildlife Grant Program.

The creation and management of this web site was done by Jeff Smith to whom we are all grateful. Thanks also to Jim Sciascia for all his help.

By Larry Niles
Edited by Nancy Donnelly
Photos by Larry Niles and Amanda Dey