Arctic, Expeditions and Travels

Expedition to the Arctic: Red Knot – June 21, 2003

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Our 2003 Arctic Expedition will follow a unique and potentially disastrous period for the Red Knot and the other shorebirds that stop in Delaware Bay. The birds rely on the eggs of the horseshoe crab to double body weight with fat to fuel their flight to the Arctic. This year there were virtually no eggs until the end of the season and only about half of the previous years number of red knots came to the bay. Those that came had to stay longer than at any time in the last six years to gain sufficient weight and fewer did so. We predict fewer birds made it to the Arctic and there was a substantial decline in breeding density. What will be found?

To answer that question we have established a remote study site on Southampton Island in Nunavut Province of the Canadian Arctic. We have returned to the study site for the last four years. The stories and pictures of the past trips are a part of this website.

We will expand our efforts this year by establishing a second site on King William Island in the central Canadian Arctic. Three years ago in late June we conducted an extensive survey of red knots that had been fixed with radio transmitters on Delaware Bay in May. We found 12 of 100 that year. Three were on Southampton Island and 4 on King William Island. As the rest were scattered on many different sites we consider these two islands to be the primary breeding areas of the red knot.

A second expansion of our project this year will be to repeat the 2000 survey of red knots with radio transmitters attached this year on Delaware Bay. We will expand the survey to include the Foxe Basin north of Southampton Island. This part of the project will be run jointly with Paul Castelli, biologist with the Bureau of Wildlife Management, Dave Golden, biologist with the Endangered & Nongame Species Program. Paul will be searching for Atlantic brant also equipped with transmitters while they wintered in NJ.

We have added three new people to our team this year: Karen Bennett of Delaware Division of Fish & Wildlife, Roger Swinfen (a shorebird biologist from the United Kingdom), and Pete Winkler, a Geographic Information System biologist with the Endangered & Nongame Species Program. They will join Amanda Dey and me (NJ Division of Fish & Wildlife), Mark Peck (Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto), Nancy Donnelly (United Friends School, PA), Humphrey Sitters (Wader Study Group, United Kingdom), Bruce Luebke (US Fish & Wildlife Service), and Steve Gates (Princeton). Once again Johnny Alouit (Coral Harbour Hunters & Trappers Organization) will accompany us once we reach Southampton.

6/21/03
Larry Niles
Edited by Nancy Donnelly
Photos by Larry Niles and Amanda Dey