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Conserving Wildlife

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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Conserving Wildlife, Delaware Bay, shorebird conservation, Uncategorized

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, shorebird conservation

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

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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 migrant shorebird,…

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Conserving Wildlife, Delaware Bay, shorebird conservation

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

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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 sky never…

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Conserving Wildlife, Delaware Bay, shorebird conservation

20 Years on Delaware Bay – The Importance of water temperatures, windstorms and shoals

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As we begin our field work on Delaware Bay shorebirds, our 21st season, oddly enough we are once again faced with extraordinary circumstances.   As usual, the birds, after various flight of up to 6  days of nonstop flying,  arrive in emaciated condition.   For example in one catch this week we caught several red knots at around 86 grams far lower than it normal weight of 130 grams.  Putting that into perspective, a women of 145 pounds would tip the scale at 93 lbs while a male of 175 lbs at 113 lbs!  In other words these birds are…

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Conserving Wildlife, Delaware Bay, shorebird conservation

20 Years of Shorebird Conservation and Research on Delaware Bay

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A Monumental Work of Conservation This year marks the 21st year of the Delaware Bay Shorebird Project. As one of the longest running shorebird conservation projects in the world, the only one of its kind in the US, we wanted to memorialize this monumental work. To do so we convened a daylong series of presentations by scientists and managers from all over the world who have worked on the bay.  Here are the abstracts. They are worth a look by nearly anyone interested in shorebirds and Delaware Bay.   DelawareBay_Workshop_Program&Abstract_CWF The presentations ranged widely. We heard talks diving deep into the…

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Bird Study, Conserving Wildlife, Delaware Bay, Science, shorebird ecology

the birds lift away to the arctic

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On our final effort to trap shorebirds on Delaware Bay, we had the remarkable opportunity to watch sanderling and ruddy turnstones lift off for the Arctic. We first saw them feeding on the wave-tossed shoreline within the protected area in Villas; 1500 birds weaving as a single thread 5 deep with the contours of the wave, acting like a flying flock on the ground. Then a disturbance, a crow flying low down the shoreline and 2000 birds fill the sky.  Most settled again but one group of about 300 flew more with greater determination than the rest. Still low but…

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Bird Study, Conserving Wildlife, Delaware Bay, Science, shorebird ecology

a shorebird paradise lost

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We conducted our first bay wide count of shorebirds on Delaware Bay and the results suggest we are rapidly approaching the peak number of shorebirds. Last year we counted 24,700 knots and 16,000 ruddy turnstones. This year’s counts are lower because it’s early, but still over 20,000 knots and 16,000 turnstones, 10,000 sanderling have stopped over in the bay. These promising results are preliminary, but it seems we are getting close to our peak population of red knots and at the peak of the other two species – if populations are similar to last year. Bird condition also looks promising….

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Bird Study, Conserving Wildlife, habitat management, Science, shorebird conservation

Valuable Creeks and Shoals

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In spite of the very spotty horseshoe crab spawn, the shorebirds on Delaware Bay seem to be gaining weight on schedule.  Below you will find a graph composed of the average weights of all the red knots by our team for the last 20 years. The curve is the result of combining all the data we collected and shows the sweet spot for most knots. As they arrive they take time to gain weight but after about 5 days they start gaining weight rapidly.  After the 26th or so, birds start reaching the critical weights necessary to safely reach the…

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Bird Study, Conserving Wildlife, Delaware Bay, Science, shorebird conservation, shorebird ecology, Uncategorized

Shorebirds out in the cold

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It’s well known that the Delaware Bay shorebird stopover depends on the horseshoe crabs.  Few know that the Delaware Bay is a near perfect horseshoe crab habitat. There are many places on the eastern seaboard where horseshoe crabs breed.  Most are too small to provide sustenance for energy starved shorebirds.  Places like Cape Romain Refuge in South Carolina, have enough horseshoe crabs so that one breeding female unearths eggs of another and thus lays out a tidy meal for shorebirds.  But the areas are small and at this time unimportant to the population of shorebirds. Most of the others are…

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Bird Study, Conserving Wildlife, Delaware Bay, Science, shorebird ecology, wildlife tracking

Early News Is Good for Shorebirds on Delaware bay

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    The Early News is Good   Our team trapped over 500 shorebirds over the weekend including several hundred red knots in two catches on May 12th and 14th.   Most of the caught birds,  knots, ruddy turnstones and sanderlings arrived in good condition, always a relief at this early stage in the season .  Ruddy turnstones  arrived in better-than-average condition, weighing in at 5 grams higher than normal arrival weights.   The condition on arrival is one of the main bits of information of this work.  In some years, knots struggled to get to the bay coming in at…

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Conserving Wildlife, Science, shorebird conservation, shorebird ecology

20 years of shorebird conservation

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We begin the 20th year of the Delaware Bay Shorebird Project this year with many of the same team members that helped start the project in 1997.  That’s 20 years of studying one of the most intellectually challenging and endlessly fascinating species of wildlife in the world.  Few have had the good fortune to do so.     Unfortunately, we do not start this year with the same shorebird population.  In the last twenty years the Delaware Bay Stopover fell precipitously from its once lofty perch as one of the top three stopovers in the world.  Where once we counted…

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conservation policy, Conserving Wildlife, Expeditions and Travels, Uncategorized

Inuit Wisdom on Conservation

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In July of last year, our trip in search of red knots from my home in Greenwich, NJ to the small Arctic town of Coral Harbor in Southampton Island took us to some of the most remote wilderness in this hemisphere. But we also leaped from a modern socially connected world to one with third world communication and economic systems. You can’t use your cell phone in Coral Harbor, in fact neither can the mostly Inuit population. They use Facebook with enthusiasm but have virtually dial-up internet speeds. The cost of a case of coke is $45. An overnight stay…

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conservation policy, Conserving Wildlife

long ago conservationists forcefully protected wildlife

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There was another time when greedy people overexploited the country’s wild lands destroying wildlife wholesale. Early in the century the killing of wildlife for meat, fur, feather and entertainment created income for many and without regulation ended in ecological collapse. Things got better after passage of national laws that stopped market hunting of wildlife but lawlessness and habitat destruction went on until populations of highly productive species were being lost. The collapse of huntable populations of game animals, deer, turkey and especially waterfowl, slowly fueled public outrage. The nation was hobbled by the Great Depression and yet activists like Ding…

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Conserving Wildlife, Delaware Bay, Expeditions and Travels

Two Bays Two Worlds Same Fate

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Two Bays Two Worlds Most see the Delaware Bay as the poor and sad relation to the more prosperous and vibrant Chesapeake Bay. There is no doubt the Chesapeake bay is far wealthier than it’s sister bay only a few miles to the east. With cities like Annapolis or towns like St Michaels, the Chesapeake attracts millions to its shores each year, and this propels a vibrant economy. The Delaware Bay remains mired in an economic funk, one could argue started over three decades ago. Wildlife conservationists would see it differently however.  The Chesapeake sports a persistent oxygen-free dead zone…

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