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Conserving Wildlife

Conserving Wildlife, Delaware Bay, Delaware Bay 2018

The Horseshoe Crab Spawn Continues, Shorebirds Reach Flight Weights – Restoration Is Possible

red knots on egg island NJ
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Horseshoe crabs expanded breeding into neap tides Read the previous post The horseshoe crabs extended their breeding period into the neap tide phase after the cold weather of mid-May decreased water temperature during the spring tides.  This is good news because most experts expect breeding during the full or new moon tides ( called spring tides) The crabs roughly require a water temperature of about 59 degrees F before breeding begins in earnest.  Crabs still breed at a lower temperature, but many more will breed above the temperature threshold. At the same time, crabs also look for spring tides, the…

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Delaware Bay

Early days on Delaware Bay – Horseshoe Crabs Just Beginning To Breed Just as Shorebirds Arrive

shorebirds in a net
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Horseshoe Crabs Just Beginning To Breed Just as Shorebirds Arrive   Delaware Bay horseshoe crab eggs reach sufficient levels to give red knots and other shorebirds a good start on the fat they need to fuel the last leg of their yearly journey in the first week of the stopover ( May 12-19).  Knots need at least 180 grams to fly to the Arctic and breed successfully.  This week we caught birds that weighed 93 grams which is 30 grams below fat-free weight.  These birds had just arrived from a long flight, probably from Tierra del Fuego, Chile or Maranhão,…

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conservation policy, Conserving Wildlife

A Better Way to Regulate the Protection of Wildlife Habitat

habitat conservation in Santa Clara county
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A Wild Landscape Protected The road winds, nearly spiraling downhill only to climb upward again, over and over through a vast landscape of California grassland pine and live oak.  Above golden eagles soar over a wilderness of mountain lions, burrowing owls and 15 other rare wildlife and plants. We drove through a wild place as devoid of people as any other in the US. After a series of harrowing switchbacks, the road ended and we found ourselves in one of the most economically vibrant and densely populated areas in the world.  Before us the human spectacle of the Santa Clara…

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Conserving Wildlife, Delaware Bay

The Folly of Unpreparedness

threats to horseshoe crabs
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The Folly of Unpreparedness The catastrophic storms that pounded Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico last year should have reminded the people of NJ of the destructive force of coastal storms and the folly of unpreparedness.  Sadly we have not.  While some rules have changed since Hurricane Sandy and billions of taxpayer funds have restored shoreline habitat to create a more secure coast many areas remain vulnerable. This is particularly true along the shoreline of Delaware Bay.  To start with,  little of the billion in Hurricane Sandy funds flowed to the communities of the Delaware Bay despite towns like Fortescue and Reeds…

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Delaware Bay, Science, shorebird ecology

A Case for Restoring the Horseshoe Crabs of Delaware Bay

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In 1991 Mark Botton and Bob Loveland conducted a survey of horseshoe crab eggs lying on the surface of the beaches along the lower Delaware Bay.  At the time horseshoe crabs spawned throughout the Bayshore, in great numbers in all tides.  Botton and Loveland measured egg densities as high as 100,000 eggs/square meter. One could find windrows of eggs washed in piles on beaches like Reeds Beach.   Now barely a then of that remains In 1990 Botton and Loveland measured egg densities of  100,000 eggs/square meter – now barely of tenth of that remain Large portions of 6 Arctic nesting shorebird species…

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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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conservation, Conserving Wildlife, Delaware Bay, shorebird conservation

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, Delaware Bay 2017, Red Knot, Shorebird, shorebird conservation

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

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Previous Post 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…

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Conserving Wildlife, Delaware Bay, Delaware Bay 2017, Red Knot, Shorebird, shorebird conservation

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

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Previous Post 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…

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Conserving Wildlife, Delaware Bay, Delaware Bay 2017, Red Knot, Shorebird, shorebird conservation

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

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Previous Post 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…

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Conserving Wildlife, Delaware Bay, Delaware Bay 2017, Red Knot, Shorebird, 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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faith, Science

Having Faith in Action on Climate Change?

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What hope do we have now? A Trump presidency has so many implications for our world, it would be hard to know where to start. For at least half the country it would be a path of fear, lost ideals and calamities. But of all potential misfortunes that could befall us,  the worst will almost certainly ride behind all the others. The delay could make action to solve the problem of global warming too little too late. Climate may defeat us. Soon the string of climate firsts will add up to a national awareness. The unprecedented and ferocious floods,  fires, tornadoes,…

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Bird Study, Conserving Wildlife, Delaware Bay, Delaware Bay 2016, Red Knot, Science, Shorebird, shorebird ecology

the birds lift away to the arctic

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Previous Post 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…

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Bird Study, Conserving Wildlife, Delaware Bay, Delaware Bay 2016, Red Knot, Science, Shorebird, shorebird ecology

a shorebird paradise lost

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Previous Post 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…

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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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