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shorebird conservation

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

Valuable Creeks and Shoals

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

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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Conserving Wildlife, Science, shorebird conservation, shorebird ecology

20 years of shorebird conservation

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

2015 Delaware Bay Shorebird Banding Season Ends

All our efforts to help shorebirds on Delaware Bay this year couldn’t have been better rewarded – nearly every red knot left the bay in good condition and in one of the earliest departures in the 19 years of the Project. We counted just over 24,000 knots in our aerial count of the entire Bayshore on May 26th. Just two days later, most had left and we could find only a few hundred, feeding on eggs like human shoppers feed on bargains at a half-price sale. By May 31st, virtually all were gone, along with the ruddy turnstones, sanderlings and…

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Arctic, Bird Study, Conserving Wildlife, Delaware Bay, Expeditions and Travels, habitat management, Restoring Habitat, Science, shorebird conservation, shorebird ecology, wildlife conservation, wildlife tracking

The Red Knots “Vote with their Wings”

Clive Minton is fond of saying, “the knots vote with their wings” as a way of saying knots concentrate in the best places for knots. Of course it’s true, animals move to the habitats they find most suitable, nature leaves little room for anything but. Sometimes however, animals use a habitat only because they have little choice — in other words, they are making the best of a bad situation. The job of a good wildlife biologist is to understand the difference. Unfortunately, it’s often not obvious. In all the places studied by this author — Tierra del Fuego, the…

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Arctic, Bird Study, conservation policy, Conserving Wildlife, Delaware Bay, Expeditions and Travels, habitat management, Restoring Habitat, Science, shorebird conservation, shorebird ecology, wildlife conservation, wildlife tracking

19,077 Red Knots Observed in New Jersey

Despite the threatening forecast of a cold drizzle and strong winds, our team persevered to complete the first bay-wide count of this season. On the New Jersey side of Delaware Bay, we counted 19,077 red knots – the most seen in the state in a decade. With Delaware’s shorebird team recording 2,000 knots along their entire shoreline, the total knot count of 21,077 is not far from the 24,000 seasonal maximum of the last three years. This is good news in either of two completely different ways. One explanation is that perhaps most of the knots have already come to…

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Bird Study, conservation policy, Conserving Wildlife, Delaware Bay, habitat management, Restoring Habitat, Science, shorebird conservation, shorebird ecology, wildlife conservation, wildlife tracking

13,000 Red Knots on New Jersey’s Delaware Bay

We had about 13,000 knots on the New Jersey side of the Delaware Bay (an additional reported 2,000 on the Delaware side of the Bay). Yesterday, we suffered strong NW winds in excess of 20 kts and the birds virtually disappeared. Our daily survey turned up about 6,000 knots, the rest we suspect, finding refuge in Egg Island and Goshen Marshes or with a flyover to Delaware. We will know where they went today. The team will comb the Bayshore for shorebirds with a coordinated ground, boat and aerial survey. The birds gain weight in good time and we expect…

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Bird Study, conservation policy, Conserving Wildlife, Delaware Bay, habitat management, Restoring Habitat, Science, shorebird conservation, shorebird ecology, wildlife conservation, wildlife tracking

2015 Shorebird Migration and Horseshoe Crab Spawn on Delaware Bay

Thousands of shorebirds now fill Delaware Bay’s beaches and marshes in a determined effort to regain lost reserves with free-for-the-taking fatty eggs of the horseshoe crab. The crab spawn began ten days ago and has gained momentum over the last week as the volume of eggs grows like a well-funded savings account. The eggs surface as each new female crab digs up egg clusters laid by other crabs or as wind-driven waves pound the always-fluid sandy beaches. At least 8,000 red knots slowly get fat on the eggs scattered on New Jersey’s Delaware Bay beaches.   Both crabs and birds…

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Bird Study, Brazil, conservation policy, Conserving Wildlife, Delaware Bay, Expeditions and Travels, habitat management, Science, shorebird conservation, shorebird ecology, wildlife conservation, wildlife tracking

Delaware Bay Shorebird Project Continues for 2015 Season!

The value of a shorebird stopover like Delaware Bay can be seen in the shaky cam movie by this author.  Red knots – some recently arrived after a grueling 6,000-mile flight over 6 days of continuous flying – arrive on the Bayshore desperate for food. Over the last 10,000 years, the species has evolved to fly directly to the Bay to feed on the eggs of the horseshoe crab. The 450-million year-old crab – which is actually in the spider family – crawls ashore and lays pin-sized eggs about 6 inches deep in the sand. When there are many crabs, as…

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Bird Study, conservation policy, Conserving Wildlife, Delaware Bay, habitat management, Restoring Habitat, Science, shorebird conservation, shorebird ecology, wildlife conservation, wildlife tracking

The 2015 Delaware Bay Shorebird Project Begins!

Our 2015 Delaware Bay Shorebird Project began on one of the hottest early-May weekends in memory. Clive Minton, an English-expatriate Australian, and I began the project with an early morning survey of each bay beach – Reeds, Cooks, Kimbles, Pierces, Rutgers, Norburys, Villas – dripping sweat and swatting biting gnats as though it was early June, not early May. The sudden burst of summer weather warmed the bay waters, triggering our first horseshoe crab spawn providing sufficient eggs for newly arriving birds. The birds, on the other hand, followed a more normal schedule. We counted only 400 knots, a smaller…

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Bird Study, conservation policy, Conserving Wildlife, Delaware Bay, habitat management, Restoring Habitat, Science, shorebird conservation, shorebird ecology, sustainable land use, travel and wildlife, wildlife conservation, wildlife tracking

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…

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Bird Study, conservation policy, Conserving Wildlife, Delaware Bay, habitat management, Restoring Habitat, Science, shorebird conservation, shorebird ecology, wildlife conservation, wildlife tracking

New Beaches Are Shared By Fishermen And Shorebirds Alike

Both construction teams work hard to get done as soon as is possible. Both are on track to be done late this week, in good time for the horseshoe crab spawn and shorebird stopover. Last Thursday, the water temperature hovers around 9 degrees C (48 degrees F) which is slightly lower than previous years. The crab spawn is in part triggered by a water temperature of 14-15 degree C (59 degrees F) so the spawn is still a few weeks away. Last year, it began in the first week of May. Getting done on time depends on no emerging problems, and working out…

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conservation policy, Conserving Wildlife, Delaware Bay, habitat management, Restoring Habitat, Science, shorebird conservation, shorebird ecology, sustainable land use, wildlife conservation, wildlife tracking

Improving Economy of Local Bayshore Towns

Although our project focuses on improving conditions for horseshoe crabs and birds, we also aim to improve the economy of rural bayshore towns in small but meaningful ways. This is important because, like much of the country’s rural areas, Cumberland County suffers enormous levels of poverty. According to a recent survey by NJ Times, Cumberland has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country with nearly 44% of working age males are out of work. We tried to help at the start of our work. We included the leaders of the bayside towns, Middle Township, Maurice River Township and…

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conservation policy, Conserving Wildlife, Delaware Bay, habitat management, Restoring Habitat, Science, shorebird conservation, shorebird ecology, sustainable land use, wildlife conservation, wildlife tracking

Constructing Fortescue and Thompson’s Beach in 2015

The construction teams in Fortescue and Thompson’s are now moving as fast as possible to finish the restoration work before the arrival of the horseshoe crabs in Delaware Bay. Each company follows a different procedure for building Fortescue and Thompson’s beaches. At Fortescue, the town rebuilt an existing berm of rubble that protected the beach road after Hurricane Sandy destroyed ​the berm​. They then capped it with unformed concrete. H4’s excavator moves slowly down the reformed berm to load sand on the inter​-​tidal beach to create an out-of-tide roadway for the bulldozer (see video above). Subsequent sand is used to…

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Bird Study, conservation policy, Conserving Wildlife, Delaware Bay, habitat management, Restoring Habitat, Science, shorebird conservation, shorebird ecology, wildlife conservation, wildlife tracking

Fortescue and Thompson’s Beach: “It’s all labor”

In the video above, Humphrey Sitters counts 16,000 red knots on Egg Island Point, just east of our new beach. The flock is the largest concentration in the hemisphere. The construction of Fortescue Beach has finally reached that early stage known to most people in construction where they say “it’s all labor”. The early logistical problems have been ironed out and our goal is simple, to get as much sand onto the beach as fast as is possible. On Tuesday and Wednesday, H4 hauled over 4000 tons of sand. The beach gradually takes shape. Boomer Huen and Eric Johnson use…

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