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Tierra del Fuego 2011

Chile, Tierra del Fuego 2011

Have red knots declined to a new low? Tierra Del Fuego 2011

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Previous Post In one of the pivotal papers chronicling the long, sad decline of the red knot, Allan Baker of the Royal Ontario Museum argued that a population of shorebirds can reach a tipping point that spells extinction.  This tipping point can occur when the population appears robust thus fooling everyone into thinking there is no serious problem.  This happened to many long-lost species, like the passenger pigeon.  The population numbered in the millions then in the thousands.  Then one day they were gone — too few adult birds, too few young and a sudden natural loss dealt the knockout…

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Chile, Tierra del Fuego 2011

a real heartbreaker . Tierra del Fuego 2011

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We tried to catch red knots for four days. On the first, day we tried for a small group on the shingle beach at Twin Hills.  For reasons only apparent to them, the birds left before the tide moved them up into the catch area.  Over the next few hours, before the tide flooded the catch area, two other flocks of red knots came into the area but left without landing. Finally, the tide crested and fell, our net was no longer useful on the falling tide, so we had to give up for the day. A Flock of godwit…

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Chile, conservation, Tierra del Fuego 2011

bahia lomas and delaware bay need job creating conservation projects . Tierra del Fuego 2011

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Previous Post Ricardo Olea, the mayor of the district of Primavera which includes Cerro Sombrero invited us to dinner at their home to continue the discussion about our team’s future work in Bahia Lomas.  It was Ricardo that encouraged us to create the bird observatory.  He is the elected representative of an area that covers over half the island of Tierra del Fuego and works tirelessly to create job opportunities in this area. The bird observatory could help.  We have two main goals: first to create a new protection for migrant shorebird and the endemic bird species through increased awareness…

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Chile, conservation, Tierra del Fuego 2011

A small catch . Tierra del Fuego 2011

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Our first few days have been difficult but productive.  In most years the knots and godwits on the western side of Bahia Lomas occur almost entirely at the southern end.  Over the years we have learned that we cannot catch shorebirds with cannon nets in this area of the bay because the 30 ft tide and the huge 6 kilometer intertidal sand and mudflat make it nearly impossible to predict where the tide will crest.  If we set too low the net will be flooded, too high and the birds will be out of the catch area.   intertidal flat of…

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Chile, Tierra del Fuego 2011

At home in Cerro Sambrerro Tierra Del Fuego 2011

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Previous Post Ferry crossing to Tierra del Fuego from Punta DelgadaIt took us several days to reach Bahia Lomas.  Our expedition to Tierra del Fuego is a relatively complex scientific endeavor requiring careful planning, equipment preparation and shipping.  Once on the ground, after a 24 hour flight, we must quickly gather our stored equipment and purchase supplies before we can move out to our field station.  We mostly get it right, some years we don’t and have to improvise.  Last year we couldn’t.   The Chilean government tightly restricts the use of black powder that we use for firing the cannon…

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Chile, Tierra del Fuego 2011

Once again to Bahia Lomas

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  Today we leave for our 11th  trip to study the red knot wintering flock in Bahia Lomas, Chile.  We started our work in Chile in 2000 when one could see single red knots flock of over 10,000 birds that when flying overhead sounded more like a jet plane than 20,000 beating wings.  Then the knot population in Bahia Lomas was estimated at over 46,000 birds.  Sadly, the last count was only 13,000 birds.  Over the last 11 years we have documented the cause of this decline –  the  entirely-avoidable collapse of the Delaware Bay stopover.   Once the abundant eggs…

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