Bird Study, Brazil

Our Brazilian Expedition – Trapping Shorebirds in Panaquatira

The capture of Arctic nesting shorebirds first brought us to Brazil in 2013.  We also brought 125 geolocators and caught both ruddy turnstones and red knots, attaching 85 on the former and 30 on the latter.  But we also came to create a new perspective on shorebirds in this place, one of the most important shorebird habitats in the world. For all intents and purposes, shorebird work in this area started In the mid-1980’s, when Canadian biologists, Guy Morrison and Ken Ross surveyed from an airplane, the entire coast of South America.  In this monumental and dangerous survey, they established…

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Bird Study, Brazil, rural communities

Our Brazilian Expedition – Going to the heart of the Mangrove and Beach Ecosystem

It took us long into the night to reach our next port.  We went from the relatively populated area of Braganca to the dark heart of this coastal region of Viseu.   In three trucks, we caravanned through a maze of remnant tropical rainforests, cattle pasture and impenetrable second-growth woodland.  Along the rain-slicked red clay road, small and desperate looking towns popped out of nowhere always looking like the past was a better day. The road cut through countless mangrove forests that define this region.  We reached Viseu too late to do anything but find a place to stay the night….

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Bird Study, Brazil, rural communities

Our Brazilian Expedition – Conducting a Scientific Investigation in a Tropical Wilderness

  Tough Conditions for Scientific Investigation   It’s hard to imagine the difficulties of people living at latitude 37 degrees north when coming to the equator in northern Brazil. It challenges even the best-prepared field investigations.  But after three days our team has not only acclimated but accomplished surveys in two separate estuaries.     The tide cut short our first day in the field.  High tide persisted longer than we expected and our survey must take place when birds forage.  Shorebirds typically forage until 1 to 2 after before high tide and start again 1-2 hours after, usually resting…

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climate change, faith, Science

Having Faith in Action on Climate Change?

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, Science, shorebird ecology

the birds lift away to the arctic

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

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

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

Early News Is Good for Shorebirds on Delaware bay

    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

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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climate change, Science

Adapting to a new world

sunset over a marsh

The Paris Climate Agreement provides us with a historic and far reaching consensus that will help us adapt to a changing world. It could literally save our lush, productive yet fragile planet.  The agreement rests on its “shall” and “should” tasks.  The difference is important.  Imagine your choking on a chicken bone and your wife says, “I should give you the heimlich maneuver”.  Shall would be more appropriate.  In the agreement the “shells” would get us to limiting the world temperature increase to 2 degrees C (3.5 degrees F).  This would stop the climate from going off the rails.     But more…

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Conserving Wildlife, Science

Changing the World’s Climate

The world is changing and not in a good way. For people of my age its a familiar whine: kids are getting smarter or dumber; parents work too much, or not enough;  politicians won’t solve the nation’s problems or… politicians won’t solve the nation’s problems. But when a conservationist says the world is changing in a bad way, she means it literally. Every day the world’s climate grows ever more dangerous and catastrophic.  Alarming evidence grows. Stephen Hanson, the retired NASA climate expert first to bring the world’s attention to the danger of climate change, just published a new paper…

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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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