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shorebird ecology

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

2015 Delaware Bay Shorebird Banding Season Ends

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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”

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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

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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

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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

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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!

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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!

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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

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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

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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

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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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