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20  Years of Conservation and Science in Delaware Bay: In Dangerous Territory

Four days ago, the shorebirds of Delaware Bay could look forward to a bright future. But in the last week their chances for survival and good production have diminished.  In fact they are as dismal as the cold drizzle pockmarking the murky water in front of our house in Reed Beach. The following two graphs tell the story.  We captured red knots on May 12 and 16th  that showed a normal although not spectacular progression.  Than we made a catch of knots on the 19th and again today on the 23rd and in total they gained only 2 grams of…

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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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conservation policy, Conserving Wildlife, Expeditions and Travels, Uncategorized

Inuit Wisdom on Conservation

In July of last year, our trip in search of red knots from my home in Greenwich, NJ to the small Arctic town of Coral Harbor in Southampton Island took us to some of the most remote wilderness in this hemisphere. But we also leaped from a modern socially connected world to one with third world communication and economic systems. You can’t use your cell phone in Coral Harbor, in fact neither can the mostly Inuit population. They use Facebook with enthusiasm but have virtually dial-up internet speeds. The cost of a case of coke is $45. An overnight stay…

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Expeditions and Travels, Science, Uncategorized

Machi and Goshen’s last flight to Guadeloupe was not forgotten

  The attached video by Amanda Dey, starts with shots fired at shorebirds in a shooting swamp on the French island of Guadeloupe . It was at this site that two whimbrels were shot last year. The two birds, named Machi and Goshen, were outfitted with satellite transmitters by William and Mary Biologists Bryan Watts and Flecher Smith. The two whimbrels fought different storms, one a hurricane, the other a tropical storm, to reach safety on Guadeloupe, as do thousands of other shorebirds including red knots, ruddy turnstones, greater and lesser yellowlegs, golden plovers and more. Upon arrival they eventually…

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conservation policy, Conserving Wildlife, Expeditions and Travels, hunting, Uncategorized

Hunting Shorebirds in Guadeloupe

The hunting in Guadeloupe is very different than in French Guiana.  Here hunters are better organized and command greater political power.  They are skilled at using guns of quality and most seem expert at attracting and shooting shorebirds.  In the US you might compare them to waterfowl hunters.   They manage wetlands for the hunting of shorebirds called, in English, “killing swamps”.   For over three months hunters will ring the swamps shooting at greater and lesser yellowlegs, golden plovers, stilt sandpipers and many other species.  Whimbrels are the favorite targets. Hunter shooting a shorebird in Guadeloupe In many ways you would…

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the challege of the rice fields of Mana

Knots in a rice field lost to the sea Our work in French Guiana has proven to be fruitful.   We found over 1700 red knots and at least 1000 turnstones in one location, in the rice fields of Mana.   Moreover we resighted knots with a disproportionately high number of red flags indicating they were heading to the Bahia Lomas wintering grounds in Tierra del Fuego.  We know these birds because we banded them.  With the data collected by Alexandre Vinot, a volunteer from French Guiana, and data from our geolocators caught in Delaware Bay, we can be fairly…

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French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Uncategorized

Hunting Shorebirds

I owe my carreer to the sport of hunting.  As a young man, barely 12 year old, my father and I hunted pheasants, squirrels, rabbits and deer.   I have to say for my part mostly without success ( my father was a much better hunter),  but i will always remember the thrill of the hunt, the profund experience of killing an animal and satisfaction of eating my valued prey, enjoying all over again the experience of the day.   I hunted all my life, stopping only because my career gave me other ways of pursuing animals,  now it is…

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the bay by the city

San Francisco evokes an image that is all its own.  The city and the surrounding landscape, that includes lovely places like Napa Valley as well as powerful economic engines like the Oakland waterfront and Silicon Valley, is a wonderful expression of how nature can fit within a human-dominated environment.  But deep in the bowels of this wonderful place is an unfamiliar feature, a spectacle really, witnessed only by the most determined.  The industrial beating heart of the bay area surrounds south San Francisco Bay, where over a million shorebirds winter or stage each year.  Starting just below the Oakland bridge…

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burying our political differences for conservation

In my last four blogs, I pointed to the collapse of two very different species, the red knot and bobwhite quail.   Most know they have very different life histories — one migrates to the other end of the world while the quail never leaves home.  Few would know these two birds are the concern of disparate political constituencies; hunters defend quail, bird watchers defend red knots.   That both species have declined, despite this diverse constituency, points to significant failure of the American conservation system and the need for new and transformational approaches.  I suggested in my last blog that one…

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the decline of quail and red knots – what does it say about conservation?

In my last two blogs (here and here) I have described the separate plight of red knots and bobwhite quail, two birds at the opposite ends of life history strategies: one a homebody who wants to go no further than their own breeding territory, the other flying as far from their territory as one can in this big round world. Quail produce young with abandon hoping sheer numbers will overcome the suffering and loss that is their lot in life. Knots produce a relative few offspring banking on the virtues of a long life as the key to survival of…

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knot like quail

When winter gets tough, quail can’t pick up and leave for more hospitable digs.  They are permanent residents of this land and live or die depending on the goodwill and stewardship of the people who manage public lands, farms and those who hunt.  Unfortunately there’s not much good will because quail populations are crashing.  But what about shorebirds, they can fly to the other end of the world to find suitable wintering habitat? But do they really escape the indifference? Red knots feeding along the Atlantic Ocean in Avalon NJTake the red knot.  All red knots breed in the the Arctic, but…

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Homelessness in a land of plenty

Winter is late once again here along the Delaware Bay, but the last few years have taught us to beware.  Our past two winters started off balmy — the bayshore fall weather extending far into early winter — then we were hammered by an abrupt shift to persistent sub-freezing nights and some of the deepest snowfalls on record.  Kids loved it, but the wildlife of the Cohansey River Valley and Delaware Bayshore suffered.  The cold snowy blanket that befell the area for almost two months highlighted the lovely rolling topography of our little piece of Bayshore, but it also locked away vital plant…

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Can conservationists restore impoverished rural landscapes?

Can conservationists restore impoverished rural wildlife and human landscapes?   This was the question that came to me over and over again as I drove through the rural coastal plain of the southeastern US.   I have not seen these areas since I was a young man struggling to support a young family.  Ultimately, we moved our family to New Jersey but left behind a land that ultimately fell into a deep and pernicious decline that paralleled the corporate takeover of these rural economies.  The small town economies collapsed because of competition from chain retail stores, while large-scale farm and forestry operations…

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sportsmen and birders working together in SC

My journey through the south ended at a gated community on the South Carolina coast called Harbor Island.  Like other gated islands off the SC coast, Harbor Island is exclusive to mostly homeowners and renters.   One might categorized Harbor Island as being on the low end of this narrow spectrum, Hilton Head and other nearby islands are bigger with much wealthier residents.     Regardless, the island is a wonderful place to spend time on this coast, one of the most beautiful of the eastern US.   Shorebirds, skimmers and terns on the south end of Harbor IslandI came to trap red…

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A landscape drained of its wealth

The rural landscape in our country has changed dramatically in the last thirty years.   I saw this first hand this past week as I traveled in my pickup across the southeast US to do work in Texas and South Carolina.  I used to live in the south.  I spent two years as a technician in rural South Carolina, then five years as a game biologist in very rural southeast Georgia.   During my recent trip, I visited the town in Georgia where two of our three children were born.  It was my first time back since we left in 1982.  The path of my trip across…

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