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Bird Study

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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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, 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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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, Expeditions and Travels

The Search Continues

The rigors of conducting field work and sleeping on therm-a-rest mattresses in unheated, low-ceilinged tents are starting to wear us out. Of course, much of this is age-related. The author of this blog, being on the older side of the crew, finds the need to get dressed in a tent the size of a refrigerator box to be the most difficult part of our field experience. Ironically Joshua, the youngest of our crew, has a small campaign tent in which he can stand. We are finally settling into a routine. The days of battling the Sutton River basin were exhausting…

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Arctic, Expeditions and Travels

Knot Plateau

Prior to this trip, our last expedition to the Arctic was over five years ago. At the time, filmmaker Allison Argo was in the middle of producing the documentary Crash: A Tale of Two Species for the PBS series Nature, and we brought her to the site we thought would provide us with the best chance to see red knots. It had been ten years since we had visited that particular region, and we were eager to resurvey the area. But the knots were nowhere to be found. We ruminated about the sad fact that the Arctic had been depopulated…

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Arctic, Expeditions and Travels

Third Time’s a Charm to find Arctic Shorebirds

We finally made it to knot plateau! Anyone else would have looked at this barren tundra and wondered what all the fuss was about, but our team fist-bumped with pride. After three tries, we had finally made it – and as it turned out, this final approach was the easiest. Rick found a north/south ridge of high ground about 3 miles to the west of our camp on the Sutton River. Starting on the west side of the river basin, we began our journey on the same side of the river as the plateau, so we didn’t have the difficulty…

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Arctic, Expeditions and Travels

River Crossings

Our second attempt to reach the knot plateau failed, but reaching the Sutton River was no small consolation. We began the day upbeat. We broke camp at the ATV trailhead used by Inuit hunters to reach into the vast Sutton floodplain. Joshua thought it might get us to the river, and at this lower reach it would be wide and shallow. Getting there would require a 15-mile ATV trip across nasty high ground and wetland tundra, but once across the river the knot plateau would only be a short jog. Our trip to the Sutton was not as difficult as…

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Arctic, Expeditions and Travels

On to the Land – the Search for Arctic Knots

We left yesterday with high hopes of getting out to the plateau of barren tundra where we previously located 10 knots with transmitters over a five-year period. Remotely, the area looks like habitat similar to our 2000-2005 study area – slightly higher elevation than most of Southampton Island’s tundra, less than 5% vegetation, and inland at least 5 km. Unlike our study area, however, we can get to the plateau without a plane. We left Coral Harbor by the newly created road two days ago, and yesterday we set out to get the rest of the way by ATV. We…

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Arctic, Expeditions and Travels, Science

Polar Bears and Roadless Tundra

We left Coral Harbor on Wednesday afternoon to find knot habitat in the interior portion of Southampton Island. We left town with three ATVs and a truck on what we hoped was a new access road to knot habitat. The road out of town had always existed, but only went about 10 miles to the Kirchoffer Falls, a wonderful feature seen mostly by residents and the modest number of people who visit the island. Recently the town extended the road, but oddly no one we could find knew how far it went or if it was passable. Ostensibly, it had…

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Arctic, Expeditions and Travels, Science

In Search of Knots

While flying from Winnipeg to Nunavut, we focused on a strategy for finding red knot nests and adults with broods. We know from our 9 years of Arctic work that knots don’t occur randomly across the tundra landscape. Quite the opposite, they choose very specific places that distinguish knots from other Arctic nesting shorebirds. Most knots choose to nest in relatively barren tundra slightly higher in elevation than more common Arctic nesting shorebirds. The latter prefer the lush wetland tundra along the coast and in the bigger river drainages because of the abundant prey early in the season. So why…

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Arctic, Conserving Wildlife, Delaware Bay, Expeditions and Travels, Science

Returning to the Arctic

The odd thing about the shorebirds of Delaware Bay is that they are not really of Delaware Bay but of the Canadian Arctic. The most important part of their lives is spent in the barren high tundra of the Arctic, in places like Southampton Island, located on the north end of Hudson Bay. We have worked in Southampton Island for 6 years studying the red knot but stopped because the decline seen in Delaware Bay was more than apparent in the Arctic – birds literally disappeared from our wilderness study site. It’s been 8 years since then, and now we…

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