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Delaware Bay

Conserving Wildlife, Restoring Habitat

An Experiment in Wetland Habitat Restoration

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A Failure to Learn Our work on Thompson’s marsh covers only a tiny patch of the Delaware Bay marsh.  One might say our one-acre restoration is too small to have any significant impact, so why do it?  Big projects are certainly more important.  And ultimately we will need many of them to realize Governor Murphy’s recently announced coastal resiliency policy initiative  But big projects can fail big and waste taxpayer dollars. The Delaware Bay has seen a number of these failed expensive projects, like the shoreline restoration of Sea Breeze where $6 million in state-funded cinder blocks lie uselessly on the shore of this now abandoned…

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Conserving Wildlife, Restoring Habitat

New Hope for Delaware Bay Marsh

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Centuries of Farming the Marsh has Left an enduring Legacy Centuries of cutting salt marsh vegetation as hay in Delaware Bay left an enduring legacy fraught with danger.  Farmer diked the tidal wetlands starving the marsh of sediment. This accelerated natural decomposition.  Marsh levels fell relative to the tide, so when the farming ended in the 60’s the bay rapidly eroded the damaged and fragile marsh.  Large areas of the Bayshore were lost and the erosion continues to the day.  Unfortunately, it is now exacerbated by a 4mm yearly rise in sea levels caused by climate change. This week a…

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Conserving Wildlife, Delaware Bay, Delaware Bay 2018

The Horseshoe Crab Spawn Continues, Shorebirds Reach Flight Weights – Restoration Is Possible

red knots on egg island NJ
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Horseshoe crabs expanded breeding into neap tides Read the previous post The horseshoe crabs extended their breeding period into the neap tide phase after the cold weather of mid-May decreased water temperature during the spring tides.  This is good news because most experts expect breeding during the full or new moon tides ( called spring tides) The crabs roughly require a water temperature of about 59 degrees F before breeding begins in earnest.  Crabs still breed at a lower temperature, but many more will breed above the temperature threshold. At the same time, crabs also look for spring tides, the…

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Delaware Bay

Early days on Delaware Bay – Horseshoe Crabs Just Beginning To Breed Just as Shorebirds Arrive

shorebirds in a net
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Horseshoe Crabs Just Beginning To Breed Just as Shorebirds Arrive   Delaware Bay horseshoe crab eggs reach sufficient levels to give red knots and other shorebirds a good start on the fat they need to fuel the last leg of their yearly journey in the first week of the stopover ( May 12-19).  Knots need at least 180 grams to fly to the Arctic and breed successfully.  This week we caught birds that weighed 93 grams which is 30 grams below fat-free weight.  These birds had just arrived from a long flight, probably from Tierra del Fuego, Chile or Maranhão,…

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Conserving Wildlife, Delaware Bay

The Folly of Unpreparedness

threats to horseshoe crabs
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The Folly of Unpreparedness The catastrophic storms that pounded Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico last year should have reminded the people of NJ of the destructive force of coastal storms and the folly of unpreparedness.  Sadly we have not.  While some rules have changed since Hurricane Sandy and billions of taxpayer funds have restored shoreline habitat to create a more secure coast many areas remain vulnerable. This is particularly true along the shoreline of Delaware Bay.  To start with,  little of the billion in Hurricane Sandy funds flowed to the communities of the Delaware Bay despite towns like Fortescue and Reeds…

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Conserving Wildlife, Delaware Bay

Greater Expectations For Wildlife

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Hope For More Tucked away among some long forgotten and useless legal papers, I found a newspaper clipping from July 13, 1988, on NJ’s Bald Eagle restoration program. The uncredited article for the Beacon, a defunct local paper serving Cape May County,  described our efforts to bring Bald Eagles back to the Delaware Bay.  As a young wildlife biologist for the Endangered Species Program, (and still sporting a full head of hair), I piloted this effort. It was a grim time for Eagles then.  After decades of decline, the estimated original population of nearly 30 pairs, plummeted to just one…

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conservation, Conserving Wildlife, Delaware Bay, shorebird conservation

20 Years on Delaware Bay – Shorebirds lift off to an uncertain end

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  I am reviewing a new paper by Sjoerd Duijns, a student working on the benefits of being a fat shorebird.   Still, a draft, the paper analyses data from radio-tagged red knots leaving the bay in good condition (ie fat)and finds they may leave later from Delaware Bay than lighter birds but arrive earlier in the breeding grounds because they can pick the best time to leave. They are also more likely to breed successfully and survive the Arctic breeding season to the following fall.  In other words being a fat knot on Delaware Bay makes life good. So in light…

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Conserving Wildlife, Delaware Bay, Delaware Bay 2017, Red Knot, Shorebird, shorebird conservation

20 Years on Delaware Bay: Scarcity and Abundance -Shorebirds Near the Finish Line

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Previous Post Our latest catch of red knots and ruddy turnstones two days ago ( May 27)  suggests 2017 to be one of the most challenging years of our 20 years of work on Delaware Bay.  It challenged the birds for certain. For example, as of two days, ago ( May 27th) average weights of red knots remain mired in the mid 160’s when it should be in the 180-gram range.    This seems a minor difference but to red knots, it means a flight through the cold and often inhospitable north country of Canada and dropping out of the…

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Conserving Wildlife, Delaware Bay, Delaware Bay 2017, Red Knot, Shorebird, shorebird conservation

20 Years of Shorebird Conservation and Research on Delaware Bay

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A Monumental Work of Conservation This year marks the 21st year of the Delaware Bay Shorebird Project. As one of the longest running shorebird conservation projects in the world, the only one of its kind in the US, we wanted to memorialize this monumental work. To do so we convened a daylong series of presentations by scientists and managers from all over the world who have worked on the bay.  Here are the abstracts. They are worth a look by nearly anyone interested in shorebirds and Delaware Bay.   DelawareBay_Workshop_Program&Abstract_CWF The presentations ranged widely. We heard talks diving deep into the…

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conservation

Why Not Climate Change?

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    Despite its nastiness, the presidential election has served to educate the American public in several unexpected ways. The influence of a male-dominated culture on women has been exposed and the impact is still growing much to the dismay of the Donald, Bill Cosby and thier kind. The tragic targeting of Afro-Americans by law enforcement was important before the election but it it has now grown into an important political issue and a national movement.  Last month a spokesperson for the National Association of Police Chief offered a seemingly sincere and unprecedented apology. But one thing this election has not…

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Bird Study, Conserving Wildlife, Delaware Bay, Delaware Bay 2016, Red Knot, Science, Shorebird, shorebird ecology

the birds lift away to the arctic

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Previous Post 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…

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Bird Study, Conserving Wildlife, Delaware Bay, Delaware Bay 2016, Red Knot, Science, Shorebird, shorebird ecology

a shorebird paradise lost

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Previous Post 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…

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Bird Study, Conserving Wildlife, habitat management, Science, shorebird conservation

Valuable Creeks and Shoals

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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, conservation, Conserving Wildlife, Delaware Bay, Delaware Bay 2016, Red Knot, Science, Shorebird, shorebird conservation, shorebird ecology

Shorebirds out in the cold

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Previous Post 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…

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Bird Study, Conserving Wildlife, Delaware Bay, Delaware Bay 2016, Red Knot, Science, Shorebird, 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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