Monday, May 31, 2010

Where have all the Red Knots Gone?

The telephone rang itself off the stand at the Northwood Center on Sunday; what did folks want to know?  "Where have all the Red Knots gone?" I called Dick Veitch, one of the co-ordinators of the New Jersey Red Knot banding project and the answer from Dick was simple - "It's called migration!" he told me in a readily recognisable New Zealand brogue. Yes, Red Knot numbers are well down now, but don't be down at heart, for early data show that Red Knots are doing OK this year. Overall numbers are about on a par with last year (which is better than down, but not as good as up!) but the real good news is that weights of trapped birds showed that they were well fattened before they headed off for their high Arctic breeding grounds and had put on significant weight gains during their relatively short stay with us.

Ruddy Turnstones, Sanderlings and Semipalmated Sandpipers continue to feed up in very good numbers along the bayshore beaches and will be heading off soon, but currently the spectacle of many shorebirds feeding on Horseshoe Crab eggs will continue for at least a few more days. David Mizrahi's team continue to gather data on the population of Semipalmated Sandpipers that pass through the Delaware Bay on their way north, and hopefully will help to offer us an insight into why this species currently appears to be declining in numbers.

I was privileged to be invited along to a shorebird banding and monitoring session along Cape May's Delaware Bayshore today - a great way to spend a busy Memorial Day, when all other beaches are crowded with folks enjoying the glorious sunny weather. The area of closed beach we visited was still alive with busily feeding shorebirds - here Ruddy Turnstones, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Sanderling and just a few Red Knot. [Photo by Mike Crewe]

The main target of today's study work - Semipalmated Sandpiper. Those who were at Dr David Mizrahi's keynote speach at Spring Weekend will have learned much about current research into this species on the Delaware Bay. [Photo by Mike Crewe]

A number of the Semipalmated Sandpipers caught are tagged on the left leg with a small green flag made of very lightweight plastic. These flags are all individually marked with a three letter code and help to make individuals identifiable in the field, so that data can be gathered on timing of migration movements and locations that are favored as feeding and roosting sites. Today, we banded JOE and JOY (among many others) so do please look out for Joe and Joy and let us know if you see them - or any other letter comination. You'll be contributing in no small way to a massive global research into these world travellers. [Photo by Mike Crewe]

It's not until you see a Semipalmated Sandpiper up close and personal that you realise just how tiny these birds are, yet they winter in South America and breed on the high Arctic tundra - no mean feat! [Photo by Mike Crewe]

If you're out on the saltmarsh, don't forget to look out for other wildlife. This Seaside Dragonlet hung out with me for a while... [Photo by Mike Crewe]

...while this Diamondback Turtle made me wonder just who was watching who! [Photo by Mike Crewe]

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