Tuesday 29 May was a hard day at the office! Off into Mispillion Harbor bright and early again to get another Red Knot sample (and hopefully others too), in the knowledge that thousands of birds went out of Mispillion last night. The late boat crew the previous night had an amazing time with noisy flocks ‘discussing’ migration before heading off high to the north – great to see them go, but sad for us as the season is drawing to a close. There were still thousands of birds left in the Harbor so we set on Back Beach, but the birds didn’t want to play, although we got very close to taking a catch. Plan A, Plan B and Plan C (two moves of the set net) failed to quite get us enough target species (and included too many others), although we did get very close to firing. As the tide dropped off, we gave up after four hours of tension. Back to the houses for lunch, leaving a team of resighters on the beach. Then a try for Sanderling on Prime Hook Beach – this time to the south, again we came very close, but didn’t catch.
As we only had two Turnstone in the catch on 24 May, we went for a small catch on 25 May on Prime Hook Beach, hoping to repeat the 22 May catch. We found Turnstone in the same place, but they were moving around a lot so we only managed a very small catch. Others spent the day out resighting and surveying.
So the weather in Delaware has continued to be unseasonably wet; although not always as wet as the forecast suggested, we have been woken in the night by the rain at times. We had the same catching plan for three days, with the heavy rain and wind meaning that we couldn’t get out on the first two days – saves writing new plans on our wipe board each day and also means we get more data input and checked. We did get out in the afternoon on Saturday to try to make a catch of Sanderling for a PhD project – we found Sanderling on the north end of Prime Hook Beach and went to set. We had issues with Grackles and Blackbirds scaring the shorebirds but managed to get a small catch, but only two Sanderling.
Every May for the last 22 years, members of WWRG have headed off to Delaware Bay to help catch and resight shorebirds as part of an international project studying migrants on stopover. The shorebirds feed on Horseshoe Crab eggs and fatten up rapidly for their journey to the Arctic to breed. We help to catch birds to mark them, check their condition and weight gain, resight marked birds on the beaches to work out survival and return rates, as well as working out how long individuals stay. More information about the project and results can be found here.
The Wash is one of a small number of sites of international importance in the UK for the Eurasian Curlew population (the only UK site that supports greater numbers being Morecambe Bay), with peak counts exceeding 8,500 during autumn passage. The Wash Wader Ringing Group has undertaken ringing studies of this charismatic wader for over 50 years and has contributed considerably to our understanding of the UK Curlew population. Metal ring recoveries of birds marked by the group indicate that most birds using the Wash breed in Finland and Sweden, with a smaller proportion coming from breeding sites within the UK.