Since the early days of WWRG group members have headed out across the world to help on wader projects elsewhere. This year is no exception and this month group members are part of a team working in Jiangsu on the Yellow Sea in China. The team, working with Nanjing Normal University, is aiming to catch and mark Spoon-billed Sandpipers (SBS) to find out more about where this endangered and charismatic species goes, as well as being able to work out population size. We are also aiming to catch a range of other shorebird species, both to assist local studies and to help train other members of the team.
Many of us really look forward to our mist-netting sessions for waders as we so love being out on a saltmarsh at night. Setting mist nets on a marsh is spectacular in itself with tall lines of nets stretched across the landscape, but there is nothing to beat the atmosphere when it gets dark. As the light fades and then the tide comes in you start to hear the eerie sounds of waders calling as the water moves them up off the mudflats. If there is enough light you might start to see them flying over the marsh. If you are really lucky, there will also be shooting stars, phosphorescence as you walk across the marsh (feeling like Gandalf every time you lean on your furling stick), or even fireworks in a nearby town.
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.