Delaware news – part 1

It’s May again and members of the Wash Wader Ringing Group are heading to Delaware to resight and catch waders as part of the Delaware Shorebird Project. Group members have been helping out with the study since it’s inception in the late 1990s, contributing to both the fieldwork and the analysis and write up of the data collected. More about the study can be found here:

The first group of WWRG members headed off on Saturday 11 May and, after some hassles with hire cars in Philadelphia, made it to the ‘Shorebird House’ by dinner time (US time….), by which time it was raining. It continued to rain and blow a gale for most of the next two days leaving us all cooped up inside and stir-crazy. With the tide held in by the wind, there was no beach by the house, but, as it is good to get an earlier catch to get arrival weights, we headed out to make a catch on Monday morning in what looked like it might be a brief respite from the rain. It was still raining, but it didn’t really matter as the road to the catching site was flooded and we couldn’t get there. A further plan to catch in the evening was also scuppered by the weather, water and lack of birds. However, a trip to Mispillion Harbor established that we might be able to make a catch on Tuesday, so plans were made again.

With the wind having fallen and the tide finally dropping off, we got out to one of the beaches in Mispillion Harbor and got a net set. The birds were back on the beach very quickly, but they were largely Semi-palmated Sandpipers (not a primary target species for the project) and the tide dropped off quickly. We were wondering about whether to move the net further along the beach to where the Turnstone were coming in when a Peregrine came over and flushed all the birds in the Harbor. We quickly moved the net and got back into position. After some anxious moments thinking we might have put the net in the wrong place, Turnstone started to come into the net and we made a great catch of 262 birds, including 81 Turnstone, but no Knot as there were very few around. We leg-flagged 50 of the Turnstone to add to our marked population for resighting work and processed all the birds.

Further resighting that afternoon was not very productive as there were relatively few birds on this side of the Bay and those in Mispillion were being hassled by at least two Peregrines and a Merlin, so were not keen to stay in one place for long. With the wind having dropped there will be more Horseshoe Crabs spawning and therefore more disturbed eggs for the birds to eat, so we should have more birds to resight soon…