Delaware news – part 3

So we still don’t have any Knot on this side of the Bay, but numbers are increasing in New Jersey. It seems that we maybe lost a lot of the Horseshoe Crab eggs with the nor’easter at the beginning of the season and the spawning hasn’t been good enough to fully replenish yet. The temperature is generally at a level that we can cope with, so not the normal highs over here. However, there clearly have been some Knot visiting us as we have recorded over 450 different individual Knot and seen some that have been marked in New Jersey this year.

So we have continued to catch Turnstone, which we have lots of. On Sunday we decided to make a catch on Slaughter Beach, just 50 m north of the house. We moved some tide wrack into the area to attract Turnstone but that didn’t work; twinkling from both north and south moved birds into the area and we got another great sample of Turnstone. As we were so close, we took the birds back to the house, where we were able to process them under the back porch. We got over 100 Turnstone, so another good sample, but only 45 Semis, when we were aiming for 50. After some time with walk-in traps we got another four, so nearly made 50. With having had an early catch we were then able to get out and get more surveying and resighting done. Excitement of the day was Nigel accidentally moving one leg of his chair off the edge of the boat, which resulted in him falling back into the boat and his scope flying over his head and landing in the sea. It’s a good job that Swarovskis are waterproof, but it needed a good wash!

We saw some Knot on Back Beach in Mispillion on Monday, so decided to try and catch them the next day. As there were some visitors from Congress that Hen was taking out in the Skiff, the team had to get onto Back Beach early and wait to set. Base camp set up shade and enjoyed the weather and view. Major excitement was when we were joined by a very large Swamp Darner (dragonfly) which sat on various team members. The team set the net about an hour after we arrived, then they moved it, then they moved it again and then they moved it again. For the last couple of sets Rob and Guy were lying on the beach trying to persuade the birds out of safety and away from the fence, which was being breached by determined small birds. In the boat, the visitors asked Hen why the person was napping on the beach. With half of base camp moved up behind the firing position there was a warning from Nigel that he would fire when there was a gap and shortly afterwards, a bang. We originally thought that we had over 30 Red Knot, but it turned out that the keeping cage log was wrong and there were only 17.

Rob and Guy twinkling, by Cathy Ryden
Rob and Guy twinkling, by Cathy Ryden

Catch totals

Knot 17
Turnstone 87
Sanderling 27
Semipalmated Sandpiper 84
Dunlin 46
Short-billed Dowitcher 62
Total 323

The congressional visitors came onshore to see the birds and were blown away by it. When we finished processing we had to move the John Boat which was still afloat not long after high tide but this was six hours later and so took all of the able-bodied team members to move it down the shore.

After a long day catching, the next day was a bit quieter while we got out all along the shore to count and resight. We again had Peregrine problems in the Harbor, with the evening crew losing all their birds after less than an hour. The birds showed very little interest in coming back and the team members each amused themselves in their own way – watching the resident American Oystercatchers, reading, rescuing Horseshoe Crabs and answering emails – eventually giving up on any number of birds returning and, unusually, getting back to the house before dinner was ready.

Wednesday was the first aerial survey of the year, so everyone was out on beaches to count and try to get resightings as well. Before the plane we all had a Black hawk over (chopper, not a bird), which did not help our counts, but the number of Knot was not troubling anyone anyway… So we still have Turnstone, but there are now over 30,000 Knot in New Jersey – just south of Reeds Beach. We don’t seem to have that many eggs available, so there is no reason for the Knot to come here and if they do, they don’t stay. We know that a few have been over as we have seen some with > signs as part of their flag code and these are only being put on by New Jersey at present. After the count there was also a local news helicopter over the Harbor, which again put everything up. It’s looking like we may have an almost Knot-free year.

Turnstone, Dunlin and semis, by Cathy Ryden
Turnstone, Dunlin and semis (no Knot in sight!), by Cathy Ryden