Delaware news – part 4

Election day at home led to discussion in the Shorebird House as proxies had to be instructed. Then out to do resighting and surveys as we are in a new survey period, before showers and clean clothes to head up north (with a side trip to Bombay Hook in a thunderstorm for some) for our, now traditional, BBQ with Dave and Marg – a great time as usual, with food, drink, discussion and fireflies.

So Friday was time for another catch of Ruddy Turnsones (with still too few Knot around to catch), so we headed out onto Slaughter Beach right by the house. It’s easy and also has the advantage of not requiring any driving on the day before the Memorial Day weekend. With a large team, we had firing position on the beach, base camp 1 half way up the path and base camp 2, back under the house. Birds were twinkled from each end and concentrated nicely in front of the net, although quite a few were on the tide edge and might not be caught. We decided to make the catch and Richard was first to the net, but his leg sank into the substrate, causing him to dive in the sea – buffoonery tick of the day. We took birds back to the house where Graham had set up keeping cages under the back porch were we processed. It’s always noisy with several processing teams under a wooden deck, but this was added to by workmen circular sawing wood next door – it must have been the noisiest processing ever. A total of 365 birds including 168 Turnstone and, unusually, a Grey Plover in about half summer plumage.

Saturday was the second aerial count with the same teams out to the same places as for the last one to keep it simple. We still had lots of Turnstone around and now some Knot in Mispillion – so nice to see them. So Sunday we set out early with the aim of making an early catch, but the Knot didn’t play ball – they weren’t in the Harbor, so we had a nice cruise in and back and made plans to look again in the afternoon. There were more Knot in the afternoon, so we set but it seemed not in the right place, so we moved the net and the tide came in, so we moved the net and the tide came in….. With a soggy net and Horseshoe Crabs crawling over it, we moved it right out of the way and set the other net – the birds came in and we finally caught Knot – a total of 47 which gave us a good weight sample and it was great to see they were doing well compared to the same day in previous years. We also caught samples of Turnstone (of course), Semipalmated Sandpiper and Dunlin.

Knot on the beach, by Rob Robinson
Finally some Knot, by Rob Robinson

Work on Memorial Day was a bit limited as the roads are busy and there are SO many tourists around. In the afternoon there was a mini version of the cannon-net trainee’s course that we held last month at home. We have not caught many Sanderling this year, but have been seeing them at low tide quite high up on a beach in the Harbor, sat around a particular rock, so we decided to go for a Sanderling catch there. Things didn’t come in quite as expected and it was difficult to estimate how many were in front of the nets. With the help of Graham looking across from the Nature Center, we worked out we had around 30 Sanderling in the near net – it turned out to be 31 along with a sample of Turnstone and five Knot. We now have some very fat birds, with a few Turnstone having fat bulging out either side of their sternum and Semis over 40 g. We have already seen flocks of Dunlin and Dowitcher leaving, and other species are going to be heading off soon.

After supper, we headed to the Mispillion Brewery who are making a special Red Knot ale to help with fundraising for land purchase for shorebirds. As well as sampling a variety of their current ales, they brought us all some prototype Red Knot ale – unfortunately it won’t be ready until next month….