Conserve Wildlife Blog

Archive for the ‘horseshoe crabs’ Category

Shorebird Steward’s Photo is a winner

Friday, November 26th, 2021

by: Larissa Smith, CWF biologist

Congratulations to Luke Tan for having his photo Semipalmated Sandpipers Feeding win Runner Up in the Student Category for NJ Monthly’s Cover Search Competition. Luke volunteers as a CWF Shorebird Steward on the Delaware Bay during the spring shorebird migration. He captured this photo while on Reed’s Beach, Cape May County.

Learn more about Luke and the contest:

https://njmonthly.com/articles/jersey-living/the-winners-of-new-jersey-monthly-and-unique-photos-2021-cover-search-contest/

The Mysterious Oystercatchers of the Delaware Bay: Results of the 2021 Bay-Wide Survey

Friday, October 1st, 2021

By: Meghan Kolk, CWF Wildlife Biologist

American oystercatcher foraging for oysters along the Delaware Bay. Photo credit: Meghan Kolk.

The Delaware Bay is well known for the spectacular phenomenon of spawning horseshoe crabs and migrating red knots every May, but in recent years the American oystercatchers (Haematopus palliatus) have also discovered the allure of the Bayshore and made it their home.  American oystercatchers, a State Species of Special Concern, have been monitored and managed by CWF and the NJDFW’s Endangered and Non-game Species Program along the Atlantic coast beaches for nearly two decades, resulting in a steady population increase.  However, the population that breeds along the Bayshore, first documented in 2016, has not received the same attention and had never been fully surveyed until this year. 

CWF’s interest in this newly discovered population led to a small pilot study of a few known breeding pairs in 2018.  Then this past May, we launched a bay-wide survey of the sandy beaches of the New Jersey side of the Bay from Cape May Point up to Seabreeze, the northernmost beach in Cumberland County.  The purpose of the bay-wide survey is to determine a baseline of the number and distribution of breeding pairs along the Bayshore.  The data gathered from this survey will add to the Statewide population estimate and help determine the amount of time and funding needed to fully monitor and manage the Bay’s population.  More monitoring will be necessary to assess risk factors and reproductive success.  Reproductive success can then be maximized by managing for risk factors such human disturbance, predation and tidal flooding.

This survey was made possible due to the efforts of dedicated volunteers and could not have been completed without their help.  Unlike the Atlantic coast, the Bayshore beaches are often difficult to access, and many can only be reached by boat, making this survey more challenging.  In fact, two sites that we planned to survey proved to be too difficult to reach and were skipped for this year.  Each of the 33 remaining sites were surveyed just once within a specific timeframe, giving only a snapshot of the breeding season.  We hope to be able to collect much more information in the future when more funding for this project is available.  Based on the survey that was conducted, 13 pairs were documented at 8 different sites and 8 nests were documented at 5 different sites.

In addition to the formal survey, I was able to collect some observations as I spent every day in May on the Bay working with red knots.  I took notice of the prey items that the oystercatchers were choosing.  I often observed them feasting on oysters, which were plucked off exposed rubble at low tide.  They also spent time at the man-made oyster reefs that were constructed at several beaches to act as breakwaters to slow the erosion of beaches.  They also favored ribbed mussel beds, which become exposed as the tide recedes.  The most interesting foraging behavior I witnessed was an oystercatcher plucking a fresh slipper shell off a horseshoe crab as it came to shore to spawn.  It seems the Bay offers a variety of good food sources for a bird that mainly preys on bivalve mollusks. 

I also noticed that flocks of up to 11 oystercatchers were traveling together up and down the Bayshore.  This is a peculiar behavior since oystercatchers are highly territorial during the breeding season and are typically only seen in flocks once the breeding season is over.  Could it be that the Bayshore is a popular spot for non-breeding young adults to hang out? 

So much more research is needed to answer the many questions we have about the mysterious Bayshore oystercatchers. 

Delaware Bay Shorebird Stewards: Protecting Shorebirds

Sunday, June 6th, 2021

By: Larissa Smith, CWF Wildlife Biologist

Shorebird Steward Tony Natale

There are many aspects to the Delaware Bay Shorebird Project. During the month of May researchers survey, re-sight and band shorebirds as well as conduct horseshoe crab egg counts. Nine beaches in Cape May and Cumberland Counties have restricted access during May, which allows the shorebirds to feed on the horseshoe crab eggs.

Shorebird Steward Bill Reinert@ Dom Manalo

Shorebird stewards are out on the beaches in all types of weather and insect seasons making sure that the restricted areas are respected. They do this through education and explaining to beach goers the importance of allowing shorebirds to have these undisturbed areas to feed. Stewards really make a big difference in shorebird protection on the bay and we thank them for all of their efforts this shorebird season. This season there were plenty of horseshoe crabs spawning with eggs in abundance, but unfortunately the shorebird numbers were down this season. For more details on the 2021 Shorebird season can be found in the article ,Red knot numbers plummet, pushing shorebird closer to extinction.

Delaware Bay Shorebird Stewards Hit The Shore To Educate Beach Goers

Thursday, May 13th, 2021

by Larissa Smith, Wildlife Biologist

Conserve Wildlife Foundation’s Delaware Bay Shorebird Stewards will be on Restricted access beaches in Cape May and Cumberland Counties from May 15th through the 31st. We will be educating beach goers about the horseshoe crabs and shorebirds.

Plan a visit to the bay in May to witness this spectacular wildlife phenomena!

Watch the video above to learn more.

Thanks to The American Littoral Society for their help on this project.


CBC Radio Canada Highlights CWF in Story on Horseshoe Crabs in COVID Vaccine Tests

Sunday, December 13th, 2020

by Ethan Gilardi, Assistant Biologist

Photo by: Joe Reynolds

CBC Radio Canada program “The Current” interviewed Conserve Wildlife Foundation executive director David Wheeler for its feature on the fascinating story of New Jersey’s horseshoe crabs playing an irreplaceable role in the urgent search for an effective COVID-19 vaccine.


Conservationists are raising concerns that horseshoe crabs and the shorebirds that feed on them could become unexpected casualties of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The milky blue blood of this ancient animal has made it into a modern medical marvel,” David Wheeler, executive director of the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey, said of the horseshoe crab.

The medical industry captures the critters to draw out some of their blood, because it contains a unique component called limulus amebocyte lysate, or LAL. LAL can detect harmful toxins in vaccines — including those being produced for COVID-19 — or other medicine undergoing testing, he told The Current‘s Matt Galloway

“It’s really extraordinary,” said Wheeler. “The concern now, of course, is at some point we would really like to see it shift to a synthetic alternative rather than continuing to only use the crabs for that.”