Conserve Wildlife Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Shorebirds’

Conserving the Nature of the Northeast Blog: Restoration brings back red knots, piping plovers & saltmarsh sparrows

Thursday, December 6th, 2018
Story by Darci Palmquist, Conserving the Nature of the Northeast

A saltmarsh sparrow photographed in Delaware. Credit: Matt Tillett, creative commons.

Even if you’re not a birder, there are a lot of reasons to care about birds. There are of course their aesthetic qualities — beautiful, charming, euphonious — and their incredible feats of survival as small creatures in a big, ever-changing world.

But like the proverbial canary in the coal mine, when birds aren’t doing well it usually means their habitat is suffering in some way. And if the habitat isn’t functioning, people lose out too; on the benefits that nature provides, from clean air and water to storm defenses.

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the Fish and Wildlife Service invested in restoring and protecting natural systems up and down the East Coast that provide important habitat for wildlife while also creating natural defenses for people. A big part of building this stronger coast is making sure that wildlife like shorebirds have the habitat they need — the marshes, beaches and dunes — to nest, feed and raise their young.

Here are stories of how restoration efforts are helping ensure a brighter future for three bird species — red knotpiping plover and saltmarsh sparrow.

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US Fish & Wildlife: A new reality for plovers on the Jersey Shore

Wednesday, October 31st, 2018
by Bridget Macdonald

Senior biologist for the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey Todd Pover releases a piping plover, a species he has helped monitor for 25 years. (Jim Verhagen)

On October 29, 2012, Hurricane Sandy plowed ashore near Atlantic City, N.J., with sustained winds of 75 miles per hour. In its wake, state officials declared it the most destructive natural disaster in the history of New Jersey. It changed communities dramatically.

Natural features of the coastline underwent significant changes too, but in some cases, those changes presented new conservation opportunities that could protect people and wildlife in the face of future storms.

“We were able to identify places where piping plover habitat had been enhanced by the storm,” explained Todd Pover, a senior biologist for the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey who has been involved in monitoring the federally threatened shorebird for 25 years. Places like Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, where the storm erased the dunes in a three-quarter mile stretch of beach, creating an open expanse from ocean to bay.

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Mapping red knots in the Arctic

Friday, August 3rd, 2018

A new study investigates the habitat preferences of endangered Red Knots in their vast, remote Arctic breeding range. Credit: M. Peck for Phys.org

by The American Ornithological Society, via Phys.org

Rutgers University’s Richard Lathrop, Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey’s Larry Niles, and their colleagues attached radio tags to 365 knots captured while migrating through Delaware Bay in 1999-2006. To learn where and in what sort of habitat the tagged birds nested, they then conducted surveys via small airplane across the south and central Canadian Arctic, a vast study area spanning from Victoria Island in the west to Baffin Island in the east.

The study shows that there are more than 74,000 square kilometers of suitable rufa Red Knot habitat across their Central Arctic breeding range—enough space for at least that many breeding pairs, assuming one square kilometer of territory per nest.

Click here to read more.

Birds in better condition than last year but still face an ecological roulette

Wednesday, July 11th, 2018

by Larry Niles (Part 3 of 3)

With the stopover period winding down, we can say the red knot and other shorebird species left the bay in better condition than the disastrous condition of last year. So what does it mean?

First, the last four years have been a sort of ecological roulette for the birds. Horseshoe crab numbers remained at only 1/3 the potential population possible on Delaware Bay leaving birds at the mercy of good conditions to get enough eggs. Last year, water temperatures stayed low during the mid-May depressing the spawn and the density of eggs. Although the average was 8000-eggs/square meter, there were less than 2000 eggs/ meters square in the month of May. (more…)

Good horseshoe crab egg densities draw 34,500 Red Knots to the bay

Monday, July 9th, 2018

by Larry Niles (Part 2 of 3)

The best news is a direct consequence of these good conditions, the number of knots and turnstones increased this year. Our season-high estimates show that there are 34,500 knots in the bay and 21,000 ruddy turnstones. These may be the highest counts on the bay in at least 15 years.

Why? At first one would conclude the increased numbers on the bay represent a real increase in the size of the population, but it is not. Shorebirds need time to respond to improving conditions because they are relatively slow breeders, as are most Arctic breeders. Knot numbers on Delaware Bay basically depend on the availability of crab eggs. In bad years, numbers go down because birds come to the bay and leave quickly. (more…)

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