A press release from ConserveWildlifeNJ.org lets us know that their Delaware Bay Shorebird Project is monitoring the 2016 mass shorebird migration now underway. Recently over 1,100 red knots were seen at North Reeds Beach in Cape May County. And a host of other shorebirds, including ruddy turnstones, dunlins, semipalmated sandpipers, and sanderlings, accompanied the red knots at this Delaware Bay hotspot.
The famished flocks fed on horseshoe crab eggs, while much larger laughing gulls congregated along the shoreline and a few crabs used the incoming waves to flip themselves over and return to the bay.
"These imperiled shorebirds undertake one of the most incredible wildlife migrations in the world — and their key stopover is New Jersey's own Delaware Bay," stated David Wheeler, Executive Director, Conserve Wildlife Foundation. "Red knots and other shorebirds depend on a healthy supply of horseshoe crab eggs, so the birds can build up the energy needed to complete this world-class migration."
Some red knots fly over 18,000 miles each year in their migrations from locations as far south as Tierra Del Fuego in South America all the way north to the Canadian Arctic, with Delaware Bay serving as an irreplaceable stopover.
Yet these migratory shorebirds have suffered a sharp decline over the past few decades, with red knots dropping by around 75%. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated the red knot as a federally protected threatened species under the Endangered Species Act in Dec. 2014.
A team of international researchers and trained volunteers, led by Dr. Larry Niles, Conserve Wildlife Foundation, and the State Endangered and Nongame Species Program will spend the next month surveying and studying the at-risk shorebirds during their stay in New Jersey.