By Lukas Musher
On Tuesday I drove down to southern NJ to help David Mizrahi of NJ Audubon with his shorebird project that I worked on last year. He didn't have me do any banding, bleeding, netting, or flagging. Instead he had me go onto the beach and re-sight flagged Semipalmated Sandpipers. The beaches are off limits this time of year due to shorebird migration, so I was very lucky to be able to get up and close with the birds themselves, and to get some phenomenal photographic opportunities.
As I have talked about in the past, several species of shorebirds stage along Delaware Bay each Spring in coincidence with the spawning of the horseshoe crabs. The fat-rich horseshoe crab eggs provide an invaluable calorie source for the migrating shorebirds, enabling them to finish their journey north to the breeding grounds in the high arctic.
Fortescue is often one of the best places on the Delaware Bay shore to see the staging shorebirds, and that's where I was. Above, you can see a few thousands shorebirds or several species (predominantly Semipalmated Sandpiper, Red Knot, Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling, and Dunlin) roosting on the beach, and getting ready to begin feeding as the tide goes out.
|Ruddy Turnstones are one of my favorite shorebirds, and what they lack in rareness, they make up for with charisma – or as Richard Crossley puts it, they are "the sausage dog of birds."|
|A group of mostly Dunlin and Red Knot begin to take flight as I am noticed from behind the wooden remains.|
|A Semi banded on Delaware Bay!|
|One of several Red Knots I found that were flagged in Argentina!|
|Another D-bay Semi!|
|Exhausted by their long flights from South America and in preparation for the long flight to the arctic, Semipalmated Sandpipers recover and feed ferociously on the fatty crab eggs.|
|Incoming! The Semipalmated Sandpiper landing on the right was flagged on Delaware bay by David's team.|
|Dunlin, Semi Sandpipers, and a Red Knot take flight, as the rest of the weary flock, including a couple of Short-billed Dowitchers, anxiously scamper forward.|
|Perhaps the most charismatic and infamous of North American shorebirds, a Red Knot in flight steals the frame from the other species taken to wing.|
|I may have spooked these Dunlin and Semis, but they know where they want to feed (AKA where the eggs are) and they come right back in to where they were before after two to three laps around the beach.|
|He looks fat from this angle, more in favor of Western in my opinion.|