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After a catch of about 95 sanderlings, Barrbara, Sam, Clive and I took the boat out to Egg Island to survey shorebirds. Egg Island reaches out into the Delaware Bay at it's mid-point. Egg Island is not really an island but a huge patch of Delaware Bay marsh with intersecting creeks and mudflats that separate it from the mainland. The marsh ends in sod banks along most of the shoreline but the western shore is lined with shallow sandy beaches. Kathy's survey found nearly 2,000 knots on these western beaches of Egg Island. We needed to find knots.

The current problem was the virtual absence of red knots on the New Jersey side of the bay. While at the viewing platform at Reeds Beach, a group of birders searched a flock for knots. In the past one could always find knots on Reeds Beach, stuffing themselves on the piles of horseshoe crab eggs that would windrow just south of the jetty. Now we had to point out the one knot in a flock of about 1,000 birds.

Things have changed. In a move unprecedented in any of the last four years of study, nearly all the knots from about Reed's to the Villas area left for areas unknown. Humphrey lost nearly all the transmittered birds at the Stone Harbor roost. They had to leave because there just were no crabs or crab eggs on the New Jersey bayshore.

Most birds moved to the Delaware side of the bay. Kathy, in her third aerial flight, saw over 20,000 birds in one location along the Mispillion river. The beaches around Mispillion have been replenished and represent some of the best on the bay. Where in the past only a small portion could fit on the best beaches, now it seems most of them can.

We left Dividing creek and plowed into the bay made choppy by a stiff 15 knot wind. Working the sod bank closely we saw many dunlins, dowitchers, and semipalmated sandpipers, but few knots until we passed Egg Island Point. The Point has got to be one of the most remote areas of New Jersey. It's a lonely place except for all the wildlife including a pair peregrine falcons that have been nesting on Egg Island for over 14 years.

After rounding the point we starting seeing red knots mixed in with large numbers of turnstones, semipalms, dunlins and "dooleys" (the scotish expression for Short-billed Dowitchers). We were struggling to observe and hold our own in a rough sea when we reached a small creek just short of Fortesque. We slid into the sheltered waters and were delighted to see over 600 knots feeding voraciously on unseen eggs along a sandy spit less than 100 yards in length. The flock included all of the other species, but we had finally found knots.

Lawrence J. Niles, PhD
Chief, NJ Endangered Species Program

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