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We met at 6:30 a.m. and set off in a caravan of six vehicles, at least 20 people, and two boats in the early morning mist toward Fortesque. We were in the water and on our way to Straight Creek within an hour and a half. and within another hour, we were set and waiting for a good catch. It took a great deal of effort to organize this shoot. With the people, nets, cannons and all the other necessary equipment, it took four boat loads before we were finally set. But it was worth it. Within the hour we captured nearly a hundred birds including 35 knots -- a good catch in a new location.

Even better, upon our return we found an additional 2,000 knots on the beaches of Fortesque opening the possibility for a catch just off the road.

Graceila and Veronica took advantage of the area to continue research on feeding ecology. Graciela is trying to determine the threshold densities of eggs necessary to attract birds. She has had much difficulty because of the small number of birds on the New Jersey side and has crossed to Delaware repeatedly. Graciela is using a video camera to record feeding and then counting the number of available eggs. She will compare knots in a variety of situations, with areas with gulls and no birds at all. With our egg count data we will be able to extent the results to all areas of the bay.

The crabs seemed a bit more dense in Fortesque, enough I suppose to attract the birds. The crabs were only abundant in the sheltered spit at Straight Creek. When Peter dug into the sands he had no difficulty finding abundant eggs. A thin skim of eggs lined the shore thus creating the feeding frenzy that persisted throughout the time we worked to band the birds. Ten years ago this was the scene anywhere one looked along the bayshore particularly in the Reeds Beach-Villas area. We even encountered abundant eggs along the sod banks of Egg Island. Whenever we talk to the residents along the bayshore, they regret the loss of the crabs and reminisce about the past that now appears to be long gone.

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

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