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We spent the morning ferrying equipment and people to Sraight Creek on Egg Island. At first the sky threatened rain, but soon blue sky swept in from the south and the bayshore shined. We tried to catch on the sandy spit inside the creek just after the high tide. It looked good, eggs peppered the small sandy patch, especially in the little depressions left by the crabs after they dig-in their nest. With eggs saturating the deep sands (about 6 inches) the continued digging and egg-laying brings eggs of earlier nests to the surface. These "surface" eggs are available for shorebirds.

But soon after Pete and Jeannine found birds and abundant eggs along the bayshore for about a mile towards the Egg Island point -- we knew we were in trouble. The Straight Creek site had attracted birds earlier because it had abundant eggs, while elsewhere, eggs were much less abundant. Now, with the lingering effects of the new moon spawn, eggs appeared on the many small over-wash beaches of southwest Egg Island, so the birds were not attracted to the beach where we set our net.

But more than that many of the birds seems close to departure. Huge flocks of thousands of red knots, turnstones, dunlin, dowitcher and semi-palmated sandpipers clouded the sky, then settled down on the sun-drenched beaches only to lift once again. We watched individual birds wattle on the sand in search of eggs looking more like turkeys than red knots. For many birds the time to move on the Arctic was near.

We suspected that Egg Island is a departure point for birds leaving for the Arctic. Kathy usually saw birds during her last flight massing on the isolated marsh and beaches, safe from people and most ground predators. But we saw a second attraction. It appears crabs spawn a little later this far north in the bay, so birds may be "topping-off" there as well.

We could move no birds to Straight Creek. Our day was, in the words of Pete, an Australian, a "fizzer".

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

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