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With record setting heat and a bay as calm as a lake we began our first field day on the Delaware Bay. We are starting early, with less than a thousand birds scattered about on a few beaches. Most are sanderlings, many wintering within a few hundred miles of the bay. Sanderlings stand alone as a shorebird that winters as far as Chile in South America and as close as the Atlantic coast beach in Stone Harbor, New Jersey.
Kathy completed her first aerial count of the bayshore. Her counts will appear in a separate page in this site and will be accompanied by the counts of previous years as a comparison. She saw few sanderlings, ruddy turnstones, and no red knots. The dunlins and dowitcher were more numerous in the upper bay.
In these two days, we captured 214 sanderlings and 1 turnstone. Clive and Humphrey, who together have spent considerable time to understand the intricacies of shorebird moults, suspect many of these sanderlings wintered in nearby coastal areas. But scattered amongst the catch were birds with virtually no moult or at the very early stage of moult, indicating they had just arrived, quite likely after a long journey. Most of the sanderlings remained in silver white winter plumage, a few decorated with the tawny brown of the breeding periods. The weights of the sanderlings at this early stage are just at the average point of previous years, approximately 52 grams.
The banding team has moved into the Reed's Beach House, which is the center of our Delaware Bay effort. As of this week, the banding house is reasonably empty. In previous years, it had grown in some weeks up to 25 people. To help reduce the crowding in the house, we have established a second house on Benny's Landing Road, which is on the mainland side of the Atlantic coast near Stone Harbor. The second house will be available in a few days, offering Humphrey and his team easy access to the marsh.