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We caught 1,000 birds, our biggest catch ever. Literally along the road running south out of time, the team released 400 semipalmated sandpipers and processed about 200 each of knots, ruddy turnstones, and sanderlings. The weights ran the entire range from birds below the fat-free weight (about 110 grams) and probably newly arrived to birds pushing 200 grams, a more than suitable lift-off weight. Under a brilliant sun and cool light breeze, our crew released all the birds within three hours after the catch. The core team of Aussies (plus Dick, the New Zealander), the Scots (plus Holly, an Englishwomen) , and our home team, the two Amys, Jeannine, Sam, Ron, Patti and Mandy, have pulled together into a tight unit.
Humphrey flew with Tim Coulter that same evening. Tim has volunteered with the Endangered and Nongame Species Program for years and was one of the founders of our Friends group that eventually became the Conserve Wildlife Foundation. He flies both for recreation and professionally as an instructor. He agreed to help us find the red knots with transmitters that Humphrey has repeatedly located on the ground.
Tim and Humphrey attached the two antennas to the wing struts of the Cessna 172 and methodically covered the Atlantic Coast marsh from Atlantic City to Cape May. They then crossed the bay to Delaware and surveyed the beach and marsh from Cape Henlopen to far north of Mispillion River. They then crossed the bay again, now in total darkness, and covered Fortesque and the marsh finishing just north of Reed's Beach.
What they found was stunning. First they found birds with transmitters from both the early-May and mid-May catches only in the Stone Harbor roost. This clearly documents its importance. Coupled with Humphrey's estimates of over 14,000 birds in the roost at one time suggest that nearly all the birds on the NJ side roost in this one site. They also found birds in fairly tight areas on the beach at Mispillion and others at the beach in Fortesque.
With each discovery is a new problem. With Fortesque birds at the Stone Harbor Roost and on Fortesque, we can no longer be sure all birds are flying back and forth between the two sites.