CRBO

Red Knots, Ruddy Turnstones and Sanderlings - shorebird species in steep decline.


Red Knots are shorebirds that have recently experienced a steep population decline. This decline is due in large part to the overharvesting of Horseshoe Crabs in the New Jersey and Delaware areas. Red Knots depend on the nesting congregations of Horseshoe crabs to provide a feast of crab eggs during a critical part of the Red Knots' migration. The birds arrive from South America with low fat reserves and without the bounty of crab eggs in spring, the birds are much less able to arrive on the breeding grounds in good health.

In order to better understand the migrating and wintering patterns of Red Knots:  in recent years biologists with the New Jersey Division of Fish and Game, the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences, and others have captured small numbers of Red Knots and fastened numbered tags to their legs. These birds have been captured at sites along the east coast of North America, as well as at South American Sites. Researchers are desperately seeking information and photographic evidence regarding the resightings of these 'marked' shorebirds.

Based on early resighting information, in addition to winter-long anecdotal observations of unmarked birds, it seems that a small portion of the Red Knot population is wintering along the South Carolina coast, rather than traveling all the way to South America or joining a few thousand other east coast migrants at their winter destination in west Florida. It is not completely known whether the Knots' wintering in SC is a recent development or whether a portion of the population has always done this.

In partnership with NJ DFW and Manomet, CRBO is organizing a volunteer-assisted program of formal surveys to find and document flagged Red Knots and other marked shorebirds along the South Carolina Coast. Some of these surveys will take place during spring and fall shorebird migrations, but the bulk of the efforts will take place during the birds' nonmigratory wintering period.

Starting in 2006, CRBO personnel and our program volunteers have undertaken coordinated efforts to find and document flagged Red Knots in fall, winter and spring along the SC coast. We were very successful in our first year, thrilling biologists at NJ DFG and Manomet.
Amanda Dey, of the Endangered and Nongame Species Program of the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife, wrote us to say:
"Many thanks for the tremendous work -- I'm really grateful for the data you've sent, especially on important wintering/stopover sites, and for the program you've started up on Red Knot resightings."

Encouraged by the initial success of the first year's loosely coordinated volunteer effort, CRBO and our partners at NJDFG and Manomet decided to expand and formalize the SC Red Knot resighting effort into the SC Marked Shorebird Resightings Project.

In addition, we still urge birders and nature photographers to go out on their own (in uncoordinated fashion) as much as possible to find and document marked shorebirds. CRBO will use our press contacts to spread this message throughout coastal SC.

If you would like to help with this project, we would value your assistance - especially if you have digiscoping or photographic equipment capable of documenting shorebird color bands and 'flags'. To volunteer, email crbo@dmzs.com or telephone 843-607-0105.

In addition to Red Knots, starting in summer 2007, we are asking SCMSRP participants to record and photo-document any 'flagged' Ruddy Turnstones and Sanderlings. These shorebirds are also starting to show a steep decline that may be similar to Red Knot's dire population drop. In order to learn more about this, researchers are also attaching tiny engraved flags to these shorebirds' legs.

Another 'marked' shorebird we will be watching for (primarily during Spring migration) is the Semipalmated Sandpiper. Dr. David Mizrahi of the Cape May Bird Observatory has been 'flagging' Semipalmated Sandpipers on Delaware Bay.




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Below are some recent photos of 'flagged' Red Knots in coastal South Carolina. The photos were taken on April 19, 2008. They depict "flagged" members of a 3,000+ member flock of Red Knots staging on Kiawah Island, South Carolina during spring migration.






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Below are some of the photos of 'flagged' Red Knots (in drab nonbreeding plumage) taken last winter by CRBO personnel in coastal SC.



Banded and 'flagged' Red Knot - Murrell's Inlet, South Carolina (Huntington Beach State Park).
November 25, 2006

It has been determined that this bird was banded on Delaware Bay, on August 25, 2005 at Stone Harbor, New Jersey.

Photographs by Nathan Dias.

click thumbnail photos for larger image:




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Another banded and 'flagged' Red Knot - Murrell's Inlet, South Carolina (Huntington Beach State Park).
November 25, 2006


Bill Pitts of the Endangered & Nongame Species Program, NJ Division of Fish & Wildlife reports that this bird "is not one of the Delaware Bay banding schemes; it seems most likely that it was banded in 2002 in New Jersey. Bill also notes that "it appears this bird has lost a couple of bands."

The "shorthand description" for this bird's color band combination is: Fg/O:m/R
This means: Green flag on left leg above the knee, Orange band on left leg below knee, metal band on right leg above knee, red band on right leg below knee.

As this individual bird has been resighted in SC (see bottom of this page), CRBO has designated it "GOMR" based on its shorthand color band description. The bird has been deduced as the same individual based on:
1) the combination of "cohort color bands" where a flock of birds received similar color bands and un-numbered green 'flags'
2) the fact that it has apparently lost (the same) color band(s).

Photos by Nathan Dias.

click thumbnail photos for larger image:




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On 24 December 2006, Steve and Barbara Thomas encountered 6 marked Red Knots - a remarkable number.  5 of these marked Red Knots were 'flagged' and one was banded with a single aluminum band.  The birds were at Huntington Beach State Park, in Georgetown County, SC.  The 6 marked individuals were accompanied by about 35 additional unmarked Red knots.

Although photos were not obtained, Steve and Barbara noted all the relevant details.

Bill Pitts of the NJ DFW reported the following information:

1) FL(XEM)/-:L/m -banded 5/17/2006 at Kimbles Beach, NJ
2) FL(XAP)/-:L/m -banded 5/17/2006 at Kimbles Beach, NJ
3) FL(TNY)/-:Y/m -banded 11/11/05 at Avalon, NJ
4) FL(TKL)/-:Y/m -banded 8/25/05 at Stone Harbor, NJ

[FL = flag with alphanumeric - L = lime, Y = yellow, m = metal]

5) Fg/O:m/R [forest green flag over orange on left leg; metal over red on right] is not a banding combination that we used, but this bird could be missing one or more bands. However, it is likely that this bird was banded on Delaware Bay.

6) silver band only (high, uncertain as to which leg) - Uncertain origin



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Another banded and 'flagged' Red Knot - north Folly Beach, South Carolina .
December 28, 2006


It has been determined that this bird was banded on August 25, 2005 at Stone Harbor, New Jersey

Photos by William Flack.

click thumbnail photos for larger image:




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Another banded and 'flagged' Red Knot - North Folly Beach, South Carolina (Lighthouse Inlet).
November 20, 2006


It has been determined that this bird was banded on Delaware Bay on May 25 2006 at Stone Harbor New Jersey.

Photo by Chris Snook.

click thumbnail photo for larger image:




Here is the same bird!
It was re-found during the 2007 SC Piping Plover Census on February 11, 2007 at Sandy Point, the eastern tip of Kiawah Island, SC.

Photo by Nathan Dias.

click thumbnail photo for larger image:




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Another banded and 'flagged' Red Knot
This bird was found with bird YPE (above) during the 2007 SC Piping Plover Census on February 11, 2007 at Sandy Point, the eastern tip of Kiawah Island, SC.

Photo by Nathan Dias.

click thumbnail photo for larger image:




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Another banded and 'flagged' Red Knot
This bird was found, along with two other marked Red Knots, on April 21, 2007 at North Folly Beach, SC by Christopher Snook.

It has been determined that this bird was banded on 1 Jan 2007 on Sanibel Island, FL.

Circumstances did not allow the photographing of the two additional Red Knots, but their band/flag info was:

#2
Light green flag on upper right leg, marked as "PP3". Blue colour band on upper left leg. USGS aluminum band on lower right leg.
It has been determined that this bird was banded 28 Dec 2006 on the Courtney Campbell Causeway between Tampa & Clearwater, FL

#3
Light green flag on upper right leg, mostly masked by feathers but last letter is either an R or K. Blue colour band on the upper left leg. USGS aluminum band on lower right leg.
It has been determined that this bird was most likely banded in the winter of 2005-2006 (31 Dec 05 - 3 Jan 06), but without the other two characters, a precise determination cannot be made.

click thumbnail photo for larger image:




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Here is GOMR again!

The bird (and its color band + flag combination) was reported as having been sighted on 12/30/2007 by Rick Parker at Huntington Beach State Park.

Then on 1/12/2008 Jerry Kerschner photographed GOMR at Huntington Beach State Park!

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