Thursday, May 25, 2006

Red Knot News

A few stories linked at Little Birdie this afternoon have mixed news for those of us who are interested in the current status of the red knot. Aerial surveys showed that the red knot flocks along the Delaware Bay are now down to 12,000, from 17,000 last year. Such a sharp drop in one year is worrying because it shows that numbers have not yet stabilized. The drop in numbers has been tied to a boom in horseshoe crab harvests that began in the 1990s; red knot numbers dropped precipitously shortly after the harvests increased. See this FWS page for more information about North American red knots.

Red Knot (right) and Ruddy Turnstone (left)
Photo courtesy USFWS

Two articles covered preservation work underway at Mispillion Inlet in Delaware, one of the major concentration points for red knot on the south side of the Delaware Bay. The Conservation Fund has purchased a 73-acre plot of private land at that site. The land will be managed as a nature reserve and no horseshoe crab harvesting will be permitted at that location. Because the Mispillion Harbor is sheltered, it is easier for crabs to spawn there. As a result, red knot numbers have been much higher there than at other locations in recent years.

In the meantime, an effort is underway to repair the Mispillion Inlet jetty, which shelters the harbor.