Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Crab Count Volunteers

Birders in Delaware and South Jersey can help monitor the horseshoe crab population this summer:

On Thursday, the Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve, or DNERR, will host a training session for people wanting to volunteer for this year's crab count. The session will begin at 6 p.m. at the St. Jones Reserve in Dover.

The Delaware Nature Society, one of several other groups involved in the crab count, will offer a separate training session at 4 p.m. Saturday on Slaughter Beach.

The crab count, which began in 1990, covers 13 beaches in Delaware and 11 in New Jersey. The initial count was a single event done at the highest of the lunar tides during the spawning season. The methodology was refined in 1999 to cover high tides encompassing three full moons and three new moons during the months of May and June. This year's count will be done on 12 different dates, beginning May 3 and running through June 20....

The survey involves walking up and down the high-tide line of a beach with one-square-meter rectangles. The rectangles are placed on the ground at intervals of 20 meters on beaches at least 1,000 meters long, and at intervals of 8 meters on shorter beaches. The crabs within the rectangles are then recorded by number and gender, a process that can be more challenging at peak periods when crabs are stacked atop one another.
Volunteers are needed, especially for midweek counts.