Last week I headed to the Delaware shore in search of migrating shorebirds and in particular the Red Knot. I knew the Red knot would be elusive as the reports I had studied on the Cornell University eBird.org showed that they had pushed through earlier in the month.
While we were unable to find any Red Knots, there were thousands, and I mean thousands of other sandpipers and shorebirds that covered the beaches at several spots that we visited. As I’ve had the privilege of visiting this huge migration several years in the past I was more thoughtful of the types of images I was hoping to get and truly I wanted my friends to get the best chance at images as it was their first time out there.
One of my more favorite stops is at Port Mahon which is Nature Conservancy land. The road wanders right along the shore line and since my last visit they have reinforced the rip-rap even more as the road is water level. The road was constantly washed out and they had to repair it time and time again. While it’s great for the road, it’s not great for the Horseshoe crabs as what was before shoreline is now filled with large rocks. The area of egg laying and bird foraging has been greatly diminished and is tragic. And while it has been a favored spot of mine in previous years, those rocks also caught a lot of Horseshoe crabs that couldn’t get out.
On a photographer’s perspective though, these rocks provide a great natural blind and it’s easy to slide closer to the birds and sit quietly on the rocks while they forage in front of you.
It was a bittersweet experience for me as I was sad for the migrating shorebirds, and in particular the Red Knot. They are already feeling pressure due to climate change and diminishing habitats. The past few years spring has been late and the waters cold for the Horseshoe Crabs to come in to lay their eggs. The Red Knot hasn’t quite changed their departure times to coincide with this later than usual event and are coming to the area before their essential food source is available for them.
I was also surprised that the Nature Conservancy didn’t come up with a different solution that could have preserved the habitat for the migrating shorebirds.
Port Mahon is usually a great spot for Short-billed dowitchers, Dunlin, Ruddy Turnstones, Sandpipers, Sanderlings and then the gulls, Cormorants and Osprey.
I prefer to be on the shore when it is an overcast day as it allows me to photograph throughout the day without worrying about harsh shadows and hard light.
Spring migration season is a wonderful time to be out on the Delaware shore and there are so many great places to visit. From Bombay Hook NWR to Prime Hook NWR the quantity of birds will astound you.
Categories: All about Hoofbeats & Footprints