Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network

Several Good Signs at Delaware Bay


Laura Chamberlin / Courtesy of Celebrate Delaware Bay

The sight of a Delaware Bay beach at high tide in the spring, packed with spawning horseshoe crabs and tiny, green eggs piled high, is a thrilling event for locals and visitors alike. For migrating shorebirds, who stop to rest and feast on those eggs, it could be the difference between surviving the long trip to the Arctic or not. This year, through the conservation efforts of many partners, local leaders, and volunteers, species such as Red Knot (Calidris canutus rufa), Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres), and Sanderling (Calidris alba) left the Delaware Bay WHSRN Site with their best average departure weights in years.

In its fourth year, the Celebrate Delaware Bay campaign has continued to bring this story to new audiences through field trips, festivals, horseshoe crab rescues and tagging, and student education. In turn, the conservation community here continues to grow, with more people inspired and ready to take action. For example, in New Jersey’s horseshoe crab rescue program called “reTURN the Favor,” volunteer hours increased from 1,270 hours in 2015 to over 1,900 hours this year. 

Positive signs, produced wth youth artwork. / Courtesy of Laura Chamberlin

During the year, students created signs that were installed on beaches in Delaware and New Jersey, reminding visitors that we share these beaches with shorebirds and horseshoe crabs. The signs provide a simple, positive message about reducing human disturbance and encourage people to participate in conservation actions. Youth signs are often used to successfully promote conservation at important shorebird sites, especially those with beach-nesting birds. They can help improve relationships among local residents and leaders, and complement other efforts to reduce disturbance. In this their first year on the Delaware Bay, youth signs have received only positive feedback and support.

WHSRN site partners continued to lead other conservation efforts on the Delaware Bay this year as well, including restoring beaches, reducing disturbance via stewards, restricting access to beaches, and limiting horseshoe crab harvests. And the birds are responding to these efforts. Researchers on the Delaware Bay Shorebird Project team reported that, among the three species they collect data on, most of the birds reached very good departure weights—some of the best in 20 years of the project. A good departure weight is a key indication that a bird will likely arrive in the Arctic strong and able to nest.

"ReTurn the Favor" volunteers. / Courtesy of Laura Chamberlin

2016 By the Numbers
Over 240 students involved in creating artwork for signs
47 signs produced and installed on 16 beaches
Over 78,000 horseshoe crabs rescued on 18 beaches
29 teachers educated during “Teach at the Beach
30 years celebrated as a WHSRN site

Even though most of the shorebirds departed in good shape this year, it’s just one of many ongoing challenges at the Delaware Bay. Having an engaged and informed constituency will ensure that we are ready to take action on behalf of shorebirds and horseshoe crabs any time.

For more information, please contact Laura Chamberlin (lchamberlin@manomet.org), Community Engagement Coordinator, WHSRN Executive Office.