Here are some more photos to give you an idea of what the annual Horseshoe Crab egg feast is like on the South Jersey shoreline.
A couple of Laughing Gulls had needs other than food to be met.
According to Audubon, Dunlin means “little dun-colored (gray-brown) bird”. It is a very common shore bird migrating about now from their breeding grounds in the Artic to coastal areas of the United States.
Dunlins are easily identified as they fly in groups ranging from a few dozens to hundreds or even thousands. They seem to have a way of communicating effectively with one another as they bank, turn, or climb up and dive down in perfect unison. Their flight is an amazing sight that I tried to capture in the following photos, with just a few members of a band of Dunlins.
Here are some monochrome photos to highlight this Horseshoe Crab season. Currently, the populations of Horseshoe Crabs, as well as of the birds that eat their eggs, Red Knots, Dunlins, Semipalmated Sandpiper, and Ruddy Turnstone, are all supposed to be in decline. There is no single cause and probably many unknowns as well.
The shores of South Jersey bordering Delaware Bay are where Horseshoe Crabs come ashore every May to mate. The female crabs lay eggs in the sand and the male crabs fertilize them. The eggs are a favorite source of food for many birds, particularly for Red Knots, those long-distance migrators that travel more than 9,000 miles (15,000 km) from Tierra del Fuego at the very end of South America to the Artic in North America.
So at this time of the year. there are literally thousands and thousands of shore birds, including Red Knots, at the South Jersey shore. To protect the birds the beaches are off limits to people for one month, from May 7th to June 7th, which meant I could only take pictures from a good distance away.
Even in the above photo, you can see several Horseshoe Crab that got upended, laying on their backs waiting for the tide to help them get back on their feet. Many will eventually die if that does not happen, becoming another source of food for seagulls and other birds.
I took the following photos of these beautiful shore birds at the Edwin B Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in May of this year, but somehow never got around to post them here. Better late than never, so here they are.
Yesterday I again went to the Holgate section of the Edwin B Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge. Temperatures started below freezing but by noon they had reached 38 F (3 C), there was no wind, so it was a relatively pleasant stroll for me.
Along the beach there were literally tens of thousands of dunlins, many asleep. Dunlins, a kind of sandpiper, breed in the tundra near the Artic, and in the winter migrate to the East Coast as far down as Florida.
Once in a while, they would all fly up in unison.
Then they would land ahead of me.
This is how they looked after landing. This taking off and landing took place several times, matching my progress as I neared the southern tip of Long Beach Island.
After a while I realized that there were no ducks of any kind in the surf. Last week there were Northern Pintails, Long-Tailed Ducks, Hooded Mergansers, and possibly other kinds as well. The explanation came by the time I reached the end of the island. There was a camouflaged duck-hunting boat bobbing on the water, with several duck decoys floating around it. By the time I took the following picture, the hunters had gathered their fake ducks and were getting ready to move to another spot.