Sunday, May 27, 2018

Thousands of Shorebirds on the Beach

It's that time of year again - horseshoe crabs and shorebird extravaganza on our beach in the Villas. This year is especially birdy on our beach. Not sure why but the birds are loving the Villas. I spent time over the past 3 days searching for banded birds. It was overwhelming at times. Here is a little video to set the scene for you.

There were so many birds and so many bands to photograph that at times I was just shooting away. Here is an example. How many banded birds made it into one photograph?

09E, TN+, 52L
The majority of the birds are Sanderling and Semi-palmated Sandpipers but this year, we have an abundance of Ruddy Turnstones. They win the prize for most handsome birds on the beach.

Ruddy Turnstone Lineup
I found one Ruddy Turnstone with an antenna sticking out behind him. Can you see it on AA=? He just had the transmitter installed on his back this week. I hope he survives it.

RUTU AA= w/antenna
I found another RUTU hauling an older model transmitter called a geolocator. It is attached to his right leg rather than on his back.

RUTU H1A w/Geolocator
This guy seems to have survived the extra burden just fine. He had it installed in Brazil in May 2013 and has been tracked for 5 years now mainly being spotted in the Delaware Bay!

The birds are here to fatten up on horseshoe crab eggs. We met our friends on the beach to watch the sunset on Friday night. The crabs were also on the beach just after high tide.

Mating Crabs at Sunset
They were busy mating. Here is some "crab porn". The female is the larger crab. She digs a whole and lays eggs while the males fertilize.

Mating crabs
The result are millions of eggs. Some bubble up to the top. You can see them here.

Horseshoe crab eggs
Some of the birds like the Ruddy Turnstones know to dig down into the sand to expose the eggs like this guy - #123.

RUTU 123
And sometimes, they just hit the jackpot like these 2. Each green dot is an egg that they can gobble up.

By the end of next week, they'll all be gone. They will be on their way to Canada and the arctic to breed in June and July then head back to Brazil and South America in August.

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