|Ivan gets a good look at Moonbird, the larger-than-life Red Knot |
(photo was not taken in New Jersey, but I couldn't resist.)
|The endangered shorebird area at Reed's Beach. |
Note light development to the left of the sign.
Relegated to a small area, our view of the birds wasn't all that great. Though Laughing Gulls were in abundance nearby, only a few Sanderlings were visible by naked eye. Several horseshoe crabs were stranded on the beach, overturned by waves and helpless, but we couldn't cross the line to help them, not without harassing the birds.
After Ivan got the viewing scope, sighting became a bit easier, but still not optimal. A cluster of Red Knots was feeding far down the beach with a few Ruddy Turnstones, but we were really hoping for a much better look. This was my first exposure to real, live Red Knots, and I definitely wanted the chance to appreciate them in more detail. After having heard so much about the spectacle of their migration, I wasn't going to let one small sighting stand as my introduction.
Our luck was a bit better at Cook's Beach, just to the south of Reed's, where we found a small gathering of birders fixated at a spot a couple hundred yards up the shoreline. A sizeable cluster of Red Knots was enjoying their sand-bound feast, their brick-colored necks and breasts differentiating them from the Turnstones milling about with them. Ivan got the scope out for a closer look and estimated that a couple hundred of them were mixed in with the other species pecking away for their lunches. To this uneducated eye, they looked healthy and as eager to eat as ravenous passengers at an all-you-can-eat cruise ship buffet.
|The Delaware Bayshore, as seen from Cook's Beach. |
Houses on Reed's Beach are barely visible to the left of center.
When you stand on the beach of the Delaware Bayshore, you can't help but appreciate the difference between it and, say, Long Beach Island. Sparse development along the beach leaves sufficient room for nature to exist, grow and thrive, whether it's migrating shorebirds, spawning crabs, or the gulls that wheel and laugh as they navigate the winds. Dunes are covered in grass, backed up by marshes that obscure all manners and shapes of life. And it's important for people, too: a quiet beach is a wonderful place to get reacquainted with the natural rhythms of life, and to just be. It shows us what's possible when we leave a portion of our shoreline to evolve on its own, rather than focusing on developing every last inch for human use.
After all, Red Knots travel thousands of miles to get to our undeveloped beaches. Could they know something we don't?