Delaware: Horseshoe Crab Heaven

Kelley NunnRecovery Big Year

Team Kitts Hummock Ready to Start Counting Horseshoe Crabs! - June 2nd, 2016

Gazillions of Horseshoe Crabs!

This year, Hannah Greenberg and I signed up to participate in the Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve (DNERR) Horseshoe Crab Survey along the Delaware Bayshore! We wanted to observe the Horseshoe Crab spawning spectacle, to contribute to this incredible citizen science project, and to help protect the species that the shorebird migration marathon depends on. We had no idea what to expect, and when our survey team arrived at the beach just before high tide on the eve of June 2nd, we were absolutely blown away.

THERE WERE SO MANY HORSESHOE CRABS! I have never seen so many in my life! The high tide line down the entire length of the beach was tightly packed with Horseshoe Crabs– a swath at least 10 ft wide, and in some places, multiple crabs deep.

The survey protocol went like this: each team of two (Me & Hannah + Gwen & Nancy) started at a random point on the beach at exactly high tide– 8:05pm. Every 20 meters, we’d lay down a 1-meter square piece of PVC tubing and count all the male and female crabs within that outline. We repeated this method 50 times per team, and once all of these data points were collected at around 9:30pm, we were done!

Once the survey was over, I started flipping nearly every overturned crab I saw on the walk back to our cars. It’s so satisfying to flip over an upturned crab and to see them make their way back to the ocean! If you’d like to help protect the habitat these Horseshoe Crabs depend on, you can donate to the Delaware Bird-A-Thon! Or, if you’d like to participate in the survey next year, read more on the DNERR website by clicking here.

Check out my photos from the survey below!

A Super Herpy Weekend!

Besides seeing gobs and gobs of Horseshoe Crabs, we had a spectacular weekend for seeing loads of awesome herps (reptiles & amphibians like frogs, toads, turtles, and snakes) throughout Chester County & Delaware!

On Friday, evening, our friend Austin Conley was running a herp-finding program at Lums Pond State Park. During the program, I got to see my lifer Cope’s Gray Tree Frog!!! The experience was incredible– I was so thrilled to see my first North American tree frog (besides Spring Peeper, of course). It was incredible to feel the frog’s tiny toe pads sticking to my fingers.

On Saturday, I found my first Eastern-eyed Click Beetle while taking my dog, Meli, for a walk at the park! PLUS! I got to see my first Brown Snake while on another herp walk at Bucktoe Creek Preserve led by Hannah Greenberg and Gary Stolz on behalf of TLC. You can see in the picture below just how tiny this thing was– at full size, this snake is smaller than my hand!

And on Sunday, we came across a gorgeous male Box Turtle sunning himself on the pavement at the Port Penn impoundments in Delaware. It’s such a treat to find this species in the wild, as they’re considered to be functionally extinct in Delaware. Hannah counted the rings on the turtle’s scutes (scales), and estimated that the turtle was about 9 years old! What a good looking and colorful dude.

Photos below!

Current Recovery Big Year Standings

Kelley, Practicing Balance and Eye Tracking Vestibular Exercises While Birding at Thousand Acre Marsh, DE

Kelley, Practicing Balance and Eye Tracking Vestibular Exercises While Birding at Thousand Acre Marsh, DE

Ok! So! Back to big year business. In the past few weeks, I accomplished one of my recovery big year goals by seeing over 10 life birds in 2016!! Lifer #10 was a Brewster’s Warbler (hybrid between Golden-winged Warbler x Blue-winged Warbler) at Brandywine Creek State Park. At that point, I tried to hit the brakes on seeing more lifers in 2016, but they just keep on coming! Last weekend, I DROVE MYSELF TO Bombay Hook NWR (huge accomplishment!!) and saw my lifer Wilson’s Phalarope– lifer #11. And yesterday, we had a flyby pair of Royal Terns at Delaware City, making for 12 lifers so far in 2016!

Currently, I stand at 253 bird species for the year so far– just 22 away from my goal of 275 for the year, and I’ve got more than 6 months left to go! This year keeps on getting better and better…

I can’t believe I was able to participate in the Horseshoe Crab spawning survey! Walking on an uneven, sandy surface with only a headlight to light the way as a vestibular migraineur is a legitimate challenge, but I was able to do it! I’m so happy and amazed at what I’ve been able to accomplish in my recovery this year.