It’s the end of a weekend of field work and our expedition is coming to a close.
We have successfully deployed transmitters on 11 Black-bellied Plovers, 6 Red Knots, and 1 Marbled Godwit. We have one more day to try and catch curlews and a few more godwits.
Our work this weekend took us to the large and diverse Port Aransas Nature Preserve; to the muddy fishing channels and windy beach habitats of Mustang Island State Park; and to the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world, Padre Island National Seashore with it’s over 80 miles of seashore.
Shorebirds share the beautiful habitats of the Texas coastline with species like ghost crabs, sea turtles and of course people. In fact one of the primary reasons shorebirds have declined globally is because of coastal development and disturbance. Impacts to the beach habitats we visited, especially from plastic litter, beach driving, and fishing bycatch (catching non-target species), were obvious. Equally obvious was the dedication of many locals to protecting and cleaning the Texas coastline.
Since 1986, 465,000 volunteers have removed 9,000 tons of trash from Texas beaches and estuaries. On Saturday, we met one of these dedicated volunteers on Padre Island National Seashore, walking out collected trash from the beach well after twilight.
It was well after twilight for us too by the time we cleaned up the equipment and packed up Saturday to head in to town. We finished tagging our last red knot and plover late that day. The transmitters we deployed tell the story of a year in the life of these species, critical for understanding where along the way they may be impacted by our actions. Needing a break after long workday, we rounded out the evening at a beachside restaurant with some local country music—featuring a member of our field team on the fiddle!
The many people taking the “Don’t mess with Texas” slogan to heart in respect of beaches encouraged and inspired us. We share this critical and sensitive habitat with species like shorebirds and it’s essential we minimize our impact. Anyone can participate in a local beach clean-up day (visit the Ocean Conservancy’s central listing) of events around the world. To learn more about the world’s beaches and oceans, and how you can help protect them, visit the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History’s Ocean Portal.