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2000 Arctic Search for the Red Knot
July 6, 2000

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We covered a large area of the Arctic in our round trip from our base camp, including King William Island, Eastern Coast of Victoria Island, West and south coast of Boothia Peninsula, East Coast of Simpson, and Northern Southampton Island. All totaled we traveled over 2,500 km. We found 7 more instrumented birds, 5 on King William and the adjacent portion of Boothia. We found one bird on the east coast of Simpson Peninsula and one more on the north end of Southampton Island. All birds were in the habitat we predicted using Rick's maps. All were found in barren tundra with rocky ridges similar to the area surrounding our base camp.

We couldn't survey all the potential habitat, as we have already exceeded our aircraft budget. We did survey the most likely areas and have identified a second major nesting area on King William Island. We suspect most of the red knots coming to Delaware Bay are nesting on Southampton and King William Islands. We will also be able to refine our satellite imagery to further limit the area of potential habitat. Coupled with the ground survey data we will try to estimate density and use it to estimate the total population of knots. This estimate would allow a useful comparison with other population estimates based on re-sightings of banded birds.

On our return the next day we found the team had found another nest amongst the 5 others. Nancy saw the nest right on the top of one of the main ridges. Mark and Rick pointed out the emerging pattern: each bird was approximately 1 km apart. Studies of another subspecies in Europe have shown similar densities of one pair/km. Kathy found another nest yesterday about 2 km from the Camp, about 1.1 km from the nearest nest. A small team including Brad, Graciela, Rick and Barbara ventured out towards a new ridge 7 km south of the Camp. We had hoped to start intensive nest sweeps in that area in order to start a second site for study. They found our 8th nest on the ridge and will return with a larger crew over the next few days. Rick and Brad discovered polar bear sign including a skull and guard hairs in the several dug-outs that bears use as resting sites during the winter. We are convinced that these rocky/sandy ridges are key habitat for nesting knots. It appears the birds require wetlands in close proximity as well. It appears they choose the north slopes because snow drifts on the south sides and melts very slowly. The north slopes are snow-free earlier. We have transmitters on one bird from most of the nests, so in the next five days we hope to learn more about movements and habitat needs.

Mark and Barbara have been trapping both birds of each nest to band, measure and take a blood sample for genetics studies. They found the second bird on the second nest was a bird banded in Delaware last year. Along with the transmitters, it adds to the evidence we are working on birds that pass through the Delaware Bay.

Because of the sharp, rocky surface, Barry must frequently replace Hoochie's boots.
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