Stories from the Bay
Update By: Dr. Larry Niles, LJ Niles Associates LLC
The two beaches slowly take form but already promise better breeding habitat for horseshoe crabs. H4 adds about 2000 tons of Ricci Bros Sand every day, slowly building towards our goal of 48,000 tons on Fortescue Beach. We are now at 20,500 tons.
One can now envisage the final beach and the sheer volume of sand it will take to make it. Boomer Huen running the front end loader and bulldozer pushes sand into the inter-tidal zone and the night time high tide reshapes it. Its not a loss however, the sand moves into the designed beach profile that Steve Hafner and his crew from Stockton University determined when he laid out the beach at the start of the project.
At Thompson’s Beach the Wickberg crew moved huge amounts of sand in the last few days, but are now plagued with equipment failures. Its not a small thing to have a 40 ton truck break down in what one might truthfully describe as in” the middle of nowhere”. Still the amount of sand stored over few days will keep the remaining equipment busy until the repairs are complete today. Thompsons is now at about 40% of it 48,000 ton target.
Shane Godshall and Capt Al Modjeski trained a group of volunteer vets to lead teams in the construction our first oyster reef. Nascent oyster reefs really, essentially bags of conch shell stacked into 5 by 10 pyramids, in hope of creating beach protection from the bay beach-damaging waves. At only 2 feet high the reefs won’t do well against a catastrophic storm, but they may help in moderating the impact of prevailing westerly winds that whip up white-capped waves of short amplitude that pound the beaches and wear them down.
We also hope that the reefs will help the crabs. Our best horseshoe crab spawning habitat lies at the many creek mouth that cut the Delaware Bay shoreline. At each mouth sand shoals and if there is enough sand shoals protect inner shoals. Crabs breed best on these inner shoals becaue outer ones modeate waves. On days of high westerly winds, the chop shuts down the crab spawn, except in the inner shoals. We hope our reef will act as an outer shoal giving them a chance to breed in higher winds conditions.
Volunteers will build reefs at the American Littoral Society and Conserve Wildlife Foundation’s “Shell-a-bration” to be held this Saturday on April 4 at 200. Anyone wishing to help crabs and oysters should come and build a reef!
A harp seal showed up on Thompson's Beach this Wednesday. They are a rare occurrence in the Bay, but do show up from time-to-time. This seal suffered from an unknown ailment, so we called the experts at the Marine Mammal Stranding Center. Their preliminary diagnosis was the seal mistook sand for ice as a source of fresh water, thus compacting her digestive system. The seal is now under thier care at the Brigantine center and recovering.
Dr. Larry Niles has led efforts to protect red knots and horseshoe crabs for over 30 years.