The next day we did marginally better, each team facing different problems, our boat’s engine failed and we had to paddle back to port. Another took so long getting to the shoal they intended to survey, it had already been covered by the tide. This is the nature of field work anywhere.
But things can go awry. In human dominate habitats like NJ, birds find it hard to roost near foraging areas, because most often the high tide forces them into the people jogging, dog walking or just walking along enjoying flushing shorebirds. So the shorebirds must leave, unnecessarily burning valuable fuel and suffering greater danger from avian predators.
The nighttime roost creates the real threat here and everywhere. At night many dangers lurk. Ground predators, such as owls, feral cats, raccoons, even people, roam everywhere looking for a chance to kill and will take advantage of any unwary or sickened bird. It is worst when birds are forced to use areas that are less secure than others. This can happen naturally at spring tides for example when the very highest high tides force them closer to the dangers lurking in the dunes or mangrove forests. In places like Hereford NJ, people often force birds to use more dangerous areas.
Doing this in NJ is difficult. Doing it in the northern coast of Brazil presents untold challenges. One cannot easily access the coast here. Mostly we have to rent boats to take us out to the birds, conduct surveys than get back before dark. Sometimes we go out for days and stay in remote fishing villages, sometimes with only a floor to sleep and no facilities or power. Imagine unrelenting heat, mosquitoes, persistent blowing sand, copious sweat, and trying to conduct a scientific investigation that would be demanding in any environment.
So this is the challenge of our crew and they do it apomb! Last year one of the boats sank in 55 feet of water 8 miles out to sea. We all made it to land safely but we lost much of our equipment. The day after was grim, should we go on or go home? Without hesitation, the crew not only did the crew go on to complete the survey but we ended up capturing 22 geolocators from ruddy turnstones tagged two years earlier. A good crew is hard to put together and stay productive in these conditions. A good spirit is the most important thing.
Our understanding of the inner workings of the Brazilian Extractavista reserve system grows every day. This is the system I believe holds great hope for us in the US because it serves both the wildlife and fish and the people living in the landscape. Pretend for example on Delaware Bay, the rural towns and the residents get first crack at the sustainable management of resources, not the companies exploiting them without regard to the future, as it is now. Instead of few people earning a good living off Delaware Bay resources, many would. Rural American would be transformed. This is what ICMBio hopes to achieve in this much poorer area.
Two of our team are managers of the 7 reserves in Para, our study site. They told us, for example, ICMBio ( Chico Mendes institute ), the federal agency in charge of the extractive reserves, pays a subsidy for local fishermen in exchange for helping manage the fishery resources. But the subsidy is not limited to existing residents, not people within new reserves because of the new conservative groverment. One can see right away their challenges. Two people managing 7 reserves covering a coastline the size of New Jersey. Budget cuts have taken away all equipment funds. They must even clean their own offices as most nonessential staff have been cut under the new conservative government, a government accused of unfairly deposing the most popular liberal party.
This should resonate in the US because it is coming soon to a wildlife reserve near you.