Red Knots & Radio TelemetryMary Anne Bishop, Prince William Sound Science Center
Scope of Work:
In August 2014 the Prince William Sound Science Center submitted a preproposal (Attachment 1) to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to study spring stopover areas in coastal Alaska for the Red Knot (Calidris canutus roselaari). Based on the preproposal, we have been invited to submit a full proposal, with an expected decision date of December 2014. We are requesting $20,000 matching funds from the Oil Spill Recovery Institute to cover the cost of aerial telemetry flights over the Copper and Bering (Controller Bay) River Deltas in spring 2015.
With an estimated population of 22,000 individuals, the Red Knot is one of the smallest and least studied shorebird populations in North America. During migration and winter, the Red Knot is tied to coastal habitats, generally preferring intertidal mudflats and sand flats. Because the Red Knot is dependent on coastal habitats, this species is vulnerable to habitat loss or degradation resulting from coastal pollution, such as oil spills, infrastructure development, and climate change effects across its range.
Migratory connectivity -the relationship between a bird population and its geographic locations during the annual cycle -has been identified as a crucial management information need for the Red Knot. For this project, our collaborators will radio tag 100 Red Knots at Grays Harbor, Washington in May 2015. Prince William Sound Science Center will then document Red Knot use at the Copper and Bering River Deltas using aerial telemetry. A similar flight effort will be conducted at the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta by pilots at the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge. The project’s reliance on multi-agency public and private cooperation is an example of the most cost-efficient and comprehensive method for studying the large-scale migration of small to medium-sized shorebirds.
For the Copper/Bering River Deltas, aerial telemetry flights would occur daily from approximately May 8-25, 2015. Our aerial telemetry data from Red Knots stopping on the Copper and Bering River Deltas will provide baseline information critical to oil spill response planning and implementation, which will be useful for the Oil Spill Recovery Institute. Maps and other information will be made available to managers in a format that enables the definition of habitat needs, conservation concerns, and modeling impacts of habitat-related changes, such as oil spills of varying sizes at important coastal sites. Our information will improve the ability to track impacts to and the recovery of the Red Knot population in the event of another oil spill.