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Ft. George Inlet, Duval Co.: As occurs every May, Red knot are now stopping-over in Ft. George Inlet to gorge on abundant donax in preparation for their final migratory leap to the arctic. A survey on Saturday morning recorded 775 birds with 55, uniquely-banded, individuals including three, recent arrivals, from Tierra del Fuego (2 Argentina - 1 Chile). Another, Chilean-banded, bird has been present for two weeks, but this bird apparently wintered in Florida and was previously recorded in early March at Ft. Desoto on the gulf coast. 

Something new to the inlet this season is an invasion of hydroids affixing themselves to the inlet's donax. (In appearance, they resemble minute, reddish-brown, mops projecting from the sand above a buried donax) Not all donax are impacted but the hydroids appear to be spreading rapidly. We first encountered this phenomena on Cumberland Island, GA last year and it may have been associated with a major die-off of small mollusk there. The literature suggest that hydroids have been impacting some donax populations along the mid-Atlantic coast in recent times but there has been little research or documentation. Although hydroids on donax have been found to reduce predation by moon snails, it is unknown how they might affect predation by knots or contribute to donax die-offs.    

With Red knots already stressed by the commercial harvest of Horseshoe Crab and its consequent reductions of spawn in Delaware Bay, the species could hardly withstand the loss of another forage base elsewhere along the Atlantic coast.  

Doris and Patrick Leary, Fernandina Beach  

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