Snow and ice still blanketed Stone Harbor Point yesterday, but the foul weather of Thursday gave way to a sunny but cold day. H4 operated on all cylinders with one excavator at the borrow site loading two trucks to dump sand onto the southern habitat. At the same time Boomer and Vicky Heun began work on the gunnel and our new habitat island on the bay side. All together they moved 180 truckloads, our best day yet.
The runnel and island are an experiment we hope will help restore colonial birds, least terns and skimmers, back to the point. The new runnel (or shallow creek or channel) began to take shape after Boomer made the first cut into the bayside waters edge on the north end (see map below).
Map of the project areas showing the two habitat and the new runnel and island
A comparison of the new runnel entrance before and after excavation.
The job brings risks. When operating a machine worth hundreds of thousands that weighs 88,000 lbs one worries about slipping into the sea. If it weren't for the frozen sand, the gargantuan machine might sink or topple when lifting the several tons of sand into the waiting all terrain dump truck. But as Boomer finished the first 50 yards, the danger lifted. The incoming tide eventually halted work for the day.
Boomer and Vicky Heun operating the excavator and dumbstruck on the new runnel
The southern habitat gradually takes form and the northern habitat is nearly complete. We began the search for shell to cover the habitats. Beach nesters prefer beach with about 20% coverage with broken shell sprinkled with the occasional whole shell to provide vital protection from wind blown sand especially important to tiny chicks. Shell can be purchased easily in Cape May and Cumberland county because of the robust clam fishery. Unfortunately we can't used recently shucked clam shell, because remnant flesh will attract predators, and most of the shell is crushed before being composted. Somehow we have to find clean whole shell to spread with the broken shell. Shell spreading should start next week.
Crushed shell for the project
Work continues today (Saturday) to help stay within our permitted time restrictions. We are being asked to be done by March 7th.
Dunlin braving the snow