The Wetlands Institute will host its inaugural Spring Shorebird and Horseshoe Crab Festival this weekend, May 17-19, aimed at educating the community on the migratory shorebird refueling stopover and horseshoe crab spawning phenomenon that takes place on the Delaware Bay beaches each spring.

The festival will provide the community with a close-up of this wonder with guided beach walks throughout the weekend, as well as lectures, water conservation activities, horseshoe crab tagging demonstrations and more. It targets the local community, including children, and casual birders. Each spring, the horseshoe crabs lay hundreds of thousands of eggs on the Delaware Bay beaches. The migratory shorebirds stop on their way to the Arctic to feed the crab eggs.

If the horseshoe crabs didn't have these beaches to spawn on, the shorebirds would miss out on their rest stop meal, and thus, their population, which is already at-risk, would continue to drop.

"The Delaware Bay beaches are critical for both horseshoe crabs spawning and the linkages to refueling stops for endangered and declining shorebird populations," said Dr. Lenore Tedesco, executive director of the Wetlands Institute. "Horseshoe crab conservation efforts are being expanded in the bayshore region to ensure their populations can recover and in turn, shorebird populations can recover."

An additional focus of the festival then is to highlight the importance of the Delaware Bay conservation in helping to revive the at-risk migratory shorebird population. A portion of the proceeds from the festival will go towards conservation work on the Delaware Bay.

The festival also will showcase conservation in action, Tedesco said, as Hurricane Sandy caused erosion to the Delaware Bay beaches, eliminating significant amounts of spawning beaches. A more than $500,000 emergency beach-replenishment project to restore these critical beaches was undertaken, with sand spread on Kimbles Beach, Cooks Beach, Reeds Beach and Pierces Point.

The beach-replenishment project was completed in less than three months, hurried for the sake of the species, and funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, American Bird Conservancy, The New Jersey Recovery Fun, N.J. Lands Trust and the N.J. Corporate Wetlands Partnership. Project partners include the American Littoral Society, The Wetlands Institute, Middle Township, Richard Stockton College, N.J. Department of Environmental Protection, Conserve Wildlife Foundation and N.J. Audubon Society. The Wetlands Institute is hoping the festival will showcase the importance of the Delaware Bay to the community, Tedesco said.

"The Delaware Bay is an amazing resource for both the people and animals that depend on it," she said. "We hope to bring that message home."

Contact Elisa Lala:


If you go

What: Inaugural Spring Shorebird and Horseshoe Crab Festival


Friday, May 17 to Sunday, May 19


Nonmember: $15 Adult, $10 Child; Member: $13 Adult, $8 Child, Ticket is good for all event days, Friday lecture only $5.

Schedule of Events:

Friday May 17 at 7 p.m. at The Wetlands Institute

Special Evening Lecture "Shorebirds Around the World"

Saturday May 18 and Sunday May 19, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at The Wetlands Institute

Horseshoe Crab Teaching Tank and Aquaculture, Horseshoe Crab tagging demonstrations, Salt Marsh Trail Walks and Shorebird Identification, Guided Viewing from the TowerAssorted Children's Activities and Games – Theme Shorebirds and Horseshoe Crabs, Face Painting, Book signings by Philip Hoose, author of "Moonbird" and Water Conservation Activities.

Saturday May 18 at Stone Harbor Point

Guided Beach Walks to View Roosting Shorebirds, 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. and 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Reeds/Cooks/Kimbles Beach

Guided Shorebird Viewing from Viewing Platforms 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Shorebird Banding, Saturday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Horseshoe Crab Spawning Guided Walks, Saturday Evening

Sunday May 19 at Reeds/Cooks/Kimbles Beach

Guided Shorebird Viewing Platforms 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Guided Beach Walks to View Shorebirds at Stone Harbor Point 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.