EASTHAM, Mass. (AP) — Three cannons explode on a deserted Cape Cod beach, unleashing a startling cloud of white smoke and sand. In tandem, projectiles erupt from the ground, flinging a net over a group of elusive shorebirds known as red knots.
A dozen wildlife researchers emerge from hiding and sprint to transfer the prized catch into holding boxes and then to a camp nearby. There, they collect feather samples as they measure, weigh and tag the robin-size birds, then fit their legs with tiny geolocators and release them.
Biologists hope the geolocators will use ambient light to calculate and record the locations of the rosy-breasted birds, helping conservation workers who will recapture them to determine their migration routes and refueling stops.
The red knot is already on New Jersey's endangered species list and has been proposed for inclusion on the federal list. It's known for its South America-to-Arctic migration, a 10,000-mile flight.