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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

BirdNote: Pungent Mudflat

Air Date: Week of September 1, 2017

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A Dunlin sandpiper forages in the mudflat. (Photo: Changua Conservation Action, Creative Commons)

Michael Stein samples the sounds and smells of the mudflat in this week’s BirdNote®, encountering sandpipers, dunlins, clams, worms and a variety of powerful odors.

Transcript

[MUSIC: BIRDNOTE® THEME]

CURWOOD: As the water drains away on the Gulf coast, one reality residents will face is mud. But mud can have its uses, as Michael Stein explains in today’s BirdNote.

BirdNote®
The Pungent Mudflat
Written by Bob Sundstrom

[Glaucous-winged gulls crying, evoking the shoreline]

STEIN: Today we’re walking the shoreline of a saltwater bay. The tide’s going out, revealing a broad expanse of dark, glistening mudflat.

This muddy plain might appear a waste of natural space, a mere transient landscape awaiting the rising tide. And that low tide smell! On a hot day, it goes right by pungent, heading for malodorous!


Least sandpipers in the mudflat. (Photo: Richard Griffin)

But that mudflat fragrance offers an important clue. Mudflats are rich in nutrients, such as decomposing organic matter and minerals. Mudflats, far from wastelands, support a bounty of life, such as foraging sandpipers called Dunlin.

[Large flock of Dunlin]

Much of this life lies below the surface. Scoop up a pail of mud and you might find – in addition to a clam or two big enough to eat – vast quantities of tiny snails and clams, worms, crustaceans, larvae, and much more.

Mudflats also support a bounty of bird life. Millions of shorebirds follow shorelines and their mudflats each spring and fall, where they feast upon those tiny creatures hidden beneath the mud’s surface, a banquet that powers the birds’ continent-spanning migrations.

So the next time you wrinkle your nose at low tide, imagine the countless creatures that draw their lifeblood from that fragrant mudflat.

[Glaucous-winged gulls crying, evoking the shoreline]


Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs. (Photo: Tom Grey)

I’m Michael Stein.
###
Sounds of birds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Calls of Glaucous-winged Gull 137881 recorded by G. Vyn; calls of flock of Dunlin 59435-2 by W.W. H. Gunn
Mudflat ambient with gulls recorded by C. Peterson.

Producer: John Kessler

Executive Producer: Chris Peterson

© 2012-2017 Tune In to Nature.org, September 2017 Narrator: Michael Stein

http://birdnote.org/show/pungent-mudflat

CURWOOD: For photos, ooze on over to our website, LOE.org.

 

Links

“The Pungent Mudflat” on the BirdNote® website

 

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