Dupont Nature Center at Mispillion Reserve
The Dupont Nature Center at the Mispillion Reserve is one of the best places in the world to view the annual western hemispheric spring shorebird migration. Located on Delaware Bay near Slaughter Beach, Delaware, the Reserve was established by Delaware's Division of Fish and Wildlife primarily for the continued protection of habitat that supports this phenomenon.
Each year hundreds of thousands of shorebirds, traveling from South America to the Artic, stop along Delaware Bay to feed on the eggs of horseshoe crabs. The crabs are there in huge numbers, spawning on the Bay's beaches. Red Knots, Ruddy Turnstones, Sandpipers, Sandlerings, Dowitchers, arrive in May and feed voraciously for about three weeks before they depart for the Artic. The DuPont Nature Center, appropriately referred to as "the gateway to Delaware Bay," offers visitors exhibits, information, viewing areas and scopes so they can better experience and understand this incredible phenomenon.
While the predictability of this phenomenon makes it easy for visitors to plan an annual trip to witness the spectacle, many visitors do not have the viewing equipment (scope and binoculars) to see the birds in great detail. The shorebirds are often a considerable distance (1000 ft.) from the Center's viewing platform, and there are a limited number of scopes available for use at the Center.
Aware of this and the increasing visitation, Delaware Fish and Wildlife asked Anew/302 Stories, Inc. in 2013 if they could install a remote HD video camera ("Nature Cam") and large monitor system that would provide visitors with an "up close and personal" view of the shorebirds and their daily behavior. Anew/302 Stories was approached because it had an established track record of producing programming about the Delaware Bay ecosystem, and had produced all of the videos shown on the kiosks inside the Nature Center.
Anew/302 Stories had already produced an Emmy-nominated documentary on the shorebird/horseshoe crab phenomenon, and both an understanding of the ecosystem's ecology and the technology to document the animals. However, the company also wanted to reduce the ecological footprint of the undertaking and avoid running power lines and cables through sensitive wetlands. For this reason, Anew/302 Stories chose to partner with Field Explorer, LLC, a company experienced in installing self-contained, wireless, remotely operated camera systems in outdoor environments.
Working together, Anew/302 Stories and Field Explorer, LLC designed, built and installed a solar-powered, wireless, remotely operated HD camera system for the DuPont Nature Center.
With shorebirds on remote beach 800 feet from the Center, patrons are able to view shorebird and horseshoe crab spawning behavior "up close and personal" on a 42" HD screen. Visitors control the camera, which has a 360-degree range of motion and a 20:1 Zoom ratio. The system allows users to focus in on small groups of birds and observe their behavior at close range. International shorebird researchers also use the camera to collect data located on individually tagged birds. The system runs 24/7 and is powered by solar panels and a rechargeable battery reserve, which lasts three days or more.
In addition, Center staff is able-with a mouse click-to record the camera's feed at anytime, capturing the most interesting animal behaviors. These recordings are strung together and played back through the large monitor for the public when there are no shorebirds present, and are also archived for later use.
Sharing the Spectacle:
Aware of the worldwide interest in the horseshoe crab/shorebird phenomenon, Anew/302 Stories periodically reviewed the archived clips during the 2014 migration season and put together a number of "highlight" reels that were uploaded to the DuPont Nature Center's Facebook page. These clips documented shorebird and crab activity during the migration period.
These clips are now being made available to visitors for viewing through their cell phones. Using QR code signs placed on the viewing deck of the Center, visitors now scan the codes and are able to view the HD camera footage on their digital devices. Other videos-about the Center and its services-are also accessible through other QR codes placed around the building. To ensure reliable cell phone reception for the QR code videos, Field Explorer, LLC worked with 302 Stories to amplify and distribute the area's existing cell phone service.