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Birds benefit from Marines’ muddy mission

    Lance Cpl. Mitchell Van Ryn drove his amphibious assault vehicle through the Nuupia Ponds Wildlife Management Area on Wednesday as part of “mud ops” in Kaneohe. Vehicles plowed up non-native plants, allowing native birds such as the endangered Hawaiian stilt to forage and nest. The furrows created by the 26-ton vehicles also inhibit predators such as mongoose from preying on young birds in the nests. It was the 30th time the operation has been held.
    20120229-3445 CTY MUD OPS Marines get ready to drive their assault amphibious vehicles (AAVs) through the marshlands that are overgrown with invasive plant species. The invasive species will be "plowed" under exposing open areas that native birds can forage and nest. The marines are participating in the 30th anniversary of "Mud Operations" on base. They drove assault amphibious vehicles (AAVs) through the Nu'upia Ponds Wildlife Management Area. In the early 1980s, MCB Hawaii natural resources staff and Marines began using AAVs each spring - just before the nesting season for the endangered Hawaiian stilts - to help control pickle weed, a non-native invasive ground cover, which would otherwise crowd the birds out of their natural habitat in the ponds area. During the past 30 years, "Mud Ops" has created better foraging and ground nesting opportunities for the birds. The water-filled furrows that form a checkerboard pattern across the mudflat discourage predator access to the Hawaiian stilts' nesting sites. The number of Hawaii stilts has increased steadily over the past 30 years. Use of the habitat by dozens of other native and migratory waterbirds protected by federal laws has also increased. PHOTO BY DENNIS ODA. FEB. 29, 2012.
    Marines drove amphibious assault vehicles through the Nuupia Ponds Wildlife Management Area in Kaneohe on Wednesday, plowing through invasive plants, exposing open areas that native birds can forage.
    Some of the Hawaiian stilts gathered in an open area made by the Marines' vehicles. Below, Marines prepared to hit the mud.

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