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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Hawaii Marines' 'Mud Ops' kick off today

Advertiser Staff

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

A Marine amphibious assault vehicle breaks up the pickleweed to help open the Nu'upia ponds for the birds' natural habitat. The annual tradition called "Mud Ops" has helped to bolster the Hawaiian stilts from 60 to 160 birds.

JEFF WIDENER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Marines at Kane'ohe Bay helped endangered native birds today by driving amphibious assault vehicles through the mud as part of three days of exercises.

The annual exercises at the Nu'upia Ponds Wildlife Management Area at Marine Corps Base Hawai'i are called "Mud Ops."

The vehicles break up weeds on mudflats, improving foraging and ground-nesting opportunities for endangered Hawaiian stilts that live there.

Without these efforts, the invasive pickleweed would crowd the birds out of their natural habitat.

The number of Hawaiian stilts using the ponds has grown to 160 from 60 since the Marines began Mud Ops 28 years ago.

Other native and migratory waterbirds have also started using the Windward O'ahu ponds more.