Data from a moderate energy, meso-tidal beach on the east side of Delaware Bay, New Jersey, USA, revealed the significance of both beach width as a source for aeolian transport and the effect of tidal rise on source width. Wind speeds averaged over 17·1 min, recorded 6 m above the crest of a 0·5 m high dune, ranged from 11·6 to 12·7 m s−1 during the experiment. The highest observed rate of transport on the beach was 0·0085 kg m−1 s−1, monitored at rising low tide when the average wind speed was 11·6 m s−1 across 0·35 mm diameter surface sediments. The wind direction was oblique to the shoreline, creating a source width of 34 m. The reduction in the width of the beach as a source for aeolian transport during rising tide was approximately arithmetic, whereas the reduction in volume of sediment trapped was exponential. Aeolian transport effectively ceased when source width was less than 8 m. Wind conditions, moisture content of the surface sediments and presence of binding salts did not appear to vary dramatically, and no coarse grained lag deposit formed on the surface of the beach. The decrease in rate of sediment trapped through time in the tidal cycle is attributed to differences in source width. Sediment deposited in the litter behind the active beach by strong winds during the rising tide was eroded during the high water period by the high waves and storm surge generated by these winds, and net losses of sediment were observed despite initial aeolian accretion.