GLOUCESTER, Mass. — As the spring days lengthen, shorebirds have begun their hemispheric migrations from South America to nesting grounds in Canada’s northern spruce and pine forests and the icy Arctic.
They are among Earth’s longest long-distance fliers, traveling thousands of miles back and forth every year. I have watched them at various stops along their routes: calico-patterned ruddy turnstones flipping tiny rocks and seaweed to find periwinkles or mussels; a solitary whimbrel standing in the marsh grass, its long, curved beak poised to snatch a crab; a golden plover pausing on a mud flat, its plumage glowing in the afternoon sun.
I used to think that sandpipers flocking at the sea edge, scurrying before the waves, were an immutable part of the beach. No longer. This year, as the birds come north, one of them, the red knot — Calidris canutus rufa — will have acquired a new status. It is now listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act. It joins four other shorebirds on the government’s list of threatened and endangered species.
Sadly, it is unlikely to be the last.
Deborah is the author of The Narrow Edge: A Tiny Bird, an Ancient Crab, and an Epic Journey, Yale University Press, 2015. Visit Deborah Cramer’s website here to order a copy.
“In the face of global warming, is our big brain connected to a big enough heart that we might preserve the beauty of the earth we were given? Heart is no problem for the red knot”
—Bill McKibben, author of Eaarth
“I have a compass, GPS, and radio,” [Cramer] writes. “The birds have—what? By the end of this journey I am more in awe than when I began.” Follow her graceful writing for the full 9,500 miles and you will share in that awe.”
–Laurence Marschall, Natural History
“A superbly written and gripping account…more thrilling than the Kentucky Derby.”
—Thomas E. Lovejoy, National Geographic Conservation Fellow
“Perhaps the red knot should replace the canary in the mine as the harbinger of impending changes that are good neither for birds or people . . . essential reading for anyone interested in conservation.”
—Joel Greenberg, author of A Feathered River Across the Sky
“An eloquent exploration of our relationship to nature.”
—Nancy Knowlton, author of Citizens of the Sea
“A remarkable tale of science, nature, and humanity.”
—Susan Solomon, author of The Coldest March
“Cramer brilliantly presents us with an ecosystem of many parts.”
—Don Kennedy, Pr
Thanks to Lise Breen for mentioning Deborah’s op ed piece and new book!