|Red Knots in flight at Fort de Soto Park, Florida|
|Juvenile on the run - Daytona Beach area|
|In flight, non-breeding plumage - Daytona Beach area|
What prompted me to write about Red Knots this month was learning about one known as B95 - another reason to be fascinated with these birds. If you have not heard his story, he’s the oldest known member of his species. He was an adult when captured and banded back in 1995, and probably two years old at the time. Most estimates say he is at least 20, and observers found him at Delaware Bay again this May, the yellow flag (the color used by banders in Argentina) with black letters “B95” clearly visible. On his way, once again, to an island in the Canadian Arctic for yet another breeding season.
|Breeding plumage - Fort de Soto Park, FL|
In reading about him online, I discovered a book called Moonbird: A Year on the Wind With the Great Survivor B95 (Moonbird is his other “name”); just about a week ago I finished listening to the audiobook version. When you do the math, he’s flown some 400,000 miles in his lifetime – equal to a trip to the Moon and most of the way back, hence the name.
|I think these are an immature on the left and non-breeding adult on the right - Daytona Beach area|
In the book we learn about the “plight of the Red Knot”: how the over harvesting of Horseshoe Crabs on Delaware Bay nearly drove both species to extinction (at least locally for the crabs), as well as what is known about B95. Those huge populations of Knots visiting the bay had plummeted to only about 12-15,000 by 2009 and, thankfully, bans and limitations on the harvesting of the crabs have led to gains for both species. The Red Knots rely on the crab's eggs for the fat reserves needed to make the final flight to their breeding grounds, as well as survival until there are enough insects available for feeding and rearing young in the Arctic. The news is I have heard recently is that the population estimates for Red Knots this May were up to about 26,000 at Delaware Bay - very good news, indeed.
|Breeding plumage - Fort de Soto, FL|
What a THRILL it must be for the scientists studying these birds to see him again each year - knowing full well that he’s survived multiple flights across the Atlantic of over 3,000 miles non-stop, attacks by falcons, foxes, and other predators, and the sad, unnecessary decline in his species. I’d probably be doing back flips if I had the opportunity to see him. To learn more about B95 just search for "B95 Red Knot" on the web or get a copy of Moonbird (author Phillip Hoose). To learn more about Red Knots in general, see if you can find a copy somewhere of Harrington's Flight of the Red Knot (it is out of print, but there are used copies available online, or check your library). In addition, you might be able to catch a repeat of PBS Nature’s Crash: A Tale of Two Species on your local channel (available on DVD, too). If I could find a DVD of NOVA’s Flight of the Red Knot tv program, produced at the time the book was published, I’d pick up one of those for myself . . .
Good birding and see you next month – Rufous Hummingbirds are just beginning to migrate through Utah!