The wind was blowing hard that day, Thank you ladies for the photo
Biomedical Breakthrough is win-win for shorebirds and horseshoe crabs: Deborah Cramer of The Narrow Edge spreads the word
“Jay Bolden, a senior biologist with pharma giant Eli Lilly, has spent the last five years proving a synthetic molecule works as well as horseshoe crab blood in a life-saving medical test…It took a dedicated birder to convince pharma giant Eli Lilly to use a synthetic compound instead of horseshoe crab blood in a mandatory medical test. Now, he hopes the rest of industry will follow…” – from National Audubon article published this March 11 2018 Inside the Biomedical Revolution to Save Horseshoe Crabs and the Shorebirds That Need Them, by Deborah Cramer with photographs by Timothy Fadek
Cramer explained that Ryan Phelan, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Revive and Restore contacted her “to see how this organization might help accelerate institutional and government exploration, acceptance of the synthetic endotoxin test to replace the use of horseshoe crabs…In the book, I’d portrayed how essential the energy rich horseshoe crab eggs are to shorebird migration, and how their numbers decline when they leave for the Arctic, hungry. I’d described how every human family, and their pets, depend on the horseshoe crab blood test to detect potentially life-threatening endotoxin in vaccines, joint replacements, PET scans, heart stents, IV lines, etc. And went on to tell the story of the development of the genetically engineered substitute, and the– at the time decade long–that had elapsed without it being accepted or adopted by regulators or the pharmaceutical industry.”
Revive and Restore’s announcement in the NJ Audubon news this week has more information about these dedicated scientists and exciting news. Deborah Cramer is too modest to spell it out, so I will. Revive and Restore was inspired in part by Cramer’s book, The Narrow Edge, an award-winning read that’s smart and lyrical, and an environmental game changer. Have you read it yet?
Here was a substitute test that could leave hundreds of thousands of horseshoe crabs in the water every year, no one was using it.
The Narrow Edge reveals more unexpected alliances and consequences. Readers learn that hunters have done much to protect wildlife at the edge of the sea through the tax on guns and ammunition. The Federal Duck Stamp that’s required on hunting licenses provides millions of dollars to support national wildlife refuges (and supports contemporary fine art). Memberships to organizations like National Audubon and donations from wildlife fans, photographers, and birders make a difference.
Cramer had to be trained how to handle a gun for necessary wild and remote travel research. Gloucester, Cape Ann and North Shore readers: she took the course for her license to carry at Cape Ann Sportsman Club found along Dogtown’s edge where it’s been for over a century. (I’m not certain how Cramer rated there, but a president’s daughter was a good shot. In 1912, Helen Taft, qualified as an “Expert with a Rifle” when she visited the range with her Gloucester friend, Elizbeth Hammond.)
prior gmg post, June 2016– Piping Plover Fans: Local author Deborah Cramer on sandpipers is a must read. Oh, and dogs vs.
To learn more about Deborah Cramer, go to www.deborahcramer.com
Continue reading “Deborah Cramer’s book The Narrow Edge galvanizes action to push biomedical rescue for horseshoe crabs and red knots! Revive and Restore convenes Eli Lilly to announce environmental breakthrough”
The year 2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, passed in 1918. The treaty is a seminal piece of legislation that has saved, and continues to save, the life of billions upon billions of North American birds. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, National Geographic, Audubon, and BirdLife have created a timely alliance, joining forces this year to celebrate birds, while also raising awareness about the current dangers that they face.
I have been thinking a great deal about the Year of the Bird while out photographing and today on an early morning dune walk, a juvenile Bald Eagle flew overhead, soaring high, high up in the clouds. It was a first for me, to see a Bald Eagle, and it was simply thrilling. Bald Eagles have been helped tremendously by the stewardship allowed for under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the Bald Eagle Protection Act, and the banning of DDT.
Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) are one of eight species in the genus Haliaeetus, or “sea” eagles. They are the largest birds of prey in Massachusetts, with a wing span of six to seven feet. Bald Eagles were extirpated (made non-existent) from Massachusetts during the early 1900s. From 1982 to 1988, forty-one young Bald Eagles from Michigan and Canada were relocated to Quabbin Reservoir in Massachusetts. Eagle numbers have increased steadily since that time. In 2015 (most recent record), the highest number ever recorded, at least 51 pairs, of Bald Eagles maintained breeding territories in Massachusetts.
Why are birds so important? I can think of myriad reasons–practical, aesthetic, and personal. Practically speaking, birds are like the earth’s housekeepers. They annually eat trillions of insects and pick clean carcasses of millions of dead animals. Many species of birds are pollinators–think of hummingbirds sipping nectar from zinnias and Baltimore Orioles drinking nectar from flowering fruit trees along their northward migratory route. Birds, too, are the proverbial canary in the coal mine. The presence and abundance of birds (or lack thereof) speaks to the health of our environment.
BIRDS ARE BEAUTIFUL! They connect us to the natural world that surrounds, and everyone can enjoy their beauty. We don’t all have access to daily bear watching, elephant safaris, or whaling adventures, but everyone can look out their window or go for a hike and see a beautiful bird. Evolved from dinosaurs, but bellwethers for the future, protecting birds and their habitats ensures a healthy planet for future generations.
The History and Evolution of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act
The law has already saved billions of birds’ lives. Here’s how it’s accomplished so much in its 100-year history.
Passed a century ago, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act prohibits the harming of just about all native birds, along with their nests and eggs. To this day it remains the primary tool for protecting non-endangered species. As threats to birds continue to evolve, so does the law itself.
Here’s a look back at some of the key moments in the law’s evolution to date.
1800s: With essentially zero regulations in place, market hunters decimate U.S. bird populations, in part so that well-to-do women can wear hats adorned with ornamental feathers. By the end of the century, Labrador Ducks and Great Auks are extinct, soon to be joined by Passenger Pigeons, Carolina Parakeets, and Heath Hens. Numerous other species stand on the brink. Outrage over these alarming trends leads to the formation of the first Audubon societies, as well as other conservation groups.
1900: Congress passes the Lacey Act, the first federal law to protect wildlife. It takes aim at market hunters by prohibiting them from selling poached game across state lines.
1913: Congress passes the Weeks-McLean Migratory Bird Act, which, in another broadside against market hunters, bans the spring shooting of migratory game and insectivorous birds and declares them to be under the “custody and protection” of the federal government. However, two district courts soon rule the act unconstitutional.
1916: The United States signs a treaty with Great Britain (acting on behalf of Canada, then part of the British Empire), in which the two countries agree to stop all hunting of insectivorous birds and to establish specific hunting seasons for game birds. The stated goal is to preserve those species considered beneficial or harmless to man.
1918: To implement the new treaty, Congress passes the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which officially makes it a crime to “pursue, hunt, take, capture, kill,” or “sell” a migratory bird or any of its parts, including nests, eggs, and feathers. The newly passed act eliminates “the necessity of watching the legislation of every state and of combating the numberless attempts to legalize the destruction of birds for private gain,” according to famed ornithologist Frank M. Chapman (also the founder of Audubon magazine).
1920: The U.S. Supreme Court shoots down a challenge to the constitutionality of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, ruling that it does not violate states’ rights.
1936: Following up on its treaty with Great Britain, the United States signs a similar treaty with Mexico (it would go on to sign additional treaties with Japan and the Soviet Union in the 1970s). As a result, more birds are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and habitat conservation and pollution abatement is encouraged.
1940: Congress passes the Bald Eagle Protection Act, the first federal legislation to ban hunting or otherwise disturbing America’s national emblem (it would later be amended to include Golden Eagles). Modeled after the MBTA, it nonetheless fails to stem the Bald Eagle’s decline at the hands of DDT poisoning.
1970s: For the first time, U.S. prosecutors begin charging not just hunters who violate the MBTA, but also oil and gas, timber, mining, chemical, and electricity companies. Though not directly targeting wildlife, these industries incidentally cause millions of bird deaths each year that could have been avoided with simple infrastructure modifications, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. In publicly available documents, the DOJ states that it will first notify companies of a violation and work with them to correct it. But if they “ignore, deny, or refuse to comply” with best management practices, then the “matter may be referred for prosecution.”
1972: An amendment to the MBTA protects an additional 32 families of birds, including eagles, hawks, owls, and corvids (crows, jays, and magpies). Even more species have been added since, bringing the total number to 1,026—almost every native species in the United States. With such additions, the word “‘migratory” in the act’s title becomes largely symbolic—many birds that do not embark on actual migrations are still protected.
2000: A federal appeals court holds that private citizens (such as conservation groups) may sue the government over alleged violations of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Nonetheless, they remain unable to sue out-of-compliance private companies, which differs in that regard from the Endangered Species Act and many other environmental laws.
2001: Just before leaving office, President Bill Clinton orders all relevant federal agencies, including the Department of Defense and the U.S. Forest Service, to take migratory bird conservation into account as part of their regular decision making.
2002: A federal district court rules that the U.S. Navy violated the MBTA during live-fire exercises in the northern Marianas Islands. Congress responds by exempting the incidental taking of birds during “military readiness activities.”
2013: In a first, the Department of Justice enforces the MBTA against a wind farm operator, imposing $1 million in penalties for the killing of Golden Eagles and other protected birds at two sites in Wyoming. It follows this up a year later with $2.5 million in penalties against a second Wyoming wind farm operator. Actual enforcement of the MBTA against these problems tends to be sporadic.
2015: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announces that it will rethink the MBTA’s implemention to hold industries more accountable for the harm they do to birds. Specifically, the changes will address bird deaths due to open oil pits, power lines, gas flares, cell phone towers, and wind turbines—which combined kill millions of birds each year.
2017: The Trump Administration does away with the USFWS’s potential rulemaking updates. Also in 2017, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) introduced an amendment to the SECURE American Energy Act that would change liability under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) to no longer cover incidental takes. This would prevent any enforcement of industrial impacts, end accountability from oil spills, and removed incentives to protect birds, all of which Audubon opposes.
“Rep. Cheney is giving oil and gas companies and other industries a free pass to kill birds with impunity,” said David Yarnold, Audubon’s President and CEO, in an official statement.
Audubon Exclusive through May 7th: Watch ‘Birds of May,’ a New Documentary About Red Knots
The film explores the growing debate over the environmental impact of oyster farms in Delaware Bay, an important stopover site for the threatened shorebirds.
Documentary filmmaker Jared Flesher, “The Red Knot has been on my list since the very beginning,” he says. “As a species, it has all the elements of a dramatic story.” The bird is charismatic and attractive, particularly in its red-breasted summer plumage, and it makes one of the longest annual migrations on Earth, flying up to 9,000 miles each way from the southern tip of South America to the northernmost reaches of the Arctic where the species nests. Every May, as Red Knots make their long trek north, they pause at Delaware Bay in southern New Jersey to refuel, gobbling down the fat-rich horseshoe crab eggs that coat the shore.
At least, that’s what’s supposed to happen. Red Knots already have to overcome numerous challenges on such a long migration, but today they also face new threats. Climate change puts the species’ Arctic nesting sites at risk, and there’s trouble with their main food source at Delaware Bay, where in the early 2000s horseshoe crab over harvesting led to a Red Knot population crash. Since then, the subspecies that migrates through Delaware Bay has been listed under the Endangered Species Act, and the crab harvest has been limited. Red Knots seem to be slowly rebounding, but conservationists are worried that the population is still fragile.
As a storyteller, a species disappearing from earth forever—that’s just about the most dramatic hook there is,” Flesher says. And as he explores in Birds of May, which was partly funded by the Washington Crossing Audubon Society, a new threat may be lurking for the far-flying birds at their New Jersey stopover site.”
See the trailer below and watch the film exclusively at Audubon here only through May 7th.
Don’t miss Deborah Cramer speaking about the making of her book about the Red Knots “The Narrow Edge,” at the Sawyer Free Library on Thursday evening at 7pm.
On the sandy beaches of the Delaware Bay, in New Jersey, a visitor arrives each May from the southernmost tip of South America. Name: Calidris canutus rufa. The rufa red knot.
What makes the red knot remarkable is its epic journey: 19,000 miles per year, from Tierra del Fuego to the Arctic Circle and back again, one of the longest migrations in the animal kingdom.
The Delaware Bay serves as the most important stepping stone during the red knot’s long spring migration. Famished knots, having flown without rest for as many as seven days straight, arrive on the bay having lost half their body weight. For two crucial weeks, the birds gorge on the eggs of horseshoe crabs. Red knots that gain enough weight will survive the final leg of their journey to the Arctic. Others perish.
In 2015, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service listed the rufa red knot as a federally threatened species—it faces threats throughout the Western Hemisphere, from habitat loss in South America to the impacts of climate change in the Arctic. The calamitous overharvest of horseshoe crabs on the Delaware Bay last decade was another major driver of the red knot’s decline—when the starving birds arrived, there weren’t enough eggs waiting for them.
Most recently, in 2016, state and federal regulators approved a plan to permit a 1,400 percent increase in oyster farming on the Delaware Bay. The oyster farms operate on the same tidal flats used by hungry red knots at low tide.
Birds of May, filmed in May 2016 on the beaches of the Delaware Bay, is filmmaker Jared Flesher’s ode to the natural spectacle of the red knot’s annual visit. It’s also an investigation of potential new threats to red knot survival. Not everyone is sure that expanded oyster farming and red knots can happily coexist. Against the scenic backdrop of the bay, Flesher interviews both oyster farmers and the shorebird biologists who fear that an oyster farming boom here could push the rufa red knot closer to extinction.
Read more about filmmaker Jared Flesher here:
WONDERFUL creatures are currently migrating through our shores. How blessed are we who live along the Atlantic Flyway. Whether traveling by shore or by sea, there is this great and continual movement of life happening always in our midst.
Many thanks to my friend Jeff Denoncour, Trustees of Reservations Ecologist for the Northeast Region, for assistance with identifying the birds. I met Jeff earlier this summer when he kindly took me out to the tippy far end of Cranes to film the Piping Plovers nesting there.
Additionally we have seven tiny Monarch caterpillars in terrariums. It’s so late in the season for these teeny ones. Last year at this time we were releasing adult butterflies and I worry that they are not going to pupate in time to successfully migrate to Mexico. The caterpillars are too small to handle, but if any of the kids in our community would like to come see, please comment in the comment section or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. The last of the Cecropia Moth caterpillars has not yet pupated and he is fun to watch as well.
Here are some photos to help you identify our migrating feathered friends.
Compare the larger size of the Black-bellied Plover in the foreground with the Semipalmated Plover and Semiplamated Sandpiper in the background
The above group of four photos are of either a pair of Red Knots or White-rumped Sandpipers in non breeding plumage. The White-rumped Sandpiper is thought to migrate an even greater distance than the Red Knot, from Canada’s Arctic Islands to the Southern tip of South America, and some further still to islands near the Antarctic Peninsula. These shy birds did not allow for human interest and the photos were taken at some distance.
Juvenile Laughing Gull
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After being down this dock my whole life it never ceases to amaze me that there continues to be first time sightings of birds or sealife as often as the occur.
I spotted this bird which at first looked like a different type of seagull but it went under water in search of food and I haven’t seen seagulls go underwater like a loon or a a cormorant.
It’s wings were outlined with a thick black band around pure white centers. It had a black bill and orange/redish feet. The feet looked like they were positioned toward the very rear end of the bird as well.