BIRDS OF MAY: NEW DOCUMENTARY ABOUT THE RED KNOT

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:

A tiny shorebird inspires N.J. filmmaker and a flock of poets

SAVE THE DATE FOR DEBORAH CRAMER AT THE SAWYER FREE LIBRARY MAY 4TH, 2017

On my calendar and very much looking forward to Deborah Cramer’s talk at the Sawyer Free Library on Thursday, May 4th at 7:00pm

Lobster Gear Repurposed for Oyster Farming From Bill O’Connor and Cat Cove Tide Pool Touch Tank Webcam

Hey Joey,

Augmenting the lobster catch: Oyster aquaculture in modified lobster traps

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I stumbled upon this in at the Cat Cove Marine Lab website and thought you might find it interesting.  Apparently the oysters did pretty poorly on the North Shore due to water temp, but my little foray into oyster harvesting was quite different, and completely by accident.

A few years back, we had a party at the house and I bought a bushel of Blue Point oysters that were supposedly being farmed off of Martha’s Vineyard.  I prepared half the bushel for the party and the other half I left in the mesh bag, which I hung off our mooring to keep them alive long enough to eat them.  Well I eventually forgot them out there and the mooring ball disappeared that winter, so we dropped a new mooring in its place the following Spring.

A couple of years later I was snorkeling out in the cove beyond the mean low tide mark and came across the lost mooring ball suspended underwater on a column of oysters! Apparently there was enough in the mesh bag to reproduce and they just grew down the mooring chain.  They literally reproduced themselves out of the bag somehow.  The weight of the oysters pulled the ball under the surface eventually.  I would see the oyster column occasionally when servicing our moorings over the years,  and it eventually just fell over underwater. I still see oysters out in the cove though!   

Anyway, I thought you might find this study informative.

Thanks,~Bill www.northshorekid.com

You can also check out their live streaming tide pool touch tank webcam by clicking on the pic below-

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