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Gloucester Writer Embarks On Epic Journey To Follow A Tiny Bird And An Ancient Crab17:55
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A cloud of knots coming into the wind-swept beach along the Strait of Magellan in Tierra del Fuego. (Courtesy Dan Greenbaum)
A cloud of knots coming into the wind-swept beach along the Strait of Magellan in Tierra del Fuego. (Courtesy Dan Greenbaum)

Deborah Cramer lives in Gloucester, and she's author of a new book called "The Narrow Edge: A Tiny Bird, An Ancient Crab and an Epic Journey."

The bird is the red knot, a small shorebird that weighs less than a coffee cup. The ancient crab is the horseshoe crab, a creature that's lived basically unchanged on this earth for 450 million years. The two animals are intimately connected, and human beings are interfering with that connection.

Each year, the little red knot takes wing on an astonishing migration — an almost 20,000 mile round trip journey from the southern tip of Argentina, north to the Arctic, then back.

Deborah Cramer followed the hardy little red knot from Argentina to the Arctic. Flying across continents and through blizzards, you can imagine how tough their journey is. Deborah Cramer says that's why, about three-quarters of the way into their northerly migration, the red knots make a very important stop: Delaware Bay.

Red knots flying through Delaware Bay. (Courtesy Chris Petrak)
Red knots flying through Delaware Bay. (Courtesy Chris Petrak)

And they time it perfectly. Once a year, in late spring when the water warms, at high tide during the full and new moons, hundreds of thousands of ancient horseshoe crabs crawl ashore to lay their eggs.

In an astonishing act of synchronicity that's been going on for thousands of years, this is when the red knots arrive. To eat the eggs, fatten up and power north to the Arctic.

The delicate balance is at risk, because of — you guessed it — us. Human interference.

Deborah Cramer will be speaking about her new book June 2 at Porter Square Books on June 2.

Horseshoe crabs, whose eggs fuel shorebird migration and whose blue blood safeguards our health. (Courtesy Abby Sterling)
Horseshoe crabs, whose eggs fuel shorebird migration and whose blue blood safeguards our health. (Courtesy Abby Sterling)

Guest

Deborah Cramer, Gloucester-based author of "The Narrow Edge: A Tiny Bird, An Ancient Crab and an Epic Journey."

Deborah Cramer's camp in the Arctic where she lived for three weeks, tracking shorebirds. (Courtesy Grant Gilchrist)
Deborah Cramer's camp in the Arctic where she lived for three weeks, tracking shorebirds. (Courtesy Grant Gilchrist)

More

The Boston Globe: Spring Sees Return Of Shorebirds To Essex Bay Marsh

  • "Shorebirds aren’t as easy to spot as the larger, showier wading birds that spend much of the summer here."

Excerpt

This segment aired on April 24, 2015.

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