For the last few years, I've been tired of the impending extinction news regarding the Red Knot and I love it when people send me items for the blog, but I do try to stray away from posting announcements of everything going wrong. I do like to post announcements about proactive things that maybe I could do or tell my readers about that they can do.
Blatant over harvesting of horseshoe crabs in the spring is taking away a very important migratory feeding spot for red knots. They need this food in order to finish their migration to their breeding grounds. However, commercial fishing needs the crabs as bait. There was a plan for a ban of harvesting horseshoe crabs, but commercial fisheries fought it and the ban was rejected and instead, they are only going to harvest male crabs, not females...because that won't cause any problems at all.
So, what can we do? A bunch of people who don't live in the area calling and writing the powers that be doesn't seem to help. Boycott birding in the area is a lose/lose situation for birds and birding organizations in the area. Boycotting the fishing companies isn't going to help either.
Well, finally, I have met someone who is doing something proactive and all of us can help him help the red knot. Bill Stewart, chair of Delmarva Ornithological Society Conservation Committee teamed up with The Conservation Fund to try and help. The Conservation Fund said that if DOS could raise $15,000 they would be able to purchase five acres of prime Delaware coastline for the knots to feed on horseshoe crab eggs. Stewart and the DOS organized a Bird-A-Thon--that is a contest of individuals and teams who collect pledges and count the number of different species seen or heard in a set time period in a set area. People can make a chunk donation to a team or offer an amount like $1 per bird observed. Teams and organizations are eligible for prizes for most species observed or most funds raised.
Through sponsors and donations, the DOS raised a total of: $28,018.00! They were able to buy up five acres of habitat and used the extra money to establish a registered Hawk Migration Association of northern Delaware. And, they're going to try it again this year.
Every reader of this blog that feels an urge to help red knots avoid extinction can help this cause:
1. DONATE TO A TEAM. Your money will be used for habitat acquisition. Even if you can only do $1, all of us together can add up to one heck of a donation.
2. ORGANIZE YOUR OWN TEAM AND GATHER DONATIONS. If you want to be eligible for prizes, then you must do the bird a thon in the assigned area, but if you aren't in it for the prize but are just in it to raise money, have a team in your neighborhood and then mail in your gathered donations to the DOS. This would be a great way to do the Big Sit this fall.
3. Get the company you work for to help sponsor the event.
4. If you have a blog or website, write about this, let your readers know. Do you write articles for your bird club, local paper, magazines? Do you do radio or tv appearances as a bird person? Get the word out.
5. Donate prizes. Did you write a book? Do you make a cool bird feeder? Do you rep for an optics company?
6. Talk to your employer about being a sponsor or donating prizes to the effort.
Seriously, this species of bird used to be incredibly numerous and is well on its way to extinction if changes aren't made NOW. Some scientists go as so far to say that it may be too late, and this population of red knots will be extinct by 2010. We can keep this from being another passenger pigeon or Carolina parakeet, we just need to be loud and proactive and I congratulate Bill and members of the DOS for getting up and taking action. Habitat is key to any species survival.