I had the pleasure of attending the 13th annual Power of Flight meeting this week, held in St. Simons Island, GA. The meeting was hosted by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and Southern Company, two conservation leaders working together to advance the stewardship of natural resources throughout the southeastern US. I shared the stage for a panel discussion about shorebird conservation with friends and colleagues Ian Davidson (NFWF), Troy Wilson (USFWS), and Tim Keyes (GADNR). The energy in the room of around 170 people was powerful and a passion for conservation was clearly evident among all.
In preparation for my talk, I thought back on the importance of the southeastern US to shorebirds; shorebirds that nest along the beaches, those that stopover during migration, and those that spend the winter on the coast of GA, FL, AL, and MS. While the southeast is important to shorebirds year round and important to many different species, red knots cannot be overlooked. These robin-sized shorebirds leap off of the coast of South America headed northward with little more than optimistic faith that the places where they stopped to rest a refuel last year or maybe for generations are still there and that the food is plentiful enough to support their next leg of migration. They hit the southeastern coast after flying for days straight. They're tired and need to rest and feed like crazy so they will have enough energy to make the next leg of migration that could take them to the Carolinas, Virginia, and likely Delaware Bay before moving on to the Arctic where they will nest. There are no guarantees, especially now when habitat loss is widespread across Atlantic coast.