I went to a local, uninhabitedl beach this weekend to photograph Red Knots and anything else that happened to present an opportunity. It didn’t take long to find the knots. Forty-eight were in a small flock on the ocean side of Hutaff Island. All were probing wildly at the wet sand in search of small coquina clams, mole crabs or other food. The light wasn’t great; very cloudy and flat and I didn’t expect much from the photos, but it was great fun to watch the knots at their work.
This time of the year the knots are migrating north along the Atlantic coast from their wintering areas that could be as far away as the southern cone of South America. They are headed to the Arctic where they will nest. They stop over on beaches that have not been altered by replenishment of sand or
structures, and have very few disturbances from people. In other words, they like the natural beaches and inlets. It is the natural inlets and beaches that have the food they need to fuel their long migration. Beaches where sand is dumped lack the food that red knots need and therefore do not provide the habitat that migrating shorebirds need.
As I watched the flock of knots, the flash of a lime green flag caught my eye. My attention turned to the flag. Get a picture and I would be able to read the faded code and I would know more about this individual. At the same time, I would contribute to the science of shorebirds and advance the understanding of where these long-distance migrants stopover during migration, nest or spend the winter. The code was “113” and a quick report and look-up on bandedbirds.org revealed the history of this knot.
The bird was banded in the fall of 2010 at Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge and had not been reported from anywhere else. Red knots do not stay on the coast of Massachusetts year round, so where it spent the winter is a mystery. It could have spent the winter in South America and likely did, and it will likely continue north to Virginia or Delaware Bay before going to the Arctic to nest. No way to know for sure. But one thing is for sure, it stops over on the coast of Massachusetts in the fall where it has been seen every year since it was banded.
Each banded bird is like finding a gem and they all have a story. Better yet, each sighting helps advance knowledge of the species which enables biologists to make better decisions about the future of the species. I’m glad to be able to contribute in any way I can.