Global Conservation Alliance – 2010 Donor/Grantor Introduction

by Lanny McDowell

Moore's Beach 052208 NJ 062cs1 logo V


Norman Famous

Lanny McDowell

Porter Turnbull


Global Conservation Alliance (GCA) was formed by three individuals specifically to address creative and significant solutions to stop the Red Knot’s race toward extinction in the Americas.  The population trend of these shorebirds runs so steeply downward that it occurred to us that some alternative source of food might be found to supplement the diminished stocks of Horseshoe Crab eggs that are naturally found along the shores of Delaware Bay during May and June each year, the “Limulus” eggs that the northbound shorebirds count on to fuel the last long leg in their annual journey to breed in the arctic.

The group spent a week at the end of May of 2008 assessing the situation in the Cape May area of New Jersey, talking with researchers, fishermen and ornithologists, and trying out a man-made food item we obtained from a zoo food supply company.  With a grant from the Marine Conservation Action Fund at the New England Aquarium in Boston, Mass. we bought 500 pounds of this fish-based feed to offer to the shorebirds in their natural habitat. Excerpts from our project report can be found below.

The 2009 season found  GCA again on the beaches above Cape May on Delaware Bay.  Two research experiments were conducted by five workers to lay the groundwork for programs during the 2010 migration.  One program recorded the number of Limulus eggs in samples taken at various depths on active Horseshoe Crab nesting beaches before and after the nests were disturbed by researchers, to chart how many more eggs became mixed into the upper two inches of the sand surface where shorebirds feed.  The second experiment involved observing how feeding shorebirds, including Red Knots, react to shallow troughs raked into the beach sand exposing more eggs to shorebird predation.  The raked troughs were dug at right angles to a rising tide.


Starting in 2010, our efforts to help shorebirds near Cape May will operate under the title of The Red Knot Survival Project. Regardless of which of our programs are implemented, 2010’s work will require a significant increase in  funding.  To expect an appreciable difference in the weights of shorebirds departing for the Arctic, an ambitious campaign is anticipated, involving more worker hours, a longer commitment to be on the beaches (three to four weeks covering the peak stopover times), equipment rentals and housing (for four to six people).

GCA is looking for capable and committed underwriters for the costs of researching, testing and implementing programs that will directly contribute to the survival of the East Coast populations of Red Knots on their migratory path to their northern nesting grounds. There should be residual benefits for other species of shorebirds whose life cycle closely parallels that of the Red Knot.

If you, as a private individual, as a professional or as an organization, recognize the severity of the apparent trend toward extinction of this bellwether species, and you are moved to be part of solutions to reverse the trend, please respond with your questions, your advice and your support.

To follow a pictorial review of GCA’s work in 2009, go to:

Please contact any of the following GCA founders about The Red Knot Survival Project:

Norman Famous, Wildlife and Wetlands Ecologist (Maine) (

Porter Turnbull, Marine Conservation Biologist (Hawaii) (

Lanny McDowell, Artist & Photographer (Massachusetts) (

Learn more about The Red Knot Survival Project at GCA:


Complete copies of “Report submitted to the Marine Conservation Action Fund”, which outlines our efforts in 2008, are available on request. Below are Summary and Conclusions excerpts.

From the “Report submitted to the Marine Conservation Action Fund”,

Sept. 24, 2008:

Report Summary:

A feasibility study to evaluate the supplemental feeding of the red knot (Calidris canutus) using prepared food (Aquamax) was conducted during May 2008 at Reed’s Beach on the NE shore of Delaware Bay in New Jersey.   The red knot migrates from South America to Delaware Bay where its weight doubles while “stopover feeding” for about three weeks on horseshoe crab (Limulus polyphemus) eggs before continuing to Arctic nesting grounds.  This refueling stop in Delaware Bay is vital to migration, breeding, and, ultimately, species  survival. The red knot population declined steadily from the 1970’s through the mid 1990’s, after which it decreased at a catastrophic rate of 70% over the last 10 years.  Already listed as endangered in Canada, the red knot is experiencing a catastrophic population decline, possibly leading to extinction, due to the depletion of its principal migration food, horseshoe crab eggs.

The project had two components: 1) provide alternative food sources, monitor food selection, evaluate logistics, and identify potential problem areas for implementing a larger scale feeding program; and 2) establish a working coalition of stake-holders including federal and state agencies, red knot biologists, NGO’s, horseshoe crab fisherman, and the food supplement industry.  The study was timed to coincide with the spring lunar tidal cycle when horseshoe crab reproductive activities and red knot populations reach their respective peak levels.

Report Conclusions:

Red knot and horseshoe crab populations are sinking and time is of essence.  Already listed as endangered in Canada, red knot populations have faced catastrophic declines that may lead to broad regional extinctions due to reduced numbers of horseshoe crab eggs.  Red knots fly from South America to Delaware Bay where their weight doubles while they ‘refuel’ for about three weeks on horseshoe crab eggs.  Delaware Bay is a critical refueling or fat-accumulating location before continuing to their Arctic nesting grounds

A multi-disciplinary approach for red knot recovery and management is needed.  No single approach will provide a quick-fix with the capacity to reverse perilous declines because multiple independent and near-independent factors contribute to their demise.  Relevant factors include inadequate  food supplies, competition among members of the avian horseshoe crab egg-foraging feeding guild, unregulated harvesting of horseshoe crabs during the 1980s and 1990s, limited number of red knot high tide resting areas along the Delaware side of the bay, and relatively long distances between prime red knot feeding areas.

Our plan is designed to provide a temporary ‘life boat’ to help red knot populations ride out the present food shortages while horseshoe crab populations rebound, which is expected to take 8-12 years.  Assuming a full or partial population recovery, the contingency plan can also be implemented over the long-term during years when spawning and the red knot migration are asynchronous, or when weather reduces egg availability.