Tuesday, June 18, 2013
By Meredith Goad email@example.com
PHIL HOOSE is a songwriter and musician as well as an author.
ONE NIGHT, after a long day of helping trap and band shorebirds in Delaware Bay, Hoose heard some of the biologists pondering what it must be like for the starving, exhausted red knots landing in Delaware Bay after a four-day, nonstop flight from South America. What could they possibly be thinking? Hoose picked up his guitar and shouted out, "I need eggs!" -- referring, of course, to the horseshoe crab eggs the birds scarf down by the thousands before continuing their migration to their Arctic breeding grounds.
ONE THING led to another, and Hoose helped the biologists write a theme song for the rufa red knot. The result was "Delaware Bay Blues," which includes a rousing chorus of "I need eggs!"
HOOSE WILL PERFORM the song at the launch of "Moonbird" on July 19 at Longfellow Books in Portland.
YOU CAN HEAR the song here: ht.ly/c3KDY
MEET THE AUTHOR
• JULY 19 7 p.m., Longfellow Books, One Monument Way, Portland; 772-4045 or longfellowbooks.com
• AUG. 3 7 p.m., Gulf of Maine Books, Brunswick; 729-5083 or gulfofmainebooks.blogspot.com
• SEPT. 27 6 p.m., Portland Public Library, 5 Monument Square; 871-1700 or portlandlibrary.com
B95, a rufa red knot whose name comes from the number on his leg band, has somehow survived two decades of annual migration from an archipelago off the southern tip of South America to his Arctic breeding grounds in Canada and back. His incredible resiliency has confounded researchers and offered a glimmer of hope for the survival of his kind.
The entire subspecies of rufa red knots is in trouble. Within B95's short lifetime, their worldwide population has crashed almost 80 percent. Part of the problem is believed to be the overharvesting of horseshoe crabs in Delaware Bay, a crucial stopover for the birds, where they gorge on crab eggs before continuing their journey north.
Hoose's new book, "Moonbird: A Year on the Wind with the Great Survivor B95" (Farrar Straus Giroux, $21.99), chronicles the rufa red knot's struggle to survive and science's fight to save them. It will be available on July 17.
Hoose, 65, has also written about the plight of the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker in "The Race to Save the Lord God Bird." He lives in Portland and has worked for The Nature Conservancy since 1977, focusing for the last 20 years on the Great Bear rainforest on the coast of British Columbia.
Q: You've said that Charles Duncan (a shorebird scientist at the Manomet Center for Conservations Sciences) gave you the idea for this book. How much did you know about red knots before you started this project?
A: I knew a fair amount about shorebirds before I took it on. I was looking to write another book about extinction, because I felt in a way that the book about the ivory bill, "The Race to Save the Lord God Bird," had almost been hijacked. The nice discussion that I wanted to have about extinction and how tragic it is and how preventable it is and how worth everybody's attention it is, kind of got hijacked by the supposed rediscovery of the ivory bill down in Arkansas a few years ago.
So I wanted to write about another creature. I wanted to write about extinction, but focus on a creature that was in trouble but not in the pit. I was looking around, and Charles is a good friend of mine. He kept saying, "Why don't you write about the red knot? It's got everything. It's the ultimate long-haul trucker. It migrates from the bottom of the Earth to the top. It's beautiful, especially in its breeding plumage. It's tanking. The numbers are going down year by year by year. What about it?"
But I kept holding off. I kept saying to him, and everybody else, "I want to focus on a single character." All these years of writing has taught me that readers seem to need a protagonist, and they need a protagonist who is stressed, who has real problems. Somebody they can identify with, you know?
Charles called me up one day and said, "I found your bird." He had conversed with Patricia Gonzalez, a biologist from Argentina who told him about a bird that had been trapped as an adult, meaning it was in its second or third year, maybe more. This happened in 1995, and they kept seeing it over the years, and I think when Charles called me -- this was probably 2009 -- they had seen it again. It was becoming famous. It was becoming this rock star bird. No one could believe how long it had lived. By then, I guess it would have been maybe 18. By now, it's probably 20.
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