Deborah Cramer 2015. The Narrow Edge. A tiny bird, an ancient crab & an epic journey. Yale University Press: New Haven, 293 pp.

I can’t remember why I put off reading this when it was first published, but that was a mistake. A great read, thoroughly researched and referenced but most importantly thoughtful, measured but still a passionate exploration of the world of the Red Knot. Got a bit of the Silent Spring about it (as others have noted). Every bit as informative and evocative and enjoyable as Adam Nicolson’s The Seabird’s Cry, and similar in many ways.

Made the more memorable by seeing my first Red Knot, almost ready to migrate, in spectacular breeding plumage near Toora on Corner Inlet - before I had finished reading the book.

Among the things Deborah Cramer does especially well is evoke the environment and the researchers along the flyway of the Red Knot, from Tierra del Fuego to the Arctic and many places between; and to set out the rich network of connections between Red Knot and local weather and environmental change, climate change, crashes of dependent species (bivalves, Limulus, … ). Of course human impacts on local, continental and global scales usually cause even greater disturbances but it seems clear that there never has been a “balance”. Yet they hang on, so far. Rich pickings on shorebird phylogeny and on Red Knot phylogeography and palaeo-flyway speculation to follow up from the extensive bibliography:

Baker, A.J., Yatsenko, Y. & Tavares, E.S. (2012) Eight independent nuclear genes support monophyly of the plovers: The role of mutational variance in gene trees. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 65, 631–641.
Baker Allan J, Pereira Sérgio L & Paton Tara A (2007) Phylogenetic relationships and divergence times of Charadriiformes genera: multigene evidence for the Cretaceous origin of at least 14 clades of shorebirds. Biology Letters 3, 205–210.
Buehler, D.M., Baker, A.J. & Piersma, T. (2006) Reconstructing palaeoflyways of the late Pleistocene and early Holocene Red Knot Calidris canutus. Ardea 94, 485–498.
Cooper, A. & Penny, D. (1997) Mass Survival of Birds Across the Cretaceous- Tertiary Boundary: Molecular Evidence. Science 275, 1109.
Dos Remedios, N., Lee, P.L.M., Burke, T., Székely, T. & Küpper, C. (2015) North or south? Phylogenetic and biogeographic origins of a globally distributed avian clade. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 89, 151–159.
Gibson, R. & Baker, A. (2012) Multiple gene sequences resolve phylogenetic relationships in the shorebird suborder Scolopaci (Aves: Charadriiformes). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 64, 66–72.
Kimball, R.T., Wang, N., Heimer-McGinn, V., Ferguson, C. & Braun, E.L. (2013) Identifying localized biases in large datasets: A case study using the avian tree of life. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 69, 1021–1032.
Pereira, S.L. & Baker, A.J. (2008) DNA evidence for a Paleocene origin of the Alcidae (Aves: Charadriiformes) in the Pacific and multiple dispersals across northern oceans. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 46, 430–445.
Piersma, T. (2011) Flyway evolution is too fast to be explained by the modern synthesis: proposals for an “extended” evolutionary research agenda. Journal of Ornithology 152, 151–159.