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The Crabs, The Birds, The Bay

The Crabs, The Birds, The Bay

Every spring nearly one million migrant shorebirds (sandpipers and plovers) stop to feed on horseshoe crab eggs along the beaches of Delaware Bay. The birds have just completed an incredible nonstop flight from their wintering grounds in South America. For a species like the Red Knot, this may have been seven thousand miles. The birds stop to refuel for their next marathon leap. Their destination: nesting grounds on the high Arctic tundra yet another three thousand miles nonstop. The phenomenon is the second largest gathering of shorebirds in North America but is by far the most spectacular because of its concentration.

The catalyst for this incredible migratory stop is another amazing yet completely different creature, the horseshoe crab. The Delaware Bay hosts the largest population on earth. Every spring these 'living fossils' emerge onto the beaches to lay their eggs. Horseshoe crabs have been around longer than most other forms of life. In the 360 million years that they have roamed the oceans, almost no changes have occurred. Horseshoe crabs have been on earth so long that they predate the first dinosaurs by 100 million years.
The film provides an intimate yet bold look at this annual phenomenon. Viewers will see and learn about the life-cycle of the horseshoe crab, from nesting adults to peering into the pin-sized embryo within the eggs. A unique relationship exists between the migrant birds and the nesting horseshoe crabs. Though vastly different, together the crabs and the birds teach a universal lesson about the interrelationship of all species.

An on-camera foreword is provided by natural history author and Cape May Bird Observatory Director, Pete Dunne.

'Fascinating...A unique relationship exists between the nesting crabs and the migrant shorebirds. Together they teach a universal lesson about the relationship among all species...' The Science Teacher

'For those who have not experienced the phenomenon...this film will put it on your 'To See' list...great for school aged kids and for inspiring mom and dad to take them to see the real thing. Highly recommended for schools and families...' WIldlife Activist Magazine

'Visually and musically...outstanding...' Dawn Littleton, Bio-Medical Library, University of Minnesota, MC Journal

'Intimate photography of crabs, laughing gulls and sandpipers, descriptions of their life cycles and concerns about interference combine to effectively illustrate ecological principles.' Green Teacher

'Shot in a way that makes New Jersey's bay shore look like the stunningly exotic place that it really is.' The Philadelphia Inquirer


Main credits

Smith, Mitchell D (film director)
Smith, Mitchell D (director of photography)
Smith, Mitchell D (composer)
Githens, David G. (film producer)
Githens, David G. (screenwriter)
Moran, Tom (narrator)

Other credits

Editor, John Kallapos; music, Mitchell D. Smith.

Docuseek2 subjects

Distributor subjects

Bird Migration
Invertebrate Zoology
Life Science
Life Science
Marine Biology
Oceans and Coasts


shorebirds,; horseshoe crabs, Delaware Bay, migration; "The Crabs, The Birds, The Bay"; Bullfrog Films