Intrusion Costs Louisiana on Many Levels

May 5, 2010 by  
Filed under Features

Nearly 100 years ago, Theodore Roosevelt walked amongst the thousands of shorebirds nesting and roosting in the rookeries along the United States’ coast of the Gulf of Mexico. Due to his conservation efforts, and those of the conservationists of his time, Breton Island and the Chandeleur Islands, barrier islands off of the Louisiana coast, became protected habitats for shorebirds. The Breton National Wildlife Refuge was established during the presidential administration of Roosevelt, in 1904, and was subsequently visited by him in 1915.

Eroded and battered by hurricanes and other forces of nature, these islands, today, face another obstacle to survival. On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 workers, and injuring many more. The rig, 50 miles off the shore of Venice, Louisiana (the southeast “toe of the boot” of Louisiana’s geographical imprint), eventually sank and started spewing crude oil from the bottom of the Gulf – over 200,000 gallons a day, by some estimates. There is never a good time for a disaster such as this – but this happens to be the approach of the peak migratory and nesting season for many species of indigenous shorebirds.

British Petroleum, the holder of the contract for exploration and production at the site, has been reluctant to estimate the amount of oil being released, but has worked feverishly to minimize damage to the environment. Still, efforts by BP and the United States Coast Guard have not been enough to hold back the tide of crude creeping toward the shores of these protected jewels.

One would assume that everything that can be done is being done, for now – but what about thinking ahead to the future? There have been reports of cautionary flags raised hours before this catastrophe. Only time will tell if there were any signs of things to come, and, if there were, how warnings were heeded or disregarded.

It seems that the benefits of prevention would far outweigh the temporary profits realized from ignoring a dangerous situation; unfortunately, too often, it takes a disaster to bring thought and common sense into operations. In the end, it’s not the disaster that really matters, but the costs involved to remediate the damage done as a result of bad decisions.

Costs in cleanup will be tallied, lawsuits will be filed, and court cases will be settled. In the end, there will be a substantial monetary price to be paid. Ultimately, though, there will be the reality that not every cost can be covered by any amount of financial reparation.

There will be lingering effects on the environment and on the humans and wildlife dependent on that environment for survival. Human lives have been lost; ecosystems are being damaged; and wildlife is being killed. We will never have an accurate tally on the true costs of this disaster; but, hopefully, the pecuniary calculations that will take place might make decision makers cognizant of the consequences of their actions, or their lack thereof.

Article contributed by Cory Turner

Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus)

February 9, 2009 by  
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The Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) is probably one of the best known plover species in America. Commonly seen in parking lots, fields and farms, the Killdeer is renowned for its clever predator evasion tactics. A farmer’s friend, the Killdeer is certainly well-worth getting to know. Join us as we learn more about this fascinating bird.

America’s Killdeer is a stunning bird and quickly identified. Its length measures in at between 20 and 28 cm and its wingspan at 46 to 48 cm. It is much the same size as a typical robin, but its legs are much longer. Most notable are the two thick black bands running across the Killdeer’s white chest. The rump, tail and lower back are also a distinctive orange color. The Killdeer’s throat and short neck are white and a white band marks the forehead, with a black band just above. to the side of each eye is a striking white eyestripe. The Killdeer’s wings and upperback are brown and the wings are boldly striped with white, typically seen when flying. This beautiful bird is very vocal and emits a loud kill-deeah sound.

The Killdeer has been classified as a shorebird, but it is frequently seen far off from water in pastures, on golf courses and at airfields. They are quick runners and fantastic fliers. During the summer the Killdeers nest in southern Canada, their range stretching from Newfoundland all the way to British Columbia and up to Alaska. They also nest through the United States and into Mexico. Winters are spent in Long Island and the coasts of British Columbia and the north of South America. Migration is slow and flight takes place in the day and night. Killdeers are keen insect eaters, dining on beetles, worms, grasshoppers, bugs, dragon flies, caterpillars and other creatures which cause damage to farmers’ crops. They also feed on other types of invertebrates including spiders, snails, crustacea, centipedes and so forth.

Nests are simple scrapes in the ground which may be lined. A clutch of 4 to 6 eggs is laid and incubation lasts 22 to 30 days. The hatching chicks are precocial and hop out of the nest as soon as their soft down feathers have dried. As mentioned already, the Killdeer has remarkable skills when it comes to guarding its nest and young. Should a grazing animal accidentally wander too close, the adult Killdeer will run toward the animal with its wings outstretched. If the intruder is a predator the parents will fly about, calling loudly. This is followed by a distraction display of feigning injury. This “injured” bird keeps just out of reach of the threatening individual so as to draw it away from the nest. As the predator moves far enough away from the nest and the young have had time to take cover, the Killdeer parent flies off.

Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus)

February 9, 2009 by  
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The Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus) is a tiny shore bird that measures 5.5 inches in length, with orange legs and a stubby little bill. Generally, the adults have white faces with a black stripe across their forehead and a thick band of black across their breast. Some adults have paler breast bands, and at times they are not complete. Their bills can range between an orange bill that becomes dark at the point to just a dark bill. They have white bellies, while their upper body parts such as wings are gray to sandy colored, and it is the complete coloring of the Piping Plover that allows them to blend in with their surroundings.

This shore bird is treated as an endangered bird species in Canada and the United States. It only breeds in three geographic areas in North America, namely the East Coast, the Great Lakes region and on the Northern Great Plains. Piping Plovers prefer gravel beaches, coastal areas, prairie lakes and specific saline lakes and river sandbars. The nesting habits of the Piping Plover greatly depend on the level of water and the surrounding vegetation. Human activity along the coastal areas has also interfered with the nesting. Artificial nesting sites have been established to encourage nesting, but these have not proven to be successful. Although Piping Plovers are known to be able to live for 14 years, most Plovers don’t survive for more than five.

Piping Plovers feed on aquatic invertebrates, which the Plovers pick up with their bills by probing the shore-lines and pecking alternatively as the run and stop. Nests are created by scraping hollows into the ground and then lining these with bits of seashells, bone fragments and small pebbles. Piping Plovers will only have one partner during the breeding season, and will only select a new partner in the next season. Females are able to re-nest if the eggs are destroyed. She will lay about four eggs that are pale with black speckles. The 26 to 28 day incubation period is shared between the parents and within 20 to 25 days the chicks will be able to take short flights, with full flight capabilities at 27 days. If a Piping Plover feels that its nest is being threatened by any form of predator, they will fake injury to lead the danger away. Chicks will crouch into a motionless position to avoid detection from the danger. The female will leave the nest before the family disperses, leaving the male to attend to the chicks until they fledge the nest.

Seaway Trail Has Reputation for Excellence

July 4, 2008 by  
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Situated along the shores of Lake Erie, Lake Ontario and the St Lawrence River in New York State, the Seaway Trail is a bird watcher’s haven. This is a place where you will find a massive variety of songbirds, raptors, waterfowl and shorebirds in one relatively small area. Most people are not even aware it exists and are surprised to learn that this bountiful bird refuge is located right on their doorstep.

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Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival

May 5, 2008 by  
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Each year the Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival gives bird lovers the opportunity to become better acquainted with various bird species. This year will be no different and the festival theme for 2008 is “Shorebirds as International Ambassadors: Connecting Birds, Habitats and People.”

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