Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Disturbing Nesting Birds While Cleaning Beaches

Beach Oil at Pensacola / US Air Force Photo

Drew Wheelan of the American Birding Association has been covering the potential threats that nesting birds face from both the oil spill and the people sent out to clean it up. In some cases he has documented cases of endangered bird nests being destroyed. Major media outlets are starting to pay more attention to the problem. Yesterday National Geographic had a story on bird nests getting trampled.
Each morning local conservation groups share information with BP's cleanup supervisors about where nesting colonies exist, as well as cautions about not trampling, driving through, or otherwise encroaching on these areas.

But even with precautions in place, there have been instances of cleanup crews disturbing nesting colonies, noted Melanie Driscoll, director of bird conservation for the National Audubon Society's Louisiana Coastal Initiative....

Even a temporary flush—when the parents are frightened off but return soon after—can be disastrous.

Without a parent's belly to cool an egg, the embryo will literally get cooked in the Gulf Coast heat. Likewise, predators such as seagulls may swoop in to snag an unprotected egg or chick.

Increased foot and vehicle traffic have also harmed bird parents and chicks.

Losing even one parent will doom a nest, Hoggard said, since it takes two to raise a chick: one to keep the egg cool and safe and another to search for food.

New, handmade signs on the national seashore's main road implore drivers to watch out for skittering baby birds. Even so, at least one chick was run over on Thursday, according to Adrianna Hirtler, a public information officer for the park.
Birds are the most noticeable victims, but the problem extends to other organisms as well, such as ghost crabs and mollusks that burrow into the sand.