X Marks The Spot, Tern Nest Obliterated By Clean Up Crews. Gulf Wide Aid Sought.
After a very trying day yesterday, I arrived on Grand Isle just as the sun was setting. Magenta hues blanketed the sky and a slight breeze cooled my sweaty forehead. Excuse the colorful language, but those are actual facts, as is everything that has been reported in this blog since day one. (If anyone takes issue with anything reported here please be in touch.) I needed a beer badly, but the light was failing and I wanted to get out on the beach to get some photos of the three-day-old Least Tern chicks in the colony that Michael Seymour and his colleagues from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries had worked so hard in the past two days to get cordoned off and protected from the constant traffic on the beach. I had gotten an email in the morning from Wayne Keller, the Grand Isle Port Commissioner that stated:
"Hopefully, I have nipped this in the bud. At this morning's briefing at A Port, with Coast Guard and ES&H employees everyone was told to stay out of the vegetation and off the levees except at crossovers."
Day-old Least Tern chicks no longer in existence, due to ATV traffic associated with the cleanup efforts on Grand Isle Beach
We have been in communication with the Audubon Society and other concerned entities about flagging off sensitive colonies throughout the Gulf where cleanup crews are likely to be working. It is one of the most positive efforts I have seen, thus far, involving the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and I wanted to get some good photos to blog about. It is a really neat opportunity to involve volunteers, and I would like to put the call out right now for any Gulf residents to help out. Although some agencies have data on colony nests and other sensitive nesting areas (e.g. Snowy Plover), concerned citizens may have additional data that might help in locating important and sensitive areas. If you have such location data, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please include as detailed information as possible, ideally GPS location of said colonies or nests throughout the gulf region that might be affected by the oil spill, and the clean up response to it, so that we can allocate effort to get in there and flag them off and communicate with all parties that might be involved in clean up in that area.
So, this little Least Tern Colony on Grand Isle State Beach is about a half-mile long of sporadic nests, and has wonderful flagging and staking on either side. Though crews have all been told to stay out of it, in the last 48 hours the amount of tracks in certain locations has doubled or tripled, and the two chicks that I photographed just three days ago have been replaced with two sets of deep ATV ruts in the sand. I cannot imagine the thoughtlessness involved in such an act, especially during this sensitive time in our Nation's history.
The photos that have surfaced on Anderson Cooper's CNN show, of the Brown Pelican colony on Queen Bess Island near Grand Isle, graphically display the absolute need for, if nothing else, communication between the agencies and contract workers responding to the spill. Something needs to happen.
Cleanup workers on Queen Bess Island the day that the eggs were crushed, photo by Bridget Besaw.