[permaculture] Fwd: Thousands of birds abandon eggs, nests on Florida island

Bob Waldrop bob at bobwaldrop.net
Tue Jul 7 17:09:43 EDT 2015


I think we will be hearing more sad stories like this.

Bob Waldrop, Okie City


Thousands of birds abandon eggs, nests on Florida island
http://www.statesman.com/ap/ap/top-news/thousands-of-birds-abandon-eggs-nests-on-florida-i/nmsfr/
  3:55 a.m. Tuesday, July 7, 2015

SEAHORSE KEY, Fla. — The din created by thousands of nesting birds is 
usually the first thing you notice about Seahorse Key, a 
150-acre mangrove-covered dune off Florida's Gulf Coast.

But in May, the key fell eerily quiet all at once.

Thousands of little blue herons, roseate spoonbills, snowy egrets, 
pelicans and other chattering birds were gone. Nests sat empty in trees; 
eggs broken and scattered on the muddy ground.

Thousands of birds abandon eggs, nests on Florida island photo
In this Friday, June 19, 2015 photo, an Osprey returns to its nest 
in Seahorse Key, off Florida’s Gulf Coast. In May, Seahorse Key fell 
eerily quiet, as thousands of birds suddenly disappeared, and biologists 
are trying to find the reason why. U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service biologist Vic Doig said what was once the largest 
bird colony on the state’s Gulf Coast is now a “dead zone.”
(AP Photo/John Raoux)

"It's a dead zone now," said Vic Doig, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 
biologist. "This is where the largest bird colony on the Gulf Coast of 
Florida used to be."

For decades, Seahorse Key has been a protected way station for myriad 
bird species. It's part of the Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge, 
which was established in 1929 as a sanctuary for birds devastated by 
decades of hunting for their colorful plumage. Accessible only by boat, 
today it's a rare island off Florida not dominated by human activity 
and development.

When the birds come to nest, so too do biologists and naturalists who 
study the different colonies. But this year, the birds' exit has the 
state's avian biologists scrambling for answers.

Thousands of birds abandon eggs, nests on Florida island photo
In this Friday, June 19, 2015 photo, a variety of birds gather in 
branches at Snake Key, Fla. near Seahorse Key, off Florida’s Gulf Coast. 
In May, Seahorse Key fell eerily quiet, as thousands of birds suddenly 
disappeared, and biologists are trying to find the reason why.
(AP Photo/John Raoux)

"It's not uncommon for birds to abandon nests," said Peter Frederick, a 
University of Florida wildlife biologist who has studied Florida's birds 
for nearly 30 years. "But, in this case, what's puzzling is that all of 
the species did it all at once."

Doig said some of the Seahorse birds seem to have moved to a nearby 
island, but they're just a fraction of the tens of thousands of birds 
that would normally be nesting on the key right now.

To find answers, service biologists have been acting on the few clues 
they have.

Thousands of birds abandon eggs, nests on Florida island photo
In this Friday, June 19, 2015 photo, tricolored herons perch in tree 
branches on Snake Key, Fla. just a short distance from Seahorse Key off 
Florida’s Gulf Coast. In May, Seahorse Key fell eerily quiet, 
as thousands of birds suddenly disappeared, and biologists are trying to 
find the reason why.
(AP Photo/John Raoux)

First, they tested left-behind bird carcasses for disease or 
contaminants. Those tests came back negative.

Next, they researched possible new predators. Did raccoons swim over 
from another island? Perhaps some great horned owls flew out at night 
and started feasting?

Traps caught a few raccoons, which is common, but not enough to have 
created a wholesale abandonment. There were no telltale signs of owls.

Thousands of birds abandon eggs, nests on Florida island photo
In this Friday, June 19, 2015 photo, several ospreys perch on a signpost 
at Seahorse Key, Fla. off Florida’s Gulf Coast. In May, Seahorse Key 
fell eerily quiet, as thousands of birds suddenly disappeared, and 
biologists are trying to find the reason why.
(AP Photo/John Raoux)

Finally, Doig said, recent years have seen an increase in night flights 
over the area by surveillance planes and helicopters used to combat drug 
runners. Although the planes' noise could be disruptive, Doig admits 
it's a longshot.

The abandonment concerns biologists because it could have a ripple 
effect: Many bird species here return year after year to the same 
nesting sites. The disruption provokes anxiety that this important 
island refuge could somehow be lost.

"Any rookery that's persisted for decades as one of the largest colonies 
is incredibly important," said Janell Brush, an avian researcher with 
the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. "It's quite a 
large colony. There had to be some intense event that would drive all 
these birds away."

Thousands of birds abandon eggs, nests on Florida island photo
In this Friday, June 19, 2015 photo, a broken bird egg shell is seen in 
Seahorse Key, off Florida’s Gulf Coast. In May, Seahorse Key fell eerily 
quiet, as thousands of birds suddenly disappeared, and biologists are 
trying to find the reason why.
(AP Photo/John Raoux)

Biologist also don't know how the disappearance will affect the island's 
other animals, some of which rely on the birds to survive. Cottonmouth 
snakes eat bird predators like rodents, and in turn the birds drop lots 
of fish and other nutrients from the trees to feed the snakes.

In the meantime, tour operators that once spent hours taking naturalists 
and bird watchers to the island are making other plans.

Mike O'Dell runs tours out of the little marina in nearby Cedar Key. He 
said on a Tuesday in May he led a group out to view thousands of birds 
crowding the shores of the key. On Wednesday, there was nothing.

Thousands of birds abandon eggs, nests on Florida island photo
In this Friday, June 19, 2015 photo, a roseate spoonbill flies near 
Snake Key, short distance from Seahorse Key, off Florida’s Gulf Coast. 
In May, Seahorse Key fell eerily quiet, as thousands of birds suddenly 
disappeared, and biologists are trying to find the reason why. U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service biologist Vic Doig said what was once the largest 
bird colony on the state’s Gulf Coast is now a “dead zone.”
(AP Photo/John Raoux)

"It's just that drastic," O'Dell said. "There were none. It's like a 
different world."

___

Follow Jason Dearen on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/JHDearen

Thousands of birds abandon eggs, nests on Florida island photo
In this Friday, June 19, 2015 photo, Vic Doig, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service biologist observes empty bird nests in Seahorse Key, off 
Florida’s Gulf Coast.
(AP Photo/John Raoux)

Thousands of birds abandon eggs, nests on Florida island photo
In this Friday, June 19, 2015 photo, Vic Doig, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service biologist, observes empty bird nests in Seahorse Key, Fla.
(AP Photo/John Raoux)

Thousands of birds abandon eggs, nests on Florida island photo
In this Friday, June 19, 2015 photo, Larry Woodward, of the U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service looks over a broken egg shell at Seahorse Key, Fla.
(AP Photo/John Raoux)

Thousands of birds abandon eggs, nests on Florida island photo
In this Friday, June 19, 2015 photo, Larry Woodward, left, and Vic Doig 
of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service observe bird life off shore at 
Snake Key, Fla.
(AP Photo/John Raoux)

Thousands of birds abandon eggs, nests on Florida island photo
In this Friday, June 19, 2015 photo various herons and egrets gather on 
the shore of Snake Key, Fla. not far from Seahorse Key, off Florida’s 
Gulf Coast.
(AP Photo/John Raoux)

Thousands of birds abandon eggs, nests on Florida island photo
In this Friday, June 19, 2015 photo, a great blue heron flies near the 
shore of Snake Key, off Florida’s Gulf Coast.
(AP Photo/John Raoux)

Thousands of birds abandon eggs, nests on Florida island photo
In this Friday, June 19, 2015 photo, a pelican takes flight off shore at 
Snake Key, a short distance from Seahorse Key, off Florida’s Gulf Coast.
(AP Photo/John Raoux)





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