Beaches and Birds

I started my morning on the formerly stark white beaches of the Gulf Islands National Seashore just east of Pensacola, Florida. The oil impacts on the coastal barrier islands have not yet reached the level I saw in Alabama but the entire tide line was peppered with gelatinous black tar mats. The islands are very low lying and composed of flats and low dunes. All it will take is one good storm to inundate large portions of the islands should oil be in the area.

The area I visited is a major nesting area for Least Terns and a few Black Skimmers. Both species are ground nesters and nest just above the high tide line. Some birds were still on eggs, probably making there second attempt at nesting this season, and others had fully grown young that they were feeding small fish. Soon, all the young will take to the water to feed on their own.

From the Gulf Islands I moved west. I am making my way to Louisiana. I stopped at Orange Beach in Alabama where I again saw oil and dispersant residue making its way to shore. I then took the ferry across Mobile Bay to Dauphin Island where I’m staying tonight. I met a man in Orange Beach who told me crews were hauling clean sand in at night in an attempt to cover up the contaminated sand and keep the tourists coming in for the fourth of July. The waters there were disgusting. The surface has a milky brown sheen. It doesn’t look or move like water should.

Here are a few quick shots from the day:


Large dune. Gulf Islands National Seashore, Florida. June. (Gerrit Vyn)
Large dune. Gulf Islands National Seashore, Florida. June. (Gerrit Vyn)



Fledgling Black Skimmer (Rynchops niger). Gulf Islands National Seashore, Florida. June. (Gerrit Vyn)
Fledgling Black Skimmer (Rynchops niger). Gulf Islands National Seashore, Florida. June. (Gerrit Vyn)



Adult Black Skimmer (Rynchops niger ) in flight. Gulf Islands National Seashore, Florida. June. (Gerrit Vyn)
Adult Black Skimmer (Rynchops niger ) in flight. Gulf Islands National Seashore, Florida. June. (Gerrit Vyn)


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