Monday, July 9, 2012
Joe Neal angry (deja vu) over abuse of critical wildlife habitat by 'barbarians'
Cattle Egrets, Great Egrets, and Little Blue Herons are in the middle of an active nesting season in the mixed-species rookery on a sandy Arkansas River island just off the mouth of the Mulberry River. Joan Reynolds and I canoed out there yesterday. Snowy Egrets are in the vicinity; we didn't see them nesting, but this doesn't mean they weren't there. We canoed and kept our distance to minimize disturbance, so we could easily have missed them. This island is just down river from Frog Bayou WMA. It looks like a good season.
There were also 25-30 vultures of both species, hunkered down adjacent the rookery, with dead and injured birds visible along the edges by the river. In such places, nature can seem cruel and wasteful. Yet, we offer thanks for many healthy young egrets. Our vulture friends are doing their part for the great cycle. We could see big catfish in the shallows – doubtless another competitor for fallen baby birds.
What we didn't find, but hoped for, were nests of endangered Least Terns. We did have a fly-over by three terns, but observed no nests. Unfortunately, nesting habitat of the past few years was replaced by the telltale signs of barbarians: human and dog footprints everywhere, beer cans and other trash, food debris, paper waste I assume was toilet, and improbably, broken metal parts of at least two big sun screens, stuck in the sand and just left with other garbage midst suitable tern habitat.
One would like to believe if the modern heirs of George Washington in the Congress of the United States saw fit to pass an Endangered Species Act -- and law enforcement agencies from Feds in helicopters and powerful boats to our state and local law enforcement agencies sworn to enforce said act -- the 4th of July barbarians who trashed one small bird island in the Arkansas River, and perhaps this year's nest attempt on that island by a beautiful protected bird -- would suffer the logical consequence of profligate ignorance.
Realistically, the only solution is for these islands to be declared "Closed Areas" during the tern nesting season, probably June-August, much as some other parts of state and federal public lands are closed to protect critical wildlife values. Closed, Entry Prohibited – and actively enforced. Legitimate boaters and ethical anglers would understand and support. It would inconvenience barbarians.