August, September, October 2005
A new Wildlife
offered for info about California Brown Pelican mutilation
Archives | Botulism
and red tide | Breton Island
NWR oil spill survivors | Brown Pelican
in Iowa | Chase Lake NWR visit
| Chase Lake pelicans, 2
| | Katrina and Gulfport pelicans
| Katrina and Lake Pontchartrain
pelicans | Katrina and barrier
islands | | Katrina and NOLA | Nebraska
| NM, Socorro, pelican festival |
Pelicans and Wilma | OK
Salt Plains NWR pelican festival | Oregon
pelicans | Pelican rookery in No.
Carolina | Red tide, Florida
| Red tide and FL shorebirds | West
Nile Virus hits Nevada pelicans | Wilma
and pelicans |
Wisconsin, Horicon NWR botuli
Not all were able to flee (see story from Naples.)
of Everglades survive, but many birds died
By Rochelle E.B. Gilken; Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 29, 2005
EVERGLADES CITY — In New Orleans, he counted dead bodies
as a volunteer airboat captain.
Here, in his hurricane-hit back yard, it is the dead birds
that disturb Eddie Rewis.
"I don't know what happened. The birds can usually
predict it," Rewis, 42, said. "It's sad. They went
in the trees to roost, and I think they got caught off-guard."
Thousands of them — including white egrets, blue herons,
ibises and pelicans — were torn from the trees where
they nest and sleep and then smashed against miles of mangrove
trees along County Road 29, a causeway between Everglades
City and Chokoloskee.
Piles of timber and mud and leaves became a graveyard of snapped
necks and soaked wings where scorpions and snakes slither.
Despite a lifetime of living in the Everglades, Rewis said,
he's never seen birds die like that.
But the people here survived.
"That's a miracle right there," Rewis said.
flee the Florida coast
October 23, NAPLES, Florida All along Florida's Gulf Coast,
birds are high-tailing it away from Wilma.
Pelicans that normally gather around the historic pier in
Naples have disappeared.
Resident Ben Pletsch says that also happened before other
hurricanes. He says the birds "know when to get out of
Further south, wildlife experts in the Florida Keys noticed
that pelicans there also made themselves scarce.
While the pelicans and other wildlife have left, surfers have
flocked to the Naples beaches to enjoy the larger than usual
waves being kicked up by Wilma.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press.
to the sight of a pelican rookery visit during Wings Over
Imagine the thrill of seeing hundreds--perhaps thousands--of
Brown pelicans, with their impressive 6.5 feet wingspans,
close-up, and in their natural habitat.
A rare opportunity to visit a pelican rookery, in the middle
of Pamlico Sound, is one of the experiences available to participants
in the Nov. 1-6 Wings Over Water festival.
Captain Stuart Wescott will transport up to 49 passengers
who opt for the Pelican Island Safari to Pelican Island as
part of their Wings Over Water experience. The two-hour head
boat trip will be held both Friday, Nov. 4, and Saturday,
Nov. 5, to allow the maximum number of participants. If wind
and water conditions are favorable, participants may disembark
close to shore and wade in shallow water to walk on the island
itself and get a closer view of the birds. A naturalist will
accompany the tour.
Pelicans are colonial birds; that is, they nest in large groups,
or colonies. The mother bird lays from 2-4 eggs in shallow
nests that vary from seagrass-lined depressions on the sandy
ground to twig nests in low shrubs. In other locations, pelicans
roost and nest in larger trees, such as mangroves. Eggs hatch
throughout the summer months, during which time the rookery
is closed to visitors. While WOW participants will not see
nesting birds, as all the eggs will have hatched and the fledglings
left the nest, those who tour the island will be able to see
the remnant nests as well as adult birds and yearlings. The
Pelican Safari provides a unique opportunity for birders to
examine nests and appreciate the overall size and ecosystem
of the rookery.
Volunteers and staff with the Fish and Wildlife Service participate
in a banding program each summer to help monitor the population.
The brown pelican population crashed in the 1950s and 1960s
as the pelicans' eggshells were affected by DDT; since the
pesticide was banned in 1972, the population has rebounded
on both the Atlantic and Pacific coast.
For more information, or to register for Wings Over Water,
contact the Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce at 252-441-8144
or log on to the Wings Over Water website at http://www.wingsoverwater.org.
Gulf Coast update
NEW ORLEANS -- The manatees that grazed in Lake Pontchartrain
before Hurricane Katrina haven't been seen since, but eight
dolphins were leaping in the lake this week.
"If the big critters are back, the lake is definitely
coming back," Carlton Dufrechou, executive director
of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, said Thursday.
Flocks of pelicans and the pod of dolphins spotted
Monday indicate that there are fish for them to eat,
03, 2005, Dr. Tom Gross: Missing the little things
after a catastrophe like Katrina
IN THE MIDDLE of catastrophe, we often become accustomed to
the sights that we expect, such as uprooted trees and uprooted
lives, to the extent that we can tune them out in order to
function. Then, in a quiet moment, you noticed how widespread
the catastrophe really is.
As dawn broke in New Orleans, several days after the hurricane,
we were unpacking the crates and barrels that, in a matter
of hours, would become a tent hospital, with an emergency
department, an operating room, intensive care, a medical ward,
and a supply tent. There would be no additional tents to sleep
in for a few days.
Someone found a coffee pot, and brewed up a few gallons of
something hot, whose aroma resembled coffee. It tasted like
boiled water. It was good enough. I sat on an MRE crate, sipping
my coffee, and eating an MRE cracker with some peanut butter
on it. We called it "Breakfast of Champions."
Having seen a lot of dawns come and go, I noticed something
different about this one. I had spilled some cracker crumbs
on the ground, expecting a few birds to come up and fight
over them. Turning to the surgeon next to me, who had helped
me put up the tent and was enjoying his own Breakfast of Champions,
I said, "J.D. there are no birds."
We looked at the roof line, and the remaining electrical wires.
We looked out into the fields. There were no birds. It was
as if every bird had been blown from Louisiana north to Wisconsin.
The morning was quiet, no doves, no songbirds, and no pelicans.
of the pelicans
Birds stop at refuge over next 2 weeks
Evelyn Cronce El Defensor Chieftain Reporter,
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
ECRONCE Sometime during the next two weeks would be a good
time to visit the Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.
The pelicans may not have their own festival, but it doesn't
seem to bother them.
They once again have stopped by the Bosque Del Apache
to rest and feed on their migration from Yellowstone or Canada
to the east coast of Mexico. Each flock stops by for just
a couple of days. They will be coming and going only for,
approximately, the next two weeks.
According to Daniel Perry of the refuge, when all is said
and done, they expect to have had a couple of hundred American
White Pelicans stop over.
The pelicans seem to have an international appeal.
A busload of visitors from England traveling with Titan Tours
were taking in the pelicans Monday afternoon as part of their
New Mexico tour.
Stopping by at the same time are the Great Egrets and the
Snowy Egrets. These birds can be seen standing in the shallows,
not far from the pelicans, taking advantage of the fish stirred
up by the pelicans' feeding.
These birds will also be gone at the end of summer on their
way to winter in Mexico.
of the Great Salt Plains
GREAT SALT PLAINS -- They come in numbers that sometimes
exceed fifty thousand. They fish for a few weeks. Then they
leave. We're not talking about tourists though. Here is the
story of the American White Pelican and their annual visit
to the great salt plains.
When the Black Eyed Susans are still stretching to the sunrise
and just as the first, soft, cool breezes begin their push
from the north, one of the biggest signals of the season's
change descends gracefully into the shallow waters of Sand
“Some of these pelicans that are standing on the bay
this late are probably the most recent arrivals that have
migrated in. They are tired and resting a bit,” says
U.S. Fish and Wildlife biologist Ron Shepperd.
He has watched and counted the American White Pelican for
years at the Great Salt Plains. From early September
until mid-October these huge birds, whose wingspans can sometimes
approach ten feet, fish the shallow waters here on their way
“Oh a good majority of the month of September we'll
have pelicans coming and going all the time,” Shepperd
He has counted as many as 70,000 pelicans on the reservoir.
This year more than 35,000 have stopped over. This is a significant
portion of the eastern population.
“They come from North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming,
and Colorado. They breed up there and head south now,”
biologist Shepperd says.
They feed in huge circles, schooling their prey together then
scooping them with a pouch that can hold three gallons of
water at a time.
There are other shore birds that use Sand Creek and the Salt
Plain. They are the Avocets, the Dowitchers, The Herons and
more descend here until the first freeze.
The White Pelican is among the first, on its way to warmer
climes it travels right through the heart of this shallow
At the Great Salt Plains I’m Galen Culver for NewsChannel
4. Is this a great state or what?
September 18th through the 24th is the annual pelican celebration
at the Salt Plains National Refuge.
Sep 26, 2005, 11:28 AM' GALEN CULVER REPORTING; http://www.kfor.com/Global/story.asp?S=3899528&nav=6uy6
are encouraged to stop by the refuge headquarters for information
or directions to viewing sites. The Shorebird Trail, located
on Oklahoma 11, also will be a good spot to see shorebirds.
There are no fees or permits required.
For additional information, contact Salt Plains National
Wildlife Refuge at (580) 626-4794.
on Wed, Sep. 21, 2005
planned to talk about pelican abandonment
BISMARCK, N.D. - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is planning
a gathering of pelican experts to try to solve the mystery
of why the big birds abandoned the Chase Lake National Wildlife
Refuge in central North Dakota.
No date has been set, but the meeting would include biologists
and officials from refuges throughout the Upper Midwest,
said Ken Torkelson, a Fish and Wildlife spokesman in Bismarck.
Last year, nearly 30,000 pelicans left the refuge near Medina,
leaving their chicks and eggs behind. This year, the refuge
saw a massive die-off of pelican chicks, followed by an
exodus of their parents.
"Next year may bring a whole new mystery," Torkelson
Wildlife officials plan to discuss the pelicans' exodus
and develop a plan for funding to further study the big
"There have not been the answers we've been looking
for yet," Torkelson said.
Samples of dozens of dead pelicans from the refuge and from
other parts of the Upper Midwest are being tested at the
National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wis. Torkelson
said results are still pending.
About 200 pelicans remain in central North Dakota, but none
are at Chase Lake, Torkelson said.
The white pelican colony at the 4,385-acre Chase Lake refuge
has been the largest in North America, peaking at 35,466
birds in 2000.
Many of the big birds that left Chase Lake earlier this
year probably headed to Canada, where extraordinary sightings
were recorded, Torkelson said.
Pelicans typically leave Chase Lake in late September to
their wintering grounds along the Gulf Coast.
"Most, if not nearly all, have migrated," Torkelson
said. "They're headed toward hurricane country. Come
next April, we'll know if they came back to nest."
2005 AP Wire and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.
Feathers flying over plans
for bird nesting platform off Goleta
Associated Press, Posted on Tue, Sep. 20, 2005
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Workers on Tuesday will begin demolishing
the remains of a crumbling 1930s oil pier that served as
a perch for scores of pelicans and cormorants, and replacing
it with roosting platforms that sit 40 feet above the ocean.
The platforms off Ellwood Beach, which BP America Inc. expects
to complete by the end of October, will be the first such
structures for roosting and nesting seabirds off California's
Goleta officials, however, complain that the new, white
platforms, which will sit on poles 16 feet higher than the
old pier, will spoils views from the Sandpiper Golf Course,
Bacara Resort & Spa and Haskell's Beach, a popular surfing
"But there's not much the city can do about it now,"
Goleta Mayor Jean Blois said of the project, which the California
Coastal Commission approved in February. "The perches
are going to be ugly. Hopefully, we'll get used to them."
The state Fish and Game Department proposed the platforms
in the hope that Brandt's cormorants and endangered California
brown pelicans will quickly re-colonize the new structure
once the pier is gone. The $4 to $5 million project, paid
for by BP, also includes creating an artificial fish reef
by blowing up the old concrete pier and seeding the debris
Goleta and county officials also oppose the reef plan, saying
it could set a precedent for leaving behind debris from
Environmentalists are split over the project.
The Environmental Defense Center, a public-interest law
firm, opposes it. But the Audubon Society and Santa Barbara
Channelkeeper signed five-year contracts with BP to monitor
the success of the bird platforms and the artificial reef,
"I understand the concerns about setting a precedent,"
said Paul Kelly, a Fish and Game seabird biologist. "On
the other hand, there was a legal obligation to address
the value of the migratory birds. We're very interested
in seeing what sorts of benefits the new structure offers."
Biologists speculate that the old pier - dubbed Bird Island
- provided the only safe, water-encircled roosting place
along a 75-mile stretch of coastline.
Some people question whether birds will return to the site
once the platforms are completed. No cormorants were documented
at Bird Island until 1991, 40 years after oil production
Kelly is optimistic.
"Birds from Anacapa (Island) could not feed in Santa
Barbara and fly back without a stopover," he said.
"We're hoping they'll come back."
The California Coastal Commission required that BP must
dismantle the platforms if they remain unused for five years.
Information from: Santa Barbara News-Press, http://www.newspress.com
See: SB News-Press, September 20, for an in depth story
by reporter Melinda Burns. For online access, the N-P requires
payment or subscription.
- SCENES FROM THE BEACH
Posted on Fri, Sep. 16, 2005, By George Thatcher
Two dead, brown pelicans lie in my front yard in mute testimony
to the hurricane's destructive force. In my back yard was
a severely wounded pelican, barely alive when I found it
only hours after the storm. Today it too is dead. Amid
the intense suffering of friends, neighbors, and many others
beyond my knowing, it seems crass for me to grieve for dead
pelicans. Yet their loss is also significant, because they
were part of our community, enriching our lives with their
graceful flights. And not only for the three pelicans do
we grieve, but also for the uncounted and unknown thousands
of other shorebirds that the hurricane killed.
From the diary of beach walker George Thatcher, a retired
banker, of Gulfport.
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Two volumes of Thatcher's work,
"Beach Walks" and "Scenes from the Beach"
are available in bookstores and gift shops or by calling
13, 2005 — HORICON, Wis. - Drought conditions
are taking a toll on the Horicon Marsh, a favorite landing
spot for tens of thousands of migrating Canada geese.
Dead carp litter small pools of water at the Horicon National
Wildlife Refuge. Geese and white pelicans stand in shallow
water that barely covers their webbed feet.
Refuge manager Patti Meyers said drought conditions
this summer have contributed to a botulism outbreak because
of the dead fish in the impoundment pools.
"We spent a lot of time out there last week trying
to remove the fish, but there's not enough water out there
for the airboats," said Meyers, adding that ideal water
depths in the pools range from 12 to 18 inches.
"Some of the pools have but an inch of water left in
them. Conditions have worsened over the weekend so it may
be difficult to impossible to get out there (with the boat)
Earlier this summer, high temperatures and low water
levels killed more than 1,200 ducks due to avian botulism.
Refuge staff collected and buried the dead birds to keep
the toxins from spreading.
"Once temperatures drop, the risk of botulism goes
down. That coupled with a little rain and we should be all
right," Meyers said.
it was 50 years ago from September 9, 2005
News from Fremont, NE
The large crane-like birds which Ray W. Johnson of Big Island
says are rare Whooping cranes were seen again Friday morning
from the Johnson residence. First noticed Wednesday and
seen by a Guide and Tribune reporter Thursday, four or five
of the birds were feeding along the south bank of the Platte
River opposite his home, Johnson said. Other Fremonters
reported seeing large white birds near
the Highway 77 bridge and on dikes south of the city. Conservation
experts say the birds are more likely to be pelicans migrating
south as it is rather early to see Whooping cranes in our
Prepare To Die
Posted by RJ on September 06, 2005 09:48 PM (See all posts
The brew of chemicals and human waste in the New Orleans
floodwaters will have to be pumped into the Mississippi
River or Lake Pontchartrain, raising the specter of an environmental
disaster on the heels of Hurricane Katrina, experts say.
Mallett said the Department of Environmental Quality was
in the unfortunate position of being responsible for protecting
the environment in a situation where that did not seem possible.
“We’re not happy about it. But for the sake
of civilization and lives, probably the best thing to do
is pump the water out,” he said.
If the water is pumped into the Mississippi River, there
will be a lot of damage to the river's ecosystem. And then
the toxic water will quickly flow into the Gulf of Mexico,
causing more damage.But the gulf is enormous, so the chemicals
will eventually diffuse throughout the water, and will no
longer be in such deadly concentrations.
Lake Pontchartrain, however, does not flow like a river
directly into another body of water. It plays a game of
give-and-take with the Gulf of Mexico, sometimes taking
in the gulf's salt water, and sometimes releasing its own
brackish water into the gulf. So, whatever poisons are pumped
into Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans are likely to stay
there in disturbingly large concentrations for a relatively
And that is likely to kill just about every living thing
in the lake.
Here is some information about the soon-to-be-dead fauna
of Lake Pontchartrain:
The citizens of the Pontchartrain Basin have been trying
to bring back wildlife not only in the water, but also in
the air. For a while brown pelicans were almost extinct
because a chemical being used to protect plants. When it
would rain, nutrients and fertilizers would wash into the
lake and make the water cloudy, which blocked sunlight.
Fish ate or absorbed these chemicals through their skin
and by eating food that the chemical had entered. The pelicans
ate the fish, which killed the pelicans because of the chemical
in the fish's bodies. We did our best to restore the pelicans
and now they can be seen everywhere.
In Lake Pontchartrain there are over 125 species of fish.
Out of all the fish, the most abundant species of fish is
the anchovy. Even manatee and porpoise have been sited in
the lake, but the porpoise die because of a bacterium that
they get when swimming in the lake. Many sharks have been
seen in the lake.
In the Lake Pontchartrain Basin there is a huge variety
of marine, land and bird life. It includes animals from
swallows to wild boar.
The Basin provides a habitat for a large variety of birds
in Louisiana. Fifty percent of all North American migratory
birds pass through Southeast Louisiana, yet vehicles kill
twelve thousand a year. Twice a year there are an estimated
eight million Purple Martins migrating through Southeast
This site <http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2002/of02-206/biology/elmr.html>
even has a nice graph of the relative abundance of various
forms of life in the lake.
I wish I could offer ya'll some good news on this subject,
but there ain't any to be had, I'm afraid..
up river from New Orleans — N.M. Guardsmen Take River
By Miguel Navrot, Journal Staff Writer, Wednesday, September
ABOARD A COAST GUARD RESPONSE BOAT ON THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER—
For miles and miles, the shores are scarred with death.
Trees that weren't uprooted or stripped of leaves and branches
have turned droopy and brown. Massive barges are dry-docked
atop levee walls. Black, stagnant water has engulfed entire
lies destruction. Utility poles slope at 45-degree angles,
their wires touching the ground. Buildings and trucks have
been tossed like cardboard boxes.
"It's going to be a long time before they name their
kids 'Katrina,' '' Archuleta said.
The Coast Guard didn't fare well, either. Farther down the
Mississippi, the crew's station at Venice appears totaled.
Sections of brick walls flanked the two-story building.
Four boats sit stalled on the station's parking lot.
The station was rebuilt last year after Hurricane Ivan,
crew members said, but the damage is much more massive now.
Since the storm, the Coast Guard station has moved its patrol
operations to Belle Chasse, the parish seat. Response boats
cruise the Mississippi to verify that sailing vessels are
authorized to be in the still-evacuated area.
Along the river banks, rocks have a charcoal film
from the spilled oil pollutants. Some of the pelicans lie
dead in the rubble. Others are coated brown with filth.
pummeled barrier islands along the Gulf Coast
By Cain Burdeau
GULFPORT, Miss. (AP) _ Hurricane Katrina seriously eroded
the barrier islands along the Gulf Coast, further gnawing
away at the dunes and beaches on the islands that act as hurricane
Of all the barrier islands, Katrina's storm surge
hit the Chandeleur Islands off the southeast coast of Louisiana
the hardest with pounding waves.
The chain of islands _ made famous by a visit by Theodore
Roosevelt and the naturalist paintings of Walter Anderson
_ lie low in Breton Sound and were under stress even before
The islands were completely inundated, and only a
small section was visible during fly overs in the days after
the storm struck. Its force dashed a historic lighthouse on
the eastern edge of the chain.
In Mississippi, the series of islands off the coast from Biloxi
_ Ship Island, Horn Island, Petit Bois _ were also scoured
and breached by the extraordinary storm surge, which laid
waste to the Mississippi and Louisiana coasts.
Ned Kremer, a marina owner in Gulfport, said the islands are
likely devastated. Ship Island was a favorite spot for tourists
and locals with its hot dog stands, blue waters and peaceful
beaches. There is also an historic fort _ Fort Massachusetts
_ on Ship Island, which was split in two, creating East and
West Ship Islands, by Hurricane Camille's 200 mph winds in
"I can't imagine," Kremer said.
Klaus Meyer-Arendt, a University of West Florida coastal expert
who has done extensive studies of the Gulf's barrier islands,
said the worse damage will be to the Chandeleurs because they
were already so low and fragile.
"They are probably just shoals by Katrina," Meyer-Arendt
He said the islands off the coast of Mississippi should be
able to recover because they are so much higher.
It has been difficult to get a complete picture of the damage
because boat and air traffic to the islands has been restricted
by the ongoing search and rescue operations along the coast.
Barrier islands, which are made up of sand drifts, naturally
shift with currents over time. But there has been a gradual
loss of the islands over the past century, especially along
the Louisiana coast. A hundred years ago many of the islands
were twice the size they are today and even contained villages
The loss of the islands also poses a problem for communities
on the mainland because they act as breaks to storm surge.
The erosion of the islands is making the mainland even more
vulnerable, more open to the Gulf.
"These were ocean waves and the barrier islands blocked
those," Meyer-Arendt said. "Katrina would have been
much worse if the islands hadn't been there."
There were signs that Louisiana's barrier islands farther
to the west were not devastated as feared. Those islands _
Grand Terre and Grand Isle in particular _ have been undergone
major restoration efforts.
Windell Curole, a Louisiana hurricane expert, said a recent
survey of Grand Isle showed much of the island intact although
there was a lot of damage to homes, fishing camps and other
structures on the island.
The damage to the Chandeleurs will hurt many bird
species, especially pelicans which use the islands as nesting
grounds and migratory songbirds which use them as stopovers
on flights to and from South America and Central America.
Little work to restore the islands has been done in recent
years, in large part because they sit so far out in Breton
Sound. The logistics of moving new sand out by pipeline or
other means are immense.
Roosevelt declared the islands a bird refuge in 1904 _ making
them the second oldest U.S. refuge _ and visited the islands
in 1915 to see with his own eyes flocks of birds.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. http://www.wlox.com/Global/story.asp?S=3805682
brown pelican spotted at Saylorville Lake, Iowa
DES MOINES, Iowa, August 30
many as ten thousand pelicans, including a rare brown one,
have flocked to Saylorville Lake.
The pelicans have been spotted just north of Des Moines as
part of their annual migration south.
The brown pelican is the first seen at Saylorville since 1999.
Besides Saylorville, the birds have been spotted at Spirit
Lake, Clear Lake, Storm Lake and Big Wall Lake.
sea birds baffle experts
August 25, Indian Shores, Florida - The Suncoast
Seabird Sanctuary is filled to the brim with sick birds
- from pelicans to herons to double-crested cormorants.
Barbara Suto, Hospital Supervisor: "The wildlife are
the environmental indicators of what's coming our way so
we always have to keep that in mind."
Hospital Supervisor Barbara Suto and her counterparts are
shaking their heads at their latest round of patients. They're
not exactly sure what's wrong. At least 15 cormorants
are showing signs of red tide.
Suto: "A lot of people in the public will describe
them when they bring them in as he was acting drunk disoriented."
And then there are all of the pelicans and shore
birds exhibiting symptoms of possible botulism.
Suto: "We've had over 70 come in exhibiting various
stages of motor paralysis. It starts with their legs and
works its way up their bodies to where their wings will
get very weak and unable to move."
Even though there are no tests to confirm scientists’
suspicions, they're pumping the birds full of fluids and
food, trying to get the toxins out of their symptoms. While
Suto isn't sure what's causing the botulism symptoms, she
says they're keeping their hopes pinned to the developing
tropical storm to help drive out the red tide.
Suto: "We're hoping if Katrina forms and goes
across the state, she'll take the red tide. It would be
real nice to take it out of here or break it up or do something
with it because we're afraid it could get a lot worse."
Alexandra Hackett, Tampa Bay's 10 News
algae creates red tide of death
Posted on Wed, Aug. 24, 2005 BY CARA BUCKLEY, Knight Ridder
LONGBOAT KEY, Fla. - (KRT) - The sea looked too beautiful
to be a morgue, stretching outward in undulating molten ripples
under the summertime glare. But here, just outside the mouth
of Tampa Bay, signs of trouble were everywhere.
Seabirds were circling endlessly without dipping. A captain
scoured his scanner and his heart broke, because after hours
of boating he hadn't come upon a single living fish. On the
way back to shore, his passengers began pointing with one
hand and covering their mouths with the other. A long ribbon
of dead horseshoe crabs bobbed before them, interwoven with
dozens of belly-up rotting fish.
"There's not one living thing out here - nothing,"
sighed the captain, Wayne Genthner. "The only thing I
see breaking the surface is dead fish."
The culprit behind this patch of lifelessness is an ocean-borne
algae known as red tide, and this summer it has come to redefine
life along Florida's Gulf Coast. The toxic, single-cell algae
exists naturally, but scientists are divided over whether
humans' irrepressible urge to pave Florida's paradise is making
this current outbreak worse.
Red tide sucks oxygen out of the water, suffocating sea life,
and contains poisons that impair the nerves. :::snip:::
© 2005, The Miami Herald http://www.herald.com
Pelicans Probably Headed to Canada
By JAMES MacPHERSON, The Associated Press
Wednesday, August 24, 2005; 9:03 PM
BISMARCK, N.D. -- Thousands of American white pelicans
that abandoned the Chase Lake National Wildlife Refuge in
central North Dakota after their chicks mysteriously died
appear to have headed across the border to Canada, in southern
"Anything that holds water and fish seems have found
a pelican, and even places that don't," said
Ken DeSmet, an endangered species biologist for the Manitoba
Conservation agency. "It's obvious that they are all
over the place in areas you wouldn't normally see them."
"I'm sure they're Chase Lake birds," said Ken Torkelson,
a spokesman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Bismarck.
Biologists in both countries are baffled about the influx
of the big white birds north of the border, and the exodus
from the south.
The Fish and Wildlife Service estimated that about
18,850 pelicans returned to the Chase Lake National Wildlife
Refuge north of Medina in late May to nest. The count last
month showed that only 280 of their chicks survived, after
some 8,000 died during the spring and early summer nesting
period, Torkelson said.
Last year, nearly 30,000 adult pelicans abandoned the refuge,
leaving their live chicks and eggs behind, Torkelson said.
This year, he said, the adults left after the chicks died.
Torkelson said Wednesday that less than 100 young
birds remain at the 4,385-acre refuge, and the adult population
has dropped to less than 300.
The white pelican colony at the Chase Lake refuge has been
known as the largest in North America, peaking at 35,466 birds
in 2000. The pelicans normally stay at the refuge through
September, raising their young and feasting on crawfish, small
fish and salamanders from small prairie ponds within a 100-mile
radius of the refuge.
Most of the birds in Canada are about 300 miles from the North
Dakota refuge, "as the pelican flies," DeSmet said.
Randy Mooi, curator of zoology at the Manitoba Museum of Man
and Nature, said unusually high numbers of pelicans began
appearing in the province about two months ago, about the
same time most left the North Dakota refuge.
"There has been quite a large inundation of pelicans,
even in Winnipeg," Mooi said. "It's probably due
to the Chase Lake collapse, but it's not easy to determine
if they are Canadian American white pelicans, or if they are
American American white pelicans."
Pelicans have been spotted in Winnipeg in places never seen
before, including rainwater containment ponds, Mooi said.
Minnows put in the ponds to control mosquitos probably attracted
them, he said.
There were no extraordinary pelicans sightings in Manitoba
last year, Mooi and DeSmet said.
Torkelson said he learned of the unusual number of
pelicans across the border this week by reading a birdwatcher's
Web site. Wildlife officials from both countries had not been
"Our communication isn't that good," Torkelson said.
Samples of dozens of dead pelicans from the reserve and from
other parts of the Upper Midwest are being tested at the National
Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wis.
Kathryn Converse, wildlife disease specialist with the center,
said no diseases were found in the first batch of
dead chicks sent to the lab in early July, though they appeared
to have more lice than normal. Some of the chicks collected
and sent to the lab later in the month had been infected with
the West Nile virus, she said.:::snip:::
tide bloom also affecting shore birds
The Associated Press, Sunday, August 21, 2005
SAND KEY, Fla. An unusually fierce red tide bloom
killing undersea life in a large region of the Gulf of Mexico
is also having a terrible effect on some shore birds, experts
Sanderlings, the little birds often seen hopping along the
edge of the water, and double-crested cormorants, the dark
birds with a hooked bill that swim as they fish, are among
the species reported sick or dying in larger than usual
numbers along the Pinellas County coast, where the algae
bloom is strongest.
Birds are being found disoriented and convulsing, and are
turning up dead, from Venice to Tarpon Springs.
University of South Florida marine biologist Gabriel Vargo
and two graduate students are studying the effect of red
tide on birds and have found the toxin in the tissue of
nine different bird species.
Pelicans, great blue herons, sea gulls,
ibises, spoonbills and gannets are also affected.
"This red tide has lasted longer and been more virulent
than anything I've seen in the past," longtime bird
rescuer Pat Smith told the St. Petersburg Times. "Not
only are the turtles and fish being destroyed, the birds
Red tide has taken a toll on bird species before, with 400
cormorants affected in 1996, said Barbara Suto, a supervisor
at the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary and a wildlife biologist.
"What's different this year is that we've seen it cross
over into other species," Suto said. "It didn't
just stay offshore like it did in previous years. It came
right into the bay."
Little is known about how the toxin from red tide affects
birds. Bird experts say there likely are other reasons that
bird species have been endangered this summer.
Hurricanes and other bacteria in the water are likely also
at work, said Suto.
For example, Hurricane Dennis left more than 50 young pelicans
in need of care at the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary. They're
just about ready for release, Suto said.
Nile virus gives rise to increased animal awareness
August 11, 2005
While the West Nile virus rarely ever induces noticeable symptoms
in people, animals are more susceptible to the mosquito-borne
disease, as seen as lately in Churchill County.
Seven mosquito pools, three pelicans and one horse in the
county have tested positive for the virus since late July.
Three pelicans have all been reported carriers of the virus
in the past week. Nevada Department of Wildlife officials
recovered two sickly and disoriented pelicans at Carson Lake,
and one was found dead at the Canvasback Duck Club by Churchill
County Mosquito Abatement workers.
Rink said there are some warning signs exhibited in
birds when they have become poisoned or are stricken with
a virus like West Nile.
"It's not uncommon to see infected birds not be able
to take off for flight," Rink said. "Sometimes,
they can just fall right out of the sky, which is really sad.
They'll fall over when they walk. Basically, they look drunk
because of all the trauma they're experiencing."
Many birds like the two pelicans that were found at Carson
Lake are taken to local wildlife rehabilitators so they can
recover before they are sent back out to the wild.
While the temptation to care for a sick bird might be inviting,
pelicans fall under the Migratory Bird Act and need to be
cared for by licensed wildlife rehabilitators.
If someone sees a bird displaying symptoms, Rink said their
best option is to call their local animal control agency or
"If people see birds with symptoms, they should not make
the decision on what to with the birds," Rink said. "They
should call NDOW.
hanging out at Chase Lake
By RICHARD HINTBy RICHARD HINTON
Coordinates from transmitters fitted on eight adult American
white pelicans that dispersed from Chase Lake National Wildlife
Refuge showed several of the big white birds were hanging
out near the refuge, while other birds were transmitting
from nearby states.
Two of the Chase Lake pelicans are in South Dakota, one
is in Minnesota and another is in Iowa, Ken Torkelson, a
spokesman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said Monday.
And one transmitter-fitted white pelican from the Medicine
Lake colony in northeastern Montana has dropped in at Pipestem
Reservoir near Jamestown.
Samples from another 10 young pelicans were sent
off for testing to a Madison, Wis., laboratory last week,
"They are leaning toward West Nile because of the symptoms
and the timing," Torkelson said. Birds stricken with
the West Nile virus often stumble around and lose their
Researchers visited the nesting islands late last week.
The colony also saw its first juvenile pelican fledge, the
For two consecutive summer nesting seasons, the Chase Lake
colony has been hit with mysteries.
Earlier this year, a massive chick die-off prompted most
of the adult pelicans to leave their traditional nesting
sites, once believed to hold the largest pelican colony
in North America.
Testing to determine the cause of those deaths continues
in the Madison laboratory. From a potential chick population
of 9,000, the colony now is holding fewer than 300 young
200 pelicans back in wild after oil spill
Nearly 700 died
AP, 11:02 a.m. August 7, 2005
BRETON NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE, La. – After
weeks of treatment, nearly 200 young brown pelicans that survived
an oil spill are back in the wild. Fourteen others, too young
to release, are with a wildlife rehabilitator in Baton Rouge.
Nearly 700 others died, including hundreds treated by scientists
and veterinarians from throughout the country, working at
MASH-like veterinary hospitals set up in Venice near the mouth
of the Mississippi River.
"We had to build a tent city," said Greg Beuerman,
a spokesman for Amerada Hess Corp., which owns the well from
which the oil spilled. "It was a 24-hour-a-day medical
That treatment wrapped up about four weeks ago, but the survivors
on North Breton Island have been fed daily with dead menhaden
tossed into a small lagoon. That, too, is winding down.
"Initially we fed them twice a day. We are now down to
once a day," U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist
James Harris said recently.
The spill's cause isn't yet known, but it occurred about the
time Tropical Storm Arlene hit the Florida Panhandle on June
11, Beuerman said. The platform was less than three miles
from tiny West Breton Island in the Breton National Wildlife
Refuge, where pelicans nested.
The spill was discovered June 12, when workers who evacuated
for the storm returned to the platform. The rescue of the
birds began two days later.
A total of 802 birds, almost all young pelicans, were taken
from the island, Beuerman said. He said about 200 already
were dead, and another 100 dead birds weren't recovered.
Treatment started on 598 birds. (see June-July
pelican News) More than 350 died in spite of treatment,
and another 36 during the first four weeks after they were
The veterinarians came from the University of California-Davis
and from Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research, a Delaware wildlife
rehabilitation group. Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education
of Houston and the International Bird Rescue Research Center
in Cordelia, Calif., each brought a large corps of volunteers.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and several private companies
The pelicans were treated at a large building in Venice, a
mobile veterinary clinic on loan from Chevron Oil and another
mobile hospital, Beuerman said. Recovered birds were moved
to pens shaded by tents, where they could get used to being
Rescuers began moving the 243 survivors on June 27
to North Breton Island, next to West Breton Island, because
it is a bit higher and has more plants, making it better for
They did so before the birds could fly, so that they would
learn to identify it as home. Their food was thrown into the
water so the birds would fish for themselves, rather than
being fed by people.
Most have matured and left the island, joining wild birds,
but a few still come back daily to feed, Harris said.
All were banded to track their movements. Of 229 birds returned
to the refuge, 36 died during the first four weeks, Harris
Most were 5- to 6-week-old chicks when the spill hit. They
swallowed oil. Toxins soaked in through their skin. Their
soft, downy feathers were ruined, leaving them unprotected
from the sun on the treeless barrier island.
"Parent birds normally shade the young during the day,"
but many parents left after the spill, leaving the babies
without shade or food, Harris said.
Many of the chicks were bloated with displaced air under their
skin, UC-Davis veterinarian Greg Massey said.
"They have an extensive subcutaneous air sack system.
It's part of their respiratory tract. ... When you touch them,
it feels like touching bubble wrap," he said.
But something – even dissection of a dead pelican didn't
turn up the cause – moved air out of the sacks and under
the skin, he said.
The prognosis for the Breton Sound pelican colony
is good, Harris said.
"From what we can tell, the adults were not affected
to any great degree. They should be back next year."
Information from: The Times-Picayune, www.timespicayune.com
August 5, 2005
Oregon Coast: A Mongolian plover in breeding plumage was
seen at the mouth of the Necanicum River in Gearhart, and
later was seen flying between there and nearby Stanley Lake,
on the east side of Highway 101, where a pair of semipalmated
sandpipers and a ruddy turnstone are being seen. A female
ruff is at Bandon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge. The yellow-billed
loon reported on Yaquina Bay continues to be seen. Two calliope
hummingbirds were at Saddle Mountain State Park, east of
Seaside. Purple martin may be seen using nest boxes on snags
near the boat launch at Ten Mile Lake, south of Florence.
Pelicans arriving: Brown pelicans are migrating
into the north coastal area. Some popular areas to view
them include the Tillamook, Netarts and Nestucca bays and
the lower Columbia River estuary. The birds also can be
seen roosting on near-shore rocks, such as Three Arch Rocks
near Oceanside, when they're not feeding at sea.
(for more on Oregon wildlife.)
chief says pelican exodus is not alarming
CHASE LAKE NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE, N.D. -
A top federal wildlife official says the pelican mystery at
the Chase Lake National Wildlife Refuge may be a natural correction.
William Hartwig, the chief of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Refuge System, got a tour of the refuge near Medina on Wednesday,
with Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D.
Nearly 30,000 white pelicans abandoned the refuge
last year, leaving eggs and chicks behind. This year, refuge
officials estimated about 8,000 young white pelicans died
during the spring and early summer nesting period, and more
"I'm concerned but I'm not alarmed," Hartwig said.
Dorgan and Hartwig peered through spotting scopes at the remaining
pelicans and got briefings from Dave Bolin, a manager at the
refuge, and Marsha Sovada, a biologist at the U.S. Geological
Survey's Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center in Jamestown.
Sovada said Wednesday that about 280 chicks remain
at the 4,385-acre refuge, and the adult population has dropped
to about 600.
Hartwig said pelicans typically have "more bad years
than good years" in their natural reproductive process.
"You can't look at one or two years," Hartwig said.
"You have to look at the lifetime of the bird."
Bob Barrett, the deputy refuge superintendent for North Dakota
and South Dakota, said the overall continental population
of the pelicans has increased 280 percent in the past 20 years.
"The continental population is still healthy," Barrett
Dorgan said there may be some plausible reason for the pelican
exodus, but he wants to make sure the pelicans are not "sort
of a canary in a mine shaft, signaling a larger problem that
needs more attention."
The white pelican colony at the Chase Lake refuge has been
known as the largest in North America, peaking at 35,466 birds
in 2000. Officials have been studying disease and predator
problems, but they say they may never know exactly why thousands
of birds left.
The white pelican, one of the largest birds in North America,
has a wingspan of nearly 10 feet and lives about 25 years.
Officials say it breeds only once a year.
JAMES MacPHERSON, Associated Press, Posted on Wed, Aug. 03,
for RECENT 2006, pelican news
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to the rest of 2005.)
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