Feathers, Wings and Oil

Near twilight on the Gulf of Mexico, oros.store the blue black sky was a foil for the candy cotton clouds made pink by the setting sun now below the horizon. On our left, the moon rose over the water and the bright evening star was brilliant on our right.

A late flock of pelicans soared across the pink clouds flapping and gliding, a testament to the power of their Creator. Tiny stars popped out all over the beach, small beaches in the veil of heaven itself. We thought this was heaven.

My wife Susan and I waited on Dauphin Island, just off the coast of Mobile, Alabama, for the spring arrivals of color that were due from Central and South America. Watching birds that I once had ignored had became a window into the beauty and mystery of nature and divinity and a consuming diversion from the mind numbing effects of television and secular addictions. To see the innocence, joy and anticipation in Susan’s eyes was the icing on the cake and the cherry on top. skywings

Soon, thousands of orange and black, red and blue, green and yellow and snow white migrants turned the small island into one giant aviary of hummingbirds, tanagers, orioles, thrushes and flycatchers.

These beautiful world travelers dropped among us exhausted from their long journey across the Gulf. They were ravenous from their long journey, 500 miles or more with no rest or sustenance. So, oblivious to our presence, they began to feed on insects, nectar, water, shellfish and the full bounty of nature’s buffet. We logged ninety species in less than two days.

Dauphin Island was and is a vital way station for song birds reaching U.S. shores. Now, despite recent news that seems hopeful, it is permanently altered and wounded by the excesses of man. Just because the dispersants that are toxic themselves have diluted the ugliness of the oil doesn’t mean that the deadly threat it poses to wildlife is gone. This remains an ecological disaster of unchallenged scale. affluentwords

During the worst we have seen thus far, dead and dying birds and mammals were seen floating in the water and fleeing into the interior in a desperate attempt to escape all that poisons their world. Some were rescued and more sunk to the bottom of the sea. The pictures of the once endangered Brown Pelicans, these gentle giants, covered in crude were heartbreaking. The herons and egrets – Great Blues, Tri-colored, Night Herons, Snowy Egrets and Bitterns who fish in and around the shores are in jeopardy also. The majestic raptors such as the Osprey make their homes here as well and are in harm’s way.

What will happen to the song birds now inland all over America when they migrate south this fall? What of the estuaries, the flowers, the insects, the fresh water, and the crustaceans ns they will seek to gorge on and fatten up before they launch across the water? What of the vital plankton in the sea and reported dead zones? Will humans be there to greet the birds this fall and next spring, or will they too abandon their habitat due to illness or an inability to live now that tourism and fishing industries have been devastated? Reports of slow pay or no pay by BP to injured businesses abound. Blogline

Some say that oil still leaks from the sea bed and that oil and methane in deep plumes may be swept up in storms to threaten the mainland. Studies show that the water temperature is rising which can fuel even more powerful hurricanes than the beleaguered Gulf has experienced in its tragic past.

All sides and profiteers now rush out to trumpet their views and use this tragedy for rank politics and long held agendas. Much finger pointing and more buck passing. Some say no more oil. Some say all we can do is pass carbon taxes. Some say we need more government.

The dispersant used to break up the oil is said by some to be more toxic than the oil. Why it was allowed to be used remains an open question. Why the oil wasn’t allowed to remain on the surface so it could be skimmed by the giant ships which were delayed access to the area is a mystery. The very secrecy and illogical actions surrounding this disaster lead observers to think the worst and suspect the worst of those in charge.

Lost in this all are the birds who ask nothing of us but the permission to sing their songs and fulfill their role in nature. They are a leading environmental indicator for us all, our canaries in the mine to see if something is in the environment which might kill us one day. By next spring at the latest, we will begin to get an indication of damage as bird watchers like my wife and I once were begin to count numbers of species returning. Then, by Christmas of 2011 when the annual Audubon Christmas count is made, we will see how the broods of the returning birds fare. Will the count be down? Will eggs be too fragile to hatch? Will there be as many adult birds to mate?


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