June 18th, 2010

woods, Elizabeth, camera, April

Fall Migration before Summer Solstice

Bailey, the remaining radio-carrying Long-billed Curlew, made it to the Gulf coast down in far South Texas yesterday, only a few miles from Mexico and her last-year's wintering area.  This is earlier than usual, yes.   This is a fascinating project and well worth reading more at the BirdsNebraska site.

In addition, a TEXBIRDS member posted to the listserv about sighting four other Long-billed Curlews in the Corpus Christi area yesterday.   So Bailey's likely not the only early migrant. 

An early migration this year--if it extends to other species--is especially problematic, as more birds along the Gulf Coast means more birds exposed to the oil now reaching the coast from the BP blowout.    It would have affected them anyway, but longer exposure will only make the situation worse. 

The Canada/Texas flock of Whooping Cranes suffered a large die-off in the winter of 2008-2009, and dieoffs (though not as big) in the 2009-2010 winter, due to the severe drought in South Texas that (along with human misuse) depleted river flow and increased salinity in the coastal marshes...and thus depleted the food supply of the most nutritious foods for cranes (sandhills and whoopers both.)    Another bad year would be a serious blow to any of the flocks (the ones trained to follow ultralight aircraft, and now wintering in NW Florida,  will almost certainly be affected by the oil--the Texas flock may or may not be, depending on the duration of the pollution and prevailing winds.   A Canadian vet working with a captive breeding program has also commented on the potential damage of this oil spill for whoopers.