Some beach goers may be "indirectly" responsible for the deaths of hundreds of protected birds. The birds died on a small patch of land just off the coast of Dauphin Island. It sounds like the people who were apparently having a good time on the small island, scared off some birds, which in turn, left hundreds of eggs and chicks exposed to the elements. Birmingham Audubon Seasonal Steward Andrew Haffenden explains the scene a few weeks ago.
"We saw this big volleyball net, we saw a couple of shade tent canopies sitting around and we knew that the people had really been in the area," said Haffenden.
It appears that whomever left the stuff had a pretty good time, but the good times had lasting effects. That area of Sand island has a colony that includes nearly 600 bird nests. According to Birmingham Audubon, hundreds of least tern birds were likely killed because of the party. Audubon members say the beach goers scared away the least tern parents leaving hundreds of eggs and chicks exposed to the sun and predators.
"These birds are not warming the eggs, they are shading them from the sun because the sun gets intensely hot and within 2 or 3 hours of exposing either an egg or a chick to the sun without shade it will die," Haffenden explained.
Wildlife experts want people to steer clear of islands where birds nest. Dauphin Island leaders are working with them to ensure that happens. Mayor Jeff Collier released a statement which says,
"The town has partnered with the Audubon society on a number of fronts as the island is a designated bird sanctuary. and contributes to our overall economic stability," the mayor wrote.
Those islands are important to birds. They keep them away from predators on beaches. In fact while we were out, one came strolling through.
"Fox. That's one of the predators. He's going out to check the beach, if we still have least terns there or little snowy (something) he's wiped out. A whole colony of 15 or 16 birds in a night.," added Haffenden.
He said the eggs and chicks are helpless so to the public, let's not add to their fight.
"You've got 16 miles of beach along here plus the inside in here to put up volleyball nets to play. Just leave that little bit alone for a couple of months," he added.
Officials tell us U.S. Wildlife and Fisheries has launched an investigation into this incident.