Birder's Eye View

Monday, June 21, 2010

Fishing trip... and wildlife rescue?

So today I went with my family and grandfather on a fishing day trip on the Gulf. We had high expectations of catching some "big stuff" but alas our hopes went unfulfilled. Nonetheless, we managed to have a fantastic time, as we always do, and I, of course, had a great time birding in between fruitless efforts to catch fish.


The morning dawned warm and breezy when we arrived at the pier at 6am. The sun was casting the sky in a pastel wash of colors, and only one other fisherman and a host of herons and egrets were present for the first hour or so.






As the sky grew brighter, the bird species became more plentiful. Joining the wading birds and Least Terns were Double-crested Cormorants, Brown Pelicans, Boat-tailed Grackles, Laughing Gulls, and even a Magnificent Frigatebird at one point.





Around mid-morning, things started to get interesting. First, my sister found a pelican that had become caught in some fishing line wrapped around one of the pilings of the pier. After some unsuccessful efforts to free the bird by snagging the line with another hook, the pier attendant called the local bird sanctuary to come rescue it. Thankfully, before they arrived the pelican managed to free itself, completely unharmed.


But that wasn't the end of our wildlife adventures for the day.

Several people started noticing this sea turtle floating around in the water some distance away from the pier. It didn't seem to concern anyone, and after checking it out with my binoculars, it was clear the sea turtle was dead. It also didn't float away the entire time we were there, so we concluded it was caught on something underwater.

There wasn't anything anyone could do about it, but around late-morning a man from FL Fish and Wildlife showed up and was talking with a woman who had also seen it. I loaned them my binoculars so they could see it better, and they also concluded it was dead and phoned some more biologists to come with a kayak to pull it out.

Meanwhile, however, they called over a couple of guys who were snorkeling nearby and asked if they could help. After a few tense minutes, they were able to untie the line and swim the sea turtle up to the pier where some fishermen hauled it out with a net.

It turned out to be a Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle, the smallest and rarest species in the Gulf of Mexico. They concluded its fin had been caught in fishing line and it snagged and drowned. It was very sad, but also special to get to see such a beautiful species at all. Fish and Wildlife took it back for autopsies.

It was certainly an exciting day,  but unfortunately also a reminder of the consequences of irresponsibility -- a price that was paid by the Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle we found.

I certainly don't mean to end on a sad note. It was overall a great day out on the water with a few good catches and lots of cool birds.

Until next time,

Happy birding!

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3 Comments:

  • Fishing line is tragic stuff =( Every time I bird the coast, I bring back gobs of the stuff that I pick up along the beach. Your sea turtle story/photos are incredibly distressing, given what's happening to the turtles near the oil spill - every individual counts... and the last few decades of conservation have been set back with one man-made disaster. /rambling

    By Blogger heidi, At June 22, 2010 at 9:26 AM  

  • I completely agree. All of this is very frustrating, especially like you said in lieu of the oil spill. I've been doing some work to try and help with that (mainly letter-writing at this point) but I wish there was more we could do sometimes.

    By Blogger Andrea, At June 22, 2010 at 2:02 PM  

  • Aye, it has been agonizing for my rehab group - http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/business/deepwaterhorizon/7062324.html - so even though I'm certified to clean oiled wildlife, there's lag in the system to an agonizing degree. Keep up the letter-writing though, and do your best to remind everyone that people go to FL for ecotourism more than anything else! Empty wallets speak loudly.

    By Blogger heidi, At June 22, 2010 at 6:00 PM  

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