July 22, 2010 A Cornell Lab of Ornithology team working in the Gulf has documented what may be the worst oil spill devastation of a major bird colony so far.
The documentary and research team, led by biologist and multimedia producer Marc Dantzker, first visited Raccoon Island on Louisiana's Gulf Coast on June 18, 2010, and found one of the largest waterbird colonies in the state to be oil free and in excellent health.
The team returned July 11 and 12 after hearing reports from local biologists of significant oil landfall with impact to birds. The team found oil present on rocks and all along the beaches. Almost all of the juvenile brown pelicans they saw had at least some oil on them, and they estimated that roughly 10 percent were "badly oiled." Roughly forty percent of juvenile terns also had visible oil on them.
Dantzker said he suspects high seas driven by Hurricane Alex and a full moon may have contributed to the disaster.
"The island has a single line of inshore boom on the bay side, and in some places this boom showed signs that oil splashed over the top and there was oil on shore behind these booms," Dantzker said. "What Gulf-side boom there previously was has been destroyed and is washed up in piles, or deep into the island."
Dantzker said the oil impact on the island's massive bird colonies is by far the worst he has seen in the Gulf to date.
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