Ned Walthall, a photographer from New Jersey was “devastated” when he arrived at the Historic Park for his yearly photo session with the nesting Egrets and Herons, sharing his photography online.
Ned arrived in San Antonio, Texas this year only to find a six-foot tall fence with blackout cloth blocking off access to public amenities and displaying warning signs that read, “NO TRESPASSING.”
Between the gaps he could see hired contractors with two by four boards, banging them at migratory waterbirds making a return to their nesting habitat in Brackenridge Park.
Elmendorf Lake Park and Woodlawn Lake Park on the opposite side of the city were also subject to the assault by the USDA’s Wildlife Services hired by the City of San Antonio to “relocate” the birds from all city park’s property.
All without an obvious plan or research on the negative impact the action would have on the species listed as needing conservation or the other resident non-target species.
The loss of birds affected many of us as well. Local photographers, bird watchers and nature lovers asked what happened to the birds.
We had conversations on the need for the city “bird haters”, to learn about the importance of empathy to better understand and treat wildlife in our city parks.
“Increased empathy has the potential to lead to an increased likelihood that people with take compassion or caring action.” According to a Woodland Park Zoo blog.
The need for our city park’s employees to learn how an ecosystem works and how to co-exist with wildlife in our quickly declining green spaces.
The waterbirds travel from as far away as the Gulf of Mexico coastline, Mexico, Central and South America-making the yearly journey to breed throughout North America. Migrating south after their chicks are strong enough to make the long journey, they face the perils of climate change and disturbance by humans along the route.
Dwayne Flores, a local photographer with countless traveling miles logged driving in search of birds to photograph, called one recent afternoon to discuss the heat index in our heat island reaching over 115 degrees Fahrenheit and expressed his concern on the lack of birds in our city parks.
We noted our favorite missing Barred Owls that nested in Brackenridge Park. The Owls nested in the cavity of a tree at the back of the park for the last few years.
It comes as no surprise this year, though, that after months of the USDA’s Wildlife Services employees chasing Yellow-Crowned Night Herons near the Owls nesting tree, the daily noise of shots fired at the tree canopy out of a blank 22 handgun, had scared the owls and other resident birds away.
Resident, Red-Shouldered Hawks that had nested in the park for the last few years were scared away. The Hawks would feed on the chicks and other species in the park. A pair of Threatened Zone Tailed Hawks observed early in the year, also banished to parts unknown, along with the waterbirds.
With severe drought conditions throughout our state and water sources dried up in other countries the birds call home, we may see loss of waterbirds during migration if the birds arrive at a dried-up water source. With the future of the birds already negatively impacted by the destruction of habitat by the city, destruction of habitat by developers, or natural causes, the future for our birds should be a concern.
According to a report on Science.org, the Decline of the North American Avifauna, “this loss of bird abundance signals an urgent need to address threats to avert future avifaunal collapse and associated loss of ecosystem integrity, function, and services.
We should be worried about the disappearance of our avian friends, like a canary in the coal mine, we just might not realize how important birds are to our environment as pollution indicators, until it is too late for all of us!
What you can do
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Fighting for Wildlife supports approved wildlife conservation organizations, which spend at least 80 percent of the money they raise on actual fieldwork, rather than administration and fundraising. When making a donation you can designate for which type of initiative it should be used – wildlife, oceans, forests or climate.