Vast congregations of all three scoter species and common eiders followed by lesser numbers of many other sea ducks make the waters surrounding the Island a birder’s paradise. The flocks of ducks are so big that counting them is very problematic. Estimates of some flocks off of Wasque on Chappaquiddick have exceeded 100,000 birds.
In reality, this count is surely missing to the downside. As the birds gather in dense rafts over favored feeding areas, it appears as if the sea and sky are a seething mass of bird life. This can cover large sections of ocean and no matter how they are surveyed, numbers are all guesstimates with a substantial margin for error.
Getting accurate, reliable counts is difficult at best, whether attempting to census from boat or aircraft. What is known is that the largest concentrations of these birds in the western North Atlantic occur here. It is a critical and important area for the survival of many species with unheard of concentrations of sea ducks congregating to avail themselves of abundant food and clean waters undisturbed by man’s activities.
Unfortunately, finding out what and how many birds are out there matters. The proposed construction on an industrial park over some 26 square miles of Nantucket Sound continues to march along. To say that this will impact area bird life is a whopping understatement. The effects will clearly not improve this area for birds.
The unknown is how it will impact the birds. Despite the various “studies” of hypothetically building this and predicting the outcomes, the studies are literally not worth the paper they are written on. No one knows what real, imagined or unimagined problems will actually occur. The only way to know would be to build one, two, or three of these massive towers and watch and monitor what actually happens. What has been signed off on from the many agencies is no help for the vast numbers of birds using this area.
Will these turbines literally “kill” the birds by actual collisions? Or will it displace migrants and over-wintering flocks from feeding and roosting areas? The questions and risks are endless. Finding out what happens by building this massive and experimental project is clearly not worth the risk, in this birder’s eye.
Lastly, if you see what you think is an osprey on a pole get a pair of binoculars and make sure. Turkey vultures, red-tailed hawks, both great black-backed and herring gulls and many other birds like to sit on the poles at this season. If it is an osprey, by all means call it in as soon as you can.
By E. Vernon Laux
6 March 2008
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