Weekly musings on the arts and current events.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Hatchling Season

While driving a busy thoroughfare last week, I saw an oncoming delivery truck straddle both lanes and stop, purposely blocking all traffic behind it. The driver jumped out and herded a mother mallard, with her half dozen or so ducklings, across the street to safety. Horns beeped in tribute to the deliveryman's husbandry.

This is the hatchling season. We are reminded of that by pictures of threatened rookeries on gulf islands. Brown Pelicans are Louisiana's state birds. DDT almost made them extinct, but they have recovered and were taken off the endangered species list just last November. Now they are imperiled again as oil mires their plumage and washes onto their eggs.

Each hatchling is fed about 150 pounds of fish, shellfish, and amphibians, before it can fend for itself. When birds dive, their eyes are protected only by a nictiating membrane so that they may see their prey. Many have gone blind after diving into polluted or infected waters.

Pelicans can live in the wild up to 30 years. Whether their environment has been ruined, and whether that ruin is permanent, might remain an open question for decades.

Brown Pelican, watercolor by John James Audubon. Click on the picture for a closer look.


Janie B said...

This is such a catastrophe. I hope the pelicans can retreat to a safer place.

Paula Slade said...

I shudder thinking about the loss of all that beautiful wildlife.

DUTA said...

The whole scene - truck blocking all traffic to allow the driver to herd a mother mallard and her ducklings across the street - is very touching; it brings a tear in the corner of the eye.

I've learnt two things (not entirely new ones) from the oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico:

1. Humans are limited creatures; they could not foresee the problem and they could not solve it immediately.

2. Politicians, in a way, are...criminals who hand over the natural assets of their country to greedy corporations.

According to various sources, BP is one of the largest donors to the political campaigns of BOTH parties: Democrat and Republican. That will explain a lot, as "there are no free meals" in life.