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Where have all the birds gone?
by Tim Delaney
Feb 01, 2014 | 92 views | 0 0 comments | 25 25 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tim Delaney photo
The sloughs south of Bayside are practically void of water. Shorebirds and ducks have left because food is not available as usual in the wetlands there. The Copano Bay Bridge over the Aransas River delta is in the background in this photo, taken Monday, Jan. 27.
Tim Delaney photo The sloughs south of Bayside are practically void of water. Shorebirds and ducks have left because food is not available as usual in the wetlands there. The Copano Bay Bridge over the Aransas River delta is in the background in this photo, taken Monday, Jan. 27.
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BAYSIDE – What Bayside residents call the sloughs, an area where little fish and blue crabs thrive in waterlets, are practically dry and bird-less.

Usually, thousands of shorebirds and ducks can be seen in the sloughs or wetlands just south of Bayside off Farm-to-Market Road 136.

But even duck hunters who usually can be found in their blinds in the sloughs are gone.

“It’s been very slow since the first day of the season,” said Captain Henry Balderamas of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in Rockport.

Balderamas said one can usually see red heads, pintails, widgeons and teal in the sloughs.

“The hunters tell us there’s nothing,” Balderamas said.

On the other hand, Balderamas said the Texas Panhandle is doing well.

“It’s a better duck season up there,” he said.

Region 4 Wildlife Director Brent Ortego, Parks and Wildlife Department, said he does a survey in the sloughs every year – the latest one Dec. 28-29.

“There weren’t a lot of shorebirds,” he said.

He said normally, he walks with knee boots on the north side of the bridge all the way to the back (of the sloughs).

“It was dry enough for me to do it,” he said.

Ortego, a wildlife diversity biologist, said many reasons are possible for the ducks and shorebirds to be absent from the sloughs, including high level of salinity, absences of fresh water for food to grow, water depth.

But it would be hard to tell until the results of the survey are in.

Ortego said once the data is input, he can compare bird population for the sloughs during the past 10 years. That comparison would point out a problem or it would show a normal seasonal shift in bird population.

Ortego explained that the Christmas Bird Count is a survey conducted within a 15-mile diameter circle conducted between Dec. 14 and Jan. 5 each year.

“The Bayside area add diversity to Rockport since it contains more xeric settings, and the flats bordering the river are some of the few publicly accessible areas in this survey zone with that habitat,” Ortego said.

In the meantime, hunters and birdwatchers have noticed the absence of the birds there.

“It’s probably the slowest I’ve ever seen it,” Balderamas said.
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