I joined Audubon Texas’s Coastal Conservation program manager, Victoria Vazquez, and coastal warden, Dennis Jones, to visit some of the rookery islands off the coast of Galveston and assess the damage. They wanted to take a look at things like how much land had been lost and how much plant cover was missing due to being uprooted or washed away. Changes like these could affect the number of species that will be able to nest on the habitat in the future.Audubon Texas and partner organizations like Houston Audubon collectively own or lease more than 170 coastal islands, some of which appear and disappear as currents shift and waves wash over them. These islands, even when they’re no more than sandbars, are supremely important for many colonial water birds — birds that gather in groups — as they nest and breed during the spring and summer months. Visit at the right time and you’ll find American Oystercatchers, Brown Pelicans, Least Terns, and more. (But be careful — birds are especially vulnerable during nesting season and no visitors are allowed on the islands from February through August.) Brown Pelicans in particular were at risk of extinction in the 1970s, and although they’ve made a comeback since then, their nesting areas (and those of many other species) are now in trouble due to rising sea levels and stronger storms caused by climate change. So it was a positive that most of the chicks had fledged by the time Harvey hit.
September 14, 2017 at 3:35 PM EDT