Gulf of Mexico Overflight 2011 March 18 Friday
On Wings Of Care has returned to the Gulf by air! Today we flew the barrier islands south of Mississippi (Cat, Ship, Horn, Petit Bois), the Chandeleurs, and then covered the coasts of Louisiana from South Pass to southern Barataria Bay, Grand Isle and westward to the western end of the Isles Dernieres (Caillou Bay). This weekend we'll examine Barataria Bay and southward more carefully, and next week we'll cover the waters east of the Mississippi. People are still awed by how much information we can gather in a short time from the air -- thanks to flying low and slow with windows wide open, combined expertise from pilot and photographer, and our plane's ability to switch into fast mode when needed to get to the next significant areas.
Lots of wildlife to report. But we saw something very disturbing south of Grand Isle and Grand Terre Island. We couldn't believe what we were seeing -- it looked like a scene from last June or July! Something is still very wrong here. But let's tell you about what was good first.
NOTE: Unless noted, no photos or video provided by On Wings Of Care are "photoshopped" or otherwise altered in any way that could degrade accurate interpretation of what we observed.
We saw dolphins aplenty in the shallow waters south of all of the islands and coast lines, over 300 bottlenose in under 5 hours of flying yesterday. But almost all were adults, the lack of juveniles was quite puzzling. Numerous sharks and cobia and cownose rays, and several large balls of fish (pogey?). Saw just one leatherback turtle in these shallow waters. Thanks to our Gulf friend and photographer extraordinaire Jerry Moran (www.nativeorleanian.com), we were able to see these lovely animals as if we were flying even closer than we were.
There was a marked decline in vegetation on the Chandeleur Islands, the islands south of Barataria, and the Isles Dernieres, compared to what we saw last year between May and September. Some of the islands appeared barren. The dredging work on the Chandeleurs is no longer limited to the north island but extends southward along most of the chain. Plenty of cormerants and pelicans on the southern Chandeleurs, and this is also where we saw the only juvenile bottlenose dolphin of the day -- frolicking with one adult, away from a nearby pod of about 10 dolphins.
The rookeries of southern Barataria Bay -- Mangrove and Queen Bess islands -- are filled with pelicans, egrets, and roseate spoonbills. But the beaches from Grand Isle to the Isles Dernieres are almost devoid of birds and are filled instead with cleanup workers and equipment and fences; and the vegetation looks dark brown, not green as it did last spring. It wasn't until we reached Raccoon Point -- the westernmost of the Isles Dernieres -- that we saw a significant dense population of birds. There, every possible shrub seemed to be occupied by pelicans or egrets. Workers and evidence of work done abounds on the island just east of this lsat one -- much sand on the north shore and a new breakwater, neither of which was there a year ago. Wherever workers and equipment and evidence of work appeared, we found few birds and fewer nests. All of these areas labeled "wildlife refuges" on charts, appear to be refuges no longer.
It was troubling to see the birds so cramped into just a few nesting islands now, compared to all of the habitat they used to have here. But far more troubling was what we saw looming just off shore of Grand Terre Island, at the south end of Barataria Bay. We saw deep red sub-surface plumes and streamers -- exactly what we had been seeing here and elsewhere in the Gulf last summer! We could hardly believe out eyes? Red algae maybe? No, how could that be? The water isn't warm enough. And then we saw the sheen, that unmistakable signature of oil on water.
We would investigate this more carefully tomorrow, for time was moving along (and fuel from our airplane's tanks was dwindling), so stay tuned for more explanation of this tomorrow. But here is what we saw, just off the beaches of Grand Isle and Grand Terre Island. And yes, the green turtle and the dolphins are swimming in the thick of it.
It was good to see the Gulf again as a bird, but it was also a grim reminder that last summer was not just a bad dream.
Here are my notes made during today's flight.
Departed and returned to KNEW, Lakefront airport, New Orleans, LA
20110318 Friday, departed 0945 CDT, returned 1435 CDT (4hr-50min flight)
Pilot: Bonny Schumaker
Spotter: Ross Dodds
Photographer: Jerry Moran
Route of flight: KNEW - Cat Islands - Ship Island - Horn Island - Petit Bois - Chandeleurs (N to S) - Breton Island - Mangrove & Queen Bess Islands - Grand Terre Island - Grand Isle - Elmers Island - Timbalier Island - Isles Dernieres - KNEW.
Here are the reports I (Bonny) sent by email from my blackberry during and following the flight.
1. Sent from Bonny at 0919 PDT, 1119 CDT (1619Z)
Subject: Just under 100 dolphins, no juveniles, within 200m of south shores of ship, horn, and petit bois
Text: Floating, swimming slowly. Many cow rays, tiger (?) and sand sharks, cobia?
1 leatherback turtle S of Horn Island, close in.
South side of horn had several large fish balls (pogey? red fish?) Now headed to chandeleurs. Jerry got some good photos, average from 250' agl.
Lovin' this again!!!
2. Sent from Bonny at 1006 PDT, 1206 CDT (1706Z)
Subject: Chandeleurs flyover 20110318 Friday
Text: N island chandeleurs:
2 nm N of it, 8 bottlenose,
1 nm N - bits of sargassum
Whoa, obscene amount of dredging! More than just the north island! Pipes, vehicles, the entire length of the islands save the very south end and a small piece of sand that once was curlew island. Almost no vegetation left on these islands at all. What a change from last May! The aviation chart says this is all wildlife refuge! NOT anymore, apparently? Lots of dolphins east side, this time some juveniles as well. Sand sharks (?) everywhere. Large flocks of cormorants, and smaller groups of white pelicans. Large gas field 29.61813 N, 089.04807 W. Dozens of platforms, about 15 nm NE of baptiste colette channel. This is what's left of Breton Island?
3. Sent from Bonny at 1151 PDT, 1351 CDT (1851Z)
Subject: West Bay to Grand Isle to Isles Dernieres
White pelicans and cormorants.Beaches have been cleaned and groomed.
So much dead dark marsh! I see many waypoints on my gps here from last summer, marking places of heavy oil off shore here. (Bls: 2060, 0015)
Mangrove and queen Bess islands are covered with birds but little vegetation compared to last summer - white and brown pelicans, roseate spoonbills, egrets. Four bayou pass, e of grand terre island- workers and equipment, cleaning? Spot 2057-29025058N, 089.92100W: Huge streamers of dark red going right to shore! Algae? Crude very weathered? Must sample this from a boat!
Some S of grand Isle too.
Elmers island: not AS dead here, some green vegetation. Beaches pretty clean. Workers here but not the big effort that used to be here. Water is very brown. About ten dolphins south of elmers, a few rays. Port fourchon beaches being cleaned. The red (algae?) gone by port fourchon.
That the red was near dense waypoints of oil marked last summer could be a common cause of tides or ? OR are they causally related to each other? General: where is all the marine life? No fish even. Timbalier island: 12 dolphins, no juveniles. Small school of rays. Sand dune fence along the easter half of the island's south shore. West side of Timbalier island - water much much clearer. 25 dolphins, two close pods, no juveniles obvious. E end of Isles Dernieres: Clearer water. But where all the birds?? No traffic even at 200' agl. Three groups of dolphins, about 30 to50. Next isle- workers! The N end of ths island is barren sand now! Did they build that ? There's a breaker there now? No birds. Last may and june there were birds all over here. Neat rows of planted shrubs along south shores. Dense ball of fish- red fish? Raccoon island (w end of Isles Dernieres): Ok now I see brown pelicans fishing. More fish balls. BIRDS everywhere! At last! Nests every square foot on the island. Three pods of dolphin, 7-10 each. Lots of fish balls, a few rays. We left soon and stayed high (over 500' agl) so as not to stress them. One person walking at west end, another in a boat. Usfws or ldwf? Tripod in hand. Headed straight back to KNEW.
"The Story of Pellie Lou - a Pelican who survived the Gulf of Mexico oil spill"
by Bonny L. Schumaker, Ph.D.
With 46 photos from the Gulf of Mexico.
ALL proceeds go to benefit Gulf wildlife!
Order your autographed hard copies or an electronic copy here!
Read about our rescues under Rescue Tails!
Here are some samples:
A Dog Named Pepper Doesn't Give up Easily on Life!
20130428 - This 15-yr-old deaf, blind, arthritic senior held out in a hot, dry, desert parking lot until love finally found him!
CHAZ - No Ordinary Extraordinary Cur!
20130422 - Left to die but instead, this super-intelligent deep-hearted dog discovered love, family, and even fun -- from the most unlikely mentors!
Turbulent Trails for Tails from TX-20130413
Six rescue dogs from east Texas find forever homes in Nevada and California!
Who was rescued, and who was the rescuer? Anyone who has known this kind of bond has felt something so deep, so real, so ancient, that it cannot be described with words. These bonds ground us and free us from pettiness in our lives. Thank you Sheba. Rest in peace.
A Letter From Your Admirers! 20121231
This was a last-minute challenge that seemed beyond even our own grandest heroic imaginings. But it turned out not to be beyond the devoted hearts and energies of about 30 rescuers, shelter staff, volunteers, and families working together. Forty-three (yes, 43!) dogs in one day, from dead-ends in a Porterville shelter to homes and real lives with real humans who love and want them. Rescuers ROCK!
Orphaned very young, left alone and hungry til her fur fell out and her skin was covered with mange. Thanks to some big-hearted Texas rescuers, not only did she recover, she found the family who wanted to love her forever. How glad we were to be able to give this little pup with the big paws the ride to the rest of her life!
20121205-Blackie Goes Home at Last, and Taylor Turns Texan!
Four long months since Blackie's lifelong human companion and partner Tammy suffered a serious injury from a passing truck and disappeared from his life. Suddenly Blackie was in a shelter kennel, and Tammy fought for her life as she dreamed of her beloved dog. Thanks to many people, both of these souls survived to find each other again! This was a rescue and a reunion we'll never forget.
The same rains that made us work "On WHEELS Of Care" this week kept us grounded for this trip, which serendipitously combined the transport of Skip northward and the joyful and miraculous reunion of Miss T'Chen, who had been rescued and taken to Illinois after Hurricane Isaac, with her family in Baton Rouge!
This flight went almost as planned, and our plane was filled to over-flowing on every leg. And we met some wonderful new cat and dog rescues in Idaho and Oregon!
20 Lucky rescued dogs flown to homes in Canada!
2012 Sep 22
It turned out to a journey full of unexpected challenges, but these 20 lucky lovable canines who had been through the worst of times in California were just the best through it all, and now they are warming the hearts and laps and lives of some very lucky Canadian families!
Spindletop Scandal and the Search for Scarlett
2012 July 17 - present
With pitbull-like tenacity, we wouldn't take "NO" for an answer. Out of 21 dogs we sought, we have closure on all but two. Alas, one of those two is our Scarlett.
Tale of seven cities, six cats, and five goats!
2012 July 16
Who knows if the pleas for help brought the plane, or vice-versa.
But when serendipity puts this much together, there's no saying no!
Homeless Mom and Pups no More!
2012 July 08
Sometimes rescuers find the IDEAL person to adopt that animal in need ...
themselves! And in the process, a hole gets filled for the entire family.
This lucky mom now lives with Bear, Sheba, and Dave!
From Empty Nest to Love Fest!
2012 May 11
That last urgent plea came for the five orphaned pups ...
but what about the two large senior boys who would probably never get adopted?
Some people are just angels, meant to be who they are and where they are.
Check out these two and their new happy pack!
JEREMIAH has come home to us!
UPDATE 2012 July 7!
2012 January 13
His adopter called to say she had become ill, and could we care for Jeremiah? You bet we could. We rented a plane and flew to Arizona and retrieved him immediately. Jeremiah was indeed a true friend, and we aim to be his true friends, too. He has been eating like crazy and slept his stress away for the first few days, and now he's acting like a young dog again. Read more here!
CHAMP found at the airport!
2012 January 01
A sad, scared but dignified young Champ quickly won the hearts of everyone who met him at the New Orleans airport, and within two days we had permission from his original breeders to give him to a young couple with a younger female boxer mix, all of whom fell totally in love with him at first sight! Champ and Miss Princess are leading the good life now, and Champ's new dad finally has the fishing buddy he wanted! They tell us we made their dreams come true. We think they made Champ's come true, too.
Abby & Dinozo -- Two of a Kind!
2011 September--2012 January
Orphaned brother and sister, rescued and adored until calamity struck and they lost their family. Orphaned again, these gentle gems and perfect canine citizens found love and adventure with us until we found them their true forever home! Abby & Dinozo came with us to Washington January 7, and they were welcomed warmly and immediately into a home. Read more here!
Yo! Get a Load of Yolo!
2011 November--2012 January
Left in the cold, high in the mountains of southern California, life was over before it had barely begun for this orphan teenager.
Little did he know, his adventures had only begun! As of January 7, it's back to snow but this time with a family who adores him, and lots of fun and play in the Pacific Northwest!
Saving Scarlett -- Love Forever at Last!
Found on the streets, teats full but puppies absent, a battle-torn very hungry pitbull.
Hardly that sought-after doggie in the window.
But after we brought Miss Scarlett home to love and food, warmth and stuffed animals,
we discovered a warm heart and sweet spirit that changed us forever.
2011 July--September 29, A Joyful Reunion At Last!
Here they are during their flight with four other dogs Sep 29 (New Orleans to Oakland, CA, fuel stop in Roswell, NM).
And here's a photo from the happiest reunion ever!
More photos and updated videos here!
Sheba-Cosette - this lovely lady waited a lifetime!
Jeremiah - a true friend finds a new lease on life!
Two Giant Dogs & three cats reunited with their family on Whidbey Island, WA
Chihuahuas "Betty" & "JellyBean" fly to their rescue in Bremerton, WA!
New Year's Rescue: 33 dogs & cats are flown to rescue in the Pacific Northwest!
Hounds fending for themselves for years in Alabama fly to rescue in Arizona!
Romo & Stanley are flown to safe havens in Arizona!
Aerial Monitoring of the Gulf of Mexico - 2013
2013 Apr 12 - Mayflower, AR Pipeline Spill
2013 Apr 02 - Bayou Corne #6
2013 Mar 23 - IMMS Marine Mammals
2013 Mar 19 - Bayou Corne Sinkhole-#5
2013 Feb 15 - Bayou Corne Sinkhole-#4
2013 Jan 26 - Bayou Corne Sinkhole-#3
2012 Dec 24 - Bayou Corne Sinkhole-#2
2012 Nov 08 - Tar Sands and Texas
2012 Aug 30 - Hurricane Isaac Conquered
2012 Aug 28 - Hurricane Isaac Arrives!
2012 Aug 13 - Sinkhole in Bayou Corne, LA
2012 Jun 13-Dispersant Spraying Exercise off LA
2012 April - Chronicles of the Endeavor
2012 Dec 10 - How Dilute is Dilute Enough?
Aerial Monitoring of the Gulf of Mexico - 2012
Sat Nov 17 - Platform Explosion
Wed Nov 14 - Barrier Islands 1
Sat Nov 10 - OIL
Fri Nov 09 - OIL
Sat Oct 06 - Whale Sharks
Fri Oct 05 - OIL
Fri Sep 14 - OIL
Sun Sep 09 - Hurricane Isaac
Sun Aug 12 - Whale Sharks
Wed Jul 11 - Whales & More
Fri Jun 29 - Whale Sharks & More
Dominica - The Nature Island!
On Wings Of Care flies to the Eastern Caribbean for whales and sea turtles!
Read more here!
Aerial Monitoring of the Gulf of Mexico - 2011
Sperm Whales & Whale Sharks:
Cape Cod, MA
Our Gift for YOU for 2011!
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Aerial Monitoring of the Gulf, 2010
Galapagos Veterinary Support
Galapagos vets do much with little,
thanks to true friends who shipped a TON of supplies and meds from the U.S. in June, 2011.
“Man can no longer live for himself alone. We must realize that all life is valuable and that we are united to all life. From this knowledge comes our spiritual relationship with the universe.”