Audubon Oil Spill Response Team Update #8: A Sanderling dies

Audubon Oil Spill Response Team Update #8: A Sanderling dies

David J. Ringer
Published: 06/02/2010

Gretna, Louisiana, 11:15 p.m.

Dead Sanderling by Timmy Vincent
A Sanderling, its breast feathers matted with oil, loses its grip on life. (Timmy Vincent/Audubon)

A Sanderling's life spans the hemisphere. You know Sanderlings. Everyone who's ever been to the beach knows Sanderlings, even if they don't know their name. Sanderlings, little birds that dart across the sand, flirting with the restless sea.

As adults, these incredibly strong but fragile creatures may travel between the high Arctic islands and the coast of Argentina twice each year, threading stories through the skies, like stitches through time and space.

But last week, one Sanderling's story ended on a beach in western Louisiana.

Timmy* found it, dying, its breast matted with oil. It had probably suffered for days, slowly getting weaker, until it could no longer move. Timmy picked it up and called ahead for help, but the tiny life flickered out before it could be rescued.

Some birds can be helped, but many cannot, and many will die unseen.

The toll is terrible. The price is high.

We need to see, to grieve and to find the strength to change. We must.

*Timmy Vincent is an Audubon sanctuary manager in Louisiana. His family has made its living in Louisiana's marshes since the 1700s.

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