Spring and summer fishermen casting about on Corpus Christi Bay near Shamrock Island are likely to be distracted when they behold the thousands of wading and diving birds covering the island. Raucous sounds of flapping, screeching and squawking—not to mention the distinct smell of ammonia—fill the air, creating the impression of an overpopulated avian metropolis.
What stinks to fishermen, however, smells like perfume to stewards of The Nature Conservancy of Texas, who manage the 110-acre island as one of the Lone Star State’s most important nesting sites—or rookeries—for many species of water birds, including the threatened reddish egret and white-faced ibis.
On Shamrock Island, no habitat goes unused. Sand beaches are claimed by skimmers and four species of tern—including more than 8,000 pairs of royal terns—while the grass flats are home to an estimated 6,000 pairs of laughing gulls. The island’s brush habitat gets the greatest attention by providing the limbs to support the nests of five species of herons, three species of egrets along with white-faced ibis, roseate spoonbills and brown pelicans.
Since acquiring the island as a preserve, the Conservancy has endeavored through educational efforts and protective measures to encourage fishermen, boaters and birders to keep their distance to avoid disturbing the birds during the critical nesting season.
Besides giving the highest priority to protecting the birds from disturbance and trespassing, the Conservancy has also worked to maintain the island’s native vegetation, which consists of grasses, sedges and wildflowers.
In addition, The Nature Conservancy has undertaken a habitat restoration program that has already benefitted a portion of the island damaged by previous oil and gas extraction.
To learn more the work of The Nature Conservancy, including other species we protect, visit nature.org/texas.November 13, 2012