April 20, 2022

With Earth Day later this week, we’re checking in on some beloved coastal critters. Right whale calving season is finished and the Landings’ great horned owlet fledged. But first up is some worrisome news about bald eagles along the Georgia coast.

Avian flu hits coastal eagles

Georgia’s six coastal counties are home to about a third of the state’s bald eagles. They’re attracted to the tall pine trees and the abundance of fish they find here. So it’s a little nerve wracking to hear that some of these coastal eagles have died of avian flu. The virus was confirmed in three dead eagles, one each from Glynn, Chatham and Liberty counties. Georgia department of Natural Resources Wildlife Biologist Bob Sargent, who spent several days recently peaking into eagle nests from a helicopter, said the illness seems to have abated but not before it dealt a blow to the eagles’ nesting success. Inland eagles, which don’t have the same access to the migrating waterfowl harboring the virus, seem to be unscathed.

While some great horned owls around the country have been reported with avian flu, the pair at The Landings Bird Cam raised their single owlet without a hitch. The juvenile owl flew the coop, er, nest, earlier this week as fans from around the world watched online and wished it well.

An adult bald eagle perches in a tree. Credit: Georgia DNR

Right whale calving wraps up

Aerial surveys for North Atlantic right whales finished in Georgia and Florida on April 1 and in South Carolina on April 15. With the whales headed back to their summer feeding areas off new England and Canada, 15 calves have been spotted this season. That’s short of last year’s total of 18 and shy also of the minimum of 20 that researchers hoped to see. These bus-sized animals are highly endangered, with an estimated 350 individuals remaining. Once hunted to near extinction because they were easy to catch, making them the “right” whale to pursue, they are now threatened by ship strikes and entanglement in fishing gear. Climate change is also changing the distribution and abundance of the zooplankton they eat.

Right whale #3157 with her calf off Cumberland Island on Feb. 11, 2022. Credit: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, taken under NOAA permit 20556

Celebrate Earth Day

In Savannah, this year’s Earth Day celebration is themed “Start Where You Are” and will take place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday in three locations: Benjamin Van Clark Park (E. Park & Live Oak Streets), Joseph Tribble Park (Largo Drive) and the Tatemville Community Center (Coleman Street). Festivities include food, music, bounce houses, children’s activities, and information “to help you start where you are on the path to a cleaner and brighter future.”

Earth Day Brunswick takes place from 2-5 p.m. Saturday at Mary Ross Waterfront Park, 10 F Street. Co-sponsored by the Glynn Environmental Coalition, the event features ‘Story Time in the Park’, music by the Phil Morrison Trio, a dance performance provided by National Water Dance, and local community vendors.

Scene from the 2018 Earth Day Festival in Savannah Credit: Mary Landers/The Current

Democracy inaction

The Camden County Commission is moving ahead with buying land for its spaceport despite a landslide referendum against the purchase. The commissioners argue the state Supreme Court will side with them anyhow that the March 8 referendum was not constitutional. They also point out that although the voters rejected the purchase by a nearly 3 to 1 margin, not many of them showed up. At 17% turnout, though, it was greater than the 10% of voters who cast a ballot in the August 2020 primary runoff.

Property seller Union Carbide seems more concerned with the situation than do the elected representatives. The company is still mulling over the deal. A political strategist and political science professor weighed in on the situation last week in The Current. On Tuesday we added comments from John Matsusaka, executive director of the Initiative and Referendum Institute at the University of Southern California. “It’s surprising that the commissioners seem indifferent to the expressed wishes of those they represent,” he said in part.

If you have feedback, questions, concerns, or just like what you see, let us know at thecurrentga@gmail.com.

Avian flu strikes Coastal Ga. bald eagles

Avian flu is affecting bald eagles in Coastal Georgia

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Right whales calving off to good start

A whale named Derecha adds to a early season baby boom.

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Camden rejects voters’ will on spaceport but Union Carbide hesitates on deal

Camden wants to buy land over voters’ objections but seller hesitates over pending litigation

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