WEATHER IN LINCOLN COUNTY

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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service documents significant bird nest abandonment during and after Depoe Bay fireworks last year




Cormorant nests and flying male
Photos courtesy Wikipedia

Depoe Bay City Councilors have received a preliminary conclusion on whether the city’s July 3rd fireworks display should continue at its usual location, near Pirate’s Cove. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says to continue the fireworks display there would continue to disturb sea bird nesting areas which is a violation of Federal and International Laws contained in a treaty signed by the U.S. Government. The USFW suggests the Depoe Bay fireworks be moved to Fogarty Creek State Park which the city council dismissed because it lacks handicapped access and would require an expensive shuttle service for fireworks viewers.

Provided by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Study Examines Effects of Fireworks on Seabird Nesting

Preliminary results of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service study show that a 2011 municipal fireworks display at Depoe Bay, Oregon, impacted a nearby seabird nesting colony while a municipal fireworks display in Bandon, Oregon, did not affect a nesting colony there.

The biggest difference between the two events and their impacts on federally protected seabirds was distance of the fireworks displays from nesting colonies. The Depoe Bay display was 0.62 miles from the Pirate Cove colony, while the Bandon display was 1.36 miles from the colony at Coquille Point. At the Pirate Cove colony, eight Brandt’s cormorant nests were abandoned the day after the Independence Day fireworks display, held July 3, 2011, and another was abandoned the next day, totaling nearly 5 percent of the colony’s nesting population. By the day after the display, one of 11 pelagic cormorant nests also had been abandoned. “Seabirds play an important role in the marine ecosystem and they are sensitive to human disturbance, especially during the nesting season,” said Roy Lowe, project leader of the Oregon Coast National Wildlife Refuge Complex. “Because seabirds are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the Service is charged with monitoring and protecting their populations. Any human action causing birds to abandon their nests could constitute a violation of the Act. When the colonies are on a national wildlife refuge, as they are in these two locations, they receive even further protection.”

After receiving public complaints that the seabirds near Depoe Bay were being disturbed during fireworks displays, the Service undertook the study in 2011 to determine if municipal fireworks displays on the Oregon coast were impacting nesting seabirds by causing them to take flight and abandon their eggs and chicks. Service biologists examined responses of nesting seabirds to municipal firework displays at the Pirate Cove Rock and Coquille Point seabird colonies, which are both within the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge and Oregon Islands Wilderness. For comparison purposes, two other colonies were studied as control sites where no fireworks occur within five miles. The biologists conducted nest monitoring and daily counts of seabird species, including Brandt’s, double-crested and pelagic cormorants, western gulls, and black oystercatchers on days before, during, and after the fireworks displays at the study and control colonies. They also conducted aerial photographic surveys for each colony. In addition, staff used night vision camera equipment that recorded still-frame and video images to examine bird behavior prior to and during the fireworks display.

Preliminary results of the study documented that the fireworks displays resulted in alarm flights of nesting and loafing seabirds, and some nest abandonment at the Pirate Cove colony in Depoe Bay, but little to no disturbance at Coquille Point in Bandon. The Service’s study will be scientifically peer-reviewed before being finalized but based on the preliminary finding, the agency is recommending that the Depoe Bay fireworks launch site be moved to a location further from Pirate Cove Rock to prevent future disturbance or nest abandonment. One such option is Fogarty Creek State Park.

Because the Bandon fireworks display did not appear to result in disturbance or nest loss, the Service is recommending that the City of Bandon continue to launch fireworks in an easterly direction over the Port of Bandon. The decision to allow the Depoe Bay fireworks event to continue near Pirate Cove Rock will be made by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, which has permitting authority for fireworks displays on OPRD-managed properties.

In response, Depoe Bay Mayor Carol Connors said the city is still sending a letter to Oregon’s Congressional Delegration to exert whatever influence they may have to help the city move ahead with their fireworks display from Pirate’s Cove anyway. Mayor Connors said the Depoe Bay Chamber of Commerce has already expended funds for regional advertising for the event. She said the fireworks are a very important component to the Depoe Bay business community, and that the chamber has already made a sizeable down payment on the fireworks.

Mayor Connors also complains in her letter that U.S. Fish and Wildlife refers to similar fireworks in the Bandon area as producing “little or no disturbance” to nesting birds at Bandon. “Little or no disturbance means there was at least a little disturbance. So why does Bandon get to continue their fireworks and we don’t?” she asked. The USFW study also indicated that while there was “little or no disturbance” to the Bandon nesting colony the report said elsewhere that the Bandon fireworks display had “no effect on the nesting colony.” Mayor Connors also noted that while USFWS indicated that the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) is in charge of issuing the permit for the fireworks, she said she was told that OPRD has stated that, based on the findings of the USFWS report, they would not issue a permit for the fireworks.

As for the USFWS suggestion that the fireworks could be moved the Fogarty Creek State Park, Mayor Connors said she and the council are opposed since there is no handicapped access to the park and that the city cannot afford to hire expensive shuttle services for the public which would be required since there is only limited parking at Fogarty Creek.

Mayor Connor said she is finishing up her letter to the congressional delegation and expects to have it in the mail to them on Monday.

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