On a sunny October morning, with binoculars in hand, we set out for an exciting day of birding at Fire Island National Seashore. Walking along the beach, we noticed an immature Herring Gull hunkered down in the sand.
Moments later, he took to the sky and we discovered some sort of string, possibly a fishing line, wrapped around his leg. The leg was completely withered and blackened, due to lack of blood circulation. We immediately called several wildlife rehab clinics.
In the meantime, the crippled gull disappeared from view. We spent the rest of the day tracking the gull and re-spotting him several times, however we had no means of catching him and the rehabbers had not yet arrived…
But before we give the ending away, let’s go back to the start!
We are Cayla and Iris. Currently 14 years old, we have always loved nature and had a vast interest in birds. Being members of our local Audubon chapter, Four Harbors Audubon, has enabled us to connect with other like-minded birders and learn from them. (We highly recommend reaching out to your local Audubon chapter for some amazing experiences of your own.)
While most kids idolize professional athletes or famous musicians, we have always looked up to conservationists and wildlife experts such as David Allen Sibley, Kenn and Kimberly Kaufman, and Dr. Jane Goodall as our role-models. We’ve even had the good fortune to meet, befriend, and correspond with them.
Living on Long Island, with its plentiful beaches, it was only natural for us to gravitate toward the conservation of coastal wildlife, especially shorebirds. This has led us to the Be a Good Egg and Beach Stewardship programs, which are run by Audubon New York in partnership with the New York State Parks Department. The knowledgeable and compassionate staff members of these groups have taught us so much and have provided us with a great deal of guidance.
In the past, we’ve organized beach-clean-ups and taught environmental science classes at our local libraries, and we aspired to expand on those ideas to reach more community members.
Therefore, we created our own program, the Beach Bucket Brigade.
Our emphasis is on encouraging the public to participate in beach clean-ups, educating people about the threat that litter poses to wildlife, and encouraging everyone to make environmentally-friendly choices by reducing their carbon footprints and consumption of single-use plastics.
We believe that the more you learn about something, the more you love it, and the more you love it, the more you want to protect it. We’re proud to say the Beach Bucket Brigade has been a big hit. The Brigade has been supported by our local government, beachgoers, and some amazing eco-friendly businesses.
If you’d like to get involved and help Share the Shore, check with your own local organizations such as your Parks and Recreation Department, scouts, and preserves to see what they have to offer. Keep an eye out for Action Alerts from Audubon, featuring opportunities to ask your local representatives to support important legislation that could help birds that depend on the Long Island Sound – like the Forage Fish Conservation Act. Click here to support seabirds!
You can even organize your own clean-up event. Beach-dwelling wildlife, like the endangered Piping Plover, Least Tern, and American Oystercatcher are depending on us all.
So what happened to that gull that was such an inspiration?
Two weeks after we initially spotted him, we returned to Fire Island, and miraculously, we found him again. We were thrilled to see that he was doing considerably better, and now had the ability to put some weight on his injured leg. Unfortunately, many animals, as a result of litter entanglement and ingestion, aren’t as lucky. Each and every one of us can make a huge difference in the well-being of Earth and her inhabitants with our daily choices. Make sure you make good ones.