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      Nature Report: Bird Sanctuary

      Hundreds of noisy terns and gulls fill the air on the Laguna Vista spoil island just north of the causeway.

      This island is one of the most important nesting sites in the Laguna Madre for royal and sandwich terns.

      While Green Island with its thick brush is home to various species of nest building birds, this spoil island with scant vegetation provides perfect habitat for terrestrial nesters.

      Actually, the terns just lay their eggs right on the ground and don't build any nest at all.

      The royal terns with their bright orange bills and shaggy black crests are easily identified.

      Joining the royals on the nesting grounds are what at first glance appear to be miniature royal terns, but they are the slightly smaller sandwich terns.

      Sandwich terns are best recognized by their long slender black bills with contrasting yellow tips.

      Their short black crests are solid, while the crests of the royal terns are already molting, even as they incubate, giving them a distinctive spiky appearance.

      Joining the terns are scores of laughing gulls and dozens of black skimmers.

      The first of the gulls are just beginning to hatch, and soon the island will be home to hundreds of baby birds.

      The hatchlings are particularly vulnerable to the hot sun, and it is important to give this and other nesting islands a wide berth.

      This protected Audubon sanctuary also provides a safe haven for many brown pelicans, and with the current state of the oil saturated upper Gulf of Mexico the Lower Laguna Madres nesting islands are of paramount importance.

      With your Nature Report I'm Richard Moore.