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      Nature Report: Hurricane Hurts Wildlife

      Hurricane Alex skirted the Rio Grande Valley, making landfall some 100 miles south, but the exceptionally high tides associated with the storm caused considerable loss of life to shorebirds nesting on spoil islands in the Lower Laguna Madre.

      Young laughing gulls huddle in flooded grass that was previously dry land, while their parents hover protectively over them.

      Occasionally, one will swoop down and grab a chick, dropping it in what is hopefully a slightly dryer spot.

      But, constant exposure to the water will take its toll on the young birds.

      Gulls and terns that simply lay their eggs on the ground were particularly vulnerable to the rapidly rising water.

      While some hatchlings were big enough to scramble to safety on higher elevations, many young and late season eggs were lost.

      The colonial waterbirds nesting on Green Island, the bay TMs most important nesting island just north east of the Arroyo Colorado, fared much better.

      Egrets, spoonbills ibis and other birds that build nests in the brush escaped the high tides.

      While the low areas surrounding Green Island were inundated, the interior of the naturally occurring Island remained flood free.

      Many of the spoil islands that were created with the building of the Intracoastal Waterway more than sixty years ago have become popular nesting sites for terns, gulls and other birds, but these man made islands are small and relatively flat providing little protection from high tides.

      This pair of royal terns valiantly attempts to protect their one remaining egg, but it may have already been ruined by rising water.