FLORENCE GILKESON: Hard-Nosed: Navy to Get Tough on Birds at Landing Site
It's always a good idea to read the details before you sound off.
When you read the details about the Navy's proposed response to the bird issue in eastern North Carolina, the situation at first does not sound so bad.
But it doesn't sound good either.
I love birds. I feed birds. In all honesty, however, I admit that I don't love all birds. In particular, starlings and grackles are not favorites. They are big bullies that scare off the smaller birds, purple finches, goldfinches, sparrows, wrens, chickadees, catbirds among them.
But I don't shoot them or poison them. (Besides, Laurinburg, where I live, is a bird sanctuary). I simply fill the feeder with sunflower and/or thistle seed, the kind of feed that doesn't accommodate starlings and grackles.
The Navy's plan to build an outlying landing field on thousands of farmland acres in Washington and Beaufort counties has set many a tooth on edge in eastern North Carolina and among environmentalists, bird lovers in particular.
A recent report says that the Navy is indeed concerned about the large population of birds in the area, especially the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge about five miles from the site of the proposed jetway. Earlier, Navy spokesmen expressed little concern about the hazard to jet planes of such huge avian populations.
Now comes the federal government with a report that the U.S. Department of Agriculture may step in and help to control bird populations by use of dogs, fireworks, poison and guns.
Admittedly, birds are not always a desirable presence in our lives. I am the first to admit that they can be a nuisance. The most obvious one is their use of my automobile as their toilet.
Canada goose droppings spoil golf courses, as happened at Whispering Pines a number of years ago. Pigeons cluster on window ledges in cities and leave not only droppings, but also their dead bodies.
A USDA biologist told a News & Observer of Raleigh reporter that selective killing of wildlife is a common practice to maintain airport safety. I haven't heard complaints about birds at the Moore County Airport, but it has had its share of problems with deer wandering onto runways.
The biologist, Mike Begier, said the Federal Aviation Administration, USDA and other agencies endorse these control techniques.
Apparently that strategy calls for using poison to remove such species as blackbirds, starlings, pigeons and gulls. The biologist said poison would not be used to get rid of tundra swans and snow geese. Oh no -- they would be shot.
So much for reading on for details you hope will be more benign.
But first, the professionals recommend scaring the birds off with fireworks, chemical repellents and dogs. If that doesn't work, they try poison and firearms.
Now if only farmers in the neighborhood would just plant something other than grain crops, that would also help.
Winter wheat attracts birds, so the Navy may take control of 30,000 acres in the immediate vicinity of the landing field to make sure nothing is planted on that acreage that appeals to birds. Which crops would be suitable? Tobacco or marijuana?
First, we have the atmosphere cleared of birds and all other wildlife, then we have the countryside denuded of vegetation. It sounds so attractive, doesn't it?
To the unsophisticated innocent out here in the boondocks, some of this is hard to swallow. Although I want the Navy to have access to suitable training facilities, I can't help but wonder why the Navy can't find a better location.
In light of the Base Realignment and Closure report, one wonders why some of the "closure" sites could not be put to better use than to reach into an area rich with wildlife and historic farmland distributed to the first owners under land grants from the Lords Proprietors during the reign of King Charles II in the 17th century.
And before anyone accuses me of not supporting the troops, I want you to know that my husband was a veteran of World War II and my father a veteran of World War I. My family has a long history of military service.
North Carolina traditionally has strong ties with the military.
It's just that I want something left back home when our military personnel return from service.
Florence Gilkeson can be reached at 947-4962 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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