Are you feeling too happy? Is your mood unacceptably elevated? Are you experiencing a sensation of optimism over the nature of humanity and the future of our environment? Well let me fix that for you.
Seanetter Dan Tracey went out for his walk on Salisbury Beach State Reservation in Massachusetts last month. At the waterline, he saw a Great Black-backed Gull tearing into a fresh carcass. Turns out, that gull had been banded by Dr. Julie Ellis, but it flew off before Dan could get its i.d. As he approached the now abandoned dead bird, he found it to be a gorgeous male Red-breasted Merganser. On closer inspection, he found the depressing part of the story: a hair elastic was wound around the lower bill and head of the duck, rendering him unable to eat. Presumably, he starved to death, ending up as a meager and interrupted meal for that banded gull.
I sometimes incur the amused or irritated dismissal of friends when I talk about the impact of balloons released into the air, or plastic bags discarded by the road. Most things find their way into the oceans, and this dead bird is only one of many suffering lethal impacts from seemingly insignificant bits of human trash. People may dismiss our pleas, or laugh off the issue, but I am hoping that pictures like this one will affect at least some folks out there. The birds we find dead like this are only a small fraction of the birds that die, so I assure you, this is a big issue. The solemn lesson this bird gives us: Keep track of your crap, everyone! And spread the word far and wide!