Minutes after my first cup of coffee, men on four-wheelers went zipping along the beach west of Gulf Shores, Ala.
They were followed by other men on four-wheelers and a man on a John Deere tractor pulling one of those high-impact plastic outhouses on a trailer.
Remember, pre-BP, when people took only?blankets, ice chests, fishing rods and striped umbrellas to the beach?
Heading east from our beach off the Fort Morgan Road, we see otherwise undistinguished sand marked with slender sticks connected by strips of orange plastic.
What looks like a little crime scene marks sea turtle nests.
Female turtles come ashore in May to lay about 100 eggs to a nest. Baby turtles begin finding their way across the beach to the sea 55 to 70 days later.
Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge is home to the endangered Alabama beach mouse and more than 370 species of birds during the migratory season. Sea turtles include loggerhead, Kemp’s Ridley, green and leatherback.
We saw something else on our walks, hundreds of dead blue crabs and fish washed up on the beach.
A reply to my email to the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge said the cause of the fish and crab kill was “undetermined.”
The second wave of four-wheelers and the tractor-drawn outhouse brought men in yellow vests who poked at the sand above high tide.
About the same time, I came across a story in the Mobile Press-Register about floating mats of oil near Little Lagoon between Gulf Shores and our beach.
I talked to a runner and summer resident named Clyde Wills, a Birmingham engineer, who said he had oil on his feet after a morning run.
A couple of days after I got back to Baton Rouge, I got this email from Wills.
“I drove back to Birmingham yesterday afternoon, so I am not sure what things look like today.? However, as I walked the beach yesterday morning, I saw more dead blue crabs that had washed in with the rising tide.? The BP cleanup crews were on the beach both Sunday and Monday with what looks like fine mesh crab nets scooping up what I suppose that they identify as tar balls, but it is a mystery to me.
“They were walking a line that was about 30 feet above the surf line.? I would think that the tar balls would be closer to the surf line.?It also seems to me that the best service that the cleanup crew could provide would be to dispose of all the dead sea life on the beach.? It doesn’t smell too pleasant down there.? Also, I see most of the oil at low tide, not high tide, and the BP crews were on the beach at high tide, i.e. normal working hours.”
The beach hasn’t been the same since the BP spill last year when turtle eggs were dug up, packed in Styrofoam containers and FedEx’d to Florida’s Atlantic Coast.
I know. This reads like a Carl Hiaasen novel. I have a title for Hiaasen’s next book: “Turtle Soup.”