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Charlotte Amalie
Thursday, June 13, 2024


July 29, 2003 – White-cheeked pintail duck, black-necked stilt, thick-billed plover, great egret, snowy egret, herons, brown pelican and migratory shorebirds … These are among the 113 species of birds that have been seen at Southgate Pond on St. Croix's northeast shore, according to Dr. Elizabeth Gladfelter.
About two-thirds of the species are "water" birds; the others, "land" birds.
The St. Croix Environmental Association acquired title to nearly 100 acres of land surrounding the government-owned salt pond with 2000 and 2001 purchases made possible by an anonymous donor. SEA has designated the area the Southgate Pond Nature Reserve. (For background stories on the acquisition and the pond, input "Southgate" in the "search section" box at the top right of this page.)
The area has been recognized as a premier birding area for at least 150 years, Gladfelter said, noting that naturalist George Seaman termed it "a biotic gem sparkling with vibrant life." It was named one of 18 environmental "areas of particular concern" by the V.I. government in the late 1980s.
Having secured title to the land and developed a strategic and management plan, SEA contracted last January with the Coast and Harbor Institute of Woods Hole, Massachusetts, for a yearlong study of the area. (See "SEA contracts for Southgate Pond study".)
SEA and the V.I. Marine Advisory Service at the University of the Virgin Islands will sponsor a presentation by Gladfelter on Aug. 6 titled "Southgate Pond — A Haven for Birds." The program, free and open to the public, is set for 7 p.m. in Room 501 of the Melvin Evans Center on the UVI campus. Contact Marcia Taylor of the advisory service at 692-4046 for more information; call Emy Thomas of SEA at 778-1952 to attend.
Gladfelter, longtime director of the West Indies Laboratory on St. Croix, is now a researcher at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and is participating in the current Southgate Pond project. Her PowerPoint presentation will be an update on the ongoing research by Woods Hole professor Arthur Gaines, who heads the study; Gladfelter herself; and other biologists.
"Despite the fact that the salt pond is only about a third of its original size, it continues to serve a major role in preserving the diversity and abundance of birds" on St. Croix, Gladfelter's research indicates. The water level in the pond, as well as the seasons, can influence what birds among the 113 species are found at a given time.
Fortunately, Gladfelter said in an e-mail, "there is a wealth of historic data" on the birdlife of Southgate Pond, "gathered by biologists from the Virgin Islands Division of Fish and Wildlife biologists during the past 50 years." The continuing study covers activity and changes over those decades and is providing guidance to SEA in its efforts to protect the area's ecosystem.

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