Jamie Rappaport Clark

I woke up this morning in Fairhope, Alabama.  It seemed so appropriate, staying in a town named Fairhope.  As we wait for this disaster to unfold, we all are embracing any sort of “fair hope” that damage caused by the spill won’t be as bad as anticipated.    

We learned late yesterday from our board member Jeff Corwin, who is down here reporting on the spill for CBS, that oil had reached the shores of the Chandeleur Islands in Louisiana.  This morning I turned on the news to hear that they had just started to lower the dome over the oil leak.  The reporter said that it will take a couple of days to get the dome placed over the leak and we should know by Monday if it works. Let’s cross our fingers that it does!

We had hoped to take a flight with Southwing, a nonprofit group that that provides skilled pilots and aerial education to enhance conservation efforts across the Southeast.  But last night the pilot called to say there was a forecast for heavy fog in the morning so he would not be able to fly.  It was disappointing news, as it is our last day here.  We decided to leave Krista, our photographer, behind to take a flight later on in the day with the hope that she could get over the spill and get some good pictures we could share.

I decided to go out for a run before heading to the airport for our flight home.  Fairhope is a gorgeous southern town with lots of flowers, beautiful homes and gardens hugging the coast of Mobile Bay.  I took a turn down the hill to run by the water, following signs for a neighborhood park.  Once I got to the park, I saw dozens of nest boxes on stands high above the water.  I thought it odd and figured there must be some sign around somewhere that would tell me what it was all about. 

It turns out that Fairhope is the preferred nesting site for over 8500 purple martins.  And boy, were they busy flyingPurple Martin in and out of these nest boxes (one aptly named Purple Martin Riviera) searching for food for their young ones.  Purple martins eat large insects that they capture in midair.  They sometimes grab a drink on the wing by dipping their bill in the water as they fly just above the water’s surface. Mobile Bay’s water is not very salty, and some birders have reported seeing Fairhope’s purple martins drinking from the bay, or dipping briefly into the water. Once again I embraced the “fair hope” that these birds would be spared the impacts of the looming oil spill. 

This is the end of my whirlwind trip to the Gulf.  I am filled with sadness that this could be the last time I see this beautiful shoreline as it is today.  I feel lucky to have come here, even for just a couple of days, and luckier still that we had Krista with us to document these areas one last time.  I leave with “fair hope” that I will one day come back and the beauty I have captured in my memory will still be here for others to enjoy.  

I plan to be back along the coast in the coming weeks.  Let’s all hope for the best!


Jamie Rappaport Clark headshot

Jamie Rappaport Clark

President and CEO
Jamie Rappaport Clark’s lifelong commitment to wildlife and conservation led her to choose a career in wildlife biology. She has been with Defenders of Wildlife since February 2004 and took the reins as president and CEO in 2011.

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