Aug. 7, 2003 – Despite hurricanes, people and feral dogs, Southgate Pond is still a haven for birds, according to Dr. Elizabeth Gladfelter, who recently conducted research at the site.
She spoke Wednesday evening at the St. Croix campus of the University of the Virgin Islands in a presentation sponsored by the St. Croix Environmental Association and the V.I. Marine Advisory Service.
Quoting the late Crucian naturalist George Seaman's description of the pond area as "a biotic gem sparkling with vibrant life," Gladfelter detailed healthy reefs and grassbeds offshore and lush vegetation onshore, with more than 100 plant species, 160 shell species and 113 species of birds. The latter include residents and migrants, water and land birds, nesting, feeding and roosting birds. Of the bird species, 13 are endangered.
Thanks to an anonymous donor who wanted to preserve the area as a bird sanctuary, SEA owns 100 acres, including the pond on the northeast shore of St. Croix, from the East End Road to the beach.
In preparation for formulating a management plan for a nature preserve there, the organization commissioned Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute to conduct research at the site. Elizabeth Gladfelter, formerly director of the West Indies Laboratory on St. Croix, and William Gladfelter were among the scientists participating in the study.
During a question period following the lecture, Elizabeth Gladfelter said the area could use some "remedial" work requiring the cooperation of property owners in the watershed area of the pond. SEA officials said that property owners upstream of the pond are among the "stakeholders" being included in discussions concerning the preserve. SEA's aim is to work with traditional users of the site, including campers, to conserve the habitat that attracts the birds.
The photo at top of this article is the Southgate Pond as it looked in 1978. At the SEA Web site, there's a Southgate Pond Photo Album page which includes a recent aerial photo of the site, showing how much the pond has changed in shape and size. Quoting from Sea's album: "Looking at [the aerial photo], the viewer notes that today's pond area is roughly circular and located on the west side of the property. In the past, the pond stretched almost entirely across the area to reach the Eastern Gut."
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