A mission for the birds in Groton

GROTON, Conn. (WTNH) — Members of the Connecticut Army National Guard Friday transported nearly 30,000 pounds of lumber to an island where the materials will be used to build nesting areas for an endangered bird.

“Roseate Terns are a federally endangered bird and this is one of the largest concentrations that we have nesting anywhere in the North Atlantic,” said Suzanne Paton of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Three pallets each weighing about 10,000 pounds were lifted and carried by a Chinook helicopter from the mainland in Groton to the nearby Great Gull Island, in Southold, N.Y., where the Roseate Terns will make their summer home.

“Last year, we felt like there were birds flying around that didn’t have any place to rest,” Paton said. The wood will also be used to build blinds where birders can effectively observe the endangered birds.

Lt. Col. Mark Strout explained the process of moving the materials, which was expected to take three 8-mile trips.

“These are similar loads to things we may do in combat,” Strout said. “They’re called non-standard loads. It’s not a typical thing that you’d find in one of our army manuals but it allows our people to train on how to rig those and then obviously the crews on how to fly them.”

Throughout the flight a trapdoor remains open so crew members can monitor the suspended lumber. Once over the targeted area, members unhook the load from inside the helicopter and then it’s back for the next one.

Tina Detelj reporting

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