What’s Washed In — March 31, 2015

Hi COASSTers,

Hope you’re all enjoy­ing the start of Spring! It’s been a busy month at COASST, with national and regional media atten­tion. Exec­u­tive Direc­tor Julia Par­rish was recently fea­tured on the March 20 edi­tion of Sci­ence Fri­day, COASST data were fea­tured in the recent Pacific States Fish­eries Man­age­ment Coun­cil Meet­ing, as #9 of the 12 main high­lights in the Cal­i­for­nia Cur­rent Inte­grated Ecosys­tem Assess­ment (CCIEA), State of the Cal­i­for­nia Cur­rent Report, 2015, and a num­ber of COASSTers were fea­tured in recent news cov­er­age. A big thanks for all of your hard work! Check out the lat­est on our web­site in the COASSTal News sec­tion. We’re so proud to have all of you rep­re­sent­ing COASST!

Let’s take a look at what’s washed in recently:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anchor River Recre­ation Area (AK) 03/14/15 found by Lisa

Bill: 45
Wing: 20
Tar­sus: 39

Alaska Foot Key – page 34
West Coast Foot Key – page 22
Choose webbed (go to Q2), choose com­pletely webbed (go to Q3), choose three toes: all webbed (go to Q4), choose foot not huge – STOP: Alcids.

Alaska Guide
On AL1, veer left – wing chord is more than 15cm. Bill is dark, slen­der and fea­ture­less, upper­wing is dark –check out these four species:
Com­mon Murre (AL3)
Thick-billed Murre (AL5)
Pigeon Guille­mot (AL7)
Black Guille­mot (AL7)
Look care­fully – the face has a dark eye­line, or “tear­line” – (see key char­ac­ter 2 on the AL3). The Thick-billed Murre has a dark face with a white chin. Non-breeding guille­mots with white under­parts lack this eye­line; the bill, wing and tar­sus mea­sure­ments for this bird do not fit for the PIGU or BLGU. Com­mon Murre – correct!

West Coast Guide
On AL1, veer left – wing chord is more than 15cm. Bill is dark, smooth/slender and fea­ture­less, inves­ti­gate these two options:
Com­mon Murre (AL2)
Pigeon Guille­mot (AL10)
The bill, wing and tar­sus mea­sure­ments do not fit for Pigeon Guille­mot and the under­wing is white – Com­mon Murre – great work!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ruby South (WA) 1/20/15 found by Janis and Jody

Bill: 17 mm
Wing: 13.5 cm
Tar­sus: 18 mm

Alaska Foot Key – page 34
West Coast Foot Key – page 22
Choose webbed (go to Q2), choose com­pletely webbed (go to Q3), choose three toes: all webbed (go to Q4), choose foot not huge – STOP: Alcids.

Alaska Guide
On AL1, veer right – wing chord is less than 15cm. Bill is dark, with­out a spot – one of the mur­relets:
Mar­bled Mur­relet (AL17)
Kittlitz’s Mur­relet (AL19)
Bill is too long for a KIMU and the eye is within the dark part of the face – Mar­bled Mur­relet – nice!

West Coast Guide
On AL1, veer right – wing chord is more than 15cm. Bill is dark, so we’re left with a few options:
Com­mon Murre-juvenile/chick (AL4)
Mar­bled Mur­relet (AL14)
* Ancient Mur­relet (AL16)
* Kittlitz’s Mur­relet (AL20)
* Least Auk­let (AL24)
* Whiskered Auk­let (AL26)
(* = rare, included in the 2002 ver­sion only)
Not a Com­mon Murre chick – it’s Jan­u­ary! And besides, this bird has white shoul­der patches and dark sec­on­daries and no dark eye­line. Mea­sure­ments fit for Mar­bled Mur­relet, but let’s exam­ine the rar­i­ties:
Ancient Mur­relet – nope, dark shoul­der
Kittlitz’s Mur­relet – nope, bill too small
Least Auk­let and Whiskered Auk­let – nope, bil and wing too small
Yep, it is a Mar­bled Murrelet.

  

Mike and Chig­gers’ marine debris sur­veys at Nor­we­gian Memo­r­ial (WA) tell an inter­est­ing story. Their beach con­sis­tently catches  A LOT of bot­tles and bot­tle frag­ments, many with Asian writ­ing. Seen here is the haul from a sin­gle zone in a sin­gle tran­sect. A well weath­ered Puma shoe also washed up for their Decem­ber sur­vey. The stitch­ing and lace holes make us think these are “vin­tage”. Do they remind any­one else of bas­ket­ball prac­tice in the 70s?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wash­ing­ton COASSTers Lee and Sue were lucky enough to come across this Hum­boldt squid dur­ing their Feb­ru­ary sur­vey of Three Crabs Beach.

Also referred to as Jumbo squid, these giants are able to swim with speeds of up to 15 miles per hour and are known to eject them­selves from the water to escape preda­tors. While the col­or­ing of this squid is mostly white, these cephalopods are able to change their appear­ance in shades of pur­ple, red and white.

Seen some­thing on the beach you’ve always won­dered about? Send us a photo!

What’s Washed In — March 13, 2015

Hi COASSTers,

Hope you’re all enjoy­ing some sun­shine on your beaches this month. It’s been a busy few weeks at COASST.

 Since our last update, we’ve held train­ings and events in all four COASST states (Alaska, Wash­ing­ton, Ore­gon, and Cal­i­for­nia), catch­ing up with many COASSTers both near and far. COASST staff also attended the inau­gural Cit­i­zen Sci­ence Asso­ci­a­tion con­fer­ence, the Pacific Seabird Group annual meet­ing, and the Alaska Forum on the Envi­ron­ment. Addi­tion­ally, we hosted two COASST Advi­sory Board meet­ings, with lots of inter­ac­tion between our advi­sors (arriv­ing all the from as far away as New York!) and prin­ci­pal inves­ti­ga­tors for spe­cial projects.The COASST interns have been extra busy this quar­ter, prepar­ing for train­ings, work­ing on the­new marine debris mod­ule, and enter­ing data on many, many Cassin’s Auk­lets. After finals next week, they’re ready for a well-deserved spring break.Speaking of hard work, thank you to all of you for your help this month! We couldn’t do it with­out you, and we look for­ward to see­ing your next datasheets and photos.Let’s take a look at What’s Washed In recently:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seven Dev­ils Way­side (OR) 2/22/15 found by Karen

Wing: 41 cm

Alaska Wing Key– page 44

Q1 – choose “mot­tled man­tle, brown, gray or white (go to Q29)
Q29 – choose “mot­tling through­out man­tle (go to Q30)
Q30 – with this wing chord mea­sure­ment we’re left with:
–female eiders (WF21, WF23, WF25, WF27)
–Large Imma­ture Gull (LA4)
Only one of these options allows for a wing chord of 41cm – Large Imma­ture Gull – correct!

West Coast Wing Key – page 33

Q1 – choose “man­tle with vari­able mot­tling: brown, gray or white” (go to Q14)
Q14 – choose “mot­tling through­out man­tle” (go to Q15)
Q15 – with this wing chord mea­sure­ment, we’re left with:
–Large Imma­ture Gull (LA3)
–Canada Goose (WF19)
–Caspian Tern (LA19)
–Snow Goose (rare)
–Greater White-fronted Goose (rare)
Wing tips of this bird are pale – not black or dark brown, per CATE and CAGO – Large Imma­ture Gull it is!

West Coast Wing Table – page 32

Choose row, “Extra large, wing chord 33-43cm”
Choose col­umn, “mot­tled brown man­tle”
At this inter­sec­tion, we’re pre­sented with:
Large Imma­ture Gull (LIGU, LA3)
South Polar Skua (SPSK, LA29)
Poma­rine Jaeger (POJA, LA27)
Heermann’s Gull-juvenile (HEER, LA21)
Of these, HEER and POJA are shorter than 41cm, and SPSK has a bright white patch at the base of the pri­maries – Large Imma­ture Gull is the only one left!


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

South Spit (CA) 3/1/15 found by Don and Grace
Bill: 32 mm
Wing: 17 cm
Tar­sus: 29 mm

Alaska Foot Key – page 34
West Coast Foot Key – page 22

Choose webbed (go to Q2), choose com­pletely webbed (go to Q3), choose three toes: all webbed (go to Q4), choose foot not huge – STOP: Alcids.

Alaska Guide

On AL1 veer left – wing chord is more than 15cm. Bill is orange, with a dif­fer­ent col­ored base – select “yellow-to-dark orange, w/ grooves or horn,” and pro­ceed to these three species pages:
Tufted Puf­fin (AL9)
Horned Puf­fin (AL11)
Rhi­noc­eros Auk­let (AL13)
Bill is way too small for either the Tufted Puf­fin or Horned Puf­fin – Rhi­noc­eros Auklet!

West Coast Guide

On AL1 veer left – wing chord is more than 15cm. Bill is orange, with a dif­fer­ent col­ored base – select “yellow-to-dark orange, w/ grooves or horn (or in the ear­lier edi­tion: orange with dis­tinct grooves, horn or bump)”. We’re left with the “true puffins:”
Rhi­noc­eros Auk­let (AL6)
Tufted Puf­fin (AL12)
(Horned Puf­fin, AL12 – some guides have TUPU and HOPU com­bined)
Bill is way too small for either the Tufted Puf­fin or Horned Puf­fin – Rhi­noc­eros Auklet!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wish­ing all of you a happy (belated) Valen­tines Day! This bal­lon was found by Jeff Adams way back in April of 2013.

Bal­lons are com­monly ingested by marine life like sea tur­tles because they are sim­i­lar in size and move­ment (“floppy”) to the jel­ly­fish they eat. With the ulti­mate goal of pre­vent­ing these and other impacts of marine debris, COASST’s efforts will quan­tify and help iden­tify the sources of objects, like bal­loons, that are mis­taken for prey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Har­bor Por­poise was found washed up by COASSTers in Hum­boldt. Com­monly seen in coastal waters of the Pacific Ocean, the por­poise is the small­est of the cetacean fam­ily, which also includes whales and dol­phins. While they tend to be inde­pen­dent feed­ers, they can some­times be spot­ted in groups of 4–6 search­ing for food along the sur­face of the water. Also com­monly seen is the Dall’s por­poise, which is slightly larger and has black col­oration with white oval mark­ings on their sides and bellies.

Seen some­thing on the beach you’ve always won­dered about? Send us a photo!

What’s Washed In — February 6, 2015

Hi COASSTers,
Thank you for all of your great emails, pho­tos, and datasheets recently.  We really appre­ci­ate all of your efforts, espe­cially with the Cassin’s Auk­let wreck. For the 11th week run­ning, Cassin’s Auk­lets still WAY out­num­ber other species on COASST sur­veys – you can view the updated graphic with December’s num­bers here.

For Ore­gon COASSTers headed out this week­end, be aware that there is a poten­tial “dam­ag­ing wind storm” in the fore­cast for Sun­day after­noon. Remem­ber, your safety is always the #1 pri­or­ity! Please avoid sur­vey­ing if it is dangerous.

If you do have nice weather on your next sur­vey, how­ever, we’d love your help with a spe­cial project. COASST is look­ing to cre­ate a col­lec­tion of high qual­ity beach pho­tos fea­tur­ing you!

If you have a chance on your next sur­vey to take a few pho­tos of you or your sur­vey partner/team with your beach in the back­ground, we would love to gather these for future use on the new COASST web­site or in COASST presentations.

Hope you all have a great week­end! We can’t wait to see your photos!

Let’s take a look a what’s washed in lately:

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Puale Bay (AK) 7/20/14 found by Susan, Jacob, Car­rick, Jaime, and Sarah­Bill: 53 mm

Wing: 27.5 cm

Tar­sus: 61 mm

Alaska Foot Key – page 34
West Coast Foot Key – page 22
Choose webbed (go to Q2), choose com­pletely webbed (go to Q3), choose 4 toes, all webbed (Pouch­bills: STOP).

Alaska Guide
On PB1, select wing chord less than 35cm. This bird doesn’t have a tan or orange chin, so it’s a Pelagic or Red-faced cor­morant. Com­pletely dark bill = Pelagic!

West Coast Guide
On PB1, bypass pel­i­cans (bill larger than 10cm = 100mm) and move to cor­morants. Dark chin and dark bill = Pelagic

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Fort Fla­gler West (WA) 1/18/15 found by Nan­cy­Bill: 26 mm

Wing: 12 cm

Tar­sus: 25 mm

Alaska Foot Key – page 34
West Coast Foot Key – page 22
Choose free (go to Q9), choose three toes, all front (Shore­birds: 3-toed: STOP).

Alaska Guide
On SB1, we have either a Black Oys­ter­catcher (SB10) or Sander­ling (rare). Black Oys­ter­catcher is WAY too large – plumage and bill are not a match. Stick with the Sanderling.

West Coast Guide
At SB1, we’re left with Sander­ing (SB4), plovers and Black Oys­ter­catcher (rare). Turns out, this IS a Sander­ling – straight, black bill, dark wrist and wingtips.

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Debris or not debris? That is the question…in the case of the mys­te­ri­ous “plas­tic strings” that Vir­ginia and Jean often find in their marine debris sam­ples at South Ocean (WA). After see­ing these sur­vey pho­tos, Hillary was curi­ous about their ori­gin and iden­tity. Vir­ginia and Jean kindly sent sam­ples into the COASST office, where we were all perplexed.Review under a micro­scope revealed that the strings had cell struc­tures, indi­cat­ing that they were likely actu­ally dried up plant or algae mate­r­ial. Sus­pect­ing that they might be a sea­grass or some­thing sim­i­lar, intern Ruth took the mag­ni­fied images below and sent them, along with a few sam­ples to a team of sea­grass experts at Fri­day Har­bor Labs.
Their con­clu­sion? Sun bleached and dried Bur-reed, latin genus Spar­ga­nium, a plant closely related to cat-tails.  Mys­tery solved!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s not every­day that you see a fish washed in with another fish in its mouth! Take a look at the sculpins that Tasha and Chuck found at Spring Creek (AK). Sculpins are ben­thic, or bot­tom dwelling fish that can be found in a wide vari­ety of habi­tats in both fresh and salt­wa­ter. While some sculpins are just cen­time­ters in length like the ones pic­tured here, other species (of the 300+) can reach about 60 cm (or ~2 ft!).
Have you seen some­thing on your beach you’ve always won­dered about? Send us a photo!

Updated Cassin’s Auklet — Dec

cassinaukletsJan22

We’ve updated the Cassin’s Auk­let graphic to include December’s monthly encounter rate, with sur­veys received through Jan 22, 2015. A few more weeks into Feb­ru­ary and we’ll be able to add Jan­u­ary as well. Cur­rently, Jan­u­ary totals are the high­est of the four months, but that may change as the num­ber of entered and ver­i­fied sur­veys grows.

IMG_4176

© T. John­son. All rights reserved.

We fig­ured COASSTers would want to check out this photo (which Char­lie rounded up from Tom). Did you note the COASST ID char­ac­ters on this one?

  • Short, stout bill with pale spot at base
  • White spot(s) around eye
  • Gray under­wing with pale cen­tral band

Woo hoo! That’s how we know it’s not a Kittlitz’s or Mar­bled Mur­relet, nor a Rhi­noc­eros or Para­keet Auk­let. And this late into the year (Nov-Jun), juve­nile mur­res are all teenagers — at least the same size as adults — so it’s not one of those, either.

Keep on going, COASSTers! At this rate, Cassin’s Auk­lets might sur­pass North­ern Ful­mars for the num­ber two spot on the COASST species list - if so, you’ll be the first to know!

What’s Washed In — January 28, 2015

Hi COASSTers,

Thanks so much for all of your help dur­ing this busy time! We’re still see­ing lots of “count­less Cassin’s” sur­veys these last two weeks — from the Beached Bird Pat­terns sec­tion of the COASST web­site, Cassin’s Auk­lets rose from #11 to #3 in the last two months. This die-off con­tin­ues to gen­er­ate wide­spread media atten­tion, includ­ing a recent arti­cle in National Geo­graphic online.

COASST vol­un­teers and fed­eral part­ners at the U.S. Geo­log­i­cal Sur­vey, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Ser­vice, National Oceanic and Atmos­pheric Admin­is­tra­tion passed along another dead bird story cir­cu­lat­ing in the media: inci­dence of Avian Influenza in wild birds from Cal­i­for­nia to Wash­ing­ton. It is impor­tant to note that the new strains detected along the West Coast affect the health of wild birds only, and accord­ing to the USGS press release, “there has been no evi­dence for H5 virus-related ill­ness in humans.”  Still, COASST and fed­eral part­ners rec­om­mend the fol­low­ing pre­cau­tions when han­dling dead birds:
–Wear dis­pos­able or rub­ber gloves
–Min­i­mize expo­sure of your hands to your face and nose by not eat­ing, drink­ing or smok­ing on your COASST sur­vey
–Wash hands often

For more infor­ma­tion on Avian Influenza find­ings in the Pacific Fly­way, see the USDA site.

Let’s take a look a what’s washed in lately:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Steam­boat Creek (CA) 11/15/14 found by Keith and Gene
Wing: 31 cm
Tar­sus: 55 mm

Alaska Wing Key (page 44)
Choose “gray, some species with dark tips and/or dark stripes on man­tle” (go to Q25)
Gray wingtips w/ no win­dows or fin­ger­nails — North­ern Fulmar

West Coast Wing Key (page 33)
Choose “gray, some species w/ dark tips and/or dark stripes on man­tle” (go to Q10)
Wingtips do not con­trast (go to Q11)
Pri­maries uni­formly gray – North­ern Fumar (based on wing chord measurement)

West Coast Wing Table (page 32)
Choose row “Large, wing chord 29-32cm”
Choose col­umn “dark upper­wing”
It’s one of these four:
North­ern Ful­mar (TN3) – look­ing good, but check­ing the rest:
Amer­i­can Crow (PE2) – black plumage – nope.
Par­a­sitic Jaeger (LA25) – tar­sus out­side the range for this species – nope.
Poma­rine Jaeger (LA27) – wing chord out­side the range for this species – nope.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wash­burn North (OR) 1/6/15 found by Cindy
Bill:12 mm
Wing: 14.5 cm

Alaska Wing Key (page 44)
Choose “dark, some species w/ white spots or edg­ing” (Go to Q2)
Upper­wing sim­ply dark (go to Q5)
Under­wing lin­ings are white (go to Q6)
Based on the wing chord, this is an Ancient Murrelet

West Coast Wing Key (page 33)
Choose “pri­mar­ily dark, some species w/ pale spots or thin stripes” (go to Q2)
Upper­wing sim­ply dark (go to Q3)
Under­wing lin­ing con­tains an area of unin­ter­rupted bright white (go to Q4)
Wing chord is con­sis­tent w/ the fol­low­ing:
Com­mon Murre – juve­nile
Ancient Mur­relet
Only one of these has a pale bill – Ancient Murrelet!

West Coast Wing Table (page 32)
Choose row “Tiny, wing chord less than 18cm”
Choose col­umn “Dark upper­wing w/ white lin­ings”
We’re left with the fol­low­ing:
Com­mon Murre – juve­nile
Ancient Mur­relet
Only one of these has a pale bill – Ancient Murrelet!

We’re see­ing a few rare Alcids (Ancient Mur­relet, Mar­bled Mur­relet) mixed in with the Cassin’s Auk­lets. Remem­ber: by about Novem­ber, Com­mon Mur­res have reached their full adult size, so in Jan­u­ary there aren’t any juve­nile Com­mon Mur­res left – they’re all teenagers by now!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sandy found this large piece of debris dur­ing her Jan­u­ary bird sur­vey at Port William Beach (WA) and not­ing that it was near a boat ramp, joked that it may be a failed boat launch.  For those of you in the Puget Sound, large debris items, cre­osote cov­ered logs, and derelict ves­sels found can be reported to the WA DNR debris removal pro­gram. The rely on reports to pri­or­i­tize removal actions and can be reached at 360–854-2808.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marine debris intern Abby is work­ing on a project using COASSTer marine debris pho­tos. Her inter­est was piqued by this image taken by Sally at Wa-atch Beach (WA) in 2012. After some sleuthing, we dis­cov­ered that they are com­pe­ti­tion throw­ing knives made by United Cut­lery. They’ve made our list of “one of a kind” beach finds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Linda and Bill found this inter­est­ing piece of car­ti­lage at Vir­gin Creek (CA) a few months ago.  Although we aren’t sure what species it is from, accord­ing to Mike Etnier at the Burke Museum, it appears to be the pec­toral gir­dle of a large car­ti­lagi­nous fish — per­haps a shark or a large skate. Since car­ti­lagi­nous fish don’t have swim blad­ders to help main­tain their buoy­ancy in the water, they are con­stantly mov­ing, even when they are sleeping.

Have you seen some­thing on your beach you’ve always won­dered about? Send us a photo!

Cheers,
Erika, Julia, Jane, Hillary, Char­lie, Heidi, Jenn, and the COASST Interns

What’s Washed In — January 14, 2015

Hi COASSTers,

Happy 2015! Hope you’re all enjoy­ing the start of the new year. Over the past few weeks, we’ve received many pho­tos and datasheets doc­u­ment­ing the wreck of Cassin’s Auk­lets. Thank you so much for all of your hard work and extra efforts.  We know it’s been a busy time, and we really appre­ci­ate all that you’ve done to help.

For more infor­ma­tion on the Cassin’s Auk­let wreck, check out our updated COASST news page. Here you can find links to a sum­mary, updates on the blog, and recent news articles.

Also, for those of you who send in pho­tos on a flash drive or mem­ory card:
We’re sad to report that over the past few weeks, we’ve received a few envelopes with a slit in the side and miss­ing media.  Your pho­tos are extremely impor­tant to us! When send­ing in your media, if you could pos­si­bly wrap it in extra paper or padding to reduce to like­li­hood of loss, that would be fan­tas­tic. Thanks for your understanding.

Let’s take a look at what’s washed in recently:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mos­quito Creek (WA) 12/14/14 found by Mike and Chiggers

Bill: 37 mm
Wing: 22 cm
Tar­sus: 48 mm

Alaska foot key (page 34), West Coast foot key (page 22):
Webbed (go to Q2), com­pletely webbed (go to Q3), 4 toes, 3 webbed, 4th free (go to Q5), tar­sus not more than 12mm across (go to Q6), 4th toe shape is loped, w/ flap extend­ing to nail – Water­fowl: Div­ing Ducks (WF1). Bill does have knob at bill base and extend­ing towards nos­tril, which means we have a scoter or an eider.

Alaska guide:
We can elim­i­nate White-winged Scoter (WF5) – no white in wing, and wing chord is too large. Feath­ers con­tinue along top of bill, so Black Scoter (WF7) is out too. The bill does not match the shape or size of either the King, Com­mon or Spec­ta­cled Eider, so this is a Surf Scoter – a female, because the bill is dark.

West Coast guide:
We can elim­i­nate White-winged Scoter (WF3) – no white in wing, and wing chord is too large. Feath­ers con­tinue along top of bill, so Black Scoter (WF17) is out too. The only other scoter in the guide is a Surf Scoter – this is a female because the bill is dark.

Coro­n­ado Shores (OR) 12/14/14 found by Steven and Nancy

Tar­sus: 22 mm

Alaska foot key (page 34), West Coast foot key (page 22):
Lobed (go to Q14), mul­ti­ple lobes, small tar­sus <30mm: Shore­birds: Phalaropes (SB1). With a sin­gle foot, we can’t get any farther.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Luck­ily, Nancy and Steven found more than just a foot!

Bill: 22 mm
Wing: 14 cm

With this addi­tional evi­dence and the shape of the bill (wide, not needle-like), this is a Red Phalarope, not its cousin, the Red-necked Phalarope.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fire­works, shot­gun shells and wads…explosives and their com­po­nents are not uncom­mon finds on the beach, but dur­ing his Dry Lagoon sur­vey on Nov 22, Rich found an object with the words: “haz­ardous mate­ri­als, con­tact police or mil­i­tary”, seen in the images above. “Marine loca­tion mark­ers” like this one do show up on beaches occa­sion­ally. Launched from air­craft, they are designed to emit smoke and flames once they hit the water. This one was removed by the local Sheriff’s Office, who believe it orig­i­nated in Cana­dian waters off British Columbia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s not every day you see bright orange teeth on the beach! Here’s a photo of the beaver that Patty found on her Decem­ber 26th sur­vey at Ore­gon Mile 255. How does a beaver cut through wood so effi­ciently? Since their incisors are harder on the front than on the back, the back of these teeth wear down more quickly, mak­ing a sharp cut­ting edge.

Have you seen some­thing on your beach you’ve always won­dered about? Send us a photo!

Cheers,
Erika, Julia, Jane, Hillary, Char­lie, Heidi, Jenn, and the COASST Interns

Cassin’s Auklet Die-off Continues

For the full story, see the North Pacific Cassin’s Auk­let Wreck fact sheet, posted to our website.

Fol­low­ing the Dec 20/21 week­end, COASST par­tic­i­pants have seen a wave of Cassin’s Auk­lets hit the beaches, from Clal­lam County, Wash­ing­ton to Hum­boldt County, Cal­i­for­nia. Com­bin­ing reports from beached bird pro­grams across North Pacific (see pre­vi­ous blog) pre­lim­i­nary esti­mates sug­gest that tens of thou­sands of these birds are wash­ing ashore, at the rate of 10–100 times “normal.”

Cassin's Auklet off the Washington coast. (c) R. Merrill

Cassin’s Auk­let off the Wash­ing­ton coast. © R. Merrill

The Cassin’s Auk­let, Pty­choram­phus aleu­ti­cus is a small (about 200g, or 7 oz) krill and lar­val fish-eating seabird that breeds along the West Coast of North Amer­ica from Alaska south to Baja Cal­i­for­nia, Mex­ico. A major­ity of birds ( ~80% of the world’s pop­u­la­tion) breed in the Scott Island group, off the North­west tip of Van­cou­ver Island. Need more info? Check out BC’s Coast Region Species of Con­ser­va­tion Con­cern Fact Sheet.

Over 50 birds documented by a COASST team outside of Lincoln City, OR. (c) COASST

Over 50 birds doc­u­mented by a COASST team out­side of Lin­coln City, OR. © COASST

As of Jan 6, 2015, the north­ern coast of Ore­gon (Colum­bia River south to Hec­eta Head) has had the high­est regional per kilo­me­ter counts, at 4.3 Cassin’s Auklets/km (Nov) and 5.2 Cassin’s Auklets/km (Dec). The high­est per kilo­me­ter encounter rate on a COASST sur­vey is from Bay­ocean Spit (near Tillam­ook, OR) at 71 birds/km.

What’s Washed In — December 30, 2014

Hi COASSTers,

What a great year! Thanks so much to all of you for your hard work in 2014. We really appre­ci­ate it, and hope you all enjoy­ing ring­ing in the new year with fam­ily and friends tomorrow.

It’s been a busy few weeks at COASST with many Cassin’s Auk­lets wash­ing in to the Pacific coast. We’re in the midst of a once-in-a-decade wreck which started in late Octo­ber in the south and recently (re)pummeled Ore­gon and Wash­ing­ton. The full story is fea­tured on our blog. If you have any ques­tions on the wreck pro­to­col, just let us know. A big thank you to all of you who have helped to doc­u­ment this event.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s how Laura and Caren iden­ti­fied these Cassin’s Auk­lets at Roads End:
Webbed (go to Q2)
Com­pletely webbed (go to Q3)
Three toes all webbed (go to Q4)
Foot not huge, tar­sus less than 50 mm – Alcids
On AL1, wing chord is less than 15cm, so Small Alcid AND bill is dark with (pale) spot at base.

Let’s take a look at what else has washed in lately:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lands End (AK) 10/13/14 found by Janet and Carol

Bill: 57 mm
Wing: 40 cm
Tar­sus: 77 mm

Alaska foot key (page 34), West Coast foot key (page 22):
Webbed (go to Q2), com­pletely webbed (go to Q3), 4 toes, 3 webbed, 4th free (go to Q5), tar­sus not more than 12mm across (go to Q6), thin toe only (go to Q7), swollen heel: Lar­ids (LA1).

Alaska guide (LA1)
Bill hooked (gulls and kit­ti­wakes – flip to LA2), wing with gray-to-white wingtips and pri­maries with big, cen­tral, white spots (aka “win­dows” – see left wing – the white spots on the ends of the pri­maries are “fin­ger­nails”). Glaucous-winged Gull!

West Coast guide edi­tion 2013 (LA1)
Bill hooked (gulls an kit­ti­wakes – flip to LA2), gray wingtips – Glaucous-winged Gull!

West Coast guide edi­tion 2002 (LA1):
Bill hooked (gulls – flip to LA2), foot color pale (not black), large adult gull. We’ll find it quickly – Glaucous-winged Gull is the only one with gray wingtips.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lam­phere Dunes South (CA) 12/15/14 found by Jim

Bill: 53 mm
Wing: 29 cm
Tar­sus: 72 mm

Alaska foot key (page 34), West Coast foot key (page 22):
Webbed (go to Q2), com­pletely webbed (go to Q3), 4 toes, 3 webbed, 4th free (go to Q5) tar­sus is more than 12mm across: Loons (LO1). Bill is less than 60mm, so small loon: Pacific Loon or Red-throated Loon. Mea­sure­ments over­lap for both, so let’s turn to the “sim­i­lar species” sec­tion of the Pacific Loon (LO2-LO3). Eye is in the dark plumage of the face, back has few spots. Did you notice those white squares at the shoul­ders? It’s a Pacific Loon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recent storms brought big changes to many beaches, from increased amounts and kinds of marine debris to altered beach zones. Alan and Kathie who sur­vey Graysmarsh noted that the wood zone dou­bled in size from their Novem­ber sur­vey and all kinds of stuff was caught — ten­nis balls, flip-flops, chunks of foam, and bot­tles.  Fol­low­ing his bird sur­vey at Bev­erly Beach Camp­ground North, Lloyd sent in this photo, explain­ing that the 1600m long, recently deposited wrack­line was lit­tered with tiny pieces of plastic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Take a look at what Valerie found at Trinidad Light­house Beach this month. Lov­ingly referred to as “octo­pus goo,” this photo shows the under­side of the octo­pus, where we see the mouth or “beak.” This beak is com­posed of chitin (just like our fin­ger­nails and hair) and is the only hard part of their body.  No won­der they can squish though such tiny spaces! Still hung up on whether it’s octo­puses, octopi, or octopodes? Check out this fun video from Merriam-Webster.

Have you seen some­thing on your beach you’ve always won­dered about? Send us a photo!

Cheers,
Erika, Julia, Jane, Hillary, Char­lie, Heidi, Jenn, and the COASST Interns

Cassin’s Auklet Wreck

Cassin's Auklet wreck data as of November 21, 2014.

Cassin’s Auk­let wreck data, Octo­ber 1 — Novem­ber 21, 2014.

Beginning in late October and continuing through mid November, we've witnessed an uptick in Cassin's Auklets. In collaboration with West Coast beached bird partners Beach Watch (San Francisco - GFNMS) and BeachCOMBERS (Monterey Bay - MBNMS), and British Columbia Beached Bird Survey we know this event extends from Washington State south to Monterey Bay. The highest per kilometer counts occurred in Oregon North (30 Cassin's Auklets per kilometer at McPhillips Beach in Tillamook County). 

Why Cassin's, why now? Cassin's Auklet colonies in British Columbia (75.9% of the North American population) fared well this season with high (the highest?) reproductive output recorded from decades of monitoring. Lots of young-of-the-year out in the Pacific this year! Ocean conditions, may (though we don't have evidence yet) be deteriorating more than normal. Storm activity November 15/16 preceded a wave of beaching - not unusual - the combination of young birds and difficult conditions predictably lead to wrecks, like those we see most years, at the end of a good Common Murre breeding season.
Just two of the 179 birds Patty counted on 12/23 near Neskowin, OR.

Just two of the 179 birds Patty counted on Decem­ber 23 near Neskowin, OR.

UPDATE: A new wave of Cassin's Auklets hit the coast of Washington and Oregon beginning Sunday, December 21 with up to 100/km on some beaches. These small, fist-sized birds have a dark bill (pale spot at base), dark back and wings, white belly. Fresh specimens show blue-ish feet (3 webbed toes, no hind toe).

What’s Washed In — December 15, 2014

Hi COASSTers,

Happy Hol­i­days! Hope that all of you are doing well and enjoy­ing this busy time of year. The COASST office is a bit quiet this month, as most of our fan­tas­tic 22 interns are off enjoy­ing win­ter break.  We’re look­ing for­ward to hav­ing them back in January!

If you’re on the COASST mail­ing list, keep an eye out for the 2014 COASST Hol­i­day Card, which should be reach­ing mail­boxes some­time soon! If you aren’t on our mail­ing list and would like to be, just let us know.

Let’s take a look at What’s Washed In recently:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Naknek Beach (AK) 10/08/14 found by Jodi

Wing: 34 cm

One wing leaves us only one option: the wing key (or table)!

Alaska wing key (page 44):
Choose gray (go to Q25), choose dark wingtips with white win­dows and fin­ger­nails: Mew Gull is the only one that fits!

West Coast wing key (page 33):
Choose gray (go to Q10), wingtips con­trast, dark-to-black (go to Q12), solid gray except for wingtip (go to Q13):
Mew Gull (LA17)
Ring-billed Gull (LA11)
Cal­i­for­nia Gull (LA9)
Only one of these has a white “knuckle” band across the pri­maries (from the feather tip, a white-black-white-gray pattern).

West Coast wing table (page 32):
Choose row = extra large (wing chord 33-43cm) and col­umn “gray man­tle w/ white lin­ings and black tips.” We’re left with:
Mew Gull (LA17)
Ring-billed Gull (LA11)
Cal­i­for­nia Gull (LA9)
West­ern Gull (LA5)
Her­ring Gull (LA15)
Caspian Tern (LA19)

We can elim­i­nate the WEGU, HEGU and CATE (wing chord too large). Now we’re left with MEGU, RBGU and CAGU – only the MEGU has a white “knuckle” band across the pri­maries (from the feather tip, a white-black-white-gray pattern).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Port Williams (WA) 11/18/14 found by Sandy

Bill: 63 mm
Wing: 33 cm
Tar­sus: 71 mm

Alaska foot key (page 34), West Coast foot key (page 22):
Webbed (go to Q2), com­pletely webbed (go to Q3), 4 toes, all webbed: Pouch­bills (PB1).

Alaska PB1:
Wing chord is not more than 45cm, so we’re left with one of four cor­morants:
Pelagic Cor­morant (PB2)
Red-faced Cor­morant (PB4)
Double-crested Cor­morant (PB6)
Brandt’s Cor­morant (rare)
Only one has yellow-orange facial skin: Double-crested Cor­morant (DCCO).

West Coast guide PB1:
Bill is less than 10cm (100mm), so we’re left with one of three cor­morants:
Brandt’s Cor­morant (PB2)
Pelagic Cor­morant (PB4)
Double-crested Cor­morant (PB6)
Only one has a yellow-orange bill with similar-colored facial skin and throat pouch: Double-crested Cor­morant (DCCO).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For those of you who sur­veyed fol­low­ing the big storm that affected the lower states last week, was your expe­ri­ence like Mike and Chig­gers’ at Mos­quito and Good­man beaches on Decem­ber 14th? They found a “wreck” of foam, rope frag­ments, and plas­tic bot­tles (hundreds!).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have you seen any inter­est­ing fish wash in to your beach? Take a look at this one found by Julia at Cowlitz Bay (WA) on Decem­ber 7. Duane Steven­son, a NOAA Fish Biol­o­gist, ver­i­fied this to be a ling­cod, as Julia sus­pected (Great job, Julia!). Ling­cod are some­times called “buck­et­heads” because they have a really large head and a large mouth.  They also have 18 sharp needle-like teeth (shown here in Julia’s photo). Ling­cod grow very quickly and reach up to 5 feet in length!

Speak­ing of fish, Lee and Sue who sur­vey Three Crabs Beach (WA), recently men­tioned that a few years ago, they encoun­tered a lancetfish that had washed in. A very cool rare find!

Have you seen some­thing on your beach you’ve always won­dered about? Send us a photo!

Cheers,
Erika, Julia, Jane, Hillary, Char­lie, Heidi, Jenn, and the COASST Interns