Tag Archives: Seabird

Update from Charlie

As some of you know, Charlie takes a break from COASSTing each summer to do a little field work. This August, Charlie returned to Middleton Island for the fall field season and we just received his hand-written letter, which reads:

Hello COASSTers,
Here is a photo update. The weather has been unusually calm (and still) and there are signs of it being a warm water year. Beach finds include our first Velella velella and Cassin’s Auklet on the Island.

Velelella velella have been turned up at Middleton this summer, too.

Velella velella jellies have been turned up at Middleton Island this summer, too.

Cassin's Auklet's Auklet found on Middleton by Charlie.

Cassin’s Auklet’s Auklet (COASST guide AL8-AL9 or AK: AL21-AL22) found on Middleton Island by Charlie. Note the short, stout bill with pale spot at base, and in fresh birds, blue-toned feet.

Also see the VERY COOL “armored” tarsus, toes and webbing of a Parasitic Jaeger.

Parasitic Jaeger foot showing very rough (almost sharp) scales.

Parasitic Jaeger foot showing very rough (almost sharp) scales.

Parasitic Jaeger (complete with COASST ruler!)

Parasitic Jaeger (complete with COASST ruler!)

Work days have been long and productive, and “days off” are spent doing much of the same thing.

Shore-based surveys of pelagic birds.

Charlie’s team, conducting shore-based surveys of pelagic birds. What are they seeing through those scopes? Look below!

Buller's Shearwater.

Buller’s Shearwater.

Sooty Shearwater.

Sooty Shearwater.

Killer Whale.

Orca.

Red-necked Phalarope.

Red-necked Phalarope.

"The catch," of Middleton's banding station (one bird per bag).

“The catch,” of Middleton Island’s fall banding station (one bird per bag).

Happy COASSTing!
Charlie

 

What’s Washed In – Feb 3, 2014

We’re having a great winter here at the COASST office and have enjoyed hearing about your recent surveys and interesting finds! Hope that you’re all enjoying yourselves on the beach and staying warm. If you need any supplies, just let us know.

Here’s a look at what’s washed in recently:

Japanese water bottle found by Tasha on a December survey of Spring Creek Beach in Seward, Alaska. Native goose (gooseneck) barnacles (Lepas anatifera) are attached to the cap. Adult goose barnacles release eggs, which hatch into free-swimming larvae that settle onto all types of substrate. For our state and federal fish and wildlife partners, photos of fouled items showcase the potential for marine debris to transport non-native invertebrates into the COASST range.

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Nancy and Roz found Camp Kirby’s sixth bird ever in December, a Double-crested Cormorant. Using the foot (not pictured here) we get to 4 toes: all webbed – stop – Pouchbills. On the Pouchbill family page, we’re asked to separate by bill (West Coast guide) or wing chord (Alaska guide). Wing is 33cm, bill is 59mm, which puts us squarely in cormorants – there’s only one with a stout yellow-orange bill and throat pouch – the DCCO!

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We chose Steven and Malinda’s photo from Oregon Mile 285 for a new perspective of a common species.  What part of the bird am I looking at here?! We can help with that: right wing (tagged), left wing, white body feathers. Now it’s time to try out your skills! Using the Alaska guide: dark upperwing, with trailing white secondaries (did you spot them? they’re in the center of the photo), with white underwing linings – murres that’s correct (wing chord = 20cm). Using the West Coast Wing Key: dark upperwing, white stripe on trailing edge of secondaries (subtle on worn wing) – American Coot or Common Murre (COMU has the white underwing lining). West Coast Wing Table: wing chord = 20cm, dark upperwing, with white linings – Common Murre for sure.

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Had to dig through a few murres and fulmars to find this one from Sara and Peter, Ma-le’l Mid, Humboldt, California. Check out the foot, upper left. Tarsus width is greater than 12mm across – Loon. With measurements: 55mm bill, 30cm wing, 70cm tarsus, it’s too small for a Common Loon – dark back (no spotting) and straight bill lead us to Pacific Loon (LO2-LO3 in Beached Birds).

Julia Shares her Waldron Island COASST Walk

One of our San Juan Islands COASSTers, Julia, graciously offered to share her pictures from a December COASST walk along her beach on Waldron Island. It’s a wonderful opportunity to walk in the shoes of an islander and see the great diversity of marine birds that surround us in the Salish Sea.

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“The first is from the cliff above the bay. You can see the heavy sea lettuce (Genus – Ulva) wrack on the beach, and my dog romping along. Out of focus, near the Madrona tree and below the island to the center right, is a blur which is a flock of birds.” – Julia

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A mixed flock of wintering birds, mostly Bufflehead, also including Common Goldeneye, Red-breasted Merganser and Horned Grebe.  In the COASST guide, Bufflehead can be found on WF15-16.  And the Horned Grebe is in GR6-7.

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Close up of a Red-Breasted Merganser. Mergansers are larger diving ducks that have long, thin bills with serrated edges to aid in capturing fish prey. If you have the Alaska guide, check out pages WF36 and WF38.

 

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Two Common Goldeneye accompany the Red-Breasted Merganser. It is not uncommon to see various waterfowl species occupy the same foraging location at the same time.

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A flock of Canada Geese landed near Pt. Disney, the SE corner of Cowlitz Bay.

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The same flock flying over the Nature Conservancy swamp.

What’s Washed In – 10/31/13

 

Fall is here and the Common Murres are hitting the beach. We’ve been receiving lots of surveys with lots birds! This is nothing out of the ordinary for this time of year, but you should expect longer and “birdier” surveys than your usual. Make sure to start early and bring a snack. Now is also a good time to check your cable tie supply to see if you’re running low of any color.

Here’s a look at what’s washed in over the last few weeks:

-2 A Laysan Albatross found by Kathy on the South Coast (WA). Those three-webbed toes and huge foot (tarsus >75mm) point us to the Tubenose: Albatross family. From here we have three species to consider: Black-footed Albatross, Laysan Albatross, and Short-tailed Albatross. The bill length is WAY smaller than a STAL (130-140mm), and the pale bill and feet rule out BFAL, we’re left with the Laysan Albatross.

-3

A Green-winged Teal found by Susie and Bill in Oregon North – time for some more wing practice!

Using the wing table, at 17cm, the wing falls into the tiny (wing chord <18cm) row but because it’s right on the edge, let’s also consider small (18-20cm) row. That area of contrasting color in the secondaries puts us in the Patch/Speculum group, giving us four options in the two rows; BUFF (WF15), HOGR (GR6), PIGU (AL10) or GWTE (WF7). Bufflehead, Horned Grebe and Pigeon Guillemot have a white patch on the upperwing – not a match. But the green and black speculum with buffy bar in front and white behind is a perfect match for the Green-winged Teal.

Using the west coast wing key, we’d select “secondaries contrasting and dark” for the first question sending us to Q18. Here, we’d select “green, w/ tan strip above and white below.” With a wing chord of 17 cm, we have a Green-winged Teal.

Using the Alaska wing key, we’d select “w/ light or dark speculum and/or one or more white patches” sending us to Q17. Here, we’d choose “dark speculum, no patch” leading to Q24. The “green w/buffy stripe above and white below” points us to the Green-winged Teal (a little short for Alaska birds, but that’s okay – this find is from Oregon).

-4

A Mottled Petrel found by Sue and Scott on the North Coast. You won’t find a species page on this bird in the COASST field guides, but you can still get pretty far on the ID. The three webbed toes with a small fourth toe and flat heel (not quite visible in the photo) would take you to the Tubenoses:Petrels family.

Using the west coast guide, a wing chord of 25cm puts this in the True Petrels group. From here, we consider the bill shape, tarsus, and bill color: thick and short (bill), round (tarsus), and black (bill color) – group: Gadlfy Petrels. With this guide, we can’t get any more specific than the subgroup of Gadfly Petrels.

Using the Alaska guide, a wing chord of 25cm puts drops us into the True Petrels group. Bill color is dark, underiwng is white, with “dark stripe from wrist to wingpit.” Yep – Mottled Petrel!

-5

A gas cylinder found by Phil in the San Juans. Remember, if you find an item like this, do not touch or attempt to move. These items should be reported to the National Response Center by calling 1-800-424-8802 or visiting their website or to local law enforcement.

 

Good News for Marbled Murrelets

mamu

 

Earlier this month a federal judge ruled that Marbled Murrelets would remain protected under the Endangered Species Act, despite a movement by the timber industry to remove these protections and expand logging activities in coastal forests. This has been the fourth failed attempt made by the timber industries in the Pacific Northwest to eliminate protection for Marbled Murrelet habitat. In addition, the court ruled that the old growth forest areas where these birds nest will remain protected from deforestation for the next three years. The Marbled Murrelet has been listed as threatened by the Endangered Species Act since 1992.

Old growth forests are used by the Marbled Murrelets for nesting and raising their young, making the existence of the habitat critical for murrelet survival. These small Alcids create nests high on the branches of inland old growth trees. At night, they fly to the coast to fish and hunt food for their nestlings: a unique nesting behavior makes Marbled Murrelets especially vulnerable.

For more information, on this story can be found here.

 

What’s Washed In – 9/9/13

We hope everyone had a nice short week last week. There’s evidence that many of you even “labored” for COASST over Labor Day weekend. Thanks for that! Eventhough it’s the University of Washington’s summer break, things aren’t slowing down at the COASST office. Lots of great data continues to pour into our mailbox. Here are a few interesting finds sent our way recently:

BLKI

A Black-legged Kittiwake found by BJ in the Gulf of Alaska. Leg color would be a dead giveaway for this bird, but we didn’t want it to be that easy for all of you! Let’s turn to the Alaska wing key: “gray mantle, some species with dark tips and/or stripes on mantle” (this has both, actually). We’re looking at a “broken diagonal stripe from wrist to elbow” and the secondaries are white, not black – wing chord of 30 cm means we have a Black-legged Kittiwake – immature.

We do find a few of these guys down in the Lower 48:

-Using the West Coast wing table? Choose size=large (29-32cm), predominantly gray mantle, with black wing tips (leaves: Black-legged Kittiwake, Red-legged Kittiwake)

-Using the West Coast wing key? Choose gray upperwing, dark-to-black wingtips, and mottled stripe from elbow to wrist – that’s the Black-legged Kittiwake-juvenile (wing chord of less than 29 cm – otherwise it would be a Caspian Tern-juvenile).

In North America, the Black-legged Kittiwake breeds in Alaska, and northeastern Canada, winters across the North Atlantic and North Pacific. BJ’s beach is right near one colonynesting on the Homer ferry terminal.

BOGU

A Bonaparte’s Gull found by Candace in the Puget Sound. BOGU are just rare enough in the Pacific Northwest not to be featured in Beached Birds, only in Beached Birds-Alaska. Looks a lot like the Black-legged Kittiwake we just saw, but hey – did you spot the feet? Not black. Let’s turn back to the Alaska wing key: gray mantle, some species with dark tips, and that mottled upperwing stripe, but in this case secondaries are dark (see left wing). The wing chord also helps us out: BOGU=25-27cm, a little shorter than the BLKI. Live Bonaparte’s Gulls are normally seen in Puget Sound during their migration (Mar-Apr) to Canada and Alaska, though some stick around in small numbers throughout the winter time.

BFAL

A Black-footed Albatross found by Jane and Marilyn on the North Coast of Washington. Boy can we see the foot clearly on this one! Three webbed toes and a huge foot (tarsus >75 mm) puts us in the Tubenose: Albatrosses foot type family. From there, we choose between the only three albatross species in the North Pacific (22 worldwide): Black-footed, Laysan, Short-tailed. Dark feet, face, and neck rule out Laysan. Short-taileds change plumage from all dark to mostly white but have WAY huge (129-141mm!), hot pink bills – see outline on TN20 or TN14(AK). A long-distance, ocean traveler, this bird likely calls MidwayAtoll, or Laysan Island home (73% of the world’s population lives in these TWO places), to raise chicks, winter-spring.

refind

A Common Murre bone refound by Tom in Oregon North. This bird was tagged on Tom’s first survey over a year ago. Recently, he refound the bone with the tags still in place. Note how the cable ties are tightened nicely around the right wing bone. Good tag placement ensures that COASST birds stay tagged and identified for remainder of their time on the beach: use the innermost wing bone, tie tight, clip tie ends!

FishLureHook

A fish hook and lure found by Joanna in California. Hooks account for about 17% of the bird entanglements documented by COASST and are second only to fishing line. As we’ve mentioned before, if you see something like this on your beach, it’s best to pack it out.

 

Wing Bones Connected To…

Thanks, Randy for sending this amazing photo from Churchrock Beach in Kotzebue, Alaska, along with this note: “Attached here is a photo for your database of some nicely weathered wing bones. I thought you might be able to use it for teaching purposes.”

COASST 8-24-13 CHRX 002

 

 

Malelmid20130719COMU294a

Sara and Peter provided this complementary photo to the one above – Common Murre #294, from Ma-le’l Mid, Humboldt, CA.

So we took this opportunity to explore the avian skeleton, specifically the wing. From the inside (left), out, the first large bone (large 2 cm process on left end) is the humerus (not to be confused with humorous, the adjective). Largest bone on the inside? COASSTers know recognize the humerus as the bone to attach the cable ties.

Farther out, the paired radius (thinner, nearer to the top of the photo) and ulna (wider, nearer to the slate). To the right, at the junction of these bones and the next (the metacarpus) is where the wing chord measurement starts, at the wrist (view the comparison between a human/bat/bird). This wing is missing the very last digit, where the primary feathers emerge. While the order of the bones remains the same, the structure and proportion changes as a function of the type of flight the bird undertakes – soaring (Laysan Albatross) versus quick short movement (Calliope Hummingbird).

What’s Washed In – 8/26/13

We just wrapped up the summer quarter here at UW and bid farewell to our awesome team of interns (An, Adrienne, Chelsea, Hilary, Matt, Monisha, Jessica, Shannon, Stephanie, and Tom). As the UW summer break begins, the COASST office will continue to be a hub of activity, especially since the fall post breeding mortality spike isn’t too far away. August has brought lots of interesting finds out on the beach. Here are a few of the many photos that have landed in our inbox recently:

HEEG

A Heermann’s Gull found by Jerry and Carol in Oregon South. Since the feet aren’t visible, let’s use the wing (sorry Alaskan’s – this one prefers south of 55°N). Our wing chord measurement is about 34cm, which puts this in the “Extra Large” category. Mantle is gray, wing tips are gray, so we have either a Glaucous-winged Gull or Heermann’s Gull – only one has a red bill with black tip – that’s the Heermanns’s. If you’re using the new wing key, select gray mantle, wing tips about the same color, no white trailing edge or windows in the outer half of the primaries.

SOSH

A Sooty Shearwater found by Linda and Dini on the South Coast, Washington. Three webbed toes and one tiny fourth toe (actually just a nail) – Tubenose! From the family page select dark, thin, long bill (and for Alaska – white underwing linings). The bill size (39mm) rules out Short-tailed Shearwater (29-35mm). COASSTers surveying this area know we’ve seen a wave of SOSH this August. Drawn to the productive waters off the Columbia River, mouth of Grays Harbor, Willapa Bay and Tillamook Bay, Sooties are “tanking up,” about to make their journey south (WAY south) to areas off Chile, Argentina, Australia and New Zealand in the Southern Hemisphere.

BRPE

A Brown Pelican found by Terry and Kimberly in California. It’s hard to mistake this large bird! Four webbed toes puts it in the Pouchbill family and with a bill length of 34cm(!) it could only be a Brown Pelican. The head, neck and throat are brown; the breast white, so this is a juvenile bird (hatched January-June 2013 in Southern California or Baja California-Mexico).

mono-filament line

A ball of monofilament line found by Heather in Oregon North. Fishing line is the most commonly recorded type of entanglement on COASST surveys. If you see some of this on your beach, it’s a good idea to clean it up.

DO-IT scholars visit COASST!

It has been an exciting past few weeks here at COASST!

Recently, we had the opportunity to host the DO-IT scholars and teach them a little bit about what we do here at COASST!  The DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology) program encourages young adults with disabilities to pursue secondary education and helps them in establishing successful careers.  Our eight scholars, matriculating from different schools around the Seattle region, were a part of the science track. They came to the fisheries building to get their feet wet in the wonderful world of citizen science!

DO-IT scholars identifying feet and wings.

DO-IT scholars identifying feet and wings.

At the start of the day, the bright-eyed students trekked to COASST and were thrown straight into the mix!  They were shown what COASST strives to achieve each and everyday, and how the program works with local communities to provide useful beached-bird baseline.  In addition, the scholars were given a tutorial on how to identify birds using the COASST guide.  Then the real exciting part began.  Once the students became familiarized with the guide, Liz and Shannon took the group to the necropsy lab to test their skills. They had to identify birds like the Rhinoceros Auklet, Black-footed Albatross, Large Immature Gull, Common Loon, Common Murre, American Crow, etc.  It was such a great experience, and most importantly the kids got to participate in hands on science learning!

Shannon and a DO-IT scholar identifying a bird.

Shannon shows one of the scholars how to use the foot key of the COASST guide.

Click here to learn more about the DO-IT program.

 

 

What’s Washed In

The COASST office continues to be a buzz of activity as our summer quarter wraps up. Recently, we trained new North Coast and Aleutian Island volunteers in addition to our many ongoing projects. There have been lots of interesting finds this summer. Here are a few of the many photos sent in by volunteers:

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Large Immature Gulls (LIGU) found by the Hobuck crew in Washington, Carl in California, and Caren in Oregon. We’ve been seeing a lot of LIGUs lately as the post-breeding mortality spike begins. As you see in the photos, the coloration on these birds can really vary. Chances are, if you find mottled brown mantle with an extra large wing cord (more than 33cm) you’re looking at a Large Immature Gull.

MAMU

A Marbled Murrelet found by Nancy and Barbara in the Puget Sound. This species is listed as US Fish and Wildlife ESA Threatened in California, Oregon and Washington, and a rare find for COASST surveys (only 65 found since 1999). Three webbed toes put it in the Alcid family, and a short wing chord leads to Common Murre chicks, Marbled or Kittlitz’s Murrelet, Least or Whiskered Auklet. A dark underwing and mottled brown underparts point us to Marbled Murrelet, since the Kittlitz’s bill is less than 14mm(!).

PIGU

These two Pigeon Guillemots (adult on the left, chick on the right) were found by Elizabeth in Oregon and Govinda in the Puget Sound. Another member of the Alcid family, PIGUs have bright red feet (hidden in chick photo) and a white patch on their upperwing (just barely showing on the inner portion of the chick’s left wing).

pallet

This pallet was found by Carol in Alaska. Koito, the brand printed in red, is a Japanese automotive and aircraft lighting manufacturer. This pallet could have traveled from Japan or come from a boat shipping Japanese products.