Tag Archives: Humboldt

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




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).

Sounds of the Marbled Murrelet

Breeding plumage Marbled Murrelet in the Salish Sea. Copyright A. Barna

Breeding plumage Marbled Murrelet in the Salish Sea. Copyright A. Barna

The Marbled Murrelet (Brachyramphus marmoratus) is one of four seabirds in the COASST range with listing status under the Endangered Species Act. Just a few days ago, some lucky members of the Audubon Society of Portland rose at the crack of dawn (literally, as in be there at 4:30AM) to hear the “kerr kerr kerrs” of the endangered Marbled Murrelet.

Paul Engelmeyer, Manager of Ten Mile Creek, a National Audubon Society sanctuary and Kim Nelson, Senior Faculty Research Assistant hope annual trips like these (Eight years and counting) might include portions of the MAMUs historic range, where monitoring surveys have not been conducted (or not in a very long time). See the full story here.

Not a morning person, but just have to hear for yourself? You can click here to listen to a high-definition recording from Big Basin, Redwoods State Park (yes, that is 6:00AM Thomas is referring to on the 5th of May – not quite light).

Krill – have you seen?

Have you seen me? Small (~2cm), red-orange, 16 legs, big eyes.

Thanks to Gary Lester (Humboldt COASSTer), Amber Transou (Redwood State and National Parks) and Bill Peterson (NOAA) for alerting us to a sporadic series of krill beaching events from central Oregon to northern California. If your survey beach is between Newport, Oregon and Eureka, California, and you were out during Father’s Day weekend (June 15/16) or before, let us know – have you seen krill? Our earliest reports come from Dave and Diane, on Oregon Mile 99, near Bandon, May 11, 2013.

Krill on Gold Bluffs Beach, Humboldt, California. Credit: Amber Transou, California State Parks, North Coast Redwoods.

Krill on Gold Bluffs Beach, Humboldt, California. Credit: Amber Transou, California State Parks, North Coast Redwoods.

Some COASSTers have replied to mention an absence of krill, but lots of first and second year “instars,” or juvenile Dungeness crab (molts), washing ashore during the same time (see below).

Tiny Dungeness Crab instars on Clam Beach, June 17, 2013. Thanks Linda, for the photo!

Tiny Dungeness crab instars on Clam Beach (CA), June 17, 2013. Thanks Linda, for the photo!

Julia’s Travels – Arcata, California


A fabulous visit with CJ and Carol Ralph at their amazing house sandwiched in-between the salt marsh of upper Arcata Bay and the Lanphere dunes.  CJ is a consummate bird biologist who has studied Marbled Murrelets (MAMUs) for the Forest Service for many decades.  We went for a morning beachwalk – no beached birds – on Saturday morning.  As befits the season, totally foggy, but also fairly warm and no wind.  And also, no wrack – just a clean-swept beach.  Made me realize that the “search for birds on one leg (narrow beach) vs both (wide beach)” rule of surveying might be seasonally dependent: when there’s no wrack it’s pretty easy to see “bumps” across the entire width of the beach even if it is wide (this one was easily 75 meters).  Anybody out there have thoughts on that?


What we did find on the beach was fishing gear, namely a crab pot, and a set of buoys, freshly deposited.  Dragged the latter up above the dune grass line, as it was too heavy to haul off the beach.


Saturday afternoon was a great refresher session with Humboldt COASSTers – we had a spirited discussion of the COASST protocol as regards survey techniques.  Thick versus thin, patchy versus continuous, surveying one way versus out-and-back – these essentials of survey technique were debated over cookies from Los Bagels in Arcata (the corn-lime cookie, kind of a zippy snickerdoodle, was fantastic).  Gary and Lauren Lester mentioned how the Humboldters might have been mis-recording wrack and wood, backed up by Kimberley Pittman-Schulz who learned the COASST “ropes” from her partner Terry Schulz.  Bottomline?  COASST needs to put together a simple one-page “how to” sheet for everyone to take out on the beach.  Stay tuned for that!

Saturday night was the Redwood Region Audubon Society banquet – we had bird, of course.  What a fun, inspired, and knowledgeable group; and full of beached bird aficionados.  Cindy Moyer played chamber music; turns out music professors are also good COASSTers…  I sat next to an art history professor from Humboldt State named Julie Alderson who came to see whether science and art could come together.  Great thought.  I’m all in—it’s something I’ve done quite a bit of thinking about.

I “sang for my supper” with a banquet speech focused on a retrospective of my life in research.  Really fun to put together and deliver, and just a little scary to note that I’ve been at it for almost 30 years.  Everyone loved the photographs of Tatoosh Island, and especially the ones from the UW archives taken by Asahel Curtis of life in Neah Bay at the turn of the last century.  There is a wonderful photo of Neah Bay COASSTer Paul Parker’s dad examining a whaling harpoon.  It’s impressive to realize that this tradition lives on, passed down through centuries of family and community knowledge.

Of course, everyone was also struck by the COASST story and message: this IS the century of citizen science – make no mistake.  Things are just changing too fast to not get everyone involved in collecting rigorous data about the condition of our natural environment.  And COASST is at the forefront of that movement.  Based on the warm reception, I’m sure we’ll get a few more Humboldters (Arcatians and Eureka-ites?) signing up.

Sunday morning I joined marine mammalogist and Humboldt State Professor Dawn Goley for a great walk to the top of Trinidad Head.  We talked about the need to get coastal citizen science programs up and down the West Coast working together.  Sitting in the shelter of wind-pruned coastal scrub looking out at waves breaking over the outer rocks I was struck by what a hardy and fragile place our coastline is.  Resilient against waves, wind and weather; totally susceptible to climate impacts or oiling.  This is the reason we started COASST – to create the baseline that allows us to say what is normal here, what we need to protect.  And how great to work with Dawn to add marine mammals to the roster of things COASSTers and others will be able to collect information about.  Stay tuned for that as well!

Finished off my visit with a quick lunch at Seascape on the Trinidad Pier with Dawn and newly appointed California Sea Grant Marine Advisor Joe Tyburczy, his wife Karen and their new son Jonathan.  Joe is keen to meet COASSTers, and to work to expand rigorous citizen science in Humboldt County.  We’re there Joe!





Arcata Refresher Training

Having a hard time identifying a single dark wing? Forgot how to tag just a head? Getting foggy about how to handle refinds? Come join Dr. Julia Parrish for a COASST refresher in Arcata! Know someone who walks the beach that might be perfect for COASST? They are welcome too!

COASST will be hosting a refresher training March 2nd at the Arcata Library Conference Room from 1:00pm to 4:00pm. This is a great way for you to practice your bird identification skills, brush up on the survey protocol, and meet other COASST volunteers in the area. We do have a few beaches that have recently opened up, so if you know of anyone who might be interested in becoming a COASST volunteer bring them along.

Please RSVP by phone at (206)221-6893 or by email at coasst@uw.edu so that we have an idea of how many folks to expect.