This past Saturday Heidi and Liz ventured out to Forks, WA to train a new batch of COASSTers. These volunteers are on top of their game and ready to hit the beach in search of birds. Thanks to this group, five inactive COASST beaches needing surveyors have been filled!
After the training, Heidi joined several North Coast volunteers on surveys of two area beaches. It was a great weekend to be out on the Olympic Coast!
Heidi shows Caty and Janis how to use the foot key.
Ellie and Babs work to key out birds from the teaching collection.
Last Friday, Julia and Jane stopped in at the Quinault Division of Natural Resources in Taholah, Washington. Julia, wearing “both her hats” as an Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and Diversity at the College of the Environment and the Executive Director of COASST had a chance to hear from a host of Quinault Indian Nation resource managers including Joe Schumacker, Ed Johnstone, Daniel Ravenel, Heather May, Mark Mobbs, Larry Gilbertson and Janet Clark.
Non-bird finds: deer, cormorant egg, monofilament ball, toy boat.
Julia and Daniel check out some (live) seabirds.
And we just had to head out the beach for a COASST survey with Daniel (a long-time COASST participant) and Nick Barry (tribal member and wildlife intern from Washington State University). With the sun out, we had ample time to take in the views, discover a “new foot type,” find a cormorant egg, and some debris items, all in a matter of hours. The only COASST find that day? Well, see if you can tell from the photo:
Julia and Nick examine the find of the day. Hint: a tubenose, common this time of year.
How’s this for rare? A new-to-COASST foot-type family, found on a North Coast beach! Sue Keilman and Scott Horton found this Virginia Rail on their Third Beach survey. In the Beached Birds field guide, rails are most closely related to the American Coot. As seen in the guide, coots have lobed toes that recall those of the grebes. This rail, however, has four free toes, three of which are very long and spindly. As you can see in the photos, the longest toe is virtually the same length as the tarsus! As usual, foot type betrays function: rails are perfectly suited for walking on soft, marshy substrate and floating vegetation.
What surprise will COASSTers find next?
The first Virginia Rail found on a COASST survey.
Note the three long toes and one short toe.
On April 30th, while walking along the beach just south of Yellow Banks (on the north coast of Washington), COASST volunteer Dave Easton found a kite board washed up on shore. The board had the owner’s E-mail on it, so Dave contacted him. It turns out the owner had lost it on April 6th in Canada after a bad wipe out about 400 meters off shore. As Dave puts it, it’s “amazing how the currents and wind work; choreographed chaos.” Next time you’re out scouring the beach for marine debris, keep in mind the potential origin of the debris and the long journey it took to get there. The two are now working to reunite the owner with his lost board.
The start and end point of this kite board’s grand journey.
The kite board from Canada found along the Washington Coast
Amazing trip out to the COASST with Barbara Blackie’s “Topics in Marine Ecology” class at Western Washington University. Barbara, a former COASST Volunteer Coordinator, uses COASST surveys as a learning opportunity for numerous college students. As all COASSTers know, you can’t head out to the beach without looking for (dead) birds!
COASST finds made up for the less-than-ideal weather – a couple of Black-footed Albatross, a Rhinoceros Auklet (complete with white leading edge), and a Sabine’s Gull (distinctive white upperwing triangle).
Bill (BFAL), wing (PHAU), wing (SAGU) from the WWU field trip weekend.
Occasionally, new recruits ask whether “Wrack: Thick >1M wide” refers to wrack height or spread across the sand. At Sooes, we actually found wrack almost one meter tall – incredible.
Students from Barbara’s class show just how much wrack can accumulate.
We followed up COASST surveys with a walk on the Cape Flattery trail, with some stunning views of Gray Whales, Tufted Puffins, and migrating geese. After all that, how could you not want to become a marine biologist?
View from the Cape Flattery Trail, with Tatoosh Island in the background.
April 26th to 28th COASST Volunteer, Barbara Blackie, is taking out her Western Washington University Marine Ecology class to do COASST surveys on several beaches in the North Coast; Hobuck, Waatch, Shi Shi, Sooes East and West. Jane will be joining in on the fun. If you would like to come along for a refresher let Liz know. It should be a great time!
Looking for birds in the drift wood of Kalaloch South.
2011 group of Western Washington University students at Ruby Beach, on the north coast of Washington.