Tag Archives: Oregon

The 411 on Marine Mammals

An early morning photo from Jan Henault (Chetco Beach, Oregon South) reminded us to remind you that YES, marine mammals should be recorded in the comments section of the COASST data sheet.

Sperm whale at Chetco Point (background) with vertebrae in foreground. Credit: Jan Henault.

Sperm whale at Chetco Point (background) with vertebrae in foreground. Credit: Jan Henault.

More than that, Kirstin Wilkinson, Northwest Marine Mammal Stranding Coordinator (Washington to Northern California – Alaska is separate) reminds us of the following:

When you find a stranded live or dead marine mammal on the beach, contact the local stranding network coordinator in the area via this map. For calls within Olympic National Park, report to Kristin, 206-526-4747. Sea Otter stranding should be reported to the Sea Otter Stranding hotline, 877-326-8837.

What information is needed?

Please leave your name, phone number, date and time, species, status (dead, alive, injured, etc.) and the exact location, and identify yourself as a COASST volunteer. Please mention if you have taken photos of the animal; photos are very helpful with identification and to assess condition of the carcass/animal.

What will happen?

The local coordinator will determine if a response to the stranding is necessary. If the carcass is in poor condition, there is a chance there will not be a response due to limited information value, resources and personnel. Also, there is a chance the animal has already been reported or responded to. In most circumstances carcasses will be left on the beach and will only be removed if a full necropsy will be performed.

Intervention on live seal and sea lion strandings occurs on a case by case basis. Rehabilitation facility capacity is low and can only accommodate harbor seal pups that have had some type of negative human interaction.

Will I get a call back?

If you would like a call back from the local stranding coordinator, please say so in your voicemail.

What happens to the reports?

A Level A (stranding network) data form will be filled out by the local stranding coordinator for all dead or live stranded marine mammals under NOAA jurisdiction. The Level A will be entered and information included in the national database.

What’s Washed In

We have been seeing lots of interesting things being found out on the COASST beaches. Here are a few of the many photos that have been sent in recently:


The tiniest of tubenoses, this is a Leach’s Storm-Petrel found in North Oregon. All dark upperwing and a small wing chord of less than 18cm puts us in the “tiny” category of the West Coast guide, and a similar spot in the Alaska guide, one shared with many of the small Alcids (e.g., Marbled Murrelet, Cassin’s Auklet). Underwing linings are not white (you’ll have to trust us on this point) so we’re left with Storm-Petrels. Of those, only the Leach’s has a white rump and dark brown (vs. light gray) plumage.


A Large Immature Gull entangled in blue filament (see left leg) found in the Puget Sound. Entangled birds make up about 0.5% of all birds found during COASST surveys in any year. Look carefully at that bill – dark and hooked, but no tube or separate bill plates, so it’s not a shearwater or a jaeger.


There’s only a few species with white in the upperwing and the secondary feathers – Ivory Gull, Glaucous Gull, Trumpeter Swan, Tundra Swan or Snow Goose. Dark primary feathers tell us this is a Snow Goose-light morph, found in the Chukchi Sea (it’s finally melting up there!)


A rubber cat found on the South Coast of Washington – perhaps used as an under-pet-bowl placemat?


Finally, a glass ampoule (sealed vial) found on the South Coast of Washington. Modern ampoules are mostly used to contain injectable pharmaceuticals. The best way to dispose of an item like this and other medications is through a local pharmacy, or National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, or via the FDA’s suggested method.

You never know what you may find out on those beaches!

Using unmanned aircraft systems to monitor seabirds

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has won permission to test an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) off the Olympic Coast of Washington.  But don’t worry; they’re not using them to spy on us.  Instead, NOAA is planning to use the UAS to take high-def video of seabird colonies, as well as to search for tsunami debris.  The 9-foot unmanned aircraft is better suited for this than traditional aircraft because it makes much less noise and is therefore less disruptive to the seabirds.  In addition, the drones are much less expensive and much safer than manned aircraft.

NOAA drone in flight. Photo Credit: Ed Bowlby / NOAA

NOAA drone in flight. Photo Credit: Ed Bowlby / NOAA

Murre Colony

Photos of Common Murre colony taken by the NOAA drone. Photo credit: NOAA

Oregon’s Department of Fish and Wildlife has acquired a similar UAS in hopes of also doing seabird colony research. However, that project is currently facing difficulty obtaining a permit from Federal Aviation Administration and remains on hold.

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!

Oregon Trainings a Huge Success

A beautiful view from Bob and Betsy’s new beach (Nye South), looking north toward Gary’s beach (Nye North) and Renee’s (Yaquina Head).

Things have busy around the COASST office lately. In addition to the normal happenings, Liz and Jane have led four Oregon trainings for new COASST volunteers in the past month. With a car full of bird specimens, survey kits, and field guides these two have traveled to Nehalem, Newport, Florence, and Gold Beach to train a total of 55 volunteers. And what a great group of new volunteers!

Hana’s new beach, Harbor Vista County Park, outside Florence, Oregon.

This new cohort of Oregon volunteers have signed up to survey beaches all over the 340 miles of the Oregon coastline. As of now, we have filled all but one of the existing beaches in the Oregon North region and created numerous new survey sites. A huge thanks to all the Oregonians out there who helped advertise and spread the word for these events. We couldn’t have done it with out you! And a big welcome to our new volunteers.







All About Refinds!

Ever wondered what happens to the birds you tag on COASST surveys? And why do we tag them, anyway?

Much of the time, the carcasses are swept away with the next high tide, or are carried away by scavengers. Most times, a bird is never seen again. Think of all the others that are deposited once and for all on unsurveyed beaches – we are none the wiser!

Other times, we know exactly what happens to a beached bird. We have good evidence that they’re more mobile than you might think. In January, Bonnie Wood and Janet Wheeler at Salt Aire North found a Pacific Loon. Later that same day, Amy and Jack Douglas happened upon the very same bird on the neighboring beach, Bonge. Is that possible? Turns out, carcasses do move–by dogs, humans, or raptors. Without a unique tag combo, we’d never be able to trace such refinds.

Those dead birds untouched by animals and tides remain right where they are. Certain beaches are well known among COASST staff as “bird keepers.” These are often the most expansive sandy beaches, where a bird may be buried by blowing sand for many months, only to be uncovered and refound months later. The tags, then, are the only way to tell that such birds should not be counted as a “new” find.

We ask our volunteers to collect data on refinds each time they’re encountered. We don’t require measurements or photos after the original find, but we do ask for a few fields: where found, body parts, species, tie number and color sequence. Some volunteers do choose to take photos each time, and they allow us to make some fun “before-and-after” comparisons. In combination with refind data, this gives us an idea of which parts last– the feet and wings (the basis for the COASST guide).

This intact Rhinoceros Auklet was reduced to just a sternum, the tagged wing bones, and a few other bones after 6 months on Agate Beach, in Oregon.

This Northern Fulmar was one of 24 found on December 3, 2010. A month later, it was found again, only slightly degraded. Then in September 2012, amazingly, it turned up again a whopping 21 months after its original find date!! A new persistence record for COASST!

All photos by Wendy Williams

Washed Ashore Exhibit Opens in Bandon, OR

A cool exhibit about sea life and the threat of ocean pollution opened on March 23 at the Harbortown Event Center in Bandon, Oregon, located at 324 Second St. SE in Old Town Bandon. The Washed Ashore exhibit is an internationally famous touring exhibit that has appeared at many venues in Oregon and California, including the Oregon Coast Aquarium, The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, Calif., The Living Coast Discovery Center in Chula Vista, Calif., and the Newport Visual Arts Center in Oregon.

Washed Ashore, an environmental education project, uses art and community involvement to communicate the dangers of marine debris to ocean life. Founded in 2010, Washed Ashore has collected more than eight tons of marine debris and is a founding member of the Oregon Marine Debris Team. In addition, Washed Ashore works closely with a number of organizations to address Japanese tsunami marine debris.

The Washed Ashore exhibit is comprised of fifteen giant sculptures of marine organisms built from scavenged marine debris, and is the only art show utilizing marine debris in the nation. Local volunteers put together each sculpture, some of which are up to fifteen feet long, in community workshops led by Angela Hasltine Pozzi.

Some of the sculptures featured in the exhibit are up to 15 feet tall.

Since local volunteers make this project possible, citizens of Coos County are invited to help put together the next pieces for the exhibit, which include sea horses, penguins, a shark, and an octopus. In addition, Washed Ashore is always accepting donations of marine debris, and they can be dropped off at Art 101 just south of town. For more information, contact Frank Rocco, Washed Ashore development director, 415-847-1239 or FrankRocco@WashedAshore.org.

The full article by Amy Moss Strong featured in the Bandon Western World can be found here

Pelicans Roughing Up Murres


Feisty young pelicans are roughing up nesting murres at Yaquina Head off the coast of Oregon. They are not only stirring up the adults and preying on the chicks, but they are also physically shaking the chicks until they regurgitate their last fish meal for the pelicans to consume.

Researchers from the Hatfield Marine Science Center believe the acts may be a result from a lack of food in the ocean. Associate Professor Robert Suryan, observed that brown pelican disturbances are normal, “but none have been this extensive”.

“We observed juvenile pelicans eating chicks, shaking chicks until they regurgitated fish meals and then discarding the chicks to eat the fish, and eating any fish parts that were on the rocks,” Suryan wrote in a report on his surveys.

The turmoil from the intrusions in the populations have therefore lead to more opportunities for gulls and corvids to have their fill of unattended chicks and eggs. It also results in a large number of chicks accidentally being pushed off the rocks too early, leaving them to drown or get pummeled by rough surf. Hundreds of chicks are washing up on nearby beaches after being shoved off rocks prematurely.

According to Cheryl Horton, who has been monitoring the murres that nest at Yaquina Head, said the pelican attacks are part of the natural order, but are rather unusual off the Oregon coast. She claimed that the weirdest part about these events was how the pelicans were shaking the chicks to get the fish. This is new to this site along with the large number of chicks being washed up.

“Pelicans were removed from the Endangered Species List in 2009 and eagles in 2007, and they’re really great environmental success stories,” she said. “Everybody’s got to make a living.”

Another dominant predator to the murres are the Bald Eagles. With their increasing populations, some murre nesting communities have completely abandoned their sites over the past decade. Horton is currently looking for a way to monitor the effects of these predators on murre populations. Despite their high population numbers, the lack of nesting sites may affect their ability to produce as many chicks as they have in the past.

Click here to watch a video of a pelican intrusion, courtesy of Cheryl Horton.

Read more on this topic Here.