Thanks Janice, who surveys the Damon Point East and West, for introducing us to this neat and helpful addition to the COASST field kit: a chalk holder. Most any office supply store carries these portable plastic holders that turn your chalk into a mechanical pencil. “It’s especially helpful in the rain, and for using up those smaller pieces,” adds Janice.
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.
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).
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.
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?
On April 20th, the COASST interns went on our quarterly field trip. This spring, we went to the south coast of Washington and surveyed South Leadbetter A and Oysterville Beach, both north of Long Beach, WA. The eight of us set out from the University of Washington at 7am sharp, reaching Long Beach at around 11 am. Once there, we met up with a local COASST volunteer and split into two groups. One group went with Liz on South Leadbetter A, and the other with COASST Senior Intern Stephanie, on Oysterville Beach.
These field trips allow us to get hands-on experience surveying beaches and identifying beached birds. We found two birds to practice our ID skills on–a set of Red Phalarope wings and a Herring Gull, both on South Leadbetter A. The weather was surprisingly nice that day; the rain stayed away, and the sun even made an appearance. There were some people out flying kites and taking walks on the beach, and even a few horseback riders. A great time was had by all.
Seabirds aren’t the only animals that wash up on the beach. On Saturday, a fin whale washed ashore a Puget Sound COASST beach! The animal was found in Seahurst Park in Burien, Washington. The carcass was torn in half and had red paint on it, suggesting that a ship struck the whale several days to a week ago. It has drawn crowds to Seahurst Park, coming to get up close and personal with the second-largest animal in the world, despite the health risks and the stench.
Aquaria, museums, and zoos will sometimes collect skeletons from beached whales for educational purposes, but this specimen is incomplete–only the first 52 feet of the 65-foot animal washed up on shore. No one has expressed interest in the remains, leaving the city of Burien with the challenge of disposing of the carcass. The process is estimated to cost tens of thousands of dollars.
Fin whales can grow up to 75 feet and are the second largest whale after the blue whale. A federally endangered species, fin whales are usually only found in the deep ocean. The only time these whales enter Puget Sound is on the bow of a ship. This is the eighth fin whale carcass showing evidence of a ship strike to appear in Washington in the last ten years. Ship strikes are an emerging problem for large whale species up and down the West Coast.
More information can be found here.
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!
Last Wednesday a large landslide took place on the western side of Whidbey Island (Washington State) near the Ledgewood community. Twenty properties were damaged during the event, but luckily no one was harmed. Smaller slides have happened in the area, but this one dropped enough earth to fill dozens of football stadiums, and even raised the beach about 9 meters (30 feet) above the earlier shoreline. The front of the slide is more than 304 meters (1,000 feet) long and extends some 91 meters (300 feet) into Puget Sound. Private beach surrounds the slide area. The COASST site, “Ledgewood Beach North” (in white) is just a few blocks away (slide shown in red):
This past Saturday, 14 energetic recruits joined Liz at Carkeek Park in Seattle for an on-the-beach COASST training on a beautiful (yet very chilly) spring day. After an introduction to the program, the team reviewed the COASST survey protocol and completed their first survey (no beached birds to report!). Beached bird identification followed, with plenty of hands on practice using the COASST teaching collection. These guys were experts at beached bird ID in no time – a great group of volunteers!
Five participants joined as part of the Puget Sound Corps (PSC) a division of the Washington Conservation Corps AmeriCorps program. PSC members are generally recent high school or college graduates, or veterans who sign up to spend one year working with various state agencies (in this case, Washington Department of Natural Resources) participating in ecological monitoring programs and restoration work. PSC COASSTers will adopt several beaches in Washington’s Aquatic Reserves (Cypress Island, Murray Island, Nisqually Reach) – a great partnership for building a baseline at new and existing Puget Sound beaches.
Thanks to volunteer Kathy Linnell a COASST informational poster earned first prize at the Washington State Garden Show. Other contestants submitted posters on urban chickens, bird house building and blue herons. Way to go Kathy!
Debris trash bins to be redeployed as debris increases in fall – check out this news release.