SEANET on the Outer Banks

21 03 2012

The assembled crowd listens as John Gerwin shows museum specimens of common N.C. seabirds.

After a full day of travel yesterday, I staggered into the town of Manteo, NC on Roanoke Island just in time to give the SEANET spiel to about a dozen assembled personages. The workshop was organized in fine fashion by dear friend of SEANET John Stanton, and by Becky Bartel, who, along with John, is in the employ of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. It seems the USFWS grows dearer to me everyday.

In any case, the crowd last night was engaged, curious, and it appears we have a few new recruits among them to walk some of these very fine beaches here in North Carolina. John Gerwin, Curator of Birds at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences, made the trek from Raleigh to bring a selection of prepared bird skins for the attendees to examine and handle. Several of the avid birders in the crowd began to appreciate that a bird looks very different when dead than when alive, illustrating once again the strange and valuable skill set of dead bird i.d. that we Seanetters cultivate.

After the evening’s festivities, and a solid night’s sleep, I had the distinct pleasure of joining Becky on her SEANET walk at Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge.¬†Dolphins were cruising close in to shore, endless lines of cormorants were streaming up over the southern horizon (see video). “Where are they all coming from?” I exclaimed, and Becky answered grimly, “The underworld.” Evidently she has the requisite morbid sense of humor to be a Seanetter.

Becky also found her first intact carcass, complete with head: a Common Loon. She also found a couple of wings whose identity I shall keep secret lest they appear in an upcoming dead bird quiz.

Becky Bartel takes an initial photo of a dead loon on her Pea Island beach.

I have every confidence that between Becky and John, SEANET-North Carolina will thrive. This is bittersweet for me, of course, because it means no more trips down south for the foreseeable future. Alas. So tomorrow, it’s back to New England for me, where, admittedly, the weather has been lovely, so I hardly have anything to complain about. Thanks Becky, John Stanton, and John Gerwin, and thanks to all who attended last night–hope to hear from you all soon!

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