This past year was relatively light in terms of Common Eider mortality on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. In 2007, we saw heavy mortality among males in the Spring and Fall (the usual pattern for these events) but we also saw an unusual die-off of adult females over the Summer. In comparison, 2008 saw only one minor event involving a few dozen birds. The reason for such a stark difference in severity between years is unknown.
SEANET continues to work on the issue of these die-offs. We applied for funding this year to perform further testing on the birds, but we unfortunately received word this week that our proposal had been declined.
Undaunted, we continue to pursue the issue through more low budget means. Our collaborator, Jack Renfrew, an avid sea duck hunter and co-chair of the Boston Chapter of Ducks Unlimited, has generously provided us with a number of eider carcasses he has acquired during his activities out on the open water this hunting season.
These specimens are invaluable in collecting normal baseline data on presumably healthy birds. This permits us to then compare these birds with birds affected by past and future die-offs. Without access to these specimens, we would be unable to appreciate subtle abnormalities in the die-off birds, or to interpret our findings. We thank Jack for all his time and effort in this endeavor, and SEANET will keep you all informed of our findings in our ongoing investigation of this phenomenon.