The mysterious connection between NY_04 and CT_08

6 05 2009


Those of you who have perused the most recent SEANET newsletter may recall the weird tale of a live Brown Pelican spotted by volunteer Laura McKellar at NY_04a. Laura saw the bird in late June of last year. Then, about three weeks later, volunteers Reed and Chris Cass found the mummified, skeletal remains of a Brown Pelican across the Sound on their beach in Connecticut. While there is no way of knowing that these birds were one and the same, the circumstances struck SEANET as eerie.

Now, in case anyone had begun to doubt the cosmic connection between NY_04 and CT_08, we have yet more, very unscientific evidence of a link between the beaches.

On April 14th, Reed and Chris reported three skeletal Mute Swan carcasses on CT_08B.

One of three Mute Swan carcasses found by Reed and Chris Cass (CT_08B)

One of three Mute Swan carcasses found by Reed and Chris Cass (CT_08B)

The birds were too decomposed to make any judgment about potential causes of death. Then, on April 30th, volunteer Laura McKellar found a decomposed Mute Swan carcass on her beach, NY_04c on Long Island.

Mute swans, an introduced species to the North American continent, are not uncommon live bird sightings along the shores of New York and southern New England. But from January 2008 through March 2009, SEANET received a total of three reports of beached Mute Swans throughout all our beaches. Now, we’ve seen four reports in the month of April alone.

What does this really mean? Is there something localized going on with Mute Swans in Laura’s area of Long Island, and the currents simply carry the carcasses across the Sound to Connecticut? Or is there potentially something more widespread affecting Mute Swans in the larger region?

Mute Swan carcass found bu Laura McKellar in New York (NY_04a)

Mute Swan carcass found by Laura McKellar in New York (NY_04a)

This case points to a number of questions we at SEANET want to pursue. What are the current and wind patterns that may contribute to patterns of carcass deposition? Is it possible that carcasses really are making it across Long Island Sound and being detected in Connecticut? How do we answer these questions and what is their significance in matters of avian mortality?

One thing is for sure, this case points to the need for us to consistently label all bird carcasses! If we do not, we will have no way of knowing for sure whether carcasses that wash up on a SEANET beach and then wash back out to sea ever turn up on a different SEANET beach.

So if you haven’t already, email to get your official SEANET cable ties and let’s do some serious  science, Seanetters!




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