SEANET volunteer Ralph Marotti (CC_02) went above and beyond for us this week, calling today to give us an update on the ongoing Common Eider die-offs on Cape Cod. SEANET has been frustrated by our inability to get a solid grasp on the numbers of birds involved in the die-offs. While a number of SEANET volunteers have been reporting from their beaches and keeping us posted on what they see, the epicenter of the die-off, Great Island and Jeremy Point in Wellfleet, have been almost completely inaccessible.
Ralph Marotti journeyed out to Jeremy Point via ATV with the permission of Mary Hake, the Cape Cod National Seashore’s Shorebird Management Technician. Ralph tells us that he counted 120 Common Eider carcasses all clustered on the Point, but that he knows that he did not get a full tally.
SEANET has been overwhelmed by the offers of help in counting and collecting carcasses, but have up to now been limited by the logistics of reaching Jeremy Point. As you can see on the map below, trail maps of the Wellfleet area bear bright red text beside the Point reading, “DANGER: Land south of here is submerged except at lowest tides. Check with a ranger.” ATV and boat are essentially the only reasonable options to survey the Point, and Carrie Phillips, Chief of Natural Resource Management at the National Seashore, is understandly reluctant to overutilize ATVs at this time of year since the area involved is sensitive Piping Plover nesting habitat.
The solution is a collaboration between SEANET, the National Seashore, and Dr. Michael Moore of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Thanks to the collaborative spirit of the National Seashore, our own Dr. Julie Ellis, Dr. Moore, and PhD student Andrea Bogomolni will be venturing out to Jeremy Point via boat this Sunday to count carcasses and collect a few representative specimens for necropsy and further diagnostics. From there, we hope to work in collaboration with numerous agencies and labs to get to the bottom of this die-off, and hopefully help to explain past die-offs as well. As always, keep your eyes on the blog for more information as we get it.