Pending SEANET publication on gannets?

26 06 2009

 

Necropsy room shenanigans: gannet steals Taryn's cell and photo i.d.

Necropsy room shenanigans: gannet steals Taryn's cell and photo i.d.

Kudos to Taryn Gervais, a Tufts veterinary student who worked on a summer project with SEANET last year. Taryn peformed necropsies on Northern Gannets and sampled their organs for contaminants. She had an eye toward comparing and contrasting the general body condition, disease states, and contaminant loads between gannets that washed up dead on SEANET beaches and gannets that were taken as bycatch (accidentally killed due to entanglement in fishing gear.) It has long been hypothesized that bycaught birds can be used as a good representative sample of healthy birds, but some have questioned this assumption suggesting that birds that feed near fishing vessels might be weakened, sick, or otherwise unable to forage normally without a boost from discarded bait. 

 

 

Serious science: Taryn's preliminary data show that bycaught birds have greater muscle mass than beached birds, a possible indicator of overall health.

Serious science: Taryn's preliminary data show that bycaught birds have greater muscle mass than beached birds, a possible indicator of overall health.

Taryn has endured the typical grueling schedule of a vet student and is now on a well deserved summer break after her second year. But not one to rest on her laurels, Taryn has cranked out a draft of a paper she hopes to publish on this topic. Writing up the results of a project is generally the most daunting part of the process, and SEANET is most proud of Taryn. We are confident that Taryn will manage to get this paper published, and we will let you know when she makes her first appearance in a scientific journal–a rare feat for a vet student. Keep up the great work Taryn!

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Dead bird quiz answers

20 06 2009

I didn’t want to lob too much of a softball your way, shrewd Seanetters, so I declined to provide the wing chord for Bird A in yesterday’s quiz. Though I am certain you all figured out its identity anyway, I suspect the diminutive size of the bird would have been a dead giveaway. Brilliant blue feathers with a flash of white, and the scaly black foot of a passerine give this one away as our adaptable and clever Blue Jay.

Yesterday's Bird A: the shrewd and beautiful Blue Jay.

Yesterday's Bird A: the shrewd and beautiful Blue Jay.

 I included this find partly to make a point; many Seanetters assume we are only interested in seabirds, but nay, nay! We want to hear about all the dead birds you find, seabird or not. 

Our Bird B represents one of the most common conundrums facing Seanetters worldwide: the juvenile gull. This one, with a wing chord of 45cm, is marginally in Herring Gull territory, though the smallest Great Black-Backed Gulls may also have a wing chord of 45cm. Our Bird B exhibits a rather drab gray color over the dorsal wing. Great Black-Backed Gulls, on the other hand, have a much more striking black and white pattern over the dorsal wing and back. Based on this, we concur with Dennis is his identification of the bird as a Herring Gull. But these juveniles certainly keep the conscientious Seanetter on his toes.

Until next week, Seanetters!





Dead bird quiz: Dennis Minsky edition

18 06 2009

Dennis walks his SEANET beat far out at the tip of Cape Cod, where the carcasses are many and mangled. Here are two very recent finds he reported to us. These bedraggled bits and pieces are typical fare for Dennis who has become a gifted forensic birder as a result.
Try your hand at these i.d.s and the answers, as usual, will appear tomorrow.

Bird A: Found by Dennis Minsky on Cape Cod this month.

Bird A: Found by Dennis Minsky on Cape Cod this month.

Bird B: Also a Dennis find this month. Wing chord: 45cm.

Bird B: Also a Dennis find this month. Wing chord: 45cm.





Featured Beach: NJ_99

12 06 2009

NJ_99Whale Beach in Strathmere NJ, known to savvy Seanetters as NJ_99, is faithfully patrolled by Frank Kenny. Frank has recruited wife Bobbie, a sister, a nephew and occasionally a daughter to the SEANET efforts, needing only to bribe them with a post-survey luncheon. The sandy beach, about 25 miles north of Cape May, is like many northeastern beaches: desolate in winter, and host to numerous bathers in summer. The beach is also favored by surf casters after striper, bluefish and drumfish in spring and fall in particular. The striped bass pictured with Frank here was more fortunate than most; the fish was tagged by the American Littoral Society and released after its photo op. Frank’s deep commitment to the preservation of marine ecosystems has been clear to us at SEANET, and we are grateful that he devotes some of his time (and that of his family) to our program.

Frank with a striped bass in Brigantine, NJ

Frank with a striped bass in Brigantine, NJ

A lifelong resident of south Jersey, Frank’s ties to the beach date back well beyond his involvement in SEANET. Frank has been surfing the waters off southern New Jersey since the mid-60s and has seen some changes in his time there. The very profile of the beach has been altered–the entire southern tip of the beach was sheared off in a 1962 Nor’easter. Frank also recalls seeing sewer outfall pipes from coastal homes discharging directly into the ocean back in the days before we became (relatively) enlightened about such things.

Sanderlings cavort at the water's edge on NJ_99

Sanderlings cavort at the water's edge on NJ_99


Thanks for your continued commitment Frank, and for the window you provide us to the coastal environment in southern New Jersey. Keep up the fine work!





Dead Bird Quiz Answers

8 06 2009

Apologies for keeping you faithful Seanetters in suspense all weekend, but here are the answers to Friday’s dead bird quiz at last! Bird A, shown in a close up here, is a Sandhill Crane!

Profile of Sandhill Crane found by Rebecca Bell of Georgia

Profile of Sandhill Crane found by Rebecca Bell of Georgia

Those of you walking beaches anywhere north of Georgia will likely never come across one of these guys, as you can see from the range map, courtesy of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Range map for the Sandhill Crane. Migration route through Georgia is shown in yellow.

Range map for the Sandhill Crane. Migration route through Georgia is shown in yellow.

Sandhill Cranes are generally a more western species, but you can see that the birds do overwinter in Florida and pass through Georgia on their migration to their northern breeding grounds. It’s a very cool find! Rebecca transported the carcass to Dr. Terry Norton at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center for necropsy, so hopefully that will yield some answers on how the crane met its unfortunate end.

 

As for Bird B, though getting to a species i.d. based on this photo would be tough, you may have been able to determine that the bird is a storm petrel. Storm petrels are in the order Procellariiformes, or tubenoses, and the tubular nostrils atop the bill of these birds goes a long way toward making an i.d. The small size of the bird and the striking white patch on the rump tell us that the bird is, in fact, a storm petrel. That leaves us with two major candidates here on the eastern seaboard: Wilson’s Storm Petrel or Leach’s Storm Petrel. Rebecca reports to us that the bird lacked the bright yellow foot webs that characterize the Wilson’s Storm Petrel, so she concluded that the bird is a Leach’s. Thanks for the photos Rebecca; very cool!

The Wilson's Storm Petrel sports bright yellow foot webs. Our Bird B lacked these festive embellishments.

The Wilson's Storm Petrel sports bright yellow foot webs. Our Bird B lacked these festive embellishments.





Dead bird quiz: Georgia island edition

5 06 2009

Some cool finds from new Seanetter Rebecca Bell down on Little Cumberland Island in Georgia. Any guesses on these ones? Answers will be posted tomorrow, as per our usual arrangement.

 

Bird A

Bird A

 

Bird B

Bird B