Scottish government expands protection for seabirds

29 09 2009
Scottish seabirds will receive greater protections in the waters around their breeding colonies

Scottish seabirds will receive greater protections in the waters around their breeding colonies

A bit of good news for you on this Tuesday: the Scottish government has expanded 31 seabird protection areas for a distance of 1 to 4 kilometers out to sea. Recognizing that limiting protection to breeding colonies on land ignores the entire marine portion of seabirds’ lifecycle, Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead pointed out that protecting the birds during the ocean going phase of their lives is vital to species survival. The last few years have been less than stellar for Scottish seabirds, and the current move comes in response to their poor breeding success of late. The expansion of the protected zones is expected to benefit numerous seabird species, including some familiar denizens of U.S. waters like the Northern Gannet, Atlantic Puffin and Common Murre (known in Scotland, oddly enough, as the Guillemot.)





Dead bird quiz answers

25 09 2009

 

Bird A was a greater shearwater. Not that you Seanetters even hazarded a guess. Sigh.

Bird A was a greater shearwater. Not that you Seanetters even hazarded a guess. Sigh.

Oh come on! Not a single guess on yesterday’s dead bird quiz? I’m shocked, SHOCKED, Seanetters. I suppose I must reveal the answers nonetheless. Bird A is a Greater Shearwater. These guys are often misidentified by even relatively experienced birders since they so rarely appear near shore, and essentially only come on land to breed. Or to die, in this case. They are sometimes reported as cormorants, owing to that long, hooked bill. But closer inspection should reveal the characteristic tubenose sported by shearwaters and albatross. This particular specimen was rather bedraggled, so measurements are crucial to confirming the i.d. True dead bird nerds will consult their trusty beached bird field guide and see that the measurements provided in the photo of Bird A are spot on for a greater shearwater.

Bird B is definitely a cormorant. But what sort? The ubiquitous Double-crested Cormorant is a common finding on many SEANET beaches up and down the coast. But Bird B is, remarkably, not a Double-crested. Bird B is the first confirmed Great Cormorant found by a Seanetter in the past three years! Given their rarity, a cautious Seanetter could be forgiven for assuming that all dead cormorants are of the Double-crested variety, so here are a few tips for discerning the difference.

First, the Great Cormorant is substantially larger than the D.C. This, however, can be difficult to appreciate unless the two obligingly drop dead side by side on your beach. Alternatively, you can examine the head of your mystery cormorant.

Bird B was a Great Cormorant, much like this one, but more dead.

Bird B was a Great Cormorant, much like this one, but more dead.

The Great Cormorant has a relatively small patch of yellow or orange skin at the base of the bill, and a variably sized white patch on the throat just behind that. The white is much more extensive in adults than in our Bird B, a juvenile. The Double-crested Cormorant, on the other hand, has no white feathers on the throat at all, and much more extensive yellow or orange coloring.

Finally, the white belly on our Bird B is unique to juvenile Great Cormorants. They grow out of it by adulthood, and Double-crested lack any white on the belly at any age. 

Double-crested Cormorant; cousin to our Bird B

Double-crested Cormorant; cousin to our Bird B





Dead Bird Quiz: dark birds with hooked bills edition

24 09 2009
Bird A: Dorsum. Found  September 19 by Ray Bosse on LC_03a

Bird A: Found September 19 by Ray Bosse on LC_03a

Bird A: A second view. Measurements are shown on card in photo.

Bird A: A second view. Measurements are shown on card in photo.

Seanetters patrolling Buzzard’s Bay in Massachusetts are accustomed to bird carcass free trips. Their region generates very few specimens for reasons that are as yet unknown. But this month, Seanetters in that area turned up an unusual number of carcasses. Perhaps this uptick is a mere fluke, or perhaps it is something more substantial–your blogger lacks the statistical acumen to determine this at the present moment.

In any case, we want Seanetters far and wide to share in the sudden bounty of Buzzard’s Bay, and so we offer you this dead bird quiz, straight from southern Massachusetts. Answers, as always, will appear in tomorrow’s post. Bring on the guesses, Seanetters!

Bird B (dorsum): Found September 15 by Libby Rock on LC_04

Bird B (dorsum): Found September 15 by Libby Rock on LC_04

Bird B (ventrum)

Bird B (ventrum)





Manx Shearwater fledgling found in Maine

22 09 2009

 

Confirmed: a Manx Shearwater fledgling found in Maine (photo by USFWS)

Confirmed: a Manx Shearwater fledgling found in Maine (photo by USFWS)

For the first time in the United States, biologists have documented the successful breeding of Manx Shearwaters. The birds usually breed in Great Britain and other regions of the eastern Atlantic. Already known as a breeding island for Atlantic Puffins, the now celebrated Matinicus Rock was also the first documented breeding site for Common Murres in the eastern U.S. in over a century.

Matinicus Rock--now home to Manx Shearwaters!

Matinicus Rock--now home to Manx Shearwaters!

Biologists found a shearwater egg on the small island back in 2005, but it failed to hatch. Two adult Manx were seen prowling around a nesting burrow last year, but breeding was never confirmed. Now it’s certain. The fledgling was reported to be very healthy upon examination, and scientists and wildlife managers alike are optimistic that this is the start of something great.

Kudos to both the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Audubon (who cooperatively manage the island) for their hard work and dedication, and congrats on your new arrival!





Urgent! Monofilament recyclers wanted!

18 09 2009

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Hello Seanetters and friends of SEANET generally. Some time ago, SEANET contacted the BoatUS Foundation’s “Reel In and Recycle” Program. The program provides free monofilament recycling bins to organizations and individuals who can commit to maintaining them and collecting the line for shipment. Since SEANET has volunteers walking beaches on a regular basis, and many of those beaches are heavily fished, we thought this would be an excellent partnership. Many of you report monofilament on your beaches, and these bins will encourage anglers to dispose of the line properly, keeping it from entangling seabirds and other marine organisms. Rather than just throwing it away, this is a way for all that line to have new life!

Boat US has just made 400 new bins available and SEANET is at the top of the list to receive them! If your beach is a popular fishing spot and you are interested in having a bin, you must be willing to commit to collecting the line and shipping it to Berkley Conservation (at no cost to you for shipping). The demand for the bins is high, so if you’d like one, please email your blogger (sarah.courchesne@tufts.edu) or respond in a comment to this post and we will submit our order. We’re looking forward to hearing from you!





Featured Beach: CT_09

17 09 2009
Joe Poland, sporting a SEANET t-shirt, on the sandy section of CT_09.

Joe Poland, sporting a SEANET t-shirt, on the sandy section of CT_09.

SEANET beach CT_09 in eastern Connecticut offers a fine complement to last week’s featured beach. CT_09, walked by Joe Poland for just over a year now, is roughly across the mouth of the Thames River from Hugh Sokolski’s CT_10. Like Hugh’s beach, CT_09 is not a big producer of bird carcasses; in fact, Joe has not found a single one in his year with SEANET. His walk is a 1.82 mile stretch spanning three separate beaches in two towns. Mostly sandy, CT_09 also includes lesser amounts of cobble and boulder.

Joe's start point: Glen Cove Inlet

Joe's start point: Glen Cove Inlet

Joe’s beach is frequented by swimmers and sunbathers in the lovely New England summer, and becomes relatively deserted in winter. The beach next door is restricted in summer for Piping Plover nesting season, but Joe’s beach remains open year-round.

Joe himself is a retired chemist who was in the almost constant employ of the Connecticut State Department of Public Health since 1968. He left at the federal government’s request when he was drafted in 1968. After a stint in the Air Force, and a consequent stint in Vietnam, he received an Honorable Discharge in 1972 and returned to Connecticut and the Department of Public Health, though he served as a 1st Lieutenant in the Connecticut Air National Guard until 1991.

Professionally, Joe has not been a stranger to issues facing our water; in the latter portion of his career, he specialized in chemical analyses of pesticides and PCBs in drinking water, fish, shellfish and soil. Now retired from that work, he spends his time renovating his lakefront home on Andover Lake in Connecticut, and, we are grateful to say, walking his beach for SEANET.

Thanks Joe! Keep those reports coming; this kind of unbroken, monthly record is the most valuable data our project can get!

The view out to sea over the rocky ledge between Harkness State Beach and Waterford Town Beach.

The view out to sea over the rocky ledge between Harkness State Beach and Waterford Town Beach.





Blogger joins the ranks of the real Seanetters

16 09 2009

 

The view from NH_06, the SEANET blogger's beach.

The view from NH_06, the SEANET blogger's beach.

Lest ye hardy Seanetters think that your intrepid “leaders” are slothful, bossy and out of touch with the conditions and challenges faced out on the windswept shores, the SEANET blogger has taken on a beach of her own. Having been a beach walker for SEANET some years ago, she has now moved back to the coast and has assumed responsibility for one of the 18 miles of coastline in the state of New Hampshire. The beach, NH_06, is known to non-Seanetters as Odiorne Point. It’s a rocky and treacherous route, dear Seanetters, but your blogger will be undaunted!

The inaugural walk on NH_06 yielded no dead birds, but did turn up a banded herring gull.

Herring Gull sporting a green band reading E35. It's one of Dr. Ellis' birds!

Herring Gull sporting a green band reading E35. It's one of Dr. Ellis' birds!

Upon further investigation, the bird turned out to have been banded as a chick by SEANET’s own Dr. Julie Ellis back in 2006. It appears that it is NH_06’s cosmic destiny to be a SEANET beach. Many of Julie’s banded gulls reportedly turn up at Odiorne Point, so the SEANET blogger is hopeful that her walks will generate useful data not just for SEANET, but for Julie’s ongoing research as well.

Your blogger hopes that being out on the beach herself will allow her to test out any protocol changes or recommendations we make so that you worthy volunteers will not be subjected to bizarre and frivolous whims on the part of your leaders.

I am honored to be counted among you, Seanetters!