Buried under snow, SEANET blogger is preoccupied with California

18 02 2010

Your Seanetter blogger is pining away here at the SEANET office, for our own Dr. Julie Ellis is off at a meeting in Long Beach, California. Julie is at the Pacific Seabird Group’s Annual Meeting, presenting on SEANET’s research into Common Eider die-offs on Cape Cod. While this endeavor has obvious scientific merit, the SEANET blogger would like to point out that the meeting is in LONG BEACH, CALIFORNIA, while your blogger was buried under 8 inches of snow yesterday.

Moving on from self-pity, and in tribute to Julie’s great California adventure, a bit of depressing seabird news out of that great state:

Over the past month, at least 1,000 Brown Pelicans have beached along the California coast. Some of the birds appear to be soiled with a dingy looking substance which does not appear to be oil, but may be some sort of algal byproduct. There has been at least one seabird die-off in California previously that was attributed to an algal bloom that stripped the birds of their waterproofing. Additionally, numerous storms have hit the California coast of late, and storm water runoff has also been suggested as a potential source of contamination for these unfortunate birds.

In the present case, necropsies on a handful of birds have shown that the pelicans were turning to prey they normally do not eat, like squid. This has prompted speculation that the El Nino event this year may be at play in altering the availability of food.

The birds treated at wildlife rehabilitation centers have responded well to washing and supportive care, suggesting perhaps that there is not an underlying disease process going on.

In any case, California generally does a very good job of investigating die-offs and disseminating their findings, so SEANET will share those with you if and as they become available.

And of course, we are all very very happy for Dr. Julie Ellis and her strictly professional and not at all fun trip to California.



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