First off, a correction to last week’s post on our new intern, Sarabeth. In a stunning lapse in journalistic rigor, the SEANET blogger merged two separate organizations: Tufts Institute of the Environment (TIE), and Students for a Just and Stable Future. The original post has been corrected and now reflects reality. The legislative campaign mentioned was coordinated by the Students group. Sarabeth’s activities with TIE included work on the Tufts Environmental Literacy Institute (TELI), a workshop for professors to learn new environmental information to include in their course materials. She has also been making an inventory for TIE of current Tufts research related to Energy and Climate Change. Welcome again to Sarabeth!
Now, some shearwater news out of the southeastern US and Caribbean: this week, concerned residents of St. John’s, Antigua contacted seabird experts with reports of dozens to hundreds of dead and dying shearwaters in the waters off the island. They also described “thousands” of shearwaters mobbing fishing boats and attempting to feed on bait and discarded fish. The birds were reported to be Audubon’s Shearwaters, a species widespread in the tropical regions of the globe. We have no photos of the birds involved in the die-off, however, and some experts have suggested that the birds may actually have been Greater Shearwaters which typically migrate through the Caribbean at this time of year. Many of those Greater Shearwaters are inexperienced juveniles desperate for food, so flocks of them will often approach fishing vessels looking for an easy meal.
At this point, the species involved in the Antiguan die-off has not been confirmed, and we have not received any reports of die-offs of any shearwater species from SEANET volunteers. Rick Keup, Seanetter on Fripp Island in South Carolina, reported a dead Cory’s Shearwater earlier this month. Cory’s are a rare find for Seanetters, and so far, no others have been found.
At this time of year, it would not be unusual for Greater Shearwaters to begin washing up dead in substantial numbers on beaches all the way up to New England. Given the situation in the Gulf, however, all die-offs will be of particular interest not just to SEANET, but to the public and to wildlife officials. So continue your diligent and dedicated walking, Seanetters. And it might be a good time to dust off your field guide and familiarize yourselves with the various shearwater species in your area. You never know what may turn up, and a Seanetter should always be prepared.
If you do detect a die-off on your beach, please contact us immediately in addition to filing your usual online walk report. We are also interested in reports via email and phone about die-offs observed outside your usual route or walk schedule. Thanks for all you do, Seanetters!