Eyes on the beach!

6 07 2010

A once oiled, banded pelican is released in Georgia last week. (photo by T. Heilemann)

Last week we mentioned the release in Georgia of over 70 oiled pelicans from the Gulf. That first batch of pelicans released on Tuesday last week were banded, and now sport orange bands on their right legs. The bands do not have any markings on them, so it will not be possible to identify individual birds in the field from the band. A second batch of 78 birds was released on Thursday, July 1st. Most of these birds are tagged with white alpha-numeric codes on a red band. Any sightings of these banded birds should be reported to the national banding lab.

It’s unfortunate that none of these birds were satellite tagged, which, while expensive, is the best way to truly determine the survival of these rehabilitated birds over the longer term. Lacking that, the next best thing is having as many people as possible keep an eye out for these birds. They are large, conspicuous, and tend to hang out on or near the shore, making it more likely that people will spot them as compared with species that spend their time out at sea.

Already, two Georgia Seanetters, Lydia Thompson and Georgia Graves, have reported seeing banded pelicans intermingling with the unbanded local pelican population. We know that the Georgia beaches are well watched, and we are hopeful that the fate of many of these birds will be known because of that dedication and vigilance.

This kind of observational data is a happy side-effect of having people out on the beaches for projects like SEANET. Banded bird sightings, unusual mortality events, marine mammal and sea turtle strandings have all been detected by Seanetters because they were out on their surveys. Last month, Seanetter Maggie Komosinski found a federally banded horseshoe crab on her Rhode Island beach. All of these incidental findings amplify the impact of SEANET and benefit multiple studies and research activities. So keep the observations coming, Seanetters. Keep your eyes on the beach, and share anything unusual with us; we love to hear it!

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