Back in December, we reported on what seemed an unusual number of Black Scoters being reported on SEANET beaches. Sure enough, as dead duck season winds down, a tally of scoter reports shows that 14 Black Scoters were found this winter (November-February) versus 6 the previous year. While those numbers need to be adjusted for the number of kilometers traveled by Seanetters in their searches, it does appear to be a real jump in their numbers. Further supporting this, SEANET Director Julie Ellis received an email from Pam Loring, a graduate research assistant at the University of Rhode Island who has been following 20 scoters (18 Black, 1 White-winged, 1 Surf) that were surgically implanted with satellite transmitters in December. In addition to tracking the birds’ movements, the units also report temperature. Individual bird mortality can be detected by observing a precipitous drop in internal temperature. Pam reported that while expected mortality for the scoters is 10-25%, mortality among the tagged birds has been somewhat higher.
Whether Pam’s study and SEANET are picking up on the same, larger trend of increased scoter mortality this year is not certain. SEANET would love to get some scoters for necropsy and begin looking for some potential causes of this apparent mortality rise. Along those lines, SEANET has been discussing a partnership with Delta Waterfowl’s Massachusetts Chapter, a local duck-hunting organization. Delta is able to dedicate a certain amount of its income to waterfowl research, and we hope to initiate a small scale research project should this partnership come to fruition.
We’re plugging along here at SEANET central, and maintaining our optimism despite the freezing cold, unrelenting snow, and always precarious funding situation.
One note in that regard, we offer our heartfelt thanks to our SEANET savior, Tracy Holmes, who made an extremely generous donation to the program recently. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Tracy!