The postmortem adventures of a gull

31 03 2011

First off–a renewed call to any Seanetters available on April 12 around 5pm for a field trip to Revere Beach in Massachusetts! An undergraduate class from Tufts will be heading out with us to learn a bit about citizen science, beachwalking with a purpose, and the curious lives of dead birds. We would love to have some of you folks come and give your first hand accounts of what SEANET has meant to you. If you think you might be able to make it, please get in touch!

Now, to today’s thrilling content: a study of decay and decomposition.

Since we introduced individually numbered cable ties on a few beaches, we have reaped unexpected benefits. In addition to being able to track a specific carcass from week to week and month to month, we have also been able to observe the degradation of carcasses over time until little is left but a bone and feather pile. Here is a photo journal of the postmortem progress of Great Black-Backed Gull 1943, first seen and tagged by Dennis Minsky in October 2010.

While most Seanetters don’t have the opportunity to observe a carcass for so long a timeframe, this should serve as a justification for photographing even previously seen carcasses. This is an education for us all, and helps us understand how long it takes a carcass to break down, and what parts tend to persist. Perhaps the most valuable is being able to watch a known species degrade to almost unrecognizable parts. These images can make all the difference when we get difficult cases of mangled wings and bones.

October 2010: the month the bird was initially tagged.

November 2010

December 2010

February 2011

March 2011

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9 04 2011
Dennis Minsky

gull still there April 7.

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