Cruising for the eiders

7 04 2011

I failed to post anything on the blog earlier this week, and I will blame a prolonged recovery from a most excellent event this past weekend. The local (Massachusetts) chapter of Delta Waterfowl, a duck hunters’ organization, hosted a fundraising cruise of Boston Harbor on Sunday. Bill Lyons, the group’s chair, generously invited yours truly to speak briefly to the group about the common eider die-offs on Cape Cod and the current status of our research. Local chapters of Delta are permitted to contribute a portion of the money they raise to regional conservation efforts, and our research is one such endeavor they are interested in funding.

The next steps in our eider research program involve a good deal of field work, including capturing live eiders in the Boston Harbor area and obtaining blood samples from them to test for antibodies to a virus that seems to be a major cause of the recurrent die-offs in these birds. Not only has Delta committed to helping fund the work, local duck hunter Jack Renfrew (known generally as Capt. Jack) has offered his boat and guide services for the project. Jack has been committed to this study since the start and we are excited about the prospect of working with him and with Delta, and getting a few interested hunters out into the field with us to see conservation research in action.

While my fellow wildlife veterinarians and my conservation-minded friends often look at me incredulously when I describe my affiliation with hunters and hunters’ groups, I say from personal experience that these folks are among the most dedicated conservationists I know. It’s hardly as incongruous a partnership as it may seem. Hunters spend more time outside than most anyone I know, and they rely on healthy game populations and healthy habitats to maintain those populations. That combination produces a whole lot of people with incredible natural history knowledge and a commitment to preserving the ecological communities where they hunt.

"Old Ironsides" as seen from the Delta cruise.

Your blogger wants to thank Bill and all the folks on the Delta cruise for a beautiful day out on the water. My son, Malcolm, came along for the ride, and was delighted by the sights, most particularly the U.S.S. Constitution  and the underside of the planes taking off from Logan Airport. A good time was had by all, I am quite convinced.

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