Hurricane Irene impacts Florida sea turtles

30 08 2011

Debris and unearthed sea turtle eggs on FL_11. (Photo by M. Vanoy)

Seanetter Martin Vanoy emailed on Friday with news from his beach in Melbourne, FL. Hurricane Irene had passed by to the east the previous night, and Martin headed out to assess the beach generally, and also the sea turtle nests he monitors there. The beach was strewn with debris, trash, and what looked like ping pong balls scattered everywhere; hundreds of turtle eggs had been washed out by the force of the waves, and all the hatchlings found were dead or dying. Martin reports that not a single one could be saved.

Of course, sea turtles evolved in an environment where hurricanes are not an uncommon event, but in light of all the human-caused troubles they face, it’s tough to see them take a hit like this. Thank you to Martin for the report from the field, and as the rest of you Seanetters head out to survey, we look forward to more reports of what you find out there. As for your blogger, we fared reasonably well–the only casualty here in coastal New Hampshire being some badly deformed popsicles due to prolonged power outage. We’ve been more fortunate than our neighbors in Vermont, that’s certain.

Dead hatchlings on the beach. (photo by M. Vanoy)

Tomorrow, your blogger heads out for a SEANET training in Wilmington, NC. John Stanton of US Fish and Wildlife has pulled together a great program, and the list of attendees now tops 40! We have high hopes for SEANET in the Carolinas, and will let you know how it all goes very soon!


Some work getting done despite my best efforts.

23 08 2011

It's a tough job, taking the kids kayaking on a beautiful day. But I managed.

Your blogger is happily vacationing in Oakland Maine this week (see photo for the view from my office/kayak on Belgrade Bog today. Gorgeous spot! But news has indeed reached me even in my isolation, and this is definitely worth sharing. Seabird scientist Rob Ronconi has a new blog tracking his banded gulls from Sable Island, Nova Scotia. This is another great resource for gull sightings anywhere along the eastern seaboard. One of Rob’s gulls was recently seen on Appledore Island, home of the ongoing gull banding project of our own Julie Ellis! A small world, indeed. Please check out Rob’s site whether or not you’ve seen a tagged gull–he’s always up to something cool, and very worth following!

Another picture of someone else’s vacation

18 08 2011

Today’s event: a solid hike along Nauset marsh in Eastham, MA. The blogger’s young sons were absolute troopers as usual. Then, downtime at the campground where this odd moment was captured.

Blogger's son Malcolm in a tree in Wellfleet, MA.

And that’s it for today. See you in my next post, most likely from the Belgrade Lakes region in Maine!

SEANET blogger to slack off for two weeks

16 08 2011

Blogger's son, Simon, cavorts on the beach in Eastham, MA.

And now we enter the blogging equivalent of casual Friday: your hard-working blogger, Sarah Courchesne, has skipped town to go on a cross-New England tour. First off, a week camping on outer Cape Cod (SEANET heartland, by the way). There shall be no work done, and the only posts posted will be frivolous and include self-obsessed pictures of the blogger’s own family (see photo). Since you all love nothing more than viewing other people’s vacation pictures, I will try to maintain a steady flow.

After the Cape, it’s off to Maine for a week kayaking and swimming on the lakes and ponds. Your blogger is a work-aholic, truly.


Oiled gull sighted in Gloucester, MA

9 08 2011

Oiled juvenile Herring Gull in Gloucester.

A non-SEANET affiliated concerned citizen contacted your SEANET blogger with a bit of unfortunate information. She was walking the beach in Gloucester, MA on Sunday, and observed a juvenile Herring gull with feathers matted down with what appeared to be some sort of oil. It’s difficult to tell if this is petroleum based, like crude or fuel oil, or if its something relatively more benign, like fish oil. While Cynthia, our concerned citizen, described the bird as “covered in dark oil,” this bird is a juvenile, so the feathers would normally be dark, so it’s hard to tell if the oil is actually light or dark. The oiliness of the feathers is very clear in this photo, however.

This is not the first time we’ve seen oiled gulls in Gloucester; the last time, the birds may have been foraging for discarded bait in a fish oil slick after fishing vessels hosed off their decks. While oiling of any sort can be fatal to gulls as they lose waterproofing and thermoregulation ability, fish oil is far more benign since the gulls can preen the oil off with no ill-effects, compared with the toxic results of preening off and ingesting petroleum.

Your SEANET blogger has reported Cynthia’s sighting to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection for follow-up. Hopefully, there will not be any additional birds affected, but we will keep an eye on the situation for you, Seanetters and friends.

SEANET to go to North Carolina!

4 08 2011

Your SEANET blogger is psyched to be headed for Wilmington, NC!

Solely through the hard work and commitment of dear SEANET friend, John Stanton of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, your SEANET blogger will travel to North Carolina at the end of this month. John has enlisted the aid of UNC professor Marcel van Tuinen to get a venue lined up at the University, but the date is set for September 1. This training session will be the first big step in getting coverage of beaches in the mid-Atlantic region. SEANET’s presence there has historically been very limited, mainly because we require committed, dedicated local coordinators to do the legwork for us–stationed as we are way up here in New England. John Stanton has been a tremendous asset to us, and we’re hoping to get this next phase of SEANET monitoring off to a great start.

John has also secured funding for us to develop the newest addition to the Beached Bird Field Guide series: a Southeast/Gulf volume so that our southern Seanetters need struggle no more with a Northeast guide lacking many of the common southern species. We will be setting to work on this project asap, and the primary source for photos of dead birds will be you, Seanetters! So remember your photographic technique–stretch the wings out, and orient the bird’s head to show the profile of the bill. You might just become famous! Or, at least, noted in the field guide as a contributing photographer.

Shearwater season

2 08 2011

Greater Shearwater, dorsal view. Note the white rump characteristic of the species. (photo by Ray Bosse)

While not at all a severe year in terms of Greater Shearwater mortalities, it is that time of year again, and we’ve received a handful of reports of dead GRSH from Buzzard’s Bay in Massachusetts. Ray Bosse has found two since the end of May, and the Lloyd Center’s Jamie Bogart tells us that he spotted a few more last month as well. July is the standard time for the birds to turn up dead on Northeast beaches. Our southern colleagues tend to see them earlier, in May and June as the migrating birds make their way up the U.S. coast.

SEANET is currently partnering with the folks at the Southeast Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study (SCWDS) in Georgia to mine our collective shearwater necropsy data for gems of knowledge. Hopefully, we can begin to get a handle on the general profile of birds turning up dead on the beaches (age, sex, cause of death when determinable) and then compare that information with environmental data (ocean temperatures, currents, prey availability, e.g.) to see what factors may be linked with high shearwater mortality in some years. We are very pleased to be a part of this project, and are very happy to be working with Dr. Nicole Nemeth at SCWDS who has shouldered most of the work. We look forward to seeing the analysis!

Ventral surface (underside). Note the species' tell-tale white belly with a smudgy gray patch. (photo by Ray Bosse)