Since I last wrote, much has been afoot regarding the common eider die-off occurring on Cape Cod. Dick Jordan, intrepid Seanetter about town (the town being Wellfleet, MA), relayed real time reports of sick and dying birds to Randy Mickley, of the USDA’s Wildlife Services, who headed right out. The dying birds were euthanized, and blood samples shipped to our partners at SCWDS in Georgia who will test the blood for the virus first discovered in Wellfleet Bay eiders. Samples and carcasses were also sent to the National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, WI for testing.
Your blogger was so pleased to see the USDA, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the US Geological Survey (USGS), the National Parks Service, Massachusetts Audubon, and SEANET all working together to get fresh samples and move this investigation along.
We also had a question come in over the blog from Helen in Maine, who asked for more information about the theory that ticks may spread this novel virus from bird to bird. Helen wrote that she (sensibly) does not often associate ticks with sea-faring ducks. Indeed, the exposure to terrestrial parasites is generally low in marine organisms, but even eiders must go ashore to lay their eggs, and they generally nest amongst vegetation, giving ticks the chance to hitch-hike. What species of ticks tend to colonize eiders, your blogger does not know, but that would be a subject that the scientists and veterinarians working on this virus will be pursuing. So, for the investigation’s sake, we hope there were some ticks on those Wellfleet eiders.
I will continue to keep you up to date on this investigation, dear readers.