Travels of tagged birds

31 12 2013

Kathleen Kelly, who walks Old Orchard Beach in Maine, was rather surprised, on her December 29th survey, to find a Herring Gull tagged in usual SEANET fashion (orange cable ties on wing and legs) that she’d never seen before. It appeared that a bird tagged elsewhere had turned up on Kathleen’s beach. Turns out, her beach abuts the territory of another dedicated Seanetter, Barbara Grunden. Going back into our database, it turns out that Barbara had found and tagged a Herring Gull on November 18th. More than a month later, it turned up a ways south on Kathleen’s beach.OOB

Herring Gull found on ME_54 in mid-November. (photo: B and C Grunden)

Herring Gull found on ME_54 in mid-November. (photo: B and C Grunden)

The same Herring Gull, though well-weathered now, on ME_81. (photo: K. Kelly)

The same Herring Gull, though well-weathered now, on ME_81. (photo: K. Kelly)

If we ever doubted the merits of tagging birds, here’s a case that reminds us to continue. Had this bird not been tagged, it would have been counted twice, as separate birds on two separate beaches, inflating the tallies for both. This case also shows us that one cannot rely on a carcass’ position on the beach to identify it. Many of our Seanetters make notes like, “must be the same bird from last month; is in same spot.” While it could be the same bird, this case demonstrates that whether it’s tides, waves, scavengers, or dogs doing the moving, carcasses do travel.

We had another case of following a tagged bird on its travels at least up to the point of its death this month; Nat Goddard, walking for us on Cape Cod, found a whole slew of dead Common Eiders late in October. One of these was a banded male (or parts of it anyway). Nat got this info from the banding lab when he reported the number:

Hatched in 2005 or
earlier, in Lockport, Nova Scotia, Canada (Coordinates: LAT: 43.58333; LON: 65.08333).  Bander c/o Randy Milton, Nova Scotia Dept of Natural Resources, 136 Exhibition Street, Kentville NS B4N 4E5.

What's left of a banded male Common Eider (photo: N. Goddard)

What’s left of a banded male Common Eider (photo: N. Goddard)

Banded in Nova Scotia more than seven years ago; found dead on Cape Cod in 2013. Where he went in between, no one knows.

Banded in Nova Scotia more than seven years ago; found dead on Cape Cod in 2013. Where he went in between, no one knows.

Whether the banders ever got any sightings in between this bird’s banding and his death, we don’t know, though it’s unlikely. Federal bands are small and difficult to read on live birds, and in a sea duck with its legs almost perpetually in the water, the task approaches impossibility. What various travels this bird undertook over the past several years, we’ll never know. But presumably it traversed the Gulf of Maine several times. Remarkable survivors, especially as I contemplate my own SEANET walk today; the temperature right now has yet to break 10 degrees. Of course, as the eiders know, a down coat goes a long way.

Happy New Year, Seanetters!

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2 responses

31 12 2013
kkpicskelly

I’m learning so much from doing these surveys. Thanks for doing the detective work, Sarah, to find out that my bird had “migrated” from Scarborough to Old Orchard Beach.

2 01 2014
scourc01

I love cases like that! Fascinating!

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