Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Studying Birds

Friday afternoon I drove out to Neah Bay in the rain for a talk by Julia Parrish, the founder of the COASST program. She has been studying the birds on Tatoosh Island since 1990, and every year she does a talk out there for the community, to share what she learns. Beautiful meeting space, in the Makah Marina Conference Center. Got to hang out and watch the fishing boats come pottering in. Loons on the water. Tide coming in slowly. Boats and boats.

Rainy Day, Neah Bay Marina, July 15, 2011 (Click for larger image.)

Nice spread of cheese and salmon and crackers and fruit, COASST helpers to greet people, etc etc. Lovely slide show, and Julia is an energetic and cheerful speaker. Lots of fieldwork stories, old and current photographs of the island, live and dead birds. And she LOVES her birds. In the midst of an ode to the tufted puffin, she said, "Look at that pink eye-ring. Who would not be attracted to that?" :-)

When she began inserting dead bird slides into the talk, she apologized; but kept putting them in there. Well yeah; as she said, "I run the largest dead bird program in the entire world."

She talked a lot about
—common murres, the birds she has been studying on Tatoosh Island since 1990;
—about doing fieldwork also on Protection Island, the world center of population for rhinoceros auklets, who are night-active and not very good at stopping so you have to wear headgear to keep from getting brained when they crash into you in the dark;
—about the rigors of studying marbled murrelets, where you have to be out in tiny boats at night spotlighting them and scooping them off the water to band, AND climbing up into the oldgrowth forests to study their nests; the murrelet scientists are all men, she said; she didn't say 'young men,' but I bet it's true;
— about the effectiveness of using streamer lines to reduce bycatch in the long-line fishery; and how it benefits both the birds and the fishermen, since otherwise birds get a significant proportion of the bait (did she say 20%?);
—about tubenoses: they are very long-lived. If you are going to study tubenoses you will be a long way past your graduate work before your banding projects bear fruit. She said fulmars can live 60 to 70 years, which made me wonder about the one I found on Rialto Jetty Beach last week, how much of a life had he/she had before washing up in the wrackline?

It was raining pretty hard when I blew out of there at 8:15PM, but was mostly merely gray and wet and constantly darker without ever quite being dark for the entire two hours home.

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