Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Dead Bird Survey at Hobuck Beach

We carpool from the north side of the Safeway parking lot; what a beautiful day. There's a certain amount of organizing day packs, nipping into the market for supplies, double-checking. Then we set forth. Along highway 112 it is foggy, sunny, foggy, sunny again.

This kind of day in Port Angeles (at the start), August 16, 2011 (Click for larger image.)

This is the monthly COASST survey for Hobuck Beach (map). GD and I have joined the expedition for practice, since there are usually more dead birds at Hobuck even in seasons when everyone else's beaches have nothing. This day in fact there are only two. The first might be a sooty shearwater,

Found Something. We stop wandering the wrack lines and gather to identify it. (Click for larger image.)

but it doesn't have a head so we have to use more subtle signs. By the measurements and foot characteristics it is of a size with a northern fulmar. Is it dark grey or more brownish? Is the tarsus round or flat? We all pinch it. We are not of one mind. Me and SP think it's a NOFU, but JL is the most experienced and she says SOSH. (We pine for MS, our scientist mentor, who always knows at a glance, and who would pinch that tarsus and say, 'There, can't you feel it?')

Before brushing it off and examining it carefully... (Click for larger image.)

Later we have a cassin's auklet, wings of. With only the wings and it so tiny, nevertheless we're sure about this one. Beached birds: A COASST field guide is a work of genius, helps turn anyone into a useful citizen scientist. Later still we have a third partial carcass, this just one wing, which crumbles as we move it around, turn it over, try to measure; we decide not to count this one.

It's sunny at the start and up past the turnaround. Then I am distracted by watching the fog blow in in patches, and the ocean appear and disappear.

Sunny. Foggy. August 16, Hobuck Beach (Click for larger image.)

On the way home we stop between Sekiu and Clallam Bay for a sandwich. Three and a half hours of walking in sand, and levering ourselves down onto the beach and up again a few times, is enough of a workout to earn us a sociable treat, yes? From the windows of the restaurant the Strait is sunny, foggy, sunny, all at once.

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