Friday, March 22, 2013

Wings of a Black-Legged Kittiwake

March 22, 2013. Up and out early, rendezvous at the Albertson's parking lot to join the beached-bird-survey for COASST at Hobuck Beach (map). PG much interested to see how we do what we do when presented with the need to identify (parts of) a dead bird. It snowed the night before, we drove west through a fairyland of snowcovered trees. (No pix.) (Last year it snowed on March 15. Good tsunami debris pix in that post, too.) But when we reached the outer coast, blue sky and sunshine, and so it remained for the whole day. Swans on the Wa'atch River. Not much in the wy of other live birds.

Sunshine in Neah Bay, March 22, 2013 (Click for larger image.)
Sunshine at Hobuck Beach (Click for larger image.)

We were seven people altogether, one of us a high school student from Forks, learning how a COASST survey is done as he is considering using COASST for his senior project next year. We found not so many bird carcasses, three new ones, three re-finds. There was a common murre, and the wings of a black-legged kittiwake. So brilliant is the Beached Birds field manual and the identification protocol that we had very little trouble knowing just what we had from the wings (and the manual pages) alone; both PG and S. from Forks learned a lot on this one bird.

Working the kittiwake (Click for larger image.)

There was an area of the beach with a whole lot of fibrous wrack (washed down the rivers from the forests??); surprisingly many razor clams which we've never noticed at Hobuck before; an orange finger sponge; and the usual enormous intact sand dollars.

Orange finger sponge and sand dollar (Isodictya rigida and Dendraster excentricus) (Click for larger image.)

We were also doing a marine debris survey, following the new protocol: photograph anything of note ANYWHERE with the identifying slate to show size, date and location; and gather everything the size of a bottlecap or larger in a GPS-located 100-yard-long stretch of beach, from the grass down to the waterline, and tally every bit of it.

Tallying debris from the transect. (Click for larger image.)

The new protocol follows from the increased attention to debris because of the March, 2011, tsunami. But you usually can't say more than 'might be tsunami debris'. Also might not. We know we see the flying saucer floats since the tsunami debris began arriving; but no proof that any particular flying saucer float is Japanese, still less certain that it was torn loose in March of 2011. A Korean instant noodle packet, obviously not. A notched piece of house lumber? Sure looks like Japanese joinery to me...

Dragging a barnacle-covered float out of reach of the tide (Click for larger image.)
Korean noodles. Netting entangled with kelp. Tagged float. (Click for larger image.)
A piece of house from Japan? (Click for larger image.)

On the way home we stopped along the Strait at Deep Creek so our leader, HP, could look for a piece of equipment she had lost last week when laying out the marine debris transect for that beach. The weather remained glorious. (We heard later it had snowed in Seattle...). PG says there has to be a picture of me occasionally. Here I am on the Strait at Deep Creek, in my Lewis&Clark pose.

... (Click for larger image.)

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