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Thread subject: Cape Flattery field trip
Name Date Message
Marie 08/17/05 07:49 pm It was reported in the''media'' recently that the pacific west coast marine areas were experiencing an unusual and alarming set of disturbances that were causing biologists real concerns. These included higher temps of the waters. As much as 2-7 degrees higher than normal. This phenomena is usually seen in EL NINO years but this isn't one of them. Plummeting catches of fish were another factor. Emaciated, malnourished and dead birds were being found on the beaches along BC to California. Seabird breeding colonies were either abandoned, or started as much as a month later than usual. As much as a 20-30% drop in salmon populations and dwindling plankton populations were also noted.. All these disturbances add up to an unusually high number of seabird deaths. It was suggested that some of this was due to the fact the WINDS that usually blow from the north and cause an ''upwelling'' were not seen this spring or summer. ''Upwelling ''is a process that brings cold, nutrient -rich waters to the surface. This action sort of jump starts the marine food chain. If this upwelling doesn't occur then the plankton stays much lower in the sea causing surface feeders greater stress. The phytoplankton, microscopic plants, feed on the nutrient -rich waters, and they in turn feed the Zooplankton, tiny marine animals which include krill. These tiny crustaceans , Krill particularly, are essential to the marine food chain. They are eaten by fish and seabirds and by marine animals such as whales. The consequences of these Pacific coast disturbances could be disastrous for seabirds, fish and other wildlife.

My trip on Sunday to Cape Flattery in Washington State was a cause for alarm. We saw NO PUFFINS. The whole idea for this trip is to see numbers of Tufted Puffins, which are few and far between in the Victoria area. Also during this visit we found no evidence of Pigeon Guillemots nesting in the caves below the lookout which we normally see. the waters around the Cape were unusually devoid of life. The misty fog, typical of west coast, blew in and receded on several occasions but never enough to give us a clear picture of the nesting activity on the islands of rock in the distance. It was eerily quiet. A most disappointing visit to the cape, except for the two Wandering Tattlers, ( shorebirds) that were spotted by an observant member of our party feeding on a surf splashed rock way below us.
Fortunately later, on one fog misted beach we found 6 species of shorebirds. They were so intent in feeding that they were five to ten feet away from us. A peregrine falcon flew past at great speed hoping for dinner.

Perhaps the highlight for me was to observe three OSPREY fishing in one of the bays where there was sunshine and warmth. However, none were successful that I saw. What struck me most was the energy expended by these birds as they circled around so many times looking down at the water. Their efforts were numerous as they attempted to dive , submerge and rise with empty talons . I was impressed. Young ospreys were learning to catch fish.

Finally our total tally for bird species was an impressive 48. Two hours of our long day were spent in the First Nations Archaeological Museum at Neah Bay. Although our day was very long, 6am start and finish, 22 people had a great time without seeing Tufted Puffins.
Shelley 08/17/05 10:05 pm This is certainly disturbing, Marie. I have read about this, too, in our local papers, recently.

I am glad that your trip was not in vain, though! That's still an impressive number!
Lori 08/17/05 11:01 pm weather has been "wacky" all over. Maybe it's because of Mars & the moon?!? Hopefully Mother Nature will right herself and the world will go on; not too much worse for the wear. Sounds like you had a good day though Marie!
cathy 08/18/05 12:39 am That is a surprise, Marie - eerily quiet. Perhaps as Rachael Carson described - a Silent Spring (or Fall). Instead of DDT - perhaps population pressure. People have reported Pigeon Guillemots in Washington, but I haven't read of Puffins, although I must admit I haven't been reading the Tweeters newsletter as much as usual. I wish I had been there!
Pam 08/18/05 06:27 am Marie: I read your report with a great deal of interest. Maybe you didn't see the puffins but you saw a great deal more which will make it a visit that you will not forget. It was very thought-provoking - thank you. There seems to be a great many pigeon guillemots at Race Rocks and it is really not too far from Cape Flattery but there seem less seals and sealions. Global warming is very alarming. Very unusually indeed, c.2000 dolphins have been seen in the Cardigan Bay area of Wales and also, unbelievably, a humpback whale. It is believed that these events are a direct result of the warmer seawater. Lori: I think Mother Nature will be hard put to right herself without man's help. We need to get using alternative supplies of energy e.g. wind, water, and fast .... before time runs out. The warnings are all there and degradation of the atmosphere is happening so quickly. I read a very lengthy and alarming article on global warming recently posted on Orca-Live, I will try and find the link and post it here.
Anne 08/18/05 07:11 am Marie, your report is so disturbing. The same thing is happening here in the North Sea where seabirds have had another disastrous breeding season. The reason was thought to be Danish trawlers hoovering up all the sand-eel population (to turn into fertiliser for Goodness sake), but now the thinking is that global warming has caused the sea temperature to rise. So the plankton has gone further north into colder water and the food chain has followed it. The problem is that the seabirds dont know this and they are persisting in coming back to traditonal nesting colonies.

The sooner our governments acknowledge that global warming does exist the better. We have got to do something about greenhouse gas emissions. As you say, we have got to turn to alternative sources of energy, the priority being to find a 'green' alternative to oil. That would solve certain other problems too.

Only yesterday I was listening to a programme on the radio about the Inuit people in Greenland. They were saying that glaciers and perma-frost was melting at an alarming rate and that temperatures were rising there and affecting their wildlife. Polar bears were especially vulnerable because they were being cut off from their breeding grounds by melting ice. The outcome will be a rise in sea levels - and this will mean that drying estuaries will disappear. Result - nowhere for the wintering birds to go. They could adapt and find somewhere else to winter but the problem is that it is all happening so fast that they wont have time to evolve and adapt.

Once again I feel thoroughly depressed about the way we are destroying our world.
karen 08/18/05 08:55 am Me too ... today there is an article in our newspaper about a part of Long Island that has had a sudden large amount of dead fish and shellfish which is thought to be a result of the water warming enough to reduce oxygen levels. The results of global warming seem to be happening must faster than the governments would like us to believe.

Copyright © 2006 DPOF

Tom Throwe
Last modified: Sat Feb 18, 2006