Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Coty Spies On Costal Birdies Week #2

Hello everybody!!! I hope all is going well and you had a happy July 4th!

Last time I blogged I discussed the basic methods of data collection I have been using to determine the effects of fireworks on a colony of birds in Depoe Bay, OR. In this post, I will explain how the general process is done and some of the observations I have made.

Starting on Jun 27 I began my "core monitoring period". During this time I have been going to Depoe Bay and surveying every day from the 7:00 am - 2:00 pm. Some days go by quickly while others seem to drag on forever! The three main species of bird that I am observing include Brant's Cormorants, Western Gulls and Black Oyster Catchers.  Starting at 7:00 am I count all the birds (one species at a time) that I can see on the rock. This count usually takes me about 10-15 minutes to finish. I repeat this count every two hours until 2 pm. In between counts I take down data such as Adult bird activity and nest contents. Some days the surveying goes really smoothly and I can collect a lot of data and others are painstakingly slow. Usually if the weather is nice the birds are more likely to move around which make its easier for me to see what they are doing and what their nests contain. However there have been a few days where the weather is very poor, and I find myself battling fog, wind and rain! On these days the birds hunker down in their nests and don't do much of any thing!.. which makes my surveying much harder to do. Fortunately in the past two weeks I have witnesses three events occur within the bird colony that have made those long days of staring through a telescope worth it...

Last week, I watched a Bald Eagle fly in from nowhere and take a gull chick out of a nest. I had no idea that there was an eagle close to the colony, until I heard the colony suddenly start making lots of distress calls. Immediately I looked all around to see what was causing it and in came the Bald Eagle! Although seeing a gull chick taken out of its nest is slightly sad, I thought it was an amazing event to watch.

This week I watched a raven pull a gull egg from an unattended nest, break it open and begin to eat the unborn gull chick. The parents then rushed in to save the egg, but it was too late. As the raven and the parents were playing tug-of-war with the contents of the egg, another adult gull came to the scene and stole the unborn chick from the parents and the raven, and then took it to its nest and fed it to its own chicks! yikes!!!

Lastly, one day as I was staring at a nest I saw a parent gull stand up and look down at it's egg. The egg began to move and all of a sudden a beak popped out and a chick stared coming out!

As mentioned before the primary focus of this survey is to determine if the 3rd/4th July fireworks displays in Depoe Bay disturb the colony. Everything that I have discussed so far has been leading up to the fireworks display. As of right now I have not been able to analyze the data that was collected that night, so I will not be able to discuss the results of the survey until next week. However I will mention that two nights ago the fireworks flew in Depoe Bay and data was collected using infrared cameras and audio recording equipment. From the simple observations made that night by biologists and then me the next morning, it seems that the fireworks had a minimal affect on the colony of birds, but this is speculation and not confirmed yet.

On a side note, I have not posted pictures of my experience yet because all the pictures that I take or use while working for the USFWS, belong to them. Since they are government property I have to get clearance/permission to display the photos publicly. I hope by next week I will be authorized to do so!

1 comment:

  1. Coty,
    Have you seen any nesting Pelagic Cormorants in your study? On the southern Oregon coast they do not appear to be having a very good reproductive season as there are many empty nest sites and few incubating birds.