Seabirds and a Warming Ocean - A Citizen Science Story Presented by Julia Parrish, Ph.D.
Tuesday, Sept. 10th. 7:00 Social; 7:30 Program Padilla Bay Interpretive Center 10441 Bayview Edison Road Mt. Vernon, Washington
Begun in the late 1990’s by Dr. Julia Parrish, the “COASST” program is a community-science project established to identify the carcasses of marine birds found on beaches along the coast of the Pacific Northwest.
A project of the University of Washington, in partnership with state, federal and tribal agencies, environmental organizations and community groups in the coastal communities of Oregon, Washington and Alaska, COASST works to translate long-term monitoring into effective marine conservation tools.
In addition to conducting field research on seabirds for more than 30 years, Dr. Parrish is the current Executive Director of the COASST program and Professor of Ocean Fishery Sciences at the University of Washington.
Come and join us as we learn about this long-term important community-science program, its importance for responsible marine conservation, and how we can become involved.
Conservation Report, September 2019
By Tim Mann
After more than a year’s absence from the news, grizzly restoration in the North Cascades is getting attention again. Those opposed to complying with the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by restoring this threatened species didn’t get the results they wanted during the 2017 comment period and have now convinced political allies to reopen public comment on the draft restoration plan and environmental impact statement (EIS).
Protecting and restoring birds and other wildlife and their necessary habitat are at the heart of Audubon’s mission. The ESA and the Congressionally-mandated mission of the National Park Service similarly call for protection of natural habitat and restoration of species either extirpated or facing extinction. Although the grizzly was listed under the ESA in 1975, and North Cascades was long ago designated a recovery area for the great bear, without funding it was only in 2014 that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and National Park Service began writing a restoration plan. Organizations and individuals supporting the effort to return this key species formed “Friends of the North Cascades Grizzly Bear.” Given the relevance to Audubon’s mission, Skagit and other chapters joined this group.
In 2017 there was a lengthy comment period during which Skagit Audubon weighed in on the draft restoration plan and EIS, supporting Alternative C. Skagit Audubon’s letter said, “Just as we support the restoration of the fisher to this ecosystem, we want the grizzly bear to again fill the ecological role it had for thousands of years.” The draft plan states, “Alternative C (Incremental Restoration) would seek to release up to 5 to 7 grizzly bears per year for 5 to 10 years to achieve an initial population of 25 bears intended to reestablish reproduction in the North Cascades Ecosystem. It is anticipated that (this) would result in the achievement of the restoration goal of 200 bears within approximately 60 to 100 years.”
Despite this proposal’s modest scope and lengthy time scale, local elected officials in several counties, particularly Chelan, Okanogan, and Skagit, chose to use grizzly restoration as an opportunity to bash the ESA and national management of public lands. It’s easy to score political points playing on people’s notions of an animal about which they lack accurate information but will readily hate and fear. The recent politically-driven reopening of the public comment period after 126,000 very largely pro-restoration comments in 2017 signals an unwillingness to stop using this issue. The ESA is constantly under attack by people with no heart for preserving natural areas and wildlife or simply angry that certain lands lie beyond their jurisdiction and off-limits to resource extraction.
For this re-opened comment period, the draft restoration plan and EIS are identical to the one on which many of you commented in 2017. Those comments remain valid. Nonetheless, if the ESA is to be upheld and the North Cascades are to ever again have their full complement of species, it’s important to send individual comment letters briefly describing why grizzly restoration matters to you and supporting one of the plan’s action alternatives, such as Alternative C. Remember that if this approach to supplementing the tiny existing population (if any) of grizzlies is implemented, several human generations will pass before a viable population again inhabits the wild North Cascades, an area the size of Massachusetts. Generations from now, sighting a grizzly in these mountains will still be a rare event indeed.
Read about other conservation issues on the Skagit Audubon website:https://skagitaudubon.org/conservation/notes.
FROM YOUR EDITOR – The Journey of O-86, by Mary Sinker
She was one of several thousand snow geese foraging in an agricultural field a couple of miles west of Conway. It was a lovely early March day and we were out looking for snow geese. It didn’t take long to find them given that it’s not uncommon to have 50,000 snow geese spend the winter in the Skagit Valley.
She was different though because she was wearing a bright red and white neck collar. I really wanted to know more about her and to do so, I would need to be able to read the whole collar. Fortunately, she was at the front of her group and I was able to read her collar through my binoculars. After reporting the collar to the Bird Banding Laboratory, a few weeks later came the certificate showing she was hatched on Wrangel Island in 2015 (or earlier) and had been banded on 7/21/16. She’d made the 2,400 mile journey from Wrangel Island to the Skagit Valley and back a few times and looked to be in great condition.
Wrangel Island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, located 100 miles north of the Siberian mainland, and the northernmost breeding location for 100 species of migratory birds. Snow geese share the much sought-after nesting spots with Snowy Owls and Arctic Foxes, both of whom will prey on bird nests when their main food source, lemmings, are in short supply.
Being naturally curious, I’ve delved into various publications and online sources to find out more about these iconic birds of winter. The steadily increasing population of Snow Geese both returning to Wrangel Island to breed and to the Skagit Valley to winter can probably be attributed to several factors. It’s estimated that as much as 60% of the snow goose population on the Pacific Flyway now spends the winter in the Skagit Valley rather than continuing on to Central California.
The shorter distance from Wrangel Island to the Skagit Valley saves valuable energy. In addition to traditional marshland forage, the birds can also be found regularly feeding on residual agricultural crops – potatoes and corn are particular favorites.
As I write this, fall migration has begun and in a few short weeks, these iconic birds of winter will begin to arrive - a few at first and then by the thousands to descend once again on the fields, bays and marshes of the Skagit Valley.
Hopefully O-86 will make the journey successfully.
The Education Committee needs volunteers to help with a number of adult presentations coming up in the next several months. These Power Point presentations are scheduled at libraries and private organizations/clubs in the area. If you can help give part of a presentation (already written), that would be great; or, you can assist with the computer and help answer questions from the audience. If you can lend a hand, please contact Sheila at email@example.com
Skagit Audubon Society holds monthly meetings on the second Tuesday of each month except for the months of July and August. We meet at 7:00 pm at Padilla Bay Interpretive Center(Google map), 10441 Bayview-Edison Rd. Mount Vernon. Meetings are open to all.
The board of directors meets at the same location at 7:00 pm on the first Tuesday of each month, except for the months of July and August.