Monthly Archives: July 2014

What’s Washed In – July 28

Hope all of you are enjoying the last week of July! Thanks so much for sending in all of your great photos and datasheets. We’ve had a fun few weeks, training new volunteers and catching up with current COASSTers in Crescent City (CA), Bandon (OR), and Coupeville (WA). This week, we’re starting summer check-ins.  If you have any datasheets lying around or if you need any supplies at all, please let us know.  We’re always happy to help!

Let’s take a look at what’s washed in recently:

A copyBill: 16 mm, Wing: 13 cm, Tarsus: 18 mm

Peter and Helen found this on Haskin Beach on the North Coast of Washington on June 3rd.

California COASSTers don’t jump too fast on this one! 3-webbed toe, no hind toe – and from the general size, looks like a juvenile Common Muurre, except that’s not just bright lighting – the foot is pale.

West Coast Beached Birds: on AL1, select wc<15cm, bill color dark – Marbled Murrelet (AL14) is the only one with dark secondary tips on fully-grown wings (primaries extend much farther than secondaries)

Alaska Beached Birds: on AL1, select wc<15cm, move to AL2, select dark bill. Here we’re left with Marbled Murrelet (AL17) of Kittlitz’s Murrelet (AL19) – bill and tarsus are too long for a Kittlitz’s – Marbled Murrelet, that’s correct!

BBill: 54 mm, Wing: 44 cm, Tarsus: 67 mm

Randy and Jim found this bird on Churchrock Beach on the Chukchi Sea in Alaska on June 21st. This gull has not “been through the wash too many times” – it’s a species with unique plumage, and rare for West Coast COASSTers (you guys can sit out on this one).

Alaska Beached Birds wing key (‘cause the foot is hidden): Select upperwing white-to-nearly-white, and with a wing chord of 44 cm, we have our match – Glaucous Gull (LA10), a subadult since the bill tip is dark.

C2 copyBill: 50 mm

Candace really pulled out the fine-tooth comb on this bird found on Otter Point in Oregon on July 1st. With just a bill, we’re a little on our own with identification. No worries! We’ve got this!

Luckily, don’t have to turn too far to find the first match – dark bill, straight, 50mm. We’re left with Common Murre (wc: AL2, ak: AL3), Pacific Loon (LO2), Red-throated Loon (wc: LO6, ak: LO4), American Crow (wc: PE2) or Common Raven (ak: LB4). Bill depth (perpendicular measurement from upper to lower bill) removes crows and ravens from the running. Between the Common Murre and the two small loons, look at the placement of the nostril – for murres, the nostril is under the “V” of feathers, for the small loons it’s at the point of the “V,” or slightly above. Good work – Common Murre, adult, breeding plumage.large debrisThis huge marine debris item was found on March 10th by LoAnne on Washaway Beach. This piece is extremely weathered and multi colored. Characteristics like these are clues to how long marine debris had been in the water and where pieces may have come from.

balloonOn July 19th, Hillary led the interns and students from a marine biology class on a field trip to Ocean Shores. Their marine debris surveys documented plenty of lasting evidence from 4th of July celebrations, including the remnants of this parachute firework. A double whammy for potential harm to wildlife: this object is red which may attract some birds more than other debris, and it has several small loops which pose a risk of entanglement.

Skate eggs How cool is this mermaid’s purse?! No, we’re not kidding, this really is called a mermaid purse. These skate eggs were found by Janice at Oregon Mile Marker 309. Although they sometimes wash ashore, skate eggs belong in the water on the sea floor, where they grow and eventually hatch. The eggs are covered a sack to protect them from predators. Hundreds of skate species have been identified and their egg sacks can be distinguished by size, length, and color. Eggs can range in size but are typically found to be very small, only a few cm in length.

What’s Washed In – July 9, 2014

It’s been a busy week at the COASST office, with juvenile common murre wreck reports in two Humboldt locations and lots of data coming in! If you happen to see 10 or more beached birds of the same species on your survey, check out Part 4 of the COASST Protocol and let us know if you have any questions about wrecks! We’re happy to help.

This weekend we have another low tide series, which means it’s a great time to head out for another sea star survey or your very first, if you haven’t tried the sea star protocol yet. More than 18 species of sea stars in the Pacific Northwest are exhibiting signs of Sea Star Wasting Disease, and we could really use your help to monitor sea stars on COASST beaches. Thank you again to those of you who have contributed thus far.  There is no way we could monitor such a large geographic area without your help.

We’ve had quite a few interesting finds on COASST beaches recently, including what we call a one-in-a-million bird! What does that mean? Let’s take a look at what’s washed in and find out!AWe haven’t seen a flood of this species hit the beaches like what we saw in the summer of 2011 and 2012. Still, Brenda and Bill spotted one – only measurable part left is the tarsus. Let’s take a look, starting with the foot key (tarsus = 53mm): Webbed, go to Q2; completely webbed, go to Q3; 3-webbed, 4th minute (=tiny) go to Q6; thin toe or nail only go to Q7; heel is flat, go to Q8; with this tarsus, we’re at Tubenose: petrels – stop!

On TN1, we can see that what’s left of the wings is larger than 20cm, so proceed to True Petrels. Bill is thin, long and dark – one of the shearwaters! With a 53mm tarsus, we’re outside the range of the Short-tailed Shearwater, and just barely in the range of the Pink-footed Shearwater. The PFSH has a pale bill base – well, Sooty Shearwater it is!


BJ and John found a one-in-a-million bird last week, not by species (we’ll get to that) – it was oiled AND entangled – only about a  .002% chance of that! Let’s get back to what it is – crack open the foot key again: Webbed, go to Q2; completely webbed, go to Q3; 3-webbed, 4th minute (=tiny) go to Q6; thin toe or nail only go to Q7; but this time the heel is swollen: Larids – stop! Hooked bill, mottled brown plumage, dark bill: we have ourselves a Large Immature Gull, specifically a Glaucous-winged Gull, subadult.

CLook at the size of that fish! Joanna didn’t find any birds on her Oregon Mile 309 survey, but she did spot this Yelloweye Rockfish (aka Rasphead, Red Snapper) on May 25. Yelloweye range from Prince William Sound, Alaska to Baja California, Mexico, though in the middle of their range, their population is low and declining, which led to a ban on their take in Washington since 2003. In 2010, they were listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act prompting a proposal of critical habitat in the greater Puget Sound/Georgia Basin in 2013 for Yelloweye, and two other species: Canary Rockfish, and Bocaccio. Yellow eyed rock fish can grow up to three feet in length. Yelloweye rock fish are red in color as juveniles and very slowly progress to a dull yellow. By very slowly, I really mean very slowly! These fish can live up to about 120 years!

KayakRopeWondering what’s happening with marine debris? COASST’s Executive Director, Julia Parrish, recently took a trip to Kayak Island, Alaska to test out the marine debris protocol.  She was joined by Ellen Lance, Branch Chief for the Anchorage USFWS Endangered Species Program, and they found a lot of BIG debris. On the smaller side was this rope. A couple of key characteristics are the fact that it has many loops (a potential entanglement hazard for wildlife) and it has gooseneck barnacles on it (a sign that it has been in the water a long time and may have traveled a long distance).  In this photo you can see our prototype measuring device/color bars used to determine the size and color of debris objects, along with the familiar COASST ruler and chalkboard.

Thanks to all of you for your hard work! Happy COASSTing!