Mad River mystery: So many birds, dead
Cause of death: unknown.
UPDATE 7/10/12: Gary Lester, senior biologist at LACO Associates in Eureka and a volunteer for COASST surveying two sections of Clam Beach, among other things, emailed to say the information provided by the First Surveyor for COASST and confirmed by Rob Fowler in the comments section is well-placed and informed. For those (including myself), with even more interest in the topic, Gary further elaborated in a separate email:
I’m surprised that you aren’t familiar with natural beach patterns of Common Murre mortality. The Common Murre nest in sizable colonies on rocks offshore from Trinidad (Flatiron Rock, Green Island, Pilot Rock, to name a few). Breeding pair estimates range from 35,000-40,000. The chicks are raised on bare rock & leap from the rock well before they can fly to be raised by their male parent to when they can fly. There is a significant amount of fledgling loss as you might imagine.
Therefore what was included in the Lost Coast Outpost is boarding on hysteria of what is completely natural conditions, natural mortality expressed when sea conditions present dead young on the beach. What would really be of concern if we weren’t seeing this on the beach and breeding efforts had failed. In the past 4 years of mine and others COASST (Univ. of Washington beached seabird census surveys) tallies of Clam Beach have recorded dead on the beach, over 400 Common Murres, primarily young flightless birds like those that are in the Outpost photo. Completely natural.
Could you please update your article and explain that what the beach walker is witnessing is a natural phenomena, there is no reason for alarm and that the birds should be left alone for COASST survey sake if anything else.
So, there’s your update!
Original post: Melanie Patrick’s sunset stroll turned strange yesterday when she discovered bird after bird, dead. She collected 14 in hopes of providing the carcasses to California’s Dept. of Fish & Game – they bear no obvious wounds, no oil, she said.
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