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Partnering with Pilots

Partnering with Pilots: Celebrating Seabirds’ Allies in the Sky

In 1903, at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, the Wright brothers changed the world forever by building and flying the world’s first airplane, a “flying machine” that flew 120 feet and reached an airspeed of 34 mph before falling back to earth. To engineer such a machine, the brothers and others before them took inspiration from birds, studying the physics of bird flight and the behavioral methods used by birds to control flight once in the air. Yet a century later, in an ironic twist, birds within a particular group — the seabirds — have become vulnerable to disturbance from the …
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Volunteer Seabird Monitors Share Stories

“I had the opportunity to share my binoculars with about eight people looking at the seals on the bluff above Jenner. What they hadn’t seen was there were two bald eagles next to the surf and about 15 or 16 different cormorants fishing right in the mouth. As we were watching the eagles a whale calf and mom appeared, and the calf put on a show for us. Suddenly there were questions from people who had been only able to see the seals before and were excited by all the life they got to see. It is a wonderful feeling to be able to expand …
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Black-footed Albatross – A North Pacific Wanderer

The Black-footed Albatross (scientific name Phoebastria nigripes) is an ocean wanderer that regularly visits Greater Farallones, Cordell Bank and Monterey Bay national marine sanctuaries. If you are lucky enough to catch a glimpse of one, you will be impressed. Black-footed Albatrosses can live 40-50 years. They have long narrow wings, reaching six to seven feet from tip to tip. Albatross are monogamous and perform elaborate ‘dances’ with their mate during the breeding season. When incubating an egg, a Black-footed Albatross can go 18 to 38 days without food or water. Both parents care for a single chick from hatching until it fledges, at 140 days old …
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Breeding Season Update

Seabirds on the Farallon Islands and at coastal colonies had a late start to egg laying in 2015. On the Farallones, the first Brandt’s and Double-crested Cormorant chicks and the first Pelagic Cormorant eggs were seen in early June. Pelagic Cormorant numbers were the lowest since 2011. Tufted Puffins are also breeding on the island with over 60 active nest sites, fewer than in 2014. Biologists recorded the lowest count of Western Gulls in 45 years of monitoring on the island! …
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Sanctuary Expands – More Protected Areas for the Birds!

Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary (formerly Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary) has expanded. Now the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary protects 3,295 square miles of ocean, including important breeding and feeding areas for seabirds from just north of San Francisco to Manchester Beach near Point Arena. The Sanctuary protects thousands of species and a variety of habitats including open ocean, nearshore tidal flats, rocky intertidal areas, estuarine wetlands, subtidal reefs, and coastal beaches …
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A Boater’s Day on the Water – A Murre’s Day on the Rock

In this post we share one story from two perspectives. The first is from the perspective of a Common Murre at her breeding colony in “A Murre’s Day on the Rock”. The second is from the perspective of a fisherman on a charter boat, whose actions unwittingly impact the murre in a very important way in “A Beautiful Day on the Water”. These stories were written by Mai Maheigan, Outreach Specialist, Seabird Protection Network. A Murre’s Day on the Rock The murre stretched her head skyward and shook out her feathers as the sun’s rays began to warm her after the cool night. She …
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A Pilot’s Day in the Sky and A Murre’s Day on the Rock

A Murre’s Day on the Rock The murre stretched her head skyward and shook out her feathers as the sun’s rays began to warm her after the cool night. She then reached down and turned the speckled blue-green egg resting under her, using her bill to secure it near her warm belly. Neighbors began to wake around her and their closeness and movement gave the colony the look of rustling black fabric from the cliffs above …
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Seabird Spotlight: Rhinoceros Auklet

The Rhinoceros Auklet (Cerorhinca monocerata) is named for the unique horn-like projection that appears on its bill during the breeding season. These auklets have a compact body with short wings and tail. They are built for diving so their feet are set far back on their body making them a bit awkward on land. Dark gray breeding season plumage and a few fancy white feathers around the head complete the breeding season ensemble. These stocky birds are the only member of their genus (Cerorhinca) and are closely related to puffins …
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From the Flight Deck, Part 2: Wildlife conservation collaborations: the USCG Auxiliary, West Coast National Marine Sanctuaries, and Wildlife Protection

By Ron Darcey, U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, Assistant District Staff Officer – Aviation/Training Successful conservation of marine and coastal species is accomplished through numerous partnerships among local, state, and federal agencies, and non-profit organizations. This is especially true for the Seabird Protection Network. This article is the second of a two-part series about our partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary who provides valuable data about human uses and human wildlife interactions in national marine sanctuary waters …
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Watching Seabirds on the Sonoma Coast: an Intimate Perspective

Hollis Bewley is a naturalist, photographer, seabird enthusiast, and partner of the Seabird Protection Network. Hollis coordinates citizen scientist surveys of seabirds on the Sonoma Coast with the Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods. Hollis recently received an award from the Madrone Audubon chapter for inspiring and training volunteer seabird monitors and for her own work for bird conservation. Following is an article by Hollis about her work and the endearing and sometimes amusing seabirds she loves to watch. Volunteers have been monitoring seabirds nesting on three offshore rocks along the Sonoma Coast between Bodega Bay and Jenner as part …
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The Seabird Update

Seabird breeding wrapped up this year with some impressive numbers! Our favorite murre colony success story at Devil’s Slide in Pacifica topped off at 1,911 birds by land-based count – the highest number since restoration work helped bring this colony back from zero birds in 1995. On the Farallones it was a bumper year for Cassin’s Auklets which managed a very rare two-nest season, raising first one chick then attempting a second round of eggs …
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Network Featured in the All-Bird Bulletin

Citizen Science Supporting Seabird Conservation on Public Lands in California James Weigand, Ecologist, Bureau of Land Management California State Office One of the greatest resources for science on federal public lands is the people who live close to these lands. By engaging in scientific data collection, citizens are extending the scope of the public’s stewardship role in public land management. According to The State of the Birds 2011 Report on Public Lands and Waters of the United States, major threats to coastal birds include coastal development, increased human disturbance, and sea-level rise. Information being collected on seabirds by citizen scientists …
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Seabird Spotlight

If you have spent time along California’s rocky coast or in the Bay, you may have noticed a mostly black bird sporting flashy white wing patches. Maybe you saw a bird like this duck quickly into an abandoned pipe on Alcatraz Island? …
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What does Climate Change Mean to Seabirds?

Several seabird species were recently identified as indicators of climate change by a group of climate change researchers, as well as representatives of local and federal agencies. The numerous indicators include both biological (e.g., seabirds and mussels) and physical (e.g., sea-surface temperature and sea level) aspects of the ecosystem. Changes in these indicators could signal …
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From the Flight Deck

Successful conservation of marine and coastal species is accomplished through numerous partnerships between local, state and federal agencies, and non-profit organizations. This is especially true for the Seabird Protection Network. This article is the first of a two-part series about our partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary. “The United States Coast Guard consistently demonstrates unique effectiveness responding to widely varied missions, both planned and emergent. Our response has been built on a foundation of over 223 years of experience, primarily in maritime security, law enforcement, aids to navigation, marine environmental protection and rescue operations, and several key organizational characteristics …
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A View through the Spotting Scope

Article written by Crystal Bechaver, Biologist, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service It’s not every day that a job comes along that allows one to sit along the coast and gaze out over the ocean watching seabirds, whales, dolphins, and pinnipeds go about their day. I got that exact opportunity with the Common Murre Restoration Project in 2009. During my time on the murre project, I worked at all three field sites along the central California coast. Although the surveys and …
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Explaining disturbance to the public

I work on reaching out to target audiences – pilots, boaters and paddlers – about how to avoid disturbance to seabirds on the California coast. One of the big challenges is explaining why flushing birds can be a problem. For most people, seeing birds fly is normal – so when birds fly because people get close to them, it does not seem like a problem, or even a big deal. But causing birds to fly away can have big consequences when the birds in question are incubating an egg or protecting a chick. Making the link between birds flying and …
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When to draw the line between research and protection

I run a marine debris program that performs monthly surveys, with the help of trained volunteers, at beach sites along the coast. During the winter months we often come in contact with elephant seals at our survey plots.  Recently I was joining my volunteers during their survey and, although several cows and pups were in our survey plot, we made sure to steer clear of them while trying to collect data. Regardless of our effort to reduce the disturbance, we ended up aggravating one mother who watched our every move and called out to us several times to leave her …
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Saying Something Takes Courage…

I have the pleasure of working at the north end of Crissy Field and today, while out for a lunch break, I witnessed 5 young boys approximately 9 years of age throwing rocks at gulls. The gulls were floating in the water near the shoreline and the boys thought it was funny to see how close they could come to hitting a gull. I sat and watched without saying anything. Then as I was walking back to the office I veered in the direction of the boys, as if I was going to say something, but I couldn’t bring myself …
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