Meanwhile, at sea…

Brother- in- law George Graham has been getting more and more involved in observing, counting, and studying marine birds and fish off the coast of Massachusetts, so far as a volunteer. He sent this report and these excellent photos, as migration stretces its  lines down the coasts. My only caveat is that George will have to tell you what his acronyms mean.Take it, George!

“I finally made it on one of the last excursions of the year on the R/V Auk 25 miles out to the SBNMS with the crew from NOAA. We had a fantastic day this past Monday, calm seas, low wind and temps about 60. Pretty good score for an October day off Massachusetts Bay. The primary objective was gathering data on seabirds following a predetermined course of over 100 miles, secondary were mammal and debris observations. We counted over 1800 birds in about 17 species. A great experience. Now that I’m a trained recorder, I’m looking forward to riding the whale watches next spring as a Stellwagen Sanctuary Seabird Steward (S4 project).

“I was the test dummy for the safety brief, see gumby suit. Group shot of the S4 volunteers. The gent on the left is Wayne Petersen,  Mass Audubon’s Director of the Massachusetts Important Bird Areas (IBA) program. He was a great source of knowledge and a pleasure to work with.”

Steve again. Scoters and eiders; more than a bit of nostalgia there. The two opposing poles, the yin and the yang  of Yankee bird hunting, are the slow- moving, rather comfortable ramble with a pretty setter through the transformed glory of a New England autumn, with grouse and woodcock as quarry, and eating such noble quarry cooked by traditional, classical recipes… I mean, the French cook such birds right.

And then there are sea ducks– shot from small boats,  often on dark days off dangerous coasts,  with an east wind blowing sleet and freezing rain at you midst turbulence and discomfort and the smell of salt air and wet dog. A Chessie might beat a Lab, and a ten bore might be the best choice in a gun. To cook them well you had best know some old swamp Yankee secrets or you’d do better to eat the legendary board you were supposed to nail them to.

You might be surprised which I remember best.

Post from the Coast

Brother in law George Graham on the fall season on my native coast. The Urge for Going and migration always make me  a little nostalgic…

“As the summer begins to wind down, we find ourselves spending every last sunny moment on the trails near our house. Any excuse to walk Hal on Great Esker and the Back River winds up with too much to see. I’ve attached a few pix of the sights of Wild Weymouth, through our eyes. The landscape that blocks out the sirens and hustle. An absolutely beautiful stroll today with my favorite backwoods suburban explorer, my own Jane..”Good at All” [My sister Karen]. Action is full throttle, as an osprey hunts, a red-tail hawk sits calmly with pigeons on the wires while a great blue heron squawks and snowy egrets fish the incoming tide for snacks. Meanwhile a turkey vulture meanders overhead, cormorants sunning on the peat shore under the salt marsh grass, gulls crabbing in the mud, terns and ducks in the river. This truly was happening simultaneously, just an overload of goodness for us to witness.”

That is tidal water, folks, including the river…

Urge for Going? The definitive version:


Science Links

A BBC news article seems to point to the “Overkill Hypothesis” as the major cause of the extinction of the American megafauna.

Studies of dung preserved in a Wisconsin lake suggest

“… a slow decline in megafauna that began about 15,000 years ago and appeared to last for about 1,000 years.

“This discovery rules out one idea that the extinction might have been caused by an extraterrestrial object striking Earth 13,000 years ago.

(Snip)

“This study is exciting because we’re getting some solid data about the ecological consequences of the removal of these animals,” said Ms Gill.

“After their decline we see an increase in the more warm-adapted deciduous trees, and an increase in charcoal [which means there was] an increase in the number of forest fires.”

The last may have some bearing on my Passenger Pigeon project, A Feathered Tempest.

The Eleanora’s falcon already leads a weird life, nesting on Mediterranean islands in the fall to intercept the songbird migration. Now it appears to also make one of the most amazing migrations.

“In total, the bird flies more than 9,500 kilometres across the African continent from the Balearic and Columbretes Islands before reaching the island of Madagascar. Some of the previously-obscure secrets now revealed by the scientists show that these falcons migrate by both day and night, and cross supposed ecological barriers such as the Sahara Desert.” (HT Laura Niven).

A gallery of the wild apple forests of the Tian Shan. I have been there let’s hope they don’t all fall to villas for rich Kazakh businessmen. (HT David Williamson).