A free training session will be held Saturday by a citizen science organization of the University of Washington that is looking for volunteers in Crescent City to survey local beaches for carcasses of marine birds.
The Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team will hold a training session from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the College of the Redwoods’ Del Norte campus (room DN-2) to show folks how to collect monthly data on dead marine birds to establish a baseline pattern of beached bird mortality for local beaches.
The interactive, hands-on workshop will get volunteers acquainted with field identification and give them a chance to try out their new skills.
“Crescent City is a great place for beached bird surveys due to its proximity to nesting colonies,” said COASST volunteer coordinator Erika Frost. “Crescent City is one of the major stopover points for birds going farther south.”
Castle Rock, the towering sea stack seen from northern Crescent City, is the second-largest seabird breeding colony along the California coast. False Klamath Rock just north of Klamath is the fourth-largest.
“Whenever there is a large nesting site it’s a great place to collect data and get information,” Frost said.
COASST is looking to fill eight survey sites between Trinidad State Park and the Smith River, with four of the beaches in Crescent City. Beaches range in length from 0.35–1.8 km.
A field guide will be distributed as part of the program showing volunteers how to identify different marine birds, even without seeing the whole bird.
“Even if you just have the foot or wing of the animal you can go through steps (of) identification,” Frost said, who said there’s no reason to be squeamish about the dead birds. “It’s not much different from looking at pieces of dead seaweed or anything like that.”
Data collected by volunteers is used to determine “a baseline of what is normal,” Frost said. “How many dead birds should be washing up on that beach in a given year in a given timeframe. It’s important to see if we’re finding what is typical and what is not typical.”
COASST has more than 800 volunteers monitoring beaches and collecting data in Northern California, Oregon, Washington and Alaska, and compiling data from that many volunteers on that many beaches helps wildlife management agencies identify when there might be an increase in mortality of a certain species.
Information from COASST volunteers has been used in the past to identify “wrecks,” en masse deaths of birds. In 2009, COASST information was used to identify a surf scoter wreck in Washington, Frost said.