Date: June 19, 2013
Tonight’s Location: Homer, AK
Weather: cloudy, periods of rain
Temperature: start 52º
Wildlife count: Pine Squirrel
Year List: 257; Life List: 369
Birds: Alder Flycatcher, American Robin, Hermit Thrush, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Sandhill Cranes, Bald Eagle, Common Raven, Northwestern Crow, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Pelagic Cormorant, Golden-crowned Sparrow, Glaucous-winged Gull, Black-legged Kittiwake
We awoke to dark skies and promised rain, which we truly needed. It was a welcome change, and it washed a lot of the dust off of the truck. Surprisingly, we had only 300 people, unusual for a rainy day in a Visitor’s Center. Because on Wednesday’s, both volunteer couples work, the thought is to have some training for us, so we were treated to an extremely interesting presentation on Invasive Species. We thought it would be about plants, but it was on invasive animals – those that have been introduced to the islands of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, which includes the Aleutian and Pribilof Islands and others including 2500 islands. The major animals introduced were foxes, rats, and European rabbits, horses, cattle and caribou. Foxes were introduced to be a cash crop for their pelts, and the seabirds were used for food, annihilating many species on each island. Rats came from ships that docked, which were equally destructive of the birds. The real issue is that because the birds live on islands without these predators, they have no defense, thus the decimation.
After lunch, we learned about the Barren Islands, another AMNWR group of islands. This time, a biological technician, showed how he and his colleagues work to identify all of the possible trends in food, nesting activities, chick size, productivity – any measurable trend that might be used to indicate population size. It is only through establishing good baseline data that trends can be established, whether populations increase or decrease.
It seems like a lot of work for a bunch of birds. However, as the name of the Visitor’s Center, Island and Ocean, indicates, there are MANY island in the world, including continents, but there is only ONE ocean. If the ocean around the thousands of islands where the birds nest is healthy, the entire ocean, which feeds us and provides for us in SO many ways, is healthy. And the converse is true as well.
After work, as we walked outdoors, the bird song simply exploded! The sun was shining and the birds were excited. We came home and enjoyed our hot bowl of chili, and then went out birding. The hike at the Pratt Museum netted a lifer, the Golden-crowned Kinglet – what a beautiful bird with a bright yellow-orange crest. We also enjoyed our usual drive out to the spit, stopping to see the eagle’s nest and to check for eaglets – none yet, but mama is sitting. The eaglets will hatch after 35 days, and then the parents must care for them for another 75-98 days before they can fly on their own. What a commitment!