I started Common Murre surveys this week with Oregon State University in which me and graduate student Cheryl Horton are collecting data on the species’ reproduction success and predation. First day of survey felt like an experience taken out of the Discovery Channel, surveying under extreme weather conditions in the pouring rain out of the balcony of a 93 foot tower. We walked up 114 stairs, laid our gear in place which involved spotting scopes, binoculars, small stools, a folder indicating our plots and data sheets; and headed out into balcony. The wind was so strong that we could barely open the door and as we came out and it was extremely hard to walk around the balcony, I had to hold on to my beanie tightly and the scope. I thought I was going to fly away and as I looked down the lighthouse, I couldn’t believe how high and scary but beautiful everything looked. Hundreds of murres were on the two islands out of the lighthouse, Colony Rock, and Lion’s Head , calling “urr” loudly. As I practiced finding the different plots on the rocks, an adult Bald Eagle, the common murre’s main predator, took a murre out of the island, making several murres fly off the rock. But the eagle struggled to take off due to the strong winds and dropped it. Western Gulls crowded around the rock, then landed looking for eggs to eat. All of this was so exciting to watch and record. The murres are starting to lay eggs on the rock, but eagle disturbance has been high, and they are late on laying eggs. This week Cheryl and I should be adding presence of eggs until we have 25 recorded on each plot, so that we can later track their incubation and hatching progress.
I will be conducting these surveys with Cheryl three times a week from 6am to 9am followed by entering data and doing some video monitoring on predation of last year’s video cameras from other murre nesting islands along the coast. Living over a half hour away form work will be even more tough in the next few weeks since it will mean waking up extra early, but I cannot wait for wildlife action packed mornings like today.