It’s bird festival season. Last weekend I spent three days in the southern part of the Kenai Peninsula of Alaska, at Homer. The Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival was a great opportunity to reconnect with kids through outreach and games, and also with graduate students through their research on birds. Not only did the children have fun with bird trivia and bingo, but parents and grandparents also had such a great time.
As we dissected a Common Murre, we learned about plastics in the ocean. In order to give plastics certain properties, such as flexibility, some chemicals are added to them. Phthalates are a family of chemicals used for such purposes.
The problem? These chemicals adhere to bird tissues, and eventually end up in the eggs. Some researchers associate the presence of these compounds to an increase in chick gastroschisis, a birth defect where the intestines stick outside of the body.
Microplastics are used in cosmetics, personal care products, and other products. These plastics eventually find their way to the ocean, where fish and birds mistake them for planktonic organisms and feed on them. They are inserted into the food web, and will likely reach the apex (top) predators–like us?
Now in Kenai City, we participated in the Kenai Birding Festival, which had an art expo. We had so much fun playing migration games with the kids. Their talent truly amazed me, as did knowing that at such a young age they are aware of the birds in the area and their issues. We went on a float boat birding trip, where we saw more that 60 species in five hours. That was one of the best experiences so far. The turquoise blue color of this river that feeds on glacial melt is incredible, and being surrounded by trees and wildlife throughout the course of the river was as peaceful as it was outstanding.
Now we are heading to Anchorage to be part of the International Migratory Bird Day at the Zoo.