The day that I patiently have been waiting for
the 12th ANNUAL marbled murrelet (MAMU) citizen survey.
I have been hearing about this amazing event ever since I first met Paul Engelmeyer back in April. He was one of the tree climbers that would go up, look for these birds and photograph them. I truly look up to him and all that he has done for science, management of this area and inspiring so many young conservationists. He is the manager of the Ten Mile Creek Sanctuary and has helped to preserve important habitat for these birds both in the oceans and in the forest of the Siuslaw National Forest. A training session was held the evening beforehand it was amazing because Oregon State University ornithologist, Kim Nelson, who has been studying this small, interesting and elusive bird for 30 years was there to talk to us all about what she knew and what she and others have and are working on. They were the last North American bird to have their nests found by biologists. So it was amazing to meet her and talk a little bit about why I am here and all that I have been up to help spread the word about them as well as educate the public on how we could give them a hand. And it really gave me an appreciation for finding something that you want to dedicate your whole life to because it is just impossible to know everything there is to know about a bird in a few months or even years because even though Kim and others have been studying the marbled murrelet for 30 or more years there are still so many questions left to answer.
And there is a project through an organization called the Oregon Murrelet Ecology Project and they have been able to tag 75 marbled murrelets with devices that could be used to track the individuals using radio-telemetry. With these devices they were hoping to find the tree stands that MAMU are using this year but they found that the ocean habitat this year has not been the greatest and it is either because the California current did not make the transition which brings up the nutrients for the fish the MAMU eat or it happened already. The timing is not right and it seems as though most of the birds have traveled down to California to feed. Which is interesting to note because there were a lot that already developed brood patches but to decide not to nest because of food is something the monitors are noting down.
After Kim spoke, Paul talked a bit about the Marine Reserves and then about the sites that people could choose for the morning survey. Paul mentioned why they were important and how it provides sort of like a bank how there are about 154 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in Oregon and how 1/3 of them are on the coast. There was an amazing turnout to this training session I would estimate close to 50 people! We then got the opportunity to choose one out of five sites where we wanted to go in the morning and we chose to go to the Ten Mile Sanctuary with Paul Engelmeyer. Waking up at 3:30 AM brought me back to my bird banding days. I initially thought it was going to be hard to get out of my bed but I leapt out of bed and ran for the coffee machine! I then got all that I needed ready and was ready to get there and watch the sky. The morning drive was great the radio was playing some interesting music but Nancy and Alex, really woke up on the right side of the bed, so they were truly cracking me up!
We drove down to the The Ten Mile Creek Sanctuary for what seemed longer than we had to but once we got there I just knew we were in the right place. I am no good at directing people but I definitely knew when we arrived. We walked down to a chorus of Swainson’s Thrushes, Wilson’s Warblers and American Robins singing up a storm. But we joined the rest of the team and watched the sky in hopes of seeing the little birds dash across. Ten Mile is truly a beautiful place and it was great to see the change since I had last been there. The Big Leaf maple that I took a picture in front of back in April had grown leaf and was even more beautiful. We did not detect any MAMUs (we got skunked a term I later learned). But it was still great to get out with everyone and get to be a part of this. But I did not lose hope because there was still a chance to see one on the water. So we left Ten Mile Creek and headed to town to grab a coffee and or second breakfast.
Afterwards we headed to meet the rest of the crew to set up scope and watch the ocean to see if we could spot the robin-sized seabird at sea. We saw some surf scoters, double-crested cormorants, pigeon guillemots, Hermann’s gull and a red-breasted grebe! I talked to a few of the monitors like Stephen Rossiter and Jennifer. I got the opportunity to meet Abigail DeYoung and she informed me that the reason the water was so brown was that there was so much phytoplankton. This actually isn’t so good for fishermen and in turn isn’t such a good habitat for the MAMU because they are fishermen as well! Although we were skunked two times there were some detections of the MAMU at other sites like the Cape Perpetua campground. The MAMU eluded me this time but I shall encounter them one day! I know it!
But until then Keers! (as the MAMU would say)