Rebecca Kimport, JUNE 29, 2010 part2

NOAA Teacher at Sea Rebecca Kimport
NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
June 30, 2010 – July 19, 2010

Mission: Summer Pollock survey
Geograpical Area:Bering Sea, Alaska
Date: June 29,  2010

Time with Birds and Mammals

On our way out of Dutch Harbor and Captain’s Bay, I spent some time on the bow with Katie, Michele and birder Nate Jones. As I know very little about birds, I quizzed him on every flying specimen we encountered and used his binoculars to observe the birds up close. After a few sightings, I was able to identify the Fulmar by its unique wing movement (quick quick quick soar). We also saw tufted puffins and a black-footed albatross. There are two birders (Nate and Marty from US Fish and Wildlife Service) on this leg who are responsible for scanning the horizon and counting and identifying the seabirds they observe from the bridge.Here is bird observer Nate Jones scanning the horizon for seabirds:

Nate Jones observing
Nate Jones observing
We were distracted from our bird watching by a call of orcas. We hustled up to the “flying bridge” to join the marine mammal observers. There are three “mammals” (Paula, Yin and Ernesto from the National Marine Mammal Laboratory) on this leg and they are constantly scanning the horizon with their “big eyes” to observe and identify cetaceans. I was able to observe two separate groups of orcas and heard that porpoises were also spotted.Here is marine mammalian observer Ernesto Vazquez looking through the big eyes on the flying bridge:

Ernesto observing mammals
Ernesto observing mammals

Although I am technically on the fish shift, I hope to check in with the “birds” and “mammals” later in the cruise. After spotting birds and mammals, it’s time for the first installment of the “animals seen” list:Animals Seen in Dutch Harbor
Bald eagles
Ground Squirrel
Sea Urchin
Sea Stars
Sea Cucumber
Pigeon Guillemot
Oyster Catchers
Hermit Crabs
(but no horses…)Animals Seen in Transit
Black Footed Albatross
Tufted Puffin

As many of you know, I am a horrible speller. When I went to check the spelling for the birds I had seen, I spotted a Thick-billed Murre from the bridge. Okay, in reality, the observation and identification went more like this:

Me: “Hey that’s a bird”
Nate: “Yes, it was a Thick-billed Murre”

I am impressed by the seabird and marine mammal observers’ abilities to spot and identify birds and mammals from such far distances. Like any recall-related skill, I recognize that animal identification takes both an innate talent and years of practice. But the animal observers also need to have extreme patience to maintain a clear focus, a methodologically-sound routine and a sense of possibility (as the weather is not always in their favor). We’re lucky to have such talented scientists counting species in the Bering Sea.

As we say goodbye to land, we know the real adventure is about to begin

Goodbye Land
Goodbye Land

More soon!

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