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Bird Notes with James Hirtle

Plastic in our oceans

 I wrote about plastic ingestion by albatrosses in a previous column. We still have a big problem in our oceans and especially in parts of Canada.

 In Bird Watch Canada, Spring 2011, No. 55, an article appears that reveals the results of a study off the coast of British Columbia. The results are shocking.

 "There is a swirling mass of plastic debris trapped in the North Pacific Gyre, sometimes referred to as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch," the article says.

 Apparently in the most concentrated area, the water is a plastic confetti soup to the extent of plastic being more numerous than plankton. Marine birds from the area were found with intestinal damage and malnutrition. Adult birds were feeding plastic to young along with normal food. Young have been found to have ingested beads, Styrofoam, fishing line, buttons, plastic bags, golf tees, dishwashing gloves, pens and neoprene O-rings.

 In 2009 a study done by the University of British Columbia on northern fulmar mortality revealed that out of 36 carcasses collected and examined, 35 of these birds were found to have ingested plastic. Europe's North Sea shows large amounts of plastic in birds, but British Columbia seems to be the worst of all. Plastic is turning up in the stomachs of birds in our Canadian Arctic also. As time goes on it seems that our oceans are getting worse rather than better.

 Helen Forrest has been getting regular visits from white-breasted nuthatches and she has been seeing lots of purple finches. Wally Zinck of the Armstrong Road near Chester has seen an American woodcock in his yard feeding on a regular basis. He also reports four ruby-throated hummingbirds and has been watching adult American robins teaching young how to catch worms.

 Shorebirds are starting to move through in migration and Kevin Lantz saw 25 least sandpipers, nine willets, five lesser yellowlegs and one short-billed dowitcher, as well as a horned lark, at Kingsburg Beach. Eric Mills had his first whimbrel for the season at Western Head and in Brooklyn he found an adult solitary sandpiper. At Western Head he also saw a razorbill fly by and there were 12 black scoters there.

 Birds are banding together and starting to migrate out. David Walmark, Pat Gladman and I took a run to Thomas Cove Coastal Reserve near Economy Point where we had a bonanza of birds. The best group contained two red-eyed vireos, five golden-crowned kinglets, a ruby-crowned kinglet, four black-capped chickadees, a black-throated green warbler, a Magnolia warbler, a northern parula, a pair of American redstarts, a blackburnian warbler and two black and white warblers.

 We only had one flycatcher, an alder and groupings of hermit thrushes. In all, we identified 49 species over the day. There were large gaps in seeing birds in suitable habitat where there should have been nesting species, which denotes that these birds had already moved out of the area.

 Elsewhere, Rick Whitman had black-backed woodpeckers at the Trans Canada Trail in Guysborough County. Elizabeth Doull saw roseate, arctic and common terns at West Pubnico. She saw 400-plus short-billed dowitchers at the Hawk on Cape Sable Island.

 Johnny Nickerson found four Hudsonian godwits there. Elizabeth Doull located a blackpoll warbler at Three Fathoms Harbour and she also had a good look at an eastern wood pewee and a boreal chickadee there. Ann Doull found an eastern kingbird at Big Island. When Ken McKenna visited there he counted 52 species. Highlights were nine leaches storm petrels and 62 lesser yellowlegs. Dick Halliburton had two common moorhens at Avonport, which stayed there for three weeks.

 Reach me at jrhbirder@hotmail.com or phone 764-2182.



posted on 07/26/11
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