[Tweeters] Pelagic problems in the Gulf of Alaska?? (a little off topic)

Jon Houghton jon.houghton at hartcrowser.com
Wed Jul 25 17:08:40 PDT 2018

Hi Tweets - I was pleased to read Bob Boekelheide and Denny van Horn's report of an abundance of Fork-tailed Storm-Petrels and Northern Fulmars at Swiftsure Banks in mid July. Here's why: Jean Olson and I have been participating in boat-bases surveys that include marine bird monitoring in lower Cook Inlet near and across from Homer AK. We believe we witnessed a major disruption in behavior (and health!) of these two pelagic species there. In the past, I've only seen these species well off-shore from Outer Kachemak Bay, across Cook Inlet, to near Augustine Island on the west side of the inlet. In mid July, there was a report in AK Tweeters of hundreds of FTSP right off Homer Spit, followed by a second Tweet about large numbers near the Seward AK breakwater at the head of Resurrection Bay, about 80 air miles to the east and definitely sheltered waters. When we left Homer by boat on 7/11 there were still about 40 FTSP fluttering around the end of the spit and few to none in the open water where they should be. Some of our crew were already over in Kamishak Bay where they reported about 15 FTSP astern of their anchored boat, trying to feed on ??, but also dying. A couple of Northern Fulmars joined in the feeding and dying. A few carcasses were collected and sent to USFWS in Fairbanks for assessment but the birds were clearly emaciated. About the same time, a Tweeters report came in that FTSP were seen dying at McNeil River Falls (the famous bear viewing place, well up a freshwater stream)!! Also, some fishery researchers found dead FTSP on Iliamna Lake, at least 60 miles from any saltwater(!), and to cap it off, we found both dead FTSP, NOFU, (and juvenile Bald Eagles) on the shores of Kamishak Bay. So...something's not going well for pelagic birds in the Northern Gulf of Alaska - seems like a major lack of food but one can't be sure. Hope our seabirds fare better! - Happy Birding - Jon Houghton, Edmonds
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