Bird group seeks volunteers

  • May. 3, 2010 6:00 p.m.

Submitted article–BC is home to millions of seabirds, and these are often the first indicators of stress eventsß in the marine environment. When a stress event occurs¬-due to oil spills at sea, red tide or heavy storms- seabirds often wash up on beaches carrying clues with them. Surveying beaches for bird carcasses is a useful, globally recognized tool for monitoring seabird mortality. Once a month, hundreds of Bird Studies Canada volunteers from all over BC hit the beaches to walk along the shore and document beached bird strandings. Volunteers walk the beaches slowly with eyes trained just in front of their feet, visually combing through the wrackline and the rocks. A bird carcass invokes a flurry of measurements and note-taking, finishing with tagging the carcass for potential rediscovery on the next month’s survey. These volunteers make significant contributions to environmental stewardship by gathering information used to develop long term data sets. The data collected is used to monitor distribution, timing and variation in seabird mortality. This helps define what’s normal, and enables more accurate quantification of the effects of chronic events, like oil spills. For example, the BC Beached Bird Survey information has been used to determine what species of seabirds are most affected by oiling, what time of year the problem is most severe, and whether the proportion of oiled birds washing up on beaches is changing over time. This kind of information will become increasingly important as shipping activity increases. This year, a project dubbed ‘Dead Bird CSI’ has been initiated in collaboration with Environment Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada. This project collects beached seabird carcasses and sends them for a post-mortem examination to determine the cause of death. The stomachs are then sent to the UBC where Stephanie Avery-Gomm is studying seabird stomachs to determine if birds are ingesting plastic debris from the ocean surface. Bird Studies Canada (BSC) is looking to expand the volunteer network. The time commitment is small but volunteering as a citizen scientist with the BSC Beached Bird Survey Program can provide important and useful data. By participating in a science-based monitoring program you are helping to maintain and improve the quality of our marine environment. If you are interested in participating please visit http://www.bsc-eoc.org/volunteer/bcbeachbird/ or contact bcprograms@birdscanada.org directly. Volunteering for this program requires no previous experience. Bird Studies Canada will supply all the necessary survey equipment, data forms, and information, and are available to help with training and answer questions.