Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Chemical Splendor, I Surrender

Why hello Cassin's Auklet.

Why hello Whiskered Auklet.

Juvenile auklets are suprisingly hard to identify, especially since half the time you see them you can just pick them up off the ground.  Here you can see the Whiskered has the beginnings of its trademark whiskers coming in, as well as a smaller bill.  The Cassin's has the top white "comma"(?) above the eye, which will be matched with a bottom one as it gets older.

Whiskered Auklets have such a small range that few people have gotten to rub whiskers with them.  If youre  wondering, it's an intense, whisker-wilting experience.

Why hello Whiskered and Cassin's Auklets.

Seabirds really aren't good at much stuff.  I mean, at sea, they're right at home, but many of them are horribly equipped for life on land, which is necessary a few months a year for breeding.  They are really vulnerable to everything from nonnative plants to gulls to cats to people.  They are so well adapted to life on the water that they have sacrificed traits which would help them on land....i.e. penguins can no longer fly, loons and grebes cant take off from dry land, frigatebirds and tropicbirds barely have legs, albatross cant even grasp the concept of trees, and so on.

On Buldir Island, one of the main obstacles to daily life is......grass.  There is a lot of it, and it covers everything later in the summer.  Its hard for even us peoples to wade through.  So when a wayward puffin, auklet or murre lands in the wrong spot and cant see which way to go, they are pretty much screwed, since they are so fat that they need some sort of high point to launch off to get airborne.  So for the whole summer we were grabbing all sorts of things that got marooned in the grasses and managed to make their way to our footpaths.  Most birds (especially the Horned Puffins) didnt seem very grateful, but the one Thick-billed Murre I had to ferry over to a cliff was pretty mellow.  Murre-kitty.

How embarrassing.  Note deadly layer of grass.

The drake Tufted Duck that spent the summer on Buldir with us.

1 comment:

  1. wonderful, our nature is paradise but people try to ruin those... that's awful