Its the silence more than anything else that typifies the end of my time with the Laskeek Bay Conservation Society: no trills of the Townsends Warbler, no shimmering droplets from Ravens, no panicked cackling of the Black Oyster Catchers, no bellows from Humpbacks whales to wake you in the morning, no more omnipresent crash of the surf on the craggy limestone shores to orient your body. Most of all, I will miss the Ancient Murrlets, those peculiar Auks whose colony is the raison d'etre of the LBCS. They fly in from the sea at night to trade incubating duties with their mate, down in shallow burrows scattered in the forest and around our camp. Breee-tri-ti-ti-brimp! A party of non-breeders in the branches erupts in calls and helicopter-loud wing beets, sometimes crashing into your tent (they can't see so well in the dark, but neither can raptors and ravens, so thats the trade-off). Now, just dropped off by the cesna in Queen Charelotte Village, its like I'm searching for these familiar sounds that were always in the background of my time on Limestone Island.
I think I finally get the “cult” of seabird biologists— under the tutelage of Jen and Jake, two young and very competent project biologists, I learned about the evolution and ecology of seabirds, and the pleasure of working with them. In short, seabirds are big, loud, generally social, oddly married to the terrestrial system for giving birth, and forage far and wide over the patchy and transient resources of the sea. The Ancient Murrelets are amusing in that the hatchlings are precocial and make a long tracherous march from their hillside burrows over jagged and cliffy terrains to the sea, only two days after they've hatched, then boogie it out over huge swells, gale force winds, and the darkness of night, paddling with little feet to feeding areas in the Hecate Straight. Plastic-sheet “funnels” lining the colony would corral the tiny chicks into predictable outflows where waiting volunteers could snatch the chicks to count and weigh them. All this happens between 12:00 – 3:00 am, everyone's generally sleep deprived, but the miracle of life bouncing down cliffs keeps you going and happy.
There is a decline in the Murrelet numbers.
I also helped do sea transects for birds and marine mammals surveys, monitor wildlife trees (snags), and other odds and ends. Some highlights include Stellar Sea Lion haul outs, booming humpbacks, two tufted Puffins! and good times with cool nature-buffs.