Shoreline Education for Awareness is seeking an environmentally conscious volunteer to serve as Treasurer on the Board. Responsibilities include establishing the yearly budget, supervision of the bookkeeper to ensure accurate financial reporting, paying bills, and making deposits. You would work closely with US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in support of the cooperative intern program. Good organization and computer skills a plus. You will have full support of the retiring Treasurer. Local residents are encouraged to apply. If interested, please phone our office, 541-313-6751, and be prepared to discuss and send your qualifications and references as directed.
In early September, the ocean was as flat as could be, with hardly a breeze. “Thar she blows!” were the words from the 21 ft boat captain, Kent. We all heard the blow off in the distance.
Kent, Steve, and Bruce, from Bandon, and Dean from Wyoming, were anchored about three miles west of Bandon, in 200 feet of water fishing for halibut. We listened and watched for another blow and we soon heard one, and then another, and another, and they were pretty close. Everyone stopped fishing and took out their phones for picture taking.
We decided there were at least five whales within a quarter mile of the boat. The whales were close enough to be identified without binoculars. The blows were high and soon two whales were headed diagonally towards us. We thought they were blue whales, one much larger than the other, and likely a cow and calf.
The bluish gray color and very small dorsal fins on their backs, well towards their tails, as well as very high blows were easy to see. One of the other whales was a humpback, again easy to identify by lower, wider blows, a large dorsal fin, and black body, as well as the signature humpback tail flukes up in the air as it sounded.
Kent noticed a lot of “bait” on the depth sounder, appearing at shallow and deep depths. He speculated that most of it was krill because of the abundance, density, and attraction of blue whales.
Everyone was moving from side to side on the boat, using their cell phone cameras. A blue whale broke the surface of the water about a quarter mile away and Dean shouted, “Look at the size of that one!” then repeated, “Look at that size!” and then, “There’s the fin” followed by, “And there’s the tail! It must have taken at least five seconds to dive!”
Blue whales continued to blow and dive on both sides of the boat. One whale came close enough and up wind of a very light breeze so that we could smell its breath…a well-aged fishy smell.
Suddenly Kent said “Dean, you’ve got a bite!” Dean’s rod was bent over and Kent noticed his rod bent as well. Both lines were pointed towards the front of the boat, rising to the surface, and peeling line off the reels. Halibut do not rise to the surface without being reeled up, and Kent exclaimed, “I think we’ve got a whale!”
A blue whale then surfaced and blew about 100 ft in front of the boat. Both fishing lines pointed in the direction of the whale. Dean exclaimed, “What should I do?!” as the lines continued to rapidly peel off both reels.
Kent shouted, “Tighten the drag!” which finally resulted in the lines going slack. We were using circle hooks and decided our fishing weights must have gotten hung up on a tail fluke or pectoral fin, and eventually slid off. We did not catch a halibut, but we were not disappointed. Not many people get to see a blue whale up close, or four or five blue whales, or get to interact with one. As fishing tales go, this is a whopper!
Patagonia Provisions presents a fascinating video on Regenerative Ocean Farming. This 14-minute video will help viewers see the potential for diversified ocean food cultivation – rather than monoculture – in a whole new light. CLICK on the link below to watch the video from Patagonia Provisions. (Video may take time to load.)
Around the world, it has been a tough one and a half years for everyone due to the COVID pandemic. Our local community has faced its own unique challenges and even SEA struggled with the lack of hands-on interpretation, especially during the spring/summer seasons of 2020 and 2021.
We missed sharing our spotting scopes with the public at Face Rock and Simpson Reef. There is simply nothing to compare to the close up views of tufted puffins outside their burrows on Face Rock, colonial nesting common murres covering the tops of Face Rock and the Kittens, and the haulout rookery of seals and sea lions at Simpson Reef. We missed seeing people at our monthly seminars and our annual volunteer training session.
SEA has also been without an office for over a year. While the Bandon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge’s (NWR) beautiful new headquarters was being constructed, all of SEA’s equipment, records, pamphlets, and much more, was divided between Board members and safely stored in our homes. Because of COVID, SEA was prevented from moving into our new office at the refuge’s headquarters, even after construction was completed. Important training materials were not readily available, educational materials and pamphlets were difficult to find, and our computer/printer set up was nonexistent.
But SEA prevailed! We created a reference book for new SEA volunteers who have joined us at Coquille Point this summer to help NWR intern/volunteers. We maintained an online presence through Zoom seminars. And, we maintained our monthly Board meetings via Zoom. As with many businesses and organizations, Zoom has been a great lifeline for SEA, but it does not match up to our in-person gatherings and social times together.
This year, SEA returned to the sand helping to protect harbor seal pups and nesting sea birds from human disturbances at Coquille Point. We safely engaged with visitors to our coast in early spring, when the seal pupping season began, and into the summer, helping NWR interns/volunteers at Coquille Point. SEA volunteers also led a small tide pool event with a couple from Vermont, who connected with us through SEA’s website.
Volunteers have also maintained a monthly citizen science project sponsored by the Nurdle Patrol group in Texas. Due to COVID fatigue, extremely hot temperatures inland, and the ever popular Circles in the Sand event, Bandon beaches have been brimming with tourists. More people on the beach potentially leads to more disturbances to wildlife. However, it has been a good opportunity to educate the public, which by and large, appreciates our efforts and information.
As a Friends organization with the National Wildlife Refuge System, SEA has been collaborating not only with Refuge interns/volunteers, but we have also partnered with the Audubon Society, SOLVE, Washed Ashore, OR State Parks and St. John’s Episcopal Church. SEA volunteers participate in Portland Audubon’s brown pelican surveys and the monitoring of black oystercatchers on the OR coast.
Personally, I had the pleasure of hosting a beach cleanup, a Washed Ashore visit, and a tide pool adventure as a collaborative effort between SEA and St. John’s Episcopal Church in Bandon, on June 30 and July 1, 2021.
Fr. Hale at St. John’s in Bandon, was contacted by Fr. Todd Young, who serves in an Episcopal Church in Hagerstown MD. Fr. Young and his wife were planning a trip to the Great Northwest with their youth group consisting of four teenagers, ages 16 and 17 years old. Though Fr. Young and his wife had visited Bandon a few years ago, none of the youth had been this far west. The group was given the opportunity to choose the destination for their trip, with a focus on ideas for growth, learning, and opportunity to make a difference. Their choice brought them to the Oregon coast with the goal of learning more about plastic pollution and the effects on marine wildlife.
Our first day began at Devil’s Kitchen Wayside where everyone was equipped with SOLVE bags, grabbers, and gloves. Prior to their arrival, I recommended a bit of homework:
1) to research nurdles (Minute disc-shaped plastics used to create large plastic forms. You can google Nurdle Patrol to learn more about the citizen science project that SEA is involved with.)
2) to research coastal wildlife on the shores of the Pacific Ocean versus the Atlantic Ocean.
Devil’s Kitchen is oftentimes a large catchment area for marine debris so it was no surprise that we began collecting trash as soon as we left the parking area. It did not take long to find piles of nurdles in a trench close to the beach grass. The exclamation of “Look, here are some nurdles!” caught my attention and the group was amazed at how many nurdles were concentrated in one area.
We consolidated our debris into one SOLVE bag which we dropped off at the Washed Ashore collection site. During the gathering activity, the amount and content of debris was significant and everyone began to understand the prevalence of microplastics and its impact on our ecosystem. It was not hard to imagine how fish, marine mammals and birds could easily ingest these plastics, which is then passed onto us.
We were able to meet Angela Haseltine Pozzi at her work site for Washed Ashore where she and other volunteers are constructing another sculpture. Angela provided a great presentation on the use of plastics and the overwhelming problems presented when it finds its way into our waterways and eventually into our oceans. Angela also informed us that her latest sculpture will eventually arrive in Norfolk VA for display. The group was excited to hear this and said they would make a point to visit the museum where the sculpture will reside. They even got to work on constructing pieces used for this sculpture at the Washed Ashore gallery. In two afternoons, they learned the artistic process and consequently became part of the project.
Our second day together involved tide pooling from Face Rock to Coquille Point. Even though the tides were not the best for tide pool exploration, we did manage to find ochre sea stars, lots of anemones, and sculpins. Coquille Point was staffed with Refuge interns/volunteers and SEA volunteers and there were several harbor seals and nursing pups present. Moreover, we were all armed with grabbers and bags to collect any trash we found!
Personally, educating and revealing the amazing wildlife on our coastline is a favorite reward of being a SEA volunteer. There is nothing better than to witness the transformation as people recognize marine wildlife and the importance of stewardship and caring for our environment. This was confirmed to me when the youth group chaperone texted me the next day stating “This morning we needed juice and found ourselves opting to purchase in cardboard vs plastic. Then, this afternoon on the beach, we found ourselves picking up trash….an impact has definitely been made on everyone!”
To summarize what this time of the COVID pandemic has meant to SEA, I have to say that we have learned to adjust, to be creative, to continue educating ourselves and others, and to maintain a positive attitude that we will get through this together. It has been quite the experience to say the least.
In Partnership with the Oregon Lottery
in coordination with SOLVE, Oregon’s own solution to pollution…
We hope you can join us! To register to join Bandon locals in our own Bandon beaches cleanup effort on September 25 from 10am to 1pm, CLICK on this link: https://www.solveoregon.org/opportunity/a0C1I00000QFnvx
To read more about SOLVE and to view a map showing other Oregon beaches and inland waterways participating in the cleanup effort on September 25, 2021, CLICK on the link here: https://t.e2ma.net/click/ruaz8f/3vnbkye/bmpggz
Oregon’s Ocean Policy Advisory Council (OPAC) approves two new marine protected areas on Oregon’s southern coast, Coquille Point Marine Garden and Cape Blanco Marine Research Area. For the full story, click on this link:
Photos taken 9:41am to 9:46am, July 22, 2021, from the beach north of Cathedral Rock, which is in the Face Rock complex, part of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge System.
Diane Bilderback, an intrepid follower of local puffins, photographed six Tufted Puffins on the lower burrows of Face Rock. The puffins are experiencing a reduced predator risk at the moment. There are now no Peregrine Falcons on this nest rock as the two falcon chicks have fledged (are able to fly), and all falcons have left their nest. The Tufted Puffins appear to be taking advantage of their newly found safety to sun themselves and to visit their comrades in the burrows that were above and to the left of the falcon nest site. Diane says, “This is the most Tufted Puffins that I have seen this year.” She points out that no puffins were observed at the upper rock, which locals call ‘the penthouse’, or on the rock to the left of these rocks. Thank you Diane for the great shots! Editor.
For the full story on drones and their impact on local nesting seabirds, click this link:
At left, an unmanned aircraft system, also known as a drone, approaches Face Rock on the Oregon coast. Photo by Diane Bilderback.
Sri Lanka undertakes the daunting cleanup of countless plastic pellets (nurdles) that have washed up on its beaches from a cargo ship that caught fire. In the photo at left, plastic pellets being collected from beaches are to be transported to a hazardous waste yard (image courtesy Marine Environment Protection Authority, MEPA). For more on this story, read the article below.
Stranded seal pup
Early Sunday morning, May 16, 2021, SEA received a call from a concerned citizen about a pup seal on the beach around marker 145, which is between Bullard’s Beach and Whiskey Run. A message went out to those already on a phone tree text for Coquille Point. I decided to respond to the call and headed out with signage and flags. First I went to Bullard’s Beach but decided I didn’t want to walk what could have been 2 plus miles north. I ended up at Whiskey Run since no other entry point in between could be found. It was fate that I was being lazy and decided to try to find an easier route to this stranded seal pup. As I was walking south on the beach, I flagged down a truck coming north to ask if they had seen the pup. A local, Kristal, not only knew where the pup was but drove me the more than 2 miles south. As it turned out, if it were not for Kristal I would have had to walk more than 2 miles south instead of less than 2 miles north from Bullard’s. But it was meant to be that I meet this concerned citizen who wanted to help. We found the pup in the middle of the sandy beach with tire tracks all around. As we were placing flags and signage, the pup kept crying but then got motivated to turn around and head into the water. We both felt good that this pup would easily reunite with its mother and all would be good in the world again.
While we were traveling to the parking lot at Whiskey Run, Kristal said there was a dead seal just north, and it had been there at least 3 days. She drove over to it, and I was able to take a picture and send it to Jim Rice of the Marine Mammal Stranding Network. Kristal is now aware of how to respond and report these kinds of issues. She truly is a person who cares about wildlife and goes driving on the beach often. Since we had time, Kristal ended up telling me a story about how she rescued a Canadian goose with a broken leg. When she could not get any organization to take the bird, she decided to see if she could help it to heal. She made a splint for the broken leg. After three months of care, “Quacky”, as she named it, was successfully released near a pond inland. As we know, this was probably not the smart thing to do, but with no organization willing to help she just had to try and in the end all worked out. It is caring citizens like Kristal that make a difference, and I am glad I was able to enlighten her on what to do next time. And it was a rewarding experience knowing this baby seal pup was safe again.