Shoreline Education for Awareness, Inc.

AN AMAZING DAY AT SIMPSON REEF

Saturday, May 25, 2018, was a day of “once in a lifetime” events – two to be exact. Couple this with two other unusual sights, and you have an incredible day for the volunteers and visitors who were there.

The day began with two “unusual” sightings. The tide was high, so the water came up right to the base of the point upon which we set up our scopes. Immediately after I arrived, and almost close enough to hit with a rock, was a sea otter floating on her back munching away at the breakfast she was holding between her paws. Sea otters are pretty rare in Oregon, so seeing one so close was exciting.

A few minutes later, SEA’s resident expert on marine mammals, Bill Binnewies, saw a gray whale surface and blow inside the outer rocks of the reef. Not so unusual as a sea otter, but infrequent enough and close enough to knock our socks off!

Then I heard a dad telling his son, “Look, son, just below us is a harbor seal trying to get her pup into the water.” The seal mom and pup were maybe only 10 feet from the water, but even 10 feet is a long way for a new born seal. And now the tide was beginning to recede, adding some urgency to her efforts. Here’s a video of the patient but somewhat insistent mom gently coaxing her pup into the water.

When they finally made it there (maybe 20 minutes later), the mom dropped her placenta into the sea, a bright red blob that got everyone’s attention – especially the birds in the area. The placenta sank to the bottom – only a couple of feet deep – but neither the gull nor the turkey vultures nor the eagles that arrived could get it up to a rock. Of course, the gull had a mere few seconds to try before the 3 turkey vultures chased him off. The turkey vultures, in turn, had even less time before three immature bald eagles chased them away.

The eagles held for forth for maybe 30 minutes before they gave up and left, unable to get to the placenta, which was still too far under water. Then, for the next little bit of time while the tide continued to recede, the placenta seemed to lay unnoticed by everyone except a few of us up on the point. Finally, an enterprising and eager gull noticed the changing sea and was able to grab the blob as a wave moved it up onto shallower water. Before the wave slipped back into the ocean, she grabbed hold of the placenta and was able to keep it up on the rock. HALLELUJAH!

Her euphoria was short-lived as the papa bald eagle arrived and staked his claim to the meal. His kids arrived quickly and insisted on being included in the feast, and the family made short work of their meal. See the accompanying video of the dad, one of the kids, and a frustrated crow.

So two events – the placenta dropping into the water for all to see and the feeding of the bald eagles on the placenta – were ones that no one on the point that morning had ever seen before. We felt particularly blessed.

Plastic Armageddon

Armageddon” in Webster’s Dictionary is defined as “a usually vast decisive conflict or confrontation.” We are steadily approaching a plastic armageddon (in the sense of decisive confrontation). It’s impossible to look at all the ways we humans are assaulting the environment without seeing and understanding that plastic is a major instrument of destruction – especially to our streams, rivers and oceans.

Consider this graphic:

itemdegrationinsea

Yes. All of our waste impacts our environment. But nothing is more permanent and causes more death to marine life than plastic.

You and I can retard the spread of plastic pollution. Look at this graphic to see ways to do it:

reusable

There is no pain or sacrifice created in our lives by implementing every one of these changes. In fact, they may even save you money. And they are little things. Bring your own bag when you shop. Bring your own mug to your favorite coffee shop. Stop buying bottled water and carry your own with you in a reusable bottle. Take care of your teeth without using plastic. Painless solutions that can begin the gradual turn away from plastic.

What do you say? Can you do it? I hope so. The world needs all of us caring about what we are doing to it.

Something to Think About

Here’s a Tedx talk that sets forth some very stunning research, demonstrating the crisis in our environment. I encourage you to listen to it and ask yourself, “What am I doing about this?” What CAN we do? Perhaps you can offer some ideas?

Shoreline Education for Awareness cares about environmental awareness, and I believe this video promotes this awareness. Take a listen and see for yourself.

 

What a privilege it is!!

New friends from Heidelberg, Germany spend time with us

New friends from Heidelberg, Germany spend time with us

Shoreline Education for Awareness (SEA) volunteers are a privileged group of people. We are taught by wildlife experts about the lives and behaviors of a wide range of shoreline creatures – from birds and pinnipeds to whales and tide pool creatures. Then, we observe and verify; we watch mating rituals and nesting habits; see newborns cared for by devoted parents; and rejoice when the young go off on their own.

Yesterday my partner, Susan, and I were doing our shift at Simpson Reef watching pinnipeds (seals and sea lions) through our telescopes. If you’ve been to Simpson Reef with one of our volunteers, you know that these pinnipeds that are pulled out on Shell Island and the surrounding rocks are not doing much performing for the adoring crowds. Mostly, they’re lying around, sleeping or climbing over each other. If we are lucky, we get to watch one or two climb up on a rock island for some “alone time.” For nearly 4 hours there is not much activity for visitors to see.

And then, boom!! Something happens and the whole herd of sea lions (California and Stellar), as if in one well-rehearsed dance, react to something in the water that sends part of the herd scurrying away while another section in unison heads in the direction of the intrusion. It was puzzling and exciting at the same time. What made them do this? We’ll never know, but our “time served” paid off in an instant.

It reminded me once again that “hanging out” with pinnipeds, as with birds, takes patience and perseverance. And to those who endure the waiting, some wondrous scenes play out before our eyes and we go home glowing from what we’ve seen this day. What a privilege!!

Perhaps just as much of a privilege is our getting to share what we know and what we see with thousands of people visiting our cliffside perches in Bandon and Charleston. Yesterday we interacted with folk from as far away as Germany and as close as Coos Bay. Many of the 167 visitors that day have never had a chance to view marine life in its natural habitat. Both young and old were genuinely thrilled to see our pinniped friends and left the reef with a mental (as well as photographic) image of sea life that is strange and wondrous to them. And to us, seeing their response to the discovery of marine life was as much of a joy as viewing these fascinating creatures through our scopes.

What fun!!!

Simpson Reef today

Simpson Reef visitors

Simpson Reef visitors

Today was a great day at Simpson Reef. The weather was beautiful, and 152 visitors from all over the world were delighted by the harbor seals, Northern elephant seals, California sea lions and Stellar sea lions. Families from Amsterdam, Switzerland, and New Zealand joined others from Alberta, Canada as well as New York, Minnesota, Colorado, Washington, Hawaii, Utah and Oregon – 152 in all – to watch these pinnipeds lounging around on Shell Island and the surrounding rocks.

To add to the glory of the day, between 15 to 20 pelicans delighted us with their dramatic fly-by. They look so majestic as they skim the surface of the ocean in formation, resembling something out of the imagination of George Lucas – only real and regal.

Come enjoy the show any Friday, Saturday, or Sunday between 11 AM and 3 PM at Simpson Reef. You won’t be disappointed (unless the fog rolls in and erases the canvas of Shell Island’s artistic expressions!!!).

Face Rocking

Face Rock was sunny and rocking today! In addition to seeing hundreds of common murres at the top of Face Rock, we were treated to about an hour-long “courtship” by 2 tufted puffins. After strolling about near the top for 20 or 30 minutes, they spent 20 or 30 minutes more knocking beaks together in an act of courtship before walking off together into a burrow that I suspect became their love nest.

Only 20 or 30 feet from this display sat a peregrine falcon on its nest beneath a boulder, presumably with an egg beneath its sculpted chest. Shifting positions often, sometimes with its head facing outward, sometimes with it tail feathers gracing our scope, the peregrine thrilled viewers every time it moved.

Amazingly, a third tufted puffin sat on the very same

Face Rock and Kittens

Face Rock and Kittens

boulder immediately about the peregrine’s shaded nest, apparently content to simply watch all of the activity around it, perhaps unaware of the falcon only a few feet below. I personally think that this puffin was relishing the attention it was getting from the gaggle of humans in the parking lot that were constantly pointing at it and jumping around in the funny way that only humans do.

Pigeon guillemots – a baker’s dozen resting at the surf line for over an hour – later parted company with one another with 5 of them flying to the top of Face Rock to what looked to be potential nest sites.

And, of course, we were in almost constant sight of the two black oystercatchers on their nest atop the first rock island north of Face Rock.

It was a great day for SEA volunteers and all of the visitors we thrilled with our scopes.IMG_0420 ed resized