Notes from the Field (Spring 2012):

Date: May 29, 2012
Location: Tokeland, Washington.
In the Field: Dan Varland, Scott Ford, Larry Warwick, Autumn Hankins and Dora Madison.
Comments: We caught an adult Turkey Vulture at a Stellar Sea Lion carcass.

Autumn Hankins tells the bus driver she will not need a ride to school. A 5th grader with strong interest in a career in marine biology, Autumn had arrangements to help us in the field  today. She wrote a special report for class on what she saw and learned.
Autumn Hankins tells the bus driver she will not need a ride to school. A 5th grader with strong interest in a career in marine biology, Autumn had arrangements to help us in the field today. She wrote a special report for class on what she saw and learned.
Dan Varland photo.



A Turkey Vulture perches on the rocks just above our trap site.
A Turkey Vulture perches on the rocks just above our trap site.
Dan Varland photo.



Scott Ford with an adult Turkey Vulture we captured at the carcass.
Scott Ford with an adult Turkey Vulture we captured at the carcass.
Dan Varland photo.



Our bird in the net.
Our bird in the net.
Autumn Hankins photo.



Our bird was tagged BE.
Our bird was tagged BE.
Autumn Hankins photo.



We set up for processing captured birds in the neighborhood across the street from the trap site.
We set up for processing captured birds in the neighborhood across the street from the trap site.
Dan Varland photo.



Autumn Hankins with BE just before release.
Autumn Hankins with BE just before release.
Larry Warwick photo.



Date: May 28, 2012
Location: Tokeland, Washington.
In the Field: Dan Varland, Scott Ford, Larry Warwick, Autumn Hankins and Dora Madison.
Comments: We set and practiced-fired the net launcher over a Stellar Sea Lion carcass; tomorrow is trapping day.

Our trap site was at the far end of this beach in Tokeland where a Stellar Sea Lion carcass was located. Beyond the rocks at right lies the main road through town.
Our trap site was at the far end of this beach in Tokeland where a Stellar Sea Lion carcass was located. Beyond the rocks at right lies the main road through town.
Dan Varland photo.



The Stellar carcass washed ashore one month ago, lodging at several locations before coming to rest here.
The Stellar carcass washed ashore one month ago, lodging at several locations before coming to rest here.
Dan Varland photo.




Dora Madison (left) and her granddaughter Autumn Hankins. Dora reported the carcass, along a live Harbor Seal she found, to Dyanna Lambourn of the Marine Mammal Stranding Network. Dyanna relayed to me the opportunity to trap over the Stellar carcass.
Dan Varland photo.



I expose fresh meat for scavenger feeding.
I expose fresh meat for scavenger feeding.
Dan Varland photo.



Scott Ford takes pause from setting up the net launcher.
Scott Ford takes pause from setting up the net launcher.
Dan Varland photo.



We fired a practice shot, finding the net deployed well over the carcass.
We fired a practice shot, finding the net deployed well over the carcass.
Dan Varland photo.



Date: May 23, 2012
Location: several miles north of Port Orford, Oregon where the Elk River meets the ocean.
In the Field: Dan Varland, Scott Ford, Glenn Johnson, David Ness, Susan Burchardt and MeriJane Duel.

Young woman removing birds from a net
Our trapping day started at 5:30AM. We saw our first vultures flying over the set by 6:00AM. By 7:15AM we had three vultures in feeding. Scott Ford, Glenn Johnson, and Susan Burchardt were monitoring the site from the blind. Scott set off the launcher, capturing 2 of 3 individuals. Here they begin the job of removing the birds from the net.
Dan Varland photo.



Team preparing launcher

Dan Varland photo.



Scott Ford (left) and Glenn Johnson show off one of our birds. One vulture received wing tag BA and the other AE.
Scott Ford (left) and Glenn Johnson show off one of our birds. One vulture received wing tag BA and the other AE.
Dan Varland photo.



Glenn swabs the trachea while MeriJane secures the bird.
Glenn swabs the trachea while MeriJane secures the bird.
Dan Varland photo.



MeriJane draws blood for contaminant and disease analysis.
MeriJane draws blood for contaminant and disease analysis.
Dan Varland photo.



Glenn Johnson uses a probe filled with saline solution to flush feces from the intestine.
Glenn Johnson uses a probe filled with saline solution to flush feces from the intestine.
Dan Varland photo.



The material is captured in a gauze pad.  It will be sent to Phoenix Central Laboratories in Washington where it will be examined for parasites of the gut.
The material is captured in a gauze pad. It will be sent to Phoenix Central Laboratories in Washington where it will be examined for parasites of the gut.
Dan Varland photo.



BA
BA
Dan Varland photo.



BA was molting in primary feathers. Primary 5 has emerged from its sheath while Primary 6 (above 5) is still encapsulated.
BA was molting in primary feathers. Primary 5 has emerged from its sheath while Primary 6 (above 5) is still encapsulated.
Dan Varland photo.



BA had a broken toe - an old injury that had healed.
BA had a broken toe - an old injury that had healed.
Dan Varland photo.



Susan Burchardt with AE just before release.
Susan Burchardt with AE just before release.
Dan Varland photo.



Date: May 22, 2012
Location: several miles north of Port Orford, Oregon where the Elk River meets the ocean.
In the Field: Dan Varland, Scott Ford, Glenn Johnson, David Ness, Susan Burchardt and MeriJane Duel.

Scott Ford (left) and Glenn Johnson set up the net launcher.
Scott Ford (left) and Glenn Johnson set up the net launcher.
Dan Varland photo.



The net launcher.
The net launcher.
Dan Varland photo.



Looking down on the trap site from our monitoring position.
Looking down on the trap site from our monitoring position.
Dan Varland photo.



MeriJane Duel, Director of Bandon's bird rehabilitation and education center Free Flight, with Jerry Garcia, a Turkey Vulture that she uses in education programs. Injured as a nestling during logging, Jerry has been an education bird for  22 years.
MeriJane Duel, Director of Bandon's bird rehabilitation and education center Free Flight, with Jerry Garcia, a Turkey Vulture that she uses in education programs. Injured as a nestling during logging, Jerry has been an education bird for 22 years.
Dan Varland photo.



v
Susan Burchardt holds Jerry's perch as MeriJane secures his jesses.
Dan Varland photo.



Jerry was positioned where: 1) we could keep an eye on him, and 2) he could serve to attract vultures without himself being captured under the net at deployment.
Jerry was positioned where:
1) we could keep an eye on him, and
2) he could serve to attract vultures without himself being captured under the net at deployment.
Dan Varland photo.



stretch of beach with turkey vulture in the foreground
View with Jerry (lower left) and trap set-up. Our set was complete by 7:30AM. At 8:30AM a vulture touched down briefly near Jerry, then flew away. At 8:40AM two vultures landed at the trap site. One walked over to Jerry and attacked him; we quickly stepped in and removed him from the scene. Thankfully he was not injured. Apparently Jerry was seen as an interloper - a threat to the food source. By 8:50AM we were back in position. Scott Ford, Glenn Johnson and Susan Burchardt were monitoring the site from our blind. At 10:20AM one vulture flew in and began feeding at the set. Our intent was to capture 2-3 individuals, so we waited for others to land. At 10:28AM two vultures touched down briefly at the set; they flew off as did the vulture that started feeding at 10:20AM. Wind and rain increased as the day progressed. By 1:00PM winds were in excess of 20 mph and vultures were not out and about. We decided to call it a day and return tomorrow.
Dan Varland photo.



Date: May 21, 2012
Location: several miles north of Port Orford, Oregon where the Elk River meets the ocean.
In the Field: Dan Varland, Scott Ford, David Ness, and Susan Burchardt.
Comments: We were graciously granted landowner permission to trap on a sheep ranch next to the ocean. Given that our study aim is to tissue-sample for contaminants and disease in avian scavengers in the marine environment, we elected to set up our trap site down by the ocean.


This ewe, or female sheep, died of pneumonia less than 24 hours before our arrival. The landowner graciously allowed use of the carcass for trapping. Our goal was to capture and tissue-sample 2-3 Turkey Vultures over the next several days.
Dan Varland photo.



David Ness (left) and Scott Ford drag the ewe down to the trap site.
David Ness (left) and Scott Ford drag the ewe down to the trap site. Vultures typically make short work of carcasses like this in the pastureland above.
Susan Burchardt photo.



Inside that tarp is a Black-tailed Deer carcass that we brought along from Washington
Inside that tarp is a Black-tailed Deer carcass that we brought along from Washington; we had intended to use it if a sheep carcass was unavailable. We decided to use both carcasses at the trap site.
Susan Burchardt photo.



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Scott Ford (left) and I ponder the best location for set up. Our trailer can be seen at the top of the ridge. We positioned our vehicle in that location for use as a blind to monitor the site. We also deployed a dome tent for use as a blind, which we positioned in the trees to the left. On the first day of trapping, May 22, we decided partway through the morning to use the only the tent for observation. The vehicle was positioned in the pasture. People stayed in contact with observers in the blind by radio.
Susan Burchardt photo.



Date: May 11, 2012
Beach: 4.5 miles north of Bandon, Oregon
Field Team: Dan Varland. Scott Ford, David Ness, Glenn Johnson, and MeriJane Duel.
Comments: Trapping day. At 8:43AM, we caught four Turkey Vultures with one shot of the net launcher. We spent a good share of the day wing-tagging and tissue-sampling these birds. The last of the four was released at 2:32PM.

Man takes tissue samples from the Harbor Seal carcass
Scott Ford takes tissue samples from the Harbor Seal carcass; these will be analyzed for heavy metals and organochlorine pesticides. Don't try this yourself! We had agency approval.
Dan Varland photo.



Scott Ford and Glenn Johnson with the vultures.
Scott Ford and Glenn Johnson with the vultures.
David Ness photo.



David Ness secures two vultures, keeping their heads out of the sand with a towel.
David Ness secures two vultures, keeping their heads out of the sand with a towel.
Dan Varland photo.



Close up of turkey vulture head

Dan Varland photo.



Field team on beach with tables and equipment behind suv vehicles
We processed the birds one at a time, keeping them quiet and secure in pet carriers until we were ready to handle them.
Dan Varland photo.



3 men and a woman talking on beach
MariJane Duel, Director of Bandon's bird rehabilitation and education center Free Flight, joined us. MeriJane brought along a male Turkey Vulture that she uses in Free Flight education programs. Injured as a nestling during logging, this vulture has been in captivity more than 20 years. A male, his name is, get this, Jerry Garcia! We intended to tether Jerry near our trap as a lure. As things turned out, this was not necessary - vultures had been flying in to the carcass for days. Also shown in this photo, left to right, are David Ness, Glenn Johnson and Scott Ford.
Dan Varland photo.



Taking a tissue sample from the trachea of a turkey vulture.
Taking a tissue sample from the trachea.
Dan Varland photo.



Taking a blood sample from the basilic vein in the wing.
Taking a blood sample from the basilic vein in the wing.
Dan Varland photo.



Man holding a turkey vulture
Glenn Johnson with Turkey Vulture AA. We wing-tag Turkey Vultures rather than band them. To cool themselves, vultures defecate on their legs. Banding would result in a build-up of feces between leg and band, causing abrasion and further problems.
Dan Varland photo.



Turkey vulture held down while tagging wing
BS.



Two men holding a turkey vulture
Glenn Johnson (left) and David Ness with AC



Woman holding a turkey vulture
MeriJane Duel with AB.



harbor seal carcass
As we released the last bird, I checked on the harbor seal carcass. It was covered with sand once again. Soon after we captured the vultures the wind picked up to a sustained 20-25 mph from the north. With the wind comes drifting sand.
Dan Varland photo.



Person standing on shore in front of crashing waves
Glenn Johnson enjoys the Oregon coast for a few minutes before we depart. We had a good day in the field.



Date: May 10, 2012
Beach: 4.5 miles north of Bandon, Oregon
Field Team: Dan Varland.
Comments: Reconnaissance visit before trapping on May 11.

By morning the carcass was free of sand. Apparently sea water had washed over it during the night.
By morning the carcass was free of sand. Apparently sea water had washed over it during the night.
Dan Varland photo.



Both ravens and turkey vultures were feeding on the carcass.
Both ravens and turkey vultures were feeding on the carcass.
Dan Varland photo.



turkey vultures
Dan Varland photo.



turkey vultures
Dan Varland photo.



Date: May 9, 2012
Beach: 4.5 miles north of Bandon, Oregon
Field Team: Dan Varland.
Comments: Reconnaissance visit before trapping on May 11.

female Harbor Seal
The Bilderbacks of the Marine Mammal Stranding Network took this photo of an injured female Harbor Seal on April 28. The seal was unable to move her hind quarters and had several open wounds. Bill Bridgeland, along with the Bilderbacks on April, 28, monitored her status afterward. On May 7 Bill let me know that the seal had died. At that point I began making preparations to head south for some trapping.
Dan Varland photo.



seal carcass buried in sand
I arrived on May 9 ahead of the trapping team for some reconnaissance work. I checked out the carcass in the evening, finding it covered with sand. There were no scavengers around.
Dan Varland photo.



suv hooked to trailer
Dan Varland photo.



Date: May 1, 2012
Beach: Long Beach Peninsula, Washington
Observers: Dan Varland, Tom Rowley, Larry Warwick and Josh Saranpaa.
Comments: We captured our first raven for the avian scavenger study. Ravens had been flying in to feed on the carcasses we use for trapping since April when we switched from a bow net trap to the net launcher. We make the net launcher look like a pile of debris on the beach. Apparently the ravens agree!

Hooded raven being banded
With ravens, we use plastic color bands for individual identification. Each raven receives a unique combination of colors. A soldering iron is used to melt the plastic and secure the band.
Tom Rowley photo.



Larry Warwick (left) and me with our raven.
Larry Warwick (left) and me with our raven.
Tom Rowley photo.



Man releasing banded raven
Tom Rowley photo.



Raven flying over dunes
Our raven heading for the hills.
Tom Rowley photo.



Date: April 27, 2012
Beach: Long Beach Peninsula, Washington
Observers: Dan Varland, Larry Warwick and Suzy Whittey.
Comments: We captured a Bald Eagle at the same location and over the same carcass as where we had captured one April 12. Once again, the net launcher was our trap of choice.

sea lion carcass
We used this California sea lion carcass as bait. The animal died weeks earlier. Not in the best of shape for attracting avian scavengers, we added a salmon next to the sea lion as added incentive. The eagle we captured flew in and fed on the salmon rather than the sea lion.
Dan Varland photo.



net launcher
Larry Warwick (left) and I work with the net launcher. The padded projectiles pull a 20 ft x 20 ft net out of the box shown in the picture. They are propelled by three 22-calibre blanks.
Suzy Whittey photo.



net launcher
Net launcher. The vertical stick on the backside of the cover material holds up the antenna. We fire the launcher from hundreds of feet away by remote control.
Dan Varland photo.



net launcher projectiles in action
This photo, taken on May 10, 2010, shows the projectiles in action in a capture attempt. This eagle escaped. We have since learned to: 1) aim lower and 2) place the bait closer to the trap.
Tom Rowley photo.



eagle, an adult male, captured in the net
The eagle, an adult male, was captured in the left front corner of the net. That is to say he almost escaped before the net dropped over him. Eagles jump, turn and fly at the instant the 22-caliber blanks that propel the net are fired. It's loud and they're swift! Larry Warwick (right) and I prepare to remove our eagle from the net.




Men disentangling eagle from net
Our eagle wouldn't let go of the net with his feet, which made for a long process of freeing him. After a while we stood him on the ground and at that moment he released the net from his grasp. We were then able to free his toes.
Suzy Whittey photo.



Applying band to eagle left leg
Applying the Fish and Wildlife Service band to the left leg. The right leg was banded with color band N/C. Given the strength of an eagle's beak, bands must be riveted on to insure they are not removed.
Dan Varland photo.



Suzy Whittey with N/C.
Suzy Whittey with N/C.
Dan Varland photo.



Returning N/C to freedom on the Peninsula.
Returning N/C to freedom on the Peninsula.
Suzy Whittey photo.



Date: April 12, 2012
Beach: Long Beach Peninsula
Observers: Varland, Scott Ford, Mike Walker, and Larry Warnick.
Comments: Using our net launcher, we captured, banded and tissue-sampled an adult male Bald Eagle.

Leg bands applied.
Leg bands applied.
Dan Varland photo.



Larry Warnock (left) and Scott Ford tissue sample M/R.
Larry Warnock (left) and Scott Ford tissue sample M/R.
Dan Varland photo.



Scott Ford with M/R just before release.
Scott Ford with M/R just before release.
Dan Varland photo.



Eagle tracks in beach sand south of our trapping area.
Eagle tracks in beach sand south of our trapping area.
Dan Varland photo.



Date: March 19, 2012
Beach: Ocean Shores
Observers: Dan Varland, Tom Rowley and Sandra Miller.
Comments: We captured a three-year-old male Bald Eagle at the same location where we captured the adult yesterday.

Trap springing over eagle on beach.
The bow net closes over the eagle.
Tom Rowley photo.



Woman holding bald eagle wrapped in cloth.
Sandra Miller with our eagle.
Tom Rowley photo.



Close up of eagle talon with green metal band.
We applied color band M/Y.
Tom Rowley photo.



Close up of eagle head.
M/Y will be four years old this spring. By age five, he will have reached his adult plumage of completely white head and tail.
Tom Rowley photo.



Eagle flying away - green band visible on leg.
M/Y at release.
Tom Rowley photo.



Eagle flying over surf.
Tom Rowley photo.



Date: March 18, 2012
Beach: Ocean Shores
Observers: Dan Varland, Sandra Miller, Dianna Moore, Mark and Carole Wilhyde, Stacey Steele.

People weighing eagle in harness.
Dan Varland weighs the eagle with assistance from Sandra Miller (center) and Carole Wilhyde. He weighed nine pounds.
Carol Wilhyde photo.


close up of sissors cutting tip of feathers.
Feather sample taken for lead and stable isotope analysis.
Carol Wilhyde photo.


Close up of eagle talon and green metal band.
This eagle received color band M/D.
Carol Wilhyde photo.


People holding down eagle drawing blood sample.
Ocean Shores veterinarian Stacey Steele assists with blood sampling.
Dan Varland photo.



Woman holding hooded eagle standing next to trap on beach.
Sandra Miller next to the sprung bow net trap.
Dianna Moore photo.



Date: March 9, 2012
Beach: Ocean Shores
Observers: Mary Kay Kenney, Dianna Moore, Sue Meiman and Dan Miller.


Raptor count:
Bald Eagle
4 adults,
3 juveniles