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Short-eared Owls

Click for larger versionClick for larger versionSeveral data sources indicate that the Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus) is declining across its North American range. The primary threat responsible for this decline is believed to be degradation or loss of critical habitats such as native grasslands and coastal wetlands; however, vehicle collisions, predation, and contaminants are also likely factors. Life history information, including migratory movements, is scarce for this species of conservation concern. In an attempt to fill in some of the gaps of our understanding of Short-eared Owls, SEAWEAD and USFWS biologist Jim Johnson began a satelite telemetry study on the southern Seward Peninsula. During June 2009, we attached small solar-powered satellite transmitters to 14 owls to determine the timing and routes of migration and to locate important wintering areas.
Owls have dispersed from the Seward Peninsula and are now distributed from the southern Prairie Provinces to Central Mexico and from California to Colorado - an area encompassing 30 degrees (insert degree symbol) of latitude and 20 degrees (insert degree symbol) of longitude. Transmitter life may exceed two years and we are anticipating an exciting spring migration as we follow these birds on their northward migration. You too can follow the movements of these owls by following this link http://www.seaturtle.org/tracking/?project_id=419

For more information on this project and how to get involved contact Jim Johnson of the USFWS in Anchorage.


Landmark Trees

 The Landmark Trees Project is an effort to find, describe and understand the most magnificent remaining forests of Southeast Alaska. Founded in 1996 by Sam Skaggs of Alaska Research Voyages, Inc, the project has documented 64 one-acre sites across the Tongass under the field direction of naturalist Richard Carstensen.

Landmark Tree sites are scored according to the dimensions of the largest tree and the wood volume of the surrounding acre. They are also assessed for ecological values such as winter deer and summer bear habitat. Originally conceived as an ecotourism venture which might help to bring trees the same standing as glaciers, bears and whales, (the industry's current advertising icons) the project now involves residents throughout the Tongass who seek deeper familiarity with their backyard treasures.

Landmark Tree researchers have found trees measuring 10 and 11 feet in diameter, and up to 250 feet tall Our highest scoring stand contains two spruces much larger than the official state record. It grows on limestone bedrock (karst), but most of our sites occur on stream and river deposits (alluvium).

Landmark Trees started by finding and documenting the cream of the Tongass big forest. Although that will continue, we have quickly reached stage two; now that we know a lot about the Tongass megaforest, can we provide some way for residents and tourists to experience it first hand? The answer is more complex than we anticipated!

Read more: Landmark Trees


Sitka Sound Oystercatchers

Click for larger viewClick for larger viewIn the Spring of 2007 we helped US Fish and Wildlife Service ornithologist Brad Andres conduct a survey of Sitka Sound for Oystercatcher nest sites. Brad's interest was in revisiting islets and rocks that had been documented as active nest sites back in the 1940s. Anecdotal observations suggest there has been a decline in nest activity in Sitka Sound and Brad wanted to verify this possibility and investigate potential causes with a field visit.

On June 9th and 10th we skiffed the entire coastline of Sitka Sound scanning for oystercatcher's exhibiting breeding behavior and searched upwards of 30 exposed rocks, islets and rocky outcrops for nest sites. Click here to read the report.