…….and right into the nets! Everything worked perfectly, and of the five birds in the decoys, four got caught in the nets, one escaped to the south and right over my head. (I mean right over my head)- I could feel the rush of air from under its wings as it passed a foot or so over my head.
As I sat there watching this unfold before me, the sky was dotted with continuing flocks of Common Eiders.
An adult drake Eider approaches the decoys. It doesn’t land but skims over the decoys and right into the net; an easy capture. Brain and Randy untangle the bird…..
Another spectacular adult drake in magnificent full plumage breaks away from a flock and heads for the decoys. Notice the bright yellow/orange highlights from the sun augmenting the subtle plumage of this drake.
In reviewing my images later after I downloaded them onto my computer, I discovered that this hen was banded; maybe one of Josh’s earlier captures?
After the drake was collected, this beautiful hen landed in the decoys. The sun enhanced her beautiful soft plumage; she was stunning! My little hide on this isolated rock enabled me to be within feet of these spectacular birds! Look at her; she is breathtaking!
Although she obviously sees the net and tries to skitter underneath it, her momentum had carried her too far to change direction, and she gets caught in the net…..
And the flocks of Eiders continued.
The drake came in to the decoys and landed right in front of me.
When it took off, it came so close that my camera couldn’t focus or capture the bird in my viewfinder.
You can see that you can’t watch every direction. Brian took this image (and it is being used with his permission) of me as a single three-year old drake Eider sneaks into the decoys behind me.
A flock of Purple Sandpipers appear but fly to the backside of the islet escaping the net on this side of the islet.
……and are captured perfectly.
They are also quickly removed from the nets by Capt. Jim, Pat and Brian.
A single juvenile drake flies towards the decoys but keeps going.
With Josh’s quota of ten adult birds (five drakes, five hens) realized, the birds are weighed and banded first before the deuterium solution is injected.
After the bird was removed from the mesh bag, it is banded.
The deuterium solution is injected (intra-muscular so that it is rapidly absorbed into the bird’s system) and the birds are then returned to the crates.
The wind began to increase and the sea became choppier. With all the birds banded and injected, they needed to remain calm for ninety minutes until Josh would draw blood samples completeing his field sampling work. If the birds became too stressed, they would expel too much body water and fluids which could compromise his sample results. Josh decided to take the birds to calmer waters to make the delicate blood drawing process as close to lab conditions as possible. A rocking boat would not be helpful and could cause the procedure to be compromised. I jumped back into Josh’s boat and Josh headed for the relative calm of the small harbor by the DEM Marine Division at
As we headed over to the harbor, Capt. Jim, Pat and Brian picked up the decoys and took down the net equipment.
Josh and Randy set up a make-shift laboratory on the docks along the bulkhead by the DEM building. Here the blood drawing procedure went smoothly and Josh was able to acquire the samples he needed. The blood samples were drawn from the bird’s tarsus. Since the weather was quite mild on Monday, I asked him how he managed these tests in January when the temps were in the single numbers with heavy winds, he just looked up at me, smiled and said one word- “brutal”! I knew exactly what he meant!
By this time Capt. Jim, Brian and Pat had returned from their second trip with all the equipment taken down and stacked on the docks. Capt. Jim, Brian and I started talking about eiders, sea ducks, waterfowling and the events of the day. I used to hunt sea ducks years ago in the areas where the capturing program was set up that morning. We shared many stories of being on the water in the East Passage, including many hair-raising episodes with heavy winds and very, very large waves; let alone the below zero temperatures, frozen feet and numb fingers included! But I learned one important thing while talking with Josh and all of them; they have great admiration and deep respect for this species, something near and dear to my heart. I noticed this when I watched them carefully and meticulously removing the birds from the net with great care; that impressed me!
Randy set up a make-shift lab on the tailgate of his truck, and he began drawing his blood samples.
I couldn’t resist! I had to stroke this beautiful hen’s soft plumage. I also stroked the back of her head which helps settle the bird down (something I use to do when I had and maintained a large wild waterfowl aviary a few years ago. Capt. Jim is holding the bird in the typical proximal wing hold which helps control the bird, but mostly keeps the bird from injuring itself. By holding both wings together it keeps the bird from frantically flapping its wings which can result in an injury to the bird.
On the way west I stopped by