5 September, 1999
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 5th: COLD BAY
Zodiac boatride - Sea otters - Banding Steller's Eiders - beachcombing - restaurant
ALOHA! In my opinion, this was the best day so far. We got to take 5 zodiac boats (driven by United States Fish and Wildlife employees Ray, Ray, Linda, Jim, and Tracy) out about 12 miles into Izembek Lagoon to a little island called Newman Island (I am not sure about the spelling). On the way, we saw seals and many sea otters. The sea otters would get quite close, and were mostly just floating on their backs, watching us drive by. Anu and I were in the same boat, and we were both so cold we bundled ourselves up entirely, with only our eyes peering out. We had to keep hitting each other when we saw something cool, because we were too bundled up to even talk.
The reason for this boat trip was to herd up Steller's Eiders to put identification leg bands on. Some of you know, I spent my summer up in Barrow Alaska, where eiders (they are sea ducks) spend their summer nesting and raising their babies. Now, they are migrating southwest from Barrow to Izembek Lagoon where they will spend their winters. There is also a group that nests in eastern Russia that also winter in Izembek, so the entire world's population (sadly, it is a small number), winters over in this spot. This is the big reason that Anu and I came here to Cold Bay, was for this day! Luckily, we saw some of the Steller's Eiders on the lagoon, so the drivers dropped us off and went back to start herding the eiders to the island. Those of us on land quickly got to work putting up a big net called a "pot" in a circle, with one net extending from it, which is called the "wing". We then put a bunch of eel grass all around the base of the nets so that the eiders could not escape. We also hid all the bright colored gear and clothes we had with us in the eel grass so that the eiders would not be scared off. As the boats neared us, we went off and hid further down the beach,and covered our faces, so the ducks would not be able to tell we were human. The ducks were directed right up on land, and when they started walking on the beach, we all snuck up behind them and shooed them into the "pot" or nets. The "wing" was there to help guide them in the right direction. Most of the birds could not fly away, because they spend the first couple of weeks after they arrive at Cold Bay molting (losing) their flight feathers, and growing fresh ones in. So for a couple of weeks they are unable to fly! That is why it was so important to time our trip for right now. This is the only time when tagging the birds is pretty easy! So we captured over 200 in the pen, and spent the afternoon putting leg bands on the birds and releasing them back into the water. Anu (the student that came with me from Wai'anae) became very good at handling the eiders and picking them up for banding.
After the last eider got banded, we went exploring, although it was late in the day. We examined a big skeleton of a gray whale that was on the island, and then drove down to the end of the point and collected glass japanese fishing floats that washed up on that end of the beach. There are hundreds there! It was very fun. It turned out to be a really calm day with very little wind, so we wanted to just keep hanging out there. But, it was getting late, and by the time we got back into town, the restaurant (where we ate EVERY meal), was closed. John, the manager, was nice enough to open it back up for us, and we all had a big dinner. It was a good thing, because there is nowhere else in town to eat!
If you have any questions for Anu and I,please email us back! We are waiting to hear from you! Michele Hauschulz, Teacher Experiencing the Arctic
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