We started our journey off in the early morning. Tara, Janet, a few other volunteers and I all piled into the minivan and started the two hour trek. The roads were full of twists, which lulled me to sleep. The drive there was very pleasant save for the headache that I got. Luckily it dissipated before we got there. Arriving at Hobuck was wonderful, and I was very happy to see that it was a beautiful day—blue skies and sunshine. I had never been to this beach before and I was very happy with the change.
We were there primarily to conduct a COASST survey which is scanning the beach for any dead birds, and then record what you found and take some measurements. By following the COASST protocol you should be able to identify the bird you found and document it. It may seem strange to collect data about dead birds but this actually gives bird researchers very valuable information about local and migratory seabirds. Then this can be used to make predictions and tell if anything in the bird population is out of the ordinary. Our secondary mission was to pick up trash on the beach and record what we found. This can also provide researchers with important data, especially with the tsunami debris heading our way.
The beaches I usually survey are filled with large rocks that shift when you step on them, much to the dismay of my ankles, but this beach was even and smooth with fine sand all the way down the stretch. As we started the survey I meandered about, really taking in the sights and smells of the ocean. It was only my second time to see the Pacific Ocean and I wanted to remember it. I began searching the middle rack for dead birds and was largely unsuccessful. I did however find an astounding amount of sand dollars. I had never seen that many in one place! My fellow surveyor and student mentor Tara Morrow was luckier than I having found three birds.
Our way back was just as nice, but I moved to collecting debris that washed in from the ocean. The majority of what I found was small bits of plastic, but some of the other students on the trip found far more interesting things, including a giant light bulb and a coke zero bottle with some sort of Asian writing on it. When we came back to the start we had found a total of eight birds and collected five medium bags of trash, and I even had a little time to interview a long-time COASST volunteer named Sally Parker.
All in all I greatly enjoyed this trip and was grateful to have met the other folks that came along. Talking to the other volunteers was wonderful and they shared with me a bit of their passion for science and showed me why they love coming out to the beach to do these surveys. By the end of the survey I felt quite accomplished, because we got solid data, for both COASST and for those studying marine debris. I knew all of the data would be put to good use in helping understand and monitor seabirds, and to track the tsunami debris as it makes its way toward our shores.