On the morning of July 6, Coast Range Forest Watch’s surveyors documented significant Marbled Murrelet detections in the Elliott State Forest. Below is a copy of the letter sent to managing agencies and conservation organizations to inform them of this development. We are hoping to make progress with managing agencies soon to ensure this area is protected. We’ll post updates as they happen!
July 11, 2013
This letter is accompanied by the results from a supplemental Marbled Murrelet survey performed by Coast Range Forest Watch on July 6, 2013 in the Elliott State Forest. In order to make the results accessible to those not familiar with the Pacific Seabird Group’s survey protocol and Oregon Marbled Murrelet survey forms, a summary of the project and results is provided below.
The Pacific Seabird Group published a comprehensive survey protocol in 2003 which is the basis for conducting surveys by multiple agencies and landholders throughout the West Coast of North America in order to manage forest land in accordance with the Endangered Species Act. Coast Range Forest Watch sent four surveyors to the Marbled Murrelet Observer Training Course in 2013, provided by Mad River Biologists. This training course is accepted as the standard for qualifying Marbled Murrelet Observers. All four of our surveyors were certified at the conclusion of the course.
Using the PSG protocol, we designed a set of surveys in the Elliott State Forest near Coos Bay, Oregon in order to provide supplemental data to managing agencies about the presence of Marbled Murrelets in the area. On July 6, 2013 we observed and documented Marbled Murrelets exhibiting occupied behaviour above our survey station. According to PSG protocol, there are seven categories for describing visual Murrelet behaviour during a survey. These are “Flight Over Canopy” (F), “Circle Over Canopy” (C), “Fly-Through At or Below Canopy” (T), “Circle At or Below Canopy” (B), “Seen Landing in or Departing From a Tree” (L), “Sationary Calling” (S), and “Unknown” (U). The behaviour of a Murrelet in reference to the height of the canopy is determined using a reference tree; the tallest tree at a similar elevation to the survey site. The top of the reference tree is defined as canopy height 1.0. A bird flying at double the reference tree height is at 2.0 canopy height. A bird flying at half the reference tree height is flying at 0.5 canopy height. Subcanopy behaviour occurs when a bird is sighted at or below 1.0 canopy height.
During the survey on the morning of July 6, 2013 we observed five detections of Marbled Murrelets. At 0542 we documented a pair flying east out of the west which split overhead. One bird continued in a straight flight eastward out of sight, and the other turned southward. The birds were flying at a canopy height of 0.7 and exhibited both “B” (circling) and “T” (fly-through) behaviours. The next detections happened shortly after the first but are counted as separate detections after five seconds pass from the initial detection, in accordance with PSG protocol. Also at 0542, one bird flew out of the east to the west in a straight line at a canopy height of 0.9, exhibiting “T” (fly-through) behaviour. At the same time a second Murrelet flew out of the south west to the north with an arc at a canopy height of 1.1, classified as “C” (circling above canopy). At 0609, a pair of Murrelets was observed flying straight from east to west at a canopy height of 1.1; “F” (fly-through above canopy). At 0634 another pair of Murrelets were observed flying west to east in a straight line at a canopy height of 1.2, exhibiting “F” behaviour. None of these visual detections were accompanied by auditory detections of calls or flying noises.
The other lines on page two of the survey sheet are as follows: 0507 is documenting the start of the survey, 0509 is documenting the first Swainson’s Thrush heard, 0544 is documenting sunrise, 0647 is documenting the first Steller’s Jay heard, 0707 is documenting the first Tree Swallow heard, 0709 is documenting the end of the survey. Page one of the survey data is documenting the observers present, station location, station description and weather changes during the survey period. The station used on the morning of July 6 is on the bank of the West Fork of the Millicoma River, roughly one mile up the 8100 road from the junction of the 2300 and 8100 roads.
According to the PSG protocol regarding the classification of survey sites, these behaviours indicate that the area around this survey station is potentially occupied by Marbled Murrelets. There is currently no designated Marbled Murrelet Management Area in the immediate vicinity of this survey station. In fact, the stand of trees directly south (across the river) from the survey station is part of the Oregon Department of Forestry’s Comados timber sale, which is currently injuncted under a lawsuit filed against ODF. If this sale is released for harvest there is a potential that occupied Marbled Murrelet habitat will be compromised in violation of the Endangered Species Act.
Given the significance of this data, we thought it responsible and prudent to report it to managing agencies as soon as possible.