Nine signs of summer you’re still a kid at heart

I just got back from a little family vacation where we went to the luxurious place I called home for many years (i.e., “the Jersey shore”). Don’t get me wrong, being with the kids any day takes my breath away (from both ends of the spectrum, let’s be honest). But, spending time along the Atlantic coast on the barrier island where I grew up (as a local, not just “for the summers”) is such a different experience with the kids (four and one) is a remarkable opportunity to really settle and enjoy each moment through their eyes. Here are some fun ways that not only I, but the older family members around me, came to enjoy living like a kid again. Please feel free to comment and share what makes you feel like a kid again too.

9SignsEndlessSummer

Osprey platforms: Foundations that helped a comeback

For more pictures from the osprey banding trip check out https://www.flickr.com/photos/beachchairscientist/sets/72157654936373085

For more pictures from the osprey banding trip check out https://www.flickr.com/photos/beachchairscientist/sets/72157654936373085

Those huge platforms along the causeways are there for a very important reason. Osprey build their nests on them. They’ll also build their nests on any open platform free from predators and near shallow water. But, the man-made platforms have really help to bring back populations of osprey after their sharp decline in numbers due to DDT.  Each year the huge raptors, also known as “fish hawks” because 99.9% of their diet is fish, wait until after the water thaws to build a nest. Since the winter was so long this year along the Mid-Atlantic many of the birds just made their nests in March/April. With an incubation period of just over a month and the young needing just about two months before they take off from the nest it was a perfect time to follow along with Greg Kearns of Patuxent River Park in Upper Marlboro, MD, as he banded juvenile osprey (don’t worry, he has a permit for this kind of thing).

Osprey are banded at a young age to help determine their migration patterns, life expectancy, as well as reasons for mortality. The band that is placed on the young is very light weight and has not hindered their ability to catch food. I am incredibly grateful for his time and dedication to his efforts in conservation and education. Thank you for your enthusiasm and sharing your knowledge with the Mid-Atlantic Marine Education Association late last month. Here are some more interesting facts learned along the way:

  • As with all birds of prey these birds have very sharp talons. But, the osprey have a reverse talon making it easy for them to grasp their prey with two toes in the front and two from behind.
  • The male usually scopes out the spot for the nest to be built several days before the arrival of the female.
  • Osprey are asynchronous incubators and do not hatch all at once. The female typically lay four eggs but usually one two survive. While they do share food distributed by their mother the oldest one dominates.
  • The hunts for food for the mother and young and before he returns to the nest with food he’ll eat about one-third of the fish. Hunting for fish does burn a lot of calories after all. The mother and young will eat the rest of the fish, but seem to not favor the gut of the fish. The adults generally need about 300 grams of fish per day.
  • There is a 40-50% chance of survival for the young. The average age of an osprey is 8-10 years old. The oldest tracked osprey was found to be 33 years old.
  • Their nests are made of sticks from the surrounding marsh plants, as well as animal hide or even litter such as plastic bags.
  • Young osprey have orange eyes that turn brown as they get older.

If you live near shallow water and want to build a platform there are several plans available here: http://www.osprey-watch.org/learn-about-osprey/build-an-osprey-nest/.

To watch a pair of osprey raising their young during this nesting season from the comfort of your own screen check out the Patuxent River Park’s Osprey Cam here:  http://www.pgparks.com/Things_To_Do/Nature/Patuxent_River_Park.htm.

Maryland moves closer to banning microbeads

Plastic microbeads on a penny. Photo credit: 5Gyres

Plastic microbeads on a penny. Photo credit: 5Gyres

Reported on the Baltimore Sun’s B’More Green  blog, “Consumer products such as toothpaste and cosmetic scrubs containing tiny plastic “microbeads” could be banned from store shelves in Maryland after 2018 under a bill unanimously approved Thursday by the state Senate”. These means that if the bill passes the House, “Maryland will be the second state after Illinois to order a phase-out of the manufacture or sale of consumer products containing the beads”.

What is a microbead? It’s a tiny particle of plastic that never break down. What’s incredibly harmful is that they are being drained into local streams, creeks, rivers, lakes, and ocean and affecting our waterways. There are over 50 products on the shelves in the US that contain harmful microbeads! Find a list of products sold in the United States that contain microbeads (i.e., polythene) here.

Here is some alarming information on the microbeads, marine debris, and our ocean trash in general.

  1. A single tube of facial cleanser can contain over 3000,000 microbeads.
  2. More than 450,000 microbeads per square kilometer were found in some parts of Lake Erie.
  3. In the ocean there are approximately 5.25 trillion plastic particles.
  4. For every foot of coastline there is approximately five grocery bags filled with plastic, according to estimates in 2010.
  5. Six continents have microfibers washing up on their shores.
  6. Shores near sewage treatment plants have the highest concentration of microfibers washing up.
  7. Nearly 275 million tons of plastic waste was generated by coastal countries in 2010 — and that 4.8 to 12.7 million tons of that plastic made its way to the oceans.
  8. Each year, 8.8 million tons of plastic goes into the oceans.
  9. The estimate for 2015 is 9.1 million metric tons.
  10. On average, Americans use 220 pounds of plastic per year.
  11. 17% of all marine animals impacted by manmade debris are threatened or near threatened.
  12. Trash will likely increase tenfold over the next decade.

One Big Wave, and Millions of Lost Legos

Lego dragons Bigbury

Photos courtesy of Tracey Williams

On Feb. 13, 1997, about 20 miles off the coast of England, a massive wave hit the freighter Tokio Express, toppling 62 giant containers into the rough north Atlantic seas.

Trapped inside one of them: nearly 5 million Legos. Many floated to the surface. Carried by currents, they’re still being found on beaches around the world nearly two decades later. Others remain on the ocean floor. It’s not unusual for fishermen trawling the Atlantic to haul up tiny Legos.

The fact that so many of the pieces were nautical themed – sea dragons, pirate swords, sea grass and scuba gear, among others – has turned the Lego spill into one of the most famous and unusual marine debris incidents in recent maritime history.

In Newquay, a seaside town in England, writer and longtime beachcomber Tracey Williams started a Facebook page a few years ago – Legos Lost at Sea – that tracks the whereabouts of the lost Legos as they wash up onto beaches.

Williams recently spoke to the Beach Chair Scientist blog about her work, and you can hear more of what she has to say below. But she hopes to turn the public fascination, much of it generated from a recent BBC story on the spill, into a teaching moment about the harmful environmental impact of marine debris.

Lego octopus Terena

“Clearly, 5 million pieces of Legos spilling into the ocean isn’t good for the environment,” Williams said in a recent phone interview. After the BBC interviewed her about her site a while back, the publicity resulted in people contacting her with stories about beach-bound Legos around the world.

“It has connected beachcombers all around the world, which is fascinating,” Williams said.

She received one report of a Lego flipper found on an Australian beach. She’s also heard from the family of a woman who had scoured the beaches for Lego dragons as a hobby in her 80s, passing her finds along t0 younger generations.

“Obviously, marine debris is a big problem. But I think many children have been captivated by this whole Lego story … I think it reminds people of their childhood. It’s the whole issue of marine debris. Oceanographers are interested in how far it’s spread.”

Meanwhile, she also hears from fishermen who come across Lego pieces in their nets.

“Half of it sinks and half of it floats,” Williams said, referring to the sorts of Legos that fell off the Tokio Express. “So clearly, while we’re finding certain items washed up on our shores like the spear guns and the flippers, fishermen are actually finding other pieces like window frames and car chassis.”

While the lost Legos have made for fun beach combing and treasure hunts, there are bigger questions beneath the surface. If the contents of just one toppled shipping container can spread around the world for decades, what about far bigger and more dangerous spills that go unnoticed because they don’t happen to have Legos in them?

“There were 62 containers that fell off the Tokio Express back in 1997 and we only know about what  was in three of them,” Williams said.

“What’s in all of the others and when will that all wash ashore?”

You can listen to more of Williams and the story of the lost Legos here:

Gifts for the ocean lover: For kids of all ages edition

Still looking for that perfect gift for a certain little one? I have to admit I am the aunt that likes to wrap up books (yes, and usually one of these ocean-themed children’s books). However, in the spirit of the giving during the holiday season, and in watching little eyes twinkle, it’s fun to also wrap a little something extra. Here are five gift ideas for inspiring a love of the ocean in the next generation:

HorseshoeCrab1. Stuffed horseshoe crab (pictured) from the Partnership of the Delaware Estuary, Inc. Shop: It’s a steal for just under $13! Over the years I have managed to acquire a lot of these and with that my four-year old now thinks horseshoe crabs are cuddly and cute and isn’t intimated by them when she sees them along the coast. She even brought this into preschool for the letter “H”! Proceeds help the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, Inc.

2. Polar Bear from Vermont Teddy Bear: I hear this bear loves warm hugs! “He’s made of super-soft and cuddly, long white fur and his adorable, long Polar Bear snout features a realistic nose.” Made in the USA.

3. Coastal inspired linens and clothes from Wish Kingdom: Wish Kingdom is made from the finest cotton fabrics and trims. All items are pesticide and formaldehyde free. Each applique’ is cut and sewn by hand, so no two are alike. Made in the USA.

4. Match stacks game – sea things from Abe’s Market: “Even toddlers who are too young to play a memory game will love matching and stacking the shapes and vibrant colors while exploring and enriching their vocabulary.” Made in the USA.

5. Ocean Discovery Box from Green Kid Crafts: “Our entire family got in the fun to play pin the tail on the whale. It was hilarious! So thankful for the memories you provide.”

HGurkeesere are some gifts for the big kids that love the ocean, too.

1. Barbados natural rope sandals (pictured) from Gurkees: Who knew they’d make great beach walking shoes in West Virginia? Not only that, but there is also some fun candles, belts, and keychains.

2. Custom map and nautical chart jewelry and accessories from Chart Metal Works: Need I say more? Well, it can get better … the products are made in Maine. Definitely a gift to be treasured!

3. Long time, no sea pillow from Uncommon Goods: Handmade from recycled materials and completely on sale.

4. Mermaid bottle opener from Waypoint: I mean, what’s not to love? It looks like it was found during a shipwreck expedition! It’ll make a great story for anyone.

5. Seashell planter from Ten Thousand Villages (fair trade retailer since 1946) : “Spiraled seashell in creamy ceramic holds a cascade of vines or flowers. Handcrafted in Vietnam.”

24173_zoom16. Sportsman sunglasses from Randolph Engineering: “Designed for the outdoor enthusiast, this extremely durable frame stands up to harsh conditions in high style.” Made in the USA.

7. Sea of love poster (pictured) from Uncommon Goods: Printed on 100% recycled newsprint paper, this 12 x 18 inch print features 12 hand-drawn illustrations and a message of love and is a great gift for the couple that loves to spend time at the ocean. Made in the USA.

8. Taps, tees, pint glasses and a whole lot more from the Dogfish Brewing Company: It’s an idea for the beer girl or guy on your list. And, why not toss in one of these nifty ice buckets from Mr. Ice Bucket made in New Jersey for over 50 years. I’m sure there is a ton of great stuff from your local brewery or winery as well.

9. Food, food, food from the Fresh Lobster Company, LLC: Yum, yum, yum in the tum, tum, tum. Corny, but need I say more? I live in Virginia and am so grateful for every opportunity to travel to the coast for fresh seafood … a gift where it was delivered to my door would be amazing! Shipped from sunny New England.

10. Beach to boat tote from Skipper Bags: Gorgeous, multipurpose bags with lots of great options and colors. I think there is even a code to save on shipping. Fill it with some beer or wine and you have a great hostess gift if you’re traveling over the holidays. Made in the USA.

A Natural Eye: Delaware official sees science and art in state’s coastline

By Pamela Aquilani

 

Tony Pratt’s career in science began because of a love for the outdoors. And yet, the more he climbed up through management, the less time he spent outside.

Pratt runs the Shoreline and Waterway Management section of Delaware’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, which oversees regulation of coastal construction, dredging projects and beach replenishment.

With Delaware’s beaches contributing an estimated $7 billion to the state’s economy and nearly 60,000 jobs, Pratt, who has been called the state’s beach guru, has a high-profile job. But it’s also one that keeps him in the office most days working policy, budget and personnel issues.

Still, despite the demands of his day job, you’re likely to find Pratt crouched along the waterline or in a mucky marsh near one Delaware’s beaches working as a nature photographer during his off hours.

Long before he became a scientist, Pratt was taking pictures. Now a professional, he got his first camera growing up in Massachusetts. In the sixth grade, he and a friend built a makeshift darkroom in a bathroom, developing tiny 2×2 prints. And he pored through the pages of his parents’ magazines: Look, National Geographic and Life.

“I don’t think I read a single word,” he told BeachChairScientist.com in a recent phone interview. “The pictures were everything to me.”

Later, he went to Hampshire College, where his classmates included the documentary filmmaker Ken Burns. Pratt brought his camera with him on fieldwork studying the return of coyotes to western Massachusetts. But he was drawn east to the beach and to the study of the pounding waves and the ever-changing coastline that would become his life’s work.

He and his wife later relocated to Delaware and raised three children. All the while, Pratt continued taking photos. He became a sports photographer. He worked the sidelines for his children’s games all the way through college. In 2007, he got an important break. Kevin Fleming, a former staff photographer for National Geographic who lives in Delaware, asked Pratt to help out on a photography project.

Pratt didn’t hesitate to say yes, but he also asked Fleming for a favor. He wanted to tag along the next time Fleming went out shooting.

“He got me to the next level in digital photography,” said Pratt, whose work now is exhibited at Fleming’s store in Rehoboth. “He’s been a great mentor.”

A few months ago, Pratt captured a rarely seen phenomenon called the green flash, which comes off the top of a rising or setting sun and is visible only for a fraction of a second under the perfect atmospheric conditions.

Pratt said there’s no doubt he got lucky. But, he added, there’s luck — and then there’s good luck. And good luck, he said, comes from preparation.

by Tony Pratt

“You go where the subject may be whether it’s the landscape or the wildlife,” he said. “You go where it is. You do your homework. You find out where things are likely to occur … and so you go back and you go back and you go back. And you make yourself be out there.”

It’s Pratt’s job to know everything about Delaware’s beaches, which, of course, helps inform his work as a photographer. But photography has helped Pratt in his day job as a state official, too.

“I do see systems that are sand starved,” he said, talking about his photographic excursions. “It’s not that I would’ve learned about them because of photography. I know about them because it’s part of the job and folks are out there looking.”

“But by the same token, I can go back to the job invigorated and perhaps energized a little bit more because I’ve been out there looking at red knots that are eating horseshoe crabs, and I understand the importance of quality beaches that will allow that phenomenon to continue.”

For more about Tony’s photos, visit TonyPratt.com and to learn more about Delaware’s shoreline management section, click http://www.dnrec.delaware.gov/swc/Shoreline/Pages/Shoreline.aspx

What you need to know about World Shorebirds Day: Saturday, September 6th

world-shorebirds-day1000My husband isn’t happy about this … But, recently, I have found a new love of birds. It’s because we live in the woods and not near the ocean, so those flighted friends have stolen my heart just like fish did back some many years ago. My husband thinks it is hysterical since we grew up in Cape May County, NJ and birders are synonymous with “tourists”, a group to which locals have a love/hate relationship. But, I don’t care … I can hardly contain my excitement for this Saturday – during World Shorebirds Day!

The celebration was proposed and organized by György Szimuly, a well-known bird conservationist based in Milton Keynes, England. Szimuly set out to promote and celebrate shorebirds.

Find out the differences between a seabirds, shorebirds, wading birds here.

“The idea to hold a World Shorebirds Day was inspired by the ongoing conservation issues we have been facing,” Szimuly said. “I think that setting a commemorative day for shorebirds will give conservation bodies and individuals another chance to educate.” He continues that “This is not particularly a citizen science program, but rather an effort to raise awareness for the importance of regular bird monitoring as the core element of bird protection and habitat conservation.”

“I think the global shorebird counts are a good get-together event,” Szimuly said. “I asked birdwatchers to book their site now, where they can go counting shorebirds on the 6th and 7th of September.” There are hundreds of sites and counters already registered for the World Shorebirds Day. The ‘booked’ sites can be seen on the event’s Google Map. https://mapsengine.google.com/map/edit?mid=z3yRwAVo2mAw.k42bDqIRe7a4.

Follow the activities and learn how to submit data of World Shorebirds Day on the website blog and Facebook page.

Animal dating profiles from Sun and Moon

Check out this “What would an animal online dating site look like?” cartoon from the fabulous Rosemary Mosco of Sun and Moon (science and nature cartoons). Love the status of the sawfish.

animaldatingprofilesUsername for a horseshoe crab on a dating site? Limulus love, of course!

Saltwater vs. Freshwater: Why droughts are a real problem

Earth’s surface is about 70% water. But, only 1% f that is freshwater that is easily accessible (found in lakes, rivers, streams, and ponds). Thanks to McGraw Hill for pulling together this infographic illustrating the amount of water of the surface of the Earth that humans can actually use … just a drop in the bucket really. Consider this reality when thinking about what’s going on over in California this summer with “its third-worst drought in 106 year“.

MCGRAW-SALTWATER-23AUG-2012CS5

http://www.pinterest.com/mcgrawhilled/make-learning-fun-inspiration-for-teachers-student/

 

What’s it like to be a Maine lobsterman?

Are your kids interested in a career on the water? Sounds like a great time to check out this video and go out lobster fishing with the award winning Aqua Kids! They’ll learn from teen lobster fishermen in Maine some of the challenges of the job (e.g., timing how long their nets are in the water, regulating the size of “catchable” lobsters). But, most impressively what is on the young lobstermen’s mind is how to make sure their practices are sustainable.

Aqua Kids motivates today’s youth to take an active role in protecting and preserving our marine environments.