THE bird-counters stood in the windy bow chattering into headsets and scanning the Strait of Juan de Fuca with binoculars. “Scoters,” Sherman Anderson said. “Three of them. At 11 o’clock. Look like surfs.”
“Marbled murrelets,” he added seconds later. “I see two.” Inside the boat’s cabin, another Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife worker listened through a headset of his own so he could record the tally on a computer.
Bird surveys like this and others done by plane are tracking a significant ecological shift in the US Pacific Northwest – a major decline in once-abundant marine birds. From white-winged scoters and surf scoters to long-tailed ducks, murres, loons and some seagulls, the number of everyday marine birds has plummeted dramatically in recent decades.