Where does the tuna in your sandwich come from?
               That can over there.
Is that where it lives?  
                      Mmmm it seems a little small.
How does the tuna get into the can?
                               I don’t know but probably angry.

What you know may not be what’s important.

If you have only seen something in a little can it may be difficult to envision it as a top level, hard hitting ocean predator. Tuna is more than what you see in the can.

Dressed like a rock star

Albacore Tuna are handsome fish with torpedo-shaped bodies, smooth skin, and long, streamlined fins. The pectoral fins may be at least half the length of their bodies. Their metallic, dark blue back and silvery white sides make them nearly invisible in the water.

They can grow up to nearly four feet in length and weigh almost 80 pounds. In our waters they average 20- to 30-inches and up to about 35 pounds. These fish belong to the North Pacific stock and are generally juvenile or sub-adult fish that have not spawned.

Eats like an athlete

Albacore can swim over 50 miles per hour which facilitates long annual migrations and successful predation. They have a high metabolism and thus may consume as much as 25 percent of their own weight every day. 

Albacore tuna are unique among the tunas because their primary food sources are octopus and squid, versus fish. As a top ocean carnivore, they prey on schooling stocks such as squid, sardines, anchovy, crabs, lobsters, shrimp.

Albacore predators include larger species of billfish, tuna, sharks, and humans.

Hunting and Hunters

This fish has a highly evolved circulatory system that regulates body temperature, increases muscle efficiencies, supports high metabolism, and high blood pressure, volume and hemoglobin.

All of this helps tuna increase their ability to absorb oxygen. They lack structures needed to pump oxygen rich water over their gills. To compensate they must constantly swim and keep their mouths open to breathe.

Going to School

Similarly-sized Albacore swim together in a school. Each school is very large and can be up to 19 miles wide. Migrating Albacore may cover over 50 miles each day when migrating. Migration timing and distance vary based on oceanic conditions.

There are six distinct Albacore stocks that generally do not mix (North Pacific has two groups one that heads for Baja California and the other for the coasts of Oregon and Washington). Other stocks include Atlantic and Indian oceans, and the Mediterranean Sea.

Migrations

North Pacific 2- to 4-year old Juveniles begin in spring and early summer from waters near Japan. They spawn between March and July. Females broadcast eggs near the surface for fertilization. They may release between 800,000 and 2.6 million eggs every time they spawn.

By July, they move into inshore waters 15-200 miles off the U.S. Pacific coast and hang out through September. They spend fall and winter in the western Pacific Ocean.

Management of

The migration across several international boundaries complicate specie management along with its economic importance. The gross national product of several countries depends on the tuna.

In the U.S., the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries have been tagging and studying the fish and recommending management actions to avoid overfishing. Several stocks are in significant decline and the species’ overall population trend is decreasing. Albacore are considered to be ‘Near Threatened.’

Bait and Switch

Albacore demand is sometimes fraudulently met through substitution.  Escolar (Lepidocybium flavobrunneum) has been frequently substituted, or ‘confused,’ with Albacore.

Escolar are known to create potential health problems when consumed. While it is not toxic per se it has caused enough concern for several countries to ban it.

REFERENCES:
–Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife (https://myodfw.com/fishing/species/albacore-tuna, commercial landing statistics, and 2018 Albacore Annual Reports)
–NOAA Fisheries (https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/species/pacific-albacore-tuna)
–Wikipedia Albacore (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albacore)
–The Atlantic, 59% of the tuna Americans eat is not tuna (https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/02/59-of-the-tuna-americans-eat-is-not-tuna/273410/

Gorse Photo by K. Collier

Is it possible to say something good about Gorse?

Maybe. Depends on if you have ever tried to get rid of it or not.

Some consider Gorse as a pretty, fragrant shrub. Others class it as something akin to devil spawn.

Gorse maintains a love-hate reputation not only with humans but other plants. In both cases, it has earned this reputation well.

Is anything good?

Gorse was commonly used in several ways including as a:
–Food source (the flowers are edible). Plant can be used as livestock feed as it is high in protein. Pollen from the various varies help pollinators, such as bees.
–Product creation such as soap making, yellow dye, cleaning tools
–Traditional Medicines (listed as one of 38 plants in the Bach’s Flower Remedies.

Lots o’ Bad

Gorse has earned a dubious reputation in several ways and is now on several invasive and noxious lists for States and countries. Bandon is no stranger to this plant that arrived over 100 years ago thanks to ‘Lord’ George Bennett, an Irish immigrant. In Ireland, the plant had many uses and natural biological controls generally not present here.

Bandon is ‘ground zero’ for gorse removal and fire risk reduction. The rumor is that gorse helped fuel the Bandon Fire of 1936 that burned down most of the town. A Gorse Action Group in Bandon is working on the problem (see What’s the Deal with Gorse? (https://sea-edu.org/2019/12/17/whats-the-deal-with-gorse/). Then again, dried gorse was used as kindling and a fire fuel for bread making ovens.

More Hate than Love

There is a lot more hate than love now-a-days, and fortunately controls that can help manage this noxious weed. Here is a quick comparison:

A Small Gorse Spider Mite Experiment

Mites control gorse through extensive feeding pressure. The mites will through feeding kill shoots, reduce plant growth and overall plant biomass, and abort the production of flowers. It can take a long time for these mites to control the gorse. What if we could help this along?

This is our little experiment:
Year 1: We took a few, small cuttings from mite-infected plants and threw them on some bushes. Result: Mite spread slow but evident, and did not persist on some bushes.
Year 2: We took larger cuttings off of several bushes that exhibited mite infestation. Placed several 6-inch sprigs on approximately 12 other bushes with light or relatively no infestation. Result: All bushes infected; most showed some stress.
Year 3: Mechanical removal employed on several large, bushes. Result? Can’t wait to plant the area. More mechanical and hand removal is in progress. It will be interesting to look back next year and see the results. I think I also spotted a Gorse soft shoot moth on my shovel handle. There is hope.  

OTHER REFERENCES:
–Wikipedia, Ulex (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ulex_europaeus)
–Tasty Natives, Ulex europaeus (https://www.greenlab.org/tastynatives/2018/11/01/gorse/
6 organic ways to get rid of gorse (https://thisnzlife.co.nz/5-organic-ways-get-rid-gorse/) (Note: link does say 5 rather than 6 as in title, error in link naming)
What are the effects of gorse on the ecosystem? (http://agriculture.vic.gov.au/agriculture/pests-diseases-and-weeds/weeds/a-z-of-weeds/gorse)
–University of Washington, 66-8633 Gorse Soil Effects (https://portal.nifa.usda.gov/web/crisprojectpages/0213036-66-8633-gorse-soil-effects.html)
Victorian Gorse Taskforce (https://www.vicgorsetaskforce.com.au/biological-control/)

Royalty-free Photo by David Clode on Unsplash

White wader of quiet waters

Do you frequent the Coos Bay area? If so, you most likely have seen Great Egrets slowly combing the marine wetland or slowly flying over the water in search of food.

The Great Egret is a regular local breeder around Coos Bay. Great Egrets are widely distributed from Canada, well into South America. They have also been introduced to several locations in North America, Central America, South America, Africa, Asia, Europe, Australia, and surrounding islands.

Habitat

Great Egrets live in colonies and use migration stopover sites that are near lakes, ponds, marshes, estuaries, and islands. These habitats are common to the southern Oregon coast where the birds seem to be expanding their territory. They are also present year-long in the Klamath basin.

Identification

The Great Egret, like other egrets, have white (‘alba’) feathers. Unlike other egrets, this bird stands well over three feet tall and often in length, with a wingspan that is potentially over five feet. Great Egrets are the largest egret species, but not as large as a Great Blue Heron.

Both males and females look similar in plumage and color. During breeding season, breeding adults get a bit more dressed up with a neon green face patch, darker bill, lighter lower legs. They also grow spectacular long delicate ornamental plumes on their backs. These feathers (called aigrettes) are used in courtship displays and almost drove these birds to extinction in the early 1900’s.

Food

Great Egrets are opportunistic carnivorous birds and will eat just about anything they can swallow. They consume primarily small fish but will also eat amphibians, crayfish, reptiles, birds, small mammals, bugs, prawns, shrimp, and worms. 

While they typically hunt while wading, they will occasionally swim or somewhat laboriously hover over water and dip for fish. They are strong flyers with just two wingbeats per second that will propel them up to around 25 miles per hour.  When flying, the neck is retracted. Other herons and related species (such as storks, cranes, spoonbills) extend their necks in flight.

Hunting

Their hunting style shows eminent patience as they slowly hunt or stand still waiting for prey to approach them.  They can be seen hunting in marshes, swamps, ponds, canals, ditches, streams, lakes, flooded farm fields, etc.  Great Egrets use their long, sharp bill to rapidly stab their prey and are known to sometimes steal food from smaller birds. 

Migration

Only partial migratory, Great Egrets will move to warmer areas in winter where the waters remain unfrozen and commute to breeding/nesting sites.  

Great Egrets congregate into massive breeding colonies and typically nest high in large trees.  They will sometimes choose tall shrubs, artificial platforms, or even ground-level locations.

Males arrive early at the breeding and nesting location. They begin building a cup-shaped nest using long sticks and twigs that eventually measures nearly three feet across and a foot deep. Once paired up, the pair may collaborate to finish the nest, though the male sometimes finishes it himself.

Status

Royalty-free Photo by David Clode on Unsplash

In the late 19th and early 20th century, hunters killed approximately 95 percent of the Great Egrets in North America for their breeding plumes. The plumes were prized for ladies’ hats.

Plume-hunting was banned around 1910 and populations began to recover. Populations have increased from 1966 to 2014 across the range, except in Canada. It has been estimated that there are now over 180,000 breeding birds on the North American continent.

Challenges to recovery and stable populations include wetland habitat loss and degradation, threats such as contaminated farm runoff, and invasion by exotic plants. Great Egrets seem to be adapting to nearby human habitation in urban and suburban areas.  Not all egret species are so lucky and some are on near threatened and vulnerable watch lists.

REFERENCES
–Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, Bitterns, Herons, and Egrets (https://myodfw.com/wildlife-viewing/species/bitterns-herons-and-egrets)
–The Animal Network (https://animals.net/egret/)
–All About Birds, Cornell, Great Egret (https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Great_Egret/lifehistory)
–Audubon Society, Great Egret (https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/great-egret)
–Wikipedia, Great Egret (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_egret)