COASST Surveys and Wendy Jackson Hall

I’ve been volunteering doing monthly beached bird surveys for the Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team since last summer. My beach is Brackett’s Landing, a popular beach park near a busy ferry terminal in Edmonds, WA. With its apt acronym, COASST is a citizen science program out of University of Washington that focuses on surveying dead, “beached” birds on beaches and inlets in Washington, Oregon, California and Alaska. The ten-year-old program aims to establish baselines for what’s happening over a long stretch of time. If something unusual happens, whether the cause is known or unknown, the information gathered proves useful because it helps establish what’s typical for a particular beach.

My surveying partner, Rachel Mayer, and I have found 3 birds, over the course of 11 months: a rock dove, red-tailed hawk and glaucous-winged gull. One of the cool things about the project is the key used for identifying the birds. It’s kind of like magic, and not at all like a typical bird book. It’s more like a tree identifying guide, if you’re familiar with those, because the understanding is that you can get much much closer to a dead bird than a live one and you can use different metrics for identification. We don’t wish for dead birds, but I must admit it’s been cool to see these birds up close. The red-tailed hawk in particular was spectacular. Maybe there’s a training coming up near you?

News of the recent Cassin’s Auklet die-off:

A very-much-alive brant goose, munching on eelgrass

A very-much-alive brant goose, munching on eelgrass


In my first blog post, I neglected to mention my partner in crime during the original iteration of Wings of the Sea. Wendy Jackson Hall was the original director for the project and was key in developing the concept. Wendy passed away in 2005. Her energy, talent and good ideas during the year we worked together are the reason Karen Lewis and I have been able to bring this project to fruition. We miss her. Here are some lovely tributes:

Also, a successful scholarship has been created in her honor:

Legend of the Great Auk on its way soon! Karen Lewis and I will be submitting to some film fests. Stay tuned.

–Rachel Price