Tsunami driving many Japanese marine species to America

This video says about itself:

8 June 2012

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife crews removed approximately two tons of invasive species from the dock washed up from the tsunami in Japan.

By Alessandra Potenza in the USA:

Almost 300 marine species hitched a ride on tsunami debris from Japan to the US

They traveled more than 4,300 miles across the ocean

Sep 28, 2017, 2:00pm EDT

On the morning of June 5th, 2012, John Chapman drove up to Agate Beach in Newport, Oregon, to take a look at a massive, 188-ton dock that had washed ashore during a storm. The dock was coated in seaweed and, to Chapman’s surprise, covered with small crabs, mussels, barnacles, and sea stars.

A tag revealed that the dock was from Misawa, Japan, a city that was hit by the mega tsunami that struck the area in 2011. After 15 months of drifting around the Pacific Ocean, the dock — and over 4,000 pounds of living marine creatures latched onto it — had landed in Oregon. “That was a stunning discovery,” Chapman, a professor of fisheries at Oregon State University, tells The Verge. “For my brain to accept what my eyes were seeing… I could not grasp that this could be true.”

The dock, described in a study published today in Science, was just one of hundreds of pieces of tsunami debris that have arrived onto the beaches of Hawaii and the West Coast of the US, from Alaska to California. They represent the first massive example of how hundreds of marine species can drift for more than 4,300 miles across the ocean — and survive the trip. That’s because the dock and the other junk are made of plastic, cement, and fiberglass — artificial materials that last way longer than a piece of driftwood or seaweed. The new research reveals one more mechanism for species to migrate around the world, with potentially disastrous consequences.

Animals and plants introduced to new areas can harm local species — sometimes causing extinctions — and substantial economic damage. In Hawaii, for instance, species like plants and birds that have evolved in isolation for millions of years are being wiped out by invasive ones. The US Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that invasive species cost the US more than $120 billion in damages every year.

Scientists have long known that marine species raft across big bodies of water. Genetic similarities between distant populations suggest that species must have crossed oceans somehow before, and there have been observations of species on rafts far out at sea, says Ceridwen Fraser, a senior lecturer at Fenner School of Environment and Society at Australian National University. Fraser, who wasn’t involved in the study published in Science, co-authored a 2010 study describing how several types of mollusks, crustaceans, and a sea spider from several subantarctic islands had hitched a ride on floating seaweed for a 310-mile trip to New Zealand that lasted several weeks.

Today’s study offers new and exciting evidence. “This is the first time that we are able to document rafting on such a massive scale,” says Martin Thiel, a professor of marine biology at Universidad Católica del Norte in Chile, who was not involved in the dock research. “We know that it has happened, but this is the first time we can see it basically in real time.”

On March 11th, 2011, after a magnitude 9 earthquake struck northeastern Japan, a massive tsunami with waves as high as 126 feet destroyed entire cities — killing over 20,000 people. When they receded, the waves dragged back with them millions of pieces of detritus. Chapman, and a team of other scientists, analyzed more than 600 pieces of tsunami debris — from vessels to crates to buoys — that were retrieved on US beaches beginning in 2012 all the way to last year. Through analyses and genetic tests, they identified 289 species of mollusks, crabs, sea stars, sponges, and even fish that survived the trek from Japan.

The species were able to survive for so long because — unlike hitchhiking animals thousands of years ago — their rafts were mostly made of non-biodegradable material, the authors say. “These species can survive for years if their raft, if their small boat is not dissolving under them,” says study co-author James Carlton, professor emeritus of marine sciences at Williams College. Because the researchers analyzed only a fraction of all the tsunami debris, many more species might have hitched a ride, Carlton says.

There’s no evidence that any of these species have become invasive in the US yet, but it’s “too early to make a call,” Carlton tells The Verge. It can take years for non-native species to establish themselves in an area, and it’s hard to predict which ones could be harmful until they actually become a problem, he says. Some of these species, however, have a history of being harmful invaders in other countries. A type of mussel called Mytilus galloprovincialis the most common species found on the tsunami debris, according to Chapman — is known for reproducing quickly and displacing other mussels, in turn creating problems in South Africa.

The study “uncovers a process that is wholly novel and entirely surprising,” says Steven Chown, a professor in the School of Biological Sciences at Monash University in Australia, who was not involved in the research. “It changes our worldview entirely about the way in which marine organisms may become invasive elsewhere,” he adds in an email to The Verge. But some researchers aren’t surprised by the study’s findings, and say that it reinforces what they’ve already understood. “We now know that rafting happens all the time,” Fraser writes in an email to The Verge, “but it is good example of the diversity of organisms that can be transported via this mechanism.”

The research suggests that plastic waste, which is ubiquitous in the ocean, can be more destructive to ecosystems than we’ve previously understood. “It’s more than turtles eating plastic bags and dying, it’s more than plastic occurring in most of our seafood,” Chapman says. “It’s that also it carries things around the ocean that then can become an economically severe problem.”

And this mass migration from Japan to the US might still continue. More tsunami debris is expected to reach the western coast this fall and next spring, Carlton says. It remains to be seen whether living marine creatures will be found attached to it — seven years after it was pulled out to sea. “We’re going to be watching what still comes in,” Carlton says. “This is not over.”

Here’s a breakdown of the animals that crossed the Pacific on 2011 tsunami debris. About two-thirds of the creatures have never been documented off the western coast of North America. By Mariah Quintanilla, 11:00am, October 17, 2017.


American yellow warbler migration, new discovery

This video is about a yellow warbler nest in North America.

From the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in the USA:

Yellow Warbler Beats the Odds, Reveals 2,300-Mile Journey

Student researchers from the Cornell Lab were dumbfounded and then ecstatic this summer when they captured a Yellow Warbler that had been banded just two months earlier in Colombia. It was the first of its species to be banded in South America and recovered in North America. Read this story about long odds and new insights, thanks to a pretty yellow bird that made the journey to tell the tale.

Upland sandpiper video

This is an upland sandpiper video.

These birds nest in North America.

Grasshopper sparrow video

This video says about itself:

Grasshopper Sparrow

24 May 2017

Footage courtesy of Benjamin M. Clock, Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

These birds live in the Americas.

Prize-winning North American bird photos

Northern Cardinals reinforcing their pair bond won the Home Tweet Home Judges' Choice award and Eyewitness category. Photo by Kim Caruso

From the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s NestWatch eNewsletter, September 2017:

Home Tweet Home Winners

In July we hosted our 4th annual Home Tweet Home photo contest. With great prizes on the line, including Zeiss binoculars and an exclusive artist-signed Eggs of North America print, we received over 630 entries! Narrowing down the winners was hard; luckily more than 1,300 people helped by wading through the contest gallery and voting for their favorites. Without further ado, your winners are:

Young Anna's Hummingbirds by Soo Baus

Anna’s Hummingbirds by Soo Baus: People’s Choice & Cutest Baby category

Northern Cardinals by Kim Caruso: Judges’ Choice & Eyewitness category [see top of blog post]

Northern mockingbird nest by Melanie Furr

Northern Mockingbirds by Melanie Furr: Nests and Eggs category

Young tree swallows fed by parent, by John Olson

Tree Swallows by John Olson: Feeding Time category

The judges also selected 15 Honorable Mentions that stood out as exceptional submissions. See the gallery of honorees here. Thanks to everyone who participated! We appreciate your gorgeous photos, kind comments, and discerning votes.

American migratory birds, new study

This video from the USA says about itself:

12 April 2013

Original documentary about the annual migration of billions of songbirds across the Gulf of Mexico and into North America. Features HD footage of hundreds of colorful songbirds.

Try watching in HD: 720 or 1080p full screen (with fast connections). 1080p is the very highest quality for this movie and looks great!

It seems like the video loads with the player in the middle of the movie, so you have to move it back to the start.


In the spring hundreds of bird species move from the tropics into North America. As they make their way they eventually face the great barrier of the Gulf of Mexico. This arm of the Atlantic ocean is more than 900 miles wide, and more than 600 miles across from north to south.

While some birds skirt the edge of the water, the overwhelming majority-more than 200 species, and hundreds of millions of individuals-cross the unbroken plain of the gulf in a single flight of 20 or more hours.

Gulf Crossing is a record of trans-gulf migration on America’s southern coast: the expectation of arrival, the surprise each day of what birds appear, and the habitats they are found in. The experience is expanded by a scientific perspective on the phenomenon of migration, describing its geographic shape, the coastal habitats birds rely on, physiological cycles in birds, and the effect of weather patterns on bird flight.

Bird migration along the gulf coast is one of the most exciting and powerful natural experiences you can have. Millions of birds from hundreds of species are passing overhead each day, and you never know what’s going to show up. But despite the hundreds of nature documentaries that are made each year, the story of trans-gulf migration has never really been told before.

Gulf Crossing is an attempt to document this remarkable and moving natural phenomenon. The six episodes provide a comprehensive exploration of the Gulf crossing, from Spring to Fall, covering migration along the Upper Texas Coast, the arrival and breeding of birds in the north, and Fall migration in north Florida.

I hope this documentary will increase awareness and appreciation of America’s immense but vanishing natural heritage.

Gulf Crossing is free to use in any classroom or group setting. For more info on use, see the Creative Commons License. If you are interested in downloading the file to show to groups, please contact me.

From the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in the USA today:

eBird Data Reveal Crucial Role for Wintering Grounds

After merging bird observations from eBird along with projections for land use and climate change, a new Cornell Lab study finds that loss of habitat on the wintering grounds may be the greatest threat faced by 21 species of eastern forest birds that winter in Central America in the coming decades. These flycatchers, warblers, and vireos spend nearly 60% of the year on their wintering grounds. The study is the first to measure the impact of climate and land-use change throughout the birds’ entire life cycle, including breeding, wintering, and migration. Read more.