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Scientific Discoveries This Year at Cape Falcon Marine Reserve, N. Oregon Coast

Published 02/18/2020 at 3:28 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Scientific Discoveries This Year at Cape Falcon Marine Reserve, N. Oregon Coast

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(Manzanita, Oregon) – 2019 was a very good year for science along the north Oregon coast’s Cape Falcon Marine Reserve, with researchers making a few scientific finds in that stretch surrounding northern Tillamook County and southern Clatsop County. According to Friends of Cape Falcon Marine Reserve (FCFMR), this last year brought a small number of scientific studies that helped shed light on the state of Oregon’s nearshore ocean environment and wildlife. (Photo above of a Brown pelican courtesy Audubon Society).

The ongoing work of researchers and local volunteers to carry out a variety of studies and projects allows everyone to see the work being done to strengthen the connection between life on land and under the water. That work will continue this year, and the group is also putting out a call for more volunteers on other upcoming projects.

Cape Falcon saw Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife (ODFW) scientists come into the area along with volunteer anglers, who then completed hook and line surveys at Cape Falcon Marine Reserve for the fourth time since 2014. Hook and line surveys are meant to show any changes in relative abundance of nearshore fish species over time.

All this monitoring continues, and the datasets that ODFW obtains helps show changes in fish population and whether that’s due to natural variations or marine reserve protections.

“It’s also a fun way for anglers to participate in scientific research,” FCFMR said. “This year, the largest fish caught was a 45-inch-long Lingcod and the most commonly caught fish species was Black Rockfish.”

Oregon State University partnered with NOAA this year to study Dungeness crab, making some surprising finds. Researchers uncovered that the crabs do indeed travel long distances, although they prefer lingering in the rocky reefs of Cape Falcon Marine Reserve, likely because there is more food for them there. The study also found Dungeness crabs will range an average of 11.5 miles, but some wander a remarkable range of more than 50 miles.

Another eyebrow-raiser: the discovery of great white sharks in this part of north Oregon coast waters.

The Friends of Cape Falcon Marine Reserve, continuing a partnership with Portland Audubon, monitored 35 cormorant nests at Devil’s Cauldron in Oswald West State Park from June through September. Breeding success (average fledglings per nest) was relatively low in 2019, with one or fewer fledglings per nest. Many factors can affect breeding success including weather events, food availability, and predation. In 2019, there was an increase in observed bird predator disturbances, resulting in lost eggs for all cormorant species. Early summer storms, unusually warm ocean temperatures, and late summer heat waves may have also contributed to the low numbers.

The Friends, in conjunction with Portland Audubon and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, continued participation in two Pelican surveys in spring and fall. The goal of the survey is to help define distribution and abundance of Brown Pelicans and track shifts in population structure. Cape Falcon Marine Reserve was one of 84 out of 119 known roost sites that were monitored across the West Coast from Baja, California to Washington by 152 volunteers. In all, a total of 10,829 Brown Pelicans were counted during the survey combined. In 2020, pelican surveys will take place at Cape Falcon Marine Reserve on May 9 and September 12. [Story continues after photo of Cape Falcon]


The Friends also needs help with future bird surveys. If you’re interested in citizen science or just birds and the outdoors of the Oregon coast, the group will be offering plenty of opportunities to get involved in a number of locations:

Snowy Plover Patrol
Training: Sat. April 4 or 18, 10 am – 2 pm
Nehalem Bay State Park

Black Oystercatcher Monitoring
Training: Sat., May 2, 10 am – noon
Cannon Beach City Hall

Seabird Monitoring
Training: Sat., Jun 6, 10 am – noon
Cannon Beach City Hall

Pelican Surveys
Sat., May 9, 5 – 7 pm
Sat., Sept. 12, 5 – 7 pm
No advance training required
Location: contact jliebezeit@audubonportland.org

Learn more about the Friends by visiting http://www.nehalemtrust.org/capefalconmr or by contacting Margaret Minnick at capefalconmr@gmail.com or (503) 298-5190.

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