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August 2009
MSRP News-Special Seabird EditionMSRP logo
Summer 2009 
In This Issue
Overview of MSRP Seabird Restoration Projects
Replanting Scorpion Rock
Project Highlight: Search for Cassin's Auklets
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The Montrose Settlements Restoration Program (MSRP) invites you to read the latest issue of our newsletter.  Our newsletter is now electronic and has a new design allowing us to send more frequent updates and to keep you better informed. 
We hope that you will enjoy the restoration stories that we have selected for you below.  We also appreciate your continued interest in our restoration efforts!
MSRP Seabird Restoration Projects
Southern California Bight
xantus's murrelet chicksScientists discovered that eggshell thinning in seabirds was linked to DDT that was released into the ocean in southern California during the 1940's to 1970's. As a result of this evidence, MSRP is supporting projects within the Southern California Bight that restore seabird species which were most impacted by the DDT in marine sediments. 
MSRP selected five projects to be funded in Phase I of the MSRP Restoration Plan with three of the five being implemented today. MSRP projects are restoring a total of seven seabird species to six different islands. The islands where restoration is either currently taking place or will in the future include four of the California Channel Islands (Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, San Miguel, and San Nicolas Islands), and two in Baja California (Coronado and Todos Santos Islands). In the MSRP Seabird Fact Sheet you can find more detailed information about each restoration project. 
This Special Edition of the newsletter is dedicated to the MSRP Seabird Restoration efforts on the Northern Channel Islands and to the biologists that are committed to the success of these projects.         
Replanting Scorpion Rock
Channel Islands, California
aerial view of Scorpion RockScorpion Rock is roughly 1.5 acres in size and is located off the eastern end of Santa Cruz Island.  It is home to seven species of nesting seabirds. The rock has been taken over almost completely by non-native plants and until recently there has not been enough suitable nesting habitat for seabirds. MSRP biologists have been working tirelessly to restore Scorpion Rock by removing non-native plants by hand and planting native plants with the help of many volunteers. 
Prior to outplanting on the rock, biologists removed Crystalline Iceplant from roughly 20% of the rock, placed erosion control material over the bare areas, and developed a method for delivering water to new plants. In 2008, 35 volunteers helped biologists plant over 2,000 native plants during the first outplanting. This was an amazing feat given the steep terrain and the fact that there is not a landing dock for boats pulling up to the rock. People and supplies were brought over by small motor boats. Setting up the watering system involved carrying 17 barrel drums that hold 55 gallons of water each. A firehose stretched from a supply boat was used to fill the drums. 
Survival of the new plants is 60% which is good for the low rainfall that this area receives and the poor soil conditions on Scorpion Rock. Several of the native plants that were placed in the ground last year, including Giant Coreopsis, were established enough this first year to flower and seed. 
Biologists are currently monitoring numbers of Cassin's Auklets on Scorpion Rock and preparing for this year's outplanting. volunteers carrying barrels Efforts will be doubled in 2009 with 3,000 to 4,000 plants being prepared for the Fall outplanting. Growing Solutions Restoration Education Institute, a non-profit organization, partners with the National Park Service to manage all plant production at a nursery facility located in the central valley of Santa Cruz Island.
Project Highlight: Search for Auklets and Murrelets
Channel Islands, California
pier fishing
As night falls scientists prepare for the long night ahead searching for Xantus's Murrelets and Cassin's Auklets in the darkness of the Channel Islands National Park waters. Biologists wait on a larger research vessel while small teams head out in tiny boats to get closer to shore. One member of the team holds up a spotlight to stun the seabirds while the boat driver gets close enough to allow another member the chance to cast a net over the bird. If successful, the net contains a Cassin's Auklet that biologists can then band and add this individual to their estimation of the population size. This year biologists are conducting a large-scale survey of Cassin's Auklets and Xantus's Murrelets to determine populations of these species.
Scientists are also looking for signs of recolonization of Cassin's Auklets and Xantus's Murrelets in newly restored areas. So far scientists have made some encouraging discoveries. Murrelet nests still remain active in this area as compared to previous survey years. However, populations of Cassin's Auklets were found for the first time in fifteen years in previously active nesting areas on Santa Barbara Island and its offshore islet, Sutil Island. Auklet numbers are still very low in comparison to the large colony that existed on the island until the turn of the 20th century. These seabirds stopped nesting on the island largely because of a historical feral cat population that was preying on the birds as well as habitat alteration by farming and military activities. The cat population was removed at some point and since 2007 habitat restoration by MSRP has been underway. Individual Cassin's Auklets and Xantus's Murrelets have not started nesting in restored areas yet, but scientists have found them flying close to where vocalizations are being broadcast. Recolonization of both these species is hopeful in the next few years.      
 Cassin's Auklet in nest with egg
For more information about restoration activities, visit the Santa Barbara Island page on the MSRP website.

The MSRP newsletter is a publication of the Montrose Settlements Restoration Program, administered by the six federal and State of California trustee agencies responsible for restoring natural resources injured by past releases of DDTs and PCBs to the Southern California Bight.

Gabrielle Dorr
MSRP Outreach & Education Coordinator