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Winter birds

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19 hours ago, gray gables said:

the eiders have single handledly decimited the mussel population down there. When I was a young kid the mud flats as you call it was known to us as the mussel bed because of all the mussels. 

Now it really is the mud flats. More mud and sand than mussels.

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Eiders are indeed fond of blue mussels. Forty years ago low tide at dawn in Plymouth Harbor waves of eiders would fly into the harbor to reach the guzzles that were loaded with mussels. They probably no longer come into the harbor since the blue mussels were eradicated by mussel harvesters 20 or so years ago.

 

Eiders unlike other sea ducks like Scoters were very good to eat. My wife and I often dined on Eider breasts in the years shortly after our marriage. The ones we didn't want were eagerly accepted by members of several men's clubs here in Plymouth.

 

I'm sure various people have various names for different canal areas. The Mud Flats near the RR Bridge were always called the Mud Flats even back in the 1950's. The area called the Mussel Bed was a reef located just east of the Herring Run.  They were so labelled on maps back in the '50s.

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11 hours ago, JTR said:

Were the eiders around then? I’d be somewhat surprised if this was a recent thing, considering that eider populations have declined recently.

Im real interested in that too.

I collect blue mussels to feed my fish, or used to.

I have been having trouble finding good spots where I normally go in Maine and Rhode island. 

I been wondering where they went.

 

I can't see it being eiders, at least not way up inside the breachway in RI.

 

I think something else is up with mussels, have for 5 years at least.

 

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20 mins ago, mikez2 said:

I can't see it being eiders, at least not way up inside the breachway in RI.

 

I think something else is up with mussels, have for 5 years at least.

 

I agree with this. I really don’t think the eiders are the issue.

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24 mins ago, JTR said:

I agree with this. I really don’t think the eiders are the issue.

My opinion it's the asian crab (recent invaders) on top of the green crab (established invaders).

This is the one change I see with my own eyes and the timing coincides with reduced number of mussels.

 

The literature wants to point to climate change. This clearly matters, especially in the Gulf of Maine where record temps and invasion by warm water species is well documented. 

I don't think that's the first reason.

 

My question is to the hunters and birders out there;

Are there more eiders in the past 10 pr so years?

I don't mean more reports of Kings and other bird news type things. 

I mean day in day out, year after year.

Eiders, more, less, the same?

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I worked for an old time mussel guy for a few years and still keep in contact with him. He is adamant that the eiders were the cause of the mussel decline in the south shore and cape cod areas. Always used to rant about some Nor'easter back in the 70's that ruined the mussel beds off of Nantucket which drove the eiders north. Said they would blanket the sun when the would fly in during low tide - similar to what snookster describes   

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7 mins ago, jmarino12 said:

I worked for an old time mussel guy for a few years and still keep in contact with him. He is adamant that the eiders were the cause of the mussel decline in the south shore and cape cod areas. Always used to rant about some Nor'easter back in the 70's that ruined the mussel beds off of Nantucket which drove the eiders north. Said they would blanket the sun when the would fly in during low tide - similar to what snookster describes   

Just like everything else, there is a balance. Eiders definitely dine on mussels. I'm assuming that year in and year out, he watched eiders eating mussels in the winter. Then when mussels began declining, he blamed the eiders (naturally).

 

But the eiders and mussels have been around way longer than him. It doesn't make sense to blame long standing species. I have to imagine that it makes more sense to blame new species as factors. The crabs that Mike stated above is a great theory. Here are 2 brand new factors and the timing makes a lot more sense. They're non-native invasive species that eat mussels.... makes a lot more sense to me.

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18 mins ago, mikez2 said:

My question is to the hunters and birders out there;

Are there more eiders in the past 10 pr so years?

I don't mean more reports of Kings and other bird news type things. 

I mean day in day out, year after year.

Eiders, more, less, the same?

Way, way fewer in my opinion. There are definitely spots that still have large wintering populations of eiders, but I see fewer and fewer every year in the secondary spots.

 

The population is definitely declining. The hunting season used to kick off on or around 10/1. Now it doesn't begin until the middle of November. That's a huge decrease.

Edited by JTR

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16 mins ago, JTR said:

Just like everything else, there is a balance. Eiders definitely dine on mussels. I'm assuming that year in and year out, he watched eiders eating mussels in the winter. Then when mussels began declining, he blamed the eiders 

Eiders are well known as pests of cultivated mussels. They are shot for it in places around the world. 

I believe this is where they unfairly get the reputation for hurting wild mussels. 

 

Obviously eider eat mussel, but again, going by my own observations, I harvested mussels from two widely separate areas, constantly returning to the same spots for 20 years. My harvest was tiny, 1/4 of a five gallon bucket once a year maybe twice.

 

20 years ago the intertidal zone was carpeted by mussels of all sizes.

10 years ago large mussels were getting less, clusters of young ones still easy to find.

5 years ago large ones gone, young difficult to find.

Now, I don't bother. This is true anywhere I sample between the 2 places.

There are stories in the press and already studies being done on the lack of mussels. 

 

In that time I have not noticed a change in eider population. 

Another observation is when I snorkel I can't find mussels deep in the caves among the rocks where eiders couldn't reach.

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2 hours ago, mikez2 said:

Eiders are well known as pests of cultivated mussels. They are shot for it in places around the world. 

I believe this is where they unfairly get the reputation for hurting wild mussels. 

 

Obviously eider eat mussel, but again, going by my own observations, I harvested mussels from two widely separate areas, constantly returning to the same spots for 20 years. My harvest was tiny, 1/4 of a five gallon bucket once a year maybe twice.

 

20 years ago the intertidal zone was carpeted by mussels of all sizes.

10 years ago large mussels were getting less, clusters of young ones still easy to find.

5 years ago large ones gone, young difficult to find.

Now, I don't bother. This is true anywhere I sample between the 2 places.

There are stories in the press and already studies being done on the lack of mussels. 

 

In that time I have not noticed a change in eider population. 

Another observation is when I snorkel I can't find mussels deep in the caves among the rocks where eiders couldn't reach.

Will your fish eat green crabs? Seems like a good substitute.

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6 mins ago, JTR said:

Will your fish eat green crabs? Seems like a good substitute.

Good call.

I used to bring home bags of the big ones. The fish loved to pick the meat out of crushed claws and legs.

The bodies had too little meat and too much tank polluting goo.

 

I also bought quite a bit of cultured mussels but they were a very inferior product. I can't believe people ate the smelly things. I used to annoy the fish guy by refusing smelly mussels. If he only knew it was for pet food!

 

I have given up my last saltwater aquarium so no longer an issue.

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5 hours ago, JTR said:

Way, way fewer in my opinion. There are definitely spots that still have large wintering populations of eiders, but I see fewer and fewer every year in the secondary spots.

 

The population is definitely declining. The hunting season used to kick off on or around 10/1. Now it doesn't begin until the middle of November. That's a huge decrease.

Any chance this is due to the declining mussel populations? Just a thought.

 

I would also agree that green crabs and other invasives have decimated the mussels. Although im sure the eiders don't help their cause, it cant just be the decline due soley to the birds.

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On 1/13/2019 at 9:58 PM, JTR said:

Were the eiders around then? I’d be somewhat surprised if this was a recent thing, considering that eider populations have declined recently.

I'm not sure. Never went down during the winter because the house was only seasonal then. But those eiders are sure loud during the night. 

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