Bears and Salmon,
Salmon and Bears
I’m a bit of a podcast fan and have been for nearly 15 years. I started listening while running, then while walking the dog (after we got a dog), and now even sometimes while doing yard work and chores. I love learning new things, and I love good storytelling and podcasts can do a great job of both.
            Since I’m not the only podcast fan in the office, we’ve always wanted to try our hand at doing them. We started simply in 2017 with our Hakai Magazine Audio Edition, which is a professional narrator reading our weekly feature story. This allows people an alternative way to access our features—I know one person who listens at work, as she finds she doesn’t have time to read them—and allows easier access for people who are visually impaired.
            When we decided to tackle a “real” podcast, we knew we wanted it to be a combination of great storytelling and fascinating information. The result was the five-episode miniseries Ballast, published in 2019. I think Ballast was super interesting, but I think everyone on the team agreed we learned a lot during its creation and our next one would be even better.
            Our next project, we decided, would be an investigation into ocean sound and noise, a topic our in-house researcher, Ami Kingdon, had been following for ages. The timing of the decision—about a month after the global lockdown last year—was perfect as the “Anthropause” would prove to be a boon to ocean noise researchers. The global ocean experiment the lockdown created could never have been undertaken under normal circumstances. The resulting podcast, The Sound Aquatic: The Ocean and the Anthropause, was, if I do say so myself, fascinating. And the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) seems to agree. This past weekend, it was featured on their radio show (and podcast) Podcast Playlist as a “best new podcast release for August.”
            We’d love to have your feedback about any or all of our podcasts, or just podcasts in general. Just reply to this email and send us your thoughts.
Dave Garrison
PS I feel remiss talking about podcasts without sharing a few of my favorites. My current top picks for learning new things are Cautionary Tales by Pushkin Industries and People I (Mostly) Admire by Freakonomics Radio. And for pure (fantastic) storytelling, there’s Heavyweight by Gimlet Media.
This Week’s Stories
Plight of the Pajarada
In Patagonia, seabirds and artisanal hake fishers have a long-established relationship. Industrial fishers, not so much—and it’s not good for the birds.
by Katrina Pyne and Jude Isabella • 8 min 50 secs
Saving Salmon for the Bears
The Wuikinuxv Nation is conducting research to figure out how much salmon to set aside to help the bears.
by Larry Pynn • 850 words / 4 mins
To a Salmon’s Eye, Spirit Bears Have Natural Camouflage
Salmon are much more likely to avoid a black bear-shaped object than a white one.
by Marina Wang • 750 words / 3 mins
One Great Shot: A Constellation of Moons
A search for a secret cove leads to an unforgettable jellyfish encounter.
by Jake Wilton • a quick read with one great photo
What We’re Reading
Dolphins in the Caribbean are using rings of mud to blind and corral their prey. A new meaning for “here’s mud in your eye,” perhaps? (New Scientist)
The size of a seabird breeding colony is limited by its Ashmole’s Halo. (Irish Examiner)

Since at least December 2018, several hundred gray whales have washed up dead along their migration route between Baja California, Mexico, and Alaska. It’s a worrisome trend, with an unknown cause, that’s showing no signs of abating. (Los Angeles Times)
On the British Columbia coast, eight First Nations have signed a Fisheries Resources Reconciliation Agreement that will allow Indigenous people to regain rights over fisheries governance within their territories. (National Observer

Just in case you could use some ocean optimism. (Knowable)

Polar bears are massive, but their walrus prey can still be formidable, so they occasionally employ a tool—a well-tossed rock—to help them make the kill. (Smithsonian)
Letter to the Editor

Your magazine is excellent and I read it from cover to cover. You had an excellent article on seagulls back in June.

Are you able to provide any insight into seagull nesting success in the Victoria area this year? We live in Sidney and there is a pair of nesting seagulls on a rooftop across the street from us that have returned for four years. They have been sitting on two eggs for well over a month now and I think they are slowly giving up. Their time away from the nest is becoming longer and when one bird returns she (?) spends a little time on the nest, looking at the eggs, and sitting a while. She is looking bedraggled. Her feathers are frayed and she looks a lot thinner. It is almost as if she is grieving.

We wonder if the “heat dome” at the end of June killed the eggs and if other nesting birds have also lost their broods?

Gary Townsend

Gary is referring to our story “The Gull Next Door”. We reached out to Louise Blight, a seabird ecologist at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, who also joined us for a webinar on the topic of gulls and other coastal birds in urban environments. Here’s her answer.

In terms of the gulls, I don’t have a set of study nests this year, but I do have some thoughts about their nesting success based on a few more casual observations from around town and an understanding of avian egg physiology. Bird eggs can withstand quite a few degrees of cooling, down to low ambient temperatures, but they don’t tolerate higher temperatures so well, especially when the embryos are older. Some roof-nesting gulls this year had their nests in places where they were able to keep their eggs cool enough through the heat dome—I know of some urban nests that hatched chicks after the heat event—but others were too exposed and the eggs perished. Probably the chicks that had already hatched before the heat event arrived did better in general as they would be able to seek shade (and the parents will shade young chicks and eggs with their bodies). For the nest being observed by your reader, although it’s not too unusual, the beginning of August is getting pretty late for unhatched eggs, and if those birds have been sitting on their nest for over a month, the clutch has failed. The incubation period for the species is about a month, though as they are seeing, parents will incubate for longer. The bedraggled look is likely because they are beginning their post-breeding molt, which starts in August. Are they grieving? I don’t know—but they are waiting in hope for their chicks to emerge.

If they see the two birds together, the female will be the smaller of the pair, though there isn’t always a size difference that’s observable from afar.

Behind the Story
Our video editor, Katrina Pyne, explains how she had to fight her biggest fear to bring you this week’s video, “Plight of the Pajarada.”

Little did I know, as I set out for Ushuaia, Argentina, within the archipelago of Tierra Del Fuego (Land of Fire), in late January 2020, that it would be my last big outing for a while. Had I known, perhaps I’d have savored each mask-free moment as I boarded five flights before meeting up with my messy office desk neighbor—also my boss—editor in chief Jude Isabella. Our plan was to chase three stories over the course of a few weeks, first in Tierra Del Fuego (more on that soon!) and then north in Punta Arenas, Chile.
Week one went swimmingly. We managed to navigate the steep hills of Ushuaia while driving a stick and cursing only somewhat loudly in Spanish. A week later, it was time for a road trip across the plains of Argentina’s east coast, which are chock-full of guanacos. If you aren’t familiar with guanacos, just picture a lean, stretched-out llama—now picture 20 of them running alongside your car while you blast Jim Croce (my playlist, not Jude’s) and you’ve got a pretty good idea of our reporting trip.  
We arrived in Punta Arenas the day after a riot to end the dictatorship-era constitution that saw at least one building burned down—but that wasn’t our story. We were there to learn about cultural loss in the century-old artisanal hake fishery on the Strait of Magellan, so up the coast we went. I should explain one thing: for as long as I can remember, and certainly predating my first viewing of Hitchcock’s thriller, I’ve had a crippling fear of birds—“a touch of ornithophobia,” as I told Jude. Pigeons make me cringe, I can’t enjoy a burger on the wharf without tracking every gull in my vicinity with military precision, and don’t get me started on crows. I spend every day actively avoiding birds, but when the opportunity came up to chase this story, I opted to say yes, even though it would involve sitting in a boat filled with hake and tossing fish guts to swarms of petrels, gulls, and albatrosses. I told myself I could hide behind my camera.
And I was thankful for every inch of glass and plastic in my lens as the birds drew ever nearer to our boat. Jaime Ojeda, a graduate student at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, who is based in Punta Arenas, was with us that day. He has worked on fishing boats before and was accustomed to the chaos. By that point in the trip, he had become a dear friend, but every time he held fish guts up and paused to explain something before tossing them, drawing in the hungry winged dinosaurs surrounding us, I had to resist the urge to slap the offal out of his hands.
So as you watch our video, “Plight of the Pajarada,” please forgive any shaky camerawork that may have resulted from me dodging a pesky petrel or an abrasive albatross!
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