Surveying thousands of kilometres of ocean water, zig zagging back and forth the coast and counting and identifying birds along the way, was the background for Caroline Fox’s first non-fiction book, At Sea With The Marine Birds of the Raincoast.
As a conservation scientist with Raincoast Conservation Foundation, writing a non-fiction book was new to Fox as she usually writes a lot of scientific publications.
“Most of the time I’m a fairly academic researcher but I had the unique experience of going on a boat for quite a few months at a time as a marine bird observer, so basically counting birds up and down the coast,” she told the PNR.
The book, published recently by Rocky Mountain Books, is about Fox’s story as a scientist, sailing up and down the British Columbian coast surveying marine birds.
The story is about encountering some of the rarest birds on the coast, like short-tailed albatrosses, sandhill cranes and more. Fox said she goes into the natural history of some of the birds, many of which are listed as species at risk in Canada.
“So it’s a combination of my experiences, and then looking at this kind of human and natural history of the marine birds that live here,” she said.
Fox doesn’t, however, only study marine birds.
“I’d describe me as a bit of a jack of all trades in terms of marine science. I would consider myself a coastal conservation biologist and I have always been fascinated by birds,” she said, adding that she’s also studied other wildlife like fishes and black bears.
She said there are well over 100 species of birds that come here with a diversity of colour, shape and size.
“Some migrate up and down north and south across the coast and some come here from Japan or Hawaii or New Zealand, so it’s hard to not be impressed by marine birds,” she said.
When it came to actually writing the book, Fox said it was quite difficult.
“For me it was a real shift, like a gear shift from writing fairly scientific, really technical documents to writing a book that was far more aimed at not necessarily a scientific audience, more of a creative work,” she said, adding that it took a long time.
Fortunately, Fox had taken good notes during their surveys of marine birds, so had the details of what events had happened daily and what birds she had seen.
“And so I really used my field notebook from the at sea surveys to form a basis for this book.”
A fun fact from her findings, she said many people can encounter birds that they don’t even know exist out here.
“So a lot of people in B.C. don’t know that we have three species of albatross that visit the British Columbian coast and they never come to land here.”
Albatross are massive six to seven foot wing span, long distance sea birds
Fox works at the main Sidney office of the Raincoast Conservation Foundation and at the University of Victoria.