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Friday Creature Feature: The Bull Shark

Posted by Samina Cabral
Samina Cabral
Samina Cabral is a native Southern Californian who now resides on the shores of
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on Thursday, 28 March 2013
in Mother Nature's Big and Small

On April 7, 2011 a bull shark with two heads was discovered inside the uterus of an adult bull shark that two-headed-baby-bull-shark-Courtesy of Patrick-Rice-Shark-Defense-Florida-Keys-Community-Collegehad been caught by a fisherman in the Gulf of Mexico.

The unborn shark was first taken to the marine science department at Florida Keys Community College and was then transferred to Michigan State University (MSU).

At MSU Michael Wagner, an assistant professor of fisheries and wildlife, and his team used MRIs to confirm that the baby shark had two distinct heads, hearts, and stomachs with the rest of the body joined together in back half of the animal to form a single tail only a mother shark could love.

These observations meant researchers were able to confirm that this was not a case of conjoined twins but a single bull shark with two heads the first-ever found.

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Friday Creature Feature: Southern Stingray

Posted by Samina Cabral
Samina Cabral
Samina Cabral is a native Southern Californian who now resides on the shores of
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on Friday, 22 March 2013
in Mother Nature's Big and Small

At Stingray City in the Cayman Islands, the place to go for all your stingray needs, tourists can interact Southern-Stringray-wiki-2with the southern stingray (Dasyatis americana). You can pet, feed, swim, kiss, and take photos with stingrays in the shallow waters of the Caribbean and all of this is available with one easy payment of $44.44! (No CODs, shipping yourself to Grand Cayman not included.)

These vacation memories will eventually go viral and land the human subjects of the photo on the talk show circuit explaining to the five people left who still watch daytime television what the word “photobomb” means.  

Stingray City, a tropical petting zoo, was the subject of a study published this month on PLOS ONE that explored the impact “interactive ecotourism” is having on the stingrays.

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The Ants Go Marching Into My House Ten By Ten

Posted by Samina Cabral
Samina Cabral
Samina Cabral is a native Southern Californian who now resides on the shores of
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on Thursday, 21 March 2013
in Mother Nature's Big and Small

Many years ago when I was in high school, and not much smarter than I am now, I had a theory that ants Fire ants USDA copywould one day take over the world.  Ants fascinated me because they were so many different types of ants and these itty-bitty creatures were all capable of doing the most amazing things despite their size.

Our assumption is that no creature so small or that mindlessly lives in a hive-called a superorganism-could ever defeat us. But look at this io9 article from last year written by Robert T. Gonzales that presents ten facts that illustrate that ants are poised to one day enslave us all.

For instance take Fact #6 from Gonzales’s list:

“In their Pulitzer-prize winning book The Ants, researchers Bert Holldobbler and Edward O. Wilson estimate that there are upwards of 10,000,000,000,000,000 individual ants alive on Earth at any given time.”

And do you know where all 10,000,000,000,000,000 of those ants are right now? In my kitchen, living room, dining room, bathroom, and bedroom.

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Researchers Find What They Are Looking For With GPS and Polar Bears

Posted by Samina Cabral
Samina Cabral
Samina Cabral is a native Southern Californian who now resides on the shores of
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on Wednesday, 20 March 2013
in Mother Nature's Big and Small

Dr. Seth Cherry of the University of Alberta and a team studied polar bears in the extremely cold polar-bear-cubs-collar-Andrew-Derocher-University-Alberta-OEB-0056conditions of the western Hudson Bay for ten years to see what impact, if any, climate change and its affect on the ice’s melting and forming would have on the polar bear’s ice-based habits.

The Hudson Bay is a body of water almost completely surrounded by northeastern Canada. It is the second largest bay in world (the Bay of Bengal is the largest) with a surface area of 1,230,000 kilometers2 (470,000 square miles). It is a part of the North Atlantic Ocean but some portions of it are considered to be part of the Arctic Ocean. Whatever way you want to look at the bay it’s still cold and there are polar bears.

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Friday Creature Feature: Pine Marten

Posted by Samina Cabral
Samina Cabral
Samina Cabral is a native Southern Californian who now resides on the shores of
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on Friday, 15 March 2013
in Mother Nature's Big and Small

Earlier this week I was chatting with a friend when I linked him this video. It’s safe for work for but if you Martes martes crop-wiki-Dani-Kropivnikare unable to view it I will be more than happy to describe it to you.

During a soccer game (football match) a pine marten (martes martes) works its way onto the field (pitch). The animal proceeds to frantically run around like a deranged streaking fan (fanum rabidus nudus). Unlike a zealous fan the creature left the field on its own a few times but returns, suspends play, and is chased down by several people including a member of FC Zurich: defender Loris Benito.

Benito swoops, tumbles, but manages to snag the animal only to be rewarded with a bite to the finger.  Apparently, as Benito is leaving the field the pine marten escapes the defender (irony) and Zurich goalkeeper David Da Costa is either directed to because he is wearing gloves and accustomed to trying to stop fast moving objects or takes it upon himself to grab the pine marten ending the spectacle.

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Friday Creature Feature: High Arctic Camel

Posted by Samina Cabral
Samina Cabral
Samina Cabral is a native Southern Californian who now resides on the shores of
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on Friday, 08 March 2013
in Mother Nature's Big and Small

Dr. Natalia Rybczynski is a vertebrate paleontologist with the Canadian Museum of Nature and is extinct-high-arctic-camel- Julius-T-Csotonyiwell-acquainted with the Canadian High Arctic. She has led numerous expeditions into the area with the museum including three summer expeditions in 2006, 2008 and 2010 when she found 30 fossil fragments of a leg bone approximately three-and-a-half million years old.

"The first time I picked up a piece, I thought that it might be wood. It was only back at the field camp that I was able to ascertain it was not only bone, but also from a fossil mammal larger than anything we had seen so far from the deposits," said Rybczynski in a press release last week announcing the publication of the paper in Nature Communications that describes this giant mammal: a now extinct camel.

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Friday Creature Feature: Sea Lamprey

Posted by Samina Cabral
Samina Cabral
Samina Cabral is a native Southern Californian who now resides on the shores of
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on Friday, 01 March 2013
in Mother Nature's Big and Small

At right is a photo that first appeared over on Reddit. The photo was uploaded this month, about two sea-lamprey-redditweeks ago by a user named jlitch, and made the rounds on the Internet like all good horrifyingly confusing photos tend to do.

The human subject of the photo, probably some local fisherman out for a pleasure cruise in the eel-infested waters of New Jersey on a summer day, has speared what obviously looks to be a monster.

Those who were bored enough to question the authenticity of the photo crying “Photoshop!” did so while the rest of us hid under our beds clutching a butter knife, sad that we had no harpoon to defend ourselves against the monster. Jlitch posted another photo to prove the creature was real and that his friend was too.

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Florida SPCA Will Help Build Community Cat Cafes

Posted by Samina Cabral
Samina Cabral
Samina Cabral is a native Southern Californian who now resides on the shores of
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on Monday, 25 February 2013
in Mother Nature's Big and Small

Representatives from Florida Southern College (FSC) in Lakeland, Florida estimate a herd of 100 cat-cafe-SPCA Florida-FLWun-owned, free range cats live on the campus.  In an effort to control the cat population they are going to name each cat George and hug them and pet them and squeeze them. They will also feed them, build them little Frank Lloyd Wright (FLW) inspired houses, and then spay or neuter them.

SPCA Florida is partnering with the college and they have decided to call the houses Cat Cafes and because the FSC campus is apparently “home to the largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright designed building structures in the world”  they decided to stick with the FLW style. The cafes will blend seamlessly into the campus’s existing architecture. Between 1938 and 1955 Wright designed eighteen buildings for the college but only eleven were actually constructed.

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Friday Creature Feature: Giant Armadillo

Posted by Samina Cabral
Samina Cabral
Samina Cabral is a native Southern Californian who now resides on the shores of
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on Friday, 22 February 2013
in Mother Nature's Big and Small

It’s been a while since I have presented for your reading pleasure a creature of giant proportions. The last Giant-armadillo-in-captivitygiant creature we featured was a little over a month ago: the giant squid.

So without further ado let’s look at the giant armadillo (Priodontes maximus) obviously the largest of all armadillo species! Take that Texas with your regularly sized boring old nine-banded armadillo!

In Spanish the creature’s name is Armadillo Gigante and the word armadillo alone means “little armored one.” Does that mean its name is really: “giant little armored one?”

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A Laysan Albatross, World's Oldest-Known Bird, Gives Birth Again

Posted by Samina Cabral
Samina Cabral
Samina Cabral is a native Southern Californian who now resides on the shores of
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on Saturday, 16 February 2013
in Mother Nature's Big and Small

The average age of an albatross in the wild is 50 years but on Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge (NWR)wisdom-left-with-mate-laysan-albatross-Pete Leary-USFWS a Laysan albatross known as Wisdom is at least 62 years old and earlier this month she hatched a chick for the sixth consecutive year.

Bruce Peterjohn, chief of the North American Bird Banding Program at the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research in Maryland estimates that Wisdom, the bird in the left of the picture, has probably raised at least 30 to 35 chicks during her breeding life maybe even more.

A female albatross can only lay one egg a year and then a significant portion of that twelve month period is taken up incubating and raising the chick. Sometimes an albatross will take a year off from laying an egg if they have raised a chicks consecutively. Wisdom however must be a really good mom because she has nested every year since 2008.

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Friday Creature Feature: Yelkouan Shearwater

Posted by Samina Cabral
Samina Cabral
Samina Cabral is a native Southern Californian who now resides on the shores of
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on Friday, 08 February 2013
in Mother Nature's Big and Small

On Sunday I mentioned the “clumsy” Yelkouan Shearwater: a seabird and one of our winged friends whoseElsa-Bonnaud-Yelkouan-Shearwater population is at risk because of the predatory nature of cats-who unlike the untold number of fat robins, bright cardinals, and plucky blue jays I see in our yard who look like they have never been threatened by a cat in their lives.

Not to mention the Canada geese who like the Yelkouan Shearwater, make their nests on the ground.  Canada geese seem to prefer the sides of busy roads and highways and the Yelkouan Shearwater prefers caves or islets.

Despite sharing nesting preferences, Canada geese are thriving (to the point of annoyance) and the Yelkouan Shearwater was recently uplisted on the IUCN Red List from “near threatened” to “vulnerable.”

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A Tale of Two Dogs

Posted by Samina Cabral
Samina Cabral
Samina Cabral is a native Southern Californian who now resides on the shores of
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on Tuesday, 05 February 2013
in Mother Nature's Big and Small

At right is a picture of a dog named O.D. that I am currently dog-sitting. There is nothing remarkable dog-of-the-north-ODBabout O.D. He’s a mutt a friend pulled off the mean streets of Northeast Ohio. He’s well-trained, intelligent, obedient, and is an excellent passenger in the car but he has a few bad manners. He’ll pull food out of your hand when you’re not looking, he likes to sneak onto the couch for a nap, and when he drinks out of his bowl more water lands on the floor than he gets in his mouth.

O.D. looks like someone stuck a labrador head on the body of a dachshund. It would makes sense if O.D. is part dachshund because last week when I was collecting information about groundhogs I played an audio clip of a groundhog whistling and O.D. went nuts over it. He threw himself at the door wanting to go out and get this phantom groundhog even though there was nothing out in the yard accept for five inches of snow.

The American Kennel Clubs says: “Dachshunds were first bred in the early 1600s in Germany. The goal was to create a fearless, elongated dog that could dig the earth from a badger burrow and fight to the death with the vicious badgers.”

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Save a Bird and Keep Your Cat Indoors

Posted by Samina Cabral
Samina Cabral
Samina Cabral is a native Southern Californian who now resides on the shores of
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on Sunday, 03 February 2013
in Mother Nature's Big and Small

We want our chickens free-range but not our cats.tiger-cat-katymystiry-mfile

Last week the Internet was buzzing about cats (more so than usual) when a study was published in the journal Nature that said cats are assassins. Cats are responsible for killing an estimated 1.4 to 3.7 billion birds and between 6.9 and 20.7 billion mammals annually.  The study said beloved house cats are not to be held completely responsible for the killings.

Not everyone is happy about the data presented in the paper called: “The impact of free-ranging domestic cats on wildlife of the United States.”

"This study is part of a continuing propaganda campaign to vilify cats," said Becky Robinson, the president and co-founder of Alley Cat Allies, a national advocacy organization based in Maryland that is dedicated to the protection and humane treatment of cats. The statement called the study “biased” and a “a veiled promotion by bird advocates to ramp up the mass killing of outdoor cats.”

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Friday Creature Feature: Groundhogs

Posted by Samina Cabral
Samina Cabral
Samina Cabral is a native Southern Californian who now resides on the shores of
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on Friday, 01 February 2013
in Mother Nature's Big and Small

Tomorrow is Groundhog Day. Here is a photo of some “Groundhog Day Revelers” on a February 2nd from groundhog-phil-i-can-hazan unspecified year. One reveler is holding a sign that says “PHIL” so they could be Phil Jackson, Dr. Phil, or Phil Simms enthusiasts or just students from a local Pennsylvania university who thought they were at a sporting event.

A groundhog couldn’t read that sign but tomorrow a groundhog is going use its shadow to tell us if winter, the most awful time of the year will continue for six more weeks, or if spring will arrive early. You can think of the groundhog as an honorary member of NOAA.

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Friday Creature Feature: The Tapir

Posted by Samina Cabral
Samina Cabral
Samina Cabral is a native Southern Californian who now resides on the shores of
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on Friday, 25 January 2013
in Mother Nature's Big and Small

Lowland tapirs, like the yaks featured last week, are making a comeback due to conservation efforts. The tapir-Mileniusz Spanowics-WCStapir is still listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List though and are still affected by habitat loss and low reproductive rate: a single birth every 2-3 years and they only live for about 30 years.

Researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Study looked at the tapir population in a network of five remote national parks along the border of northwestern Bolivia and southeastern Peru in South America. Using a combination of camera traps, interviews with park guards, and subsistence hunters, the researchers estimated at least 14,500 lowland tapirs in the region.

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The Howler Monkeys in Veracruz are Stressed Out

Posted by Samina Cabral
Samina Cabral
Samina Cabral is a native Southern Californian who now resides on the shores of
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on Wednesday, 23 January 2013
in Mother Nature's Big and Small

There is a reason why after listening to a focus group an unknown corporation somewhere coined thehowler-monkey-Arturo-Gonzalez-Zamora phrase “one-stop shopping” because having to visit more than a couple of stores in a day for the things you need can stress you out.  

You hear the plea from friends and relatives all the time: “I just want to go in, get what I need, and get out.” When did going to the store for cereal and coffee turn into an expedition on par with fighting your way into a jungle to retrieve the artifacts of a lost civilization? We have choices though and that’s what makes being a human so nice.

But you know who doesn’t have a choice when it comes to where they get their food? The endangered howler monkeys living in the fragmented forests of Mexico.

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Friday Creature Feature: Yaks

Posted by Samina Cabral
Samina Cabral
Samina Cabral is a native Southern Californian who now resides on the shores of
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on Friday, 18 January 2013
in Mother Nature's Big and Small

“Wild yaks are icons for the remote, untamed, high-elevation roof of the world,” said Joel Berger, who led Bos-grunniens-Letdar-on-Annapurna-Circuit-flickran expedition for the Wildlife Conservation Society and the University of Montana. “While polar bears represent a sad disclaimer for a warming Arctic, the recent count of almost 1,000 wild yaks offers hope for the persistence of free-roaming large animals at the virtual limits of high-altitude wildlife.”

Berger and a team of scientists from China and America took a census of the yak population in a rugged and remote area called Hoh Xil in China: a nature reserve about the size of West Virginia. In Mongolian the name means “blue ridge” or “beautiful girl” and no matter what you want to call the place, it’s were the wild yak (Bos mutus) makes its home.

They counted 990 yaks to be exact and they are excited about what this new data might mean: the yak population is now flourishing because of conservation efforts.

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NOAA Continues to Fight IUU Fishing

Posted by Samina Cabral
Samina Cabral
Samina Cabral is a native Southern Californian who now resides on the shores of
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on Sunday, 13 January 2013
in Mother Nature's Big and Small

On Friday NOAA submitted a mandated biennial report to Congress that identified 10 nations that hadfresh-fish fishing vessels engaged in illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing in 2011/2012. A few of these countries weren’t doing enough to prevent the unintended catch (bycatch) of protected species last year. The report is a part of the High Seas Driftnet Fishing Moratorium Protection Act.

The U.S. will start work with or continue where they may have left off after the 2011 report with these 10 nations: Colombia, Ecuador, Italy, Venezuela, Panama, the Republic of Korea, Spain, Tanzania, Ghana, and Mexico. Portugal and the five countries listed above in italics have corrected some of their IUU issues with new laws and regulations.

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Friday Creature Feature: Giant Squid

Posted by Samina Cabral
Samina Cabral
Samina Cabral is a native Southern Californian who now resides on the shores of
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on Friday, 11 January 2013
in Mother Nature's Big and Small

A handful of still images that give us a glimpse of a 10 foot giant squid have been circulating on the giant-squid-Tsunemi-Kubodera-National-Science-Museum-of-Japan-AP-2006Internet and they are definitely real.

The thought of a giant squid is terrifying and fascinating and the images are from a video taken 2,000 feet below the North Pacific Ocean about 260 miles south of Tokyo with a special camera called a Medusa by a team of scientists.

The actual video footage will air on the Discovery Channel’s Monster Squid: The Giant Is Real on January 27th and a Japanese television station will air the footage this weekend. Thanks to the wonders of the Internet we may be treated to some bootleg footage of the Japanese airing but until then let’s take a look at this marine creature of mythical proportions.

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Friday Creature Feature: Western Long-Beaked Echidna

Posted by Samina Cabral
Samina Cabral
Samina Cabral is a native Southern Californian who now resides on the shores of
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on Friday, 04 January 2013
in Mother Nature's Big and Small

There are only five egg-laying species of mammals in the world and of the five species three of those are Long beaked Echidna wikilong-beaked echidna: the Western, Eastern, and Sir David Attenborough's because what species is complete without a nod to the beloved naturalist?

The western long-beaked echidna (Zaglossus bruijnii) differs slightly from other echidna: it has three instead of four claws on all its feet, larger than its short-beaked relatives at 36 pounds and are likened to the size of beach-balls. They prefer to root out earthworms for sustenance, rather than ants and termites, with their long downward turning tubular snout. Its spiny covering, like a porcupine or hedgehog is basically indistinguishable from the long, coarse muddy colored fur that also covers its body.

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1944: Camano Class Light Cargo Ship was laid down for the US Army as FS-289 at Wheeler Shipbuilding in Whitestone, NY.

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1945: Delivered to US Army.

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1950: Acquired by the US Navy on July 1, 1950 and placed in service as USNS New Bedford (T-AKL-17).

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1954: The movie, Mister Roberts, was made on the USNS New Bedford (T-AKL-17).

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1955 - 1963: Used as a cargo supply ship for the Texas Towers, a network of advanced radar stations located off the Eastern Seaboard. In 1957, Capt. Sixto Mangual was commander of the AKL-17 and in 1961 it was rechristened the USNS New Bedford. The New Bedford, sailing out of State Pier, was keeping vigil when Texas Tower No. 4 callapsed off the New Jersey coast during a January 1961 nor'easter.

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1963: Reclassified as Miscellaneous Unclassified (IX-308).

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1971: The New Bedford (IX-308) served as a Torpedo Test Firing Vessel in the Puget Sound area.

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1994: Ceremony in New Bedford.

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1995: The ship was struck from the Naval Register on April 4.

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2004: The Sea Bird's current disposition is a tuna long liner (fishing boat) out of San Diego, CA.

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2006: Design of the Tesla Turbine began on June 11, 2006. The Sea Bird was sold by Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service for commercial service.

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2007: The Sea Bird was drydocked for renovations.

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2008: The Sea Bird setting sail to Sea-Tac in Seattle, WA.

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2009 - 2010: The Sea Bird is currently docked at Seattle Sea-Tac.

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