Life and death unfolds at an alarming rate here on Petit Manan Island. Thousands of eggs hatch every summer. At the peak of the season, Common Terns, Arctic Terns, Atlantic Puffins, and Black Guillemots (just to name a few) can be found on almost every surface and in every crevice on the island. But a whole host of predators are fully aware of this phenomenon – in June, PMI is ripe with adult birds, chicks, and eggs all ready for the picking. Peregrine Falcons, Bald Eagles, Harriers, Greater Black-backed Gulls, Herring Gulls, and Laughing Gulls are just a few of the predators that have already found a few meals on PMI this summer.
In all this madness and mayhem, the research team is trying to get a gauge on the effects of predation on some of the species nesting on the island – especially Arctic and Common Terns. How many eggs are being laid and how many are being predated for each species? With several hundred nests already established, it’s a little difficult to keep track of such details! So over the years, the Refuge staff has devised a method of labeling nests with small wooden stakes – more commonly known as Popsicle sticks!
While observing the tern colony from the blinds scattered around the island, whenever we notice a nest we place a Popsicle stick (which we paint purple so that we can easily spot it on the ground) nearby that indicates the stake number, the date that the nest was discovered, the tern species, and the number of eggs in the nest. As that number changes (because more eggs are laid or because of a predation event), we update the stakes accordingly. At the end of the season we use this data to calculate success rates for each species.
The stakes will also come in handy when we do the big island-wide census, which is coming up soon! Check back for updates!