Daily bird walks are conducted at 7am, where we identify every bird we observe by sight or sound. So far, we have documented 37 bird species on Ship Island. Below are a few photos of the new species saw this week, including Common Yellowthroat, Wilson’s Warbler, and Black-throated Green Warbler.

The last few days we have been intensively pulling garlic mustard. Garlic mustard is an invasive weed that grows in what seems to be large clusters here on Ship Island. We have scoured the island, pulling all of the flowering plants and spraying the base as well as the rosettes with vinegar. Our efforts over the last two days have filled 7 large trash bags.


Olivia pulling garlic mustard

Today, we spent a few hours over on Bar Island to document a shell midden found two years ago. On the island we searched for any sign of mammalian predators, finding very few raccoon tracks and scat. While walking the beach we also found a Lion’s Mane jellyfish that had washed up in the tide.

We look forward to the nesting season and hope to find eggs within the next few days!

Your 2018 Ship Island Crew                                                                                                                  ~Olivia and Bailey


IMG_2959The first week on Metinic Island is complete, and what a week it has been! We’ve found the first common eider, black guillemot, spotted sandpiper and savannah sparrow nests. The terns are settling onto the island, and hopefully we’ll have our first nests this weekend. And migration is still going strong!

We thought we should introduce ourselves briefly before we get too distracted telling you about the birds we’ve seen. Nick began birding when he was 6 years old and has just finished his first year at the University of Maine, where he is studying wildlife ecology and forest recreation management. Nora has spent the last three years at Humboldt State University, CA, where she completed a master’s degree in wildlife, studying survival in snowy plovers.


Migration on the island has been spectacular. In the last week, we’ve recorded 111 species, including 18 species of warbler. Highlights have included a pair of harlequin ducks, cape may warblers, bay-breasted warblers, yellow-breasted chat and male Baltimore oriole. On the morning walk, there can be 20 birds in a single tree, and vireos feeding in the bay berry bushes. It can be deafening to listen to all the birds singing at once. There are times when northern parula, red-eyed vireos, (myrtle) yellow-rumped warblers, and American redstarts are in a single tree.


When we aren’t looking at birds, we are working to improve the habitat for the terns. We’ve caught nine common garter snakes that have been released on the mainland. We catch the snakes and harass gulls in the colony because they prey on tern eggs. As migration continues and the terns begin laying eggs, we look forward to sharing more of our adventures with you!

-Nick and Nora

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I have been bird watching in Maine for 4 years now. For the past 3 years, I have taken a number of boat trips out around Petit Manan Island (PMI) to see the puffins, razorbills, guillemots, and terns. It had always been so exciting to see the little flying footballs we know and love as puffin skimming by the boat, seeing the razorbills relaxing on the rocks, and the terns making their usual ruckus as they fish around the island.  Whenever I was on one of these trips, excitement grew as that beautiful lighthouse became closer and closer. This year, I’ve made the trip out to PMI once again, but as a field technician for Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge. All the familiar faces I loved seeing are back again but now the interactions will be different. Instead of viewing them from the boat like in years past, now I can see them from the top of the lighthouse tower, or from my bedroom window, or in a more intimate manner; from the blinds. It is always an amazing feeling to watch these beautiful birds. Alongside the viewing, I will be interacting with the birds in a whole new way! This year I will assist in the banding of chicks, fledglings and adults so we can monitor the population’s survival rates through the re-sighting of these bands. I will also aide in food provisioning surveys to see what the adults are feeding the chicks. I’ll be monitoring the hatching and fledgling rates as well. All of the data that will come from these projects ultimately help the biologists here at Maine Coastal Island National Wildlife Refuge make decisions that in turn, will keep these beautiful birds here in Maine.

Thank you all for reading about MCINWR! Till next post,


We are excited to be coming to you from Ship Island, a 11 acre island owned by Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge. The island will be our home for the next three months. We would like to introduce ourselves and share a little about the experiences that have led us here.


Your 2018 Ship Island Crew: Bailey and Olivia


As a Minnesota girl with a passion for wildlife and photography, I am loving the beauty of the Maine Coast! I am excited for the opportunity to be living on Ship Island for the summer, expanding my knowledge and experience as an Island Supervisor. Previously, I have worked with the Kittlitz’s Murrelet on Kodiak Island, Alaska – Steller’s Eider, Spectacled Eider, King Eider, and Long-tailed Duck in Barrow, Alaska – as well as Bighorn Sheep, Bobcats, and Merriam’s Wild Turkey in Custer, South Dakota. I plan to attend graduate school to become a Wildlife Biologist.


This Thursday was the start of many firsts for me. My first field job, my first time living on an island, my first time relying on solar power, and my first time living with no running water. Last summer, I worked as an education intern at Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center located in Scarborough, Maine. While at the marsh, I spent most of my time observing birds and am very excited to expand my knowledge on other bird species. Since arriving on the Island, I have already encountered my first Black Guillemot, Black Scoter, American Coot, Black-bellied Plover and Savannah Sparrow. The terns have been coming back and forth periodically throughout the day, but I am looking forward to them staying their first night with us. I am excited to learn more about these beautiful birds and can’t wait to find out what the rest of the season has in store!


The Home Stretch

The season is winding down here on Petit Manan Island, but there is still much to do before the rest of the crew leaves! While we have begun deconstructing our observation blinds, most of our terns have left and begun their migration to the Southern Hemisphere! Common terns will migrate to South America, while Arctic terns will end their migration in Antarctica. It can be assumed that Common terns winter in Argentina and Brazil, as we had some birds with their bands nesting on PMI. However, we are excited to see the exact migration route and destination of our 5 satellite nano-tagged Common terns!

Despite the terns leaving, we still have our hands full with other birds. We’ve been quite successful in our puffin trapping efforts! We use box traps with a see-saw top and one peg in the side of the box. When the puffins walk onto the side without the peg, the top tips and you have yourself a puffin! Crew members sit in a blind and watch carefully to minimize the time and stress on the puffin inside the box. After measurements are taken and they are banded (if they aren’t already), we release them back to the sea.


Puffins showing some interest in one of our box traps. 

We’ve also been monitoring Leach’s Storm Petrel productivity by determining the activity of sod burrows all over the island. Burrow scopes come in handy to look inside them because most burrows are too small to be grubbed by hand. We also play Leach’s Storm Petrel calls to hear callbacks from potentially active burrows. When possible, we take out adults and chicks to band them!


One of our Leach’s Storm Petrel chicks (Ziggy) has grown quite a bit over the past couple weeks!

This may come as a surprise to some of you, but poop has become very handy to us lately. We collect fecal samples from tern chicks, puffin chicks, and adult puffins. Afterwards, a lab will process them and based on DNA in the fecal matter, we will know what exactly the birds have been eating. In addition to our provisioning data, this is helpful in determining what species of fish are making up the birds diet.


One method of collecting fecal samples, wrapping foil around chicks and waiting patiently. This puffin chick looks like the world’s cutest burrito!

It’s our last week here, and we can’t believe the season is coming to an end already! I’m going to miss all of the amazing creatures that inhabit this island, but more than that, I’m going to miss the crew that gave me an awesome experience for my first field job. They’re truly wonderful people and make the work so much fun.

~Jennalie Lutes



Tern Down For What?

So much has happened since our last blog post!

All summer, I have been telling Ravin and the refuge staff that all I wanted to do was see one puffin while in Maine.  I was not disappointed to say the least.  Last week, Ravin and I were taken off Metinic for a day of puffin grubbing on Seal Island.  As we unloaded the boat, we were greeted by large congregations of puffins, razorbills and guillemots swimming in the water.  Puffins burrow similar to guillemots, but they prefer larger rocks to burrow under.  It was truly a unique experience handling and banding such an iconic Maine bird.



My first grubbed puffin!

One thing that is unique to Metinic Island is that we have neighbors!  A lobster fisherman and his wife own a house about 400 meters from our house, and they were so kind to check on us a few times during the season.  The day after puffin grubbing, we came back to the cabin from a feeding study stint to find that they had left us a large bucket of crab claws and 2 large lobsters.  We had a great dinner that night, and lunch the next day!

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Our last day on Metinic

Both tern and guillemot productivity plots have done really well this season.  Very few chicks died, and most of the terns already fledged! As we reached our final days on the island, the terns have quickly been decreasing in numbers.  Many of them have begun their migration, and now it is our turn.  Ravin and I are spending our first full day on the mainland today, and we already miss these spunky little birds and the island that we called home for a short 11 weeks.




We’re down to our final day on Ship Island. This week was filled with all of that picking-up and sorting-out craziness that comes with closing down an island. We’ve done a lot of work from taking down the blinds, provisioning plots, mink and owl traps, to cleaning up the cabin, to entering last minute data into our spreadsheets, and more.

Being on Ship was a completely new experience for me. This summer was my first time working with seabirds and I’ve learned SO much about them as well as many of the other breeding species we see almost on a daily basis (e.g. Common Eiders, Spotted Sandpipers, Double-crested Cormorants, Peregrine Falcons, sparrows, warblers, Harbor Seals, and more). Not only this, but I learned a ton of new field work techniques. Here I got to do lots of “firsts.” I got to help diminish an invasive plant species from the island, re-capture my first bird, re-sight my first bird, band my first chick, saw over 50 species that were new to me, and the list goes on and on.

Living on an island was definitely an interesting yet exciting adventure, and it was surprisingly much easier to get used to the “island life” than I thought. I can say that I’ll miss it at times. There’s something about the quiet nights, sunsets, and escape from all the busyness back on the mainland that makes it special. I’ve also learned to never take my warm showers, cozy bed, and tasty dinners back at home for granted, that’s for sure.


View of Ship Island from one of the blinds


As for our terns, we’re seeing more fledglings every day and still even some newly hatched chicks. We’ve continued our predator control efforts up until the very last minute. It’s especially important now that we have chicks because they’re an easy catch if they’re not hidden well in the vegetation. It seems that the peregrine is coming more frequently because of this. Sometimes we see it over 4 times in one day!


Common Terns hangin’ out

It’s been an eventful year on Ship, and it’s sad to see it come to an end. Soon our terns will be departing for their long southern migration and will return again next spring! Hopefully next year there will be less disturbance and more chicks! Thanks for letting me share our research and island experiences with you, and thanks for reading!



One of our last sunsets on Ship!