Good news is our terns have settled in more heavily and are starting to look more like a bustling colony, our newly white-stained attire from Friday was quick proof of that. Unfortunately then as we got ready to start the bulk of monitoring tasks for them, this weekend’s storms rolled in to thwart all that. 

Since it’s still early in the egg laying stages, the break isn’t an issue and there was no need to disturb the colony anymore beyond a couple quick jaunts out to stop some incoming sheep and a few concerning gulls and ravens hovering over the eider ducklings getting thrashed about by the waves in North Cove. This was the crews first quintessential ‘stuck inside during a seabird season’ moment as we each tried to make use of the hours tucked inside the cabin by the fire all day. There was the assortment of reading, rearranging, crocheting, drawing, and talking about our food orders we are patiently waiting for in the next few days.

As is with every island storm, something seems to have to get blown about by the wind and this time it was sections of the snake drift fence coming unstapled from its stakes. Quick repair was made to hold it in the meantime but we’ll have to wait until things clear to patch it fully and rebury the base but the hope is not too many snakes will be moving about given how cold and wet it is. 

Prior to the stormy weather, we’ve been seeing plenty of life in terms of shorebirds using the island both to breed and for stop overs on their migration further north. Early last week I noticed the Killdeer pair we’ve consistently seen had started suddenly acting rather suspicious. After crouching in the raspberry patch for a few minutes, I was able to see why. With each adult alarm calling from different areas of the berm it was hard to locate the source why until one flew down to usher two tiny fluff balls out and away from a driftwood log letting them know the coast was clear for the time being. They were my first Killdeer chicks and boy are they cuties!

Newly hatched Killdeer chick doing its best to hide.

They happened to be right around where I had previously noted a potential Spotted Sandpiper nest and after quick inspection there was a nicely hidden nest of four eggs placed between a few little sprigs of greenery. If things have gone well for the male incubating them they could hatch any day now but ideally not until after things dry out a little. Killdeers may be cute but nothing tops a new little bobble-butt (Spotted Sandpipers characteristically bob their rear end up and down).

Our nonbreeding attendees have included several groups of Black-bellied Plovers and Ruddy Turnstones along with selected visits by Short-billed Dowitcher, Greater Yellowlegs, Willet, a Dunlin, and Least, Semipalmated, and Purple Sandpipers. One of our supplemental tasks over the course of the season is documenting what species of shorebirds and how many of them use Metinic each year so we’re always on lookout for who’s visiting and are awaiting the many more coming as fall migration eventually turns back around.  

Two plump Purple Sandpipers hanging out in the intertidal before continuing their migration north.

With more news of terns soon,

Metinic Island crew leader Ryan Potter

Sunset over the Common Tern Colony

Hello again from Ship Island. Since our last correspondence, the terns have continued to lay increasingly more nests. We have surpassed our ability to accurately track numbers with ~800 terns who laid 300 or more nests. Despite the great progress in the colony, a mysterious egg thief has been wreaking havoc and stole ten of our marked nests. The identity of the predator remains strangely unknown, considering all the time we spend observing the colony. I personally suspect it is likely a sneaky gull from one of the nearby islands or the pair of Laughing Gulls that visit occasionally. The good news is no recent nests have been swiped by the thief as we continue to remain vigilant for the presence of intruders.

While Ship is known for its tern colony, there are also some other less charismatic nesting species we can find on the island. While surveying the island, picking invasive plants, and flagging rocks, I have also been searching for other nests. These nests take a great deal of patience to find as they are surprisingly well concealed. The Spotted Sandpipers (nest pictured below) place their nests along slopes above the rocky beaches. The pattern on these eggs almost resembles tern eggs when not shown to scale (sandpiper eggs are much smaller and differently shaped).

Savannah and Song Sparrows construct a small nest made of twigs in the grassy uplands. These nests are most often not visible in plain sight, being below dense vegetation. In order to locate cryptic songbird nests, one can observe areas where birds habitually frequent and where they carry nesting material/food. The image below is a Song Sparrow nest found beneath a tall patch of cow parsnip.

As I write this, we are undergoing a spell of high winds and rain. This gives us plenty of time to write the blog and catch up on data entry. This is the ideal time for us as once we reach peak incubation, we will be busy with many other tasks. So, for now, the terns are bunkered down incubating and all is at a standstill. It is almost eerie not hearing the constant calls of the colony to which I have become accustomed.

Until next time,

-Aidan Colligan

Howdy all!

As we reach our final weeks of May we welcome our seabird friends back to Maine. And with that comes yet another wonderful seabird season of fun. The birds are out and about, with lots of Atlantic Puffin eggs nestled within our rocky shores. The Terns are also rocking it and settling down for the season. Just yesterday we had our first Common tern egg (yay!!).

Now you may be asking yourself, who is writing this? A ghost of lighthouse past!? Sadly, the answer is no (maybe someday I’ll catch the ghost). I do think introductions are in order, so here is the PMI 2023 crew part 1!

Amanda McFarland

A very well behaved Razorbill chick almost ready for sea from 2022.

Hello again! To some loyal readers I may be a familiar face. I was an intern on the 2020 crew and now returning as the Island supervisor for 2023! I am truly honored and excited to be back out here! I have spent the last few summers on seabird colonies in Maine while finishing up my undergraduate studies at the University of Maine in Orono. Obviously I love seabirds, but I also have a passion for public outreach so feel free to ask questions! I am a local Mainer and have grown up around the ocean. Other than being a seabird squeezer, I love birding, crocheting, and reading. I look forward to keeping you all updated on the happenings on this special island.

Devin Leal

The final little buddy caught and banded for the Oregon Marbled Murrelet Project.

Hiya seabird friends! I’m Devin and I come from the other Portland, and I am so excited to finally spend some time on the East coast. I am a biology nerd that found my way to seabirds via a long and windy route that included a stint interning with sharks where I found myself roping my friends into watching the Least Terns in our free time. I’ve hopped around the continent following the birds, from Alaska, Oregon, Florida, and now Maine and I have no desire to stop! If Amanda is the PMI seabird squeezer, I could be considered the local seabird peeper. I like watching the birds from the windows, traveling, and tickling sharks if I’m not playing with birbs 🙂

Stay tuned for more introductions (spoiler: we have more familiar faces coming soon) and seabird news! We promise to keep yall updated to the best of our ability and hope to have an awesome summer!

From our shores to yours!

-PMI Crew

Hello, all! My name is Adrianna, one of the seabird technicians living and working on Metinic Island during summer 2023. I arrived here nearly three weeks ago, and if these first weeks are any indicator of the rest of the season, then I bet it will be a great one. My time here has already been full of birds, birds, and more birds. Did I mention that there’s lots of birds here?

The first week was jam packed with birding, interspersed, of course, among the various tasks necessary to get the island in working order. Morning walks in the forest proved very productive. One day in particular resulted in 17 species of warbler in addition to Baltimore Oriole, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, a Wood Thrush, and flycatchers (see the full list of birds here). Only a few weeks in, we’ve already documented around 120 species. I’ve had a lot of personal firsts since coming here. Many of the seabirds nesting here, like Arctic Tern and Black Guillemot, are new for me and I am thrilled to get to work closely with these species. I had an up-close encounter with my first Leach’s Storm-Petrel that we found while searching for their burrows. Just this morning I saw my first ever Razorbill.

We’ve already encountered plenty of birds beginning their breeding season. The Gray Catbirds and Common Yellowthroats sing constantly, and we have seen several species carrying nesting material. A few days ago, I found a Savannah Sparrow nest of five speckled eggs neatly hidden in a tuft of grass. My personal favorite breeding bird encounter came from a strange yet intriguing species – the American Woodcock. Ever since the first night we arrived, the woodcocks, sometimes called “timberdoodles”, have been calling and displaying, strutting their stuff for the ladies. After the sun sets, they spring into action. The males utter buzzy “peent” calls from the ground. Shortly after, they burst upwards into flight, their wings emitting an odd twittering sound as they traverse the dusk sky. After which, they drop back down to the ground and begin the cycle all over again. All of this activity made me suspect that they were breeding on Metinic. The next week, I was walking through the forest as we corralled the resident sheep to the south end of the island. While pushing through the thick understory, a woodcock flushed at my feet. Nearby, a lemon-sized chick sat motionless on the ground. It was a shock to find since they are masters of camouflage. Seeing the yellow-and-black, down-covered chick was a treat!

American Woodcock chick found in the forest.

Speaking of treats, we were also pleasantly surprised to get a care package last week with our latest food delivery. Friends of Maine Coastal Islands NWR member Carol sent us homemade vegan granola and muffins. Thank you, Carol! This was a welcomed surprise. As someone who cooks 99% of her meals in the microwave (and who is currently living on an island that is dreadfully devoid of any microwaves), a delicious, crunchy treat was exactly what I needed.

Birds aren’t the only critters I’ve been pursuing since I’ve been here. As a moth fanatic, I was eager to see what species are present on the island. The MCINWR staff have been very gracious in allowing me to conduct a moth survey on Metinic this summer. Surveys are a breeze. Each moth that comes to the trap at night is photographed then released to go about its nocturnal business per usual. One of my favorite finds is a three-inch-long apple sphinx moth. So far, moth numbers have been low, but I suspect that will change as the weather warms. Along with the warming temperatures comes the butterflies. American Coppers, a penny-sized butterfly with slaty gray hindwings and orange forewings, frequently sun themselves along the ATV trail, adding a bit of color to our daily walks.

Apple Sphinx moth found during a moth survey.

I’m excited to see what plants and animals pop up in the next few weeks. More updates to come!

Happy birding,


Last week saw our field crew grow to full strength finally as Mitchell arrived Wednesday after a short stint helping out on PMI. As I was quite actually writing this blog, Mitchell came in to announce that our first tern eggs for the season have finally arrived! This is a few days behind what previous seasons have seen so in the meantime we had been busy knocking off tasks for other species that nest across Metinic. 

First on deck was installing a 300’ silt fence across the neck to North Point to try and impede any garter snakes drifting down from the hillside towards the tern colony. By adding a few ‘hot spots’ at each end using black plastic sheeting, the aim is to encourage snakes to seek the warmth underneath where we can more easily check to find and remove them to be translocated back to the mainland.

An almost straight drift fence to impede snake access to the tern colony.

Yesterday we completed the second half of our gull census for the north end of the island where we found 120 total nests, a slight down tick from what was found last year. Given the concern of gull predation on tern eggs and chicks, fewer gulls nesting closer to the tern colony could be a positive sign to reduced chances of predation although there are still plenty more gulls nesting on the southern half of the island outside our survey area. 

In between census sweeps we started the bulk of our first check of Leach’s storm-petrel burrows having found 130 potential burrows thus far and our first recorded eggs! Many of the burrows have been empty though but the hope is that petrels are still settling in as we’ve heard plenty of them each night. We’ll finish checking a tight pocket of burrows in the northwest corner of the forest this afternoon before conducting a couple night surveys to pinpoint where birds are nesting under the rock walls stretched across the hillside. 

Last on the list before we start to get heavily underway with tern productivity is our first round of black guillemot crevice checks to mark where they’re setting up shop along the rocky shoreline and a few scattered debris piles. Our morning counts for the area around North Point have routinely turned up 80 to 100 adults on the water so ideally there will be plenty of nests to find plus those along the western shoreline outside of our view area. 

More to come soon and until then, happy holiday weekend everyone. 

Memorial Day Weekend sunset from North Cove.

– Ryan Potter 

View of Mount Desert Island from the Eider Blind.

Greetings, this is Aidan from Ship Island. I am thrilled to be working here with this special and hopefully successful tern colony. My undergraduate degree is in Wildlife Biology, and I have worked with various bird, turtle, and conservation projects since then. This is my first field season in a tern colony, although I worked with seabirds in Alaska two years ago.

After a delay in getting here, I am now settled into the pace of life on this quaint isle. While the terns have resided here for a few weeks, their numbers and nesting behavior have fluctuated greatly. We believe this is due to the cold winds that have pummeled us for the last week. The good news is we have observed little predator activity and no terns taken by any of the Eagles, Merlins, Northern Harriers, or Peregrines seen.

On May 26th, we were excited to find our first tern eggs on the morning bird survey. Later in the day, we found nine more eggs that the terns laid in the colony in only a few hours. The following day the number of terns in the colony quadrupled, and we had discovered over 40 nests. This means that our nesting season will be in full swing soon. The variation in just these eggs is fascinating, with eggs of various shapes and colors. I am hoping this colony has a productive year with a record number of chicks!

A pair of Common Tern eggs!

Hello! My name is Owen — I am the other technician on Ship Island this summer. I can honestly say I never expected to be here, but I’m glad I am. I’m from Wisconsin (which couldn’t be further from either ocean) and I got my undergrad degree in forestry from UW-Madison. Because there are no trees here on Ship, thanks to the brown tail moths. I’m happy about my previous bird experience! Last summer, I spent time in northern California researching Spotted Owls. The summer before that, I was in western Wisconsin banding songbirds. But my experience on Ship Island will carry many “firsts”: First time visiting the northeastern part of the country, first time swimming in the Atlantic Ocean (it was not warm), first time working with seabirds, seeing an Atlantic Puffin, using solar power, and living without running water. I can guarantee more firsts will come as the season progresses! 

These first two weeks, our day-to-day has revolved around removing the pesky garlic mustard that has taken over the island and waiting in growing anticipation for the common terns to settle in and start laying even more! The friendly and knowledgeable staff my partner and I have met here at MCINWR comfort me as we start the voyage towards learning more about these awesome birds. (Get it? Voyage? Ship…?) 

2023 Metinic Welcome

Greetings from two-thirds of the Metinic Island crew for the 2023 field season! For any long-time blog followers, my name may sound familiar as I was fortunate enough to work on Petite Manan Island in 2021 and am happy to be back to lead the crew here on Metinic this summer. Field technician Adrianna and I arrived just over a week ago and are expecting to be joined by our third crew mate Mitchell next week after a quick stint helping on PMI to kick off their season. 

As is always the case with the start of a field season, there has been plenty of things to take care of, learn up on, and some ‘down time’ as we wait for the terns to settle in and start nesting. Since our arrival, we helped round up the island’s resident flock of sheep away from the colony back to their summer grounds on the south half of the island as well as set up bird blinds, prep garter snake sun tarps, and conduct our first daily counts of guillemots, eiders, and gulls around North Point. 

View over North Point on Metinic Island.

Already from day one I’ve fallen back into the cycle of waking up to watch the glimmer of the sun rising over the Atlantic as the first couple hundred terns arrive and circle above the colony as they build up numbers before they’ll eventually settle down. During the early hours there’s always a keen eye out to spot any potential predators that may be a concern for the season and we have already seen merlin, a peregrine falcon, and several corvids make their presence known around the colony. 

Apart from seabirds, given Metinic’s size and variable landscape with its notable spruce forest, Adrianna and I (along with Deputy Refuge Manager Eddy Edwards who stayed our first night with us to show us the ropes) have been attempting to document the many other birds migrating past the island on their way north for their breeding seasons. It’s not often in a seabird colony that you can have the chance to go out in the morning and watch hundreds of warblers, finches, tanagers, and orioles take a much-needed break and meal before carrying on off along the coastline. On eBird’s Global Big Day May 13th, we recorded 87 species across the island including two black-skimmers which is no short day here by any means!

We’ll certainly have more to update you on soon but merely wanted to make your acquaintance while we wait for things to really get rolling!

An island greeting, 

Ryan Potter  

Hello from Rachel on Ship Island! This will be the last blog post as the season is coming to an end. It feels like just yesterday that we were dropped off of the boat onto this little island. Time does fly! I remember how excited I was just to see the few terns that started to show up in May versus now. There seems to be juveniles left and right when looking into the colony, and I am glad to know that it is due to the fantastic success this colony has had this breeding season! It warms my heart as well to know that these youngsters will join their parents soon on their journey back across the vast sea, and that we had some part in all of that. From chasing seagulls, geese, and falcons like crazy loons (sorry loons!), to weeding TONS of vegetation to make the perfect nesting areas, I can only hope that our efforts to give these chicks the best chance possible has helped this species thrive here on Ship. I never knew how much went into a successful seabird colony, and with the knowledge I have now, I must say that these seabirds are incredibly resilient, and I am thankful to have spent the season in their midst. It is a bittersweet goodbye! I will miss their incessant calling, and their goofy mannerisms. I wish them the best in their migration, and I hope if I ever return to Blue Hill Bay in the summertime, that I may see a tern that we banded while here on the island! Maine is one of the most beautiful states I have ever traveled to, and now had the chance to live in temporarily. My hopes are that through conservation work such as this, amazing creatures like common terns can continue to live and breed! Thank you to everyone who read these blogs and followed along on our adventures here! Signing off and sending love to all!


Here is one last hello from Ships 2022 supervisor! I am beyond grateful for the support we have received this season from refuge staff and FOMCI; my experience here has been all the better with their assistance and companionship. Dare I say this has been Ships best season yet, with high numbers of breeding adults who successfully produced numerous offspring. As of today, we have 105 juveniles fledged from our productivity plots, with fledging success at around 87%. Our productivity rate is at a heathy 1.75, and because of the islands abundance of birds, we were able to band 1,045 terns this year! I hope that in the years to come, some of these terns will be recaptured here on Ship as adults, happy, healthy, and full of tasty herring. I want the future generations of Maines terns to know that they can rely on Ship Island for protected nesting grounds and abundant resources to make their breeding efforts a success. Thank you all for tuning in to our weekly blog posts over the past few months. It means a lot to know that there are so many others out there who care about our natural world, and specifically Maines seabirds. I ask you to share your passions with those around you, for having respect and admiration for nature is something we should strive to inspire in everyone.

-Laura Wallace

Record Breaking Season

Hello from Ship! This week we have succeeded in banding the most birds ever on the island. We are at 1,009 and even expect to band a few more. So keep your binoculars and scopes ready to see if you can find our common terns with bands on their legs. Our beach is covered with juveniles that are getting used to fending for themselves and will soon be migrating. If you find yourself in Blue Hill Bay, take a second to admire the great success of this years’ tern colony here on Ship. Most years there have been hinderances to the colony’s success, including weather events, disease, and abandonments, but this year we seem to have avoided these complications! I am hopeful that we will continue to have a colony of this size here in the years to come. In just one year this colony has almost doubled in size. I keep thinking about what is so different this year from previous ones. Could it be because Ship’s vegetation all mowed down now? Did suitable nesting sites elsewhere become unsuitable? Maybe the terns saw Rachel and I here and figured they could use our help to protect their eggs and chicks. Whatever the reason may be, I am grateful that I could be a part of such an eventful season. While many seabirds are not having such a great breeding season, especially due to avian influenza outbreaks, I am glad that we have this little victory here on Ship Island.


Adulting is hard!!!

Rachel here again from Ship Island! Since my last blog post things have been chaotic on Ship in all the best ways! Many of our chicks from our productivity plots have fledged and can now be seen loafing on the beach with the adults, though their stubby tails and awkward mannerisms make them extremely easy to spot. Some seemed to be eager to join the adults and be independent, while some others seemed very reluctant to leave the care of their parents. I think we all know that we can relate. Adulting is hard! Not only do they have to master the art of flight, but also the craft of fishing! I almost got a face full of feathers the other day as a not so experienced fledgling was barreling through the colony in a very uncoordinated and almost humorous manner. After a small crash landing in the vegetation beyond, they were back at it again. I felt bad letting out a bit of a chuckle as I thought back to when I was first learning to drive… yeah that wasn’t the prettiest sight either. But the determination of these birds continues to astound me. I do not think I could have the patience that these adults do with their young. We have been spending a lot of time in the blinds still conducting provisioning watches. As cute as all the chicks are, they can be just as feisty and demanding towards their parents! Their parents work very hard acquiring fish to deliver to their young in a timely manner. Though sometimes, either immediately after a feeding or when the parents come back without a fish, the chicks LEAP at their parents’ faces, mouths agape and pecking in search of a scrumptious snack. The parents seem anything but pleased as their growing children chase them around the nest area begging and commanding that food be brought to them! Sometimes I think the adults have this look about them that almost seems like they are thinking, “what did I get myself into?” I feel a little sorry for them, but yet they return to various nesting grounds each year to do it all over again, oh my! It makes me feel thankful for all the hard-working parents out there including my own that look after their kiddoes, even after they leave the nest so to speak! Of course, a little mayhem is to be expected with the territory, and that doesn’t dull the multitude of sweet moments I get to witness of these parents with their chicks! I find it the most precious when the chicks are still super teeny and still fit under mom or dad’s wing. A parent will bring a fish and feed it to a chick, and as the baby scarfs down the fish the parents look on in adoration and seem to dote over their little one… too cute! As August nears it seems hard to believe the season will soon be coming to an end. I am enjoying every moment with these birds and will continue to do so until we leave! But until then, there is still lots of work to do and yet better yet more chicks to fledge!

Until next time!