Greetings from Ship Island! Located in Blue Hill Bay just southwest of Mount Desert Island, Ship Island is part of the Maine Coastal Island National Wildlife Refuge and serves as a summer home and breeding grounds for over 150 pairs of Common Terns. This year it will also be the summer home for a crew of two biologists: Supervisor Amy (Yours Truly) and Intern Jill.
Ship is actually quite a bit different from the Refuge’s other managed seabird colonies. It is the last island in a chain that begins to the north with Tinker Island, followed by Bar Island and Trumpet Island. Thanks to a winding sand bar, Ship and Trumpet are actually connected at the lowest tides. Sand is another thing that makes Ship special: instead of nesting on rocks, terns at Ship nest on the edge of a sandy beach. This means the Ship island colony is in a thin band between the sand and vegetation,
Earlier this week, Jill and I arrived at the Refuge’s office in Milbridge, ME and got an exciting surprise. Previously, researchers living on Ship Island for the summer were based in a large canvas tent, but this year we would be the first crew to live in a newly constructed cabin! Complete with bunk beds and a storage loft, our 12 by 16 home will soon have an indoor kitchen and a small refrigerator. In the meantime, we’ll be cooking outside and storing perishables in a cooler, but we’ve already come to appreciate a solid roof over our heads during the recent rainstorms.
Like us, the terns have spent the week checking out the island and moving into their summer homes. So far we’ve seen about 70 Common Terns circling around the island and its surrounding waters. These birds have migrated thousands of miles and will settle here for a few short months to raise their chicks. It will still be a few weeks before they begin to nest, but after that things will really pick up around here. Eventually, we may have over 400 adult terns and their chicks living on the island.
In the meantime, Jill and I are keeping busy by getting to know Ship and the surrounding islands. In addition to Trumpet, there are two smaller islands, East Barge and West Barge, which we keep an eye on throughout the summer. These three islands host breeding gulls (Greater Black-backed and Herring) as well as Double-crested Cormorants and Common Eiders. Gulls are predators of tern chicks, so they’re not allowed to nest on Ship, but there will probably be a few nests on these other islands.
I’d love to post photos, but the computer isn’t cooperating right now, so hopefully I’ll be able to post pictures of Ship and our lovely little cabin soon.
That’s all for now!