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Archive for June, 2014

We’re up to our elbows in chicks out on Metinic. In my last post, I mentioned that our tern chicks have started to hatch. A week later, our little fluffy friends are growing up fast.

Arctic Tern Chick

Arctic Tern Chick

We can often see our older chicks testing out their wings, although they are still a long way from being airborne.

An Arctic Tern chicks, stretching its wings

An Arctic Tern chicks, stretching its wings

Our resident Savannah Sparrows also have chicks of their own. These buzzy-sounding birds build a classic cup-shaped nest in grass on the ground. It can be easy to miss until you see the five squawking mouths.

A nest full of Savannah Sparrow chicks

A nest full of Savannah Sparrow chicks

Spotted Sandpipers are Metinic’s only nesting shorebird this year, and our first sandpiper chicks have made an appearance. Despite their small size and their resemblance to a cotton ball standing on a pair of toothpicks, these chicks are up and running around by day one. They do have a parent around to keep them out of trouble though!

Spotted Sandpiper adult (left) and chick (right)

Spotted Sandpiper adult (left) and chick (right)

Finally, we found our first Black Guillemot chicks. It’s hard not to love these little black puffballs. Guillemots are also the only alcid to lay two eggs at once, so guillemot chicks usually come in pairs.

Our first pair of Black Guillemot chicks

Our first pair of Black Guillemot chicks

Of course, Syd and I didn’t want to miss out on the fun of Guillemot Appreciation Day, so we celebrated in the most delicious way we could!

Our tasty guillemot cake

Our tasty guillemot cake

More updates as our chicks continue to grow!

 

-Amy

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When you live on an island for a summer it is quite a big deal when you get to step off your island for any period of time.  We have found here on Ship Island that even going out in our rowboat a few hundred feet from shore to pick up a grocery delivery can give you a totally new perspective for the day.  Having been on the island for over 6 weeks now, it was a treat for me to tag along with Jim (our boat operator/maintenance/all around go to guy) on the Blue Hill Bay Census.  While all the islands we have staff living on are surveyed during the GOMSWG census, Jim has the duty of boating the various bays and inlets up and down the coast searching areas where seabirds have nested historically and recently.  Here is a picture leaving Ship Island…

ImageJim and I did a four hour loop throughout the Blue Hill Bay region stopping to look at places such as Sand Island, The Nub, Goose Rock, Indian Point ledges, Folly Island, and The Hub.  We were excited to report a thriving little colony of around 150-200 Common Terns on Conary Nub.  Not only did we discover a 4-egg clutch (fairly rare), but also more developed chicks than here on Ship Island, suggesting they hatched around a week and a half earlier.

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Finally, while this may sound a bit crazy to all our readers out there who live on the mainland, I would like to comment on how wonderful it was to see trees and to smell trees.  While we have various types of vegetation out here, including fragrant sea roses, wild irises, and rustling tall grasses, none of them really add up to having a “tree” status.  We do have a groove of chokecherry “trees” and our giant cow parsnip is now at least 6 feet tall, but it’s just not the same as a spruce/fir forest.  Here is a view of a typical spruce studded island called The Hub off Bartlett Island with the mountains of western Mount Desert Island (Acadia National Park) in the background.

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Cheers!

Mary

 

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This week has been an exciting week for the Brothers Islands. Not only have we switched island technicians (Baxter has switched with Rose from Ship Island for the week), but tern eggs have hatched and we have two little tern chicks! It has been years since tern chicks have been recorded on the Brothers Islands so it is a big success for us. The parents of the chicks have become very protective of their chicks and have been observed chasing gulls, ravens, and even a few bald eagles. When Rose and I go to check for the chicks the terns start dive-bombing us and screeching, apparently they don’t enjoy our company too much.

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Tern Chick just poking his beak through his shell

                On another positive note we have regularly been seeing four or more terns when we do our observations, which means there is a least one additional tern pair that is interested in our colony. These new additions of terns are usually around to help protect the chicks. We haven’t been able to determine if there are more than three terns nesting on this island yet but it seems very possible.

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Two tern chicks fully hatched

                Not only have we been seeing more terns on Eastern Brothers, we have been seeing more razorbills as well. It is not uncommon for us to see a few razorbills each day now, where earlier this summer it was rare. Rose saw seven razorbills swimming with the floating decoys at one point this week. I observed 2 razorbills scouting out Eastern Brothers together which gives me some hope of razorbill inhabitance.

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The moon and the sun together on a beautiful day

                For our guillemot burrow research we cover all of the burrows on Eastern and Western Brothers, that we have found, in a week’s time. The sections of the island are done in a three day rotation. Today for the first time we heard and saw a guillemot egg piping, the guillemot hadn’t quite made it out of his shell yet, but will be next time we check that section of burrows.

 

Until next week,

Jason and Rose

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Black Guillemots have begun to nest on Petit Manan and for the last couple weeks we have been busy locating burrows and marking them for monitoring. Other alcids, inlcuding Razorbills and Atlantic Puffins have begun to nest, too! Rock crevices and under washed up wood is where Guillemots choose to nest. Searching for burrows includes kneeling down to rock or wood level and looking for 1-2 eggs or an adult Guillemot. Finding them could get tricky!!

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Searching a tricky burrow under the boat ramp.

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More burrow searching…

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Guillemot eggs.

June 27th was Guillemot Appreciation Day and to celebrate we made paper Guillemots to send to the other islands. Here on Petit Manan, everyday is Guillemot Appreciation Day with our own special Guillemot hanging over the kitchen table.

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We searched the whole island perimeter and found 65 Black Guillemot burrows. The island crew will return to the marked Guillemot burrows every 3 days for monitoring. Also, we have 48 Atlantic Puffin burrows and 4 Razorbill burrows.

Today, we checked burrows and found 3 Guillemot chicks! Andddd while we were checking for Guillemots we found our first Puffin chicks and Razorbill chicks!!

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Puffin Chick!!

Looking forward to all our alcid chicks hatching!

-Brittany 🙂

 

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For the past few weeks, a lot has been going on with Petit Manan’s tern colony!  We have been focusing much of our time on trapping and banding both Arctic and Common Tern adults, which is an essential part of our research.

In order to capture terns, we use two types of traps—the bownet and treadle trap—to catch adults on their nests.  First, we temporarily remove the eggs from the nest so that the bird does not crush its eggs if it struggles in the trap.  The real eggs are replaced with painted wooden ones, and a trap is set over the nest. Trappers then hide out in a blind and wait for terns to return.

The bownet is a spring trap that is set behind the nest cup and triggered when the adult sits on two monofilaments stretching over the “eggs.”  This trap has a metal frame and netting which springs harmlessly over the bird to contain it.  The treadle is a small cage trap with a door, which the tern must walk through to trigger its closing mechanism.

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a Common Tern being removed from a treadle trap

When a tern is captured, a researcher runs out from the blind to retrieve it and replaces the fake eggs with the real ones.  Each tern receives a metal band with a unique number on one leg.  Every Arctic tern also receives a field readable band with an alphanumeric code on the other leg, so that it can be easily resighted from a distance.  We take several measurements, including mass, wing chord (wing length), and head/bill length before releasing the tern.

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Julia banding an Arctic Tern

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Wayne releasing an Arctic Tern

By banding these birds, we can learn about their migration paths, longevity, nest site fidelity, and productivity.  Banded birds may be re-trapped or resighted in the future.  If a banded bird is found along its migration path or on wintering grounds, we can learn about where it has been travelling.  If a bird that was banded as a chick is later found as a nesting adult, we know that it has lived to breeding age and laid eggs.  Speaking of chicks…

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first Common Tern chicks hatched on 6/20

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first Arctic Tern chicks hatched on 6/22

We found our first tern chicks of the season on June 20!  Every day we are finding more chicks, and banding them as well.  As the season continues, we will be closely monitoring their growth, survivorship, and diet to learn about the colony’s overall health.  Stay tuned for more posts about these little cuties!

-Anna

 

 

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On June 19 and 20 the island crew, along with the invaluable help of Refuge staff and volunteers, completed the annual Gulf of Maine Seabird Working Group (GOMSWG) Census where over the course of two days we attempted to count every nest on the island belonging to a tern, gull, or eider. In order to do this, we all spread out in a line and called out nests to the person recording.

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Census crew working around the PMI light tower

During the census we came across a few oddities, such as Laughing Gull eggs in Eider nests and gull nests with double clutches.

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Laughing Gull egg nestled in the warm down of an Eider nest

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A double clutch of gull eggs – normally they have only 3. This could be a case of two females nesting together.

In addition to all these nests, we also found female Eider hens sitting quietly on their eggs in the vegetation hoping to go unnoticed. Usually, we leave these ladies to their incubating, but during census we catch them to read their bands or apply new bands if needed, helping us keep track of them in the future.

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Mother Eider sitting quietly on her nest

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Julia and Brittany as successful Eider-catchers!

After tallying up all the numbers and accounting for all the Common and Arctic Tern nests we marked with colored flags, we have 1203 tern nests, 670 of which are Commons while 533 are Arctics, 521 Laughing Gull nests, and 54 Common Eider nests! We do the puffin/guillemot/razorbill census a little differently, using the number of burrows we find throughout the season combined with how many we see on the island from day to day, so we will have those numbers later. Keep posted for more exciting updates about all those eggs.

– PMI Island Crew

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We’ve had an exciting last week here on Ship Island.   Everything is really rolling now!  On June 16th we completed the annual GOMSWG (Gulf of Maine Seabird Working Group) census.  After factoring in a correction factor, we had a total of 403 nests, which is on par with last year’s count of 436.  On the weekend of the 13th a storm coincided with the highest tide of the month, which flooded at least 30 known nests and more than likely 50 more.  Because of the flood tide and the slow start to the season, we were all surprised by such a high number, however, we continue to see new eggs throughout the colony.Image

On top of the census, we have been busy getting ready for our productivity studies.  Depending on the size of the colony we try to monitor 5-10% of the colony.  Throughout the season we check the egg status and then hopefully the chick status after that.  We use these selected nests as a way to gauge the success/failure of the whole colony.  As has been posted in the past, terns can be quite aggressive towards intruders, which includes us.  When working in the colony this includes their constant kipping at you, but they also enjoy hitting you and defecating on you.  Here is Rose searching for a chick and getting hit by a common tern…this one actually tore her jacket!

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And now because it’s the only appropriate thing left to do:  I am happy to announce the hatching of our first chicks!  We noticed starring (appears as slight cracks in the eggs) and then piping several days ago, and on Saturday the 21st the first chicks of the colony hatched.  Here is a picture of the newest residents of Ship Island.

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Cheers!

Rose and Mary

 

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This week at The Brothers Islands we have been preparing for the hatching of guillemot eggs by locating and numbering each barrow with numbered rocks so we can keep track of the nests we need to visit throughout the week. So far in our island egg hunt we have found 52 nests, and each guillemot can have anywhere between 1 to 3 eggs. This is an example of what a numbered guillemot nest would look like:

Rock and guil

About two weeks ago Sara and Jim from the Milbridge office came to visit our island and needed Baxter and I to help them set out floating razorbill decoys. At the time we were all unsure of how affective these decoys would be because of the strong currents tangling them and the rough waves damaging them. To our surprise the decoys held up nicely and real razorbills started noticing and landing with the floating decoys. Before long the razorbills even started visiting our island. The razorbills landed on the rocks and inspected the decoys that were placed on the island. Here is a picture of a razorbill I was able to snap some pictures of it in the water, and later inspecting our island:

 

Razorbill on water

Razorbill standing

Here is a picture of the floating decoys we put out:

Razorbill decoys

Unfortunately we have not yet had any razorbills nest on our island.

 

 

In my free time I have been trying to catch fish. For the first couple of weeks I did not have any luck catching fish so I didn’t think that I was going to be able to catch any fish off the islands. To my surprise, after searching the coast of the island for different places to fish I started catching pollock. They were fairly small but after catching a few Baxter and I made a delicious meal out of them.

Baxter and fish

Until Next time,

Jason

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Summer Solstice Sunset

Summer Solstice Sunset

Just a quick post today, but plenty of exciting news!

First and fluffiest, we have our first tern chicks!

Almost there - hatching is hard work!

Almost there – hatching is hard work!

Second, we completed our GOMSWG Census, and we have some great numbers. In our colony, we counted 428 nests. After applying a correction factor (essentially an estimation of how many nests we missed) we estimate there to be about 477 tern nests on Metinic this year. That’s an increase of more than 100 nests from last year!

Our 2014 Census Crew at work

Our 2014 Census Crew at work

Special thanks to volunteers Frank and Sandy, Interns Megan and Kim, and Refuge Staff Beth, Michael, Brian, and Jay for helping us with our census.

Finally, we picked up all of our species ratio flags (see my previous entry, Egg Enigmas for more information), and came up with an estimate of 89 Common Terns to every 100 Arctic Terns. When we apply this ratio to our total counts, we get 256 Arctic Tern nests and 220 Common Tern nests. Our estimation of Arctic Terns on Metinic has increased more than 100 pairs, or 200 individual birds, from last year. This is especially exciting because Arctic Terns have been struggling in recent years.

Chicks are cuter when they have a chance to dry out

Chicks are cuter when they have a chance to dry out

Now we just have to wait and see how well all our chicks do!

– Amy

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Greetings from The Brothers Islands!  It has been an interesting week here on the islands with drastically different weather conditions each day.  Some days were hot sunny and calm and others were rainy with peak winds of over 40 mph.  Spirits have been high however and we have done our best to stay warm and dry as we scramble across rocks looking for visitors to our little slice of Scotland.

Jason and Baxter enjoying a sunny day

Jason and Baxter enjoying a sunny day

The nesting season continues to truck along with dozens of black guillemot nests popping up daily.  Our new common tern pair (or Stewie and Rita as we like to call them) are finally peacefully at home on Eastern Brothers.  Our resident common tern Reggie has even been joining in on protecting their new nest.

Common Tern Pair (Stewie and Rita)

Common Tern Pair (Stewie and Rita)

Stewie and Rita have successfully produced two new eggs in their new nesting spot just a stones throw away from our main tern decoy setup.  We have been keeping tabs on the nest regularly and we are hopeful that they will hatch by the end of the month of June!

Two Tern Eggs

Two Tern Eggs

In other news, for several weeks we had a pair of Canadian geese nesting on Western Brothers and we are excited to say that their 5 eggs have hatched.  Soon after we discovered that the eggs had hatched the pair departed from the island and have not been seen since.  Hopefully the goslings made it through their several mile swim to a safer location on the main land or a neighboring island.

Hatched Goose Eggs

Hatched Goose Eggs

Until next time!

-Baxter

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