The first couple weeks here on Ship Island have been fantastic! We have had great luck with the weather and are actually just hitting our first patch of all-day fog. We found our first Common Tern nest on 5/29 and the rest of the colony is following suit. We have identified 63 nests so far and terns are still showing up! Common Terns are the only species of terns that we have here. We do however also have Spotted Sandpipers, sparrow, warblers, and Mallards nesting here. Some of these later birds have hatched already!
While doing blind work Mary and I get to watch what the terns bring in to feed their mates. It’s actually very exciting as you try to follow the birds with your binoculars and either identify the food or snap a picture before they gobble it down. As of late, the gulls and terns in the area have taken to eating Clam Worms. These worms might seem a little strange out of water but they have a beautiful iridescent green to purple coloring as they swirl around in the water to clean themselves of sand. Most of the worms are around ten inches long and quite hilarious to see our small terns carrying.
The research that we do for birds here is very rewarding, however we do have other responsibilities to help take care of Ship Island. One of the most important things we do is remove invasive species. The primary one here is garlic mustard (Allaria petiolata). The island had recently been covered in garlic mustard but Maine Coastal has been working towards removing the invasive for the past eight years. We have been testing different control methods, cautious in what methods we use in order to not affect the other species on the island. Currently we spend most warm days hand pulling the adults (the plant is biennial) before they go to seed.
Till Next Time!