Greetings and salutations from Ship Island! It is getting down to the last couple of days. The majority of our chicks have fledged; after checking them today, we have only 9 chicks total in our productivity plots (from 73 hatched). We conducted our remaining bird surveys of Trumpet and the Barges and counted lounging harbor seals for the last time. The next few days will consist of taking down empty productivity plots and slowly packing up our gear. I am eating my way through these unhurried days.
The nightly shorebird walks have become a focal point of entertainment. Familiarizing myself with the migrating shorebirds is fun in its own right, but the walks coincide nicely with dusk settling over Blue Hill Bay. When you’re working every day, it’s surprisingly easy to forget you’re living on a beautiful island. I’m making sure to take in everything here for the last time.
The Common Tern colony on Ship Island increased significantly this year, from 393 nests counted last year in the GOMSWG Census to 673 this year. The productivity rate for our colony (the number of chicks to fledge per nest) has been estimated to be at least 1.27, meaning that more than 850 chicks have successfully fledged this year so far. Hopefully the colony will return in such numbers again next year and for years to come. It’s been an incredible process monitoring the terns. This was my first season with seabirds and words can’t really describe how much this summer has meant to me. It’s hard work and long hours, but it is the most rewarding job I’ve had. Looking back at Ship Island for the last time will definitely be a somber, reflective moment. But, I’m also looking forward to eating my weight in ice cream.
That’s it for this season! Best of luck to our fledglings!