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Archive for May 20th, 2016

Happy spring migration from the Ship Island crew of two! As the common terns begin to establish the breeding colony and initiate courtship, we’ve been busy making sure the island is ready for them; in short, this means lots of invasive vegetation control. Typical plant culprits include black bindweed (Polygonum convolvulus) invading the brand new gravel nesting areas and garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata), which we struck hard with the help of some mainland visitors.

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Garlic mustard flowering stems can be plucked by hand, but the young florettes left behind need to be blasted with vinegar.

After our push against the invaders, we’ve been able to turn our focus to observing the wildlife around us, which includes numerous passage migrant birds on their way home from the tropics, in addition to resident breeding birds and neighboring seals. These early weeks will be filled with anticipation as we wait for the terns to start nesting, but in the meantime there is plenty to see and do. So far, we’ve documented 40 different species to visit Ship, plus a bonus hybrid Mallard x American Black-duck!

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Many passage migrants are only here for a single day before they take off again to continue their nocturnal migration. Here, a chestnut-sided warbler (Setophaga pensylvanica) gleans a precious insect meal to refuel.

Since we don’t have too much in the way of tern nesting progress to report, we thought we would provide a quick introduction to this year’s Ship Island dream team. First off is our lovely Island Technician:

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Greetings from Ship Island!!! My name is Kelby Leary ( Yes that’s me in the photo above) . I was born in raised in central Maine and I’ve always loved being outdoors. I just finished my first year in the wildlife ecology program at The University of Maine and working of Ship Island is my very first field position. This is also the most time I’ve spent on the ocean as the area I am from is pretty heavily forested. I’m excited to learn more about all the animals that frequent the island as well as gain valuable field skills. In this first week prepping for the colony we haven’t been to insanely busy so we’ve had some time to really get to know the island. So far my favorite things to do in my free time on the island are watch the seals on the neighboring barges (I’d also never seen a seal in real life before moving to the island) and sitting on the beach watching the sandpipers.

And your friendly neighborhood Island Supervisor:

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Hi everyone! I’m Meredith Miles, and I’ve been spending my time since graduating from Bates College last year hopping from field job to field job around the world. My work has recently taken me to Alaska, Peru, and Oklahoma, but I couldn’t be more psyched to be returning to beautiful Maine for the summer. This season I am most excited about getting an insider view of seabird breeding season behavior and gaining a deeper understanding of the ecology of this amazing bird group.

We’ll update soon with more news from our tiny paradise. Happy spring!

Meredith and Kelby, Ship I.

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Hey folks! Jill and Morgan here! It’s been a surprisingly beautiful first week on Petit Manan Island; let’s hope it’s a sign for the whole season! The island has been lively thus far with approximately 200 prospecting Common and Arctic Terns, but we’re expecting many more to come! Although PMI isn’t the largest of islands, it still receives a good deal of visitors, especially early in the season when birds are migrating North – we’ve seen 61 species thus far! Not all our guests have been of the bird variety though; we also stumbled upon a juvenile Grey Seal on our rocky shores earlier in the week!

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Downy Woodpecker sighting!

The start of the season means preparing the island for all the work to be done in the months ahead. This means setting up observation blinds, for band resighting and future monitoring of foraging habits and chick health, as well as collecting marine debris, building burrows for Black Guillemots and Atlantic Puffins, and marking potential Leach’s Storm-petrel burrows. Daily Alcid counts from the top of the Petit Manan Light have also begun. On a windy day it can get rather cold up there, especially for Jill, who hasn’t quite gotten used to the Downeast summer having just returned from a seabird job in the Galapagos!

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Can you spot the Leach’s Storm Petrel burrow? We’ve been searching the island for these small holes in the ground this past we week, and we have found 170 potential burrows!

As we prepare ourselves for the research season ahead, the birds are doing the same. The puffins and guillemots are seeking out rock crevices and other sufficient and creative hiding spots for their burrows. The male terns are attracting their mates with a Sandlance dowry. The Common Eiders are seeking out areas of high vegetation to form their nests. And the Peregrine Falcons, Merlins, and gulls lurk about hoping to catch a bite to eat with all these new dining options in town.

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The Atlantic Puffins have already begun choosing burrows!

Till next time, here’s a joke to hold you over – Why did the Puffin have a stomach ache? Because it had Alcid Reflux!

Best,

Morgan & Jill

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