Hi all! Helen here! My first week with the seabirds on Metinic Island has been full of exploring, birding, and learning new things! We started out the week by rounding up all of the resident sheep and driving them to the southern end of the island where we put up an electric fence to keep them out of the tern colony for the season. We did this just in time as both the arctic and common terns have returned and are actively seeking out mates and nesting sites. We have begun observing the terns from the blinds and have watched them settling in throughout the week. We have seen the terns landing on the ground, evaluating various potential nesting sites, and showing courtship behaviors such as the males presenting the fish they caught to females.
The terns aren’t the only ones settling in for the season, the black guillemots are courting and seeking out burrows in the rocks as well. We have also observed a number of common eider nests with eggs! We even saw one hen with three ducklings today, which is early for them. We are expecting to find many more eider nests in the coming weeks as they are still displaying courtship behaviors. To prepare for the arrival of the chicks, we have begun setting up snake plastic as a means of predator control. Metinic has a population of garter snakes who enjoy feeding on the seabird eggs and hatchlings, so we set out black plastic that the snakes will be attracted to because they create a warm place for them to hide. We will periodically check the plastic and gather any snakes into a bucket to release them on the mainland.
Along with setting up and preparing for the upcoming season of seabird chick monitoring, we have been keeping track of our other feathered friends on the island. Every day we start out with our morning point counts then spend the day exploring around and recording any additional bird species seen/heard, and we end the day with shorebird counts right before sunset. So far, Mark and I have recorded 71 different species! Metinic is a great location to support a variety of birds as the island includes rocky coast, open field, forest, wetland, shrub, and pond habitats. We are looking forward to adding to our list as the season progresses!
Until next week,