While the terns have been settled on their nests incubating eggs, we had an eventful week here on Metinic Island! The excitement began on Tuesday when a multi-agency group of biologists interested in common eiders came out to take blood samples from the hens for their ongoing genetic population analysis. Mark and I got to learn about common eider biology and assist with the capture of 38 hens, which was quite fun! We caught them by either using a dip net after flushing them off of their nests, or we simply snuck up on them and picked them up off of their nests. We found that you have to be quick to catch them, but once caught, they are quite easy to handle. Each hen was then banded, and a small blood sample was taken before releasing them to tend to their nests again. Throughout the remainder of the week, we have also been spotting a number of eider creches with the largest being made up of 23 hens and 28 ducklings!
The next couple of days were spent climbing around the rocky coast of the island searching for black guillemot burrows. These alcids like to nest in holes and crevices in the rocks, so once we found one with either an adult or an egg in it; we marked the entrance with spray paint so we can relocate the burrows for our egg assessments and growth rate monitoring of the chicks when they hatch.
Some of the island’s sheep managed to escape our first round-up and had been wandering around in the tern colony, running the risk of them trampling the eggs. Our efforts to chase them off of the colony were becoming too numerous, so we decided to do a second round-up and drive to the southern end of the island. After the round-up, deputy refuge manager Brian Benedict was checking the fence to make sure it was working and came across a popped weather balloon with its parachute deployed. Attached to the parachute string was an envelope with a message asking whoever found the balloon to mail the accompanying measuring device back to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). That just goes to show you never know what you’ll find working out on the Maine coastal islands!
That just about wraps up another exciting week on Metinic! We are looking forward to the next coming weeks as more nests and possibly more chicks show up! We are also hoping to add to our bird species list, we are at 82 now!
Until next time,