Archive for May, 2017

Greetings from Petit Manan Island!

Bradford and I have been on PMI for two weeks now, and yesterday we were joined by Kelby and Jenna so now our island crew is complete!

A lot of the work so far has depended on whether or not the birds are around and if the weather is nice, but one constant effort has been the daily tower counts. We have been climbing up the 134 steps of the lighthouse once in the morning at 7:00AM and once in the evening at 5:00PM to count the number of Atlantic Puffins, Razorbills, Black Guillemots, Common Murres, and Common Eiders in the water and around the island. In the morning, we usually see around 70 puffins, 50 razorbill, 150 guillemots, 90 eiders and there is a pair of murres that are seen from time to time. This morning, we had our highest counts of the season for puffins, at 121, and for razorbills, at 63. In the evenings, we have been counting fewer birds overall as many have ventured further out to sea to forage for food.


PMI Lighthouse


Steps leading up to the top of the tower


The view of the grounds from the top of the tower


View of Green Island and the boat house from the top of the tower

I have really enjoyed doing these tower counts daily. The view from the top of the lighthouse of the grounds and surrounding islands is beautiful. It is also amazing to be able to observe all of the birds that are hanging out on and around the island. Plus climbing up and down all those steps is great exercise:)

That’s all for now!


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Hello fellow birders!

It’s been a busy start to the season on Ship Island! My fellow field technician and I have been spending our days counting birds, fighting off invasive species, and harassing predators. Ship has got a bit of an issue with a common invasive plant species called Garlic Mustard. In an effort to eradicate from the island we have been working to reduce the seed bank by hand pulling flowering plants before they can disperse their seeds. Garlic Mustard is a biannual though, which means it flowers every other year. For the plants that are currently not flowering, we’ve been spraying with vinegar which acts as a safe herbicide.  So far we’ve probably pulled around 7 contractor sized trash bags of the pesky plant, and there’s still more to find!


What we think is an owl pellet and some unknown body part 

As for predators, there seems to be a whole lot of them this year! We’ve been getting thrice daily visits from an American Crow that may be eyeing our Common Tern eggs for dinner, but we won’t let that happen! Ship has also been known to have owls frequent it and judging by what I found today, we might have another! Tonight we’ll be using night vision goggles to stake out the island for any signs of an owl. I’ll keep you all updated!

Till next time!



Lion’s Mane Jellyfish, don’t touch!

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Greetings from Metinic Island!

Ravin is gone this week so the MCINWR Public Outreach Coordinator, Hannah, and I have been continuing to monitor the tern colony.

We found our first tern egg on Wednesday!  As the number of terns has begun to steadily increase, we have been searching the colony for eggs.  Tern eggs can be difficult to find because they look very similar to the many speckled rocks that we have on our island.  Therefore, we always have to pay special attention to where we step in the colony because the eggs can be camouflaged very well.  After the eggs are laid, they take about 23 days to hatch.  The first egg was exciting, but I am even more excited to find our first tern chick!



First tern egg!


A flagged egg in a scraping. We have to be careful where we step!

Yesterday, we also spent a portion of the day looking for snakes.  Snakes have been known to eat tern eggs in the past, so we are doing our best to remove them from the island.  After we collect them, we put them on a boat which takes them to Rockland where they are released.  So far we have caught 12 snakes this season! Sometimes when we catch them, they release a scent called “musk” which they use to ward off predators.  It smells somewhere between a skunk and a wet dog.  I got some of it on my flannel last week and it still smells a bit snakey…


Hannah adding a new addition to our snake box. 

In other news, it has been very cold, windy and damp here so Hannah and I have taken full advantage of our cabin’s cozy little wood stove.  Though its small, it produces a lot of heat, and is much appreciated when we come back inside.  On rainy days (of which we’ve had a few) we spend time inside reading, drinking tea, and of course, writing letters to our fans.


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It’s been a little over a week since I first came to Petit Manan Island, and I’m already in love with it. Before coming, I was a little skeptical about climbing the second tallest lighthouse in Maine twice a day to do tower counts, as well as the 3-mile foghorn that goes off roughly every 30 seconds, 24/7. I have definitely gotten used to the heights and the foghorn, the latter becoming more like a calming constant throughout the day, much like the constant ticking of a wall clock, only bigger, and much louder. Other than getting used to the ins-and-outs of island life, bird activity has been slow. Generally, the terns and alcids are here during the morning but leave to forage for most of the day, only coming back to roost just as the last rays of light are disappearing over the horizon. When the birds are here though, we are seeing more and more nesting behavior, including courtship displays, copulation, and scraping. We have already found our first eggs of the season, eider, tern, and puffin! I’m excited for the season to really ramp up and to find a lot more nests in the coming week.

PMI_2017_May23_First Tern Egg

First tern nest found of the season, 5/23/2017.

— Bradford


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Aya and I arrived on Metinic Island to find a cozy two-story cabin surrounded by cobble beaches, sheep and birds, lots of birds. Metinic Island has a diverse patchwork of forests, grasslands, rocky and cobble shoreline that is ideal for nesting and migratory birds. Our job here is to act as stewards for nesting seabirds and to monitor other species passing through.

One of our first jobs is to locate Leach’s storm petrel burrows that are located in rock crevices and soft sod soil. Petrels are nocturnal seabirds that reside in their burrows during the day and also nest in these burrows during the summer season. We have been searching along old rock walls and natural rocky outcroppings searching for freshly dug holes. As we move along, we also sniff these entrances to


Petrel burrow entrance marked by a blue pin flag.


Aya looking for petrel burrows.


try to pick up on the distinct musty, earthy smell that the petrels give off. So far we have flagged thirty-three possible burrows that we will revisit at the end of June to determine if there is an active nest and then we will monitor the chicks until they can fly.

We have also acted as sheep shepherds since we have arrived on Metinic. The sheep belong to the family that owns half of the island and graze the sheep on the northern end during the fall, winter and spring. Tomorrow we will be fencing the sheep to just the southern end of the island. Until then we will continue to discourage them from grazing the northern end, where Arctic and common terns are beginning to nest on the ground.  As the terns start to lay their eggs, we will soon be re-sighting banded terns to identify individuals and to better understand their movements, nesting locations and survival rate.

Stay tuned for more updates!


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