Archive for May, 2019

Hello everyone!

It’s Mary again. I am excited to announce that we have been seeing more and more eggs! Today I found the most eggs we have seen yet: a total of 10 new eggs!

While walking around I have also seen many scrapes. It is interesting to find an egg laid next to an old Popsicle stick, because that means there were eggs in that same spot last year. I am curious if it is the same birds laying in the same spot, or if it is two separate birds that had the same idea of a good laying spot.

Another exciting announcement is that I saw my first tern sitting on her egg. Finally I was able to mark an egg with a flag to begin working on the species ratio. This egg was marked with a blue flag, as it was a Common Tern sitting on this egg. If it is an Arctic Tern sitting on the egg, then we mark it with an orange flag.

We have had a relatively constant number of terns on the island the last few days – our estimates are around 550 to 650 terns (they are really tough to count). We still only have Common and Arctic Terns but we are hoping to see a few Roseate Terns!

We finally had some sun today, which meant it was laundry day for me! If you are curious how I wash my clothes with no running water, an old refrigerator drawer and a 5-gallon bucket, let me know! I am happy to post about what it is like living on the island and accomplishing little tasks like laundry, showers and dishes.

Check in soon to hear how many more eggs we find!



(Photo below: Common Tern sitting on her egg)

IMG_4402 (Photo Below: Ever wonder how small a tern egg is? Check out this gorgeous little egg!)



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Greetings from Ship Island!

I am Bobby Brittingham, born and raised in Portland, Maine. I am finishing my last semester of undergraduate degree in wildlife ecology at the University of Maine this fall (go black bears!). A few of my hobbies include wildlife photography (I will be sure to post some photos with each blog post), kayaking, hiking, experimenting with new recipes for cooking, enjoying a good book or movie, sewing, traveling to national parks (hoping to go to all of them in my lifetime!), solving jigsaw puzzles/crossword puzzles, and shooting hoops at the nearest basketball court.

I have had a lot of previous research fieldwork jobs with mammals big and small, and with reptiles/amphibians previously through UMaine. However, I have been eager to have a bird-focused job for a long time so I feel extremely blessed to found such a unique position here on Ship Island. Especially with a focus on a bird species that provides meaningful and crucial data for the management of common terns going forward.

We finally have a working computer to let everyone know what the terns are up to! Our terns are taking their time this year (could be due to last year’s problems of predation from owls on Ship) in comparison to the other islands. We have had usually at most between 200-300 terns at once each morning (numbers have varied due to the weather). They have been digging many scrapes to begin the nest building process which is exciting to see! Colin and I are hopeful to see eggs within the next few days, as we are doing our best to provide the best and safest habitat for our guests as it is only a matter of time before eggs are laid!

Colin and I will keep you updated on our terns, especially for big events such as the first eggs, first chicks, etc. Look out for any posts that contain the title “The Tern Tribune” and you’ll know that the news is coming live from Ship Island! Feel free to reply with any questions about Ship Island, as I would be happy to tell you more about the amazing work we get to do!

-Bobby Brittingham

(Left: View of nesting beach. Middle: Gull chick and egg from our gull and eider nest survey on the adjacent Trumpet Island. Right: Other visitors make their way to the island besides terns!)

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(Photo Above: A pair of mallards we beleive to be nesting somewhere on ship island.)

Hi all before I begin I figured I would introduce myself. My name is Collin and I am from the meterowest area of Massachusetts where I study wildlife biology at Framingham State University.  This is my second field position, but my first position being able to work with birds which is an interest of mine. I am also working with one other tech named Bobby who will introduce himself in his own post.

We have just finished our first week here on Ship Island, and the primary focus has been preparing the island for the arrival of the terns who have been rather late compared to past years. We have yet to find our first nest or egg. Preparation has largely been in the way of preemptive predator control.  Due to the fact that too much predation on a colony can cause them to abandon their nests even if eggs are present which is a huge loss.



(Photo above: Goshawk trap which is used for catching owls. Acts like a heart trap for birds. That wood pole would hold the doors open, and when a owl perches on that pole the trap collapse’s safely trapping the owl for release on the mainland.)

.  A specific focus has been setting live traps for owls such as our foot hold traps, and goshawk traps(new this season). Another predation control method we have implemented was to make our two observation blinds displeasing to perching predators.  We have achieved this by trying rolls of chicken wire on top of the blinds to form almost a bouncy uneven surface that will hopeful deter the perching of predators.


(Photo above: Our homemade chicken wire perch deterrent on top of a blind.)

Other tasks have also included keeping gulls off the beach mostly by just walking these areas constantly. Gulls are worrisome since they like to eat tern eggs and hatchlings by the “beakfull”.

We hope to be able to report our first nests and eggs any day now.

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Hi everyone!

This is Mary reporting from Metinic Island. I am happy to announce that we had our first eggs on Sunday! We have been monitoring closely to see whether it is Common or Arctic terns sitting on each of the eggs. It is nearly impossible to tell the different eggs apart by appearance alone, so we have to watch closely to see who sits on the scrape. It is very exciting to think that soon there will be little chicks replacing the eggs!

The weather here on Metinic can get a little nasty sometimes. We got rain all afternoon and through the evening yesterday. The wind can really pick up here too, one day last week the average wind speed was 31 mph! Due to the sensitivity of the terns, it is important that we pay close attention to the weather. Disturbing the colony when the weather is bad, especially when there are chicks, can cause the terns to waste unnecessary energy. On days like this, we limit the number of times we enter the colony and in severe cases we do not enter at all.

Check back in with us soon! Hopefully there will be more eggs and some nice weather here on Metinic!


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A new breeding season has begun here on Petit Manan Island. You take a step out the front door on a chilly morning, and the sky and ocean are filled to the brim with life. Little yellow songbirds- like Magnolia Warbler (Setophaga magnolia) and American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)- are darting around the grasses. You hear a familiar song from a Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis) broadcasting his availability to the available females. A white bird swoops towards your head with a sharp call – it’s a Common Tern (Sterna hirundo), establishing its territory and assuring a predator free environment for its young.  And you look out at the sea – it is covered with little charismatic birds: Atlantic Puffins (Fratercula artctica), Razorbills (Alca torda), and Black Guillemots (Cepphus grylle) – the poster children for the island breeding colonies across the Atlantic.

My name is Hallie, and I have lived far from any form of civilization for quite a long time. I have been working with birds for a little over 5 years now, often in locations so remote that your best company often becomes the wildlife around you. Petit Manan, in a way, is my first time living in a metropolitan area in years – but instead of humans, its birds. There is the main crazy downtown here – Puffin Point, as we call it, which would be the avian equivalent to Manhattan. And then there is the lawn – Puffin Point’s suburbia – where you will find all of the terns scattered about fiercely guarding their nests. And out in the more rural suburban zones, you get the Laughing Gulls (Leucophaeus atricilla) and various songbirds. There is even a community underground: Leach’s Storm Petrels (Oceanodroma leucorhoa) which burrow deep down underneath the soil, right next to the roly-polies and the salamanders. The island is hustling and bustling with life, even at the dead of night, just like Times Square.

Puffin Point 

Here in bird city, love is in the air. I have quite enjoyed watching all of the different species of bird court one another. The terns are very playful – one will come back with a fish and flash it off to all of the birds around it, enticing them to chase it during a magnificent display of airborne agility. Sometimes the bird will give it to a potential mate, or sometimes it will devour the fish for itself.  The puffins are gentler – you will often see two mates nuzzling their bills against one another’s, or a male trying to catch the attention of a female by nodding his bill within her sight. And then there’s the guillemots, which will race around the female, dive head first into the water, and make high-pitched, almost song-bird like calls.

Every species of bird here establishes themselves differently: but they all have the same goal in mind. Right now on Petit Manan Island, its finding a mate, finding a place to nest, and getting started securing the future generations of their species. It is quite a magical time, and as chaotic as a metropolitan area can be, the island with its seabirds has its charm.

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Hello everyone!

Mary here giving you an update of the terns here on Metinic. With each passing day we have been seeing more and more birds arriving. Our estimate as of today is between 550 and 600 birds. Currently we have Common and Arctic terns, no Roseate terns have been spotted yet.

In recent days, the birds have been copulating and beginning to make scrapes. It should be any day now that we start to find more scrapes and EGGS! Fingers crossed they start laying very soon.

Check in soon, because hopefully we will have eggs!



(Photo above: Common Tern making a scrape. They do this by pushing their chest into the ground and pushing away the dirt with their feet).

(Photo below: Same two Common Terns. Here you can see the feet action (and a cute tern bum!)


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Hello everyone!

I just wanted to give a quick introduction- my name is Brandon, and I’m one of the seabird technicians for the summer! A little bit about me- I graduated this May from Lees-McRae College with a degree in Wildlife Biology, a Concentration in Wildlife Rehabilitation, and Minors in Criminal Justice and Emergency Medical Services. I’ve been an avid birder for the last 3 years or so, and I spent last summer working at Monomoy NWR where I first realized that although I loved birds of all shapes and sizes, my passion was definitely seabirds! That’s what brought me here this following summer to work for the Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge. I am currently working on Metinic Island, but I’ll be shifting around a little bit come early June, so for now I’ll be looking forward to updating you to all the happenings on Metinic Island, but later in the season don’t be surprised if you find me saying “Hi!”again from PMI, which is where I’m scheduled to move to in another week or so!


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My name is Mary Negri and I will be one of the technicians living on Metinic Island this summer. I am originally from Falmouth, MA and I just graduated from Unity College here in Maine with a B.S in Wildlife and Fisheries Management.

I become an avid birder beginning in high school, and my fascination with them has only continued to grow through my years in college. In addition to birding I am also an artist. Most of my recent work has been hand-painted ceramics and linoleum cut prints. I try to have some variation in my pieces, but most of them are of birds! I also enjoy reading, photography and fly-fishing.

This summer I look forward to gaining experience in the field. I have never banded before, so I am very excited to learn such a valuable skill. Additionally I am excited to learn more about terns and their behaviors, while also protecting the colony and working to help them succeed.

This summer has already started out amazing, so check in often to hear about what we are up to on Metinic, how the terns are doing, what birds we have been seeing, and what it is like to live on an island for the summer!


Mary IMG_4107


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