Archive for May 30th, 2019

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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