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Archive for the ‘Eastern Brother’s Island 2013’ Category

The Eastern Brothers Island crew checking in here with one last update before our departure.  Our days are coming to an end for the 2013 season, which brings about bitter-sweet emotions.  I find it hard to believe how quickly the summer has gone by and yet the other part of me thinks “My, won’t it be nice to take a real shower and eat ice cream!”  It has been a wonderful experience living out on this beautiful island and we have definitely come to feel as though the little cabin feels close to home.

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Fresh picked flowers and welcome sign on cabin.

Due to quite a few early storms, as well as the presence of a mink on the island early season, the black guillemots had a wide-range of laying dates.  There are several chicks that have already fledged or will in the next few days, yet there are also a few that hatched just days ago.  Black Guillemot chicks will fledge on average after 33 days in the burrow and do not migrate south and so there is not a huge rush to get them out the door, per se.  Here are pictures of the two stages:

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A one week old chick practicing how to be fierce.

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The oldest chick, just a day or two before leaving the burrow.

As a parting thought, some people believe that a pot of gold lies at the end of a rainbow, but we have reason to believe otherwise (see last photo).  We hope you have enjoyed reading our posts and that you continue to have an interest in seabird colonies and the work we do on the Maine coast!  Cheers!  ~Mary and Jake

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Somewhere over the rainbow lies Eastern Brothers Island.

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Our first reachable chicks, Ally and Barnabas, are really growing! When they first hatched 2 weeks ago they weighed 40g and have now reached 230g! Their diet is mostly rock gunnel along with herring that is delivered by both parents to them in the burrow. Along with their weight gain they are gaining pinfeathers on their wings which is the beginning of their juvenile molt.

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20 cm wing chord at 2 days old

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60 cm wing chord with pin feathers at 2 weeks old

 

We are finding new chicks that have hatched almost every other day! We now have 11 chicks that we are collecting data from and we’ve noticed adults delivering food to several other unreachable burrows.

In our free time we have been identifying plants around the islands and have tasted several of the edible plants. There is a variety of berries on the island including raspberries, cranberries, blueberries, bearberry, and crowberry. Mary made a tart jam by combining the cranberries from last year, which are still on the plant, with honey and lemon.  We have tried the leaves of rose root and seaside plantain and the inner stalk of bull thistle. There are also some beach pea pods, raspberries, and bearberries that will soon be ripe!

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Rose root

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Beach pea

We have decided that since we are essentially living in our own society, that we can create and celebrate our own holidays.  Yesterday was our 14th of July celebration (combining National Guillemot Day and the Fourth of July), where we grilled and set off sparklers!

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Enjoying the sunset in front of our freshly painted cabin on the 14th of July!

 

 

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Young Barnabas looking not too pleased with the photo shoot

We are happy to announce the long awaited arrival of our first black guillemot chicks!  Our first chick is named Avery William and appears strong and healthy (he is tucked far back in a dark burrow visible only with a flashlight).  His cousins Ally and Barnabas Beal hatched a few days later and are the cutest, 40 gram bundles of black down ever!  We have named them in honor of the folklore legend Tall Barney (Barnabas Coffin Beal, III), who lived and fished in the Jonesport/Beals Island area in the mid 1800’s.  He was known for his tall stature (6 feet 7 inches and possibly taller!) and unheard of strength.  We are hopeful that Barnabas Beal Guillemot and all his relatives to come grow to be strong and courageous like Tall Barney.

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Tall Barney with son Napolean Beal

On another exciting note, despite the hours of fog we have endured this last week, we were able to find an hour of clearing clouds during which we spotted a razorbill actually perched on the eastern tip of the island next to the alcid sound system.  Attracting razorbills to Eastern Brothers Island is one of the main objectives of Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge and so having one land and appear interested in the area is very exciting.  We have been seeing one razorbill in the adjacent waters almost every day for several weeks now and decided that it was time for a name.  Seeing as our local common tern is officially named Reginald, we thought that Ronald the Razorbill was a good fit.  Stay tuned for more adventures of Reggie and Ron!

Here is a parting image of the Eastern Brothers cliffs breaking through the fog on a warm, summer morning. ~Mary

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EBI breaking through the fog. Photo by Jake

 

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While the weather continues to present us here on Eastern Brothers Island with, what could be referred to as, unpleasant conditions, I am coming to believe that it is for a couple of reasons.  One of those reasons is: bad weather is good for the social community.  If there wasn’t sloppy weather, I dare say that some Mainer’s wouldn’t have much else to talk about.     Fog, rain, and stiff north winds, while easy to complain about, are what makes us tougher.  Here is a photograph of what it’s like on the island in foul weather.

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Eastern Brothers Island in foul weather

Now this is the more important reason why I believe we have gray days: foul weather makes you appreciate the good days more.  After spending a day inside a 12 by 16 foot cabin staring out into a gray abyss and then going outside periodically only to completely drench my attire, I found that once the sun did shine the island was even MORE glorious than before.  Here is my proof:

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Eastern Brothers Island in all its glory

On our good days over the past week or so we have spent hours scanning the seas for alcids and have also become familiar with some of the local lobster boats.  Eastern Brothers Island is an island that Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge is hopeful in establishing a razorbill, puffin, and tern colony on.  We have seen quite a few razorbills in the adjacent waters, including 40+ foraging, but more typically see one or two closer to the cliffs.  While not scanning for alcids, we are also working on learning to identify our islands plant community.  Essentially we live on a bog.  Western Brothers is covered, literally covered, with cranberries.  We also have cloudberry, white cotton grass, and Artic Blue Flag irises; species associated with northern climates.  

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A hand full of mouth-puckering goodness straight from our bog

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Looking an iris in the eye

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Black Guillemot eggs in crack on Western Brothers Island

On a parting note for this week, we just got back from a black guillemot burrow search and were very excited to find eggs in cracks and crevices and tiny dark holes all over the cliffs.  Above is a typical burrow crack.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Gray skies over Eastern Brother’s Island

Greetings from Mary and Jake on Eastern and Western Brother’s!  This is the first summer for both of us working with the Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge and we are really excited to be here on “our” island.  We were launched out from Jonesport, Maine on a truly downeast day:  rain pelting our faces, swells rolling across the bay, and fog blanketing the coast.  The Refuge staff helped unload our gear, gave us a quick tour of the islands, and then waved good-bye with haste as the weather was only going to deteriorate.
The storm that then moved in created 10 foot southerly swells that crashed like huge geysers up the 60-70 foot cliffs on Eastern Brothers.  We survived the storm and here we are two weeks in to exploring and marveling at the beauty our islands have to offer.

Through our morning counts, alcid watches, tern stints and personal explorations we have discovered a lot already about our island habitat.  First and most prominent, our black guillemot colony is thriving.  Daily we watch the hundreds of birds circling and nodding in courtship behavior.  We have found several burrows with eggs and it seems as though the “big push” is still to come.

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Black Guillemots in the fog

Also to note, the single common tern (known as Reggie) that has resided in the tern colony previous years has returned.  While he seems more than content loafing on the rocks and foraging huge fish for himself, we are slightly worried that he might have an existential breakdown.   “Why don’t they fly with me?  Why are they never hungry?” These can only be the questions Reggie asks himself day to day.

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Reggie on decoy’s head

Here’s to a summer full of seabirds and many more beautiful sunsets on the coast of Maine!  ~Mary and Jake

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Jake taking in our first sunset

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