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Archive for the ‘Petit Manan 2014’ Category

Lots to do here on the island; as you might know our terns this year are running a little later than in past years, and later from the other Maine Coastal islands. We speculated from earlier observations that it could be due to a lack of good fish during courtship. Fish have continued to be unusual, in that we have a large variety of fish, some of which we have never seen terns carrying before.

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Arctic tern with unknown fish

So after post-tropical storm Arthur rolled through with over 60mph winds and torrential rain, it is sad to say that about a 3rd or more of our chicks didn’t make it through the storm and a few alcid burrows were flooded. Then after a week of nice weather, when everything was just getting back to normal, the next storm moved in and we were socked in with another storm and lost even more tern chicks. So as you might guess there was a lot to catch up in the colony after all the storms, but we didn’t lose hope and the strongest survived. Of the ones who made it, they did very well and we had our first of many arctic and common tern fledglings taking their first flight on July 20th!

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Our first Arctic tern fledgling with adult

As for our Alcids, all our puffins and guillemots are growing rapidly in their burrows. We have an increase in puffin and razorbill burrows this year and they seem to be doing well.

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22 day old Black Guillemot chick

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Atlantic Puffin chick

Recently we found an usual guillemot that had two black wing bars like a Pigeon Guillemot. We replaced the old, worn band on its leg and discovered that it was banded here on the island in 1998!

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16-year-old Black Guillemot looking similar to a Pigeon Guillemot

One last exciting thing that happened here on PMI was that MCINWR came out to the island and attached a nanotag to one of our razorbills! After banding it, Linda implanted the nanotag and the razorbill was put safely back into his burrow. Now we will be able to track “Percy” our razorbill (we needed to name it and it seemed fitting to name it after Julia’s 21 year old cat who was actually named after a Maine lobsterman!) wherever he goes. More on that soon!

-PMI Crew

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Linda attaching transmitter on Razorbill

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Wayne placing “Percy” the Razorbill with new transmitter back into its burrow

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Another day on Petit Manan Island, yes there is major seabird action going on here on our island right now – our terns and alcids are hatching daily and eider chicks are running about, but this post is all about what goes on behind the scenes, the things that keep this island going, the things that maybe aren’t so glorifying.

So to keep everybody in line here on PMI we have something called “Worm Duties.” Everyday, someone new is the “worm-of-the-day” and they have to basically do all the house chores, daily weather, and alcid counts of the day. To make being the “worm” extra special, we have to wear the worm hat while working. As we say it has special powers and makes you work harder, maybe even faster so you can take it off quickly!

The worm hat holder

The worm hat holder

Compost dumping worm

Compost dumping worm

Working worm

Working worm

Recycling worm

Recycling worm

Mowing the lawn

Worm mowing the lawn

As well as other island duties:

Choppin Wood

Learning to chop wood

ongoing bow net tweeking

Ongoing bow net tweeking

 

Building chick houses

Building chick houses

Cleaning boat ramp

Cleaning boat ramp

Wow I”m exhausted just looking at all these working photos,  oh no got to go! Time for Tern Productivity checks then Leach’s storm petrel checks and data entry!

-Wayne

 

 

 

 

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Black Guillemots have begun to nest on Petit Manan and for the last couple weeks we have been busy locating burrows and marking them for monitoring. Other alcids, inlcuding Razorbills and Atlantic Puffins have begun to nest, too! Rock crevices and under washed up wood is where Guillemots choose to nest. Searching for burrows includes kneeling down to rock or wood level and looking for 1-2 eggs or an adult Guillemot. Finding them could get tricky!!

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Searching a tricky burrow under the boat ramp.

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More burrow searching…

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Guillemot eggs.

June 27th was Guillemot Appreciation Day and to celebrate we made paper Guillemots to send to the other islands. Here on Petit Manan, everyday is Guillemot Appreciation Day with our own special Guillemot hanging over the kitchen table.

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We searched the whole island perimeter and found 65 Black Guillemot burrows. The island crew will return to the marked Guillemot burrows every 3 days for monitoring. Also, we have 48 Atlantic Puffin burrows and 4 Razorbill burrows.

Today, we checked burrows and found 3 Guillemot chicks! Andddd while we were checking for Guillemots we found our first Puffin chicks and Razorbill chicks!!

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Puffin Chick!!

Looking forward to all our alcid chicks hatching!

-Brittany 🙂

 

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For the past few weeks, a lot has been going on with Petit Manan’s tern colony!  We have been focusing much of our time on trapping and banding both Arctic and Common Tern adults, which is an essential part of our research.

In order to capture terns, we use two types of traps—the bownet and treadle trap—to catch adults on their nests.  First, we temporarily remove the eggs from the nest so that the bird does not crush its eggs if it struggles in the trap.  The real eggs are replaced with painted wooden ones, and a trap is set over the nest. Trappers then hide out in a blind and wait for terns to return.

The bownet is a spring trap that is set behind the nest cup and triggered when the adult sits on two monofilaments stretching over the “eggs.”  This trap has a metal frame and netting which springs harmlessly over the bird to contain it.  The treadle is a small cage trap with a door, which the tern must walk through to trigger its closing mechanism.

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a Common Tern being removed from a treadle trap

When a tern is captured, a researcher runs out from the blind to retrieve it and replaces the fake eggs with the real ones.  Each tern receives a metal band with a unique number on one leg.  Every Arctic tern also receives a field readable band with an alphanumeric code on the other leg, so that it can be easily resighted from a distance.  We take several measurements, including mass, wing chord (wing length), and head/bill length before releasing the tern.

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Julia banding an Arctic Tern

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Wayne releasing an Arctic Tern

By banding these birds, we can learn about their migration paths, longevity, nest site fidelity, and productivity.  Banded birds may be re-trapped or resighted in the future.  If a banded bird is found along its migration path or on wintering grounds, we can learn about where it has been travelling.  If a bird that was banded as a chick is later found as a nesting adult, we know that it has lived to breeding age and laid eggs.  Speaking of chicks…

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first Common Tern chicks hatched on 6/20

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first Arctic Tern chicks hatched on 6/22

We found our first tern chicks of the season on June 20!  Every day we are finding more chicks, and banding them as well.  As the season continues, we will be closely monitoring their growth, survivorship, and diet to learn about the colony’s overall health.  Stay tuned for more posts about these little cuties!

-Anna

 

 

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On June 19 and 20 the island crew, along with the invaluable help of Refuge staff and volunteers, completed the annual Gulf of Maine Seabird Working Group (GOMSWG) Census where over the course of two days we attempted to count every nest on the island belonging to a tern, gull, or eider. In order to do this, we all spread out in a line and called out nests to the person recording.

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Census crew working around the PMI light tower

During the census we came across a few oddities, such as Laughing Gull eggs in Eider nests and gull nests with double clutches.

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Laughing Gull egg nestled in the warm down of an Eider nest

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A double clutch of gull eggs – normally they have only 3. This could be a case of two females nesting together.

In addition to all these nests, we also found female Eider hens sitting quietly on their eggs in the vegetation hoping to go unnoticed. Usually, we leave these ladies to their incubating, but during census we catch them to read their bands or apply new bands if needed, helping us keep track of them in the future.

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Mother Eider sitting quietly on her nest

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Julia and Brittany as successful Eider-catchers!

After tallying up all the numbers and accounting for all the Common and Arctic Tern nests we marked with colored flags, we have 1203 tern nests, 670 of which are Commons while 533 are Arctics, 521 Laughing Gull nests, and 54 Common Eider nests! We do the puffin/guillemot/razorbill census a little differently, using the number of burrows we find throughout the season combined with how many we see on the island from day to day, so we will have those numbers later. Keep posted for more exciting updates about all those eggs.

– PMI Island Crew

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A Puffin relaxing on the rose granite

Greetings from Petit Manan! Things are well under way here on this island oasis – after all the mating happened, eggs of all shapes, sizes, and colors began to show up all around the island. We have eggs from 2-3 different Tern species, as well as Laughing Gulls and Common Eiders. Some tern eggs are brown while others are green, and some have beautifully woven nests of grasses and shells while others are laid on bare rock.

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A typical brownish-gray Common Tern egg

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Some heavily-mottled eggs in a very intricate nest

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A full clutch of beautiful turquoise/green Arctic Tern eggs laid almost on bare rock. These birds would rather decorate with shells and sticks and feathers than weave the intricate nest bowls of Common Terns

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A Common Eider nest concealed among the Angelica and lined with soft, warm down

We also have three different species of alcids nesting among our rocky shoreline: the Atlantic Puffin, Razorbill, and Black Guillemot. Each species, just like with terns, chooses nesting sites among the rocks with different criteria in mind, and they decorate their homes quite differently as well. But these eggs are not as easy to find…

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Wayne checking the contents of a Guillemot burrow…

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… and taking out the eggs for a closer look.

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Puffins lay a single mostly-white egg in a warm nest of dried grasses brought into the burrow by the beak-full

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Razorbills, on the other hand, lay one large, speckled egg on the bare rocks. You can tell these eggs from Guillemot eggs by the lack of a “ring” formed by the speckles at the large end.

Until next time!

– Julia

 

 

 

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Snowy owl!?  Yes PMI had a snowy owl preying on Atlantic puffins and Black guillemots.  It was first spotted flying from Puffin Point and hunting all around the alcid colony. After several days and numerous attempts to discourage it from the island with pyrotechnics, we finally had to take action by setting out soft-coated leg-hold traps to try and capture the owl without injuring it and then relocating it. Now, placing the four traps that we had would be tricky as this particular owl didn’t perch or roost in any one spot twice. So I figure if it likes puffins so much the best way would be to dig out this old Puffin decoy I found stashed in our tool shed and put him to good use. We set up the traps and decoy just on the edge of the alcid colony at sunset just far enough so no alcids would fall into our traps.

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Puffy the decoy working hard on the job

The next morning “Puffy” the puffin decoy did his job! Two traps were set off and Puffy had his first battle talon scar on his chest! After that morning the Snowy owl was never seen on the island as of this posting which has been over 3 weeks! So now with this peculiar predator off the island our resident birds can get back to doing their thing, which is…..

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Guillemots mating

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Puffins mating in the water!

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Razorbills Mating on Puffin Point

Arctic Terns Mating

Arctic Terns Mating

Common Terns Mating

Common Terns Mating

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Even species that we don’t like to encourage have started mating now that the snowy owl is gone!

 

– Wayne

 

 

 

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