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Archive for the ‘Petit Manan 2014’ Category

What is that sound walking to the outhouse in the dark of night?! It’s a Leach’s Storm-Petrel! Its call is a spooky one to hear for a person like me unacquainted with the “giggling” sound. I heard my first petrel call here on Petit Manan. Pretty cool!

While the other inhabitants of the island are roosting at night, Leach’s Storm-Petrels are active searching for a mate and a burrow dug from the soil. They are a secretive, nocturnal, and pelagic species only returning to land to breed and active at night to avoid predation. Petrels lay one egg that is incubated for 37-50 days and chicks fledge in September or October.

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Julia with a Leach’s Storm-Petrel adult

Early in the season, we venture out in search of petrel burrows. Our goal is to mark 20 active burrows with colored flags. How do you know it’s active? You reach into the burrow (1-3 feet in length) to find a nest cup, nesting material, or a petrel! Often burrows curve, so a burrow camera can be used to reach where your whole arm cannot. One indication of Leach’s Storm-Petrels is their musty smell at the entrance of a burrow.

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Wayne smells a petrel

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Burrow entrance

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Julia holding the camera and Anna wearing the viewing screen

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Burrow camera in use

Later in the season we will return to the flagged burrows and determine the presence of an egg. Then return again to check for a hatched chick. In the meantime, we will continue with our tern and alcid activities. Look for Petit Manan’s next post for some exciting news!

-Brittany

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During the past few weeks, we have enjoyed watching the migrating passerines that pause to rest and refuel on Petit Manan. On the mainland, many migrants are spread far and wide throughout expansive forest habitat, often bouncing around high in the trees. However, here on PMI we have the rare opportunity to see songbirds up-close in the intertidal. Flies buzzing among the rockweed provide a perfect meal for these hungry birds. Since Petit Manan covers 16 acres and has only one tree (a twisted spruce that is a few feet tall), migrants are easily visible and concentrated within a small area. It seems almost surreal to find Blackburnian Warblers like this one hopping along the rocks, since this species normally feeds high in the treetops.

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Wilson’s Warbler

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Ovenbird

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Black-and-White Warbler

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Northern Parula

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Magnolia Warbler

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White-throated Sparrow (top) and Black-throated Blue Warbler (bottom)

Many of these migrants have traveled all the way from wintering grounds in Mexico, Central America, and northern South America. It is amazing to think that such tiny birds can travel this far, and continue even further northward to breed. Passerines often travel by night to avoid predation, and we sometimes hear them calling after dark as they resume their journeys.

We look forward to having more migrant visitors, and adding to our quickly growing bird list!

-Anna

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Petit Manan

Back to Island life! It’s been three years since I’ve lived on a Maine island and I’m glad to be back. Dug out all our gear, threw it together and off we went. “We” as in Julia and I – we have been dating for nearly three years and are working together this summer with two other technicians: Anna and Brittany. We are all biologists with varying amounts of experience and we all hope to have a great season with the terns and alcids here on Petit Manan.

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A puffin and razorbill pair through the scope.

We arrived on May 7th and 20th with an ominous greeting by a Bald eagle perched on top of the boathouse.  Unpacked all our gear and settled into our new home for the summer – a beautiful 4-bedroom historic building. That first night I was outside and heard the first Arctic and Common terns of the season as well as the unique calls of Leach’s storm-petrels! It was great to finally hear them again. Woke up the next morning, looked out my window to see Atlantic Puffins and Razorbills loafing on the rocks.  How could it get any better? Time to climb the 137-step spiral staircase up Petit Manan’s 119ft lighthouse (second highest in Maine) to do morning alcid counts. Wow what a sight to finally be looking down on flocks of terns and guillemots from above. A seabird biologist’s dream! Oh no, what’s that? A Snowy owl!?

-Wayne

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Snowy Owl for the first time in over a decade on Petit Manan!

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I can’t believe the season is more than halfway over! Yet there is still so much to observe and enjoy here on Petit Manan island. Recently we have begun to see the first of the arctic migrants, such as dowitchers and sandpipers. We have even seen some wandering passerines like mockingbirds, mourning doves and a fledgling robin. It says something about islands life when seeing a robin is a big surprise!

Unfortunately, the terns have had a rather bad stretch of luck. The combination of bad weather, predation and (seemingly) lack of food have had a huge impact on chick numbers. Parts of the island have done better then others. However, the colony doing okay. We even have a few fledglings flying around!

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Most disconcerting, for us researchers, has been watching the great blacked-back gulls swooping in and picking off tern chicks. They are efficient predators. It is equal parts interesting and terrifying to see them hunting. Jill got a great photo of one taking an eider duckling, so you can see one in action below.

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This weekend we have been joined by Bangor high-school student Max. He’s been an excellent addition to the crew and has been a great help with our research. Here he is examining a tern egg this evening.

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