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Archive for the ‘Petit Manan Island 2013’ Category

In the last few days we began our island wide Alcid (puffins, guillemots and razorbills) monitoring. This means we get a look at our first puffin and razorbill chicks! At the beginning of the season we searched within the rocks, ledges and debris around the edge of the island for burrows of Alcids. After marking their nests, we planned to return once the chicks hatched.

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(above: Jill with a razorbill chick)

Alcids are burrow nesters, meaning they lay their eggs inside a tunnel or crack in the rocks or soil. This keeps the eggs and chicks safe from most predators and also keeps the temperature for incubation fairly steady. Puffins and razorbills put all their eggs in one basket (so to speak) and lay only one egg in their burrows, while guillemots lay two. It’s interesting to note that guillemot eggs and razorbill eggs are speckled white and puffin eggs are solid white. I wonder why that is?

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(above: Jill with a Puffin chick)

Alcids are burrow nesters, meaning they lay their eggs inside a tunnel or crack in the rocks or soil. This keeps the eggs and chicks safe from most predators and also keeps the temperature for incubation fairly steady. Puffins and razorbills put all their eggs in one basket (so to speak) and lay only one egg in their burrows, while guillemots lay two. It’s interesting to note that guillemot eggs and razorbill eggs are speckled white and puffin eggs are solid white. I wonder why that is?

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While we were checking alcid burrows Jordan came across a beautiful find. A leach’s storm-petrel! (see above photo) These strange pelagic seabirds nest throughout Petit Manan in burrows dug into the soil and sod. At night we can hear their strange calls that sound a lot like giggling. They are truly mysterious and beautiful creatures!

With the season coming to a close we are saying goodbye to our field tech and friend Andrea. It’s been a great summer with all four of us here and we are sad to see her go. Andrea will be getting back to school this fall at Umaine where she is studying Zoology with a focus on seabirds. Good luck Andrea!

 

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Here on Petit Manan Island we have been very busy with census and tern chicks! Our first chicks hatched on June 17th and it’s amazing to see how fast some have already grown. We especially appreciate the diversity of colors in our chicks. Some have a mottled brown plumage, while others are silvery grey. Even within a clutch, brother and sister may have very different colors. In a couple of weeks (around 21 days) those chicks will fledge. It will be interesting to watching them grow and develop over the coming month.

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Over the week we spent two days conducting our island wide seabird survey. Biologists, staff and SCA students joined us from the mainland, and it was great fun to have everyone out for a few days. After adding up our numbers we found that the total number of nesting terns is down this year, unfortunately. Despite not know why numbers are down, we are confident that the nests we have are doing very well and are off to a great start.

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We have also been very busy making delicious food here on Petit Manan. Yesterday evening we gathered periwinkles, dulse and mussels for our dinner. Jill made her special Alfredo sauce to go along with some pasta and we had ourselves a feast. Surprising to some, periwinkles are quite easy to cook and delicious!   

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The field crew here on Petit Manan just concluded two days of Alcid burrow searching along the rocky perimeter of the island. Alcids (Atlantic puffins, razorbills and black guillemots here on PMI) are a group of seabirds that have exchanged some of their flying skills for superb swimming and diving abilities. They nest in natural crevasses and cavities in rocky berms and cliffs and, in the case of puffins, in dug out burrows in sod.

During our search for burrows we discovered a beautiful willet nest on the northwestern side of the island. The nest contained 4 gorgeous eggs; hopefully we can find the chicks when they hatch!

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Locating Alcid burrows gave us a good idea of where the puffins, razorbills and guillemots are concentrating their nesting efforts. In a week or two we should start to see the first puffin chicks.

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Petit Manan in the foreground and Green Island, connected to PMI by a rocky bar at low tide.

Petit Manan in the foreground and Green Island, connected to PMI by a rocky bar at low tide.

Last Tuesday, the crew headed over to Green Island, joined by biologists Linda, Sara, and Christa, and two SCA students, to survey the seabirds nesting there. After being dropped on the Northeast side of the island, we were all issued “egg rings,” PVC pipe connecters that are sized to allow herring gull eggs to pass through but not great black-backed gull. We formed a line going from the berm through the vegetation and headed west counting gull and common eider nests as we went along.

Egg ring for determining whether a nest belongs to a Herring or Black-backed Gull

Egg ring for determining whether a nest belongs to a Herring or Black-backed Gull

Common eider nests are hidden in the vegetation and beautifully made from the mother hen’s down feathers. She incubates her clutch of 2-9 eggs for around 25 days, only taking breaks in the evenings to drink and feed. After the first week of incubation females are reported to stay on the nest night and day unless disturbed. They go up to 3 weeks without leaving their clutch!

An eider nest lined with down.

An eider nest lined with down.

Skirting the western edge of Green Island, we found the first great black-backed gull chicks of the season and a Canada goose gosling. As we headed back to Petit Manan along the bar from Green Island we spotted two oyster catchers in the cove. In years past they have nested on Green Island, we are hoping they do so this year as well.

Andrea holding a Black-backed Gull Chick.

Andrea holding a Black-backed Gull Chick.

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Petit Manan Island (on one of the few sunny days so far)

Andrea and I (Jordan) have been on Petit Manan Island (PMI) for a little over a week now, getting the island ready for the seabird breeding season. Although the weather has been rather wet and dreary, we’ve put up our observation blinds from which we can watch the Common and Arctic Terns that nest all over the ground, as well as the Alcids (Atlantic Puffins, Razorbills, and Black Guillemots) that nest in rock and sod cavities along the perimeter of the island. There are not many seabirds yet—the terns are still arriving (we’re up to about 500 now), and they only land on the island at night and in the early morning, and the Alcids are just scoping out burrow locations. But luckily for us bird nerds, there are TONS of migrating songbirds stopping to rest and refuel on PMI. We’ve seen over 50 bird species so far, including many warblers, thrushes, and sparrows that are moving through on their way to their breeding grounds. We’ve included photos of some of the migrants we’ve seen so far, and we’ll keep you posted as the seabirds settle in!

Black and White Warbler

Eastern Bluebird

American Redstart

Magnolia Warbler

2013 Bird List (so far)

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