Archive for the ‘Ship Island 2018’ Category

As one can imagine, things don’t always go as planned when working on a seabird restoration island. The last three weeks have been a whirlwind. All was well and the terns were incubating, when a nasty storm was headed for our little island. A few days before the storm, the terns were leaving the island at night. We started with night stints, thinking it was a nocturnal predator (eg. Owl, raccoon, or mink). After the weekend, our biologists and staff came out to do a walk-through of the island. Boo, the pup, came out to sweep the island for any sign of mammalian predators. We set several more mink traps, owl traps, and even some raccoon traps on nearby Trumpet Island. The only sign of predation found that day was a dead adult tern. Leaving puzzled, we continued with night walks and checking traps every two hours. With no sigh of a predator, the big storm came with high tides. The terns didn’t return after the storm, leaving their eggs exposed to avian predators. The next day we found cracked eggs as well as missing eggs. Soon to see what may be the culprit, crows. We also had a family of geese causing a ruckus, trampling through our colony, destroying nests. Meanwhile, the terns have been coming back at night, staying the night, and leaving in the morning. Again, we did a walk-through, finding three tern feather piles in the rack line. We moved a few of the owl traps and set up game cameras. The island sitter came out for the weekend, finding a new tern feather pile in the rack line on the beach. She saw a Peregrine Falcon and a Merlin early in the morning. During this two week period, colony behavior has not been normal. They have been less and less aggressive towards not only us, but predators as well. Instead of the terns attacking the Merlin, the Merlin was flying with the terns. After this weekend, it seems as if most of the colony has abandoned. However, we have been seeing a few new nests and have confirmation of one. We marked a new one egg nest in one of our productivity plots and the next day there were TWO eggs! At this point we are doing everything we can to scare all predators (eg. Gulls, crows, and eagles) off of the island.



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This week, we banded our first adult Common Terns, set up our first productivity plots, have our first Spotted Sandpiper chicks, and saw our first Common Eider creche.


We have been busy trapping and banding terns. So far, we have trapped 9 adult terns with 2 recaptures. One banded as a chick on Petit Manan Island in 2009 and the other banded in Buenos Aires, Argentina!


Productivity plots are used to monitor chick productivity. Each plot includes 8-10 nests and is monitored daily until chicks hatch. Once all chicks in the plot have hatched, they are banded and weighed every-other day.

Earlier this week, we conducted the Golf of Maine Seabird Working Group (GOMSWG) survey here on Ship Island. We found a total of 498 Common Tern nests, a few even had 4 eggs!


We cannot wait for our chicks to start hatching!

Your 2018 Ship Island Crew

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We found our first Common Tern nest, and couldn’t be more excited! Since finding our first nest, we have marked over 50 nests and have been monitoring them daily for signs of predation. We have taken note of close to 100 nests in our little colony, while keeping a close eye on any signs of unusual activity that could result in predation. We have been observing more and more terns visiting the colony and spending the night with us.

Yesterday, we headed over to Trumpet Island with refuge staff to conduct a census. While on the island, we walked 3m apart and counted all gull (Great Black-backed and Herring) and Common Eider clutches observed. Not only did we census Trumpet, we also got to observe a Great Black-backed Gull chick hatching!

Although the gull chicks were adorable, we cannot wait for our tern chicks to start hatching!

Your 2018 Ship Island Crew!                                                                                                                 ~Olivia and Bailey

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Daily bird walks are conducted at 7am, where we identify every bird we observe by sight or sound. So far, we have documented 37 bird species on Ship Island. Below are a few photos of the new species saw this week, including Common Yellowthroat, Wilson’s Warbler, and Black-throated Green Warbler.

The last few days we have been intensively pulling garlic mustard. Garlic mustard is an invasive weed that grows in what seems to be large clusters here on Ship Island. We have scoured the island, pulling all of the flowering plants and spraying the base as well as the rosettes with vinegar. Our efforts over the last two days have filled 7 large trash bags.


Olivia pulling garlic mustard

Today, we spent a few hours over on Bar Island to document a shell midden found two years ago. On the island we searched for any sign of mammalian predators, finding very few raccoon tracks and scat. While walking the beach we also found a Lion’s Mane jellyfish that had washed up in the tide.

We look forward to the nesting season and hope to find eggs within the next few days!

Your 2018 Ship Island Crew                                                                                                                  ~Olivia and Bailey

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We are excited to be coming to you from Ship Island, a 11 acre island owned by Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge. The island will be our home for the next three months. We would like to introduce ourselves and share a little about the experiences that have led us here.


Your 2018 Ship Island Crew: Bailey and Olivia


As a Minnesota girl with a passion for wildlife and photography, I am loving the beauty of the Maine Coast! I am excited for the opportunity to be living on Ship Island for the summer, expanding my knowledge and experience as an Island Supervisor. Previously, I have worked with the Kittlitz’s Murrelet on Kodiak Island, Alaska – Steller’s Eider, Spectacled Eider, King Eider, and Long-tailed Duck in Barrow, Alaska – as well as Bighorn Sheep, Bobcats, and Merriam’s Wild Turkey in Custer, South Dakota. I plan to attend graduate school to become a Wildlife Biologist.


This Thursday was the start of many firsts for me. My first field job, my first time living on an island, my first time relying on solar power, and my first time living with no running water. Last summer, I worked as an education intern at Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center located in Scarborough, Maine. While at the marsh, I spent most of my time observing birds and am very excited to expand my knowledge on other bird species. Since arriving on the Island, I have already encountered my first Black Guillemot, Black Scoter, American Coot, Black-bellied Plover and Savannah Sparrow. The terns have been coming back and forth periodically throughout the day, but I am looking forward to them staying their first night with us. I am excited to learn more about these beautiful birds and can’t wait to find out what the rest of the season has in store!


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