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It has been a week full of change on Petit Manan Island.  The majority of terns have fledged and are flying all around the island.  It is a rewarding sight to see given that not too long ago, these birds were just eggs in a slight depression on the ground.  Seeing all the fledglings combined with the fact that two of our crew members (Chris and Bailey) finished up their duties here on PMI is a stark reminder that the end of the season is right around the corner.  I feel very lucky to have worked with both of these people.  Bailey came over from Ship Island a couple of weeks ago and instantly provided a boost to the crew.  It felt like we were able to get so much done with her in the squad.  Chris has been with me since the beginning on PMI, and it is going to be weird to adjust to island life without him in the crew.  His birding skills and overall energy were a key component of our accomplishments this season.  They are as smart, dedicated, and talented as they come and they will be missed.

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Common Tern fledgling.  Photo Credit: Kate O’Connor

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The Crew  (left to right: Bailey, Lance, Kate, Chris, Alex).  Photo Credit: Bailey Yliniemi

While it is a bummer to say goodbye to two crew members, the rest of the crew was excited to observe International Guillemot Appreciation Day this past Friday.  We celebrated by grubbing some guillemot burrows, measuring chicks, and banding them if they were old enough.  Talk about some crazy festivities.  As far as the other alcids go, we have some exciting news.  After patiently waiting for them to grow, we finally were able to band our first puffin chicks.  It is nice to see them get some big-boy feathers to cover up their down and hopefully they will start to fledge before we know it.  We also had our first razorbill chick hatch, which we are all ecstatic about.

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Guillemot chicks moments before banding. Photo Credit: Bailey Yliniemi

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Chris measuring the wing chord of a razorbill chick. Photo Credit: Bailey Yliniemi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That is all I have for now.

You stay classy mainland,

-Alex

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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From Ship to Petit Manan and, lastly, to Metinic, I am lucky enough to have been able to experience three of the refuge’s seabird restoration islands. Every island so distinctly different from the other, it has been interesting to spend some time on each.

 

Metinic is such a charming island. I was thrilled to be able to walk in a forest again, and the sheep out here are very cute! There are so many birds on the island a well, and Nora and Nick have been extremely helpful in teaching me about the ones I am unfamiliar with. We have spotted some whimbrels hanging around the island the past few days as well, which was really cool to see.

We have been checking our 86 Leach’s storm-petrel burrows that have been marked so far and found chicks in a few burrows! This is the first time a crew has confirmed storm-petrel chicks on Metinic! We have also been monitoring black guillemot chicks, and have done the final check for two near-fledged (~28 days old) chicks. Black guillemots are considered fledged around 36 days old, and these two will be our first to leave their burrow.

As mentioned in the last blog post, the stars out here are unbelievable. I have never seen the night sky so clear and have been enjoying staying up late to see them and listen to the funny storm-petrel calls from under the house. Nora and Nick have been capturing some amazing photos. I will definitely miss seeing the night sky on the islands when I head back to the mainland.

Even though there are a few new nests for terns and guillemots, most eggs have hatched and many chicks have fledged. Our season is wrapping up too, but we still have plenty of final checks, banding and measurements to be taken. It will be sad to leave the island, but the chicks are fledging and birds are leaving on migration so it’s time for us to migrate too.

– Olivia

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Another eventful week for the research team stationed on Petit Manan, as we delved into puffin burrows. Puffins are professional architects when constructing their burrows. Each burrow was different from the next, a cozy home for the adults and the chicks to live in for the season. Some were easily accessible while others were out of arms reach, literally. It was hard grubbing work trying to find them, while the turns flew over head pooping on us. But This experience is one I will never forget as worked along side puffin adults, which are a lot stronger than I expected and puffin chicks, which make your heart melt. The puffin chicks are looking very healthy and fluffy, and continue to grow everyday.

We also added a new member to the team on PMI, Bailey. Before she moved to PMI she was stationed on ship Island. She has been a great addition to the team and we love her presence. Since being on the island Bailey has been able to experience handling puffs for the first time, which is always a special moment.

Till next time ✌️

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We’re busy here on Metinic Island as we monitor chicks and nests for common and arctic terns, black guillemots, and Leach’s storm-petrels. While most of our work occurs during the day, some surveys for storm-petrels occur at night. Clear nights on Metinic Island are spectacular because there is no light pollution and few buildings to hinder our view. We can easily see planets, but there are seemingly thousands of stars and the Milky Way cuts across the sky. Lately, the Southern Delta Aquarid meteor shower has begun and several stars are especially bright or close to planets. We are lucky to have such incredible views of the stars.

Unfortunately, many people living in major cities and suburbs rarely see the stars, or may see planets occasionally. In Nora’s home town near Los Angeles, CA, only Saturn and Jupiter are usually bright enough to be seen through the light pollution and smog. It’s a disheartening feeling to see no stars, and feel no connection with the universe. Light pollution severely limits what is visible, such that some people may never truly see the sky.

Light pollution is growing worse in many areas, but there are a few things that can be done to reduce light pollution and regain views of the stars. First, reduce the number, brightness or view of outdoor lights that are used at night. Second, reduce the number or brightness of streetlights. Third, encourage businesses to turn off or lower lights on their properties at night. And, finally, add fixtures that point light downward. Not all of these will be possible everywhere, obviously, but it seems vital to be able to see the night sky.

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Petit Manan is still booming with babies!  Many tern chicks have already hatched (and some are even beginning to get their big kid feathers!) while others are still just entering the world. The crew has begun provisioning studies – watching what the parents bring to feed the chicks. Depending on what types of fish the chicks are being fed, we may be able to better understand why some chicks may not survive, as well as how healthy the local ecosystem is, or if there are signs of overharvesting. So just by watching what a couple dozen chicks are eating, we are given a lot of information!

A few days ago we also completed an entire census of the island. We recorded all tern and laughing gull nests on the island, as well as if the tern nests had been predated on by using the predator sticks we put out in the beginning of the season. We had help from several other biologists from the mainland, giving us a crew of 11 people over the two day census.IMG_9331

Sadly, we also said our farewells to the PhD student we had the pleasure of working with for the past 3 weeks. She was studying the Laughing Gull colony, and has completed collecting the data she needs. She will be heading back to North Dakota shortly and we all wish her the best with the rest of her research!

The Petit Manan crew will continue adoring the puffins, watching the tern chicks grow up (a little too fast), and skunking each other in cribbage.

Over and out,

Kate

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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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Our restoration work on Metinic is primarily focused on terns, but we also monitor black guillemot burrows. We locate burrows on the island by watching birds fly in and out of burrows from a blind, and we eventually check those sites for eggs. Black guillemots lay eggs in burrows in rocky crevices and under ledges, which makes it slightly more challenging than nest searching for terns. We have found 34 active nests so far, 15 of which we will monitor for the rest of the season.

We will monitor hatching success, predation and chick growth rate. We selected easily accessible burrows to monitor chick growth because some guillemots are experts at making their nests completely inaccessible. Once there are chicks, we will visit the burrows every few days to measure weight and wing chord of the guillemots to track their growth. Guillemots incubate for 23 to 39 days, and only a few eggs are beginning to show signs of hatch. In our search for active burrows, however, we found one burrow that contained two chicks! As more eggs hatch and we begin to monitor growth we will update you all with how they are doing.
-Nick & Nora

Black Guillemot

Black guillemot chick on its hatch day.

 

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