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Posts Tagged ‘alcids’

I have been bird watching in Maine for 4 years now. For the past 3 years, I have taken a number of boat trips out around Petit Manan Island (PMI) to see the puffins, razorbills, guillemots, and terns. It had always been so exciting to see the little flying footballs we know and love as puffin skimming by the boat, seeing the razorbills relaxing on the rocks, and the terns making their usual ruckus as they fish around the island.  Whenever I was on one of these trips, excitement grew as that beautiful lighthouse became closer and closer. This year, I’ve made the trip out to PMI once again, but as a field technician for Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge. All the familiar faces I loved seeing are back again but now the interactions will be different. Instead of viewing them from the boat like in years past, now I can see them from the top of the lighthouse tower, or from my bedroom window, or in a more intimate manner; from the blinds. It is always an amazing feeling to watch these beautiful birds. Alongside the viewing, I will be interacting with the birds in a whole new way! This year I will assist in the banding of chicks, fledglings and adults so we can monitor the population’s survival rates through the re-sighting of these bands. I will also aide in food provisioning surveys to see what the adults are feeding the chicks. I’ll be monitoring the hatching and fledgling rates as well. All of the data that will come from these projects ultimately help the biologists here at Maine Coastal Island National Wildlife Refuge make decisions that in turn, will keep these beautiful birds here in Maine.

Thank you all for reading about MCINWR! Till next post,

Chris

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While most of the other MCINWR islands are winding down for the season, Petit Manan is still going strong with major alcid trapping, island-wide guillemot and storm petrel checks, Arctic tern re-sighting, and our new-this-year project: Atlantic puffin feeding studies.

Atlantic Puffin with bill load

Atlantic Puffin with bill load through scope.

Puffin flying to burrow with fish that we have to identify as part of our feeding study

Puffin flying to burrow with fish that we have to identify as part of our feeding study

During our alcid checks, we discovered two little surprises in the form of Razorbill chicks! Only five pairs are breeding here on Petit Manan, so each new chick is very special to us. We even managed to capture one of his parents bringing food back to the burrow, an unusual sight here on PMI

Freshly banded Razorbill chick

Freshly banded Razorbill chick

Razorbill flying with food

Razorbill flying with food

Here are a few more snapshots of what else has been going on at PMI.

Black Guillemot chick being weighed during our weekly productivity checks

Black Guillemot chick being weighed every 5 days as part of our productivity checks

Leach's storm-petrel chick

Leach’s storm-petrel chick

PMI crew banding a puffin chick, minus Julia who took the photo

PMI crew banding a puffin chick, minus Julia who took the photo

A puffin undergoing the banding process

A puffin undergoing the banding process

Wayne and Julia with their first captured adult Razorbill!

Wayne and Julia with their first captured adult Razorbill!

Until next time,

Wayne and Julia

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Common Tern on flagpole

Common Tern on flagpole

Another year on PMI! After two weeks of cold weather and high winds the terns have finally started to nest. Maybe not in the numbers that we are used to but it’s still early enough for more terns to arrive and settle in for the nesting season. The Alcids on PMI don’t seem to waste any time, Atlantic Puffins and Razorbills have already laid eggs at least 3 days ago and hundreds of Black Guillimots are still prospecting all over the island.

First Actic Tern egg

Actic Tern egg

Atlantic Puffin egg

Atlantic Puffin egg

Razorbill egg

Razorbill egg

Tern eggs are made to blend in with beach materials such as sand, pebbles, and seashells but nesting up and away from the beach can be risky as some tern eggs can stand out against the vegetation and island dirt. Puffin and Razorbill eggs don’t need to be camouflaged as most Alcids nest in deep, dark burrows away from the eyes of arial predators. Puffin eggs are all white and a little smaller than the Razorbill’s bigger, speckled egg.

Banded American Oystercatcher resighted  on Green Island

Banded American Oystercatcher resighted on Green Island

Last week while over on Green Island, which is ajacent to PMI and only accessible at low tide, we resighted an American Oystercatcher! We know they try to nest there every year, but haven’t yet been able to resight one yet. Now with the numbers on his bands we can find out who he is.

Memorial Day cookout on PMI

Memorial Day cookout on PMI

Thanks to MCINWR we have a grill this year! Until next time….

Wayne and Julia

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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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Well, it’s been a great summer here on Petit Manan. Tomorrow we say good bye to our little island, our birds and our bird people. 

Over the last week we wrapped up our Alcid (puffin, guillemots and razorbills) monitering for the summer. This summer we found 47 puffin, 68 guillemot, and two razorbill burrows. The razorbill chicks have already fledged, while most of the puffin and guillemot chicks are very close. Fun fact: male razorbills act as the post-fledging caretakers of the chick and teach the young how to hunt for fish!

We also wrapped up our season bird list at 106 species. As far as we know this is by far the most bird species seen on PMI in a summer. Not to brag or anything. Maybe we’ll put another one on the list tomorrow morning though….

Now we are packing up the research station and Jordan (our crew leader) is furiously assembling our data to be presented at this years Gulf of Maine Seabird Working Group (GOMSWG). It’s a bittersweet feeling at the end of an amazing summer filled with beautiful birds, good laughs, good food, and good people.

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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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