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Posts Tagged ‘Birding’

Hello everyone!

I just wanted to give a quick introduction- my name is Brandon, and I’m one of the seabird technicians for the summer! A little bit about me- I graduated this May from Lees-McRae College with a degree in Wildlife Biology, a Concentration in Wildlife Rehabilitation, and Minors in Criminal Justice and Emergency Medical Services. I’ve been an avid birder for the last 3 years or so, and I spent last summer working at Monomoy NWR where I first realized that although I loved birds of all shapes and sizes, my passion was definitely seabirds! That’s what brought me here this following summer to work for the Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge. I am currently working on Metinic Island, but I’ll be shifting around a little bit come early June, so for now I’ll be looking forward to updating you to all the happenings on Metinic Island, but later in the season don’t be surprised if you find me saying “Hi!”again from PMI, which is where I’m scheduled to move to in another week or so!

 

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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.

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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.

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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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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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Petit Manan Island is in peak hatching season! The small, delicately speckled brown tern eggs are disappearing and being replaced by similarly patterned fluffy chicks. The oblong, white-brown spotted black guillemot eggs are opening up to reveal all-black downy chicks. Where once we were seeing large, gleaming white puffin eggs, now chicks with long grey down and white bellies are hiding quietly in their burrows. We even have found one razorbill chick (see photo below)! The only seabird still solely in the incubation stage are the Leach’s storm-petrels.

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One question that I often get asked is, why do some seabirds only ever hatch one chick (think puffins, razorbills, storm-petrels), while others can rear multiple chicks (terns, guillemots, etc)?

In general, seabirds have small clutch sizes compared to birds of other groups like most waterfowl, game birds, and some perching birds. This is because seabirds, unlike the groups mentioned previously, tend to have long life spans. This means it is not quite as critical for seabirds to have a successful nesting season their first breeding season or every year of their life in order to replace themselves in the population. Other bird species may only get one chance to successfully reproduce if annual adult survival is low due to high depredation of adults and/or other factors.

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But why lay only one egg instead of two or even three? There are multiple factors that influence seabird clutch size, and still many questions to be answered. Chick rearing is very energetically demanding for the parents, from egg formation to providing enough food for growing chicks. Right from when birds arrive on the breeding grounds, food availability is critical. After long migrations or rough winters, seabirds need to be able to find enough resources near their breeding colony to allow them to be in proper condition for breeding. Limited food resources during this period of time can cause birds to lay smaller clutch sizes, or even not nest at all.

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This still does not answer our question why puffins and other species only lay one egg, in both good and bad food years. For species with one egg clutches, it is more beneficial for the long-term survival and breeding success of the adults to raise only one chick at a time. Raising two chicks would probably not be impossible during good food years, but the energetic costs on the parents might make this not worthwhile in the long run. So puffins, razorbills, and many other seabirds prefer to take things slow, laying only one egg per season.

Currently, we have found 17 black guillemot chicks, 15 Atlantic puffin chicks, one razorbill chick, and a few hundred tern chicks!

-Jill

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hoppin on

A banded common tern (Sterna hirundo) returns to the nest for incubation. This image was remote-triggered on a hidden camera, toward which the terns are very tolerant!

Common tern activity levels on Ship have made an about-face, going from mostly quiet to positively booming! For the past 10 days or so, the birds have been active virtually all day long, courting their partners and tending their nests. At the time of writing, well over 150 nests have been established on the island. Of 100 nests being monitored for early-season predation, only 4 have been lost– and 3 of the 4 were taken out by the highest tide of the month. If you’re more of a visual learner, check out the figure below; a legend is available by rolling your mouse over the chart. If you want, you can even click to zoom in on any of the images.

In simple terms: things are going well. Breeding savannah and song sparrows have begun to hatch, as have the common eiders, gulls, and double-crested cormorants on our neighboring islands. It should be a matter of days before our nesting spotted sandpiper fathers will escort their chicks to safe foraging, as well.

 

Between seal pups, tern eggs, and the numerous fuzzy chicks emerging all around us, we have plenty to observe at Ship. Later this week we hope to establish our productivity plots for the season and begin adult trapping efforts in order to band new birds recapture known individuals. Our projected first hatch date is June 19th, so knock on wood and stay posted for the big news in a couple of weeks!

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A fuzzy creche of six common eider (Somateria molissima) chicks escorted by two hens! We hopefully theorize that the small number of adult birds escorting this creche is due to rampant nesting success of all the other eider hens out there on Trumpet and East Barge Islands.

As if all these babies weren’t enough, spring migration somehow persists on Ship. Our long-awaited Nelson’s sparrow (easily identified by its song, which sounds remarkably like a match being lit) has finally taken up residence on the island, along with an alder flycatcher that can be heard singing daily; the vocalization (a burry “fee-beeoh!”) of this bird is just about the only thing that sets it apart from its doppelganger, the willow flycatcher.

 

In birding parlance, focusing in on a single area to frequently document its species is known as “working a patch”, and that’s certainly what every Maine Coastal Islands seabird crew does. Because a daily birdwalk is part of our essential duties, we become very familiar with what species to expect on a daily basis and can quickly recognize oddities. In working our teensy patch called Ship Island, we have managed to document some 68 birds, including such bizarre wintertime lingerers as long-tailed duck, Bonaparte’s gull, and even a single black-legged kittiwake! And that isn’t even mentioning all of the freshly-molted warblers that continue to stream through in their alternate plumage.

That’s the news from Ship Island this week. Hopefully our industrious tern colony will continue to grow despite gloomy weather! In the meantime, we’ll be counting birds and huddling in the warmth of our tiny cabin when it gets too miserable out.

 

Bonus bird fact: did you know that the scientific name of the common eiderSomateria  molissima, literally translates to “very soft woolbody”? An apt name, considering how the seaducks are prized for their luscious down! And if you’ve ever had the pleasure of feeling an eider’s feathers, you’ll know this to be true.

 

Until next time!

Meredith Miles @ Ship Island

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Hey folks! Jill and Morgan here! It’s been a surprisingly beautiful first week on Petit Manan Island; let’s hope it’s a sign for the whole season! The island has been lively thus far with approximately 200 prospecting Common and Arctic Terns, but we’re expecting many more to come! Although PMI isn’t the largest of islands, it still receives a good deal of visitors, especially early in the season when birds are migrating North – we’ve seen 61 species thus far! Not all our guests have been of the bird variety though; we also stumbled upon a juvenile Grey Seal on our rocky shores earlier in the week!

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Downy Woodpecker sighting!

The start of the season means preparing the island for all the work to be done in the months ahead. This means setting up observation blinds, for band resighting and future monitoring of foraging habits and chick health, as well as collecting marine debris, building burrows for Black Guillemots and Atlantic Puffins, and marking potential Leach’s Storm-petrel burrows. Daily Alcid counts from the top of the Petit Manan Light have also begun. On a windy day it can get rather cold up there, especially for Jill, who hasn’t quite gotten used to the Downeast summer having just returned from a seabird job in the Galapagos!

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Can you spot the Leach’s Storm Petrel burrow? We’ve been searching the island for these small holes in the ground this past we week, and we have found 170 potential burrows!

As we prepare ourselves for the research season ahead, the birds are doing the same. The puffins and guillemots are seeking out rock crevices and other sufficient and creative hiding spots for their burrows. The male terns are attracting their mates with a Sandlance dowry. The Common Eiders are seeking out areas of high vegetation to form their nests. And the Peregrine Falcons, Merlins, and gulls lurk about hoping to catch a bite to eat with all these new dining options in town.

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The Atlantic Puffins have already begun choosing burrows!

Till next time, here’s a joke to hold you over – Why did the Puffin have a stomach ache? Because it had Alcid Reflux!

Best,

Morgan & Jill

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Hello everyone! Mark here, back for another amazing summer with the seabirds. After last summer on Ship Island, I’ve made my way to Metinic Island for the 2016 field season. Metinic is a larger island, stretching for about two miles north-south. The Refuge owns much of the northern end of the island as well as a swath of forest in the center. Metinic lies about five miles off the mainland coast south of Rockland.

It is still early in the season, so the terns, both Common and Arctic, have only arrived in the past week. They have been around most mornings, but then fly off to build up their strength for breeding by gorging themselves on fish. The most important things to do without the birds around involve setting up the island for the season. Much of my time over the past few days has involved the not-so-glamorous cleaning and organizing of the cabin and camp area.

With the help of Michael, one of the Refuge Biologists, the observation blinds were set up around the colony area. There are five blinds, so it took quite a bit of effort by the two of us to get them all up.

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Three blinds up, one in progress

Another construction project involved putting up the majority of a seasonal electrified fence. Metinic Island is home to several dozen sheep. These sheep graze down the vegetation on the north end all winter, allowing for the low grassy terrain favored by nesting terns to persist. The fence, once completed, will keep the sheep out of the colony during the breeding season, where they could possibly damage nests.

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What are ewe doing over there?

It hasn’t been all manual labor. As part of the biological work, we keep track of all of the bird species that use the island, both as a residence and as a migration stopover. As of this morning, with a windblown Eastern Kingbird, we’ve recorded the presence of 59 bird species on and around the island this season. Only a few days in, I can tell that this is going to be a great island for birding.

HADU

A flock of dapper Harlequin Ducks

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Baltimore Orioles aren’t what you normally expect to see on a rocky beach

Until next time!

-Mark

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