Posts Tagged ‘census’

Hi folks,

I know it’s been a while since I have posted an update from Ship Island. As you know from reading Ship’s past posts that our tern numbers where very low. In fact when I went on my break we had only 9 active nests here on Ship. This Monday I returned to Ship to find that the number of active nests has more than quadrupled to a total of 67 with the very likely possibility of there being more laid as I write this. This is a very exciting time for Ship, and we are expecting a few chicks by the end of this week.

Tern Incubating

(Photo above: Common Tern incubating one of the many newly found nests)

I also got to help conduct a census of several islands in the blue hill bay which took most of Monday. It was a wonderful day on the boat with nothing by sunny skies, and the day got better when we found over 200 nests on a tiny island called connery nub. I even got to see my first tern chick of the season. We believe these the birds  normally nest on Ship, but for some reason they were more comfortable nesting there. The hope is that if the nests that we have now succeed then possibly next season more terns will choose to nest on Ship.

Tern Chick.jpg

(Photo Above: Jim holding Common Tern chick from Connery Nub.)Boat.jpg

(photo above: Jim driving boat around the Blue Hill Bay.)

Blue hill Bay.jpg

In the next week I hope to be able to report our first hatchlings here on Ship island.


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On June 19 and 20 the island crew, along with the invaluable help of Refuge staff and volunteers, completed the annual Gulf of Maine Seabird Working Group (GOMSWG) Census where over the course of two days we attempted to count every nest on the island belonging to a tern, gull, or eider. In order to do this, we all spread out in a line and called out nests to the person recording.


Census crew working around the PMI light tower

During the census we came across a few oddities, such as Laughing Gull eggs in Eider nests and gull nests with double clutches.


Laughing Gull egg nestled in the warm down of an Eider nest


A double clutch of gull eggs – normally they have only 3. This could be a case of two females nesting together.

In addition to all these nests, we also found female Eider hens sitting quietly on their eggs in the vegetation hoping to go unnoticed. Usually, we leave these ladies to their incubating, but during census we catch them to read their bands or apply new bands if needed, helping us keep track of them in the future.


Mother Eider sitting quietly on her nest


Julia and Brittany as successful Eider-catchers!

After tallying up all the numbers and accounting for all the Common and Arctic Tern nests we marked with colored flags, we have 1203 tern nests, 670 of which are Commons while 533 are Arctics, 521 Laughing Gull nests, and 54 Common Eider nests! We do the puffin/guillemot/razorbill census a little differently, using the number of burrows we find throughout the season combined with how many we see on the island from day to day, so we will have those numbers later. Keep posted for more exciting updates about all those eggs.

– PMI Island Crew

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Summer Solstice Sunset

Summer Solstice Sunset

Just a quick post today, but plenty of exciting news!

First and fluffiest, we have our first tern chicks!

Almost there - hatching is hard work!

Almost there – hatching is hard work!

Second, we completed our GOMSWG Census, and we have some great numbers. In our colony, we counted 428 nests. After applying a correction factor (essentially an estimation of how many nests we missed) we estimate there to be about 477 tern nests on Metinic this year. That’s an increase of more than 100 nests from last year!

Our 2014 Census Crew at work

Our 2014 Census Crew at work

Special thanks to volunteers Frank and Sandy, Interns Megan and Kim, and Refuge Staff Beth, Michael, Brian, and Jay for helping us with our census.

Finally, we picked up all of our species ratio flags (see my previous entry, Egg Enigmas for more information), and came up with an estimate of 89 Common Terns to every 100 Arctic Terns. When we apply this ratio to our total counts, we get 256 Arctic Tern nests and 220 Common Tern nests. Our estimation of Arctic Terns on Metinic has increased more than 100 pairs, or 200 individual birds, from last year. This is especially exciting because Arctic Terns have been struggling in recent years.

Chicks are cuter when they have a chance to dry out

Chicks are cuter when they have a chance to dry out

Now we just have to wait and see how well all our chicks do!

– Amy

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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.


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.


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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Common Tern on Nest

Common Tern sitting down gently on her clutch of eggs.

Hello again from Ship Island! Last Friday, the 14th, we conducted an island-wide Common Tern census to determine just how many birds and nests we have here on Ship. Conducting a census involves several people walking together in a line, looking for and recording every active nest. At the completion, we took turns guessing how many there were and came up with numbers like 300 and 350. To our astonishment, after all the corrections were applied, we ended up with a whopping 436 nests! This is 185 nests more than last year, and they are still laying. Needless to say, the Ship Island colony is growing and thriving. We even spotted a four-egg clutch! Normally, Common Terns lay between 1-3 eggs, so finding a 4-egg nest is unusual. 

Four-egg Clutch

Four-egg clutch! We have very productive Terns.

In other exciting news, we have seen 3 clutches of Mallard ducklings already, and yesterday spotted our first Common Eider ducklings! I stumbled upon some mallards in the marsh and couldn’t help snapping a quick photo before letting him run off after his family. 

Mallard Duckling

A wet little mallard duckling from the marsh.

Yesterday we had an Osprey fly right through the tern colony with a fish in his talons. Osprey don’t prey on terns, and he was already packing his lunch, but the terns mobbed him away just the same. He hurried right out of there as fast as he could go!


Terns chasing away a startled Osprey!

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