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Posts Tagged ‘chick’

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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Photo by Wayne MacCabe

Photo by Wayne MacCabe

This is the Captain, who lives on the walkway in front of the house. What makes him so special to us is he was rescued from freezing rain when he was still inside his egg. One rainy day the area where Captain’s nest was got flooded with collecting rain water. The whole nest and the three eggs inside it were completely submerged in the water and were floating around. The parent was hovering over the nest, unsure of what to do. After seeing this I quickly ran outside and scooped up the nest and re-located it to a nearby high-elevated area. Seconds later Captain’s mother was back on her nest. I was relieved to see this because terns can be sensitive to any slight change to their nest and can be spooked away if they feel something is wrong. Unfortunately, I still didn’t have high hopes for the chick’s survival. I didn’t know how long the eggs were floating in the cold water, they could have passed away from the cold temperatures or from the water sealing up the pores on the egg which lets the chicks breath oxygen from the air. But, to my surprise about a week later Captain hatched and soon after so did his brother, Sailor. I named the chicks this because the nest was floating around like a ship at sea. Now, both Captain and Sailor are fledging!

We have over 2,000 chicks on the island and just our presence here increases the survival rate for these chicks. This is because we deter predators like greater black back gulls, peregrine falcons, herring gulls, and more which will make a quick meal out of the fledging terns and chicks. Realistically, we can not 100 percent stop predation from these species, but we work hard to keep fatality numbers low. Without us working here on the island these birds would likely take over and would have a devastating blow to the tern population. It made me so happy to see that Captain had made it but I noticed I gained a lot more than just satisfaction from seeing him survive, I gained a new understanding of my time here on the island. This event encouraged me because it really showed how my time and work on the island present on the island.

-Laura Bollert

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Common Tern not liking that I am taking his picture!

Hello from Ship! Unfortunately, we don’t have any glorious food updates (though the adult terns are bringing in a lot of tasty fish!), but, we can report that we have little chicks everywhere! They come in all shapes and sizes, from seabirds, to shorebirds, to passerines, to ducklings.

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Savannah Sparrow fledgling; basically a little ball with mouth and feathers.

Like Petit Manan Island, we have been noticing the vast variety of plumage colorations exhibited by the chicks, even within one family! Featured below are two chick siblings with different colorations. Chicks range anywhere from a warm sandy tan, to seaweed brown, to a silvery tan. They can have very dark well-defined spots or hardly any spots at all. All of these colors help them blend into their environment. The two below are already getting their juvenile feathers and are around 15 days old. 

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Chick siblings exhibiting some of the plumage color variations.

Two of Ship’s posts ago, I posted a picture of an adult tern sitting on “Nest Two.” I am happy to report that they now have three little chicks! They are part of our feeding study. Here is a parent with one of the chicks.

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Nest 2 parent with chick.

And lastly, here is a spotted sandpiper nest with 3 chicks! One of them is very freshly hatched and is still wet from coming out of the egg. Sandpiper chicks are very mobile quite soon after they hatch, so we were lucky to witness these.

– Julia

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Spotted sandpiper chicks in the nest.

 

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Hello once again from the Brothers! I am sure many of you are wondering how Reggie is doing with his harem of decoys. Well exciting news; the other day Reg was spotted presenting a nice big fish to a real live lady tern! Unfortunately having spent so long with the decoys Reg forgot his manners and was a little too insistent our new lady tern take his fish. She flew off, but not to worry, she was back the next day so Reg has an opportunity to try again.

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An example of a chick who had a little too much rock gunnel.

In the area of guillemot chick checks we have chicks from two days old weighing in at 37g to Alfonso a tubby 27 day old chick at 345g. There is quite a size difference between some of our chicks which their parents do not seem to take that into account. In taking measurements on our two day old chicks we found that half of the size of the chick could be accounted for by its crop that was stuffed full of delicious nutritious rock gunnel. The poor chick looked as though he wished he would have stopped eating rock gunnel long before he had. We all feel for you little chick!

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A Leach’s storm petrel, presented here as a popsicle bird.

We at the Brothers are very pleased to announce that we have a Leach’s storm petrel who has decided to take up residence on Western Brothers. The Leach’s Storm Petrel is nocturnal. We have heard them calling several times during the night but until now we have not been able to find if they have actually been nesting here. Our petrel was incubating a single egg deep inside a burrow of loose dirt. Storm petrel’s have a very distinctive odor which you may be able to smell at the entrance of the burrow if it is active. The odor is not entirely unpleasant as they smell very much like old books.

One last update for you. We have finally found some young Savannah sparrows. We had known that they were breeding here but we had not been able to find a successful nest until now. As you can see at this age they are almost perfect spheres with over-sized mouths. Adorable!

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Savannah sparrow sphere with giant mouth.

~SK

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A black guillemot chick grubbed from underneath the boardwalk

One of our most exciting endeavors on this lovely seabird island is monitoring the Alcid burrows around the perimeter of the island. Alcidae is a family of seabirds that includes Atlantic Puffins, Razorbills, and Black Guillemots, all of which breed here on Petit Manan. Unlike the terns that lay their eggs on the exposed ground, each of these species raise their chicks in a protective burrow. Razorbills and puffins always have one egg, while guillemots often have two.

Puffin chick!

Usually burrows are in the crevices between the pink granite rocks that border the island, but sometimes our Alcids choose some unconventional sites, like in the foundation of a fallen building, or under the boardwalk that stretches the length of the island from the boathouse to the lighthouse. In addition to rock burrows, puffins are able to dig burrows in the sod that can be over 6 feet long! Because Petit Manan is a tiny island with an incredible number of breeding birds, we also provide artificial burrows made from wooden boxes or overturned plastic buckets with tubes attached to the entrance so that the birds can crawl into a protected space like they would in their granite or sod burrows.

Alcids establish burrows in early May, around the time we arrive on the island. At the beginning of the season, once the birds have laid eggs, we do a survey of the burrows to determine which ones are active, peering in but trying not to disturb the birds while they are incubating. Later in the season (now!), once most of the chicks have hatched, we do another thorough investigation during which we “grub” the puffin, guillemot, and razorbill chicks and adults.

Applying metal identification bands to an adult puffin’s legs

We remove them from their burrows so that we can put small metal identification bands around their legs, each with unique number/letter combination so that we can resight individuals later and determine how often they return to the island and what other locations they might be visiting year-to-year. We also weigh chicks now and again at the end of the season to monitor their growth. Many of the puffin and guillemot chicks won’t fledge until after we’ve left the island in the middle of August.

Linda Welch (lead biologist) and Jordan (field tech) grubbing a razorbill chick.

“Grubbing” an Alcid can be quite a surprising experience, as it often involves reaching blindly into a dark, slimy crevice and feeling around until you find a fluffy little chick… or until your fingers meet the sharp vice grip of an adult puffin’s powerful bill!

So far this season we’ve noticed that the number of breeding guillemots on the island is on the rise, but there seem to be fewer breeding puffins this year than in years past. We have one confirmed Razorbill chick, and two more possible sites. We’ll keep you posted as we collect and analyze more data about our awesome Alcids!

Linda with a freshly grubbed razorbill chick that is nearly ready to fledge. While puffin chicks take up to 50 days to fledge, razorbills are ready to go in only 16-20 days!

When a razorbill chick is ready to fledge, its dad leads it out of the burrow under cover of night and takes it to the ocean.

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Tern egg on the rocks with decoys behind it

Things are looking up for the seabirds at the Brother’s Islands lately! Events have taken a Tern for the better with the arrival of a new Common Tern pair and their egg. For the past several days now a new pair of terns have taken up residence in the decoy area with our old standby, Reginald McArthur, the tern who has lived here alone for the past several years now.

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Tern Egg laying on the rocks

He seems as happy as we are to have new friends to fish, play, and preen with as the three companions glide around the decoys together calling and circling. All this activity attracted yet another, fourth, tern to the area this morning and it was seen interacting with the others; we hope it will reTern and bring its friends! No one has paid much attention to the egg that was laid on the rocks but we continue to check and see if it has been rolled, an indication that it is being incubated by the parents. So far, it doesn’t look active, but just having the parents around is a huge step in the right direction!

Although you can’t see them, there are 4 Terns, 1 Razorbill, and 3 Least Sandpipers in this view from the blind!

In other news, Razorbill numbers have been increasing in the past few days as we have seen as many as 200+ flying in small flocks across the water. Several, presumably young birds looking for a nesting site, have visited the islands in the past few days, circling and flying very close to it. One razorbill came a mere 3 inches from landing in one of the decoy areas this morning before it veered off to rest in the water close to shore. He was back at it again during lunchtime as we were out doing our “chick checks.”

Speaking of chicks, the little black fuzz balls are continuing to thrive and grow, some have even begun to sprout real feathers and are looking more like gangly teenagers than young chicks now. It’s amazing how fast they grow, gaining sometimes over 1/3 of their body weight every 2 days. We now have 36 chicks in our productivity burrows with more hatching every day. All in all things are looking up for the Brother’s Islands! Here’s to hoping that the next few weeks continue to bring good news. Keep your fingers crossed!

– Julia

A pair of younger chicks, just because they are so cute! Photo by Wingyi.

Our oldest pair of Guillemot chicks: Alfonso and Bernadette, 16 and 17 days old.

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Hello again! As many of you may now know today, June 27th, is guillemot appreciation day. This day holds a special meaning for us on the Brother’s, not just because it is the perfect excuse to eat chocolate cake, but also because three days ago we found our very first black guillemot chicks of the season.

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We had a little trouble with the cake…

 Guillemot eggs do not usually hatch at the same time. Even eggs in the same burrow may be a day or two apart. The chick that hatches first is referred to as the A chick and is typically larger and heavier than the B chick. As part of our routine on the Brother’s we check guillemot burrows every two to three days. As the chicks are now beginning to hatch we will be measuring their wing cords and taking their weight during our checks to monitor their growth. At the end of the season these measurements will help us to determine the guillemot’s productivity. Our first A chick, Albert, weighed in today at a whopping 63g! Our B chick, Bathalamue, came in at a slightly more modest 57g. In order to continue to tell the chicks apart in their burrow as they grow we must somehow mark either one or both of the chicks. At this stage a small dab of nail polish on the A chicks down does the job quite nicely. Later on we may replace the nail polish with a more permanent metal band with an identification number around their leg so they can continue to be recognized in years to come.

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Albert, looking for a fight!

Even though they are only a few days old Albert and Bathalamue have very distinctive personalities. Bathalamue is quite calm and lets us take our measurements without a fuss. Albert on the other hand is quite feisty and full of sass. From the moment we first pulled him out of the burrow he was a rage filled ball of fluff trying to snap at our fingers with his tiny black bill.

We found one new pair of chicks today and look forward to the next few weeks as still more will continue to hatch. We certainly appreciated our guillemots today and we hope you do the same!

~SK

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