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Posts Tagged ‘Common Terns’

Rose and Mary here with a quick blog before the last sunset of our summer on Ship Island.  It has been a wonderful time and we are both leaving here with many memories that we’ll keep for a life-time.  From finding the first common tern eggs

Literally our first egg found on May 28

Literally our first egg found on May 28

 

to our 4th of July grilling party with burgers, 2 pies, chips, cherries, and corn on the cob…

Rose preparing our all-out fourth of July "burgers."

Rose preparing our all-out fourth of July “burgers.”

to identifying a black skimmer after tropical storm Arthur (a somewhat rare species up this far north, typical after southern storms)….

Black Skimmer, Common Tern and Eider legs

Black Skimmer, Common Tern and Eider legs

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Common tern fledgling exploring the beach.

to watching fledglings fly and touch the water for the first time.

We have learned so much about common terns and island living.  As far as we can tell so far, without having computed our final numbers, our colony did very well this year.  While the peregrine falcon and merlin visited nearly daily after chicks hatched, they did not disturb the terns enough to affect the whole colony.  The larger of the storms down-poured over 3 inches of rain at times, yet miraculously we had very little loss due to the weather.  The Ship Island Common Tern colony is a prime example of a restoration island success story and it has been wonderful to be a part of this effort.  Thanks to the Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge Staff for giving us this opportunity and for the amazing seabird restoration and management work that you do!

Hasta luego! (Until next time!)  Rose and Mary

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Last walk on the tern colony beach.

One of our last sunsets.

One of our last sunsets. Enjoy the rest of summer!

 

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For the past few weeks, a lot has been going on with Petit Manan’s tern colony!  We have been focusing much of our time on trapping and banding both Arctic and Common Tern adults, which is an essential part of our research.

In order to capture terns, we use two types of traps—the bownet and treadle trap—to catch adults on their nests.  First, we temporarily remove the eggs from the nest so that the bird does not crush its eggs if it struggles in the trap.  The real eggs are replaced with painted wooden ones, and a trap is set over the nest. Trappers then hide out in a blind and wait for terns to return.

The bownet is a spring trap that is set behind the nest cup and triggered when the adult sits on two monofilaments stretching over the “eggs.”  This trap has a metal frame and netting which springs harmlessly over the bird to contain it.  The treadle is a small cage trap with a door, which the tern must walk through to trigger its closing mechanism.

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a Common Tern being removed from a treadle trap

When a tern is captured, a researcher runs out from the blind to retrieve it and replaces the fake eggs with the real ones.  Each tern receives a metal band with a unique number on one leg.  Every Arctic tern also receives a field readable band with an alphanumeric code on the other leg, so that it can be easily resighted from a distance.  We take several measurements, including mass, wing chord (wing length), and head/bill length before releasing the tern.

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Julia banding an Arctic Tern

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Wayne releasing an Arctic Tern

By banding these birds, we can learn about their migration paths, longevity, nest site fidelity, and productivity.  Banded birds may be re-trapped or resighted in the future.  If a banded bird is found along its migration path or on wintering grounds, we can learn about where it has been travelling.  If a bird that was banded as a chick is later found as a nesting adult, we know that it has lived to breeding age and laid eggs.  Speaking of chicks…

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first Common Tern chicks hatched on 6/20

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first Arctic Tern chicks hatched on 6/22

We found our first tern chicks of the season on June 20!  Every day we are finding more chicks, and banding them as well.  As the season continues, we will be closely monitoring their growth, survivorship, and diet to learn about the colony’s overall health.  Stay tuned for more posts about these little cuties!

-Anna

 

 

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We’ve had an exciting last week here on Ship Island.   Everything is really rolling now!  On June 16th we completed the annual GOMSWG (Gulf of Maine Seabird Working Group) census.  After factoring in a correction factor, we had a total of 403 nests, which is on par with last year’s count of 436.  On the weekend of the 13th a storm coincided with the highest tide of the month, which flooded at least 30 known nests and more than likely 50 more.  Because of the flood tide and the slow start to the season, we were all surprised by such a high number, however, we continue to see new eggs throughout the colony.Image

On top of the census, we have been busy getting ready for our productivity studies.  Depending on the size of the colony we try to monitor 5-10% of the colony.  Throughout the season we check the egg status and then hopefully the chick status after that.  We use these selected nests as a way to gauge the success/failure of the whole colony.  As has been posted in the past, terns can be quite aggressive towards intruders, which includes us.  When working in the colony this includes their constant kipping at you, but they also enjoy hitting you and defecating on you.  Here is Rose searching for a chick and getting hit by a common tern…this one actually tore her jacket!

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And now because it’s the only appropriate thing left to do:  I am happy to announce the hatching of our first chicks!  We noticed starring (appears as slight cracks in the eggs) and then piping several days ago, and on Saturday the 21st the first chicks of the colony hatched.  Here is a picture of the newest residents of Ship Island.

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Cheers!

Rose and Mary

 

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Hey Everyone!

The first couple weeks here on Ship Island have been fantastic! We have had great luck with the weather and are actually just hitting our first patch of all-day fog. We found our first Common Tern nest on 5/29 and the rest of the colony is following suit. We have identified 63 nests so far and terns are still showing up! Common Terns are the only species of terns that we have here. We do however also have  Spotted Sandpipers, sparrow, warblers, and Mallards nesting here. Some of these later birds have hatched already!

 

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They grow up so fast!

 

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For some reason a snail joined these Song Sparrow eggs.

While doing blind work Mary and I get to watch what the terns bring in to feed their mates. It’s actually very exciting as you try to follow the birds with your binoculars and either identify the food or snap a picture before they gobble it down. As of late, the gulls and terns in the area have taken to eating Clam Worms. These worms might seem a little strange out of water but they have a beautiful iridescent green to purple coloring as they swirl around in the water to clean themselves of sand. Most of the worms are around ten inches long and quite hilarious to see our small terns carrying.

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What we believe to be a herring.

The research that we do for birds here is very rewarding, however we do have other responsibilities to help take care of Ship Island. One of the most important things we do is remove invasive species. The primary one here is garlic mustard (Allaria petiolata). The island had recently been covered in garlic mustard but Maine Coastal has been working towards removing the invasive for the past eight years. We have been testing different control methods, cautious in what methods we use in order to not affect the other species on the island. Currently we spend most warm days hand pulling the adults (the plant is biennial) before they go to seed.

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The nightmare when you weed around Cow Parsnip.

Till Next Time!

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Hello from Metinic! I’m Amy, and If you’re a regular reader of this blog (there must be a few of you out there!) you might remember me from last summer.  This is my third summer working on a seabird island for MCINWR, and I can’t tell you how glad I am to be back on Metinic. Joining me this year is Syd, a recent University Maine graduate, and Maine native. This is her first summer living on a seabird island. Our first task on the island has been a bit of spring cleaning. Over the winter, trash and debris have a tendency to wash up into the colony, so Syd and I have been picking up bags of trash including the ordinary (plastic bottles, aluminum cans, a lost sandal or two) and the unusual (snow shovels, cans of cheez whiz, and a section from a car dashboard).  We’ve also rounded up some buoys. IMG959995 Lots of buoys. IMG953530 Our other job for the first few days on the island was to send Metinic’s year-round wooly residents south for the summer.   The sheep of Metinic normally have the run of the entire 300+ acres of Metinic, but during the summer, they are restricted to the southern end of the island so that they don’t disrupt the colony or accidentally step on a nest. Thanks to help from Refuge staff and volunteers, we managed to herd the whole group out of the colony and down to their summer home.

Syd helps a lamb that was separated from the flock

Syd helps a lamb that was separated from the flock

Our terns seem to be appreciating their cleaner surroundings. About 300 of them have been house-hunting and checking out potential nest sites

Common Terns going house hunting

Common Terns going house hunting

Best of all, a handful of birds have really settled in: we found our first eggs yesterday!

Our first egg!

Our first egg!

The countdown to chicks has begun! In the meantime, we’ll be sure to update you on the other happenings on Metinic, so stay tuned! –          Amy

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Although I may have spent the first few posts talking about songbirds and gulls, terns are our focus around here. These feisty seabirds are what bring us to Metinic, so it’s high time I let them have their “tern” as the center of attention.

Metinic’s terns, both Common and Arctic, had a rough season last year. Because of an unfortunate combination of bad weather and lots of egg-eating gulls, the terns were forced to abandon their nests shortly after they began laying eggs.

A Common Tern soars over Metinic - Photo by Zak

A Common Tern soars over Metinic – Photo by Zak

We were all holding our breath to see if the terns would take a chance on Metinic again this year. Even if they did, we had no idea how many would actually return.

After completing our annual tern census this week, we’re pleased to say we have 350 pairs of terns nesting on Metinic this year!

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An Arctic Tern on the nest – Photo by Zak

We’ve also had chicks of both species start hatching – more than fifty of the island’s most adorable residents have popped out of their shells. The adult terns are already hard at work bringing in enough fish to feed their new chicks. It will be about a month before these little fluffballs are ready to fly, so the adults have their work cut out for them.

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An Arctic Tern brings back a fish for its chicks – Photo by Zak

These days, Zak and I are out banding chicks in our productivity plots so we can chart their growth. Unlike tern parents, we can’t tell chicks apart without some kind of marker, so all productivity chicks are banded within a day or two of hatching.

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Amy banding a tern chick – Photo by Zak

We’ve also been trapping and banding adult terns. As with gulls, the best way to trap a tern is on their nest. We replace the eggs with wooden dummy eggs and set a trap that springs when the adult returns to incubate. We then band the tern and take a few measurements before releasing it. The dummy eggs are removed and the real ones are put back in the nest.  The terns aren’t too happy with the process, but they always seem to return to the nest within 15 minutes of being released.

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Banding an adult tern – Photo by Zak

By banding adult birds, we have a better chance of seeing the bands again – any breeding adult has already proven its ability to survive at least one migration, so it’s likely that it will survive another year. Some terns can live to be more than thirty years old, and every time we see the band we add another piece of information about that bird’s life.

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An Arctic Tern – Photo by Zak

You may notice us wearing some strange looking hats in our photos. While we’d like to pretend these are the very latest in high fashion, they’re actually a practical method of tern defense. When protecting their nests, adult terns aren’t afraid to peck an invader, be it gull or eagle or human, on the head. They typically aim for the highest part of the body, so adding a flag to the top of you hat is a good way to keep your head from getting pecked.

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Tern attack! Adult Common Terns defend their nests from an invading mammal (aka Amy) – Photo by Zak

We’ve got a few more terns stories coming up, plus an update on some of our other seabirds, like Black Guillemots and Leach’s Storm Petrels, so stay tuned!

-Amy

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Hello from the 2013 Metinic Crew!

There will two of us on this amazing island this year.

I’m Amy, and I’m returning for my second summer with Maine Coastal Island National Wildlife Refuge. If you’re a long-term reader of this blog, you might remember my entries from Ship Island last year.  I’m a graduate of Colby College, and this is my third summer on seabird islands (2nd with the MCINWR).

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A Common Tern on Metinic Island – photo by Amy

Joining me on Metinic Island is Zak, a student at Michigan State University. This is Zak’s first time on a seabird island, but he’s had tons of other bird-y experiences, including work in China and Costa Rica. His most recent accomplishment is almost single-handedly meeting the all-time high species count for Metinic Island in under 3 weeks (more on that in future entries).

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Our house on Metinic under the stars – Photo by Zak

Also settling in for the summer are our reasons for being here:  terns, guillemots, eider, and gulls. It was a rough summer for the terns last year – bad weather and high levels of predation caused the colony to abandon the island before their eggs had hatched. Luckily, they’ve come back this year to give it another try! We’ve seen over 150 Common and Arctic Terns hanging out on the north point of Metinic.  We hope to see eggs sometime in the next two weeks – keep your fingers crossed for us and the birds!

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Arctic Terns investigating a nest scrape – photo by Amy

In the meantime, gulls, Spotted Sandpipers, and Common Eiders are already sitting on eggs, while Black Guillemots and Leach’s Storm Petrels have been examining and excavating burrows.

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A nest of Common Eider eggs – look at all that soft down! – Photo by Amy

We’ve just recovered from a stretch of rainy and windy weather, so expect more soon!

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A Herring Gull in the rain – Photo by Amy

– Amy

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