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Posts Tagged ‘Garter Snakes’

Hello from Metinic!

Sequoia here with this week’s blog. Last Wednesday the 17th we had staff come out to the island to assist us with the GOMSWG census. During this census we identified all nests in the colony. This year we counted 910 tern nests, this is a record for Metinic! This number is also lower than the actual nests present because no matter how hard we try we aren’t perfect at detecting nests. To account for error we use the Lincoln Index which is a form of mark recapture, where we go out and see what percent of the nests were missed. Once this correction was applied we have an estimated 1,021 nests on the island!

We also had some exciting things happen during our census. We found a Leach’s Storm-Petrel, a Savannah Sparrow chick evading a snake who had already caught its sibling, and a few Spotted Sandpiper chicks running around on their stilt-like legs.

Other exciting news, we had our first chick hatch on Friday! An Artic tern chick was the first to be found in our productivity plot. We nicknamed him Eddy due to the fact that Eddy Edwards, the Deputy Refuge Manager, had the closest guess to the number of nests on the island, which we all thought was a bit high but were proven wrong. Friday afternoon and into the weekend we had many chicks hatching, so now we are getting into the grove of weighing, measuring and banding each chick in our productivity plots.

Through all of our adventures we are sometimes lucky enough to be fueled by the homemade snacks that Carol sends out to us, which we greatly appreciate!

Until next time.

COTE's flying

Common Terns tend to be the more tenacious nest protectors. This photo was taken while measuring chicks and getting hit by the parents.

Snake Eating SAVS

This is a good example of Garter Snake predation on Metinic. It’s munching on a unlucky Savannah Sparrow chick. We’ve sent 31 snakes back to the mainland so far this year.

COTE Chick Bum

“You can’t see me”

ARTE Chick with Egg (EDDY)

Eddy, our first chick on the island. Here he is 24 hours old.

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The nesting season is ramping up on Metinic! We found our first tern egg on Wednesday and more nests have popped up every day since.

tern eggs

Two egg Arctic Tern nest atop a boulder

 

Elsewhere on the island, we’ve found Common Eider, Herring Gull and Great Black-backed Gull nests. Some of the island’s birds are further along and already have chicks. At least one eider clutch has already hatched, with the three ducklings sticking close behind their mother as she cut through the waves. On our first trip to the southern end of the island, we came across half a dozen Killdeer chicks darting around the marsh while several Canada Goose goslings swam across a protected cove with their parents.

Killdeer chick

Killdeer chicks can run soon after they hatch. They also look like cotton balls on stilts.

Metinic is unusual among Refuge seabird islands in that it hosts a permanent terrestrial predator: garter snakes. Though generally small, these snakes could pose a threat to diminutive tern chicks, so we do our best to catch any near the colony. When caught, they often release a musky smell that fades from clothing after a few hours. These snakes then take a one way trip to the mainland, where they can get their fill of rodents, away from nesting seabirds.

garter snake

This snake and two others are now spending their days near Rockland.

Between stretches of fog and steering sheep away from the tern colony, we managed to find some time to continue our shorebird monitoring efforts. People up and down the Atlantic coast are curious about shorebird numbers and movement, so we do our best to keep an eye out for birds on the rocks and beaches. It’s also a good way to get our species list up. Two American Oystercatchers and a Purple Sandpiper helped to get our list up to 81 this week.

PUSA

Shorebirds can often be found in mixed-species flocks. This Purple Sandpiper was noticeably smaller than the Black-bellied Plovers and Ruddy Turnstones it was with.

Until next time!

-Mark

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