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Posts Tagged ‘GOMSWG’

This week, we banded our first adult Common Terns, set up our first productivity plots, have our first Spotted Sandpiper chicks, and saw our first Common Eider creche.

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We have been busy trapping and banding terns. So far, we have trapped 9 adult terns with 2 recaptures. One banded as a chick on Petit Manan Island in 2009 and the other banded in Buenos Aires, Argentina!

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Productivity plots are used to monitor chick productivity. Each plot includes 8-10 nests and is monitored daily until chicks hatch. Once all chicks in the plot have hatched, they are banded and weighed every-other day.

Earlier this week, we conducted the Golf of Maine Seabird Working Group (GOMSWG) survey here on Ship Island. We found a total of 498 Common Tern nests, a few even had 4 eggs!

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We cannot wait for our chicks to start hatching!

Your 2018 Ship Island Crew

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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Mother Eider sitting quietly on her nest

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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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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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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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Well, it’s been a great summer here on Petit Manan. Tomorrow we say good bye to our little island, our birds and our bird people. 

Over the last week we wrapped up our Alcid (puffin, guillemots and razorbills) monitering for the summer. This summer we found 47 puffin, 68 guillemot, and two razorbill burrows. The razorbill chicks have already fledged, while most of the puffin and guillemot chicks are very close. Fun fact: male razorbills act as the post-fledging caretakers of the chick and teach the young how to hunt for fish!

We also wrapped up our season bird list at 106 species. As far as we know this is by far the most bird species seen on PMI in a summer. Not to brag or anything. Maybe we’ll put another one on the list tomorrow morning though….

Now we are packing up the research station and Jordan (our crew leader) is furiously assembling our data to be presented at this years Gulf of Maine Seabird Working Group (GOMSWG). It’s a bittersweet feeling at the end of an amazing summer filled with beautiful birds, good laughs, good food, and good people.

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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.

COTE ATTACK

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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During the first few weeks of the seabird field season the number of avian residents on Petit Manan is relatively low.  Just two field technicians anxiously awaiting the arrival of a seabird colony.  And then it happens, slowly at first but with increasing momentum, the nesting residents begin to descend from the sky until there is a frenzy of feathers everywhere you look or try to step.  In order to gain an accurate estimate of such a large volume of birds we perform an annual island wide census.  In order to perform that we call in reinforcements. This year we were lucky enough to gather 13 people with representatives from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Acadia National Park, Schoodic Education and Research Center, Student Conservation Association and the University of Maine.

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The census line scours the vegetation for nests of terns, eiders and laughing gulls.

In a straight (ish) line we walk shoulder to shoulder back and forth marking each nest site across the entire island.

Each step needs to be carefully calculated to avoid cryptically camouflaged eggs.  The process is made even more nerve-racking by the dive-bombing terns screeching an alarm call to alert their neighbors of your intruding presence in the colony.

After two days of counting, the census numbers are in!! For the final nesting numbers of alcids (puffins, razorbills and guillemots) you will have to wait until early July, so check back.

 

 

 

 

 

Here are the number of nests for Petit Manan 2012:

Arctic Terns:   755

Common Terns:   1,180

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Two Common terns perched on the granite rocks of Petit Manan

Common Eider: 67

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Three eider ducklings found at one of the nest sites. Within 24 hours of hatching, their mother hen will take them down to the water’s edge to begin their life at sea.

Laughing Gull:  650

(We also believe we have three nesting pairs of Roseate terns.  After declining numbers and no nesting attempts last year, we remain hopeful that we might have some this season.)

Check back to see the hatching and success rates of the many Petit Manan residents.  Thank you to all of you who helped with this year’s census!

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