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Posts Tagged ‘hatch date’

Hello everyone, this is Bobby writing to you from Ship Island with some breaking news.

The bird word must have gone around, because as of Thursday, July 11th, 321 nests have been found and marked with more being discovered every day! The chaos on the tern nesting beach area is beginning; the eggs laid in late June have begun to hatch this week. Soon our island will be filled with extremely adorable fuzzy chicks who love to run and hide in whatever grass or shelter they can find!

fuzzy boy

One of the first chicks on Ship, easily one of the softest objects one could ever hold.

These toddler-like chicks are extremely curious and will wander away pretty far from their nests if given a chance. With them running around all over, it can be difficult to tell how the colony chicks are doing health wise and how many of these chicks are surviving to adulthood. This is answered through a protocol that all of the islands perform known as productivity plots. This may sound like a fancy term, but essentially Colin and I determined a group of nests with eggs that were laid earlier in the season (in our case in late June) that neighbored each other and constructed fencing around them to enclose this area.

 

COTE on colins head

Colin (pictured) and I constantly had terns going at our heads to protect their nests while we constructed productivity plots. This one very nicely went feet first to our heads instead of the usual sharp bill first.

This keeps the chicks from our nests of focus from running all over the beach getting into trouble, that way we can determine how many chicks are surviving to adulthood and the size increases of each chick from each nest within our plots. To determine which chick is which, we put stylish metal BBL bands on their right legs that give them a unique identification number for life in a large online database. Colin and I then check each nest in each plot every morning to monitor the eggs and chicks. I am not a parent, but I imagine how I feel when we look for the chicks every morning it is similar to the stressful situation of a parent trying to find their misplaced kids, as Colin and I are really attached to our chicks in the plots. It has been amazing to see the transformation from egg to chick, and soon from chick to fledgling. Watching them grow up has been so special for Colin and I, and we can’t wait to see each chick’s journey continue. More updates coming soon!

wet baby tern

One of the many chicks hatching this weekend, this one hatched within the hour before this photo with a big world to explore!

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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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