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Posts Tagged ‘island living’

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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Greetings and salutations from Ship Island! It is getting down to the last couple of days. The majority of our chicks have fledged; after checking them today, we have only 9 chicks total in our productivity plots (from 73 hatched). We conducted our remaining bird surveys of Trumpet and the Barges and counted lounging harbor seals for the last time. The next few days will consist of taking down empty productivity plots and slowly packing up our gear. I am eating my way through these unhurried days.

One of Ship's first chicks!

One of Ship’s first chicks. Going to miss these fluffy babies.

A tern I discovered after Mark told me to survey the Barges. Hmm.

A tern I discovered after Mark casually reminded me to survey the Barges.

The nightly shorebird walks have become a focal point of entertainment. Familiarizing myself with the migrating shorebirds is fun in its own right, but the walks coincide nicely with dusk settling over Blue Hill Bay. When you’re working every day, it’s surprisingly easy to forget you’re living on a beautiful island. I’m making sure to take in everything here for the last time.

Ruddy Turnstones spicing up the shorebird walk

Ruddy Turnstones spicing up the shorebird walk

The Common Tern colony on Ship Island increased significantly this year, from 393 nests counted last year in the GOMSWG Census to 673 this year. The productivity rate for our colony (the number of chicks to fledge per nest) has been estimated to be at least 1.27, meaning that more than 850 chicks have successfully fledged this year so far. Hopefully the colony will return in such numbers again next year and for years to come. It’s been an incredible process monitoring the terns. This was my first season with seabirds and words can’t really describe how much this summer has meant to me. It’s hard work and long hours, but it is the most rewarding job I’ve had. Looking back at Ship Island for the last time will definitely be a somber, reflective moment. But, I’m also looking forward to eating my weight in ice cream.

COTE in flight

COTE in flight

That’s it for this season! Best of luck to our fledglings!

-Sarah

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Hello again from Ship Island!

Summer is almost here and the terns are sticking around more and more every day. We’ve noticed the number of terns visiting the colony is increasing as well, so hopefully within the next week the colony will be formed and full of nesting Common terns. In the meantime, Mark found our first tern egg! The colony is on its way!

Common Tern Egg

Common Tern Egg

Many of you may be wondering what life is like when you’re living on a seabird island. Our days here start early; at 7 AM we conduct daily surveys of any and all birds on the island. These surveys typically include songbirds, waterfowl, and any marine birds. We get new avian visitors to the islands almost every day so these surveys are a fun and interesting way to start the day.

Female American Redstart

Female American Redstart

The rest of the day is weather dependent. Aside from the important and almost constant roles of monitoring general movements of the tern colony and keeping an eye out for any predators visiting both Ship and Trumpet Islands, some tasks cannot be completed in rain or dense fog. Days when we are stuck inside (such as today- rain and wind gusts up to 30 mph!) typically include lots of reading, card games, checking up on emails and listening to the radio. We will venture outside for a quick survey of shorebirds at high tide and dusk, but the day is low key and relaxing. When the weather is cooperative, one of us will spend some time in the blinds observing the terns. The rest of the day is filled with completing projects for the Refuge staff. These can range from trail maintenance to removing invasive plant species to marking the 30 meter grid plot around the whole island. Once our main goals for the day have been accomplished, we take the time to enjoy the day. Exploring the different fauna on the island is always fun and there is usually time to squeeze in some beach chair lounging. It’s always great to spend an hour or two sitting outside, listening to all the birds calling, watching the harbor seals play and observing butterflies as they go about their days.

Red Admiral Butterfly

Red Admiral Butterfly

Starting the day at 6:30 AM means we’re usually done with dinner and looking to get settled down for the night at around 8:30. Doing the dishes and sweeping are mundane activities typically, but there’s usually a beautiful island sunset to accompany you. This is my first time living on a seabird island and it is a beautiful, interesting and tiring experience all in one. I’m learning new things every day and looking forward to the round the clock work that goes into monitoring a seabird colony!

Until next time!

-Sarah

East Barge on a Beautiful Day!

East Barge on a Beautiful Day!

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“Research birds on a coastal Maine island for 12 weeks? Sure!” was my first thought. I had never researched anything but black bears and birds are a different concept altogether. Experience has taught me that it doesn’t matter if you have no experience; you just have to be open to it and dive right in. The Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge allowed me to do just that. What I wasn’t prepared for was the moment the boat left. Imagine packing up two totes with all you will have for a summer, enduring two days of training, and being dropped off on a small island with someone you just met the day before yesterday. Imagine the boat driving away and knowing that your entire life relies on them coming back and your next three months will be spent getting to know the stranger next to you. I can’t explain that moment when the boat leaves, when you know all you have to contact the outside world is a phone, your only means of leaving is a dingy. What I can tell you however is that I am a week in and I don’t regret it for a second.

Ship Island is in Blue Hill Bay, just southwest of Mount Desert Island (Acadia National Park). From the island, my supervisor, Mary and I have a gorgeous view of Cadillac Mountain and the small coastal islands that surround us. East and West Barge are covered in seals, cormorants, and gulls. Trumpet Island is slightly larger and covered with common eiders. The past week Mary and I have set up an outhouse, cut trails, documented species, and put together our new home for the summer. Terns are our main focus here and we are excited to let you know that we have seen them every morning! Lately they have even returned at night. We have high hopes that it will be a good season for them. If you want to know more about living on a Maine island and about the tern colonies, then keep up with our blogs. Thanks so much for reading! Till next time!

Rose & Mary

( Yes, together we make Rosemary).

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View of Trumpet Island!

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The Eastern Brothers Island crew checking in here with one last update before our departure.  Our days are coming to an end for the 2013 season, which brings about bitter-sweet emotions.  I find it hard to believe how quickly the summer has gone by and yet the other part of me thinks “My, won’t it be nice to take a real shower and eat ice cream!”  It has been a wonderful experience living out on this beautiful island and we have definitely come to feel as though the little cabin feels close to home.

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Fresh picked flowers and welcome sign on cabin.

Due to quite a few early storms, as well as the presence of a mink on the island early season, the black guillemots had a wide-range of laying dates.  There are several chicks that have already fledged or will in the next few days, yet there are also a few that hatched just days ago.  Black Guillemot chicks will fledge on average after 33 days in the burrow and do not migrate south and so there is not a huge rush to get them out the door, per se.  Here are pictures of the two stages:

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A one week old chick practicing how to be fierce.

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The oldest chick, just a day or two before leaving the burrow.

As a parting thought, some people believe that a pot of gold lies at the end of a rainbow, but we have reason to believe otherwise (see last photo).  We hope you have enjoyed reading our posts and that you continue to have an interest in seabird colonies and the work we do on the Maine coast!  Cheers!  ~Mary and Jake

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Somewhere over the rainbow lies Eastern Brothers Island.

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Gray skies over Eastern Brother’s Island

Greetings from Mary and Jake on Eastern and Western Brother’s!  This is the first summer for both of us working with the Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge and we are really excited to be here on “our” island.  We were launched out from Jonesport, Maine on a truly downeast day:  rain pelting our faces, swells rolling across the bay, and fog blanketing the coast.  The Refuge staff helped unload our gear, gave us a quick tour of the islands, and then waved good-bye with haste as the weather was only going to deteriorate.
The storm that then moved in created 10 foot southerly swells that crashed like huge geysers up the 60-70 foot cliffs on Eastern Brothers.  We survived the storm and here we are two weeks in to exploring and marveling at the beauty our islands have to offer.

Through our morning counts, alcid watches, tern stints and personal explorations we have discovered a lot already about our island habitat.  First and most prominent, our black guillemot colony is thriving.  Daily we watch the hundreds of birds circling and nodding in courtship behavior.  We have found several burrows with eggs and it seems as though the “big push” is still to come.

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Black Guillemots in the fog

Also to note, the single common tern (known as Reggie) that has resided in the tern colony previous years has returned.  While he seems more than content loafing on the rocks and foraging huge fish for himself, we are slightly worried that he might have an existential breakdown.   “Why don’t they fly with me?  Why are they never hungry?” These can only be the questions Reggie asks himself day to day.

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Reggie on decoy’s head

Here’s to a summer full of seabirds and many more beautiful sunsets on the coast of Maine!  ~Mary and Jake

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Jake taking in our first sunset

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The infamous Roseate Tern!

There are currently four colonies with a total of 151 breeding pairs in the state of Maine. On Petit Manan alone, it’s been about a year since the last roseate tern was sighted and even longer since they last successfully nested.

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A Roseate tern nest sharing a space with a Puffin egg.

Roseate terns have either a full black or mostly black bill, a whiter coloration and considerably longer tail feathers then wing feathers in comparison to the arctic and common terns. They tend to nest along the vegetation line close to rocks of the intertidal zone. If not careful, too much activity could cause them to abandon their nests considering their sensitivity to human presence.

This year, we have two confirmed nesting pairs and another possible sighting further along the intertidal. The two nesting pairs each have two healthy chicks which we hope will fledge successfully. Their chicks have black legs and dark mottled down with fine black spots as opposed to the common and arctic tern chicks which usually have orange or pink legs with brighter down and black spots.

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A Roseate Tern chick being banded by our island supervisor Christa.

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An Arctic Tern chick being banded by my coworker Jordan.

Hopefully this means more nesting Roseate terns on Petit Manan island in years to come.

 ~Brittany

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Can you identify which of these birds are Roseate Terns? I’ll give you one hint, there are three in this picture.

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