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Posts Tagged ‘Island’

This past week on Ship has been very similar to what has been going on at Metinic and PMI. Most of our days have been pretty dreary. On these foggy and rainy days we spend our time reading (A+ to Morgan for reading 8 books so far), eating snacks, catching up on sleep, writing letters, drawing, and staying updated on what’s going on in the real world. It is relaxing, but we’re anxious to get back out there and get a closer look on how our terns our doing.

When it’s not too foggy out, we are able to sit outside and watch the colony. We don’t sit too close because we don’t want to surprise or scare them. We’ve been doing this frequently to deter the Peregrine Falcon who has been stopping by from the island.

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Sunset view while watching for predators

Before the bad weather, we spent most days attempting to re-sight bands, making productivity plots, and trapping adult terns to band, measure, and weigh. To trap the terns we use a Treadle Trap. We first need to replace the eggs with fake eggs. This prevents the tern from damaging their eggs once he/she is trapped. After this we place a wired box over the nest with one end open. When the bird steps through the opening onto the pad, the door will shut and the tern is unable to escape. We quickly retrieve the bird to collect our data, put back the original eggs, set him free, and repeat. It was pretty cool when I got to hold and release my first tern!

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One of our productivity plots

The results from our GOMSWG census indicated that we have about 620 nests in total. Hopefully we’ll start seeing some chicks soon!

-Amanda

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This weekend the Ship Island crew headed over to Pond Island to take part in a beach cleanup along the shore. Morgan and I, as well as several other volunteers, collected dozens of trash bags filled with lost buoys, cans, bottles, and more. This year is the first year the group will be able to actually recycle the plastic that was collected. Through the company, TerraCycle, our collection of plastics, no matter how dirty or broken they may seem, will be sent over to be thoroughly cleaned and re-purposed. Typically, most objects made out of recycled plastic only consist of about 30% reused material. Though it doesn’t seem like a lot, or maybe even not enough, if the concentration is increased then the new object becomes closer to the end of its lifespan and can no longer be reused. It was good to get off the island and spend some time with others working to keep our environment clean, but we’re glad to be back on Ship with our terns!

 

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Section of a boat that was found washed to shore. We needed all hands on deck to carry this one over!

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Beach Cleanup Volunteers

Back home on Ship, we’ve had problems with other birds predating on our Common Terns and their eggs. Currently, Great Black-backed Gulls, Herring Gulls, American Crows, Peregrine Falcons, and Northern Harriers are our main concerns. Almost every day we spend two hour shifts in the blinds to observe the tern behavior and keep an eye out for any of these predators that might pass by. During the evening we’ve been marking nests with predation sticks so we can notice if any eggs have gone missing. By doing this we are also able to get a good idea on how many terns we really have on the island. It doesn’t look like it, but so far we have counted over 500 nests, which means we have over 1000 terns! So far so good! In a few days we will be doing a GOMSWG census which will give us an even closer estimate on our tern population size. We’re excited to share the results with you next week!

-Amanda

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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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Photo by Wayne MacCabe

Photo by Wayne MacCabe

This is the Captain, who lives on the walkway in front of the house. What makes him so special to us is he was rescued from freezing rain when he was still inside his egg. One rainy day the area where Captain’s nest was got flooded with collecting rain water. The whole nest and the three eggs inside it were completely submerged in the water and were floating around. The parent was hovering over the nest, unsure of what to do. After seeing this I quickly ran outside and scooped up the nest and re-located it to a nearby high-elevated area. Seconds later Captain’s mother was back on her nest. I was relieved to see this because terns can be sensitive to any slight change to their nest and can be spooked away if they feel something is wrong. Unfortunately, I still didn’t have high hopes for the chick’s survival. I didn’t know how long the eggs were floating in the cold water, they could have passed away from the cold temperatures or from the water sealing up the pores on the egg which lets the chicks breath oxygen from the air. But, to my surprise about a week later Captain hatched and soon after so did his brother, Sailor. I named the chicks this because the nest was floating around like a ship at sea. Now, both Captain and Sailor are fledging!

We have over 2,000 chicks on the island and just our presence here increases the survival rate for these chicks. This is because we deter predators like greater black back gulls, peregrine falcons, herring gulls, and more which will make a quick meal out of the fledging terns and chicks. Realistically, we can not 100 percent stop predation from these species, but we work hard to keep fatality numbers low. Without us working here on the island these birds would likely take over and would have a devastating blow to the tern population. It made me so happy to see that Captain had made it but I noticed I gained a lot more than just satisfaction from seeing him survive, I gained a new understanding of my time here on the island. This event encouraged me because it really showed how my time and work on the island present on the island.

-Laura Bollert

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Snowy owl!?  Yes PMI had a snowy owl preying on Atlantic puffins and Black guillemots.  It was first spotted flying from Puffin Point and hunting all around the alcid colony. After several days and numerous attempts to discourage it from the island with pyrotechnics, we finally had to take action by setting out soft-coated leg-hold traps to try and capture the owl without injuring it and then relocating it. Now, placing the four traps that we had would be tricky as this particular owl didn’t perch or roost in any one spot twice. So I figure if it likes puffins so much the best way would be to dig out this old Puffin decoy I found stashed in our tool shed and put him to good use. We set up the traps and decoy just on the edge of the alcid colony at sunset just far enough so no alcids would fall into our traps.

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Puffy the decoy working hard on the job

The next morning “Puffy” the puffin decoy did his job! Two traps were set off and Puffy had his first battle talon scar on his chest! After that morning the Snowy owl was never seen on the island as of this posting which has been over 3 weeks! So now with this peculiar predator off the island our resident birds can get back to doing their thing, which is…..

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Guillemots mating

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Puffins mating in the water!

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Razorbills Mating on Puffin Point

Arctic Terns Mating

Arctic Terns Mating

Common Terns Mating

Common Terns Mating

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Even species that we don’t like to encourage have started mating now that the snowy owl is gone!

 

– Wayne

 

 

 

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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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A beautiful Magnolia Warbler sitting on top of a washed-up lobster trap

A beautiful Magnolia Warbler sitting on top of a washed-up lobster trap

The Petit Manan 2012 Bird List!

The Petit Manan 2012 Bird List!

Starting the day we arrived on the island, we have been keeping track of all the bird species that we’ve seen. In just over two weeks, our list has exceeded 50 different bird species! The majority of them are migrants—birds that are passing through on their way to their summer homes.Offshore islands provide valuable stopover points for migrating birds to rest and refuel during their long journeys to or from breeding grounds. Oftentimes birds also get blown off course by foul weather and will spend several days on PMI waiting out storms, high winds, or fog.

 

 

 

A Barn Swallow perched in the intertidal

A Barn Swallow perched in the intertidal

Migration season is a fun and exciting time of year because it is possible to observe birds that might otherwise be difficult to spot (like the Brown Thrasher), birds that are outside their normal habitats (like the Red-Breasted Nuthatch), and birds flocking together during their travels that would not normally be in close association (like the White-throated and Chipping Sparrows).

 

 

 

A Brown Thrasher hanging out in front of one of our sheds

A Brown Thrasher hanging out in front of one of our sheds

Red-breasted Nuthatches (right) are normally found in coniferous forests... on an island devoid of trees, our lighthouse sufficed for this little guy!
Red-breasted Nuthatches (right) are normally found in coniferous forests… on an island devoid of trees, our lighthouse sufficed for this little guy!

Three White-throated Sparrows and two Chipping Sparrows (can you spot all of them?)
Three White-throated Sparrows and two Chipping Sparrows (can you spot all of them?)

 

 

 

Don’t let us make you think that PMI gets all the cool birds—keep an eye out on the mainland, even in your own backyard, for colorful and interesting migrants!

 

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