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Posts Tagged ‘Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge’

It has been a week full of change on Petit Manan Island.  The majority of terns have fledged and are flying all around the island.  It is a rewarding sight to see given that not too long ago, these birds were just eggs in a slight depression on the ground.  Seeing all the fledglings combined with the fact that two of our crew members (Chris and Bailey) finished up their duties here on PMI is a stark reminder that the end of the season is right around the corner.  I feel very lucky to have worked with both of these people.  Bailey came over from Ship Island a couple of weeks ago and instantly provided a boost to the crew.  It felt like we were able to get so much done with her in the squad.  Chris has been with me since the beginning on PMI, and it is going to be weird to adjust to island life without him in the crew.  His birding skills and overall energy were a key component of our accomplishments this season.  They are as smart, dedicated, and talented as they come and they will be missed.

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Common Tern fledgling.  Photo Credit: Kate O’Connor

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The Crew  (left to right: Bailey, Lance, Kate, Chris, Alex).  Photo Credit: Bailey Yliniemi

While it is a bummer to say goodbye to two crew members, the rest of the crew was excited to observe International Guillemot Appreciation Day this past Friday.  We celebrated by grubbing some guillemot burrows, measuring chicks, and banding them if they were old enough.  Talk about some crazy festivities.  As far as the other alcids go, we have some exciting news.  After patiently waiting for them to grow, we finally were able to band our first puffin chicks.  It is nice to see them get some big-boy feathers to cover up their down and hopefully they will start to fledge before we know it.  We also had our first razorbill chick hatch, which we are all ecstatic about.

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Guillemot chicks moments before banding. Photo Credit: Bailey Yliniemi

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Chris measuring the wing chord of a razorbill chick. Photo Credit: Bailey Yliniemi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That is all I have for now.

You stay classy mainland,

-Alex

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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It has been a very busy week for the Petit Manan crew as well as all the tern parents on the island. Our first chicks hatched on June 15th and more and more have been hatching each day. These little fluff balls are absolutely adorable but that cuteness comes at price! Like any good parents, the adults have become very protective of their young and are willing to do anything to ward us researchers off which include pecking us and pooping on us. Now that there are chicks out and about the research team has added on a few more tasks to our days. Every day we must check productivity plots we set up around the islands. These plots are basically giant tern baby play pens each containing 6-15 nests. In these pens we track the hatch date of every egg and track the progression of each chick as they grow. In the end, it will give insight on the entire hatching and fledgling success of the tern colony. We weigh the chicks and also band them; that way, when they start running around we can tell who is who.  We also are beginning food provisioning surveys in which we record what the adults are feeding their chicks. We’re hoping to see lots of herring, hake, pollock, sandlance! It’s a fun time to be on Petit Manan and we’re hoping for lots of healthy chicks that grow up ready to migrate down to South America or further this fall.

‘Till next post,

Chris

Pictures: Top L to R; Lance weighing a chicks, an Arctic tern chick, an Arctic tern chick sporting some new bands. Bottom L to R; Kate searching the productivity plot for chicks, a tub full of common tern chicks waiting to be weighed

 

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Daily bird walks are conducted at 7am, where we identify every bird we observe by sight or sound. So far, we have documented 37 bird species on Ship Island. Below are a few photos of the new species saw this week, including Common Yellowthroat, Wilson’s Warbler, and Black-throated Green Warbler.

The last few days we have been intensively pulling garlic mustard. Garlic mustard is an invasive weed that grows in what seems to be large clusters here on Ship Island. We have scoured the island, pulling all of the flowering plants and spraying the base as well as the rosettes with vinegar. Our efforts over the last two days have filled 7 large trash bags.

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Olivia pulling garlic mustard

Today, we spent a few hours over on Bar Island to document a shell midden found two years ago. On the island we searched for any sign of mammalian predators, finding very few raccoon tracks and scat. While walking the beach we also found a Lion’s Mane jellyfish that had washed up in the tide.

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We look forward to the nesting season and hope to find eggs within the next few days!

Your 2018 Ship Island Crew                                                                                                                  ~Olivia and Bailey

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I have been bird watching in Maine for 4 years now. For the past 3 years, I have taken a number of boat trips out around Petit Manan Island (PMI) to see the puffins, razorbills, guillemots, and terns. It had always been so exciting to see the little flying footballs we know and love as puffin skimming by the boat, seeing the razorbills relaxing on the rocks, and the terns making their usual ruckus as they fish around the island.  Whenever I was on one of these trips, excitement grew as that beautiful lighthouse became closer and closer. This year, I’ve made the trip out to PMI once again, but as a field technician for Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge. All the familiar faces I loved seeing are back again but now the interactions will be different. Instead of viewing them from the boat like in years past, now I can see them from the top of the lighthouse tower, or from my bedroom window, or in a more intimate manner; from the blinds. It is always an amazing feeling to watch these beautiful birds. Alongside the viewing, I will be interacting with the birds in a whole new way! This year I will assist in the banding of chicks, fledglings and adults so we can monitor the population’s survival rates through the re-sighting of these bands. I will also aide in food provisioning surveys to see what the adults are feeding the chicks. I’ll be monitoring the hatching and fledgling rates as well. All of the data that will come from these projects ultimately help the biologists here at Maine Coastal Island National Wildlife Refuge make decisions that in turn, will keep these beautiful birds here in Maine.

Thank you all for reading about MCINWR! Till next post,

Chris

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We are excited to be coming to you from Ship Island, a 11 acre island owned by Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge. The island will be our home for the next three months. We would like to introduce ourselves and share a little about the experiences that have led us here.

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Your 2018 Ship Island Crew: Bailey and Olivia

 

As a Minnesota girl with a passion for wildlife and photography, I am loving the beauty of the Maine Coast! I am excited for the opportunity to be living on Ship Island for the summer, expanding my knowledge and experience as an Island Supervisor. Previously, I have worked with the Kittlitz’s Murrelet on Kodiak Island, Alaska – Steller’s Eider, Spectacled Eider, King Eider, and Long-tailed Duck in Barrow, Alaska – as well as Bighorn Sheep, Bobcats, and Merriam’s Wild Turkey in Custer, South Dakota. I plan to attend graduate school to become a Wildlife Biologist.

~Bailey

This Thursday was the start of many firsts for me. My first field job, my first time living on an island, my first time relying on solar power, and my first time living with no running water. Last summer, I worked as an education intern at Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center located in Scarborough, Maine. While at the marsh, I spent most of my time observing birds and am very excited to expand my knowledge on other bird species. Since arriving on the Island, I have already encountered my first Black Guillemot, Black Scoter, American Coot, Black-bellied Plover and Savannah Sparrow. The terns have been coming back and forth periodically throughout the day, but I am looking forward to them staying their first night with us. I am excited to learn more about these beautiful birds and can’t wait to find out what the rest of the season has in store!

~Olivia

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It has already been over two weeks since the Great Horned Owl roamed the surface of Ship Island looking for a late-night snack. You would think that over time, the terns would settle down and begin to behave “normally.” But that’s not the response we’re seeing. Even today most of the colony begins to sweep high above the island soon after sunset, then disappear quietly out over the ocean. It seems that small numbers do come back to warm their chicks and eggs, but the majority aren’t seen again until sunrise.

The owl caused full colony abandonment during the nights on the island. This occurred for over a week straight, which might have led to some long-term effects on chick physiology. Many of the eggs didn’t end up hatching since they weren’t incubated during the nights. But, some eggs were still able to make it. Typically, eggs hatch after 21-23 days of incubation. With the owl disturbance, incubation length increased, which is why our chicks arrived slightly behind schedule.

Although we have many healthy chicks all around the island, there are a select few that are showing what we assume to be the negative consequences of this over-exposure to the cold and wet nights on a Maine island. When terns incubate, they are constantly rotating the eggs around. This allows for even nutrient and heat distribution throughout the egg as well prevents the embryo from sticking to the shell, allowing it to float in the middle and develop successfully. Without this constant rotation, it’s possible that the chicks could have developed certain physical defects.

 

Not only are we seeing odd chick appearances, but we are also seeing a huge change in colony behavior. The terns have been extremely sensitive to any presence that might seem or sound threatening. This even includes species that are not considered predators. In order to protect themselves, terns often mob, dive-bomb, or attack the predator. They also might flee, just as they did with the owl. Their actions depend on the level they feel threatened themselves versus how threatened their young are. We’ve observed terns going after Common Eiders, Dowitchers, and Harbor Seals. They were even frightened by the sound of a nearby fishing boat. Although we can see that these species are here to do no harm, it’s still good to see the terns working hard and being extra protective.

These actions displayed by the tern colony isn’t uncommon among populations who are or were at risk of nocturnal predation. In fact, it has been witnessed in several other Common Tern studies where owls were present. Looking at a well-known colony observed by Monomoy NWR in particular, you can read how they experienced very similar results years ago (Nisbet and Welton, 1984).

It’s amazing how a single bird can influence an entire colony in only a few days. This owl left an impression on the terns to last the entire season. The fate of this years fledgling was greatly altered and we can only hope that next year the colony works to make up for this years loss.

On a better note, we’re still waking up to a few more chicks every day, and we’ve already seen a few fledge! Based off of our provisioning efforts and weight measurements, our current chicks are growing at a steady rate and being fed a healthy diet, which mostly consists of Atlantic Herring. Some chicks are being fed so much that they actually have to lose weight in order to lift themselves off the ground and fly! We’re glad to finally start seeing our chicks transform into successful adults!

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One of my healthy provisioning chicks. Not quite ready to fledge yet!

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Chicks that were recently born. Only a couple days old!

Only one more week until the island closes. This season really flew by! I’ll keep you updated on any more unusual or exciting events happening on Ship!

-Amanda

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This past week on Ship Morgan and I both took our short breaks off the island. While Morgan was away I was joined by Kelby from PMI to work on predator control, productivity plot management, chick banding, and more!

We’re starting to see more and more chicks every day! Usually when we’re checking the productivity plots we can see when they start pipping. This is when their little beaks start to break open the egg. This lets us know that the next day we will definitely have some new arrivals to weigh and band if they’re dry and ready.

Before we start provisioning, we still have some time to re-sight birds from previous years. Typically, they will have a small silver BBL band on their ankle which contains either 8 or 9 numbers. We can use a spotting scope to see these numbers and enter them into a database where we can learn more information about that bird, such as it’s age. To make re-sighting easier, we put up posts for them to perch on so they aren’t being covered by the vegetation and are closer for us to see. While I was re-sighting from the blind, I spotted a tern that hasn’t been re-sighted in 19 years! I also found one with an orange band. This means that it was banded all the way in Argentina, which I thought was pretty cool.

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An example of a BBL band that can be found on the leg of a Common Tern. As you can see they are very small, which makes them difficult to read.

Now that the owl is gone, we are starting to see more birds come back to the colony. Many of them left during the time he was here and abandoned their nests. Thankfully now they’re starting to scrape the ground and re-nest. Chick age distribution around the island will surely be scattered, but at least they’re not giving up!

Now that I’m back on the island, there’s a lot more chicks running around and much more work to do!

-Amanda

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