Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘MCINWR’

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.

IMG_2629.jpg

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

Read Full Post »

For the third consecutive year, Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge collaborated with partners and volunteers to band northern saw-whet owls at Petit Manan Point unit (Sept 28-Nov 6, 2016).  The Refuge has identified the peninsula of Petit Manan NWR and islands like Metinic Island as important stopover sites, especially for hatch year birds making their first migration.

Northern saw-whet owls breed in the boreal saw_whet-nathan-weyandtand northern hardwood forests of the US and Canada and migrate to lower latitudes for the winter, with the northeastern population having a cyclical increase in reproductive success and subsequent migration irruption every 4-5 years.  The autumn of 2016 was one of those “irruption” years, and was a busy one at Petit Manan Point.   The banding station operated 6 nets on 30 nights (265 hours) and captured 431 owls.  The two busiest nights for migration were October 14 and October 27, when 66 and 73 owls were caught respectively.  Nets were open daily from sunset to sunrise weather permitting, and audio lure of saw-whet calls was played to attract owls to the nets.  In addition to capturing saw-whets, 6 barred owls were banded and released at a distance away from the Point.

Barred owls are usually thought of as year-round residents, with a territory size of at least a square mile per owl.  During years when prey populations result in reproductive pulses of saw-whet owls, the same abundant prey also result in more young barred owls being produced.  These young barred owls then disperse to find vacant areas where they settle in as permanent residents.  During this autumn dispersal, barred owls are often captured at saw-whet owl banding stations, sometimes while attempting to prey on the much smaller saw-whet owl.

Year Owls Banded Foreign Recaptures Capture Rate (Owl/Hour)
2011 182 5 2.17
2014 56 0 1.49
2015 285 1 0.95
2016 431 1 1.62

 

The Petit Manan Point station is part of Project OwlNet, a continental network of more than 125 banding stations.   Several saw-whet owls banded at Petit Manan Point from 2011-2016 have been recaptured at other stations in the eastern US (Figure 1).  Saw-whets owls outfitted with small radio transmitters (nanotags) in 2014 traveled by Metinic Island and St. John, New Brunswick during migration that year.  Project OwlNet is responsible for much of what is known about saw-whet migration routes and timing.

saw-whet-owl-recaps-low-res

Volunteers and partners make this project successful!  Dave Brinker, of Maryland DNR and the founder of Project OwlNet (www.projectowlnet.org), initiated the current Petit Manan Point station in 2014.  Adrienne Leppold of Maine Dept. of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is the co-director of the Petit Manan saw-whet owl netting effort.  Adrienne assists with all local details of station operation throughout the owl season.  Each autumn, Dave comes up to Maine to set up the station and get it operational while training a volunteer bander that will be on site all season.

In 2016, Dave recruited volunteer Nate Weyandt to run the station.  Nate is from Latrobe, PA and just worked a greater sage-grouse research project in Utah.  His main hobbies include fishing and bird banding.  This was the first year he captured owls and thoroughly enjoyed it, especially because they are difficult to see in the wild otherwise.  Nate was joined by volunteers Ed Conrad and Caroline Jordan for the last 3 weeks of the season after operating a passerine migration banding station at the Schoodic Institute.  Ed banded saw-whet owls on the Refuge in 2011, when we first documented the importance of the Petit Manan peninsula to bird during migration.  We now hope to establish a permanent migration station at Petit Manan Point.  In 2016, 27 volunteers contributed a total of 750 hours to this project.

Thanks to the generosity of the Friends of Maine Coastal Islands NWR, the banding crew had a wonderful house to stay in after long nights of banding.  The Wehr family donated the house to the Friends group, and who will soon transfer the property to the Refuge.  The Wehr house was an immense improvement to living in the cramped banding station travel trailer with no running water.  Without the Wehr house, it would have been very difficult to attract volunteers for an extended amount of time.  Thanks so much to all of the Friends, volunteers, and partners for making this season possible!

 

Read Full Post »

Our summer has come to a close here on Eastern Brothers, and we’re finding it hard to say goodbye. This season has been very successful on many fronts, especially with black guillemot chick survival and fledging rate. From just last year, hatch success has increased 20%, nests with surviving chicks has increased 22.5%, and abandon nests has decreased by 20.8%! These number are very encouraging, also due to the fact that small mammal trapping has been a huge success this year compared to those previous.

The majority of our black guillemot chicks are fledging and are being seen floating around the intertidal with their parents, although we sort of feel like their parents after spending so much time with them.

IMG_6153

A black guillemot fledgling showing off its full-grown wings

The terns have officially left the island with their fledglings, a sign that their southern migration has begun. They’ll fly all the way to South America to fatten up during the winter months, making their way back up north to start all over again. We’ve had a high of three nesting pairs with 8 successful fledglings this season, and hope to see the same return with some more friends to get this island full of terns like Petit Manan!

COTE071316_364a

A tern fledgling trying out his alarm call on Eastern Brothers (photo cred: Steve M.)

 

We hope you all have enjoyed keeping up with us this summer! We can’t wait to see what the future holds for The Brothers and our other island neighbors.

Signing off,

~Nate & Dawson, EBI 2016

Read Full Post »

DSC_1857

A sunny afternoon overlooking Eastern Brothers 

As we’re adjusting to our first week back from break, we thought to talk a little bit about how it is living on a seabird island for the summer. Although checking burrows, surveying for alcids, and keeping the island predator free takes up a majority of our time, we still find time to enjoy all the coast of Maine has to offer.

One would think being stationed on a small island would become somewhat monotonous, but we find that the little things keep it lively and help pass the time. When the weather cooperates, we enjoy taking walks around the island looking for more species to put on our list, mainly migrating songbirds and shorebirds.

CSC_1901

Chestnut-sided warbler 

CSC_1900

Magnolia warbler 

However, on those foggy or rainy days (sometimes lasting for a few days), we turn to books and cooking. Dawson is a trained chef when it comes to whipping up a batch of delicious Polish pancakes.

DSC_1599

A pancake waiting to be flipped

We also have identified a variety of wildflowers that are dispersed throughout the island, filling in the wet meadows and the sunny hillsides.

 

DSC_1520

Slender Blue Flag (Iris prismatica)

DSC_1840

Blue Marsh Bellflower (Campanula uliginosa)

Since we’re roughly 5 miles off the mainland, the temperatures rarely rise above 70 with a constant cool ocean breeze. However, on the days where the wind dies down and the sun’s out, the ocean water (~56 degrees) is quite refreshing.

IMG_6062

Nate meditating in mid-air

IMG_6097

Dawson mid-flip and dangerously close to a belly-flop

Lastly, we always end our days, usually cleaning up from dinner and watching the sunset and the moon rise. However the day goes, it always seems to end in a beautiful sunset overlooking the Englishmen Bay.

DSC_1806

IMG_6051

A glowing full moon captured with our spotting scope

~Nate & Dawson, EBI 2016

Read Full Post »

Petit Manan Island is in peak hatching season! The small, delicately speckled brown tern eggs are disappearing and being replaced by similarly patterned fluffy chicks. The oblong, white-brown spotted black guillemot eggs are opening up to reveal all-black downy chicks. Where once we were seeing large, gleaming white puffin eggs, now chicks with long grey down and white bellies are hiding quietly in their burrows. We even have found one razorbill chick (see photo below)! The only seabird still solely in the incubation stage are the Leach’s storm-petrels.

received_1208456342518222.jpeg

One question that I often get asked is, why do some seabirds only ever hatch one chick (think puffins, razorbills, storm-petrels), while others can rear multiple chicks (terns, guillemots, etc)?

In general, seabirds have small clutch sizes compared to birds of other groups like most waterfowl, game birds, and some perching birds. This is because seabirds, unlike the groups mentioned previously, tend to have long life spans. This means it is not quite as critical for seabirds to have a successful nesting season their first breeding season or every year of their life in order to replace themselves in the population. Other bird species may only get one chance to successfully reproduce if annual adult survival is low due to high depredation of adults and/or other factors.

IMG_3440

But why lay only one egg instead of two or even three? There are multiple factors that influence seabird clutch size, and still many questions to be answered. Chick rearing is very energetically demanding for the parents, from egg formation to providing enough food for growing chicks. Right from when birds arrive on the breeding grounds, food availability is critical. After long migrations or rough winters, seabirds need to be able to find enough resources near their breeding colony to allow them to be in proper condition for breeding. Limited food resources during this period of time can cause birds to lay smaller clutch sizes, or even not nest at all.

IMG_4038.JPG

This still does not answer our question why puffins and other species only lay one egg, in both good and bad food years. For species with one egg clutches, it is more beneficial for the long-term survival and breeding success of the adults to raise only one chick at a time. Raising two chicks would probably not be impossible during good food years, but the energetic costs on the parents might make this not worthwhile in the long run. So puffins, razorbills, and many other seabirds prefer to take things slow, laying only one egg per season.

Currently, we have found 17 black guillemot chicks, 15 Atlantic puffin chicks, one razorbill chick, and a few hundred tern chicks!

-Jill

IMG_3921

 

Read Full Post »

Petit Manan Island is well known for its seabird inhabitants, most notably our Atlantic Puffins and Arctic Terns. However, a total of eight species of marine birds return yearly to nest on Petit Manan Island. Most of these birds have conspicuous nests, such as the terns and Laughing Gulls which lay their eggs on the ground’s surface. The Alcids, such as Puffins, Black Guillemots, and Razorbills, lay their eggs in burrows or rock crevices, but the adults are still easily observed on the rocks and surrounding waters. But Leach’s Storm-Petrels, the smallest seabird denizen of Petit Manan, are a little bit trickier to detect.

G0514408.JPG

Jimmy holding an adult Leach’s Storm Petrel that was grubbed from a nearby burrow

Leach’s Storm-Petrels differ from the other seabirds on PMI in a variety of ways. Taxonomically, they are the only species representing a group of seabirds called the Tubenoses to be found on PMI. Also, they are nocturnal and nest in often long, twisting sod burrows.  The burrow entrances are smaller than the size of a fist, and tucked underneath rotting logs, debris and rocks. These life history traits make observing storm-petrels quite the challenge, and prevent accurate estimations of breeding pairs on nesting islands.

This summer we have been testing a new methodology to s
urvey for active storm-petrel burrows. Instead of just reaching as far into each burrow to feel for birds and eggs, we have been playing a recording of storm-petrel vocalizations outside of each potential burrow entrance. The results have been extremely exciting! The birds have been responding with their strange, goblin-giggling call from deep within their burrows. But more importantly, this method has allowed us to find more birds than just by feeling in the burrows. In fact, 63% of the storm-petrels we located only because we heard them – their burrows did not allow us to reach them. Overall, 93% of the adults we located using both methods responded to playback. Hopefully this monitoring technique will provide new insights into Leach’s Storm Petrels nesting on Maine coastal islands!

-Jill

Read Full Post »

IMG_3126.JPG

Hey folks! Jill and Morgan here! It’s been a surprisingly beautiful first week on Petit Manan Island; let’s hope it’s a sign for the whole season! The island has been lively thus far with approximately 200 prospecting Common and Arctic Terns, but we’re expecting many more to come! Although PMI isn’t the largest of islands, it still receives a good deal of visitors, especially early in the season when birds are migrating North – we’ve seen 61 species thus far! Not all our guests have been of the bird variety though; we also stumbled upon a juvenile Grey Seal on our rocky shores earlier in the week!

IMG_3032.JPG

Downy Woodpecker sighting!

The start of the season means preparing the island for all the work to be done in the months ahead. This means setting up observation blinds, for band resighting and future monitoring of foraging habits and chick health, as well as collecting marine debris, building burrows for Black Guillemots and Atlantic Puffins, and marking potential Leach’s Storm-petrel burrows. Daily Alcid counts from the top of the Petit Manan Light have also begun. On a windy day it can get rather cold up there, especially for Jill, who hasn’t quite gotten used to the Downeast summer having just returned from a seabird job in the Galapagos!

IMG_3183.JPG

Can you spot the Leach’s Storm Petrel burrow? We’ve been searching the island for these small holes in the ground this past we week, and we have found 170 potential burrows!

As we prepare ourselves for the research season ahead, the birds are doing the same. The puffins and guillemots are seeking out rock crevices and other sufficient and creative hiding spots for their burrows. The male terns are attracting their mates with a Sandlance dowry. The Common Eiders are seeking out areas of high vegetation to form their nests. And the Peregrine Falcons, Merlins, and gulls lurk about hoping to catch a bite to eat with all these new dining options in town.

IMG_3046.JPG

The Atlantic Puffins have already begun choosing burrows!

Till next time, here’s a joke to hold you over – Why did the Puffin have a stomach ache? Because it had Alcid Reflux!

Best,

Morgan & Jill

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »