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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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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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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.

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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!

 

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