Hello everyone! The main focus on Metinic this week was our chick provisioning watches. Essentially what happens is we are watching to see what the adults are feeding their chicks. To set this up, we select a number of nests in good visibility from our blinds and mark them with numbered and color-coded tongue depressors. We then find the chicks that belong to each nest, band them, and then color a specific part of their body according to the hatch order and corresponding nest. The first chick to hatch is called the “A” chick and is colored on top of its head. The second chick to hatch is called the “B” chick and receives color on its chest. The third chick to hatch is called the “C” chick and is colored on its back.
One of our provisioning nests. The color on top of the “A” chick’s head corresponds to the color on the tongue depressor. When the egg hatches, the “B” chick will get the same color on its chest.
During each provisioning stint we watch each nest for adults coming in with food for the chicks. We record the nest number, the arrival time of the adult, which chick receives the food, the departure time of the adult, the number of prey items, and the species of prey brought in and its size. Prey size is determined based on the bird’s bill length. For example, a fish can be recorded as 1 bill length or 1.5 bill lengths; size is measured to the closest quarter of a bill length. All of this is often determined within a few seconds as the adults swoop in and the chicks gobble down the food quickly. Each provisioning stint lasts 3 hours and we try to total at least 12 hours a week each. All of this information will give us an idea of the amount of food coming in and its quality.
Besides the provisioning watches, we have also been continuing our productivity monitoring. It is amazing to see just how quickly our chicks are growing up! Right now the majority of them are in the process of replacing their downy fluff with feathers. Another interesting thing to observe is the range in development. A few of the chicks have mostly feathers and seem like they will be fledging soon, while others haven’t even hatched yet!
One of the older chicks in our productivity plots showing off its feathers. It is getting so big!
Provisioning and productivity take up the majority of the week, but Mark and I decided to take one afternoon to head down to the southern end of the island to see if we could spot any new species to add to our island list. As we were walking along one of the southern cobble beaches we came across a bird washed up on shore. At first glance it looked like a small gull, but as we got a closer look we discovered that is was a tubenose. Upon further observation and investigation, we were able to ID it as a Northern fulmar! Our species list is now up to 92 with the addition of a great cormorant, lesser yellowlegs, and a semipalmated plover!
That’s about it for this week, we will be celebrating the 4th of July with our seabirds! So far, we have been enjoying the various firework shows going on miles across the water on the mainland, and who knows, we may even break out the small grill this evening!
Have a happy 4th of July!
Read Full Post »