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Posts Tagged ‘Nests’

Hi folks,

I know it’s been a while since I have posted an update from Ship Island. As you know from reading Ship’s past posts that our tern numbers where very low. In fact when I went on my break we had only 9 active nests here on Ship. This Monday I returned to Ship to find that the number of active nests has more than quadrupled to a total of 67 with the very likely possibility of there being more laid as I write this. This is a very exciting time for Ship, and we are expecting a few chicks by the end of this week.

Tern Incubating

(Photo above: Common Tern incubating one of the many newly found nests)

I also got to help conduct a census of several islands in the blue hill bay which took most of Monday. It was a wonderful day on the boat with nothing by sunny skies, and the day got better when we found over 200 nests on a tiny island called connery nub. I even got to see my first tern chick of the season. We believe these the birds  normally nest on Ship, but for some reason they were more comfortable nesting there. The hope is that if the nests that we have now succeed then possibly next season more terns will choose to nest on Ship.

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(Photo Above: Jim holding Common Tern chick from Connery Nub.)Boat.jpg

(photo above: Jim driving boat around the Blue Hill Bay.)

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In the next week I hope to be able to report our first hatchlings here on Ship island.

-Collin

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Good evening everyone,

It has been a while since I have posted and I wanted to update you on what we have been doing here on Metinic. Yesterday we completed the Gulf of Maine Seabird Working Group (GOMSWG) Census! In other words, yesterday was the most exciting day of the season because we got to find out how many birds we have nesting on the island!

The GOMSWG census is completed by carefully walking across the entire colony, while counting every single nest found and the number of eggs in each nest. Every nest we find is marked with a popsicle stick. Doing this allows us to calculate our error after the census by comparing the number of marked nests (with popsicle sticks) to unmarked nests (without popsicle sticks). It is important to get an idea of how many nests were missed during the census to provide a more accurate estimate of birds nesting on the island.

While it may seem simple to walk around the island counting nests, in reality it requires great attention to detail, patience and cooperation among the whole group. The colony is divided into a grid system. This allows us to walk in a line across each grid, to insure we cover every inch of the colony. Terns also nest on cobble beaches where the eggs blend in with the rocks. (At times it feels like the most difficult game of ISpy ever played).

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Michael wearing his tern protection (Photo by: Mary Negri)

The terns do not appreciate us walking around their eggs and they make their presence known. It is impossible to get through the census without get pooped on or dive bombed by a tern at least once. To protect ourselves we wear rain coats or old shirts, and flags on our hats. To an outsider looking in we must look absolutely ridiculous, but I would rather wear a flag on my hat than get hit in the head by an angry tern (trust me – it hurts!).

 

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The Metinic GOMSWG Census 2019 crew. From left to right: Austin, Eddy, Nick, Michael, and Brian (Photo by: Mary Negri)

In total we discovered that we have 831 nests (or pairs of terns). Therefore, we have approximately 1,662 birds inhabiting the island for the breeding season. It is hard to believe that by the beginning of August every single bird will have left the island to travel South to their wintering grounds!

Every day on Metinic is a new adventure – I am excited to see what the rest of the season holds!

All the best,

Mary

P.S. Chicks will be hatching soon – stayed tuned!

 

 

 

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Good morning everyone!

Life is busy here on Metinic. The terns have been creating more scrapes and laying more eggs by the day. It seems there is an egg everywhere you look! Walking around the colony reminds me of going on an Easter egg hunt, except you have to walk VERY carefully.

In addition to the terns, there are several other birds that nest on the island. Over the past couple weeks we have seen nests from Herring Gulls, Common Eiders, Spotted Sandpipers, Savannah Sparrows and Song Sparrows. One of my favorite parts about seeing each nest is the variation in the size of the eggs. There are eggs that are almost as large as your palm, like those of the Herring Gulls and the Common Eiders. Then there are eggs that are no bigger than the tip of your finger, such as the eggs of the Savannah Sparrows and the Song Sparrows. All of the eggs have variety of neutral colors and patterns that help to camouflage them from predators. It is incredible to see the attention to detail that birds have. Each nest is created in its own special way, and it is easy to see the time and energy that each bird puts into building their nest!

There are other birds that nest on the island, but they do not build the typical nest one would think of. These birds lay their eggs inside of small, hard to reach burrows. Some of the burrows are located in the rocks along the coastline. These burrows are home to Black Guillemots that will nest in a crevice no larger than your fist! Finding these burrows can especially difficult. I am amazed at how these birds can fit themselves into such a small space. I am even more amazed by the past technicians who have been able to locate these tiny nesting spots!

Last night we spent some time locating Leach’s Storm Petrel Burrows. Many of their burrows are made inside of the rock walls on the island. However, these small seabirds will also dig themselves burrows under down trees, large boulders, inside of small dirt mounds and even under our cabin. Believe it or not, we hear these small birds every night under our kitchen floor! Leach’s Storm Petrels are nocturnal, so locating their burrows requires going out on a late night adventure! We find each burrow by playing the “purr” calls of these birds. Then if we hear a response, we try to narrow down where the call is coming from so we can mark the entrance of the burrow. Once the burrows are located, we can go back in the daylight and use a burrow scope to look inside of the burrows and see what activity is going on. A burrow scope is a long, snake-like camera that we can use to see inside of the small burrows. 

So to recap – there are many different bird species that nest on Metinic! Living here during the breeding season is a magical experience. I feel especially grateful to have been chosen to work on this incredible island!

Today on Metinic it is raining sideways and the wind is blowing at over 20 mph. Needless to say, it is data entry day! Hopefully tomorrow we will be able to get back outside!

All the best,

Mary

 

 

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Song Sparrow Nest and Eggs (Photo by Mary Negri)

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Savannah Sparrow Nest and Eggs (Photo by Mary Negri)

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Spotted Sandpiper Nest and Eggs (Photo by Mary Negri)

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Herring Gull Nest and Eggs (Photo by: Mary Negri)

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Common Eider Nest and Eggs (Photo by Mary Negri)

 

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The nesting season is ramping up on Metinic! We found our first tern egg on Wednesday and more nests have popped up every day since.

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Two egg Arctic Tern nest atop a boulder

 

Elsewhere on the island, we’ve found Common Eider, Herring Gull and Great Black-backed Gull nests. Some of the island’s birds are further along and already have chicks. At least one eider clutch has already hatched, with the three ducklings sticking close behind their mother as she cut through the waves. On our first trip to the southern end of the island, we came across half a dozen Killdeer chicks darting around the marsh while several Canada Goose goslings swam across a protected cove with their parents.

Killdeer chick

Killdeer chicks can run soon after they hatch. They also look like cotton balls on stilts.

Metinic is unusual among Refuge seabird islands in that it hosts a permanent terrestrial predator: garter snakes. Though generally small, these snakes could pose a threat to diminutive tern chicks, so we do our best to catch any near the colony. When caught, they often release a musky smell that fades from clothing after a few hours. These snakes then take a one way trip to the mainland, where they can get their fill of rodents, away from nesting seabirds.

garter snake

This snake and two others are now spending their days near Rockland.

Between stretches of fog and steering sheep away from the tern colony, we managed to find some time to continue our shorebird monitoring efforts. People up and down the Atlantic coast are curious about shorebird numbers and movement, so we do our best to keep an eye out for birds on the rocks and beaches. It’s also a good way to get our species list up. Two American Oystercatchers and a Purple Sandpiper helped to get our list up to 81 this week.

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Shorebirds can often be found in mixed-species flocks. This Purple Sandpiper was noticeably smaller than the Black-bellied Plovers and Ruddy Turnstones it was with.

Until next time!

-Mark

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This week Petit Manan welcomes the remainder of our crew- Shelby and Jimmy! And with them they brought nesting terns and beautiful weather!

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The view from the top of Petit Manan Light. We keep track of Alcid populations by counting them from the top of the Light twice a day!

As our second week on Petit Manan comes to a close, we have given up our reign of the island to the birds. No longer can we go to the outhouse in the middle of the night without hearing the territorial “ka-ka-ka” of Common Terns before they swoop towards our heads. Where once we could walk freely there are now hidden nests and incubating mothers that we must be careful not to disturb. And we couldn’t be more excited!

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One of four Common Eider nests we have found this week. Many more Eiders nest on neighboring Green Island.

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While searching for red-backed salamanders, I found this year’s first Savannah Sparrow’s nest hiding under a rotting log!

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And finally the one we’ve all been waiting for… the first tern egg of the season! Since then we have found three more nests, but without the safety in numbers of the whole colony nesting, these terns may have abandoned their egg so not to be targeted by Peregrine Falcons.

We hope to have another Egg-cellent week, as next we begin checking rock crevices and artificial burrows for Atlantic Puffin, Razorbill, and Black Guillemot eggs!

Until next time here is a bit of wisdom, “I value my garden more for being full of blackbirds than of cherries, and very frankly give them fruit for their songs.” -Joseph Addison

Best,

Morgan

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Petit Manan Seabird Researchers 2016 – Shelby, Jimmy, Jill, & Morgan

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We found our first confirmed nest on Ship Island on Monday evening.  The nest contained one egg at the time, but by Tuesday morning another egg was laid.

A Common Tern on Ship’s first confirmed nest in 2012

As  you can (hopefully) see, Terns don’t build much of a nest – it’s called a scrape for a reason! Their eggs are also very well camouflaged, so it can be difficult to spot them from up in a blind 10 feet in the air. Luckily, we were tipped off when this particular tern chose to stay put when the rest of the colony had taken off as part of a behavior known as dreading. After a few minutes of observation, the tern also stood up and changed position, revealing the egg.

In addition to being our first nest of the season, this nest is exciting for another reason:  one of the parents is a banded bird. We’ve seen several banded terns along the beach, but we haven’t been able to read the identifying numbers on the band. Now that we know where this particular bird is nesting, we’ve place a stake that can serve as a perch near the nest. With any luck, the banded tern will stand there long enough for us to read the numbers off the band.

Spot the tern egg…

We’ll be on the lookout for a third egg sometime today, as the usual clutch size

for a Common Tern is 2-3 eggs. These eggs will be incubated for a little over 3 weeks before chicks start to hatch.

Yesterday we also took a tour of the colony to look for more nests, and we were in luck: we found three m

ore. In a few weeks, we might have as many as 150, but four is pretty exciting right now!

Finally, I’ll share with you a photo of Ship’s fantastic new cabin:

Until next time!

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