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Posts Tagged ‘puffin’

While most of the other MCINWR islands are winding down for the season, Petit Manan is still going strong with major alcid trapping, island-wide guillemot and storm petrel checks, Arctic tern re-sighting, and our new-this-year project: Atlantic puffin feeding studies.

Atlantic Puffin with bill load

Atlantic Puffin with bill load through scope.

Puffin flying to burrow with fish that we have to identify as part of our feeding study

Puffin flying to burrow with fish that we have to identify as part of our feeding study

During our alcid checks, we discovered two little surprises in the form of Razorbill chicks! Only five pairs are breeding here on Petit Manan, so each new chick is very special to us. We even managed to capture one of his parents bringing food back to the burrow, an unusual sight here on PMI

Freshly banded Razorbill chick

Freshly banded Razorbill chick

Razorbill flying with food

Razorbill flying with food

Here are a few more snapshots of what else has been going on at PMI.

Black Guillemot chick being weighed during our weekly productivity checks

Black Guillemot chick being weighed every 5 days as part of our productivity checks

Leach's storm-petrel chick

Leach’s storm-petrel chick

PMI crew banding a puffin chick, minus Julia who took the photo

PMI crew banding a puffin chick, minus Julia who took the photo

A puffin undergoing the banding process

A puffin undergoing the banding process

Wayne and Julia with their first captured adult Razorbill!

Wayne and Julia with their first captured adult Razorbill!

Until next time,

Wayne and Julia

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Common Tern on flagpole

Common Tern on flagpole

Another year on PMI! After two weeks of cold weather and high winds the terns have finally started to nest. Maybe not in the numbers that we are used to but it’s still early enough for more terns to arrive and settle in for the nesting season. The Alcids on PMI don’t seem to waste any time, Atlantic Puffins and Razorbills have already laid eggs at least 3 days ago and hundreds of Black Guillimots are still prospecting all over the island.

First Actic Tern egg

Actic Tern egg

Atlantic Puffin egg

Atlantic Puffin egg

Razorbill egg

Razorbill egg

Tern eggs are made to blend in with beach materials such as sand, pebbles, and seashells but nesting up and away from the beach can be risky as some tern eggs can stand out against the vegetation and island dirt. Puffin and Razorbill eggs don’t need to be camouflaged as most Alcids nest in deep, dark burrows away from the eyes of arial predators. Puffin eggs are all white and a little smaller than the Razorbill’s bigger, speckled egg.

Banded American Oystercatcher resighted  on Green Island

Banded American Oystercatcher resighted on Green Island

Last week while over on Green Island, which is ajacent to PMI and only accessible at low tide, we resighted an American Oystercatcher! We know they try to nest there every year, but haven’t yet been able to resight one yet. Now with the numbers on his bands we can find out who he is.

Memorial Day cookout on PMI

Memorial Day cookout on PMI

Thanks to MCINWR we have a grill this year! Until next time….

Wayne and Julia

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On June 19 and 20 the island crew, along with the invaluable help of Refuge staff and volunteers, completed the annual Gulf of Maine Seabird Working Group (GOMSWG) Census where over the course of two days we attempted to count every nest on the island belonging to a tern, gull, or eider. In order to do this, we all spread out in a line and called out nests to the person recording.

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Census crew working around the PMI light tower

During the census we came across a few oddities, such as Laughing Gull eggs in Eider nests and gull nests with double clutches.

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Laughing Gull egg nestled in the warm down of an Eider nest

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A double clutch of gull eggs – normally they have only 3. This could be a case of two females nesting together.

In addition to all these nests, we also found female Eider hens sitting quietly on their eggs in the vegetation hoping to go unnoticed. Usually, we leave these ladies to their incubating, but during census we catch them to read their bands or apply new bands if needed, helping us keep track of them in the future.

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Mother Eider sitting quietly on her nest

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Julia and Brittany as successful Eider-catchers!

After tallying up all the numbers and accounting for all the Common and Arctic Tern nests we marked with colored flags, we have 1203 tern nests, 670 of which are Commons while 533 are Arctics, 521 Laughing Gull nests, and 54 Common Eider nests! We do the puffin/guillemot/razorbill census a little differently, using the number of burrows we find throughout the season combined with how many we see on the island from day to day, so we will have those numbers later. Keep posted for more exciting updates about all those eggs.

– PMI Island Crew

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A Puffin relaxing on the rose granite

Greetings from Petit Manan! Things are well under way here on this island oasis – after all the mating happened, eggs of all shapes, sizes, and colors began to show up all around the island. We have eggs from 2-3 different Tern species, as well as Laughing Gulls and Common Eiders. Some tern eggs are brown while others are green, and some have beautifully woven nests of grasses and shells while others are laid on bare rock.

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A typical brownish-gray Common Tern egg

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Some heavily-mottled eggs in a very intricate nest

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A full clutch of beautiful turquoise/green Arctic Tern eggs laid almost on bare rock. These birds would rather decorate with shells and sticks and feathers than weave the intricate nest bowls of Common Terns

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A Common Eider nest concealed among the Angelica and lined with soft, warm down

We also have three different species of alcids nesting among our rocky shoreline: the Atlantic Puffin, Razorbill, and Black Guillemot. Each species, just like with terns, chooses nesting sites among the rocks with different criteria in mind, and they decorate their homes quite differently as well. But these eggs are not as easy to find…

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Wayne checking the contents of a Guillemot burrow…

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… and taking out the eggs for a closer look.

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Puffins lay a single mostly-white egg in a warm nest of dried grasses brought into the burrow by the beak-full

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Razorbills, on the other hand, lay one large, speckled egg on the bare rocks. You can tell these eggs from Guillemot eggs by the lack of a “ring” formed by the speckles at the large end.

Until next time!

– Julia

 

 

 

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Snowy owl!?  Yes PMI had a snowy owl preying on Atlantic puffins and Black guillemots.  It was first spotted flying from Puffin Point and hunting all around the alcid colony. After several days and numerous attempts to discourage it from the island with pyrotechnics, we finally had to take action by setting out soft-coated leg-hold traps to try and capture the owl without injuring it and then relocating it. Now, placing the four traps that we had would be tricky as this particular owl didn’t perch or roost in any one spot twice. So I figure if it likes puffins so much the best way would be to dig out this old Puffin decoy I found stashed in our tool shed and put him to good use. We set up the traps and decoy just on the edge of the alcid colony at sunset just far enough so no alcids would fall into our traps.

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Puffy the decoy working hard on the job

The next morning “Puffy” the puffin decoy did his job! Two traps were set off and Puffy had his first battle talon scar on his chest! After that morning the Snowy owl was never seen on the island as of this posting which has been over 3 weeks! So now with this peculiar predator off the island our resident birds can get back to doing their thing, which is…..

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Guillemots mating

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Puffins mating in the water!

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Razorbills Mating on Puffin Point

Arctic Terns Mating

Arctic Terns Mating

Common Terns Mating

Common Terns Mating

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Even species that we don’t like to encourage have started mating now that the snowy owl is gone!

 

– Wayne

 

 

 

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Petit Manan

Back to Island life! It’s been three years since I’ve lived on a Maine island and I’m glad to be back. Dug out all our gear, threw it together and off we went. “We” as in Julia and I – we have been dating for nearly three years and are working together this summer with two other technicians: Anna and Brittany. We are all biologists with varying amounts of experience and we all hope to have a great season with the terns and alcids here on Petit Manan.

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A puffin and razorbill pair through the scope.

We arrived on May 7th and 20th with an ominous greeting by a Bald eagle perched on top of the boathouse.  Unpacked all our gear and settled into our new home for the summer – a beautiful 4-bedroom historic building. That first night I was outside and heard the first Arctic and Common terns of the season as well as the unique calls of Leach’s storm-petrels! It was great to finally hear them again. Woke up the next morning, looked out my window to see Atlantic Puffins and Razorbills loafing on the rocks.  How could it get any better? Time to climb the 137-step spiral staircase up Petit Manan’s 119ft lighthouse (second highest in Maine) to do morning alcid counts. Wow what a sight to finally be looking down on flocks of terns and guillemots from above. A seabird biologist’s dream! Oh no, what’s that? A Snowy owl!?

-Wayne

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Snowy Owl for the first time in over a decade on Petit Manan!

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