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Posts Tagged ‘seabird nesting habi’

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(A few of our first of hopefully many eggs on Ship!)

Hi folks!

Bobby from Ship Island here, as the cleverly constructed title suggests, we have eggs here on the island! A total of 13 eggs in 12 nests, which gives us hope that the birds are willing to nest for the breeding season on the island. Whenever Colin or I find a nest with an egg, we turn the egg to stand up, that way when we check the egg later on we can tell if it has been incubated (the egg falls back on its side from the tern sitting on it) or if it has not (egg is still standing up).  However, the number of terns that have been showing up since the last blog post has not been ideal. We have not seen more than 50 terns at once on the island for the past week and a half, at this time last year for contrast, there were 519 breeding pairs. It has become crunch time as we are using our final method to attract the terns back, creating our own tern colony.

This is done with two simple props, audio of a tern colony through multiple speakers, and using wooden decoys of terns (bird manikins essentially). These both simulate that a real colony is on the island and that it is safe to nest for the breeding season. Although it reminds me of The Truman Show in some ways, this method is the best bet to have the terns stay and nest immediately to allow them to be raising young in time for their migrations later in the summer. To paraphrase Princess Leia from Star Wars, the tern decoys may be our “only hope left”, but Colin and I are waiting confidently for our feathered friends to return. Don’t stop believin’ in Ship Island!

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(Terns and the decoys, can you spot the difference?)

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Petit Manan is an island of just ten acres (although it can become up to 17 acres at the lowest neap tide).  The island hosts nesting populations of three tern species (arctic, common and hopefully roseate), three alcid species (Atlantic puffin, black guillemot and razorbill), one sea duck species (common eider), one gull species (laughing gull), one passerine species (savannah sparrow) and one shorebird species (spotted sandpiper).

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Beach pea

With all of these avian inhabitants as well as four human researchers, certain adjustments must be made early in the season to accommodate all the wildlife.  One of these adjustments is removal of excessive vegetation.  The southern end of the island, over recent years, has slowly been losing nesting habitat due to the encroachment of vegetation.  One of the major culprits of this loss is the plant beach-pea (Lathyrus japnicus).  This native plant is common to the coastline from Maine to New Jersey.  We are happy to have it as an island resident but its abundance in certain areas was having a detrimental effect on the tern nesting potential.  A few days were spent removing beach pea from this area and as a result we expect to see an increase in nest sites in this area.

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Jordan proudly displays the efforts of her weeding…that is a lot of new seabird habitat!

So as you all tend to your flower and vegetable gardens, we will be weeding a garden of our own to make room for all the seabird nest sites.  Happy Gardening!

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