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Posts Tagged ‘Sheep’

Things are getting busy on Metinic. Common and arctic tern eggs typically hatch after about three weeks, so we’ve been making preparations before we have an abundance of chicks scurrying around. Based on when the first egg was found, we’re anticipating the first chick to pop out before next weekend. Ahead of hatching, we will conduct a census of the colony, which in turn has several precursors that we have been working on this past week.

As we have two species of terns on the colony, it is important to determine an approximate ratio of these two species. Nests cannot always be reliably told apart without looking at the bird attending. Arctic terns tend to nest higher on rocks and usually only have two eggs, while common terns typically nest in grassy areas between the rocks and will have a complete clutch of three eggs. However, exceptions abound. Perched up in the blinds, we sit and watch as adult terns fly in to their nests. Then we note the locations of a few nests and run down to place a colored flag near the nest: red flags for arctic, blue flags for common. Based on the 152 nests we flagged, it appears that we have a pretty even split, with arctic terns slightly more prevalent.

Species ratio

Red and blue flags blowing in the breeze around arctic and common tern nests

Another task before the census is the placement of predation nest markers. While we will also be monitoring nests for predation in our productivity plots later in the season, these markers allow us to note egg predation early in the season and outside of the densest parts of the colony. Tongue depressors are painted, and then placed around nests in the colony, denoting the number of eggs in the nest when placed. These will be collected during the census and any nests with fewer eggs than written on the stick will be noted as likely depredated.

pred nest

This two egg nest marker will be easy to spot with its brilliant chartreuse top

Metinic isn’t the only island in the area with breeding seabirds. On Wednesday, we went along with Refuge staff to nearby Two Bush Island. The shrubby vegetation around a small lighthouse serves well to conceal a few eider nests, while some guillemots likely nest in the rocky ledges. On our way back, we circled Crow Island to check on an eagle nest. Two adults were around, but we couldn’t see any eaglets from the boat.

two bush

Two Bush Island lighthouse surrounded by thick brush

This weekend is the annual Metinic Island sheep shear. We helped to drive most of the sheep from across the island to a corral on the southern end, where they are processed. Watching the shearing in action, it is really amazing how much wool some of these sheep have grown. Hopefully some of that wool will be made into warm layers so that those wearing it can be as cozy as the sheep out here off the coast of Maine.

sheep corral

Sheep from the drive waiting to get sheared along with a few that had already been

Until next time!

Mark

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Hello everyone! Mark here, back for another amazing summer with the seabirds. After last summer on Ship Island, I’ve made my way to Metinic Island for the 2016 field season. Metinic is a larger island, stretching for about two miles north-south. The Refuge owns much of the northern end of the island as well as a swath of forest in the center. Metinic lies about five miles off the mainland coast south of Rockland.

It is still early in the season, so the terns, both Common and Arctic, have only arrived in the past week. They have been around most mornings, but then fly off to build up their strength for breeding by gorging themselves on fish. The most important things to do without the birds around involve setting up the island for the season. Much of my time over the past few days has involved the not-so-glamorous cleaning and organizing of the cabin and camp area.

With the help of Michael, one of the Refuge Biologists, the observation blinds were set up around the colony area. There are five blinds, so it took quite a bit of effort by the two of us to get them all up.

blinds

Three blinds up, one in progress

Another construction project involved putting up the majority of a seasonal electrified fence. Metinic Island is home to several dozen sheep. These sheep graze down the vegetation on the north end all winter, allowing for the low grassy terrain favored by nesting terns to persist. The fence, once completed, will keep the sheep out of the colony during the breeding season, where they could possibly damage nests.

sheep

What are ewe doing over there?

It hasn’t been all manual labor. As part of the biological work, we keep track of all of the bird species that use the island, both as a residence and as a migration stopover. As of this morning, with a windblown Eastern Kingbird, we’ve recorded the presence of 59 bird species on and around the island this season. Only a few days in, I can tell that this is going to be a great island for birding.

HADU

A flock of dapper Harlequin Ducks

BAOR

Baltimore Orioles aren’t what you normally expect to see on a rocky beach

Until next time!

-Mark

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Hello from Metinic! I’m Amy, and If you’re a regular reader of this blog (there must be a few of you out there!) you might remember me from last summer.  This is my third summer working on a seabird island for MCINWR, and I can’t tell you how glad I am to be back on Metinic. Joining me this year is Syd, a recent University Maine graduate, and Maine native. This is her first summer living on a seabird island. Our first task on the island has been a bit of spring cleaning. Over the winter, trash and debris have a tendency to wash up into the colony, so Syd and I have been picking up bags of trash including the ordinary (plastic bottles, aluminum cans, a lost sandal or two) and the unusual (snow shovels, cans of cheez whiz, and a section from a car dashboard).  We’ve also rounded up some buoys. IMG959995 Lots of buoys. IMG953530 Our other job for the first few days on the island was to send Metinic’s year-round wooly residents south for the summer.   The sheep of Metinic normally have the run of the entire 300+ acres of Metinic, but during the summer, they are restricted to the southern end of the island so that they don’t disrupt the colony or accidentally step on a nest. Thanks to help from Refuge staff and volunteers, we managed to herd the whole group out of the colony and down to their summer home.

Syd helps a lamb that was separated from the flock

Syd helps a lamb that was separated from the flock

Our terns seem to be appreciating their cleaner surroundings. About 300 of them have been house-hunting and checking out potential nest sites

Common Terns going house hunting

Common Terns going house hunting

Best of all, a handful of birds have really settled in: we found our first eggs yesterday!

Our first egg!

Our first egg!

The countdown to chicks has begun! In the meantime, we’ll be sure to update you on the other happenings on Metinic, so stay tuned! –          Amy

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Metinic Island sunset for our backyard

Lambs on Metinic Island before the round-up

It has been just over a week since arriving on our island home. After the fog cleared we have been preparing for the coming season. The vegetation on Metinic Island is kept under control by grazing sheep. This flock is kept on the south end of the island when the terns arrive and begin to nest to prevent the sheep from accidentally stepping on the terns’ eggs. In order to get them to the south end of the island we (with a lot of help from the refuge staff and friends) have to organize a round-up. This not-so-easy task can take all day, and this year in particular, due to a handful of clever sheep seeking refuge in the island’s dense woods. We will miss the entertainment the lambs brought us but the hole in our hearts will soon be filled by the sound of many hungry tern chicks. Until then, we will be exploring the island, setting up blinds, and preparing for the busy summer ahead of us. Until next time, good-bye from Chelsea and Katie.

Common tern and Sheep- crew rock paintings

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